Jan 062015
 

My first serious landscape shots with the Linhof Technikardan 69

By Dirk Dom

Hi!

So I wanted to do serious black and white landscape. After almost having gone the digital route with a Sony A7R and a Canon 17mm tilt-shift lens, I decided I’d go with film and a technical camera. I chose a 6×9 rollfilm format camera because I’d have lots of movements with ultrawide lenses and I wanted to do those shots with crazy perspective and depth of field.

It became a Linhof Technikardan 69. So far I have a 150 and a 65mm lens for it. The Linhof is extremely high quality. It feels like Leica. I got it used for a very reasonable price.

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After some trying I figured out how to lug the camera around without getting tired (backpack and un- and repack every shot) and I got familiar with how to work it.

Now, it’s midwinter here in Belgium, real dark, and my folks have a place in Spain, at the Coste Blanca and there it’s sunny and T shirt weather most of the time even now; I got so fed up with the Belgian darkness and frustration not to be able to shoot (exposed a shot eight seconds at 2PM, for God’s sake) that I drove there (1860km) for a week. I’d do my first serious black and white landscape with the Linhof and see what it’s actually worth.

Well, I can tell you, it was sort of a ultimate experience. Now I understand why people lug around with 8×10 camera’s, and I wouldn’t be surprised if I eventually got one of these things. Only thing I have to figure out is how do you get such a beast and 50 8×10 plates through the airport security.

They say the main charming thing about a technical camera it that it slows you down; that’s perfectly correct, taking a shot takes five minutes at the least and even shooting a turtle on a Sunday stroll would be problematical. But the real thing is that you make the image happen in a way you don’t experience with any other camera. I’m at a loss for words here, be it said that I have a Canon F1, an Olympus PEN, a Hasselblad Xpan, a Fuji GX 617, a Mamiya C330, a Mamiya 7. All magnificent camera’s which are a profound joy to image with. But I can tell you now, that concerning the joy in picture taking not one of these camera’s comes even close to the Linhof.

This is all of course highly personal. Lots of people may absolutely hate the cumbersome technical camera workflow.

I shot one film (Eight images) a day.

Well, came back yesterday, with 40 images, developed, scanned and postprocessed today.

Here ‘s some results, scanned with an Epson V750 at 2,000 PPI, more than enough. For printing I’ll spend some weeks finetuning the postprocessing. I print 30 x 45cms.

The first day: no clouds! For good black and white you need some clouds. All shots Tmax 400, red filter. In Belgium I had some trouble focusing the 65mm, but that was due to the very low light level. Here it went like a breeze.

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I had overexposed two stops the first day, (forgot to put 400 ASA in the light meter) so I had to go back. I pulled that first film two stops (20% less development time) and it came out perfect. The next day nice clouds.

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I took this shot two years ago with the Mamiya 7, but this one came out nicer.

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An extremely windy day. I was afraid my filters would blow out of my hands and over the cliff, let alone that my tripod and camera would fly off and I’d find it back thirty meters lower. Didn’t happen. I did lose my wire release, though, luckily I had two with me. I have to figure out which spare parts I need, like the dark slide is absolutely essential and I might drop it and not be able to recover it.

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I’m crazy about skies taken through a red filter. 150mm.

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Here I used tilt for more DOF. DOF from 30cms to infinity. Yum, yum… 150mm. Try that with a camera without movements.

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Film doesn’t burn out highlights. I learnt not to compare film with digital or try to emulate digital with film or vice versa. I enjoy the different media for what they render in their own characteristic way.

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Plenty of mountains in the Costa Blanca, right next to the coast.

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And finally, a really overcast day. I discovered these houses and waited until a little spot of sun shone on them. It took four shots and over an hour until I got it the way I wanted it.

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I’m doing this multiyear project, shooting San Francisco. This Easter I’d go there for two weeks to shoot the city and its people in springtime. I’d take the Xpan and the Olympus PEN; in the Summer I’d spend six weeks there with the Linhof and some other gear. Now I’m so hyped I want to take the Linhof with Easter, too. I ‘ve never done this kind of intense shooting for a long time and I don’t know if I ‘d get fed up after a few days. In the summer I’d do different kinds of shooting and take a day off if it gets too crazy. The Linhof with Easter might get too intense because of the limited time. I have to make up my mind.

Bye,

Dirk.

Jan 052015
 

All Rights Reserved

The Southwest in Infrared 

by Alexandra Shapiro

Last November I attended Steve Huff’s Southwest Workshop along with about two dozen other photographers from all over the world. We visited some beautiful places in Arizona and Utah, including Antelope Canyon, Rattlesnake Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, Zion National Park, and Sedona. These sites presented extraordinary opportunities for landscape photography. The workshop was also a great opportunity to meet some amazing photographers and do some hiking (Angel’s Landing at Zion was a particular highlight in terms of stunning scenery and a challenging ascent).

At some of the locations I used a specially converted digital camera that captures infrared light. A few years ago, I began experimenting with digital infrared photography, and found that it to be an interesting way to capture unusual and sometimes surreal images. My earlier user report can be seen HERE.  It provides some basic background on digital infrared technique and examples of infrared photographs that I took before the workshop.

On this trip, I used a converted Canon 5D, which has an “enhanced color” infrared filter, with a Canon 16-35 F4 L lens or a Canon 8-15 F4 L fisheye lens. Even though the 5D model is almost 10 year old, I have found it works extremely well for infrared work and can produce stunning images when paired with the right lens. (The main downsides are an out-of-date LCD and lack of live view, since manual focus is sometimes necessary for infrared work; personally, I don’t mind the 12 megapixel sensor and have even made some relatively large prints from images taken with this camera.) The 16-35 zoom, a relatively new offering from my Canon, is very sharp, and the image stabilization was particular useful in some spots, because the 5D is best shot at low ISOs and I prefer to shoot at f8 to f16 for infrared landscapes. The lens can also produce some amazing sunstars.

These are a few shots from the trip, taken at Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, and Zion. All but one of the images was taken with the 16-35. I shot in raw and used Capture One for white balance and exposure adjustments, and then converted the images to tiffs. After that, I used photoshop to swap channels, and tweaked the colors and/or converted to black and white using plug-ins such as Nik’s Viveza 2, Alien Skin Exposure 7 or MacPhun’s Tonality Pro. The same image of horseshoe bend appears in both faux color and black and white, so you can see some of the different possibilities with color and black-and-white infrared technique. There are also a couple of examples with strong flare — some may not like this, but I think the flare that infrared photography sometimes produces can create interesting effects.

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Some of my other infrared work can be found here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/alexandrashapiro/collections/72157633129472726/

This is my flickr account: https://www.flickr.com/photos/alexandrashapiro/

And here is another guest post I did for Steve: http://www.stevehuffphoto.com/2014/01/14/user-report-iceland-with-the-leica-m-240-by-alexandra-shapiro/

Alexandra Shapiro

Nov 032014
 

Pictures around Egypt

by Mohamed Hakem – his website is HERE

Hello Steve, I am a young egyptian photographer who has passion for the art since I was a kid. Photography is my hobby, interest, love and passion. The most thing I liked about this site is that it has a different vision; everyone is seeking to be a pro, But the Idea here is different. Here we don’t pixel peep, we don’t speak technical terms in the form of charts, we only talk about passion. The term Passionate photographer is exactly what attracted me this website. I don’t want to be a Pro or a commercial photographer, I want to be passionate about what I shoot.

Living in a country like Egypt I had to overcome a lot of difficulties to pursue my passion. Acquiring gear is the first as you have to pay double or triple sometimes quadruple what anybody else pay and wait a lot to get what you want to imagine selling or upgrading its a real pain. I reached a point where I had to start thinking about making money out of it but I totally failed. In Egypt weddings are the only way to make money and that’s not me. I was more of a nature/culture lover.

Secondly In Egypt there is nothing that people know as a landscape or a nature photographer. Here photographer is the kodak guy who tells you smile! To print and sell. So If I ever decided to give my full-time and seek my passion I end up jobless.

I love my country and I want to show the world its beauty, Speaking of culture, Egypt has an unparalleled culture and nature. Egypt should be the touristic capital of the world. Egypt is safe and has the best location, weather, monuments (more than the whole world combined) crystal clear water, magical deserts and safaris, Culture(Ancient Egyptian – Greek – Roman – Islamic – coptic – jewish – pre historic!), best food and everything you’ll ever think of. So I decided to throw away all the money-making thoughts and I stopped nagging about the prices, and I decided seek my passion, travelled around Egypt to to infamous places to try to show the world the beauty that few knows. I built a website to show the photos with nothing in my mind except my passion.

The below photos is the combination of pictures from around Egypt In the White desert, Wadi el Rayan Desert, some Wild life And Cairo

An Angry leopard in africa Safari park – Alexandria Egypt

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A lovely camp under the milky way in the white desert

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A lovely merchant in Kham El Khalili

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This is not the surface of the moon, this the white desert at night! Yes the ground is white and it really is that glowing at night

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A kind man waiting for the prayer

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The king of the desert in Wadi el Rayan

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The Egyptian Owl

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El Max in Alexandria, a simple fishermen’s home

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Moez street in Cairo

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Ibn Qowaloon mosque in old Cairo

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The Fayoum desert – a desert Made for camping!

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Mohamed Hakem Hussein

Oct 012014
 

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Supermoon Photoshoot at 1620mm with Nikon V3

By Joe Marquez – see his website at http://www.thesmokingcamera.com

(from Steve: This is one of the coolest posts I have placed here in a long time…love it! Thank you Joe for the beautiful work and showing what the Nikon 1 system is capable of)

A couple of months ago, while out shooting with the mirrorless Nikon V3 and 70-300cx lens (189-810mm equivalent field of view – FOV), I noticed a hiker on a nearby ridge top – and a beautiful, bright moon above. I took a few shots and was quite pleased with the results. The V3 and it’s tiny sensor does surprisingly well in good light. Now I wondered how it would look if I attached a super telephoto lens and photographed the hiker directly in front of the moon. What about a ballerina silhouette? I decided to find out.

As you may know, the Nikon V3’s one-inch sensor results in the equivalent of a 2.7 increase in FOV. In essence when a Nikon FX lens is attached via the Ft-1 adapter, the V3 becomes a 2.7 teleconverter with no loss of light. Thus a 600mm lens becomes 1620mm.

Initially my plan was to photograph a single ballerina in front of the super moon. However, I began considering everything that could go wrong: weather, inability to focus at night, DOF issues, instability, inaccessibility and of course all the unforeseen inevitable mistakes I normally make. So I decided to increase the number of shoots to insure I would get a decent image or two.

Now I had to get my hands on a $10,000 Nikon 600mm f4 lens. So, I went to the only camera store in Hawaii with uber cool rental equipment, told them about my project and they agreed to sponsor my efforts. Here’s a formal thank you to Hawaii Camera (www.hawaiicamera.com) for supporting this little moon project of mine.

Using a number of online programs I determined optimum times and locations to photograph the moon as it crossed the ridge. And because the ridge runs north south I was able to shoot as the moon rose in the east and several hours later as it set in the west. Thus, everyday I had two opportunities at the moon. So over the course of a week I planned fourteen separate photo shoots. Only later I realized, I didn’t factor in time for sleep. Oh well, can’t think of everything.

I then called upon many friends – models, performers, cosplayers, ballerinas and dancers as well as fellow photographers to assist. Altogether 43 people were involved in this moon project. Call times ranged from late afternoon to early morning before sunrise. Most participants had to hike the steep ridge at night with headlamps. We required a spotter or assistant for safety and we communicated via two-way radios or cell phone. One cosplayer’s outfit weighs 133 pounds and required ten trips to get the costume into position. A super thank you to everyone who participated.

While the models and spotters were climbing the ridge, I and an assistant down below had to deal with traffic, trees, wires, poles, houses, basketball players, dogs, golfers and sprinklers.

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In the end everyone had a fun and unique experience and a good number of wonderful photos. In addition, I learned a tremendous amount about shooting the moon. Foremost is the moon moves so quickly when viewed at 1620mm there is often only a moment or two to get the shot. Secondly, the moon has quite a variety of looks due to clouds, time of day or night and so on and I had to constantly and quickly change my exposure settings. Finally, the Nikon V3 did an excellent job on this project and I wouldn’t hesitate using this little camera for other super telephoto projects.

In fact next month at full moon, I plan to again use the Nikon V3 and experiment with lighting, fashion, a bride in her wedding dress, video and a surprise or two. Amazing what is possible when you utilize a camera’s strength to its fullest.

Aug 142014
 

My 26 day road trip thru Australia with a Ricoh GR

By Gabriel Lima

Hello everybody!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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SIZE:

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

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

EASY OF USE

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

AUTOFOCUS

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

SNAP FOCUS MODE

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

IQ

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

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

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

What could be better?

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

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

You guys can follow my adventures in:

www.facebook.com/gabriellimaphotography

instagram.com/travel_gave – my iphone dairy

plus.google.com/+GabrielLima87/

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Aug 032014
 

Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

By Byron Christie

Dear Brandon and Steve,

I’ve been visiting your site now for several years and it has been the source of a great deal of pleasure and I thank you sincerely for your efforts. Thanks also to the many talented photographers who are so inspiring.

I am very basic in my photographic understanding and capabilities and I don’t pretend to be a talent but I take great satisfaction making photographs. I admittedly suffer from addiction to fine gear and am fortunate to have been able to cobble together a nice stable of gear over the years. With my ill gotten gain, I recently packed up and went to Tanzania for a safari with my wife and another couple. We spent two great nights at the Ngorongoro Crater before relocating elsewhere. Most unhappily, ALL of my gear was then stolen and I was reduced to iPhone photography for the rest of the trip! I am well aware that, in the hands of many people, the iPhone is capable of producing fabulous images. However, it was a bummer to lose my Leica M typ 240, 35/1.4, 21/3.4, 135/3.4, Oly EM1 and Oly 150mm/2.0! If you come across just such a setup while in Arusha, please bear me in mind! I would like to mention that Ken Hansen (email: [email protected])has helped me replace my Leica gear and I greatly appreciate how easy it is to work with him.

The photos below were taken just before I lost all. Most fortunately for me, I downloaded my cards on leaving the Crater Lodge. No matter how sophomoric they are I would’ve regretted the loss of my photos more than the equipment. I do recommend the trip for sure. The Masai are wonderful and proud and I loved seeing the sights. Feel free to bust me on these! I hope to continue to learn from you all.

Best Regards,
Byron.

1st photo. King of the Beasts. Olympus OMD EM-1 Olympus 150mm f/2.0 ED @ ISO 200, f/10, 1/500th second.

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2nd photo. Sleepless in Tanzania! Milky Way over the Crater with jet lag insomnia. EM-1 with Oly 12mm @ ISO 1600, f/2, 41 seconds.

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3rd photo. Morning Sunburst in the Crater. Leica M typ 240 with 21mm f/3.4 @ ISO 200, f/5.6, 1/60th second.

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4th photo. Masai making fire. Leica M with 35/1.4 @ ISO 200, f/4.8, 1/1000th second.

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Jun 012014
 

Mallorca in January with the Ricoh GR

By Thorsten Richter

Dear Steve,

Mallorca, main island of the Balearic Islands, is a typical and popular dream destination for Europeans searching for relaxation in the Mediterranean. In the summer months this island is bursting with tourists – mainly Germans, British but also Spaniards from the mainland populate beaches, hotels and resorts. In Winter this hot spot becomes a lot calmer, especially in the weeks following Christmas and New Year. The ones crowded beaches are definitely empty, many hotels are closed and the island is mainly back again in the hands of the residents.

As we planned to do a lot of hiking in the mountains I decided to travel really light concerning my camera gear. My normal travel set-up – a Leica M-series with two lenses – is not strictly what should be called hefty but this time the only picture-taking device that I carried around was a compact Ricoh GR.

I never regretted this decision: The GR is a camera capable of taking pictures with astonishing quality. The files this little gem pumps out are of pristine sharpness and give you much leeway for recovering blocked shadows or bringing back some information to washed out highlights – the latter one as a matter of course in much smaller amount as the first. The options offered by the menus are overwhelming and in the first weeks of using this camera I saw me reprogramming and adjusting the three custom user slots that are offered nearly daily. The lack of an optical viewfinder only bothered me for a short time – after exclusively using it for a few days it felt quite natural. In particular the included level gauge is very comfortable and something I definitely miss today as feature in some of my other cameras.

Using just a small camera with wide-angle lens for one week was a refreshing experience. As a photographer normally using only 35mm or 50mm lenses the new view angle required some mental adjustments; however, if used for enough time I think 28mm has the potential to be as universal as focal length as the classical pair mentioned before.

Below you find six shots taken during travelling through the island by car and walking through olive groves and fruit plantains. The last foto shows the Cathedral in the island’s capital Palma de Mallorca.

As the sun in January strikes in a quite flat angle, playing around with *contre jour* situations was possible nearly the whole day. These situations were handled very well by the small lens and I really liked the results you can e.g. see in shot #5. The flare is nicely washing out some areas of the picture but in no way obtrusive or biting.

You can also find some of my work on the website below:
http://www.chromelightphoto.com

Best regards from Cologne in Germany,

Thorsten

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May 192014
 

One year with Olympus E-P5

By Baris Parildar

Hello Steve, first of all I appreciate everything you do for photographers. Your website and youtube channel have tons of great information. I check your website almost everyday and enjoy it. Thanks for letting me share my pictures with your audience. This is my first ever article about photography. I started taking pictures with a Canon T2i 3 years ago. And my life has changed so much since then. Photography and video making suddenly became our passion in life with my girlfriend. We spent almost all our weekends taking pictures, hiking, discovering new things about photography and sometimes making small videos. After using my T2i for 2 years, I came to a point that I started thinking about having a smaller camera with me all the time. T2i is not even a heavy DSLR. But I was usually carrying 2 camera bodies and 4-5 canon lenses. I had times thinking about leaving my camera and lenses in the middle of the long hikes. It is really though to carry all that stuff for hours.

So I decided to get on the mirrorless wagon. I checked out almost every camera out there and decided to go with Olympus. My first choice was the E-M5. I had the chance to play with the camera for a week. I got used to it so fast. Auto focus and sharpness was so good. I couldn’t believe my eyes when comparing it with my Canon shots. Only problem was the color reproduction. It took me a while to learn how to edit the color of OLYMPUS RAW files in Lightroom. I figured out that it was different. Not worse than Canon, just different. I needed to handle it more carefully. That week the new E-P5 came out. I found the look cooler than the E-M5. Since the sensor was the same, image quality would be the same. I bought the E-P5. And never left it at home for a year. Olympus 9-18mm is my main lens. It’s one of the best landscape lenses I’ve ever tried. I mostly shoot directly into the sun. It handles everything great. Almost as good as Canon L lenses. My everyday street photography lens is the Panasonic 20mm f1.7. This is all I need for quick shots even for some macro photography. I use it at f2 for portraits and don’t need anything more. I had the Olympus 45 f1.8 for a while but I had to sell it. That is a great lens too. Recently bought a Panasonic zoom telephoto and using it quite a bit lately.

I am so glad that I made the switch from Canon to Olympus. I don’t think I would be able to take half of the shots I took with a bigger camera body. Having a small camera lets you take it anywhere you want. And another great thing about this is, everybody thinks that you are an amateur photographer when you have a tiny camera with you. You are invisible with a mirrorless camera. I just love the look of people at me thinking I have no idea about photography. I show up next to photographers with huge full frame dslr bodies with my little E-P5 and most of the time I get the shot I want with a little effort and no back pain. I use 500px as my main portfolio website now. One of my shots with the E-P5 made it to “the most popular photo” on 500px which is a great honor for me. I get inspired so much with all those great pictures on that website everyday. I like to edit my photos. Some people may find them processed too much but I don’t think about what other people think when I edit my photos. Depending on how I feel, I might over process or sometimes don’t even touch anything on my photos. It totally depends on how I feel about the photograph and how I want to reflect my feelings.

Here are some samples from my one-year journey with the Olympus E-P5. I feel lucky to have such a great camera.

Thank you very much again for giving me this opportunity.

Baris Parildar.

 

Here are the links you can find more about my photos:

Personal website: www.barisparildar.com

500px: http://500px.com/Barisparildar

Instagram: http://instagram.com/barparildar

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/89927345@N03/

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May 192014
 

Experimenting with Digital Infrared

By Alexandra Shapiro

A few years ago, I began experimenting with infrared, or IR, photography (mostly landscapes). I am still a beginner when it comes to IR photography, and am constantly amazed at some of the stunning IR images that others produce. Although many of your readers may already be experts, I hope some find these thoughts and experiences useful.

Infrared light is not visible to the human eye, but can be captured on certain types of film and digital cameras. With film, it is necessary to use an infrared filter that blocks most or all visible light while allowing infrared light to pass through. This generally requires the use of a tripod and long exposures, as well as special infrared film. Most digital cameras filter out infrared light, so they are not great tools for infrared photography. However, there are companies that will convert a digital camera so that it can be used for infrared photography; you can also buy a conversion kit and do the conversion yourself. This is not for the faint of heart, since you can ruin a camera if you are not careful; most people probably use conversion services instead.

After doing a fair amount of research on various conversion companies, I decided to convert an older model camera using lifepixel (www.lifepixel.com). There are lots of potential pitfalls with the conversions, and not all cameras or lenses work well. There are a number of conversion companies that repeatedly get negative reviews, with users reporting that their conversions were botched, but Lifepixel consistently gets excellent reviews. They will convert a fairly wide range of cameras, and their website has detailed information on any unique traits of particular camera models that they convert. Panasonic, Olympus, and Sony mirrorless cameras apparently work very well, as do many Canon and Nikon DSLRs.

In addition, Lifepixel (like other conversion services) has several different types of infrared filters to choose from. The filters are installed inside the camera, after the filter that the camera came with to prevent IR light from passing through is removed. You can choose an IR filter that produces only black and white images, or a color filter. You can also choose a “full spectrum filter” that lets visible light as well as infrared light pass through to the sensor. This gives you more flexibility, but you will probably need to use IR filters on the lens to get IR effects.

During the conversion process, the camera is also adjusted to ensure that metering and auto-focus are adjusted for infrared light. Unless you send a lens for calibration, the camera’s auto-focus is adjusted based on a standard lens used for that manufacturer’s cameras. For example, Canon DSLRs are adjusted using a Canon 50 1.8 II lens unless you opt for the custom calibration service and send in the lens you prefer to have the camera calibrated with. Of course, fixed-lens cameras are calibrated using the built-in lens.

I like the look of black and white infrared, but prefer using a color IR filter to have the added flexibility, since obviously color images can be converted to black and white. I started with a small Canon DSLR, because I already had several good Canon lenses. I found a good deal on a refurbished Rebel T2i, a model that had been discontinued, and sent it to Lifepixel for conversion with their “supercolor” filter. I recently decided to upgrade to full frame and found a deal on eBay for a used Canon 5D (original version) that had already been converted by Lifepixel with an “enhanced color” filter. The IQ with the 5D is noticeably better than with the T2i, but there is a downside: the 5D does not have a live view function, which can be very useful with IR photography. Also since it is an older camera the LCD is small and the menu system and ergonomics generally are not as nice as on newer Canon models.

In order to get proper white balance, and have the most flexibility with the images, it is best to shoot raw. On many converted cameras, you can set a custom white balance that will allow you to use your LCD to check whether the white balance is correct. However, on some models (for example, certain recent Nikon DSLRs) that is not possible; the image will look quite reddish on the LCD, and you will need to use conversion software to fix the white balance in post. IR photography requires a fair amount of post-processing in any case. Most websites say that to fix the white balance (or to have your raw conversion software recognize the custom white balance you set in the camera) you have to use the camera maker’s raw converter. However, I recently learned you can create a preset for Lightroom’s “camera calibration” setting that allows you to convert your images from raw in Lightroom instead. This link has instructions for how to do this (http://www.luminescentphoto.com/blog/2013/07/15/setting-white-balance-on-infrared-images-with-lightroom-with-video/). I now do all my raw conversions in Lightroom instead of using Canon’s raw conversion software.

My workflow is generally as follows: I import my raw images into Lightroom and use the camera calibration preset I created so I can see them with the custom white balance set in-camera. Then I perform adjustments to white balance, sharpening, and exposure in Lightroom, and export to Photoshop CS6 to make further edits after the raw conversion. The first step in Photoshop for me is usually channel-swapping, which is useful for getting the “deep blue sky” effect that many interesting IR images have. This involves changing the red channel to 0% red and 100% blue, and changing the blue channel to 0% blue and 100% red. Then if I want to keep the image in color I play around with levels and other adjustments to get whatever effects seem most interesting. For black and white, I generally convert using plug-in filters from Alien Skin Exposure 5 or Perfect B&W 8.

When I first started, I noticed that sometimes the images seemed very soft, or did not have the dramatic contrasts or deep blue skies or white foliage I was hoping for. I found that I could get sharper images when shooting in bright sunlight (the harsh sunlight in the middle of the day is great for producing dramatic IR landscapes); using small apertures (I prefer F8 to F16). Sometimes the AF is off, but if you have a camera with live view or an EVF it is easy to correct that with manual focus.

I shot the first eight images below during Steve’s Valley of Fire workshop this past February. That was the first time I used the 5D; the lens is Canon’s 24-105 L. The remaining images were taken with the T2i and various lenses; those were shot in Austerlitz, New York and Big Sky, Montana.

More of my photos can be found on this flickr page https://www.flickr.com/photos/27953454@N07/

Valley of Fire Canon 5D 1

Valley of Fire Canon 5D 2

Valley of Fire Canon 5D 3

Valley of Fire Canon 5D 4

Valley of Fire Canon 5D 5

Valley of Fire Canon 5D 6

Valley of Fire Canon 5D 7

Valley of Fire Canon 5D 8

T2i 1

T2i 2

T2i 3

T2i 4

T2i 5

Apr 182014
 

Snapping Summer with Agfa Ultra 100

by Ibraar Hussain

Dear Steve,

I’ve been enjoying myself this last year, and experimenting with different camera’s and formats; mostly my iPhone 5 and Hipstamatic, but also my Canon 700D, but mostly I’ve been enjoying photographing for my own pleasure, working on composition and trying hard to make things look and feel right to me.

I always find myself coming back to my old friend, my trusty Contax G2 – a camera I can use without thinking as it’s so intuitive, and such a pleasure to handle and use, and so reliable, and a camera which I prefer over any other.

I went to Barmouth in Southern Snowdonia in Wales this summer for a week, and shot a few rolls of Film with my Contax G2. Barmouth is a lovely secluded Sea Side town, at the southern end of Snowdonia. A dreamy place, on The Irish Sea dominated by the Mawddach Estuary, golden sand, the harbour and the wooden barmouth Bridge.

My Velvia and Sensia slides have yet to be scanned, but I took along one precious roll of Agfa Ultra 100 – a punchy and highly saturated print film which is very rare nowadays. It is quite grainy, but has an old world look and feel and obviously false colour which I think is perfect for Summer Holiday snaps. I have sourced quite a few rolls of Agfa Ultra 100 and Agfa Ultra 50 in both 120 and 35mm, and am using them sparingly.

These Films have long been discontinued, I prefer the ISO 50 version, but the ISO 100 version isn’t half bad.
Anyway, I submit a few snaps which I hope you can publish, as an ode to long gone Agfa Ultra 100, a Summer Holiday Film, where reds are really RED and the colour reminds one of a sunny seaside holiday and dreams of childhood.

Only snaps, but I adore this Film
Agfa Ultra 100
Contax G2 with 45mm Planar, 90mm Sonnar and 21mm Biogon
B+W Polariser
And a nice hot summer in Barmouth

CNV000271 CNV000218 barmouth2 beach CNV0000411 barmouthknots CNV000120 CNV000113

Apr 162014
 

The Sony RX1r meets the Olympus E-M1 in Iceland

By Chris Bakker

My website – http://www.chrisbakkerphoto.com

Hi Steve and readers of SteveHuffPhoto.com!

My name is Chris Bakker, a free time photographer from the Netherlands. I began to do photography around Christmas of 2012. I started off with a Sony RX100 by taking photos from all kinds of subjects what surrounded me and It didn’t took me long to really get caught by the beauty of photography . Right from the start I tried to read as many (e)books on photography as I could, follow on a daily basis the online forums and practice the acquired knowledge in the field. I am also a frequent reader of this site and let me tell you this site has giving me so much that I thought it would be time to give a little bit of my contribution in return.

Because I was so into photography I decided in the summer of 2013 to trade in my trusty RX100 for his bigger brother the RX1r. This indeed is a magical powerhouse and capable of delivering some stunning photo’s. This camera has got me even more into photography. Later that year, in November the Olympus OMD E-M1 came out and because I wanted to do different things in photography which needed faster auto focus and different focal length than 35mm, I decided to buy the E-M1 alongside my beloved RX1r and step into the world of micro 4/3.  I can say I have no regrets at all. This camera is so well designed and thought out, it works so well, it just makes you want to go out and shoot.

I often attend workshops and like to learn from the pros. So when the opportunity came by to go to Iceland for 11 days with a pro landscape photographer from the Netherlands, to learn in the field, I decided to go. So on February the 22 I went off to Iceland to return 11 days later home with an overwhelming experience by the beauty of Iceland. Not only did I came home with a lot of photos but also with a lot of acquired knowledge and practical experience.

So l’ll stop the twaddle, let’s get to the photo’s!

E-M1 pana 35-100 f2.8

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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E-M1 pana 35-100 f2.8

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Kirkjufellsfoss – E-M1 Oly 12mm f2.0

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Going to Iceland in the winter takes some planning in advance. Although the temperature is about 30 degrees Fahrenheit, which isn’t too cold the wind can be really extreme. And the combination of those two makes it cold. Proper clothing, like multi layers, warm hand cloves and a fur cap is not a luxury. A good windbreaker can be a rain suit. Because of the hard wind, I can advise to take a big and sturdy tripod with you. I have come to situations where I definitely had to hold on to my MEFOTO Globetrotter tripod preventing it from falling over. A tripod can allow you to shoot at times of day when the light is unlike any other. If you want to shoot at sunrise or sunset, and you want to keep the ISO down, you need that long exposure. when you want to work with HDR you need a tripod for sure. Light is everything, don’t miss some of the best light of the day because you didn’t want to carry a tripod. What also comes in handy is to wear knee-pads. The ground is often stony and wet.

Snaefellsjoekull – RX1r

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E-M1 Oly 12mm f2.0

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Brúarfoss – E-M1 Oly 12mm f2.0

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Shining stones in river – E-M1 pana 35-100 f2.8

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

While I was out making photos in the field I did quite often use my filters. There are many people that think in digital photography you don’t need filters anymore. Many think that this is also possible in post processing. When you need a slower shutter speed to blur motion, like with waterfalls, or polarizing light to reduce glare, do it with filters. Filters still enable an aesthetic that’s not possible through simple post-production, and in some cases not possible at all, even in Photoshop. Everybody has his own way of working but we people often work in sequence. We start off with 1 go to 2 than react to 3 to get to 4 or so. While this is a quite similar process as in post-production, like Lightroom, it is also a good process at point of capture. When experimenting with filters in the field you see the result immediately and that gives you the change to react to it. So it can definitely be a good thing for creativity. I used mostly a 3 stop ND filter from Singh-Ray and a Big stopper from Hoya the NX400. In a few occasions I used graduated and reverse grad filters, mostly at sunrise or sunset. For Polarizer’s, Singh-Ray Color Combo and the Gold ‘n Blue.

Skógafoss – RX1r

08

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Northern Lights near Vik – RX1r

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Vik Beach – E-M1 pana 35-100f2.8

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Skaftafell Icecave Vatnajökull – RX1r

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Skaftafell Icecave Vatnajökull – E-M1 Oly 12mm f2.0

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Sunset JÖKULSÁRLÓN Beach – E-M1 Oly 12mm f2.0

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Sunrise JÖKULSÁRLÓN Beach – RX1r

14

What really fascinates me is that you can learn infinitely, it’s an ongoing process. Photography has become an essential part of my life. It’s so much fun, it’s a way of living. I hope you enjoy watching these photos as much as I did making them.

Chris Bakker

A few more…

Sunrise JÖKULSÁRLÓN Beach – RX1r

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Jökulsárlón Lake – E-M1 pana 35-100 f2.8

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Jökulsárlón Lake – E-M1 pana 35-100 f2.8

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E-M1 pana 35-100 f2.8

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Vik Beach – RX1r

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Old Turf Farm House – RX1r

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Icelandic Horse – E-M1 pana 35-100 f2.8

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Feb 272014
 

Sony DSC-RX1

One year with the Sony RX1

by Raymond Hau –   http://jkspepper.tumblr.com    –    http://www.flickr.com/photos/_dhermes/

 

My setup used to be a Canon 350D with various good lenses, then I decided I needed an upgrade and so, after many a umm’ing and ahh’ing over which full-frame Canon model to upgrade to I went and bought a Sony RX1 instead.

That single action brought about a complete change to my outlook on photography and my photographic equipment needs.

Refreshing

The RX1 concept was different to anything that had existed before it and in my view rather refreshing; to provide the best photography output in as simple as manner as possible… and make it small.

It’s not for everyone, the fixed 35mm lens and lack of a viewfinder will be sure to put off hardcore gear addicts and the price will put off everyone else but for those that really know what they want out of a camera, out of photography, will never let go of this marvel.

Prince Edward

I shot manual film SLRs from my early days, had a break of 5 years or so and then ventured back into photography with both feet firmly in the digital camp with the 350D. I used it for a while and then I kinda. just. stopped. I had gradually lost interest; digital with all its technological advancements was exciting but something was missing, I loved photography but strangely I didn’t love this.

I picked it up again a few years later and rekindled an interest but it wasn’t until I set my hands on the RX1 that I realised what I was looking for and it was refreshingly simple.

Simplicity

The RX1 is in essence a simple device, it does not have a zoom; it does not have a viewfinder; it has neither the ergonomics nor an AF system that works; and it does not even have a battery charger (!). What it does have however is a wonderful lens mated to a superb sensor and that is all I needed.

Mongkok Flower Girls

The tactile feedback from the all metal construction, the well dampened focusing ring and the reassuring click of the aperture ring around the lens gives quiet confidence when your AF is failing and the battery is about to die after only 300 shots, because you know that when you go home and upload your 300 shots, each one will be as beautifully rendered as the next and just how you intended to capture that scene.

I didn’t care that the AF enjoys the hunt because like a Mountie, he always gets his man (most of the time anyway and don’t even bother trying when anything is on the move). I learnt never to rely on AF in certain circumstances and resorted doing things the old-fashioned way.

The Old-Fashioned Way

One could argue that I’m a little bit backwards; why move from a system which gives perfectly acceptable AF, flexibility of focal lengths and adequate cost for something that offers none of that? I had to focus with my feet, manually twiddle the focus ring and lighten my wallet by a fair few G’s (in HKD that is).

But that was the epiphany, the eureka moment, the realisation that I enjoyed it (well, I would certainly enjoy it more if it hadn’t cost me an arm and a leg but I digress).

What was missing from shooting with digital SLR systems (be it Canon or Nikon) was the process itself, I was no longer enjoying the physical process of taking photographs, it didn’t matter whether the output was good if I didn’t care to take the time and effort to get out there with a camera.

More Gloomy Clouds over Hong Kong

It is a slower process, I would even say a more considered one but I’m not a professional photographer so I don’t need the ability to snap a gnat doing a reverse somersault in the tuck position off a cat’s back from 200m at a moment’s notice lest my family starve from lack of income; I’m just a guy, standing in front of a camera, asking for an enjoyable experience.

The Review

When I evaluate a camera during the first few weeks of purchase, I focus on the negative aspects of the camera; once I have a handle on what I don’t like I can then decide whether I can live with it. If I can, I will love it and keep it, if I can’t it’s gonna go; you can see this when I reviewed the Sony A7R.

5

However, with this “One year in review” I will focus instead on the positive aspects of the camera, what I have found to be the highlights after owning the RX1 for a year.

35mm

I love the 35mm focal length. You either do or you don’t I suppose and I do. I’m naturally a wide-angle shooter and lengths from 50mm upwards are awkward for me; I’m always too close to the subject, perhaps I have no inhibitions about getting in close or feel that I lose the intimacy or interaction when shooting people. Oh, and I love landscapes and the close 20cm focus distance when in macro mode is also a boon for those inevitable food photographs.

Smooch @ f/2.0

Carl Zeiss

Consider me a convert to the Carl Zeiss clan; before the fixed 35mm f/2.0 attached to the front of the RX1 I hadn’t had a lot of experience with Zeiss glass, only hearing about them and not giving them much thought. Now I am a true convert and have already amassed a collection of 4 (if you include the one on the RX1). I had never seen the famed Zeiss ‘3D pop’ before now and in good sunlight it is truly evident and a marvel to behold.

3D target

The glass is sharp wide open and right across the frame, the colours are pleasing and at f/2.0 is fast enough and beautiful enough (bokeh!) for me to indulge my creative side. It’s so effortless I almost feel like I’m cheating. It’s not perfect, there exists slight distortions and vignetting which can be corrected in post but for the most part can be considered immaterial.

I have read reviews and musings from the world-wide webs which go on to proffer the argument that this could be one of the finest lenses ever produced, I do not doubt them although having the lens mated specifically to a sensor with micrometer precision obviously has its benefits.

Exmor

The Exmor CMOS sensor is amazing and I am not using that term lightly. I have had access to and have regularly used a number of cameras over time and now also owning the Sony A7R, Fujifilm X-E1 and X-T1, I can empirically say the 24MP sensor housed within that tight metallic body is the best I’ve ever used. Its dynamic range (DR) and noise characteristics are exceptional.

Bar

It’s the only file where I can shoot straight into the sun and then pull every slider in post (using Adobe Lightroom) without breaking the image. It’s the only file where I can create HDR images with only one image (instead of the usual 3-plus images). It’s the only file where I never, ever, worry about artifacting in post and lets me really fire up my creative juices. The A7R and Fujifilm files are not even close on this one, like I have already said, this camera makes taking pictures easy.

Size

This thing is tiny; it’s an engineering marvel how they have managed to fit a full frame sensor inside that body. It’s by no means pocketable (unless you are a giant or like wearing trench coats) but it is vastly superior to its full frame brethren. It means that I can carry it anywhere and everywhere I go and I often do; during the last year it has been to clubs, bars, restaurants, functions, parks, hikes, events, trips; Hong Kong, England, Japan, Cambodia, India, Korea, China, Italy and more.

Dharavi Mother

It’s non-invasive, not attention worthy (especially with black nail polish over the trademarks) and not intimidating. It’s the perfect stealth camera which to many may look like an older 1990’s era point and shooter, obviously the fast and silent leaf shutter helps too.

Cambodia Boat Kid

I’ve been with friends and to people’s houses where they remarked why I hadn’t brought a ‘proper’ camera like their large Canon or Nikon systems. I merely shrug and say “I make do with what I got”, little do they know…

Shutter

It’s a leaf shutter, fast (1/4000s max, although speed limited to 1/2000s when wide open up until f5.6 if I remember correctly) and silent (it really is). It will sync flash at any speed you would want, especially useful for wide open shots during day light.

Viewfinder

There is however one thing the RX1 doesn’t give you and it’s something I know I couldn’t live without and that is a viewfinder; I was so used to optical viewfinders in all my previous cameras that it was a given that I would want the same again. Shooting using the LCD screen just didn’t give that same feel or enjoyment so I almost immediately started to look at the Sony OVF.

Man selling meat sticks

I tested one and was amazed by how large and bright it was; then I saw the ludicrous price tag and decided that it was ridiculous sum of money to pay for a piece of glass so I started looking elsewhere for third party designs from Leica and Voigtlander. What I saw underwhelmed me enough for me to eventually consider the electronic viewfinder (EVF) as I was not willing to spend so much money on what was essentially a dumb piece of glass. Let’s just say that I am now a convert to the EVF world; would I still prefer a large bright digital SLR OVF? Sure. But EVFs do offer some advantages and I can live with the negatives.

Street Meat Vendor

The Sony EVF is a joy to use and only now when I compare it to the EVFs from the A7R, X-E1 (rubbish) and X-T1 that I realised I had started out with a really good example of one. I’m not sure whether the EVF for the RX1 is the same as that built into the A7R but I swear the RX1 EVF is slightly better and is enjoyable to use even alongside the large and bright EVF of the Fujifilm X-T1.

One Year In

I love the RX1. I already know I will not sell it, exchange it or need to upgrade it. When it comes to 35mm, the RX1 is all I need which is why after one year and three additional bodies I still only have one 35mm focal length in my collection and that is the one attached to this camera.

It has changed my whole outlook, my philosophy and my equipment needs.

Julian

City life trams

I want them to be small and manageable; I want that tactile old school feel of an aperture ring; I want a single focal length to keep things simple; and most if all I want to really enjoy using it.

What I would really want is a collection of RX1-type cameras at differing focal lengths; an ultra-wide (~18mm), wide (35mm), normal (50mm) and short-telephoto (85mm). One camera for one task, no changing lenses in the field and if I didn’t bring the right camera with me, I’m not going to stress over missing a shot. Simples.

14

The end.

Raymond Hau

Feb 202014
 

Shooting with Fuji

By Olaf Sztaba

It is not common in the days of big egos and anonymous message boards that a great photographer and hugely popular blogger stands back and allows other photographers to share their work on his own website. I applaud you for such a generous approach.

This is our first submission to your website, so a few words about our philosophy. We believe that as we have all been taking photographs for over 100 years, we are experienced enough to go beyond portraits and landscapes to take photography into the artistic realm. Capturing the emotions you feel as you look at people and landscapes is another level of photography, as is capturing the essence of a person or landscape.

Having said that, we put a lot of effort into the visual and emotional quality of the photograph; only after that do we strive for technical perfection. Our photo trips usually take us into unknown and forgotten places, some of which may seem obscure and rusty at first sight but somehow they interest us more than what’s new and pretty. I had my first camera at the age of four and ever since my eyes have been searching for the perfect composition, light and subject. My wife Kasia and I are based in Vancouver, British Columbia.

We are currently shooting with the Fuji X-Pro1, Fuji X100S cameras and Fujinon XF lenses, which fit our style of photography well. With the basic gauges at our fingers, we can focus on what’s important: our subject, emotions, visuals and light. We believe that every photographer has special needs and preferences, so I don’t want this post to be about equipment.

After all, a strong, artistically beautiful image, even if it is technically imperfect, will always triumph over a technically perfect but dull image.

Thank you for the opportunity.

Olaf & Kasia Sztaba

www.olafphotoblog.com

www.olafphoto.squarespace.com

 

Image #1: Fuji X100S

©osztaba_1

Image #2: Fuji X100

©osztaba_2

Image #3: Fuji X-Pro1 & XF 14mm F2.8

©osztaba_3

Image #4: Fuji X100S

©osztaba_4

Image #5: Fuji X-Pro1 & XF 14mm F2.8

©osztaba_5

Image #6: Fuji X-Pro1 & XF 14mm F2.8

©osztaba_6

Image #7: Fuji X-Pro1 & XF 14mm F2.8

©osztaba_7

 

 

Feb 052014
 

Quiet Light

By Mark Seawell

Hi Steve! My name is Mark Seawell. I live in Germany and work on Ramstein Air Force base, HQ for the U.S Air Force in Europe. Though I’m retired from the Air Force, I now work as a civilian employee for Ramstein. This area has the largest concentration of Americans outside of the United States, over 25,000. We arrived in Germany in Aug 2005 and I quickly fell in love with the land while taking long walks with my wife. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Germany but when the rain is not coming down (think Seattle) this is some of the most beautiful land in the world.

My fate was sealed when I decided to “bring a camera along” for our walks. Soon I was taking pictures and I haven’t stopped for 5 years! I’ve shot Lumix the entire time moving form the Panasonic G1 to the GH2 and in November of last year the GH3.

http://msphotoworld.com is my Zenfolio site.

I took the first picture on the 18th of January with my GH3. Something was there that moved me. I loved the quiet solitude of the tree standing alone. . This picture was taken close to Steinwenden and is typical for this area. I call it “Quiet Light”.

18 Jan 2014 Panasonic GH3 Lumix 45-200mm F/9.0 ISO 250 1/125 Adobe LR 5.3 SilverEfex Pro

QuietLight3

The next picture is from my village of Rehweiler, Germany. The morning was misty and I found myself alone close to the tracks. What I found inspirational about this was the mood of mystery. Where are the tracks going? What is around the bend? What is the destination? View to Eternity.

8 Jun 2013 Panasonic GH2 Lumix 45-200mm F/7.1 ISO 160 1/800 Adobe LR 5.3 SilverEfex Pro

View to Eternity

The last picture was taken on the back roads between Reuschbach and Obermohr, Germany. It had rained the entire month in Novermber 2011. It would not stop. Finally, on the last day of November there was no rain and that was enough reason to take my camera as I drove in. The mist was everywhere, covering the land. I had taken a few pictures above Reuschbach and was happy and drove the road to Obermohr where we lived for nearly 6 years but had recently moved. As I came around the bend I was struck by this site. The mist totally dominated my former village but rising majestically through it all was the church tower. I nearly ran into a ditch and the cars behind me were none to happy as I positioned myself, eager to capture this fleeting moment before it all went away. There could be only one name for this image that had inspired me so…”Heaven’s Gate”.

30 November 2011 Panasonic G1 Lumix 45-200mm ISO 100 72mm LR 3.2 SilverEfex

Gateway to Heaven

Feb 042014
 

The Sony A7 meets the Voigtlander 15mm Heliar – a match made in heaven or hell?

by Steven Norquist

The Voigtlander 15mm Super Wide Heliar is one of the most amazing wide-angle lenses ever created.

Why is this?

  • It has super high contrast.
  • It has super high color saturation.
  • It has super high acutance.
  • It is super, super sharp.
  • It has virtually infinite depth of field.
  • It has no distortion. (truly amazing for a 15mm wide-angle lens!)

And lastly but most importantly, it has an incredibly great dramatic wide-angle look that few lenses can equal. There is only one problem and it is not the Heliar’s fault.

This lens almost never works on digital cameras!

This lens was made in the film era for rangefinder cameras. Why doesn’t this lens work on digital cameras?

This lens is designed to place its rear nodal point almost directly on the film plane. Almost literally in contact with the film, that is how close it gets. This causes the light rays to have a very concentrated and sharp angle unto the film plane. This is also how this lens is so superior and achieves such amazing optical correction and also why it does not work on digital cameras.

This sharp angle of light is so sharp that the outside diameter of the exit pupil, the periphery if you will, is not able to be correctly perceived by a digital sensor. Again, the problem is not with this lens, it is with digital sensors in general.

Digital sensors were not designed to use film camera lenses. Think about that statement for a moment. Why would the industry try to replace film cameras with digital cameras and not design digital sensors to work with all normal film camera lenses already in existence? Duh, you would think this should have been their primary concern, to duplicate the superior light gathering ability of the chemical film plane in a digital sensor.

But alas that has not happened yet, or has it?

I decided to find out.

The Sony A7 is potentially one of the most revolutionary cameras to come out in the last couple of years but it is not potentially revolutionary because it puts a full frame sensor in a small body. It is potentially revolutionary because it is a full frame digital camera that will allow “any film lens” to be used on it!

This is its real selling point for most and why I would want this camera very, very much. You see, we have all these magnificent film lenses that simply will not work very well on any digital cameras to date. Tons of beautiful artistic lenses designed over decades of film photography that may never be replicated in modern designs. Why should these wonderful lenses go to waste?

The hope was Sony had finally “done it” and provided the answer to our dreams.

So since no one has yet done a detailed review on the performance of the Voigtlander 15mm Heliar on the A7 I took it upon myself to do so. I rented an A7, bought an adapter on Amazon and mounted my Heliar on it and began the detailed tests. I have had the Heliar for a couple of years now and know exactly why and how it doesn’t work on digital cameras so my  tests were designed to see if these exact problems were resolved by the Sony A7.

The two main issues are:

1. The outside edge of the frame, especially the corners will have a magenta color shift to the natural fall off/vignetting that the lens produces.

2. The outside edge of the frame, especially the corners will be super blurry and smeared, basically not only not in focus, but weirdly stretched and just not right looking.

Before I present the results let me assure you that when this lens is mounted on a rangefinder film camera the corners are sharp even wide open. Also, on a film camera this lens will have a nice healthy vignetting effect so that the blue color of the sky will become darkened in the corners of the image. This is natural for wide-angle lenses of this type and is used in wide-angle photography as an artistic device for emphasizing a subject.

So on film the corners are sharp and the corners are darkened, but they should not be magenta and they should not be blurred.

Ok here we go.

The Magenta Test

Parameters of test:

· White balance was set for daylight to assure no variation in color hue due to automatic white balance adjustment.

· Pictures were taken in raw on a full sunny day and processed without any fancy tweaks, just plain old conversion from raw to retain what the camera sensor saw.

 

Magenta Corners Test Sample 1

01_Magenta

Magenta Corners Test Sample 2

02_Magenta

Conclusion:

The corners will suffer from Magenta cast in very bright high contrast situations. But of the hundreds of pics I took in the sun, these two pics represented the worst case scenario under sunny conditions. I did not go out of my way to evoke magenta cast. I simply took the pics I wanted to and later found some with this issue. Many pics did not even show any magenta cast. In my opinion this magenta effect is subject specific and will show up only under these types of specific lighting conditions.

The Corner Blur Test

Parameters of test:

· Pictures were taken to test the ability of the lens to focus on both close and far subjects simultaneously (hyperfocal) and of the lens to resolve a flat plane at infinity. (The entire area of the image should have equal focus and sharpness at infinity)

· To prevent subtle shift in the flatness of the focus plane causing false results in the infinity test, I used the classic get on top of a mountain and shoot down technique. This assures that everything the lens sees is of equal distance from it.

· The full image was processed normally and the corner images processed to lighten the corners so that critical focus effects could be more easily seen and not lost in corner darkening.

· All pictures below were taken at F5.6 which on the Heliar is more than sufficient to sharpen the corners in hyperfocal situations. In fact stopping down to F8 will start to put the center of the image into diffraction even on full frame. On film even F4.5 is sharp in the corners.

Hyperfocal Test 1

03_Hyperfocal_F5.6

Left Corner 100% crop

03_Hyperfocal_Left Lower Corner

Right Corner 100% crop

03_Hyperfocal_Right Lower Corner

 

Hyperfocal Test 2

01_Hyperfocal_F5.6

Left corner crop

01_Hyperfocal_Left Lower Corner

Right corner crop

01_Hyperfocal_Right Lower Corner

 

Infinity Test

01_Infinity_F5.6

Upper Left Corner 100% crop

01_Infinity_Left Upper Corner

Upper Right Corner 100% crop

01_Infinity_Right Upper Corner

Lower Left Corner 100% crop

01_Infinity_Left Lower Corner

Lower Right Corner 100% crop

01_Infinity_Right Lower Corner

 

Conclusion:

The corners do suffer from blur on the A7 even at infinity. This is a product of the A7’s sensor. The blur effect, though present, is not real terrible. The smearing effect I have seen on other cameras was not present in any pics I took. So this is a definite improvement over other cameras.

Also, because of the heavy vignetting, the blur is almost always hidden in the shadows and is not distracting at normal viewing distance.

I also tested the 35mm F2 Biogon and the Contax/Yashica 28mm and these lenses also had corner blur on the A7 even though the Contax/Yashica is a telecentric SLR lens that sits pretty far from the sensor. On the Contax I was able to stop down to F11 and eliminate all blur and not really see any diffraction which was pretty amazing actually.

Final thoughts:

Sadly no digital camera has yet been made that will allow the exquisite Heliar to be used full frame on it without problems.

The A7 was a pleasure to shoot with and tt was so easy and compact to carry all day.  Battery life? I was able to leave the camera on all the time and it took six hours to deplete one battery.

My V1 was dying long before the A7!

Can the Heliar create powerful and rich photos on the A7 despite these flaws?

Here are some final fully processed Heliar/A7 samples for you to decide.

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