Aug 202014
 

A Sony A3000 Experience

By Bill Spencer

This is about an unintentional photographic journey resulting from a failed GAS adventure. Some time ago I attended a Sony event where the A7 and A7R were available for customers to try out. I went with the intention of buying either one or the other, to sample the ‘full frame’ experience and hopefully use with some of the very good old lenses I have. Disaster – after an hour of messing with the cameras I found I could not counter the shutter slap problem and get a sharp image out of either camera. The A7R was absolutely impossible even using the ‘Hasselblad death grip’ technique learned many years ago. Almost in frustration I came away with an A3000 kit (£220 or just a little more than a RX1 lens hood costs here) as when in GAS mode you have to get something.

Most people who read Steve and Brandon’s blog will know the A3000 is almost universally ridiculed by most photographers who have tried it because of its strange specifications. To summarise it has a superb 20 megapixel sensor married to dreadful viewfinder, screen and electronics. It does have a very good handgrip, all metal E lens mount, a rigidly mounted sensor and is light as a feather. The reason for the purchase was to use it with a collection of older lens with appropriate adapters. Strange as it may seem I quickly bonded with it as a hobby camera (I have other kit for work – I am an Architect and use photography a lot professionally). It is a super simple camera basically usable in Aperture priority or manual mode with older lens and is all the better for that. It is not particularly suited to sports photography and is not much good at ambush photography (sorry – street photography). Focus peaking and the magnified fine focus function are good although the viewfinder and screen give only an idea of the framing of the image to be taken , loads of tech stuff around the screens but very little textural and quality image information. ie a bit limited for pimping. As I have said it has many minuses and a few key pluses.

The 3 photos below give an idea what it can do. The lens for these is a Canon 200mm macro lens. The lens has been renovated by the lens doctor http://www.thelensdoctor.co.uk/ (Steve will know about his previous life as a drummer in the 80s with famous bands including Thin Lizzy, Creed, Pilot and many more). Even before renovation it is almost as sharp as the Canon 180mm EF macro but with far superior colour and out of focus transitions. Now it is fabulous

As with all Sony products I have there seems to be a spoiler built-in. In my A3000s case it will only work with an official Sony branded battery and not any of the 3rd party ‘compatible’ units I have tried so far that do work in my Nex3. The official batteries cost a fortune so unless you have other Sony batteries it is an expensive business to get spares. However with old lenses attached you get about 500 exposures per charge so lack of a spare is not a deal breaker.

It occurred to me whilst writing this that I have never used the kit lens although being so light I usually have it in the bag. Other lens that work really well on this are most fast 50s (F1.2/4 Yashinons, Pentax and Rokkor) in fact any from an SLR background. I don’t know about M39 stuff or short back focus Leica lens as I do not have any.

Please keep up the good work on the site and keep the reviews and user experiences coming and I hope you enjoy the pics

Modified by CombineZP

Coot with Chick 200mm F8

High summer on our local canal 200mm F11

Aug 192014
 

Dogstreets: Mans best friend 

By Brigitte Hauser

Dear Brandon, Steve and Readers

The daily inspiration from all over the world makes me happy and smiling almost every day. Thanks a lot.

I am an amateur photographer and I like street photography. Since our old dog Murphy has died in the beginning of 2014 I see a lot more dogs in the streets than before!

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So I started my dogstreets project.

Taken in Nice (France), with Sony rx 1.

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Near Portofino (Italy) also with Sony rx 1.

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Taken in Zurich, Switzerland with Nikon Df and Leica Monochrom.

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The last pic shows Pablo our new dog by LMono, it is a “street dog” from Spain.

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As you see I use three cams. (I would prefer only one with only one lens) The one I use most is Sony rx1 because of its size. Focusing is sometimes e bit slow. I adore the LMono. But with Leica I need two hands free for focusing. And with a young dog at the doglead – very very difficult:-) That’s why I also use the Df although it’s a bit bulky for streets especially with Nikkor 58, 1,4. But super lens.

Enjoy the pics.

Yours
Brigitte

Aug 152014
 

Shooting film with a Leica M6

By Kjetil Andre Dalheim

In my last “inspiration” I wrote some word on my thoughts on going from a state of the art DSLR to rangefinder and Leica. Gear is not all, but changing to Leica is to me more than going from Canon to Nikon. Using rangefinder, manual focus etc change the way I take pictures. Wanting to challenge myself even more, I started to look into shooting film again. Someone once said that shooting film Leica is something all Leica users should do, so then….

I love my M(240), but adding a film Leica had two purposes for me. First the change in the process with using analog medium would challenge me and also give me a final product which I really like. I love to print (as big as possible), and film produces a look that cannot be copied with any digital camera/SW (in MY opinion). The other purpose, was that I wanted a small, cheap (in Leica terms) camera to have with me ALL of the time. I could have bought a Sony, Fuji or even digital Leica that fit in a pocket, but how boring is that ;)

After some research I concluded that M6, and M6TTL particulary was what I needed. Many reasons to choose something else, but for me there where a couple of important things. The M6 has a meter. No need to make the challenge too big! The M6 is mostly mechanical as opposed to an M7. M6TTL have have a way better shutter dial than the Classic. Last but not least, I found a MINT Leica M6TTL for sale here in Norway! It was also 0.72 viewfinder which I find practical as I shoot 28-50-90mm.

I love 50mm, and use my 50 Lux “all” the time on my M. To make things compact and not have to move lenses around I bought a 50 Summarit for the M6. I was now ready for some film shooting!

Analog vs digital

There is a lot of discussions of which is best of digital and analog. My conclusion so far is that I love both! One of them will not replace the other. Both methods have some advantage to the other, and I think shooting both is more “relaxing”, as you will not try to make one method be the other.

First of all analog is not instant. In today society that is almost unheard of, but one of the things I really enjoy. You take the picture, but no LCD to chimp, you wait for the film to be developed, picking the best negatives to go through the scanning process, process in LR/PS and print. All of this really gives you the feeling of creating something. Sitting down a looking at the final print on fine art paper is just lovely. On the other side, seizing a moment and share it online instantly with friends and family is something I appreciate to be able to do, so for me both worlds offer something.

Not being instant also gives another benefit that I did not think off. Taking a picture and not seeing it before it returns from development maybe weeks later, give you a distance to the picture. It really makes you look and make an objective assessment of the photo. Looking at something for a split second on the LCD might not give the best impression, and you might just delete the picture trying to reduce the massive amount to go through afterwards.

Film is more expensive ( if you forget the cost of the camera/lens). Taking photos by trial and error is both difficult and expensive with film. That makes you slow down. I take fewer pitures, but have just as many or maybe more keepers than with digital. On the other side, when conditions are difficult and the result is critical digital is by far the best.

M6 does not have any A mode, so learning manual is needed. The meter is pretty good, but again having no LCD to look at, you start to think of exposures. I have learned the “Sunny 16” rule, and use far more time to get the correct exposure.

Today we get new cameras on the market with new sensors almost every day. With increasingly sophisticated software we can also make the picture look exactly the way we want even before it comes out of the camera. All of that is fine, but with film I have found an even greater joy by the fact that each time you load a new roll in the camera you have a new sensor! The planning and anticipating with choosing a specific film with all its unique look, is far more fun. It is almost like trying to pick the perfect red wine for a specific dish.

Pixel peeping and 100% view…. I am one of them when I shoot digital. One of the benefits of Leica is the superb quality of the files. I love it when it, but with film I do not get the same result in regards to sharpness. It is possible, but I simply do not care that much. Slight OOF pictures… doesent matter. Grain… beutifull. If I only shot film, I might be more concerned, but I am not.

Workflow

Using film today is for many, including myself, a combination of old and new technology. I get my film developed at a studio close by (for now at least), but use a scanner to digitalize and finally print. I did some research before getting my first roles of film back. I ended up with a dedicated film scanner (Plustek 8200i). From what I see of examples they have an edge over flat-bed when it comes to 35mm film. From what I have learned so far, the software is by far the most important.

My current workflow consists of 4 programs. It might seem like a big job, but it is really quite fast and gives (in my opinion) descent result. I use Vuescan to make a linear scan. Vuescan is easy, fast and cheaper than alternative software. I open the file in PS, where I use ColorPerfect ( Plugin run through Filter in PS) to adjust the image and convert to positive. ColorPerfect is really THE key to get the best output! Finally I import the picture in Lightroom to give it the final tweak. This whole process from scanning is finished takes normally 1-4 minutes, which I think is acceptable.

M(240) vs M6

This is not meant as a product review, but I thought I might give some thoughts on pros/Cons on these two (wonderful) cameras. Both my cameras are in silver, and to be honest the M6 looks and feels like a “slim” M240. Both feel very solid, and the M240 is still a relative small camera, but the M6 has a slight edge in size. Small is not always best, as even the 50 Lux feels a little “big” on the M6. The Noctilux is almost a no-go.. Shutter sound on both are very nice, though most silent on the M6. The only think I consider to upgrade on my M6 is the glass in front of the focus screen (not sure that is the correct name..). In some light it makes the focus very difficult due to flare on the focus patch. This is due to missing coating, but can be upgraded to one with coating. As both mine are 0.72 viewfinder, it is really easy to change between the two cameras.

On the M240 I use A-priority almost all the time. Trying manual after using the M6, I actually find the M6 meter to be easier and more responsive as to signals. Having the opportunity to use A-mode speed up the shooting a bit, at least for candid pictures. But again a did not get the M6 for its speed ;) I long thought about having a second digital M as backup. Looking at it now I think the M6 with no need for batteries (metering yes, but it still work without), mostly mechanical might be a better choice.

Summilux vs Summarit

The 50 Summilux is surely one of the best 50mm around. It already had a 90mm Summarit and was very impressed with this “low cost” Summarit series. Receiving the 50 Summarit I was exited to see what it would be like. In short, I LOVE this lens! It is SMALL, sharp and very well-built. Compared to the Lux you lack some f-stops, but from f2.8 , sharpness, contrast and colors are just as good as the Lux. Build quality is very good on both lenses, but the aperture ring I would say is even better on the Summarit than the Lux, and the best I have tried on any Leica lens.

Summarize

To be able to shoot Leica film and digital is really the best of two worlds! I love the process of working with film, and I have already made changes to how I think, shoot, and process my photos. Some examples follow from the first roles in my beloved M6TTL :) Color photos are Kodak Portra 400, and the B&W are from Kodak Tri-X and Fuji Acros 100.

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Aug 152014
 

Wedding shoot with a Leica M4-P

By Rikard Landberg

Hi! My name is Rikard Landberg.

In March this year I did my second wedding shoot ever. I don’t like to photograph weddings, they are too posed and too stiff. But this couple wanted something else. Beside the regular “posed” wedding photo the couple wanted some different pictures, so I figured I could shoot the wedding with a documentary feel. Capture the moment, in between the posing. Almost like behind the scenes.

At the time my Leica M6 had broken down so i had to get a new camera. So I found this beaten up Leica M4-P. It looked like it was hit by the train but it worked like it was brand new! I loaded it up with som Kodak Tmax 400 and shoot the wedding. When my M6 got back from the shop I sold the M4-P, something that I regret.

Here are the results.

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Bröllop_spegel (2)TOYP

Bröllop_JA (4)TOYP

Bröllop_JA (3)TOYP

Bröllop_400_walk (2)TOYP

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Check out my website and flickr!
www.rikardlandberg.se
www.flickr.com/landberg

Rikard Landberg, Sweden.

Aug 142014
 

My 26 day road trip thru Australia with a Ricoh GR

By Gabriel Lima

Hello everybody!

I’m Gabriel from Brazil and the moment I write this article I’m in the city of Ubud, central Bali, Indonesia. I’m here to talk about my user experience for travel, landscape and long exposure photography using the RICOH GR and filter adapter with B&W ND filters.

First a bit of my background. I’m a 27 year old guy from Curitiba, South of Brazil. After I graduated in a 4 years Business degree in the Uni I realised that it was to boring for me and decided to pursuit 2 old dreams: Travel the world and be a photographer. So, my first steep last year was move to Australia learn english and photography.

My first problem was: Which camera should I buy? Oh god, its hard, there are heaps of models, sizes, sensors, lenses, brands, DSLR, mirrorless and all that history I sure you guys now about. What did I? I immerse myself in review sites and forums searching for specs, image samples and user reports. After long hours and days here in Steve website and searching for samples on flickr I got stuck in 3 cameras: Olympus EM1, Sony A7 and Ricoh GR.

My weapon of choice was the Ricoh GR because it`s small form factor, height, IQ and easy of use. I have to confess that I had to eliminate the Sony A7 cause its price got over my budget and the EM1 because its problem with noisy long exposures in the dark.

After 6 months of practicing with and testing the camera, on 6 of June I left the City of Gold Coast for a 4 weeks road trip sleeping in the back of a small 97 Daewoo hatch from eastern to western Australia, till the city of Perth, a 8000 Km trip always driving the coast and photographing some great Australian spots like the Sydney Opera House, The Great Ocean Road and the Bunda Cliffs. Now I`m in the start of a 2 months backpacking trip thru Bali, Philippines and Thailand.

So, How is the camera doing? How am I feeling about my decision? Even though I still want a Sony A7 (anyone interest in help me? just kidding LOL… Ok, maybe not…) I couldn’t be happier and i’ll tell you why in topics!!!

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SIZE:

Sleeping in a hatch and backpacking with a very small budget means I often have to carry my life on my back city and island hopping, hiking in the forests to a desert beach and even driving a scooter in Asia. The camera is so small that it packs anywhere. My entire kit with a Macbook Air, a MeFoto Backpacker tripod, B&W polariser and ND filters and a Mophie battery pack packs in a small backpacker and height less than 5 kg.

As most of my work is about landscapes i use the camera most at F8 and set to snap focus in the infinite what means i need i tripod most of the time and i found myself walking around Sydney or a forest in Bali with the MeFoto Backpacker with legs extended and the camera attached without any problem (ok, I often get some weird locks from the crowds, LOL).

EASY OF USE

The possibility of having 3 personal camera modes on the top dial is amazing and you can configure just everything there I have MY1 set to auto bracketing AE where i can set the exposure I want in each photo and even the order that the camera take/store the shots for my landscapes, MY2 set to F2.8 shallow exposures for temples, confined spaces or portraits and MY3 with my settings for long exposures. That means i don’t have to go thru the painful long menus of the camera, one of the disadvantages of the high user configuration that the RICOH GR allow, what would make me lost lots of shot opportunities. The camera even allows me to configure 3 other buttons for some functions, I use the effect button for shooter timer(use this a lot to eliminate the need of a non available shutter cable to avoid camera shake, just set for 2sec and everything will be ok), FN buttons for ND filter, snap focus distance or autofocus point and I have every thing I need easy to find.

AUTOFOCUS

The ability of move the focus point with the back dial makes me happy every time I have to compose and not worry about choose the correct focus point in a predetermined matrix during a shot in a confined temple.

SNAP FOCUS MODE

That`s one of the main reasons for me to choose the RICOH GR, just so easy to configure the distance I need and click. So easy, no shooter lag at all, perfect for street photography when you can`t miss the moment.

IQ

I`m very happy with the IQ i get from the RAW files in the Lightroom 5 but I wont talk about that as lots of people already did. The only think is that I felt that I need to expose to the right to get best results and avoid noise.

GW3 HOOD AND FILTER ADPTER + B&W FILTERS (LONG EXPOSURES)

I love for long exposures, specially in rock beaches and i got really frustrated during my road trip in Australia where i missed many opportunities cause the built-in ND filter wasn’t enough to produce good results during the day and I didn’t have the time to wait for the blue and golden hours on every location I stopped. So I got myself a GW3 adapter that fits around the lens and allow me to use 49mm filters in the camera and that changed my life, with the B&W ND 3,0 now I`m able to shoot long exposures and get cool effects from the water almost any time of the day and use a B&W XS-PRO MRC nano circular polarizer that have been helping me to increase the contrast of my photos and eliminate water reflections.

What could be better?

-The camera takes lots of time to process long exposures, almost the same time of the exposure itself, so when I take a 5 minutes exposure it takes more almost 5 minutes to process and show the photo;
-The button that hold the top dial in position got stuck after I felt climbing a dune and the camera got some sand;
-The display drains too much battery and I learnt it loosing an amazing sunset cause I composed the shot and kept the camera on waiting for the sun to set and the last bar of the battery was gone in less than 5 minutes.

That’s  it guys, I hope you like the reading and to help anyone interested in the RICOH GR for travel, landscape and long exposure photography.

You guys can follow my adventures in:

www.facebook.com/gabriellimaphotography

instagram.com/travel_gave – my iphone dairy

plus.google.com/+GabrielLima87/

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Aug 132014
 

A Pair of Fujis in Paris

By James Conley

France’s importance in the history of photography cannot be overstated. Some of the most significant documentary images in the history of photography were made in Paris, and it was the home of photographers like Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Doisneau. Today, the city is full of commercial galleries dedicated to photography. During any given week there are dozens of elaborate exhibitions and public displays of images. Photography is respected as an art, and it is actively promoted. Indeed, France is home to Jean-François Leroy, the founder and sponsor of Visa pour l’Image in Perpignan. Paris is at odds with itself, however. It’s an easy city to shoot, but a frustrating city to shoot in.

~First, the backdrop.~

Paris is divided by the Seine. The right bank is to the north, and the left to the south. The left tends to be rather rich (read: touristy) and the right bank tends to be more artsy (and frequently seedier). The right has interesting places like the medieval-streeted Marais, and the left was Hemingway’s stomping ground. The right is hillier, the left flatter.

Regardless of where you go, though, Paris is a victim/beneficiary of Georges Eugene Haussmann. Until the middle of the 1800’s, Paris had the same structure as it had during the Middle Ages—small, interwoven streets and cramped buildings. In 1794, under the influence of the miasma theory of the day that the tight quarters were the cause of illness, a Commission of Artists came up with a plan for redoing the streets. Nothing happened with the plan until Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte became emperor in 1852. He wanted the government to better control a capital where several regimes had been overthrown since 1789, and wanted wide avenues through which to move troops.

Napoleon III tasked Haussmann with reurbanization, and gave him broad powers to implement the plans. Haussmann used that power to seize property, require owners to make changes to building facades, and to completely level and rebuild parts of the city. Haussmann defined the maximum height of buildings, and their features—including balconies and roof pitch—was mandated. Neighboring buildings had to have floors at the same height, as well as matching exterior lines. Quarry stone was mandatory along the avenues. Wide boulevards, landscaped gardens, and monuments were designed to frame France’s imperial history. The plan and its result made the city look like an extensive palace.

What all this means from a photographer’s point of view is that the city provides a fetching backdrop for almost any picture, no matter what part of the city you’re in. It also means that no matter what part of the city you’re in, it runs the risk of looking remarkably like any other part. The buildings are beautiful in their own way, but they lack individuality. It’s as though Disney had the power to reface a major city.

Paris has some of the worst traffic of any major city. Cars are numerous, but mopeds and motorbikes are a close second. They are everywhere. Vehicles clog the streets and they park in any available place. Because of the chaos of so much traffic, Paris has placed a seemingly infinite number of three-foot tall poles to block walkways from vehicle parking. Parking on the streets is relatively unlimited, however, and there is almost no street that doesn’t have cars or mopeds lining it. This means that nearly every street scene will be blocked by either a pole or a vehicle.

Light is also an issue. Paris is a very northerly city. It is on a latitude similar to that of the U.S./Canadian border. In the autumn, this means that the sun is low in the sky, but it’s very bright. Shadows are strong, and highlights are glaring. Dealing with the contrast is not an insignificant challenge. Partly overcast is a friend to the limited dynamic range of a digital sensor.

Most of the traditional sites are worth seeing, even if their inspiration to make images is low. The Eiffel Tower is impressive. The Louvre is stunning. (Outside, at least. I think the Met is better curated, regardless of the difference in volume.) The city’s elaborate gardens are interesting and relatively attractive, if a rigid approach to horticultural design appeals to you. The streets are obtuse and there is no grid, which makes for convenient backdrops. The Latin Quarter and Ile Saint Louis stand out as particularly photogenic. As discussed below, however, many of the sites aren’t accessible to photographers. For example, Sacre Coeur doesn’t allow photography inside, nor does the Shakespeare & Co. bookstore. The Louvre, however, does. Most storefront businesses do not allow photography—including of the street. Most people out on the street will wave you off if they see you taking pictures.

~Second, the law.~

Contrary to France’s very welcoming approach to photography as art, it is also the home of two laws which restrict it: Droit d’image and La Loi Vie Privée. Basically, a French citizen can sue a photographer for using any image which includes the citizen or his property in the picture.  So, for example, you see an interesting farmhouse in Versailles. You snap a picture, and then want to use it on a blog which has advertising from which you profit. Unless you have the written permission of the owner of the property, under French law you can’t use the image. And what if the property gets sold later? That’s right—you have to get the new property owner’s permission.

The law against using someone’s likeness commercially is not particularly different from the protection other countries provide: you can’t associate someone with a commercial product without a model release. The French people, however, generally fail to understand that taking pictures of someone in a public space and using it for an artistic or editorial purpose is allowed. The French assume they have the right to interfere with all photography.

This confusion has led many photographers to avoid France, and to not publish their work in France. Whether or not these laws would be enforced against a particular photographer with a particular image, it certainly casts a pall over the desire to make images.

~Third, the people.~

Paris is a busy city. The streets are full of a variety of shops. People live in the city, and despite their cars, they shop very locally. The Haussmann design leaves little interior space for working at home, so people are out and about. Cafe tables are plentiful, and people loiter for hours working or talking. Pedestrian traffic is heavy, as is bicycle and motorized transport. Shops tend to close around 6 p.m., but cafes and restaurants are open later.

Despite (or because of) the number of tourists, people tend to be fairly aware of photographers. More so than in cities like New York, Parisians seem to be constantly on the lookout for someone taking a photo. There are few smiles in Paris, and even fewer when a camera is around. Shopkeepers will confront you if they even see a camera. They’ll also come out of the store if they see you taking pictures in the street. Signs forbidding photography are everywhere.

Outside of stores, the people on the streets are less confrontational, but it’s wise to be aware and not push the issue. It’s best to follow the fancy footwork of Cartier-Bresson and blend blend. He was a master at taking photos fast, with his subjects unaware they were being photographed. Zone focusing and the use of the rear LCD display on cameras so equipped is required practice. Waiting in the right spot for the right time is also handy—people get used to your presence and pay less attention.

~The Fujis~

I took an XE-1 and an X100s to Paris for two weeks. and racked up over 100 miles of walking around the city and its environs. I shot with two lenses on the XE-1: an 8mm Rokinon and 18-55mm Fuji. The X100s has a fixed 23mm. I found the Fuji X cameras to be very adept at the kind of speed required for Parisian street photography. The small bodies go unnoticed, and as mirrorless cameras the Fujis are quiet. The X100s is particularly easy to adjust for zone focusing and is virtually silent. The rangefinder style X series in general are well-suited to be quick to the eye, making stealth shooting easier.

Like any city, the best way to approach Paris as a photographer is to walk. There are opportunities for images on the plentiful buses and metros, but the action (as always) is out on the street. Having lugged 35mm and DSLR equipment for more years than I care to remember, the small and light Fujis are much easier on the shoulder and the back for extensive city walking.

Paris is a great city. The air and the water make delicious pastries and bread. The streets are picturesque, and there are interesting places to see. The art is impressive and ubiquitous. It’s worth a visit to the galleries and museums. But it’s a tough city to work in. The people are not friendly to photographers, and the traffic and poles make it a challenge to find a clean foreground, much less a background. The pollution is horrendous, and the noise is incessant. The most photographed places are the most accessible, which means being original is not just a challenge—it’s risky. Having a street confrontation in a foreign language does not a good trip make. But Paris is worth the challenge, and forewarned is forearmed.

website: fjamesconley.com
twitter: @Philatawgrapher

—James

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A woman on the Paris Metro reads among a plethora of geometric patterns.

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Waiters take a break outside a cafe in Paris.

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Aug 122014
 

Copenhagen with the Leica M 240 and 50 APO Summicron

by Howard Shooter

Copenhagen is a difficult city to shoot. The buildings are spotlessly clean and beautiful, the roads are spotlessly clean and beautiful and guess what…the people are spotlessly clean and beautiful.

This presents the street photographer with a problem; no urban decay, no old men with interesting creases which tell the story of their lives and therefore no photography which is focusing on the contrast of modern society. Denmark, like their most famous invention, Lego, is designed beautifully.

My wife and I managed our lucky annual weekend away without our gorgeous children to have a little of us time leaving our three children, happy as could be with the grandparents.

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Copenhagen is famous for Hans Christian Anderson’s “The Little Mermaid”, Canals that look like they are straight out of Amsterdam, (as a result of the Dutch building some of them), interior shops, posh designer food, beer beer beer, bicycles and a design ethos which is evident everywhere.

I was looking forward to using and testing my newly acquired Holy Grail of lenses, the Leica 50mm APO Summicron with the Leica M240.

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These shots are a miss mash of images and colours taken from around the city. I didn’t take hundreds of shots as I was there to relax and soak up the atmosphere rather than document it but I was pleased and I’m still learning all the time what this lens is capable of. I feel I always need about six months to a year to understand a lenses characteristics and this little gem is no different.

Now I think this is a lens which once purchased needs some financial justification as it is stupidly priced. I am not rich, I am quite sane (sometimes), and I am not a man who easily jumps on bandwagons. However I am a professional food photographer, I did sell two lenses to help pay for this piece of glass and I do use the Leica for the odd professional celeb chef portrait when the opportunity arises. I had ordered one of these, cancelled it and then six months later wanted to see what all the fuss is about.

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I think with lenses there is a misconception about what quality is all about when all of these graphs and charts and grids are produced by scientists who are comparing various tolerances across various apertures. I’ve seen enough shots of bookcases and scenes of toys with colour charts to last me a lifetime. Lenses are not solely about sharpness and yet this lens is sold partly because of its incredible sharpness. This, in the grand scheme of things definitely isn’t the main part of this lens that interests me. I did have a Leica 50mm Summilux and on the M240 it does display a little softness but it is a beautiful, quiet lens displaying subtlety and beautiful bokeh which is arguably nicer than the 50mm APO.

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What this lens does better than any other on the M240 is incredible dynamic range to the point where shots properly look like medium format film. The bokeh is nice but not incredible in my opinion, but the 3D pop combined with the sharpness and dynamic range is remarkable. It gives this lens a versatility like no other. Images can be deliberately overexposed and look subtle and beautiful without the whites bleaching out, and yet dark shots are rich and saturated with black blacks and eye popping colour. Black and white converted RAW shots look so authentically Bressonesque in their tonal values that the digital Leica feels like it has come of age.

The big question surely is “is it worth the money?”….. well for me it makes using extra lenses on the Leica seem superfluous and to that extent if you have a few lenses and traded up to the 50mm APO you wouldn’t be disappointed… I wasn’t… but blimey…. how much!

Howard Shooter

www.HowardShooter.com

Aug 112014
 

The Samsung NX Mini

By Milo Hess

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Thank you Steve for the opportunity. Been following your excellent blog from the beginning!

This is going to be a mini review. No not the Austin Mini or mini cupcakes but the recently introduced Samsung NXMini.

Marketed pretty much as a selfie camera for tweens/teens I had my doubts. What am I going to do with a selfie camera?….I’m not a fan of any pictures of myself let alone selfies taken by me. By way of background I currently shoot photojournalism ( media credentialed) for a few weekly newspapers here in NYC….shooting news, lifestyle, documentary, street as well as events both personal and business. In the past I have been an award-winning art director in broadcasting working in network and cable news and as an art director/graphic designer in the corporate world. I am very particular what my imagery looks like always trying for something a little different with what I guess is a graphic eye. With a sense of humor as well when possible. For full disclosure I am a Samsung Imagelogger testing out their new products as well.

Again what am I doing with a selfie camera? Using it as a terrific tiny everyday, always have it with you, walk the streets, interchangeable lens miniature dslr that has excellent optics, does RAW, has wifi, a larger than normal for a camera of this size 1” sensor, 20.5 megapixels and a flip screen. This camera to my surprise is a tiny gem. Fun, solid, very small and a kick to use. The lens quality ( there is a kit lens 9-27 and a 9mm prime) is surprisingly good. In fact the sharpness is extraordinary for such tiny optics. Yes the buttons are somewhat small and the screen can be hard to see in bright sunshine. … then again not unlike many small compact cameras on the market. This for me is a camera to always have with you for those moments. Not your smart phone. It’s fast, fun with quality output. Would I shoot an entire paying assignment with it? Prob not…although I have used it for a few newspaper images. A selfie cam that does much more than selfies. And a pretty damn good one at that.

Milo

Work can be seen at:

capturedcolor.foliohd.com
www.facebook.com/capturedcolor
instagram.com/capturedcolor
twitter: @capturedcolor

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SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Aug 082014
 

A Film Friday Thank You

By Michael McFaul

Hi Steve!

You honored me with a post on your Film Friday a few weeks back and for that, I thank you. Now allow this write up to serve as a 2nd thank you…a thank you for lighting the fire within me that is photography. It’s something I didn’t know I had. I’m sure a lot of you are probably groaning and rolling your eyes as you read those previous two sentences. :) Cliche, I know. But let me explain.

Back in late 2011, my wife and I had booked our long overdue and months delayed honeymoon to the land of a thousand smiles, Thailand. After a big move to Chicago from FL, then a return trip back to FL for our wedding, and finally getting our finances in order…we booked our flight for Ko Lanta Yai, Thailand. Prior to this trip, we had gone to Sleeping Bears Dunes in Michigan and at the time we had a simple P&S by Fuji. However, have you ever been to Sleeping Bear Dunes? It’s beautiful! Fan-freakin-tasticly beautiful! The vistas are simply summed up in two words, jaw dropping. I. Kid. You. Not. And yet the little camera that is Fuji simply couldn’t capture Sleeping Bear the way I saw it. Don’t get me wrong, I have great memories of our trip and it was a great time for my wife and I. But when I conveyed my excitement to others and gushed about its beauty, the pictures I would eventually show them didn’t match my enthusiasm and words. It left me wanting more from a camera.

A Google search online led me to stevehuffphoto.com and damn you, Steve… :) I find it rather impressive that I haven’t dropped more funds on cameras and built up more of collection than I already have. I will say this, my wife is not the least bit happy that I discovered your site. Kidding. ;) But kidding aside, the many reviews old and new, guest posts, your love for M4/3rds among others, led to the purchase of the Panasonic GX1 and their classic 20mm f1.7.

I apologize, but do allow me a moment to get sidetracked…if it were not for Aaron Rodgers’ statistically out-of-this-world 2011 season, my fantasy football team would not be winners of our $1k+ league pool. Aaron, if you’re by chance reading this, thank you. You gifted me a pretty sweet camera and lens combo.

Back on track. Actually, enough writing…here are a few of my favorites snaps from Thailand. Although there may be more writing to come after this set of photos. All of these photos were taken in JPEG and edited slightly or for some, too heavily via Snapseed.

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Thanks to you, I have wonderfully beautiful images of our time in Thailand. It was an adventure that involved delayed flights, missed connecting flights, an impromptu stay in Phuket via an online booking from a Thai airport, an unplanned ferry ride to the Phi Phi Islands (DiCaprio, The Beach!) then a connecting ferry to Ko Lanta (which actually worked out better and would recommend for everyone:), and a truly fantastic stay at our resort…all documented via the Panny/Panny combo. Yet if you’re up for sticking around, there’s more.

The more would be our daughter, Eleanor. Documenting these past 18 months with her as a part of our life has been pure joy. Joy. Joy. Joy. And I am forever grateful to have my m4/3rd to capture the many moments that we have with her. Thank you, Steve.

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All these photos led to a previously done wedding gig via the OMD EM5 (which will be a post for another day…I promise), a family portrait session in the coming weeks and a job with an interior designer for her completed projects to be used for her site. I love it. I don’t see these projects as work and I hope that it doesn’t ever feel that way.

Your amazing site has opened a door to me…led to the discovery of my creative side in photography…and I’m excited as to what the future holds for me.

Here’s a link to my super green and new blog www.mikemcfoto.com … please bear with it as I’m trying to find my style/structure (I feel like my style is constantly evolving) for the site and decide if it’s going to be strictly film, a combination of film/digital and a posting of works I’ve done. But do feel free to visit. :)

Cheers!

-Michael

Aug 082014
 

Canon AE-1

By Shane Caut

Hi Steve and Brandon,

I thought I would write a submission highlighting some of the beauty of Australia captured on a Canon AE-1 Program film camera.

To begin with I am a novice when it comes to photography and have only started working at this passion the last year or so, so I know I still have a lot to learn. Your site has been a constant source of inspiration and information, which I have keenly absorbed and so I wanted to share my progress.

My first serious camera purchase was a Leica M8. I was all set to start with a Fuji X body, when I was shown a used Leica M8 in the camera store and I was hooked. The M8 seemed to make so much sense to me and I did not get lost in all the gadgetry that other digital cameras can provide. I love how the M8 taught me the basics of setting the ISO, shutter speed and aperture. What more could anyone need?! I started with the Voigtlander 35mm f2.5 color skopar lens and it is certainly a great value for money lens. Wanting to try a wide-angle, I purchased a 24mm f2.8 FDn lens which I thought I could adapt to the M8 and focus using zone focusing. This worked fine, but that lens just did not belong on that camera. I then did some research and decided to try the lens on a body it was designed for. This led me to the Canon AE-1 Program. This camera is a delight. It is simple to use, ergonomic, quite small for a slr, and can be purchased for less than $100.

I fitted the lens to the body and took it on a trip to Melbourne. Some of the results are below. The other shots are from the streets and beaches of Adelaide.

I have used a few different films in my fledging film endeavour: Velvia 100, Ilford FP4, Ektar 100, and Portra 400. All have their own unique signature, and to my eye provide a depth of character difficult to recreate on digital. I am now hooked on film, and switched my Leica M8, which I did love and will always be thankful for purchasing, for a Leica M3. The M3 is in another stratosphere to the other cameras, and is hard to put down once you start hearing that almost silent click of the shutter release and experience that super smooth advance lever. I now have a nice balance of the M3 with a Canon 50mm f1.4 ltm lens and the Canon with the 24mm.

I hope readers enjoy the photos and feel free to provide any critical advice.

I have just started a flickr site here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/125897175@N08/

Kindest regards,
Shane

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Aug 082014
 

David Hockney, a Rolleiflex and The Road To Prescott

By Huss Hardan

Hey Steve and Brandon. As always, thanks for providing such a great forum.

A few years ago I was watching a tv show on the famous British painter David Hockney. One always wonders what goes through the mind of such an artist, the process and how they envisage the image. What struck me was one scene where he was walking down a grey, damp, almost monochromatic country lane. And describing the explosions of colours everywhere.

I couldn’t see it, but then they showed a painting of what he had described and it was stunning. It was almost like he was looking at a negative film image. That taught me a lesson – never just look at a scene – imagine what that scene could be if you just let loose your color palette.

Fast forward to the present time. I was taking a long weekend trip from Venice Beach, California to visit a friend in Prescott, Arizona. It would be good to get out-of-town and away from the crowds, but I wasn’t prepared for the emptiness, nor the heat! Stepping out of the Jeep into the searing brightness was an experience. Initially everything looked bleached out and colourless. But as my eyes adjusted, colours began to saturate and condense.

A Rolleiflex 2.8E was used with polarizing and warming filters to create the imagined scene.. The film was expired Kodak E100G from my buddy Jim at Studio3 in Portland, Oregon.
http://www.studio3.com/

Peace out
Huss

husshardan.com

Along the way

Evening cloudburst

Into the valley

Passmore Gas and Propane

Stop

Upon an azure sky

Aug 072014
 

Why cameras are important!

By Rudiger Wolf

Steve,

Your site really does provide inspiration. After the A7s review, I decided to try the low light monster. I had hefted the A7 before, and it just did not feel/sound quite right. The A7s arrived just before our annual family pilgrimage to Lake Tahoe. We try to enjoy family time together at Lake Tahoe every summer. This time it would be especially fun, because the grandkids are getting old enough to enjoy the festivities (2 and 5 years old). Many years ago, I read an article wondering why some professional photographers use the best cameras and lenses on their clients, and then use lower quality gear for pictures of their families… pictures that could bless the lives of family members for generations to come, long after the value of client pictures are gone. I took that lesson to heart, and use the best equipment I can on my own family. Here then, are a few pictures of our recent trip to Lake Tahoe, using the A7s and Zeiss 24-70.

Ok, well not quite always that camera and lens combination. In this case, it was the A7s with Leica 21mm f3.4. Shot at ISO 3,200, F3.4, 20 sec.

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This is my 5 year old grand-daughter. She woke up early one morning. I was already working on the images from the previous day. The light streaming through the glass doors looked like it might offer some interesting images. She is an absolute sweetheart, and agreed to model for our photo shoot. I used the A7s and Leica glass, but ultimately, this is one of my favorite shots. Leica M240 with 90mm at f3.4, 1/30 sec at ISO 800. The colors on the A7s just did not match up as well.

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There is no intention of a fake out here. The A7s is an impressive instrument. I did have the chance to use the A7s exactly as I imagined it. Auto ISO, shutter speed fast enough to capture the active grandkids, Zeiss zoom lens for auto focus and flexibility. It all came together with a series of shots in a pretty dark room and my two grandsons…cousins. Sony A7s, Zeiss 24-70, 1/125 sec, f4.0, ISO 12,800! This one will last a lifetime! Where is the grain? Awesome.

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Obviously, we also watched the fireworks. I had tried to get them from the boat before with my D800e. Don’t get me wrong, I love that camera. Like any camera, it has limitations. Again, the A7s showed it’s capability. This was shot with Zeiss 24-70 at 1/125 sec, f4.0 at ISO 51,200! Just a fantastic camera for low light.

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Did I mention my grand kids? They loved the show! Sony A7s, Zeiss 24-70 at 1/40 sec, f4.0, ISO 12,800.

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To wrap this up… Thanks for the recommendation on the Sony A7s. It has enabled me to capture images I will treasure for a long time. My kids and their kids will see these, and remember the great times we have had together as a family. I can think of no loftier goal than to invoke those memories and feeling of joy and love together as a family.

Rudy

digitalwolftracks.smugmug.com
Rudiger Wolf

Aug 072014
 

Shanghai Street Life

By Massimiliano Farinetti

Shanghai is a fascinating city.

It is not China, is also China.

The encounter between tradition and modernity lives just turning the streets of the old town, the part of town that is fortunately preserved from the modernization moving on … I am used to stay in Nanjing Rd. every time I go there (once every year) so it is not difficult to me to walk the narrow old streets Here you can see the lanes closed by gates within which everyday life and hard work of these people carry on If you do not go you can not figure it out.

Turn on the streets of Shanghai, from the photographic point of view, a continuous discovery of subjects, views ready to immortalize. It is not to do with a bulky SLR: you must have a device quick and discreet as only a modern mirrorless can be (or a Leica, if you can afford it). A camera that allows to focus on the photo to take and not on what you have in your hand to take it.

All shots made with all Sony Nex 6 + Voigtlaender Color Skopar 35/2, 5 MC, raw files converted to B&W in LR4.3 with a personalized preset

Massimiliano Farinetti

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Aug 062014
 

Locho Camera Bag review

By Justin Heyes

Camera bags come in all shapes and sizes from little pocket pouches to heavy-duty rolling rigs and for the most part they can be pretty ugly. Would you ever walk around carrying your belongings in something that resembles a heavily padded diaper bag? No. Then why would you want to carry your camera, a tool for your creativity, in something like that? Style should matter to you when it comes your photographic life – enter Locho.

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Usually fashionable camera bags cost you as much as much as you paid for the camera itself. You justify the cost by telling yourself that everyone else has that bag so it must be good. Locho is a new comer to the seemingly overcrowded camera bag world. Jeremiah Robison Kickstart-ed the Locho DSRL Satchel in December of 2012. After a month the campaign was unsuccessful, but that didn’t stop the bag from coming to market.

The Locho Satchel is modeled after the Cambridge style satchel and can either be worn on the shoulder or as a backpack with the set of included straps (3 straps: 1 shoulder, 2 backpack). Measuring 16.5” x 6” x 11.5” the Locho Satchel is by no means a small fry. The exterior is made from top quality water resistant vegan leather (polyurethane) and the interior is a soft felt material. It comes in four colors: black, blue, brown and red. It has a subtle distressed look like it had already been well-worn. The side of the satchel was stiff and a touch boxy. The main flap is not floppy like a messenger bag and kept its shape when folded back.

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It has ample room with pockets for a 13 inch laptop and tablet. It also provides a padded interior pocket and magnetic side pockets. The pockets are described “for phone storage” and seem a bit small with the dimensions able to hold something the sized of an iPhone 4. The satchel comes with 3 adjustable Velcro dividers that almost are the full depth of the bag. Two dividers can be laid on their side to crate a bottom compartment. Locho’s logo is embossed on each side pocket flap and on the front pocket with their stylized “locho” underneath.

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Locho uses a tuck-lock closure instead of hidden magnets or traditional buckles. This give the bag an old world style. The closures are attached by a non-adjustable buckle and don’t have satisfying click when closed, but they held strong when needed. On the back there is a zippered pocket that can be open to slide over the handles of your luggage; it can also be used to store the set of straps that are not in use.

When I chose to carry my tripod with me, I used the backpack straps to attach it to the bottom of the satchel. The straps attach to D-rings around the satchel. There are two on the sides for the shoulder strap and three in a V-shaped pattern on the back. Neither set of straps include padding. Wearing the back as a backpack doesn’t cause any strain or fatigue on the neck or shoulders, but the body strap will dig into the shoulders a little when the bag is fully loaded.  When the satchel was shipped to me it was in a plain cardboard box. It was wrapped inside a dust bag with Locho logo printed across the front. There was a subtle smell of leather not as strong as a normal leather bag, but not overbearing.

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My initial feelings toward the bag were not very good. I thought it was big and boxy. It was much different from most soft sided bags I have used, not at all what I was expecting. I was informed what the difference between Cambridge style satchel and a messenger style bag were. It is a different style and required a different approach.

With any traditional soft-sided camera bag I have had, placing it on the ground I would make sure it wouldn’t get bumped or get knocked over. The Locho Satchel has proved time and again that it is rugged and tough. I have placed it on the muddy and rocky ground with out damage to my glass inside. I just wiped it off and continued on my way.

I always wonder why only few people care about the weight of the camera bag, albeit many seem to care about the weight of the camera. Camera manufactures are also crazy about reducing the weight of the camera, but bag manufactures aren’t. Bag weight only reflects it’s construction and padding or lack of.

The recommended capacity from Locho is one DSLR and three lenses. It can handle the 5D Mk IIIs and D800s out in the world without a problem. What I got into my satchel was a Fuji X-E1, a fist full of lenses, two flashes, a flash recorder, external drive, my tablet and notebook and miscellaneous cables and extra batteries with room to spare.

The use of vegan leather (polyurethane) as the external material may be a problem for some, but it has its benefits. It’s waterproof and socially conscious. It won’t age, become discolored, or stretch out over time. Leather is nice for occasional carry but is susceptible to damage from abrasion and stains. While genuine leather is great, it is costly and needs regular maintenance.

I gave the bag to another photographer and a local artist an this is what the had to say about the bag.

Few things to say about Locho Satchel:

Let me start by pointing out the obvious but also my favorite thing about this satchel; the color! I’m a really big fan of vibrant colors and this bag nails it. The 4 colors available really appeal to my sense of aesthetics. Its got an old style feel to it (with its design and clasps), a leather look to it, soft interior, and eye-catching colors with a handle and strap (very functional).

Now to move beyond the eye candy, the other aspect of this satchel that I like is the SPACE. I personally did not give the dividers a chance because most of my art supplies I keep in their own containers, but I was able to fit so much into the bag. I could fit my tablet, sketch book(s), 2 containers of markers, and 2 separate pencil cases. I never felt my stuff was crowed or worried the I would crush anything. Re-arranging things I bit, my 15 inch laptop, charger, small sketch book, and more were able to be fit in the main compartment. This isn’t even with me taking advantage of all the extra side/back/interior pockets.

My only real complaint for this bag it that its bigger then what I personally would need for my supplies. It’s large and very block-y. It’s a very rigid bag. But I’m also not using it for camera gear were I assuming the need for dividers and space to keep fragile equipment would come in handy. The plus-side to a bag design like this is that with wear I believe it would hold up and it would give you a really nice worn in look and with colors that would last.

Include in the box with the Locho Satchel was their DSLR strap. It is a nice little strap with a woven wool exterior and rubberized backing. The nylon attachment straps are a little too thick to easily thread on the plastic slide. The padded rubberized backing was nice when used on the shoulder and didn’t slip off nearly as much as a stock strap; when used on the neck it grabs the skin and can be uncomfortable. I would have liked this if it were padding on the satchel strap. Locho offers the straps in colors to match their satchel so you can mix or match.

 

Aug 052014
 

USER REPORT: Shooting the Sigma Dp2 Quattro and Fuji X100

By Michal Adamczak

Hi Steve and all,

I wanted to share my experience with Fujifilm X100 and Sigma DP2 Quattro. Attached are the pictures I took during my last trip with X100 as well as during my first trip with DP2Q. Note that the X100 pictures were developed from RAWs, while in case of Sigma they all are out of camera JPEGs (except for the balloon picture which I developed from RAW with corrected exposure). That may be not a fair comparison but I don’t really mean to compare them against each other. While I have been shooting RAWs only with X100, for practical reasons I plan to change my workflow with my new camera and use the OOC JPEGs most of the time. The size of the Sigma RAW files and the speed of their PhotoPro, the only software supporting the camera, make working with the DP2Q RAW files quite troublesome.

Back in 2011 I decided I would not carry a DSLR during my next trip. I though I would buy the best P&S I could find, one with a fairly big sensor and ideally with a bright prime lens – if there was such a camera. I had not been really following the market and was happy to found out that Fuji just released X100 – the camera I dreamed up and it was just a few clicks away from being mine! (Obviously the Fuji product managers must have dreamt about it a year or so before I did.) The camera looked great and felt good; even more so with the leather case which covered some of the plastic parts. Nothing is perfect but the camera was very close it to. I was happy with the image quality; the ergonomics and controls were great too – no need to enter menu while shooting. If I could change anything that would be the Manual Focus which I found out not really useable. I would love to have a mechanical focus ring in a “street” camera.

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Fujifilm X100 felt great and I love shooting with 35mm yet I found it limiting at times and wanted to change perspective. If the tele conversion lens for X100 was available a few months ago – I might have ended up buying just it. But it was not. I was in Japan when Fujifilm XT1 was released and if it was available in a small photo shop in Okinawa I visited – I would probably have bought it. But it was not. Then I found some pictures from Sigma DP Merrill cameras and knew what would be my next camera. And it turned out an updated version was about to be released!

Sigma DP2 Quattro is very well made. I like the futuristic design though I would still prefer they kept it shorter, even if thicker and taller, to make it more pocketable (which it is not). The camera feels a bit weird to hold at first but personally I find the ergonomics good *if* using both hands; it is not comfortable to use with one hand only. The menu and buttons are well organised, LCD is good except.. that in no way it is a substitute for a viewfinder. I was using EVF 90% of the time on X100 and that is probably what I miss most in DP2Q. I have read a lot about how slow Sigma Merrill was. I cannot compare it with Merrill, Quattro is not a speed demon but I don’t find its speed a huge problem either. Autofocus is fairly fast in good light (similar to X100) but can be very slow in low light (then again – it is not a low light camera). It takes about 8 seconds to write a single photo and there is a buffer for 7 pictures. Depending on shooting style it can very little or just enough. Personally I don’t remember filling the buffer while shooting. I find it very annoying, however, that the camera is not useable 2 seconds after taking a shot.

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Sigma DP Quattro offers quite a few usability improvements over Merrill but at the same time have somehow compromised Foveon sensor with low resolution Red and Green layers. It was a hard choice to make , but eventually I could not resist and decided to take the blow and test DP2Q myself. One of the reasons was supposedly improved JPEG engine (especially considering that the Sigma RAW files can be process only with Sigma’s own software). So how the image quality live up to the hype? Well, see for yourself. Overall I like the rendering, it’s smooth and have somehow painting like feeling. While I find the default sharpening too aggressive, there is definitely a lot of details there – just check the people on the beach or next to the balloons. Disappointingly there is a noticeable smearing in some parts of the pictures – check the grass in the shadow on the balloons picture. The camera gets very noisy starting from ISO 800 – check the incense picture; I find the B&W part very nice, however the red colour is washed away. (For a comparison ISO 3200 picture from X100.)

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Retro X100 and futuristic DP2Q – the cameras are quite different to use and have different strengths. I find it a good opportunity to “change a perspective” which after all was the reason to change my camera. I am still learning about DP2Q. I have a bit mixed opinion regarding the image quality – there is a lot of “good” there but some “bad” as well. I was considering using the low resolution JPEGs (without extrapolation) but while 19MP is more than I need, 6MP is a bit too little. The camera feels good though and I am looking forward to using it during my next trips. I will probably buy an optical viewfinder which shall solve its biggest, usability wise, problem.

Michal Adamczak

A few from the X100…

Super nanny / Super niania

Najlepsza knajpa na Tokashiki.

House with a view / Domek z widokiem

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Japanese wedding

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and a few from the Dp2 Quattro

Nephila pilipes

Emerald Valley

Youzihhu

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