Feb 272015
 

Kids & Flash

By Warren Street

Love the site and look often. Very informative and fair in an unpretentious way. So right up my alley.

I recently bought a flash cord for my D3100 after seeing some of Larry Finks photos and loving the look and feel that to me really highlight emotions.

Being a 9 to 5 Dad of 3 kids means I’m not home a lot but when I am home it’s my job to get the kids ready for bed. One of the things that strike me is the number of different emotions we go through as we get ready and it’s a perfect time to put the camera in one hand and the flash in the other. I’m always amazed at the results I get. When you look at these you can really see so much. From what’s obvious to the subtleties between the kids.

From a technique perspective I shoot manual so I can stop motion(it’s action after all) and also have a decent depth of field as focus is not always so sharp. I’ve shot a couple of parties just for friend(I’m not a pro) and they always come out interesting and unique.

I hope you enjoy.

Warren Street.

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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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35 Cron

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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

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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.

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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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These are the settings I finally settled on:

ISO Auto 200-6400 range

DR 100

WB auto

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Fine Jpegs

Astia film simulation

Highlight Tone +1

Shadow Tone +2

Color +2

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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 192015
 

My Time With the wonderful Leica M8.2

By Justin Halim

Hello everyone!  I’m a long-time reader of Steve’s site and I’d like to share my experiences with the most influential digital camera I ever owned – the Leica M8.2.  I really can’t describe just how excited I am to write this post, as nothing I am about to write about would ever have happened if not for Steve’s site.

First some background:

A few years ago, I was starting to really get into photography with my new Canon T2i.  I loved that thing and was shooting mainly macro and still life, just learning the basics about exposure.  However, one day I was rummaging around and happened to find a Leica M6 and 50mm Summicron (in perfect condition) in my father’s cabinet.  He had completely forgot he had it, so he gave it to me.  I had always heard about Leica and its status, so I couldn’t have been happier, or luckier for that matter.  After putting a few rolls of film put through it, I was in love.

Fast-forward a couple of years; I was finishing my sophomore year of high school.  The M6 had followed me everywhere, but it was getting difficult to justify the cost of shooting primarily film (I didn’t have a job), and using the Canon just wasn’t the same after using the Leica.  So, I began toying with the idea of a digital M to get the best of both worlds – the convenience of digital, and the experience of shooting a Leica rangefinder.  I researched the M9, and was immediately turned away by the price ($6000 at the time).  Discouraged by the M9, I looked into the M Monochrom, thinking a B&W camera would be cheaper (I was pretty naïve).  Let’s just say I was disappointed once again.  I had never felt so discouraged, until one day I remembered that, numerically speaking, there must have been an M8!

With newfound hope, I did more research, but was again discouraged to find countless reviews bashing the M8, particularly for its “lack of features.” I lost hope of ever owning a digital Leica. But one day, I found Steve’s site, which had many glowing reviews of the M8.  As I read them, I began to realize that these were the first “real-world” reviews I had found of the M8, from real photographers, and not some clinical spec chart from pixel peepers.  And every single one of those reviews praised the M8 for its unique shooting experience, which was exactly what I wanted.  However, what really sold me were the pictures taken with it, which looked so much like the images I took with my M6.  Now I had my mind set on an M8.
So over the summer before junior year, I got a job and worked 60 hours/week to save up for an M8, which was a much more realistic $2000.  By the end of the summer, I had saved enough not only for the M8, but an M8.2, which I found for a great price.  I also managed to scrape enough for a Voigtlander 15mm 4.5 II (for landscapes) and Voigtlander 35mm 1.2 II (general purpose), to accompany my 50 Summicron (for portraits).

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The camera:

I won’t go too in-depth with this, as just about every other M8 (and every other M) review covers this, but this was perhaps the most solid and attractive camera I have ever owned, aside from my M6.  Compact, sturdy, and beautiful.  I had the M8.2 black version, which adds the sapphire screen, black paint, and quieter shutter.  The M8.2 just exudes stealth and beauty.  No one would see or hear me shooting with it, which made it the perfect street photography/candid camera.  If people did notice it, they were always  intrigued by it and loved having their pictures taken (Leicas are a surprisingly good way to make friends).  One especially nice quality was how clear the rangefinder was, which was much brighter than the one in my M6.  But what was most important was how surprisingly versatile the M8 was. With the 15mm Heliar, the M8 makes an astounding landscape/architecture camera – the rangefinder is especially useful when using ND filters since the viewfinder doesn’t black out when filters are mounted, which can be a problem for SLRs.

The M8 practically introduced me to street, portrait, and landscape photography.  Don’t listen to anyone who tells you Leica M’s are not practical cameras – I used the M8 for just about everything except video and macro, and got much better results than with any other DSLR I used, as well as having a lot more fun.

The experience:

Picking up an M8 after using the M6, I felt almost no difference.  The M8 is astoundingly similar to a film camera in both look and feel.  At its heart is the infamous CCD sensor that records in that unique, Leica-film way.  Even with the luxury of unlimited digital frames, I still found myself being picky about which shots I took, taking around the same number of shots as with a film camera.  Anyone who writes about M cameras mentions their zen-like experiences, and as much of a cliché as it must be at this point, I just have to emphasize this – THE M8 HAS SOUL.  It’s indescribable, and it can’t be put in a spec chart, but it is there, and it makes all the difference.  It’s why we put up with manual focus, manual exposure, and limited focal lengths.  With the M8, there is nothing between the subject and how I portray it.  And that’s what makes the M8 so versatile, just set your exposure and take the picture – no distractions, no worries or second-guesses, just confident shooting – just like with film.  I take the picture, not the camera.

Of course there were many “issues” brought up by others – 10MP, no IR filter, poor low-light capabilities, and low-resolution screen.  Honestly, I hardly noticed them:

·      – 10 MP is more than enough for me, and if anything, it forces me to get the composition right the first time around to avoid cropping later.

·       – The lack of an IR filter was never a problem – Leica gives two free IR/UV filters with every M8, even if it’s pre-owned.  But having no IR filter has its perks too: the M8, with decent glass, is blindingly sharp, and makes for a fantastic B&W and IR camera.

·       – The poor high ISO performance did get to me sometimes.  The M8 really maxed out at ISO 640, but could be pushed to 1250 if it was in B&W.  To avoid extreme post-production noise, you really have to nail the exposure at higher ISO’s.  However, my Voigtlander 35mm 1.2 (a fantastic lens) solved all my problems.

·       – The low-res screen is a very overrated “problem,” even for the M9 I suppose.  It’s perfect for working the menus, and it gives a decent view for image playback. But the M8 is so much like a film camera that I often wouldn’t even look at the image playback.

·      –  In my experience, one could easily learn to work around the M8’s supposed issues, and, if anything, become a better photographer in the end.  To anyone wanting to get into a digital Leica system, the M8 is still a great choice even 8 years after being released.

I had the M8 for a little over a year, and I took it everywhere – out into the sands of the Jersey Shore, into the bustling streets of New York City, into the festive alleys of Barcelona, and into the rainy, overcrowded streets of Shanghai and Beijing.  I used it to photograph all my family events, and even used it for the school yearbook.  Unfortunately, I sold it because my neck strap broke and the camera fell, which ended up damaging the shutter.  When I got it back from repairs the circuit board failed and it wouldn’t turn on.  I sent it back again, but decided it wasn’t worth keeping anymore.  I sold it and moved onto a Canon 6D and a Hasselblad 500CM, as I needed a video camera and wanted to try medium format.  But that doesn’t change the fact that an entire year of memories was recorded, quite beautifully, by my M8.  To this day I still regret selling it – when it worked, there really was nothing that could compare to it.  While I’m only a teen with limited experience, I definitely learned more than I ever thought I could with my M8, and that makes it all worth it.

Now I am saving up for the day I can purchase an M9.

Thank you everyone for reading, and thank you Steve for letting me write for your awesome site!

https://www.flickr.com/photos/112710288@N03/

http://instagram.com/justinhalim/

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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 122015
 

The Panasonic LX7. A $349 Backup to my Leica M

by John Kurniawan

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Hi Steve and Brandon…Wish you both a Great 2015!

Bought a Panasonic LX7 as a back up to my M system.

I choose LX7 as a camera for my daughter as well a back up cam when I am traveling. Why LX7 ? Just love its size and features which suit my need like macro, zoom and manual mode. The manual mode comes handy when in low light condition so I can mimic the RF experience.

Almost a year with LX7, both my girl and me are happy with it, here are some the photo produce by this funtastic cam. Ones can produce good photo no matter what the camera is, most important is how ones capture lights correctly.

Thank you and hope to see more good post by talented photographer at your site

Best Rgds

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Jan 122015
 

My Fuji X100T Experience

by Vasu Jagannathan

Hi Steve,

Here is my User Report on the Fujifilm X100T digital camera.

My X100T is black. It is beautiful to behold and, as befits a Compact, it is easily carried in the hand. But, as I did not find the grip to be super comfortable while shooting, I will be attaching Fujifilm’s MHG-X100 handgrip in the near future. Since that’s my only real caveat one can guess that I really like this camera!

I took it out just one day after receiving it without making any prior practice shots. As I’m one of those who never had either one of the preceding X100 or X100S cameras in the series, it says a lot for the X100T that I was able to get comfortable with it within the space of a single photo shooting session. Just by way of background, the X100T is a 23 mm (or a 35 mm EFOV) fixed-lens camera with an APS-C sized XTrans II sensor packed inside a compact body.

Picture 1 - Entrance National Gallery of Art 12 Dec 2014-DSCF0002

 

In taking the pictures shown here, I used Aperture Priority, changing the f values as needed. I also used the Auto ISO option with the range 200 to 6400. For Metering I chose the Spot option and Focus was Auto. In order to feel out the camera’s performance, I shot some pictures wide open at f/2.0 (see Pictures 3 to 6), pushed the ISO to 1600 (see Picture 5), and fired off handheld at 1/40s (see Pictures 2, 4 and 5).

 

I also switched in the built-in Neutral Density Filter for Pictures 7 and 11. All pictures were shot in Raw Mode and converted to Jpeg in Adobe LR 5. One small point. When it comes to those Fujifilm cameras that use a XTrans digital sensor, I am really not sure whether Adobe LR is really the best thing to use for demosaicing the XTrans Raw files. I haven’t yet explored using other software such as Iridient which may be more optimal for Xtrans. I believe that aspect should be taken into account when looking at the color rendering in these pictures.

By way of background information, the attached pictures were taken in Washington DC – some inside the National Gallery of Art where the use of Flash is prohibited – and some outside. I am not going to describe every picture word by word as that would be boring. Rather, I would like to point to certain aspects of some of the images that speak to the performance capabilities of the X100T camera.

Pictures 2 through 6 were taken inside the Gallery where the light is subdued mostly for the sake of preserving the paintings. More specifically, Picture 2 was a bit challenging for the X100T because it was shot in a dark tunnel between two wings of the Gallery with myriads of small decorative type of lights that went on and off.

Picture 2 – 1/40ths

 

Picture 2 - Connecting Tunnel National Gallery of Art 12 Dec 2014-DSCF0003

I must have gotten this one in the full-on cycle. The ISO was 1250. Even so, the camera took this in stride at a shutter speed of 1/40s.

Below – Pictures 3, 4 and 5

Picture 3 - Inside The National Gallery of Art 12 Dec 2014-DSCF0006

Picture 4 - Inside The National Gallery of Art 12 Dec 2014-DSCF0007

Picture 5 - Inside The National Gallery of Art 12 Dec 2014-DSCF0009

 

Picture 6 which shows the original Little Dancer sculpture by Degas currently on exhibit here.

Picture 6 - The Little Dancer by Degas in The National Gallery of Art 12 Dec 2014-DSCF0010

The lens was held wide open at f/2.0. Among other things, I think the X100T nicely captured the Dancer’s reflections in the surrounding transparent box. All in all, the light and shadow aspects seemed to be well-handled by X100T in these indoor set of pictures.

Stepping outdoors, Picture 7 was taken in sunlight so bright that I decided to trigger the built-in Neutral Density Filter for this one.

Picture 7, ND filter engaged.

 

Picture 7 - Fountain outside The National Gallery of Art 12 Dec 2014-DSCF0014

Additionally, I shot this one with a shutter speed of 1/2500s just so I could freeze the motion of the fountain’s water jets. In this situation, the X100T set the Auto ISO to 850 and captured a good quality image. In all these pictures, the actual exposure values used in developing the Raw via Adobe LR 5 are of course very subjective, being my personal choices. Someone else may have developed the light and shadow differently but I believe that the intrinsic quality of the image produced by the X100T would still have been just as good.

Pictures 8, 9, and 10

Picture 8 - Pennsylvania Avenue Washington DC 12 Dec 2014-DSCF0015

Picture 9 - The Capitol Washington DC 12 Dec 2014-DSCF0018

Picture 10 - The Supreme Court Washington DC 12 Dec 2014-DSCF0021

 

Picture 11 was a challenge for the X100T due to a great contrast in light (the flaring sunlit cloud) and deep shade (the Library of Congress’ Jefferson building).

Picture 11 – f/16

 

Picture 11 - The Library of Congress Jefferson Building Washington DC 12 Dec 2014-DSCF0022

I switched on the built-in Neutral Density Filter for this one and stopped down the aperture to its smallest f/16 value. I hope the picture is suitably dramatic as well showing a nice performance by X100T. The inspiration for the last picture, Picture 12, was the interesting cloud hovering over Union Station.

Picture 12

 

Picture 12 - Union Station Washington DC 12 Dec 2014-DSCF0024

It’s the kind of situation where a Compact like X100T comes perfectly to hand and the fact that it has a large APS-C sized sensor gives one the confidence that you can pull off a good shot with a decent workable dynamic range in the Raw file. To finish up, I believe that this camera will not substitute for a top notch full frame DSLR or a Leica M Rangefinder in situations where that type of camera is needed. But what the X100T does, it does well. While it is not a pocket camera like the Ricoh GR, still it is easily carried in one hand or in a briefcase or messenger bag.

Its greatest asset, perhaps, is that someday when you are out there and see something so totally photoworthy that it would be a shame to depend on a cell phone camera with all its inherent limitations, then out comes your X100T and, then and there, you will be able to capture a high quality image that is all yours to savor at your leisure. Yes, from that perspective at least, this camera is a keeper.

You can purchase the X100T at Amazon HERE or B&H Photo HERE OR PopFlash.com HERE

The new Thumbs up is now available for the X100T as well, HERE.

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”.

JonasLuis_1

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.

JonasLuis_2

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.

JonasLuis_3

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.

JonasLuis_4

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.

JonasLuis_5

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.

JonasLuis_6

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.

JonasLuis_7

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

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

image003

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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.

image007

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

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

image009

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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

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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

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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

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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.

Dec 222014
 

wedm

Sixty Weddings with a Leica M 240

by Joeri van der Kloet

Hello to all of you! Thanks Steve for giving me the opportunity to share my thoughts with your readers again. I’ve posted a couple of times on shooting weddings with a rangefinder, but I thought it would be nice to give you an update.

I’m quite sure I’m a lucky person. 2014 was a crazy year and it’s not over yet. I just kept getting emails from people who were getting married and asking about availability. It was a very busy, yet immensely rewarding year. With an ever-increasing competition among (wedding) photographers this is something I don’t take for granted. I have found that staying true to the way I work does pay off. I don’t stage anything besides the group portraits and I shoot real moments only. Just snapshots of beautiful moments. Nothing more, nothing less. Sometimes my clients tell me it felt like I was just one of the guests, who happened to be there with a funny little camera. The M helps in this approach with its modest proportions, but behavior is just as important. I wear a suit if that’s the dress code, I mingle with the other guests and even my camera bag fits in. It may seem like just common sense, but you’ll be surprised how often this is forgotten.
Besides my documentary wedding work, the number of customers for my workshops are growing. Lots of rangefinder users are interested in the way I use my camera and they’re especially interested in my focussing training techniques. I really love this work, because I can help people to get more fun with their cameras.

In the last two years I’ve shot 60 weddings with my Leica M240 and although I already reviewed this camera here before, let me give you an update after many hours of shooting.
After having shot around seventy weddings with my M9s, a few years ago, I had gotten used to this camera. While I was on a four months journey around the world, I heard about the new M and I was quite excited, but also in doubt. A CMOS sensor? Liveview? Video? Seriously? Like most of you, the first pictures we saw that were taken with the new flagship were somewhat disappointing. Soon after that, the CCD vs CMOS discussion took off. And we’re still having this discussion today. Of course I also read about red skin tones, the lack of ‘crisp’, ‘pop’ and ‘3D’. However I also read that the M240 featured 2 extra stops in ISO sensitivity, a more silent shutter and a better responsiveness in general. For me, the increase in ISO sensitivity was enough to spend the 6300 Euros and start working with it.

The number one reason for me to work with the M240 instead of the M9 is ISO. I’ve really needed those two extra stops for low light circumstances. Even with a fast 35/1.2 I have used the highest ISO setting quite a few times. Of course the wedding receptions are the hardest moments to capture. As a rule of thumb I can freeze people who are dancing at 1/90th and at 1/60th, even though it will start to get slightly fuzzy, the look is very moody. People that are dancing slowly can be shot at 1/15th and still be sharp enough. By the way, sharpness is never my main concern. Emotion has top priority, then composition and only then sharpness. Flash is no option as far as I’m concerned, since I try to be as unobtrusive as possible. So for ISO only, I’d choose the M240.
Next is overall responsiveness. The M9 has a somewhat gritty shutter button, while the M240 has a clear two-step shutter button. The shutter itself is more silent and lacks the whining noise of the M9. Button wise, the M240 is more responsive, although I have heard people complaining about the start-up time. With my M, I have no problems with that and whenever I use my M9, it feels slower to respond on the buttons. Handling wise, I prefer the M9, simply because it significantly lighter. Don’t underestimate these 100 grams. You will notice the difference.

Much has been said about the M9 screen. Yes, it’s a joke, but it never troubled me. It was good enough to browse through the menu, check my histogram and check composition. If you’d want to check for sharpness, forget it. Though the M240 is not very good for checking for sharpness either (just compare it to the 5D3: now that works!) it’s a lot better than the M9.
But then the menus: I prefer the M9, simply because it’s more intuitive and easier to work with than the M240. Also, setting the ISO on the M9 triggers a clever menu: by clicking down you’ll increase one stop and by clicking to the right you increase your ISO with ⅓ of a stop.

Then there is the live view. First I thought I’d never use it on the M240. When I started using it, I discovered some benefits of this system. It always works, no matter how dark it is, whereas the EVF might get so dark that it’s almost too hard to focus. Live view also provides a way for very precise focussing. The drawback is that live view is very laggy. For me, during action it’s unusable, but for more static subjects it’s great. It’s also great for checking if your rangefinder is still calibrated properly. I do not use it a lot, but I wouldn’t want to miss it in a next M.

Battery life of the M240 is very good. With my two M9s I used to carry six batteries to a wedding. Now two is enough. So that compensates for the increase in weight of the camera itself. Sort of.

Issues then. The M9 has had quite a few and one more recent issue can be added to the camera: corrosion of the sensor. While the M240 has had its share of bad luck, it seems to be problem free at this moment.

The most important feature of a camera however, is its output and that’s what most people are talking about. It’s the CCD versus the CMOS. Yes, the files are different and everyone had to get used to these new files, myself included. Technically, the M240 files are superior: they have more dynamic range, less noise and they’re just more flexible. The issue with the skin tones has been fixed, though it never bothered me much. The M240 needs a little more punch than the M9 files: increasing the contrast a little is usually a good thing. For me, I’m really happy with the output the M240 delivers. Of course, you’ll have to shoot in raw, just like with the M9. Where the M9 really shines is base ISO. Those images, where light is good and focus is spot on are almost unbeatable. But as a pro I don’t shoot on base ISO that much. I don’t get to choose the light on a wedding and often it is dim, or very contrasty. So what do I want? Low noise high ISO and flexible files with a good dynamic range. And that’s what the M240 delivers. If you’re shooting in other circumstances and you don’t need to make any money with your camera, I can perfectly understand why you’d prefer the M9 over the M240. In fact, I still have my M9-P which I will keep as long as possible.

Maybe you don’t even need to make a choice between the M9 and M240. When I switched to the M-system, the M9 was the only full frame compact camera body in the world. Lots has changed. Sony has made the full frame compact system camera accessible for a much bigger group of people with the A7 series. I have seen many great reports about the A7 and A7s. Steve here rated his A7s as his number one camera! On the other hand: DSLRs have acquired features that make them more interesting for the documentary approach as well. The Canon 5D3 for instance, is just as silent as the M240 in its silent mode. Also, its AF-system is a lot better than the 5D2, which makes the 5D3 a pretty good smallish, silent camera for the documentary wedding pro. For me, I just like the way the M-system works with its simple lay out and its intuitive controls. I wouldn’t want to change that. Also, my M is my best marketing tool ever. Whether I like it or not, it sells.

So, in conclusion, can we finally say which camera is better? No, we can’t, because image quality should be one of the most important factors in deciding which camera to buy and this image quality can’t be described in numbers and sometimes not even in words. I just wanted to explain why I still prefer the M240 over the M9 after having read the renewed CCD vs CMOS discussion. Whatever camera you buy, get the one you can afford and just shoot with it. That’s what they’re meant for.

My wedding website: www.luta.nl
My workshop website: www.joerivanderkloet.com

and now, the photos!

1 Magical moment. The couple started dancing on our tiny boat on the Amsterdam canals. The sun came through and I just knew I had the best job in the world. With 28 Elmarit.

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2 The dance. They just kept dancing on this wedding and everybody had such a good time. Very low light, but I think I nailed it on 3200 ISO on 1.2 at 1/125th with the terrific CV35/1.2.

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3 Bride getting ready. I love to use whatever there is available for natural framing. With the small but very good 35 cron.

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4 The car. This bride just loved the classic Porsche 911 the groom arranged for their wedding. And it even worked with the dress. Shot with the CV35/1.2.

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5 Intimate moment during one of the speeches. I’m constantly looking for these moments. With the 50 cron, my workhorse.

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6 Waiting for the groom. While the bride was peeking through the window, this dog jumped on a chair and started peeking as well. I couldn’t have been happier of course. CV35/1.2.

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7 The vows. This was an intimate outdoor wedding and the couple had ordered birds made out of paper from Japan as a styling detail. I decided to shoot the vows through this curtain of birds. With the tiny 28 Elmarit.

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8 Father and child having fun. Shot at 6400 ISO at 1.2 at 1/60th. Is it sharp? No, but it conveys the message. CV 35/1.2.

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9 Bride and groom and umbrellas. It was a rainy day and the couple moved from the wedding venue to the next venue. I liked this scene and shot it quickly. With the 35 cron.

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10 I noticed this little moment just after the ceremony between the bride and her daughter. Shot with the 50 cron.

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11 The moment after the kiss. Couples relax after all the offical things are done and you can tell by just looking at their faces. WIth the 28 Elmarit.

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12 Soap and sunshine. During the ceremony it was dark and rainy, but when the couple got out the weather had changed completely. They were hugging each other and I liked this scene with its warm colours and all the reflections on the bubbles. With the 28 Elmarit.

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13 The laugh. While returning from a group shot, the groom (probably) told a joke and the bride laughed out loud. I like the flare and the soft light as well. With the 50 cron.

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14 The cake. This lovely couple just had a terrific day and I love the little moment with this interaction between the newly weds. With the 50 cron.

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15 The look. The groom was listening very carefully while the bride was secretly looking at her husband-to-be. I love, love this light and the way the 50 cron renders the scene.

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16 Magic light. When the couple walked towards their car after the ceremony they literally stepped into a ray of light. Smooth, warm, just beautiful. And the 50 cron has no trouble in rendering this scene.

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17 Boy and car. When the groom went for a cup of coffee, the kid sneeked in the car, an Audi R8, and pretended to drive the car. I could hear him imitating engine sounds. With the 35 cron.

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18 Smooth. The CV 35/1.2 is not just a low light lens. It’s also suitable for getting this smooth look. I’m not sure who the bride was looking at, but I just like this shot.

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19 Friends. Well, this one doesn’t need any explanation. Best friends captured with the 50 cron.

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20 Getting ready. I like the expression of the bride and the soft light from the window. Shot with the 35 cron.

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21 The kiss. An intimate wedding with only twenty guests. Being able to mingle with guests is even more important than at big weddings. With the 35 cron.

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22 Almost ready. After many years of shooting I’m still surprised that my clients give me the opportunity to capture all these delicate moments. Here the bride, probably quite nervous and so beautiful in the last moments before she’ll meet her groom. With the CV 35/1.2

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23 Light from above. This couple lived on a boat with windows in the ceiling. When the groom stepped on board, the bride heard him and looked up, trying to get a glimpse of him through the window. Shot with the 35 cron.

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24 The quote. While we were heading out for a boat trip we came across this quote and I quickly focussed on it. The groom turned his head to read it and I took the shot. CV 35/1.2.

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25 Kiss me honey. The bride reaching for a kiss in a train somewhere in Rotterdam. With 28 Elmarit.

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26 The first look. It was very narrow and I didn’t have much space to shoot the couple during the first look. Luckily, there was a mirror. CV 35/1.2.

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27 Father and bride. Long after the wedding, this bride told me that this picture made her father cry. I’m still honoured she took the effort to tell me that. Shot with 50 cron.

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28 Kiss and dance. Working with a rangefinder in low light conditions can be hard, but also very rewarding. The couple loved this shot and so do I. CV 35/1.2.

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Dec 082014
 

The Zeiss Loxia 50 f/2 on the streets of NYC 

By Tomer Vaknin

Dear Steve,

First let me say how much respect I have for you and the other members of your website, I have learned a lot by exploring the wonderful photos you all shared, equipment reviews and inputs. I would like to share my own personal experience with the Zeiss Loxia 50mm f/2 Planar T* lens.

As a proud and very happy owner of the Sony Zeiss 55mm, I was hesitant to purchase the Loxia. However, after reading your positive impression of the lens in Photonika 2014 and as a huge fan of M mount lenses that I am, I simply had to try the Loxia.

Here are some photos I took with the Zeiss Loxia 50mm f/2 Planar T* in Amsterdam streets, Marken village and Rennstrecke Zandvoort, during a holiday I took with my wife in the Netherlands. I hope these photos, along with my personal impression of the lens, will help some of undecided readers in making the right decision for themselves.

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My personal take on the Zeiss Loxia 50mm f/2 Planar T*:

- Great 3D feel (Check the box shot that was -take on a bed)

- Wonderful Bokeh

- Lovely Creamy look

- Great character

- Great colors and contrast

- Very sharp!

Overall, The 3D look, the creamy bokeh and feel + the very nice tone and color makes it a winner. The shots taken with the Zeiss Loxia 50mm f/2 Planar T* looks like they were taken with the Leica lens.

Altough the Sony Zeiss 55mm is an amazing lens and you can’t go wrong with it, I personally prefer the Loxia.

www.facebook.com/tomer.vaknin.5

Dec 022014
 

Character Style and Mood in Photography Part 2 – Hints of Hidden Things

By Peter Maynard

See part 1 of Peters Report HERE.

Thank you all for your positive response to my first essay on character, style and mood in photography. As I edited that article it forced me to think about why I adopt the approach that I do to photography, so apart from anything else it was useful as a means of clarifying my own thinking on the subject. For those who read it you may recall I talked about my belief that we should each search for an approach to image making that reflects our own personality and preferred personal style. I also argued the merits of deliberately using mood and leaving something to the viewers’ imagination so they can interpret the image in their own way.

I had a number of images that I had considered using in the last article but did not in the end use due to considerations of length, so I thought I might as well prepare a part 2. Maybe it will help inspire others to try something different in their own photography. For those of you who have had a look at my Flickr site you may have seen that I have tagged photos “life in shadows”. This stems from my film shooting days when I was largely shooting monochrome. It seemed to me that much of photography was about representing life using shadows and light. Hence – “life in shadows.” I have headed this article “hints of hidden things” as it seems a little more relevant to the theme I have been writing about – the use of mood, the value of the power of suggestion and the idea that leaving some things to the viewers’ imagination can actually help improve an image. For those who have expressed interest in an article on post processing, I have not forgotten. Subject to Steve’s agreement, I will prepare an article for future publication. By the way I realize that by now some of you will have had a peek at my Flickr site so some of the following images may be familiar to you (if so, my apologies).

The first image is a favourite of mine although I am not sure why. However, I do know that what appeals to me has something to do with the presence in the image of the steeple of the old clock tower. Other than this it is nothing more than a jumble of buildings reflected in the window of another building. I suppose it does suggest something about the nature of change and progress or perhaps about the permanence of some aspects of the past. And of course it says something to me about my home town.

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Some images appeal to me just because of the patterns that they contain. I have to admit that I love abstract photos. The following two are examples of pure abstracts. The first is an abstract take on a building reflected in the window of another building. What makes it in my view, is the distortion that the reflected image is given by the slight misalignment of the panes of glass and the subtle colors.

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The second of these demonstrates why sometimes you just have to be thankful for the opportunities thrown up unexpectedly when you have a camera in your hand. If you look closely this image is nothing more than an office shot through a window. But with a boost to contrast in post processing and a little added glow, it becomes something that reminds me of an abstract painting by a modern artist like a Kandinski or a Miro (all those lines and blocks of colour). To be honest it may not appeal to everyone but I just liked exactly that – the lines and angles together with the colours. I guess the message is always have a camera with you if you are serious about photography. I know I feel naked without one.

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While on the theme of making the best of opportunities that present themselves, the National Gallery of Victoria in Australia has a water wall the front of the building – a wall of glass with water perpetually flowing down it. It’s a gift to photographers like me who love images that give a slight twist to reality. I especially like the following image for the relationship between the people in the photo as well as for the two eye-catching splashes of red. You just can’t plan these things – but you can anticipate them. I knew this would be a good spot for photos and so I hung out on an interior mezzanine floor overlooking the wall for perhaps an hour while snapping the occasional shot as images presented themselves. I knew that sooner or later something would turn up.

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And this image made in the same place on the same day seems to work too, although it is very spare in terms of its content. Once more, a splash of red works to heighten interest.

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With one exception, the following six shots are all similar to many of those used in the last article – people in one of my favourite settings – enjoying themselves with friends over a coffee or a meal. (Hint, if you are nervous about street photography it is easy to get natural and engaging photographs of people when they are concentrating on their friends or food). To a greater or lesser extent they all demonstrate the ideas I talked about in that article, especially the ideas of deliberately using blur, distortion and shadow to create mood and to encourage viewers to make their own interpretations of the images. All of these have involved some post processing (mainly cropping, tone, colour etc.) to bring them to their final state, but to a large extent what you see is what I saw (i.e. I have not set out to create something new – just enhance what was already there).

The third image in the series is well out of focus. Here is another hint. If something goes wrong, do not be too quick to delete photos that have not turned out (which often happens when shooting candidly in streets). I was using autofocus, which I think focussed on the reflections, not on the main subjects. Kismet! For some reason this worked better than it might have had I focussed correctly. I often find it is possible to come back, perhaps months later, to photos that I initially rejected and find something interesting in them. This was one of those.

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I will end this article with one final photo which is an example demonstrating what can be done with a more extreme approach to post processing if you are of a mind to do so. This image was actually taken on an aircraft when flying off to an overseas holiday a few years ago. I thought the photo was quite good, helped by the quirky pose of the subject, but the setting was boring. At a loss to what else to do with it and as an experiment, I tweaked the colour (lowering saturation), the tone (increasing contrast and adding a vignette), the sharpness (adding some blur and glow) and also added a semi-transparent texture overlay for no better reason than I was interested to see what I could make of an image that I thought to be good but which had a background which intruded. Although you would never know it, the halo like glow is light entering through the plane’s window.

I full well realise that some think this amount of post processing is “cheating” in some way, but my view has always been that particularly in this age of digital imaging, image making is about the end result – not how you get there and so as long as you are honest about it that’s OK. Besides in this case it is a way of using a photo that otherwise may not have been a keeper. It is another example of how you can take a more or less boring image and then add elements to invest it with a character that has more interest. I will pick up on this theme in a future article in which I will provide a few suggestions and examples of how to improve basic images by post processing that takes you beyond the usual processing that involves little more than reducing digital noise, sharpening etc.

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If you feel so inclined, please visit my Flickr site.

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

Or you can visit some I have placed on Pinterest for a more succinct overview of some of my images.

http://www.pinterest.com/peterm1001/

Nov 242014
 

Character Style and Mood in Photography

By Peter Maynard

Adelaide, South Australia

Hello Steve. Allow me to open by saying thank you for running this site. It is one that I visit regularly for inspiration and information. I thought it was time I went about trying to inspire by providing some thoughts on the importance of character, style and mood in photography. It is a wee bit lengthy but I hope it’s worth it, so here goes.

In photography, many of us start our journey by studying and learning from the masters of the art. But my belief is that many of us will eventually develop a desire to create their own personal photographic style, rather than just copying others. This requires experimentation, learning, effort and creativity. In my case, I approach photography as an art form, not just a mechanism for documenting and recording events. This more expressive approach influences my work greatly and my ability to use photography to express myself artistically is the thing that constantly challenges, engages, enthuses and energizes me. Oh, and did I say frustrates?

What really counts for me is the creative process itself and ultimately what is important is whether I like the resulting image. I understand that not everyone approaches photography in this way and that is fine but this is my way so it is all I can tell you about. What this article is about really is the need for photographers to develop character and style in their work and in particular I would like to demonstrate the role that mood can play in image making as a part of this.

Although like many photographers, I started “serious” photography by shooting black and white, my preferred style now most often involves using colour because I find it lends itself better to artistic interpretation for my type of work. This is not invariably the case though – I like to let the image “decide” if it wants to be in colour or in monochrome, if that makes sense. It is a simple fact of life that some images work best in monochrome and some in colour. Part of our job in image making is to work out which is which. So I usually shoot in full colour then convert later if needed. Here is one where monochrome seemed to work better to convey the feeling I thought the image was crying out to convey – solitary, thoughtful, a little gloomy. I can’t say it’s a perfect photo – it has too many blown highlights for that, but it has mood in bucket loads and that is what I wanted.

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I always feel that photographs are at their most interesting when they require some degree of interpretation by the viewer. And as I have already hinted, as much as anything this is about creating mood in images rather than just capturing a scene accurately. It is about what is suggested in the image more than what is recorded. My personal belief is that this kind of photography is at its best, not necessarily when the images are technically perfect, but rather when they either capture or create a mood that “speaks” to the viewer. of course a viewer may interpret my photographs as having a very different mood or message from the one I intended, because of course the viewer will interpret the image through his or her own eyes and own experiences.

Here is a colour example I happen to like very much. Like many images that I like the best, it is not technically perfect. And like many presented here, it was shot through a window and as a result is distorted and softened by flare and reflections. Technically it may be questionable, but artistically I feel it works. This image reminds me very much of early autochrome colour images which have a lovely softness and pastel quality. And it has a lovely intimate mood which sets me thinking: who are they, why are they here, what are they talking about? That is exactly what mood should be able to achieve – set the viewer thinking.

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I am happiest with my own photos when they are somewhat ambiguous (one reason I often make liberal use of reflections when I can – think Saul Leiter who had a similar approach for, I imagine, similar reasons). I think of a good image as being one which allows room for viewer interpretation as I mentioned earlier. Here is another example. Again, it’s an image of a group of people in a warm café; sitting, passing the time, drinking coffee and enjoying each other’s company. Once more, critics could be forgiven for saying it’s a bad photo – excessively dark, soft, indistinct and vague. But these are exactly the things I love about it. It has an intimate mood that draws me back to this place and time. Hopefully it does something similar for others who may remember times when they have sat amongst just such an intimate group of friends. Once more this photo is all about its mood.

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Why is it that looking in through a window on a scene so often creates that feeling of intimacy and warmth? I find this again and again – it is like looking in on a secret and private world. Here is a further example, an image that speaks to me once more of comfort, intimacy, congeniality and friendship.

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Of course the same technique can be applied in other settings. In the following two images, shot through windows in Kowloon, Hong Kong I captured the staff of two of the many small restaurants that line the streets in this part of town, at work in their kitchens. Shadows and light complemented by the blur of steam on what probably has to be admitted were grimy windows transport me back to my time in that place. To me this type of travel photo is more evocative than any number of wide-angle scenes of iconic buildings and skylines, perhaps because the images’ human scale because they capture the feeling of the places depicted. They are photos which make the most of mood and looking at them transports me back to that place and time. This is what mood can do when it works for the viewer.

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But of course, mood does not always rely upon reflections in a window. In the following shot my aim was for the image to be about the triangle made by this mother’s face, her hands and the face of her child to emphasize the relationship between them. So after making the image I applied a vignette to emphasise those elements and not much else – perhaps just enough to give context. I have often felt that in image making a successful image is as much about what you leave out as what you capture. And that is a key creative choice that photographers should keep in mind.

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The same kind of technique can be successfully applied to other types of photograph to create mood. In this image of a city skyline, the natural shadows have been enhanced to focus the eye where it needs to be – on the juxtaposition between old and new as represented by the buildings in the image.

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In all of the above images there has been some degree of post processing to draw out final image. Perhaps it is surprising for many people to learn that the processing has involved taking detail out – not maximizing it. As I said at the outset, to me a photograph can often work best when it is a little ambiguous and allows room for personal interpretation by the viewer. This can often only be achieved if the image has lost some detail that might otherwise distract the viewer from the main message or make the main point of interest in the image less obvious. But there are times when little effort is needed to achieve this.

Sometimes, as in this photo all you need to do is to rely on natural light to capture the mood that was present when the image was made. And then maybe tweak it a smidge in post.

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But I can never quite let go of the idea of using reflections so here is one final photo to illustrate a variation on this theme. In this example it was as simple as photographing the distorted image of a crane against the sky, with both elements reflected in a grimy upper story window of a warehouse. No tricks, little processing, just an image that is both vague and at the same time, somehow evocative. You may have guessed. I love reflections for their ability to create mood.

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So there you have it, some thoughts on creating mood in photography to illustrate my central message of the importance of photographers creating a personal style for themselves. And of course to illustrate this I have shown you something of my own personal style. Your task is to find a style that works for you – a style which gives you a voice. And what about creating mood? Well, unsurprisingly I find that much of it is about using shadows and light. Speaking personally I just wait till I see an image that looks as if it is interesting then compose and press the shutter. Then when I am processing it and begin to see an image emerging that I like, I may add a bit of shadow here, subtract a bit of light there – or visa versa, till I am happy. No secret, just experience and a certain sensitivity to an image that in some way makes me go “wow, I like that, I think I will stop now!” If there is interest and |Steve agrees I am happy to prepare another article for his site on how to use post processing to enhance mood and style in photographs.
I recently found a photography book containing photos of Australia in the 1950’s and 1960s. A sentence in it caught my attention, part of which referred to “the ability of a lens to give a vision not seen by the eye”. How true that is. If we are doing our job right as photographers we will sometimes manage to capture an image that no eye, including our own has ever seen. We have caught a moment in time and when we first see the photo realise we have really seen it for the first time. I am sure we all have had that experience and am constantly amazed by the ability of photography to do this. But my central idea in this article is that even though a photo can capture something not seen directly by the eye, if done well it can tell an even deeper truth about the image by speaking directly to our emotions. That is the elusive frustrating demon I constantly chase. Maybe we all do.

I hope you have enjoyed this and even more, I hope you have found it useful or at least thought-provoking. More of my photos can be seen on my Flickr page. Nothing fancy, just photos from my everyday life and travels. Some good, perhaps some indifferent, but I hope not many that are bad.

Please visit and if you feel so inclined, leave comments. https://www.flickr.com/photos/life_in_shadows/

Or you can visit some I have placed on Pinterest for a more succinct overview of some of my images. http://www.pinterest.com/peterm1001/

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