Jul 292014
 

A look at the Lumu iPhone Light Meter

By Brandon Huff

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Ahhh now here we have it! The Lumu, which is an external iPhone light meter! This little device plugs right into the headphone jack of an iPhone. Once you do this, all you have to do is download the Lumu app which then shows Aperture, Shutter speed then ISO you simply use it like a normal light meter, putting it next to your subject or pointing it in the direction of which you are shooting press measure then it shows all the information needed. Take this information and set your camera using it and you should have a perfect exposure!

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The light meter and app itself are very snappy. Let’s say you want to shoot at ISO 800 and need the shutter speed info for your lighting situation…you simply set the meter app to ISO 800 and then press the”measure” button and it will give you the shutter speed and aperture needed for that scenario. Same goes for if you want to shoot at f/2  - set the app to f/2 and it will tell you what ISO and exposure to use. Simple.

BUT! In use I have encountered one little issue. After you get used to the app and actually take a photo I noticed it was slightly underexposing when using my Nikon V1 to  test it with.  You can calibrate it inside the app although it does not really explain how to do it perfectly, but I was finding my shots slightly underexposed. This is great for preserving highlights but it is not a 100% correct exposure. See the samples below…

Using the Lumu  - Nikon V1

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Using the cameras built in light meter – Nikon V1

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These photos are straight from camera JPGS and there has been no editing of any kind. Yes, the difference is not huge and its nothing too crazy that a little Photoshop can’t fix but it is not perfect.

The price of this Device is $150 US Dollars and you can buy it direct HERE. In my opinion it is worth it if you wish to have a small yet useful light meter. Problem is when your phone dies you have no light meter, other light meters batteries last way longer than an iPhone battery will which makes them more reliable.

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So I decided to try the meter in direct sunlight, F4 with the Nikon 30-110 lens I must say it really underexposed on this one,  now could this be user error? Sure, it could be! I have only used this tiny guy a little bit, but imagine if I was shooting out of an old TLR and I thought all my images were coming out correctly, when all I’m actually doing is wasting film and money for images that may be unusable. I verified I was using the meter correctly and following the directions supplied with the device. It says to bring the phone by your subject and aim the meter towards the camera. This is what I did and you can see the results below:

Direct sun Lumu Metering

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Direct sun aperture priority mode – Nikon V1 meter (overexposed)

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The Lumu always seems to underexpose it and the in camera meters have slightly over exposed this photo, it seems you just have to mess with it a little bit, figure out what you are looking for. In the above situation the Lumu gave me the preferred exposure as I can always lighten that image up but can not really fix the blown highlights in the V1 exposed image.

If you are using strictly analog I recommend getting a proprietary light meter, however if you shoot mostly digital but film sometimes I strongly recommend this Lumu.  Another good feature of this little gizmo is that you can measure light intensity in the room at a constant scan rate. For the price though this product isn’t too bad. IMO it is better than spending $400+  on a light meter if you don’t need or rely on one all the time. It is pocketable and you can even wear it around your neck with the included necklace or carrying case (that will connect to your strap).

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Necklace

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If you are thinking about purchasing one of these Id look to see if it will work with your device if using Amdroid, I have a Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 and it won’t register even though I have the app. Its made for iPhones more than android devices and it works great on my iPhone.

Brandon

Jul 212014
 

My few days with the very fun Leica C Camera

By Steve Huff

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A couple of months back I had the opportunity to try out the Leica C for a few days. Usually, I am not a BIG fan of small P&S cameras as they always lack something in regards to image quality. For me, I would normally rather take out a camera that is slightly larger as there are many that will give me much better performance, then again, sometimes we want to go SMALL, and the Leica C is a very attractive came that also happens to perform very well for a small and tiny P&S. It even has an integrated EVF (though not to the level of the Sony RX100 III, which my review IS coming soon).

The Leica C is basically a Panasonic LF1 with a new facelift and design on the outer shell. The Leica has some snazzy accessories available for it as well where the Panasonic is sort of “plain jane” when it comes to appearances. If you want to stick out in a crowd and say “look at my beautiful camera” the Leica would be the one to get over the Panasonic, which to my eye is sort of plain and dull looking. We all know that the looks of a camera do not make the images, YOU DO and the cameras guts, or internals, is what pumps out the files for you. IN that regard, the two cameras are the same. Period.

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The LF1 comes in at $319. A very good price for this camera as I found it to be quick, stealthy, quiet and with very nice image quality for a small sensor P&S camera/

The Leica C comes in at $699, NEARLY $400 MORE. So what do you get for that $400? For starters you get Adobe Lightroom software, a better warranty and the Leica design. For some, this is worth it as many “want” a Leica. While not a “real” Leica, it does have the red dot which tells everyone else who has no clue about the details, that yes, this is a Leica.

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The good thing is that it does look like a Leica camera, and if that inspires you to get out and shoot more, then yes, it could be worth it. Just remember though that the Panasonic is $380 less, and is in reality, the same camera besides for the outer design.

With that out-of-the-way, this is not going to be a “review” but my thoughts on the camera after a few days of real world use while on vacation a while back.

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The Leica C is beautiful to look at and hold. It is small but felt nice in my hand. I found it to be quick, snappy, and with a nice menu layout. The EVF was a but on the almost too small side but would do in a pinch. For 90% of shots I used the LCD. The LCD does not swivel, so that was one thing I missed but for a small P&S, this was a little firecracker and while not up to the level of the $798 Sony RX100 III, it had its moments.

I enjoyed shooting this camera in high contrast B&W, which is where it did really well for OOC images. I also found the OOC JPEGS to be crisp with great color. Probably my 2nd fave P&S camera ever, next to the new Sony RX100 III which is the smarter buy at about $100 more, but then again, the Sony doesn’t have the red dot!

Below are a few images I snapped with the Leica C. I had fun with it, and for me that is key. If I can have fun with a camera instead of having frustration, then it goes on my list of “must think about” cameras. The Leica C is not a low light type of camera but it is an every day, take everywhere camera.

You can buy it from Ken Hansen, PopFlash, The Pro Shop, B&H Photo or Amazon! It also comes in a cool dark black or a nice white. There are also deals to be had and you should not have to pay retail on this guy. For example, Amazon has them for $590 right now, using Prime. 

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Jul 142014
 

Shooting Skateboarders with Micro 4/3

By Tony Zhang

Hello everybody, first of all, I would like to thank Steve and Brandon for providing me with this opportunity to share my thoughts. I am a daily visitor of this site and I really appreciate this opportunity. This is the first time I have written anything remotely formal on the internet so please bear with me and my more than likely boring rant about skateboarding, photography, filmmaking and my gear.

My name is Tony, I am seventeen years old and I live in New Zealand. I discovered photography about two years ago. I am a skateboarder, and about two years ago I wanted to purchase a camera to make videos of my friends and myself skating around and doing tricks. After many hours of internet research later, I decided to shell out my savings on a Canon t4i, kit lens, 50mm f1.8 and a 6.5mm fisheye. My primary interest was video but I inevitably found my way to the world of photography. I eventually sold my kit lens and 50mm and sprung for a Canon 17-55mm f2.8 IS. I was convinced that my setup was good enough(not only in terms of image quality, but also usability, size and weight) for both my video and photo purposes, until I discovered mirrorless and micro 4/3rds.

I feel that skateboarding photography is very different to other forms of photography. For good results, much knowledge about the activity is essential. Knowing exactly what time to press the shutter button, by the millisecond, when shooting a particular trick is essential, a photo early or late by milliseconds is often the difference between a keeper or a throwaway.

Unlike other sports photographers, who are often seen with a behemoth of a DSLR and 100000mm telephoto lens, firing non stop in continuous autofocus mode from the sideline(no offense intended), a skateboard photographer shoots and skates with his friends, he is often down on the ground or up on the roof, in the blazing sun, struggling almost as much as the skateboarder trying to land the trick. The photographer is almost part of the action.

You may notice that for many of my ‘trick’ photos, I use a fisheye lens. The fisheye is a staple in the world of skate photography and it is used to get the camera up close to the spot and skater, to distort the environment, often making the ledge, rail, stair set or other obstacle involved in the trick look much bigger, and hence the stunt more impressive.

Camera rig

Many amateur and professional skate photographers frequently use external strobes and off camera flashes to help freeze the fast-moving action and to light the subject up better. Many amazing skate photos are taken with many external flashes. However, I have never used off camera lighting. Mainly because carrying around so much equipment while cruising around town on a skateboard is a pain, but also because it is a laborious process which somewhat takes the fun out of shooting. (I will also admit that I am a bit intimidated by off camera lighting because it all seems so confusing)

I love skate photography because it captures the life, adventures, talents and efforts of myself and my friends. It is a difficult and special form of photography. I also enjoy the pressures of skate photography, waiting for the skater for hours to land the trick, hoping that the lighting does not change rapidly, getting up high or down low into uncomfortable positions to get the shot, the risk of injury or damaged equipment (my fisheye lens has been hit multiple times by skateboards as a result of being too close), and the chance of getting told of by security, these factors are all parts of skate photography. It is never a controlled environment and I truly enjoy these challenges.

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Backside heelflip(g6)

For the first few months, I was very satisfied with my camera setup. However, after learning more, filming and shooting more, I developed the feeling that something was missing, the ergonomics of a DSLR was not ideal for shooting video, mainly due to the lack of an electronic viewfinder, I had to use a large and cumbersome stick on viewfinder when shooting video. A video mode with 60 frames per second is essential for skating due to the need for slow motion at times, and Canon DSLRs only have 60fps in a softened 720p mode, filled with moire and aliasing artifacts. Despite being an excellent all round lens, the size, weight and front/back focusing issues of the 17-55mm f2.8, was irritating. I longed for a smaller camera with an electronic viewfinder and clean 1080p video in 60 frames per second.

There are few mirrorless cameras with aspc sized sensors that provided clean 1080p 60fps video, good video and stills ergonomics, a good, wide enough fisheye lens option, and an external 3.5mm mic input. Enter micro 4/3rds, after months and months of internet lurking. I decided that the Panasonic g6 would be the best all round camera for my purposes at a good price point. At the start of 2014, I sold my entire camera setup but kept my external microphone and homemade handle which I use for filming ‘lines’ (a video clip in which I am on my skateboard, following a skater with my camera and fisheye lens low to the ground and close to the skater, filming him do several tricks in a sequence.) I purchased the Panasonic g6, the Bower 7.5mm f3.5 fisheye, the Panasonic Leica 25mm f1.4 and the Panasonic 14-140mm f3.5-5.6 zoom lens. For me, this was the best all round compromise for stills and video that I could afford. I chose the g6 over the gx7 due to the external mic jack and overall ergonomics, and the gh3 due to the price difference. I find the difference in stills quality between the g6 sensor and my past Canon DSLR sensor to be negligible, and in fact I find contrast detect autofocus to be more reliable. However the difference in video quality and ergonomics between the two setups is worlds apart. I prefer the electronic viewfinder for both stills and video. The touch pad AF function on the g6 is perfect for my style of shooting, this, along with the accurate contrast based autofocus and the 25mm f1.4 makes shooting much more enjoyable than it was on my Canon. I do not require lightning fast tracking autofocus because when shooting tricks, I prefocus on a spot and lock the focus. Nothing else I shoot moves at a fast pace, and contrast detect autofocus works perfectly for my needs. The 7fps burst rate is very useful and I have the camera set to burst mode almost all the time.

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Frontside noseblunt(g6)

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I love the Panasonic 25mm f1.4, I try to use it as much as I can. The depth of field is shallow enough for me and I love the rendering and micro contrast of the lens. I often shoot wide open, and the 25mm is very sharp wide open. I also purchased a polaroid variable ND filter for about $30 USD so I can shoot video wide open during the day, the quality of the filter is excellent for video, there is a slight compromise for stills but I am not at all bothered by the incremental reduction in sharpness. The fisheye lens is compact, sharp and solid, however I do wish that it had a slightly wider field of view and increased barrel distortion. It is noticeably less wide than its aps-c DSLR counterpart which I had. I purchased the 14-140mm zoom planning to just use it for video, but its stills capability is also very decent, I find depth of field at the long end to be very adequate for portraits given that there is enough working distance. The OIS works amazingly, I can sometimes shoot fairly steady handheld video at the very telephoto end. I use it mostly for zooming video shots (unlike in usual filmmaking, many traditional skateboarding clips have some sort of zooming action in them, so video nerds please don’t rip me to shreds), however, I still wish I had a typical camcorder style zoom rocker.

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Nollie crooked grind(g6)

With my birthday money, Chinese New Years red bag money(haha many of you will know what I am talking about), and addition chip ins from my parents for doing surprisingly well in my SATs first try, I purchased a Ricoh GR. I originally had my eye on the Fuji x100s, but it was not pocketable and cost too much. I wanted the GR because of it’s tiny size, ergonomics and it looked fun to use. It is a camera that fits in my pocket, I take it with me almost everywhere in the weekends, often without the intent of taking photos at all. The GR is the camera that allows me to get candid photos of my friends and out skateboarding adventures without me having to take out my big(ger) camera(and often removing it from my homemade handle.) I was originally worried I may not have been able to adjust to a 28mm prime lens and expected myself to frequently use the 35mm crop mode(which by the way is excellent), but I quickly found it to be the perfect ‘storytelling’ lens, wide enough to include many elements in the photo putting the shot into precise context. I also find the 28mm equivalent perspective very dynamic and lively, unlike many telephoto focal lengths which appear distant, compressed and flat(but this is good for many things). I usually shoot in TAV mode with the aperture wide open or at f5.6, and use it typically up to ISO 3200. Much to my surprise, I found the in camera raw developer to be very useful and fun to use, I especially like the positive film effect. The low light performance of the GR is great, the handling and interface are amazing, the sharpness is incredible throughout the aperture range., it is built well and most of all, it is fun to use. The 28mm and 50mm prime combo I have is great for most of my purposes when it comes to stills.

Ollie(trick) - Wynyard quarter(g6)

Portrait(g6)

However, nothing is perfect. Despite all the benefits of my new camera setup, I can still find some noticeable flaws, no deal breakers though. Firstly, the build quality of the Panasonic g6 is questionable. Being part of the entry-level range, the buttons feel slightly flimsy and often have a slight delay, this is especially noticeable when I want to scroll through photos, or quickly change the aperture or shutter speed. It is not a big deal however, just takes some getting used to. I wish there was a flatter picture style for video so I could squeeze out some more dynamic range when filming. When in manual mode, there is no constant exposure preview in the viewfinder and screen, the viewfinder always displays a correctly exposed image, this is frustrating as one of the main benefits of an electronic viewfinder is to have a constant preview of the exact exposure. The eyecup of the viewfinder is also very hard and uncomfortable, and I am unable to tightly press it against my eye for stability, much better than nothing though. The 25mm f1.4 is almost perfect, but I do wish it were a bit smaller and had a reversible lens hood, with the hood attached it is quite big. Chromatic aberration is also a concern, however this is easily removed in Lightroom. When filming with the 14-140mm, I sometimes notice slight shifts out of focus for milliseconds before coming back to focus while zooming, even when in manual mode, meaning that it is not a true parfocal lens. This is usually not an issue, but frustrating at times.

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The Ricoh GR, for what it is, is close to perfect, however there is a risk of sensor dust attraction. After about a month, I noticed a slight speck of dust on the sensor, it is noticeable when I shoot a picture of a white wall, however it cannot be seen in most situations. It is annoying but usually not an issue. I also wish that there was a manual video mode, I know it is a camera completely designed for stills but some sort of control in video would be nice. A slightly faster maximum aperture would have been nice, I really like the surreal look of wide-angle photos with shallow depth of field, however I understand that the size of the GR would have been compromised. A pop up EVF would be amazing, I have gotten used to shooting with the screen and it is fine, even in sunny conditions, but after seeing the Sony Rx100 iii, I really wish my GR also had one. Perhaps I am asking for a bit too much here.

Backside smith grind(gr)

Lastly, for those who care, here is my homemade camera rig/handle I have mentioned a few times. It allows me to shoot much steadier video due to the extra weight, as well as to film ‘lines’ due to the top handle. Prior to this, I had the Opteka X-grip, but it felt flimsy, was too big and wasn’t really efficient. I drew a few sketches of what I wanted on paper, then purchased various parts off eBay to put it together. The camera slides in and is connected by the hotshoe screw at the top as well as the quick release plate at the bottom. The height is adjustable and the frame can extend enough to fit some entry level full frame cameras. There is no frame on the left side so my LCD screen can flip out, and I mounted my external microphone(sony ms908c) upside down on the side so the rig fits in my bag without me having to take it apart. The quick release plate is a recent addition. With the plate added, it takes about 3 seconds to take the camera on or off the rig, without it, that time lengthens to about twenty seconds. If anyone is interested in the pieces. required, I am more than happy to send you a list of parts and how to put it together. By the way, the photo of the rig itself was taken on my Ricoh GR, wide open at ISO 1600 in raw and then processed in camera with the positive film effect.

Here is my Flickr- https://www.flickr.com/photos/87200229@N04/

Instagram- http://instagram.com/t_zhangg

Youtube channel- https://www.youtube.com/user/TonyZhangsChannel

I would really appreciate it if you could view my photos follow me on instagram and flickr, I know I don’t have much content, in fact, hardly any, most of my work is kept to myself. But rest assured that I have been steadily uploading more and will continue to put out more content.

Most of you will probably have little to no interest in skateboarding, but it would mean a lot to me if you could click on my channel and watch a few videos, it would really help me out, even better if you subscribe!

Once again, many thanks to Steve and Brandon for this opportunity, as well as to all of you who have taken time out of your day to read my article. I apologise for my rambling and heavy digression into video. I really enjoyed writing up this user report, it has allowed me to thoroughly rant about my thoughts. I hope that this report has been informative or useful to some of you who may be considering the Panasonic g6 or Ricoh GR, despite all the flaws I pointed out, they are excellent cameras(Trust me, I could tear any camera to pieces). Being able to carry around so much camera gear but still have the overall weight and size of it all being fairly minimal is amazing, especially when I skate around town with everything in my backpack. However, in the end, it is not about the equipment you have, but how you use it and your creative vision. No matter how good your gear is, there is always room for its improvement. People have create amazing images with mediocre gear, so try not to be like me and go crazy about gear, instead focus on the actual process of taking photos and your final product. But let’s be honest, talking about gear is pretty fun :)

Cheers,
Tony

Filming(gr)

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Lurk(gr)

Sunset(gr)

Jul 142014
 

My favorite cameras for usability, ability and versatility mid 2014

By Steve Huff

Wow. It is already mid 2014. Half of this year has whizzed by faster than ever and as always we have a ton of cameras that we can choose from when it comes to photography. If we want something small that packs a punch, we have that. If we want something for low light, we have that as well. If we want something that is a joy to shoot, hold and use, well, we also have that. Do we have it all in one single camera yet? Well, not really.

There are always new camera seeing released though maybe not as many as the years past. DSLR production, as in new models, has seemed to slow down some from the constant barrage of new models that we used to see. Well, at least it seems like it. Even mirrorless offerings seem to be lasting a little longer between releases these days, and this is GOOD as we are at the point now where almost any camera will give us better results than most of us even need.

So far in 2014 we have had some cool releases and there are still fantastic cameras that were released in the past that are still perfectly usable. The question you need to ask yourself when deciding on a new camera is “What will I be shooting with it”, also “Do I value usability more than overall versatility”? “Will I be shooting mostly low light or in good light”? “Does it need to fit in my pocket”?

Once you decide what it is you want to use the camera for, be it portraits, your kids, vacations, or just an everyday shooter then you need to decide if you want simplicity in a fixed lens model or something that will allow you to choose and change lenses. The choice is yours as there is something out there to fit your needs, and I am going to talk about the cameras I like as of July 2014 with the reasons WHY I really like, if not love them.

My fave cameras made for Versatility

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Micro 4/3, Olympus E-M and E-P series

My favorite camera for ALL OUT versatility as of today is still the Olympus E-M1 or even E-P5. These cameras are beautifully made with a solid feel and gorgeous looks (in the case of the E-P5). They have some of the best lenses made for any system next to Leica from fisheye to telephoto and everything in between including some super fast primes like the Nocticron f/1.2 that is one of the best lenses I have ever used. With Micro 4/3 you have speed, you have the lenses, you have the build, you have the amazing 5-AXIS Image Stabilization and you have a smaller size. The lenses are so good, and not so astronomically priced. The color reproduction is beautiful and the B&W is not too shabby either. A camera like the E-M1 has it all and the only real weakness of this camera is that the sensor is smaller than full frame and smaller than APS-C. For this reason you lose out on some shallow depth of field and the images will be a bit more noisy at high ISO than full frame cameras.

Even so, if you shoot mostly in good light and want one hell of a system with unlimited lens choice and an all around great experience with pro image quality results, the E-M1 is still a gorgeous camera. The E-M10 and E-M5 are as well. I reviewed them all and you can read my reviews of these models HERE, HERE and HERE. Yes, you can indeed get DSLR quality and beyond with these models.

You can buy the E-M1 at Amazon or B&H Photo.

Three from Micro 4/3 – Super versatile cameras that do it all. 

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My fave camera for Point & Shoot, Vacation and SMALL SIZE!

Sony takes it here for me with the new advanced pocket rocket, the RX100 III. 

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The new Sony RX100 III is a hell of a camera in almost every way. It is small, made very well, has a pop up EVF, tilt LCD and stellar IQ for a small pocket camera. It’s a handsome camera as well and gives us an f/1.8 to f/2.8 lens from 24-70 (ff equiv). What is not to like? The color is great. the files are nice and I have seen some do amazing work with the RX100 version 1 and now Version III improves on that model in every way. This is, hands down, the best pocket camera I have ever seen or used, ever. Video is good as well. It does it all but will not give you the all out versatility or IQ of something like a Micro 4/3 or full frame model. For what it is though, it is the perfect camera for every day shooting, vacation, kids, family, events, etc. Whoever buys an RX100 III will not be disappointed. It is the real deal. I have been able to use one for a but thanks to B&H Photo but have not had serious time yet with it. Will be doing that this week. You can buy the RX100 III at B&H Photo or Amazon.

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My Fave camera for Usability

Without Question, the Leica M reigns supreme here

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The Leica M, any of them from film to the M 240 or Monochrom take this one for me in a huge way. These cameras are ones that you cherish and create an emotional bond with. For those who think that is nonsense, then you have never had that bond with a camera, and yes, it is real. The Leica M is a masterpiece of design, build, and usability. All manual focus using a rangefinder it is a very precision tool that actually can teach you a think or two about photography, framing and exposure. It is a tool one can use for a lifetime if you choose a film model, as they last forever. While the price is off-putting to many, think about it in a new way. This is a camera that will give you the most enjoyment from any camera ever..well, it has for me and not everyone is the same. From the moment you take it from its box all of your regrets of the money spent fade away.

The Leica M6, M7, MP, M8, M9, M240 and Mono will give you that Leica experience that no other camera will give you. As for IQ, others can meet or exceed the Leica in that area but nothing can beat it for usability or for creating that emotional connection. You can buy a Leica from many places these days but my faves have always been Ken Hansen, PopFlash.com, The Pro Shop and Leica Store Miami. These guys will treat you right.

Three from the Leica M 240

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My favorite camera for general every day and low light use

The Sony A7s wins this one easily. 

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You guys know how much I adore the Sony A7s and while it is not the most versatile (only due to lack of native lenses when compared to others such as Micro 4/3) camera it is indeed quite powerful. There is no low light situation that this camera can not tackle, period. When used with the 50 0.95 Mitakon I can see in the dark and when used with the native Sony lenses such as the 35 2.8 or 55 1.8 the camera will even AF in the dark. Amazing. The A7 also has better color performance than the A7 and A7r , better AWB, faster AF and better M mount lens compatibility. You can read my review here to see what it is all about but I now have one of these bad boys with a few lenses and love it to pieces. As I said in the review, the A7s is probably puns for pound, dollar for dollar my favorite camera that I have ever reviewed.

Low light shooters, this is a must try or own. The camera also is excellent in daytime shots and video. If more native lenses were around it would be unbeatable for me as of July 2014.

You can buy the A7s at Amazon or B&H Photo.

Three from the A7s, 1st one using the Voigtlander 35 1.2 wide open and a 100% OOC JPEG. 2nd one is from the Mitakon 50 0.95 and third and fourth is from the Zeiss 50 Sonnar 1.5. 

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Runner Ups

The Fuji X-T1 and Leica T are also very cool and very capable cameras. The Leica is different than other cameras in its interface and joy of use. It is a Leica and gives you the Leica style of IQ and pride of ownership. The Fuji is still a lightweight in the build but for Fuji fans, this is the best of the lot when it comes to Fuji interchangeable lens bodies.

Of course these are not the only cameras I like, but they are my faves as of July 2014. The Sony, the Leica, the Olympus..all superb in so many ways and unlikely  to leave anyone disappointed as long as you use them with good glass. The key is to get out and use them (for me it has been tough since it has been 110-112 every day and me and extreme oven like heat do not jive well for more than 5-10 minutes) and have fun using what you do own. The key is you more than anything, not the gear..though I admit..it is very fun to test and try new cameras!

Jul 102014
 

The Urban Jungle with an OMD E-M5

By Matt Stetson

Hey Steve and Brandon,

I was introduced to your site by a friend almost 3 years ago and have rarely missed a day since. My name is Matt Stetson I live just outside of Toronto Ontario Canada.

I got into photography around 6 years ago when I broke my wrist snowboarding. I wasn’t going to be able to ride for a while so I figured the next best thing would be to take photos of all my friends who could. The more I shot the more I really began to enjoy photography and the whole process. After a few years of acquiring gear and experience I started to get published in magazines.

My favorite type of skateboard and snowboard photography is when it happens in the streets. Each and every city is a concrete playground and it’s always exciting to see how athletes interpret different features. I love how street style photography is similar. Each city is its own “Urban Jungle”. It’s always interesting to see how people act and react within their environment.

I was introduced to street photography mainly through this site. The more street style images I saw the more I began to really love the genre. I love all of the textures, shapes, architecture, and people you can encounter on any given day walking through a metropolis. Also I love how that same place can be so greatly different from day-to-day depending on weather, time and season.

After many hours reading reviews on this site I decided to buy an Olympus OMD EM5 with the Panasonic 20mm 1.7 and Oly 45mm 1.8. The smaller lightweight body and lenses are just way less intimidating while walking down the street. I don’t get the crazy large files that I do with my 5D MKII but I don’t need them for this application. I also love taking it to family events and vacation/trips. The size is just not a factor, so the camera fits wherever I have space left over, instead of having to create space for my camera gear.

I would love to share a skateboard and snowboard photo, as well as a few of my favorite street images. I really appreciate all the great content and inspiration that you guys post. I hope that I can be a part of it. You can also check out my website here: www.stetzphoto.wix.com/mattstetson

Thanks
Matt Stetson

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Jul 102014
 

Using a Zoomfinder

By Steve Tsai

Hello Steve Huff Photo community, I have stumbled across an invaluable side benefit of a zoomfinder in my photography process and would like to share my experience with it. It is for wide-angle application and architectural interior photography in this report, but hopefully it can be beneficial for other applications as well!

For those unfamiliar with a zoomfinder, it is an external finder with a zooming capability for compositional aid, typically used on a rangefinder or a non mirror-reflex camera. It mounts to the hotshoe and there are a few choices out there. In my case I use the Voigtlander Zoomfinder, Arca Swiss Vario Finder, and to a small extent the Alpa eFinder App on the iPhone.

Framing aid Apps on the smart phone is pretty handy indeed but the requirement of an external wide-angle lens adaptor and the annoyance of dealing with electronic device where multiple button presses, non-instantaneous viewing, and concerns of battery life hinder the speed and usability for me so I am skipping it in this report.

Below are brief descriptions of the zoomfinders in use:

The Arca Swiss Vario Finder

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Along with different masks it simulates framing including rise/fall and shifted lens positions. Users zoom the housing to desired lens focal length marking and put a corresponding metal mask on the front which clips on by the recessed magnets in the front frame. There are 3 masks in total but for my use I only need 2 of them. My finder is an older design, newer finders have guided pin slots which is even cooler for keeping orthogonal movements.

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The mask can be slid in both axis to show movement – each dot simulates 5mm of movement and can be seen through the viewfinder. Here is a view that simulates 10mm of rise and 10mm of left shift.

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The image quality is nice and bright, with apparent barrel distortion, gets much better when zoomed in though. The image appear to be slightly blurry on the periphery if your eye is not in the right position or not square to the eyepiece which acts as a clever visual feedback to put your eye in the right position for accurate framing. The proportion is 4:3 which corresponds to medium format digital back sensor size.

Here is how it looks like when mounted on the technical camera, it has mounting foot for both landscape and portrait orientation.

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Voigtlander 15-35mm Zoomfinder
This a well designed and solidly-built finder which operates similar to a zoom lens. There are notched positions for focal length presets similar to aperture ring on a M rangefinder lens and has a built-in diopter on the eyepiece. Depending on the model it will also indicate equivalent focal lengths for various cropped sensors. In use on a rangefinder it is a bit of a dance as Steve explained in a previous post. Metering and framing are carried out by viewfinder on camera and the Zoomfinder separately. Due to the larger distance it mounts away from the lens, parallax effect is more exaggerated for closer distance subjects with the super wide lenses. Here is how the zoomfinder looks like when mounted to the M9-P.

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The experience is similar to an SLR where views are masked instead of frameline overlay of a rangefinder, there is a dotted line on top to indicate close range frame edge. The images quality is excellent, distortion is very mild and zoom simulation works extremely well. There is slight fringing if you point at bright sources. The proportion is 2:3 which corresponds to small format sensor size. Here is a comparison showing 15mm and 35mm views, note the slight fringing.

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Now to the main point of the article – how the zoomfinder can make our lives easier. For years I have looked for solutions that will help with certain challenges I encounter on a shoot – which the zoomfinder eventually solved for me.

Here are the benefits:

1. Scouting Aid
Prior to the shoot, one can go around the space and preview contemplated scenes using various focal lengths in a very nimble fashion. For architectural interiors, one frequently gets pinned to confined space during framing, it is much easier to handle and preview with such a small and light device.

2. Visualization and Focal length selector.
For those of us sensitive to the compositional impact related to exaggeration of perspective inherent in various wide-angle focal lengths it is sometimes hard to choose the proper prime lens without preview. The zoomfinder shows the effect in combination with the physical distance to the subject. You can quickly decide if you want to stand back and use a 28mm or get closer and use a 24mm along with the look of each lens. It is such a time-saver. The relatively low optical distortion in the viewfinder just makes the preview actually enjoyable and non-distracting compared to lower grade viewfinders.

3. Stitching Preview
For those of us that use shift lens and stitching capture workflow it is hard to see the composition during the shoot. Through my own tests I have worked out equivalent focal length of the stitched focal length. The 24 PC-E becomes 18mm with cropped sides or 21mm safe frame. The 45 PC-E becomes 28mm with cropped sides or 35mm safe frame. Safe frame is for cropping out the corner vignette when maximum shifts are used. You can quickly preview the finished image with the zoomfinder. Here is an image that shows 3 images from capture and the finished stitch.

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4. Camera Position Aid
The effect of camera height is very important in interiors. With the viewfinder I can preview the scene and determine exact camera position very quickly. Once I identify the desired position, I will hold the zoomfinder in place with one hand and then drag the camera + tripod over with the other hand to match the optimal position quicker and then fine tune to suit.

For the benefits above, the zoomfinder has become so invaluable that I carry it on me during the shoot at all times. Previously I used a mini ballhead along with a tripod button and a safety noose.

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Early on in the year I dug into my luthier roots and made a stabilized hardwood handle for it. A belt clip gun holster provides easy reach and secured carry. I often have to move furniture and arrange items in the scene so the belt clip is the best carry as it will not swing around during active motions.

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I know this is a very specific application and a small camera with a wide zoom can achieve the same function. However the small size and simple, convenient use during a physical shoot just makes it so much easier for me. If there is a wish to make it even better… a 15 to 50mm zoomfinder would make it out right amazing although definitely not at the expense of distortion though! The experience is so important and can make your shoot enjoyable when scenes do not appear warpy like a Salvador Dali painting. I have considered a dual hot shoe that mounts both the zoomfinder and a separate 50mm finder but it will make the size much larger and stability would be of concern.

If one can make a custom precision mount that adapts the zoomfinder to a smartphone it can be used as a good quality wide angle zoom adaptor as well. Maybe it will be a project for the DIY crowd with a 3d printer out there!

Maybe in 5 years google glass will have a thought controlled view window that can zoom and crop to simulate a viewfinder – consider this a free idea if anyone wants to take this on with crowd sourcing!

You can find me at:

Website
http://www.stevetsai.photography/

Stevie Rave On blog
http://stevetsaiphotography.com/wp/

Flickr
https://www.flickr.com/photos/stevieraveon/

Jul 082014
 

The Sony A7r and project “Speak Soccer”

By Alex Kroke

Living in New York City my inspiration comes from all around, it was no different for Lisa and I with our project Speak Soccer. The premise of our idea began at the start of the Brazil World Cup 2014 while we were having lunch at an outdoor cafe talking about sports and fashion.

Lisa Capezzuoli is a creative graphic designer and art director of EVOL design, she wanted to create some artsy fashion , then we observed that the italian sports “Gazetta dello Sport” paper is pink, and it would be great to make it a dress . We then noticed how other International Newspapers were covering the event and the possibilities for design with the other countries.

Once we nailed down the idea of creating fashion around the way each country covers their national team in the press, the production process flowed easily. In the end we shot, nine models, from our friends circle, in “word” dresses constructed with newspapers from USA, Brazil, Germany, Italy, Spain, Netherlands, Uruguay, UK, and Argentina.

See more HERE.

The shoot was on a Sony A7r and the 55mm 1.8 tethered to a computer. 4 Elinchrom lights. Images below:

Speak-Soccer_Argentina

Speak-Soccer_Brazil

Speak-Soccer_Germany

Speak-Soccer_Italy

Speak-Soccer_NL

Speak-Soccer_Poster

Speak-Soccer_Spain

Speak-Soccer_UK

Speak-Soccer_Uruguay

Speak-Soccer_USA

Jul 082014
 

Neko Case

Taming the Nokton 50 1.1

By Manikarnika Kanjilal

My name is Manikarnika Kanjilal. I am a doctoral student and I devote my almost my entire (lately dwindling) free time in pursuit of photography. I was always interested in photography but started being seriously into it for the last couple of years – after I found a Digilux 2 on ebay. It was Steve and Thorsten Overgaard’s reviews that made me acquire the camera and thus start exploring my photographic vision. This post is however not meant to wax poetic about that cult camera but on another “controversial” lens about which the photographic community seems to be divided.

Last summer I acquired a second-hand Nokton 50 1.1 in a moment of insanity and went on to use it in a one-lens-one camera challenge to myself. What was even more insane was that I did this while covering a four-day music festival in my city.

Edmonton Folk Music Festival is quite the religious experience for a huge number of music lovers in this town. People queue up at the gates for a chance to place their tarp as close to the main stage since 3 am or some ghastly time like that. The main stage is at the bottom of a hill and people sit on the hill as a natural amphitheater. For four days tarps and their placements become an extension of the private space and ego for many of the audience members. For someone like me that attends the festival alone and spends most of it standing or walking or crouching to not get in the way of other photographers, tarp politics is fascinating. There are six side stages that hold simultaneous workshops during the day and the main stage performance starts at around 7 in the evening when audience from all these side stages come back to their tarps and settle down for the evening like homing pigeons.

My motivation for choosing a Leica film body and the Nokton f1.1 came from the fact that carrying a backpack full of stuff up and down a hill very soon starts to feel like I am carrying a backpack full of sins from all my past lives. In short, I wanted to travel light and be able to capture decent photos on stage after dark. I did carry my Digilux 2 as a backup but I liked the images from the film set-up way more. It was at times disconcerting because I had no immediate feedback like that in digital. I was being extremely cautious with achieving focus as well as not shooting too much and wasting film. It was quite the lesson in constrained optimization. I had a couple of rolls of Portra 400 in my pocket along with a 4-stop ND filter for when the sun was too strong. This was pretty much it. I ended up using a total of 4 rolls of Portra over four days. I shot everything either wide open or at f1.4. A huge advantage of working with such a constrained/minimalist set up is that this year I had a lot of time to enjoy the music instead of being glued to the camera viewfinder. Often I pre-focused and waited for the musicians to hit the spot instead of trying to track them in their movement. The other advantage of shooting a film rangefinder is that the photographer doesn’t hide behind the camera. With a little practice one shoots with both eyes open and it does wonders when actually connecting with the subject – be it musicians on stage or people on the street.

I ended my nokton-festival challenge with the portrait of a very young music-lover and her mom holding the Forever Folkfest candles in the dark. Nokton 50/1.1 is a beast that needs to be tamed. Using it on a film rangefinder feels almost like writing with a brush pen blindfolded and the challenge could be a source of constant excitement for any photographer.

Cheers!

Manikarnika

Website: http://kanjilalmanikarnika.com/

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/chhayanat/

Havana d'Primera

Avett Brothers

Portrait by the candlelight

Neko Case

Neko Case

John Butler Trio

John Butler Trio

John Butler Trio

Forever, Folkfest

Fatoumata Diawara

LP

Delhi to Dublin

Delhi to Dublin

Charles Bradley and his Extraordinaires

Dave Alvin and the Guilty Ones with Vioux Farka Toure and Amos Garrett

Jul 042014
 

RX1 / Spiders in Australia

By Matthias Wäckerlin

Hello!

Shooting proper Macro with the Sony RX1 with the superb Carl Zeiss Sonnar 2/35? YES, you can!

My name is Matthias Waeckerlin (Switzerland) and I have been living now for 2 years with my family in Camden near Sydney.
I’m a “stay at home dad” looking after our little children. Previously, I was working as a professional photographer.
My HEAVY Nikon gear, about 8kg, did not pass the check-in at the Zurich airport, too heavy, was the answer of the lady behind the counter! So, I had just my Sony RX1 around my neck and I never regret it since today. I never missed my Nikon. The RX1 is the best camera I ever had: small – light – solid – outstanding full frame quality – quiet (no shutter sound). The only drawback is the autofocus. I hope it will be better in the new model.

I did many pictures for all kinds of settings. And I never had an issue with this little monster.
As you can see high quality macro shooting is also possible with the RX1. Sometimes it needs a bit of patience, some spiders are very fast. The best method to get these little monsters into focus is using the manual focus with focus peaking and then moving the camera slightly forward and backward until the spiders get sharp. I set the macro mode to the closest distance. The challenge was to catch the spider when they had a short rest. Some spiders were sitting in their web, then the wind was the challenge. I set the camera to the M and A mode for all of my pictures, used JPG option and did the editing in Lightroom. Most of the pictures have ISO between 50 and 400. Just one has ISO 1600. No tripod and no flash.

The amazing quality of the 24MP C-MOS sensor allows to crop the images to a little piece.
This is still big enough to view it in the Web and in Lightroom. I won’t print a poster…

Best regards

Matthias

www.matthiaswaeckerlin.ch

AUSTRALIEN, CAMDEN, Macarthur Park, SPINNE

AUSTRALIEN, CAMDEN, Nepean Lodge Unit 8A - 335 Werombi Road, SPINNE

17 Broughton Street, AUSTRALIEN, CAMDEN, SPINNE

17 Broughton Street, AUSTRALIEN, CAMDEN, SPINNE

17 Broughton Street, AUSTRALIEN, CAMDEN, Redback, SPINNE

17 Broughton Street, AUSTRALIEN, CAMDEN, Huntsman, SPINNE

17 Broughton Street, AUSTRALIEN, CAMDEN, SPINNE

AUSTRALIEN, CAMDEN, Macarthur Park, SPINNE

AUSTRALIEN, SPINNE

AUSTRALIEN, CAMDEN, Nepean Lodge Unit 8A - 335 Werombi Road, SPINNE

Jul 032014
 

Greetings from Upper Bavaria in South Germany with my M9

By Rainer
Hello!

I like to take pictures outside in the landscape of Bavaria with its picturesque atmosphere. Most of them are quite simple shots but every once in a while, I capture some really neat shots. This is not because I am a great technical photographer, but because I am actually there, right in the middle of the world that excites me the most. Even though I am not a pro, I still love to take photos just like you. These are the photos I would like to share with you

Located throughout the northern Alpine foothills, Upper Bavaria is home to pristine lakes, steep mountains and the famous metropolis of Munich. Today, I would like to share a couple of photos capture last week during the Corpus Christi Procession (also known as Corpus Domini) at Samerberg (Alp region), celebrated by the Catholic Church, the local society for traditional costumes and the mountain troops.

All the photos are captured with my Leica M9 and a Summilux 35 mm lens. (You can find more photos on www.samerbergernachrichten.de and www.rainernitzsche.de).

The Leica M is a fabulous camera to capture the colors of traditional costumes and the specific atmosphere in Upper Bavaria.

Take care, Rainer

Picture 1 and 2: Salute during Corpus Christi procession at Samerberg

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Picture 3, 4,5: The procession to different altars, representing the four corners of the earth.

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Picture 6 People join the procession in traditional clothes.

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Picture 7: After the procession, parishioners return to the church where benediction usually takes place.

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Jun 172014
 

The Camera doesn’t matter! The Kodak Easyshare Z990

By Ibraar Hussain

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We tend to hear the old adage about the Camera does not matter, which means it doesn’t matter what Camera you have, the person makes the photo.
I agree and disagree, agree because a creative person or a talented person can make a good photo or masterpiece with anything, even a pin hole camera. But I disagree because not all cameras are capable of making any type or standard of photograph.

I tend to carry around a Kodak Z990 Bridge Camera, a small sensor Digital with a 30x zoom lens and a bright f2.8 equivalent (at 28mm) lens made by Schneider – Kreuznach.

I bought it as it has the 30x zoom which was pretty good when it was released, and I thought I’d be able to take some pictures of birds and animals with it, and I bought it as it’s a Kodak, and the last half decent budget camera they made before going belly up, and I’ve a slight bit of brand loyalty towards Kodak.
The first Digital camera and APS cameras I ever bought were Kodak, and my favourite Film of all time is Kodak Ektachrome e100vs, and I’ve always liked the Kodak Digital colours of their Jpegs.

I’ve been using it here and there over the last couple of years with mixed results. To be honest I’ve not use fit that much, and pretty much failed to use it effectively for what I bought it for – birds and animals.

The focus tracks well enough, but it’s too noisy at anything over 400 ISO.

The Image Stabilisation is pretty good, but at full zoom, unless I use a monopod, I need very good light and a well-lit subject.
it’s also too slow from one shot to another, the zoom is via a toggle and slow and not accurate enough, and the focus can hunt. So as a long zoom camera for birds – not good enough.

I ended up using it as a point and shoot and for that it’s not too bad, and for what it is and within limits, the old adage rings true, the camera doesn’t matter unless….

Anyway, it has an interesting array of features. it can shoot in RAW, which I can’t be asked with, I tried it once and it’s about 20 years between each shot – and anyway, I ended up converting to Jpeg and using the image straight out of camera with some photoshop touching up.

Sure, if I were a Pro or shooting for print or display purposes I’d spend much more time in Aperture or Lightroom, and wouldn’t be using a camera like this anyway, so RAW is a waste of time and a marketing gimmick.

It has Aperture priority too, which again is a waste of time as there’s hardly going to be a way of getting shallow depth of field at 28mm so another waste of time and a gimmick.

What I love about it is the Film Simulation Modes; we have Kodachrome, Ektachrome, Kodacolor, T-Max and Tri X. Kodachrome gives natural colour, Ektachrome gives vivid with Kodacolor giving a 70ies look and so and so forth. You can also select the metering mode and other variables common to most cameras. It also has a decent program mode. So I can set it to ISO 100, Kodachrome, Centre Focus, Centre Weighted Metering and Auto WB and shoot away. Focus is nailed but does find it tricky when at full zoom. Full zoom gives a shallow depth of field to portraits and birds. ISO 100, 200 and 400 are very usable. and the lens is sharp with decent enough detail but very pleasing colour and contrast.

And it shoots 1080p video at very good smooth quality with no choppiness! The only downside to the video is that you can’t have much more control over focus selection and you can hear the motor when zooming, but I shot a lot of footage in the Himalays and it was as good as my iPhone 5 and not far off my Canon Legria.

It is well made and takes AA batteries which last a long time! And it looks nice.

With this it’s pointless trying to expect majestic landscapes or expecting to use Filters, and expect a very narrow latitude with the sensor so limited dynamic range. But keep it within limits and with well-lit subjects and you’ll get nice pleasing pictures with good colour and contrast! And you can crop to get some pleasing compositions, and for Birds…well, I’ve included a few shots here, but to be honest, it (and I am too) out of our depths as regards Birds.

So does the Camera matter? yes it does.

Spend more and get a camera suited to what you want to use it for or your style of photography.
I know the latest Bridge cameras with 50x zoom are very good indeed – but for serious Wildlife and Birds – save up for a Mirrorless at least a decent telephoto and a Tele converter. For anything else get one of the Olympus XZ-1 type larger sensor compacts with a decent zoom and fast sharp lens.

Buy one of these for it’s quirkiness and as a challenge, and the camera does’t matter if they’re just snaps for one’s own enjoyment or for a laugh (as mine are) A small selection of travel shots. I managed to get some shallow depth of field by standing back and zooming. And Post Processing was Minimal (framing for effect).

Snotty nosed Kids from The Nagar Valley. Karakoram Mountains

snot kid bubble ginger silvereyes

Punjabi Village Life and Goats

Preparing the “Hukkah” Hubbly Bubbly pipe with black tobacco and unrefined sugar by the stove.

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a Village lady

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A Village snack shop

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Goatherd and their Goats

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Ice Cream seller

Babur

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

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Various Snaps from Wales

Raven on a Wall

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Whitesands Beach, Pembrokeshire

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Sleepy Sheep, Brecon

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Some Sea Bird

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Rabbit Ears

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Christopher Robin

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Clivedon Pier

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The Wye Valley

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Jun 162014
 

New Western Digital, Blacksmith Labs, Cecilia Straps and more!

Hey guys! Just wanted to share a new video I put up on my YouTube channel today (video is above). I had a few things that were sent to me to check out and I wanted to show off some of my faves.

 

passport

Western Digital My Passport Pro 4TB Travel RAID Drive

First of all is the Western Digital My Passport Pro 4TB hard drive, which is a portable drive I will use for my travel needs. This is a double 4TB RAID drive capable of 233 MBPS. It is a Thunderbolt drive and comes in at around $429. It is available at Amazon and I highly recommend it. You can see it in the video above.

blacksmith

Blacksmith Labs iPhone Case

I have had one of the Blacksmith Labs iPhone cases here for a month or two and find that it is a very well made case. Soft supple leather and a great design with easy phone access, it is a nice attractive case. I am not one for belt clip phone cases but if you are, you will want to take a look as the quality is very high. I go over it in the video above so take a look! You can visit Blacksmith Labs HERE.

cecilia

Cecilia Camera Straps

Cecilia Gallery camera straps look like those old school wide strap camera straps and they are pretty much the same but with a couple of exceptions. They are made of full leather and 100% Alpaca Wool. So these are basically a sort of Luxury strap and they have many designs and colors to try out/check out. I have had one for about a month and found the strap to be comfortable and stylish, and different. They range from $90 to $100 and offer beauty, super construction and something unique. You can see more of it in the video above and you can check out the designs and straps direct at Cecilia by clicking HERE.

 

Jun 162014
 

TwoPlaid

The New Jersey State Fair with film and digital

By Jim Fisher – His blog is HERE

For the past few years I’ve been visiting and photographing at the New Jersey State Fair, held each August in Sussex County. It ís a true rural affair, complete with 4H and FFA kids showing off the animals they’ve raised, lots of fried food, and carnival rides.

This year was the first that I came armed with a press pass, which made it possible to get some close access to livestock judging and the Queen of the Fair pageant. I concentrated on these events for this trip, skipping over the carnival side of things mainly because my feet were worn out by the time enough darkness fell to make the rides really visually striking.

Caption: Kodak Portra 800, Canon EOS ELAN 7NE, Sigma 50mm F1.4 EX DG HSM

Chicken

The Gear

I took a few cameras with me this year, a mix of film and digital. I was carrying the full-frame digital Canon EOS 6D along with Sigma 50mm F1.4 EX DG HSM and Sigma 120-300mm F2.8 EX DG IF HSM APO lenses, and a Canon EOS ELAN 7NE 35mm film body. The 120-300mm is a huge beast of a lens, but delivers a solid telephoto zoom range and is absurdly sharp. I also brought my trust Nikon F3 along with Nikkor 28mm f/2.8 AI-s and 50mm f/1.4 AI lenses, and a pair of compact digital cameras: The Ricoh GR and Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 II.

Caption: A young girl answers questions about her chicken during judging. Ricoh GR.

Judge

Chickens and Sheep

My first stop was to the pavilion that houses the chickens, rabbits, and other small animals. Cages line the walls and center of the building, each a temporary home to the animal awaiting judgement. I stumbled in just in time to come across some of the judging of chickens.

Caption: Sheep judging. Kodak Portra 400, Canon EOS ELAN 7NE, Sigma 120-300mm F2.8 EX DG IF HSM APO.

ThreePlaid

A middle-aged man called the 4H and FFA kids who had raised the birds up one by one, asking them questions about each, and taking down some notes that will determine the best in show. I moved outside and to one of the larger judging rings. There was a really bizarre sheep event going on. The sheep themselves were normal, but the handlers pair of humans ranging in age from teenagers through adults were all wearing matching plaid shirts. An older gentleman with a cowboy hat and a huge, huge belt buckle oversaw the judging and chose a winner.

Caption: Twin sheep handlers. Kodak Portra 400, Canon EOS ELAN 7NE, Sigma 120-300mm F2.8 EX DG IF HSM APO.

TwoPlaid

Queen of the Fair

Each year a Queen of the Fair is crowned: a local teenage girl who is paraded around the grounds in a tiara and serves as an honorary representative at various events throughout Sussex County over the next year. Iíd not yet seen the pageant that crowns the winner, but my wife (who was familiar with the event from her time as a reporter for the local paper) assured me that it was long and boring.

 Caption: Looking in at the Queen of the Fair pageant. Canon EOS 6D, Sigma 50mm F1.4 EX DG HSM.

OutsideTent

But I still wanted to attend, just for the sake of curiosity. To me, pageants are just weird. Parading women around, choosing one above all the others, and crowning them just seems like something that’s out of step with today’s society. On the other hand, the winner gets some money for college, so there’s that.

 Caption: Miss Lafayette (T). Canon EOS 6D, Sigma 120-300mm F2.8 EX DG IF HSM APO.

Lafayette

I tried to shoot the pageant as darkly as possible, with grainy black and white film (Ilford HP5 400 pushed rated at ISO 800), and a grainy conversion to monochrome for any digital images. Basically, I was going for the antithesis of how typical coverage would be done, and when I saw that the pageant was being held in a dimly lit tent and that all the girls had armbands identifying them by letter (odd if you ask me), I knew that I wanted at least a few shots that isolated that visual.

 Caption: At the mic. Ilford HP5, Canon EOS ELAN 7NE, Sigma 120-300mm F2.8 EX DG IF HSM APO.

AtTheMic

I used the Sigma 120-300mm and 50mm prime, with a mix of film and digital. A monopod was employed to steady the telephoto lens; the 120-300mm is too heavy to use practically without one, and it helped me get a steady enough shot at the shutter speeds I was limited to at ISO 800 and f/2.8. I’m glad I had it, because my wife was not exaggerating about the length of the pageant. I shot the first portion, which involved each of the two dozen contestants walking slowly to the stage and giving a prepared speech, and I called it a night.

 Caption: The Queenís Carriage. Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 II.

Carriage

And that was it for another year at the fair. I skipped the carnival portion this year and some of the other usual goings-on. But since it took me so long to put this post together, the 2014 fair isn’t too far off.

You can look at my 2011 and 2012 reports for images from those years. For more images from 2013, check out my Smugmug Gallery.

Jim Fisher is the Senior Digital Camera Analyst at PCMag.com. He also posts photos, an occasionally finds time to write, at his personal blog, daguerreotyping.com.

Jun 162014
 

A classic! A Leica X1 review article

By Adam Grayson

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Greetings!

As long time follower of your site, I am excited at my first opportunity to contribute. I have written an article about the Leica X1, titled “Yesterday’s News: The Leica X1 Review”. Below is the review for your, um, review.  Yesterday’s news: The Leica X1 review!

Released 09/09/09, the Leica X1 is certainly not today’s hot topic (the T is the current title holder now) and has likely been forgotten about as yesterday’s news by most of the photographic community. Heralding in a new era of the digital camera world with its fixed focal length, APS-C sensor in a small body, retro look and manual controls, it was considered to be the first of its kind that started a trend continuing through today. As the Leica T system ushers in a new kind of interface to the photographic world, I thought it would be relevant to share my experiences with this quirky but still very capable camera that was the talk of the town in 2009.

My experience with the X1 started in late 2010, well after its initial release. Not being able to financially justify the hefty price tag of a new X1, I patiently waited until the price in the used market came down to what I considered to be reasonable enough to make the jump. At that time, the camera brought me mixed feelings. The image quality was outstanding when everything came together, but most other times it was maddeningly frustrating. Maybe because I expected it to be as quick and versatile as my trusty old DLUX 4, or as reliable as my M8, but my initial experience left me wanting. After a few months of dedicated use, I decided to sell the X1 and chase photographic glory elsewhere.

So began my search for the ultimate APS-C fixed focal length camera. This journey took me through almost every form of the genre released on the market; from the retro-rific Fuji X100, to the uber-compact powerhouse Ricoh GR. Even the X1′s replacement model the Leica X2 passed through my hands at one point. All of the cameras had their strengths and weaknesses, but none of them really grabbed me, not even the X2 (a whole other story).

The closest camera that came close to staying in my stable was the Ricoh GR; what an amazing camera! It bests the X1 in many ways but it still did not have that feeling; the tactility in my hands, the manual controls, the desire to go out and take pictures with it. Something was always missing with the other cameras. You know, that elusive feeling that comes every so often when you really connect with a camera.

So what brought me back to the X1? It took an epiphany while shooting with the venerable Contax T2 (a fixed lens compact film camera) to see what I have been missing all along; stop trying to use the camera like a modern digital and shoot it like a film camera. Use a slower, more deliberate style of shooting. After coming to this realization, I had only one camera in mind to test my theory out. The X1.

Fast forward to February 2014. Found a great deal on a black X1 and went into the experience with a new mindset; don’t treat the camera like an automatic small-sensor point and shoot, treat it as a film camera like the Contax T2. Guess what? Yep, things went much better. Where blood pressure raising frustration used to kick in, now the zen calm of measured photography took place. Is the camera perfect? No. Will it hit the 100% “keeper” zone, especially with my ever-moving two-year-old? Certainly not. That being said, I find my keeper ratio close to that of my film cameras, even with the toddler in questionable light. I only use a 2 or 4GB card to ensure that I do not get in the digital “shoot, chimp, dump and repeat” mindset.

For those that may want to look at the X1, here are a few tips to get you on your way. First, keep your shutter speed above 1/60. Although you may think that 1/30 would work (as it does for me with Leica rangefinders), it tends to let the image get blurry quick, especially if the light is less than optimal.

Second, shot in DNG, all the time. No, really, all the time. Unfortunately the camera only takes DNG+JPG, and not just DNG (something about the camera’s software that cannot preview DNG files, so it grabs a stinky JPG). Delete the JPG and keep the DNG, even for black and white conversions. The latitude that the X1 DNG files give is pretty amazing. I have taken some photos in the unforgiving Florida sun and have been able to recover most of the blown highlights or deep shadows from most areas. The X1 can be frustrating, and a lot of shots can be missed if the camera is not understood. Used properly the X1 will reward you with some amazing photographs. My first time with the X1 stands testament to that, which is a good part of the reason why I came back.

The hype and fervor surrounding the Leica T is reminiscent of what the X1 went through in 2009. As a photographer, I look for cameras that create a connection with me. While the Leica T will one day end up in my hands, the X1 will still be in my bag bringing me exceptional photos that will last a lifetime for me and my family.

my photo blog can be found at www.uninspired.me

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Jun 142014
 

Amazingly bad but hilarious Album Cover Photos

Since today is Saturday I figured “Why not have some fun today” Maybe call Saturday “fun day” for SteveHuffPhoto.com. Last year I remember stumbling onto some horrendously bad Album Cover photos and they made me thing..”who designed or came up with these themes”. I mean, was it the photographer or the artist or someone else? Whoever it was, some of these photos/album covers below are hilarious, some are disturbing and some are outright bad. I wonder if some of the photographers who shot the covers have them hanging in their house? Lol. In any case, if you have seen some of these before (they are all over the internet) then it will be nothing new, but if you have not seen them, sit back and enjoy a laugh or two. It seems that back in the 70′s it was much easier to get a serious photo gig ;)

Good old Millie Jackson. “Back  to the Shit” is an album that was getting her back  to her style and sass as a comedian but I feel she went overboard for the album cover. Gave a whole new meaning  to the album..as in..the music must literally be shit. Her music career started as a dare from a friend and she soon became known for her onstage antics and foul mouth. Today she runs her own record label. As for the Album Cover..bad  taste..but classic. You can hear some of it HERE.

backtothe

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Wow. This one is special. The Handsome Beasts album titled “Beastiality” speaks for itself. Want to hear them? Check out a track from THIS album on YouTube! If there ever was an album cover photo to make you look away, this may be it.

beast

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Horrible title. What were they thinking? You can actually buy this album on Amazon today. 

dickblack

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No words can describe this pose, this shot or the name of the album. Here we see Gary striking a pose that would make Madonna jealous and we are to believe he is truly getting down to business as we see him in front of a phone booth that is randomly placed near a loading dock. What kind of business is he getting down to exactly? 

gary

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Just when you thought you have seen it all…you can hear this track on YouTube here. With her sly little smile, her obvious nude body in bed and bottle of Champign she is obviously ready for you to give her something. Lol. This one is pretty bad. If I shot this cover I would never admit it.

giveyourdicktome

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Now, I could understand if the album was called “Jesus Love Me” or “Jesus Save Me” but “Jesus Use Me”? The Faith Tones…classic album cover.

jesus

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Remember when this style of photo was all the rage at photo studios in the mall? I do, and I have always hated it but Ken decided that it would make for a great cover for his album “By Request Only” I am so glad we have moved on from the 70′s. 

ken

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No words can describe this one..

massage

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No, not a one man band, a one man stand..and that is exactly what Pat Kelly is doing here. But what is he standing in? Some kind of black frame? 

oneman

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This guy is triple puffing..one is bad enough but three? I do know this song as i have heard it a few times in life and even own a bluegrass version of it but the album cover takes me back to the days when smoking was considered cool and so cool in fact that smoking three at a time was even cooler.

smoke

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RAT ON! Oh man, if I found this in an old used record store it would so be mine…I have ALWAYS wished I could ride a rat and to look as amazing as this guy does doing it, well, it would be a dream come true. WHO shot this cover? Wish I knew!

swamp

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Again..no words to describe this masterpiece..

voncent

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and many more amazingly bad but hilarious album covers that I had to share. 

amen

carlos

discofever

doctalkstogirl

drink

hairy

inside

joyce

kissed

superman

sweet16

tophatman

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