Sep 012014
 

Wedding Photography With The Sony RX10 

By Jacob Glauninger

His website is HERE 

This is the first in a series of reviews I’ve been hoping to do. I’m a bit of a gear head amongst my peers, so unfortunately for me I go through a lot of gear. I’m not a big fan of technical reviews, there are plenty of MTF chart type reviews out there. They have their place, but I find they never really show me how my images will look in the field, so I’m going to try to stick to real world reviews. I’m also going to post edited images, because I always find my self curious what a camera is capable of, not what SOOC jpegs of flowers and bookshelves look like. I’m not gonna wow anyone with technical talk or pixel-peeping, I’ll leave that to the other reviewers. The question I am attempting to answer in this review is simply this: is the Sony RX10 a capable for shooting weddings?DSC-RX10_right_bgwh

To give a little background, I have been shooting with a Sony A7 over the past 6 months. I used to shoot weddings with two Canon 5Ds and and several L lenses, but a couple of years ago I briefly gave up the trade and sold all my gear. In turn, I switched over to mirrorless to satisfy my day to day photography wants. First was the Samsung nx100 and the Olympus XZ-1, and then I moved up to the canon EOS M when it went on fire sale. After my wife and I got married in November, I started shooting weddings together with my wife. I decided I should probably move up to something a little more serious than the EOS M. I tried the NEX-6 and hated it. Shortly after I picked up the A7, I loved it. However, the current lens selection does nothing for me, so I have been adapting vintage manual focus glass. Adapting old lenses is fun and all, but I’m getting really tired of manual focusing, especially at weddings.

Between wanting something as a backup camera with autofocus and being interested in cinematography, I landed on the Sony RX10. Whenever I purchase an item I like to test it really hard within the first 30 days. I’ve encountered a few lemons in the past so I always like to make sure everything is functional before the initial warranty expires. Fortunately, my wife and I had two weddings in one weekend, so I really got to push it to its limits.

Image Quality

First, lets cover something important - the RX10 uses a 1-inch sensor. Compared to your iPhone, it’s huge, but this isn’t by any means a full frame sensor. It’s not even an APS-C Sensor, heck it isn’t even a micro four thirds sensor. In the scheme of sensors in professional photography, this thing doesn’t even make it to the feather weights. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It just means you have to understand its limitations and characteristics. Namely, a lack of depth of field, which on the occasion I personally like. It’s really nice not having to stop down my lens to f8 to give my images some clarity. Being a 1 inch sensor, I think the 20mp they cram into it is more of a marketing ploy than anything else. I’d say it’s more realistically a 15mp sensor as far as usability is concerned. You might be able to squeeze 20mp out of this on the wide end at iso 125, but that’s about it. Anything else tends to fall apart really fast when you crop to 100%. I would have preferred that they scaled down the size and gave us smaller files.

Sharpness

On the widest end of the lens it is remarkably sharp except for the extreme corners which fall apart pretty fast. I got my camera used at Amazon Warehouse, so maybe this is just my camera, but I found anywhere else in the zoom range to be disappointing. If you are going to pixel peep, it’s just not sharp. But this is where the beauty of the 1 inch sensor comes into play. There is just so much clarity in the images that it somehow gives the impression it is sharp, when it really isn’t. There is also some noticeable fringing and halo-ing at the long end of some shots – kind of annoying but not terrible. Is the client going to notice any of this? Not likely.

Dynamic Range and ISO

Dynamic Range is pretty darn good for a compact. I was surprised how much detail I could recover from both my highlights and shadows. DXOMark gives it 12.6 stops of dynamic range so that easily puts it in the consumer DSLR range. ISO handling is probably one of this cameras biggest weaknesses. It’s pretty bad coming from a full frame camera, but coming from something like a Rebel or an NEX might not seem so bad. Fortunately the killer image stabilization and image clarity helps offset this by allowing you to shoot at lower ISO levels anyway. Overall I’d say it can manage in low light, but I wouldn’t rely on it unless I had to.

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Bokeh And Depth Of Field

At the wide end you aren’t going to get much more background blur than you would on an iPhone. If you force it, you can find it, but typically you won’t find it unless you only like to take picture 1 inch from your subject. Moving down the range you gradually get more and more separation from your background (due to telephoto compression). At the far end you can definitely get a useful amount of background blur. Off the top of my head, I’d say you are getting about the equivalent of what you would get with a 35mm f2 on a full frame body (minus the telephoto compression and everything else that makes it different). It’s not a huge amount of separation, but you can get it if you need it. Unfortunately, when you do get it, it’s hideous. This is probably the number one killer for me, personally. Onion bokeh galore. It reminds me of all the vintage glass I’m trying to get away from. However, some people like that look. So if that floats your boat, more power to you. The depth of field is adequate for me, but creamy it is not.

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Macro

It does it. Closer on the wide end than you can probably physically get to your subject, and closer on the telephoto end than you are probably used to.

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Build

I won’t talk too much about the build, that’s something you can and should feel for your self at the store. It’s light. Really light. Which is good. Feels a little cheap to me, but I’d rather it be light and feel a little cheap, than have to haul around a luxurious concrete block. Overall I can say it feel nice though. Maybe somewhere between the NEX-6 and the A7. The lens barrel feels really nice.

Controls and Handling

Controls and Handling is where this camera receives its second strike from me. The controls are a little fiddly…on second thought, they’re really fiddly. I don’t really have too many complaints about the layout. The menu is like anything else made by Sony in the last 6 months, and the button layout isn’t all that much different. I’m not crazy about the way Sony designs it’s layouts but I can live with it. My main complaints are little quarks here and there. First, it’s slow. Not so slow that it’s unusable, but slow enough to be annoying. Record times aren’t great, the zoom is really slow compared to anything with interchangeable lenses, and if you try zooming during the shot to review time, it will zoom into the reviewed image and not zoom the actual lens. This sets you back and can keep you from getting the shot. Next, I can’t get it set up like my A7, which is annoying. For those of you who don’t know, Sony allows for highly customizable buttons, but for some reason not completely customizable. For whatever reason, the closest I can get to my A7 is somehow still the opposite, so that continually throws me for a loop. The last notable quark I can think of (but I’m sure not the only one) is found it is really easy for my finger to bump the zoom. Since the zoom is an electronic zoom it’s also really not very accurate if you are trying to do precise focusing. Now, keep in mind these complaints are me nit-picking. Overall, I would say the handling on the RX10 is on par with anything else in its class, so don’t take this as it’s Achilles heel so to speak.

Price

As of writing this, they just dropped the price from a rather pricey $1300 to just below a more reasonable $1000. I picked mine up on amazon warehouse for $850 and since then I’ve seen them go as low as $750. $1300 was a bit of stretch for me, but $750 puts this camera easily in a fair price range.

Conclusion

Can you use this to shoot weddings? In short – a resounding yes. If you know and understand it’s limitations, it really does it all and at a great price too. It certainly won’t be for everybody, but I have to say I’m impressed with what this camera can do. Will I continue using it for weddings? As my main camera, absolutely not. As a second body (and a 4th or 5th to my wife’s cameras) – possibly. However, if I was forced to use this as my only camera, I wouldn’t be in the least bit nervous. In fact, if I was forced to choose one camera, and one lens for the rest of my life, this might just be my choice. Would I recommend it to others? Depends. If they were on a tight budget, just starting out, just want a well-rounded back up, etc., then yes. For someone who has an endless budget and demands only the best image quality, then probably not. The image quality is a compromise. In fact that’s all this camera is – one giant compromise between the best of all worlds (they call it a bridge camera).

The Elephant In The Room

The Panasonic FZ1000. I know. I just gave the RX10 a (mostly) rave review, but the new FZ1000 looks to be a mighty fine contender to the RX10. I can’t really give my recommendation on which one is better as it isn’t available yet, but it looks like the winner to me. From the samples I’ve seen, the image quality looks to be a bit better (and the bokeh, much better), it shoots 4k, extends all the way to 400mm and at a better price too. It has a few other improvements but it also looses somethings such as the built-in ND filter, constant f2.8 aperture, and weather sealing. However, either camera is exciting to me. If this is the start of a new trend in bridge cameras, I could see the bridge camera regaining some notable market share in the not too distant future.

Sample Images

All images below were adjusted in Adobe Lightroom with VSCO packs 01 and 02.

 

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Aug 292014
 

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A night with the Monochrom at ISO 10,000

So yesterday you saw where I wrote about the new Leica M-P and the silver Monochrom. Last night Debby and I decided to take a drive down to a cool hangout here in Phoenix called “The Lost Leaf’. We have been there a few times now and it always offers a great atmosphere, a huge selection of beers and drinks and every single night, live music. The last time I was there I brought along the Sony A7s and tested it in the torturous low light conditions of the Lost Leaf, which at times borders on near darkness. The A7s did well, even when pushed to over 80,000 ISO and seeing that I was going that high in ISO with the A7s, I did not think the Monochrom would be able to handle it, especially with the 50 f/2 lens I had on the camera. But I gave it a shot. I cranked the Monochrom to ISO 10,000, which is the max ISO for this camera, and I snapped a few frames.

Before heading in I set the MM to ISO 6400 and snapped a shot of this mural on the wall across the street. Click on it to see  the tones, graduations and sharpness. It was shot at 50mm and f/2, wide open.

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At ISO 10,000 the Monochrom puts out files that look like Tri-X 400 film.  All images below were shot at ISO 10,000

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People hanging out on the patio waiting for the nights musical act, Copper & Congress. 

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As the band started to play I took a test shot from my table to test the lighting and to see if ISO 10k and f/2 was enough. I managed to get 1/60th second.

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I feel the Monochrom puts out convincing B&W that does remind me of my M6 ad M7 film days..

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I moved in closer to get some shots of the band..

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By far my fave shot of the night, and this one is a JPEG from camera. ISO 10,000, f/2 – click it for much better viewing experience.

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The Sony A7s was also with me…

I also brought the Sony A7s with me along with the 35 2.8 and 55 1.8 Zeiss. It focused so accurate and fast for me using auto focus, even in these dim conditions..it was amazing. With that said, I had to crank the ISO higher on the Sony as I was using an f/2.8 lens so I used ISO 16,000 and 32,000. Only problem was I had the camera (by accident) set to JPEG only, and was shooting in the gimmicky “high contrast B&W mode” which killed the tonality of the image. None of them looked good, but it was my mistake for using the HC B&W option. Here is one example below of what that setting will do when used at high ISO and low light:

The next two shots were taken with the Sony A7s at ISO 16,000 and 32,000 using the 55 1.8 and 35 2.8. Problem is I had the camera set to JPEG only and used the High Contrast B&W mode which destroyed the tones. Lesson learned.

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As you can see, using high contrast B&W on the A7s destroyed the details, the tones and the overall look of the image (IMO). From now on, no more gimmick modes for me! If it were set to standard B&W it would have looked great. I can also see the NR at work from the camera even though it was set to low. Still, the A7s performed like a beast. Fast AF, quick and easy shooting, no issues. If I had it set to RAW and JPEG I could have saved my photos so user error on that one.

At the end of the day though I soooo loved shooting the Monochrom last night. It has been a while since I shot anything like this with a Leica and with the insanely low light here (It’s literally lit up by one red light bulb) I did not think the Leica would cut it, especially with a 50 f/2. While the Noct would have been amazing here, the little Zeiss 50 Planar f/2 did well. For me the Mono images have a teeny something about them that is beautiful and now I know that I can go up to ISO 10k in the dark without issue. It’s all about the exposure and if you nail it then you will have minimal noise.

I will be back to the Lost Leaf soon I am sure because it is great fun to see and shoot these live acts in such a cool inmate environment.

You can check out the Lost Leaf here and if you are ever in Phoenix I highly recommend stopping in. You can check out Copper & Congress at their website HERE. 

Aug 282014
 

VIDEO: The Leica M-P and Silver Monochrom

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Ahhhhhhhh, the beauty of Leica. No matter what anyone will ever say, there is nothing like the beauty and feel of a Leica M camera, and I feel this way about the M3, M6, M7, M8, M9, M9-P, Monochrom and M 240/M-P. To me, they are just what I want in a digital camera and have all that I could ever need (except an affordable price and super low light which the A7s covers for me very well). Even after all of these years the Leica M is the ONLY digital rangefinder on the planet (not counting the no longer made Epson RD-1) that is available. So if you are an RF fan, this is it.

Nikon, Canon, Sony, Olympus..none have even attempted it although I was hoping Nikon would do so a few years ago. So as of today, mid 2014, Leica is the only game in town if you want a real life back to basics digital rangefinder camera and NO, Fuji do not have ANY RF cameras (some seem to think they do).

With that out-of-the-way, here we are a couple of months before PHOTOKINA where all kinds of goodies get released and announced. I am sure Leica will have something new, Sony will have something new and huge and Nikon and Canon will probably have the same old same old. Olympus will have something new, probably Panasonic as well. But just a couple of months early Leica not only announced but released the black paint M-P.

The M-P is basically an M240 with a larger buffer, sapphire LCD screen and all black paint without any markings on the front. This means NO “M” and no RED DOT! On the top you have the classic Leica logo which appears just as it did in the M-9P (which was crazy popular, sold out at launch for months). The M-P is not selling out at launch and that is mainly due to the fact that at the price of $8,000 it is too expensive in 2014 even for a Leica. With Sony rocking the A7 series that have an even better sensor at 1/3 the cost it makes it hard to justify a digital Leica today. With that being the case, why did i just purchase TWO of  them? EEEK!

The deep rich tones of the MM (with a Zeiss 50 Planar, one of my fave M lenses ever due to bang for the buck)

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Well, part of it is passion. Part is foolishness. Part is from my heart and the rest is due to the fact that no matter how many times I drift away from Leica…I ALWAYS COME BACK. I have an emotional connection to the M and when I am out with it I enjoy it more than any other camera, even if other cameras can do more for me. The Leica M 240 is my favorite camera of all time, previous to this it was the M9. When the Sony A7s was released it was tied with my M 240 and I said “why would I keep this M when I love the Sony so much”. So I sold my M 240 and banked the money.

Two months later, while I still am in love with the A7s and have no desire to get rid of it, the M has creeped back in to my head. Just days before the M-P was announced I was looking for a used deal on an M 240 yet again. So away I go and email Ken Hansen who said “I will have the M-P week, if you want one let me know”. Too easy. Bam. Ordered. He also said “I have a few silver chrome Monochrom’s in stock” – and that was it, BAM! I went crazy..I was foolish..but do I regret it? No, because I now have an M-P which is the most beautiful M 240 yet and the chrome MM is a sight to see and about as unique and pure as a digital camera can get. Both have their uses as does my Sony A7s.

In fact. I will use my A7s for low light, macro,  and some times when I need a hassle free AF camera. I will use the MM on those occasions when a pure B&W mode strikes me and the M 240 on all other occasions. The great thing is that the lenses can be used on all three cameras without issues.

Here I am almost 45 years old and still being stricken with GAS. Today though I will acknowledge that the prices required to get into a Leica M system are way too high, but for those who gain happiness and joy from it then it doesn’t really matter as long as you can swing it. Life is short and I would rather LIVE IT than sit around on my couch all day watching TV, waiting for something good to happen to me. So that is what I do and how I live life.

So the new Leica M-P is available and shipping NOW! For those interested, you can order them at Ken Hansen, PopFlash, Pro Shop, B&H Photo, Amazon and Leica Store Miami. The Chrome MM is also available from all of those dealers.

Below is my video featuring both cameras. Enjoy!

Aug 282014
 

Shooting a model for the first time

By Andrew Paquette

Website: www.paqart.com

For my summer vacation this year I decided that I wanted to shoot at least one fun sporting event and to set up my first ever model shoot. As of about eight hours ago, both are accomplished. The sporting event, a basketball championship in Amsterdam, was a lot of hard work as far as the shooting was concerned, but was a breeze administratively. I was invited (and paid) to be there, so I didn’t have to worry about getting permission for anything, getting press credentials, setting up the location (or finding it) or anything like that. In contrast, shooting a model for the first time meant I had to do everything myself. What was that like? After deciding that I wanted to shoot a model, preferably a professional from an agency, I had to have a concept, a budget, and some idea where I intended to do this and what kind of permits I might need. In the end, almost everything went differently than expected.

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My first goal was a non-goal—if I was going to pay for all the things that went into the shoot, I did not want to get something that looked like, as my wife described it, “somebody’s girlfriend in the forest”. This doesn’t mean there aren’t excellent photos of somebody’s girlfriend in a forest—I saw quite a few while poring over photographer websites—but they all had something extra to make them interesting. As an illustrator, I had made many compositions over the years that could be readily translated into interesting photographs, but most would require the construction of extensive sets—something I did not want to do because of the associated costs. Instead, I wanted something simple, with maybe one or two models at the most, and preferably something that could be shot in an accessible (and free) public location or an inexpensive day rental of a photo studio, probably in Amsterdam.

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To help give me ideas, I looked through my catalogue of street photos in Amsterdam. I found two that looked good enough as ideas, though not as finished photos, to serve as inspiration for a shoot. Both could be shot on the street in Amsterdam in large public spaces. I didn’t think there would be a problem with this because it isn’t much different from the street shots I already took, but just to be sure, I checked the city of Amsterdam’s website (http://www.iamsterdam.com/en-GB/business/Film-office/Filmprotocol) to see if a permit would be needed. The short answer is that no permit would be required. The only caveat was that I would need a permit if I introduced helicopters, hundreds of extras, food carts, or car crashes into the shoot. I wasn’t planning on doing any of those things, so I was in the clear. They do ask that photographers notify them of pending shoots so that area businesses have an opportunity to complain or stipulate things like a fee for use of their washroom, no trash dumped in their bins, etc.

Next, I had to find a couple of models. The first concept required a female model and an athletic male model capable of Rollerblade or skateboard stunts. I wanted to shoot them at the skateboard park in Amsterdam, where the female model reacted to the male model doing stunts (or, if I found a female model who could do them, the reverse). The second concept required two female and two male models, something that I doubted would be affordable, but I thought I might as well check. I should point out here that I have hired models twice before, but not for this purpose. The first was hired from an agency in Portland Maine, to pose as a generic female character to be used as reference for my work as a comic book artist. Hiring her was not difficult. I just called the agency, told the owner what I was looking for, and $500 later, had the shoot wrapped and a couple of books full of excellent reference shots that happened to be not very good photographs.

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The second occasion was in 1999 or so when I hired a female model from an LA-based agency to have her head scanned for use in a video game. Again, this was not a difficult thing to arrange. I called the agency, they sent over some head shots, I picked one, and then she went to the scanning facility and did the job. Not a problem. This time, it would be different. Why? Because this time, I was a photographer working on a portfolio instead of an artist with a client.

I went first to a site that listed about two dozen agencies in the Netherlands: (http://www.kmodels.com/Netherlands-modeling-agencies-links2.htm).

I started calling and emailing to inquire about rates and how a shoot could be organized. None answered my emails. I spoke with one agency rep at A Models Amsterdam (http://www.amodelsamsterdam.com/) who seemed to think I was asking for a free model because it was for a portfolio. I explained that wasn’t the case, but it didn’t matter—without a client (preferably a major company) their models weren’t available, even for paid work. So here I got stuck. No model means no shoot. What could I do? I found a site that sets up photographers with models, hairstylist, and make-up artists (http://www.modelmayhem.com/) but to get in I had to have a portfolio with photos of four different shoots with four different models. I didn’t have that, but did have some decent shots of more than four different people in situations that looked like different shoots, so I decided to upload those and hope that my industry credits as an artist and art director were enough to deal with any problems in their review process. Unfortunately, my holiday was almost over, so their approval had to come fast or I would have missed my window of opportunity. But then, I got lucky.

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While I was shooting the basketball game in Amsterdam, my wife and daughter attended a figure drawing class. My wife thought their model would work for the photo shoot I wanted to do, so she approached her about it. The model was fine with the idea, so now I had a model. However, I only had one model. The concepts I had for the shoot wouldn’t work. I booked her anyway, then sat down to think about what I could do with one model. In the end I took inspiration from a street photo I’d taken in Amsterdam of a girl smoking a cigarette in front of a dark stone wall. Her features and pale skin contrasted against the dark stone reminded me of old Proto-Renaissance portrait paintings. This would be the theme. With that decided, I had to figure out how far I wanted to go with it. I didn’t own any Medieval artifacts to use as props, and doubted any museum would let me use theirs (I also didn’t want to go through asking for permission, a process that would likely take a long time and then be rejected anyway.)

Location was easier to deal with. There are a lot of Gothic cathedrals in the Netherlands and I had photographed quite a few of them so I knew what they looked like. One of the oldest was in the south of Holland and they gave permission to shoot there. Now I had a model and a location, but needed a way to somehow connect the model to the location. This could be done with a medieval costume. People in the Netherlands love costumes, so at first I thought it would be easy to find one. It wasn’t, but after a lot of looking, I found a costume shop in Den Haag with a great selection of good quality medieval costumes for rent (http://www.dewitkostuums.nl)

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I don’t read Nederlands very well, so I missed the part on their website that said they were open for appointment only, so I went without an appointment. Luckily they were very nice about my lack of knowledge about their policies, and invited me up to look at their costumes. While I was there, I decided to get two so that more variety could be eked out of the shoot. This turned out to be a very important decision, so I’m glad I did it. At the time I was worried because the costumes I rented were among the most expensive they had. My wife was looking at me like she was thinking “are you sure about this?”

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So then I had two costumes, a model, and a location. I had the general idea that these Proto-Renaissance portraits were my inspiration, but how to translate that into photos? What ended up happening is I asked the model to do an impromptu extra shoot when she came in for the fitting. We went out to a local community garden where she was photographed in the more brilliantly colored costume of the two. The idea was that this day she is wearing friendly, upbeat colors and would be shot in a pleasant, green, lush, fresh-looking location. On the next day, she wore an outfit that had much less color and was photographed against stone and black iron. The effect created a contrast between a shire-like garden on the first day with the stately aloofness of a stone cathedral on the second. One is playful, the other austere.

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For cameras, I used a Nikon D800 and a Sony A7r. On the “green” day, the A7r was mounted by a Zeiss ZA 135mm 1.8 lens, and the D800 had the Zeiss 55mm Otus mounted on it. On the “white” day, the A7r had a 35mm 1.4/ASPH Summilux. The D800 had either the 55mm Otus or a Zeiss 15mm Distagon. I also used a Nikon NB-910 speedlight on the D800 and a Zacuto viewfinder for both cameras (I love my Zacuto viewfinder!). I won’t compare the quality of the lenses because each is pretty much the best you can find in their focal length and performed as such. All lens choice decisions were dictated by focal length—what was needed to frame a shot or get a certain effect.

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Aug 272014
 

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Wedding photography with a Sony RX100II

By Dennis Low

There are lots of contradictions when it comes to how photographers think about their equipment. Street photographers, for instance, often value small cameras and we all know the reasons why: when cameras are small, they’re unobtrusive, discrete; unlike dSLRs, small cameras look ‘friendly’ and ‘unthreatening’ which puts people at ease, should they even spot them at all. The ever-ready small camera is perfect for shooting the world unawares, capturing the moment as it happens.

All of this makes perfect, logical sense – until, that is, someone asks you to photograph their wedding. Now, you’d think wedding photographers, with everyone wanting candid, documentary, fly-on-the-wall imagery, would have a lot in common with street photographers, and that small cameras would be absolutely central to the wedding photography industry. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, if you’re looking for a wedding photographer, you’d be hard-pressed to find one who *isn’t* wielding, say, a couple of Canon 5D MK III bodies, 24-70mm f2.8 and 70-200mm f2.8 zooms, maybe with a couple of fast aperture primes to boot, or an outfit that’s very, very similar. With every guest at the wedding taking photographs already, the official photographer, it seems, needs to have equipment that’s bigger, better, and more expensive than everyone else’s – otherwise, what’s the point of hiring a photographer at all?

But surely it’s the photographer rather than the kit that matters, right? Yet, if that was the case, how come you never hear about wedding photographers using the pocket digicams favoured by many street photographers? and what would wedding photography look like if they did?

I spend most of my time developing my fine art practice and trying to find new ways of photographing animals but, last month, I was asked to photograph two weddings (consecutive weekends!). On both occasions, I was asked for candid, documentary-style shots, and instructed to ‘blend in’ and basically not get in the way.

That in mind, I had a think about how I was going to work: I wanted to be free to weave in and out between groups of guests, unencumbered by a huge, heavy bag; I wanted guests I’d never met to not even flinch when I stood next to them and took their picture. Visually, I wanted images that my clients could pore over in years to come, ones that reveal every detail of their wedding days rather than hide them in a gorgeous, creamy blur of expensive, full-frame bokeh at f1.4. (Those classy-looking, ambient light shots where nothing’s in focus except the bride’s left eye, or the groom’s new wedding ring, are actually pretty easy to do, but they don’t actually tell you a lot about the day, where they were taken, or when.) I wanted my photos to sidestep all those old wedding conventions and, instead, somehow tune into the language of the normal, everyday photography that everyone knows and understands, like the stuff you see all the time on Facebook or Instagram. But supercharged, obviously :-)

It became increasingly apparent that the tiny size and huge depth of field of small sensor cameras were just what I needed. So, I took a deep breath, resisted all things dSLR, left my Leica M9 at home, and packed a little satchel with a Sony RX100II, together with a couple of flashes on remote triggers.

What does a digicam wedding look like? can it ever look professional, and is it something you’d ever try to do? Take a look and decide for yourself!

Dennis Low

www.TakeMeToTheKittens.com

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Aug 262014
 

My muse: Alina, with the Nikon V1

By Ivan Lietaert

Hi Steve and Brandon. I would like to present to you and your readers my muse: Alina. She’s my youngest kid, 4 years old, and she’s not (camera) shy at all. (Put a plastic toy microphone in her hands, and she’ll start singing instantly!) The pictures below were all taken in the past couple of weeks, and were taken with my Nikon V1 and the Nikon 1 18.5mm f1.8. I shoot jpeg, not raw, and the pictures were treated with Lightroom and Nik Software plugins, esp. Silver Efex Pro 2. I use natural light only. No flash.

I wrote about the V1 for your website about a year ago. Then, I wrote about the surprising video capabilities of this camera. 

The V1 has become my favourite ‘family trip’ camera for still images because of its fast focus and compact form. I don’t have the budget, honestly, for fancier gear, so I make the best of what I’ve got.

I live in Belgium, a country that has quite strict privacy laws, especially towards the under age. For photographers, it basically implies you need a release form when post portraits online, unless you are the parent (or legal guardian), which I am, of course. Aside from the legal aspect of publishing my children’s pictures online, I do have other reservations as well. I have friends who would never publish pictures of their (young) children online for safety reasons. In the late nineties, Marc Dutroux, a serial child molester and murderer, shocked the country, and now parents of young children are particularly sensitive about the issue.

To be honest, there is a bit of a guilty feeling, mixed with suspician, each time one of my kid pictures is liked or favourited on Flickr… which is sad, not? But there is yet another angle to this. A while back, I was asked by one my best friends to remove pictures from my flickr account. The reason: the kids have now reached puberty, and they are afraid to be bullied for these pictures, which their fellow class members are googling for.

Professionally, I’m a teacher at a secondary school (ages 12 up to 18), and I am the unofficial ‘official’ photographer for many school events. I always take care only to publish pictures in which the kids look good/cool and not goofy or whatever, just for that reason. (When children enroll to our school, they automatically must sign a release form too). Here is a link to an article I wrote for Steve about such a school event.  This is the reality of the world we live in, and I am writing this post because I’m curious about what you, Steve and Brandon, and your readers think about all this.

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

Kind regards,
Ivan Lietaert

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Aug 252014
 

Dear Steve,

Father’s Day just recently passed in Brazil. As past year I’m writing to you on this date, and as past year I’m sending to you a few pictures of my inspiration, my precious daughter. I realized that I never had sent pictures in color to you. Just because I don’t get so many that way — a good composition in color is harder to do, at least for me. So this time may I share some few, in color.

Dear Brandon,
Be proud of your dad I’m absolutely sure he’s proud of you — working so close to him, and following his steps — it’s a dream for any father that comes true.

Dear Both,
If you do will it would be a pleasure to see these few posted like an inspiration that might inspire. I’ll be glad and proud, she either.

My best wishes, in color. And happy father’s day,

Luiz Paulo

PS > Don’t know if this is important (the exif data) — I keep shooting with my old M9, and keep enjoying it…

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Aug 202014
 

A Sony A3000 Experience

By Bill Spencer

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

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

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

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

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

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

Modified by CombineZP

Coot with Chick 200mm F8

High summer on our local canal 200mm F11

Aug 192014
 

Dogstreets: Mans best friend 

By Brigitte Hauser

Dear Brandon, Steve and Readers

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

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

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So I started my dogstreets project.

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

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Near Portofino (Italy) also with Sony rx 1.

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

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

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

Enjoy the pics.

Yours
Brigitte

Aug 192014
 

Shooting with The Mitakon 50mm f/0.95 and the Sony A7 

By Doug Frost

I’ve been a happy owner of the Sony A7 since last December. For me, it won out over the A7r because of its slightly quieter and lower vibration shutter. It seemed better suited for handheld shooting than its 36mp sibling. And frankly, 24mp is plenty for me in most situations. I had been using the A7 with a variety of lenses with adapters. I have a few Zeiss Alphas which I love and I occasionally use it with my 50mm Zeiss Planar M-mount and a variety of vintage Nikon AI lenses. All great glass. I’ve always preferred shooting manual focus, and the A7 with its EVF and focus peaking makes it super easy to do.

But the one thing I lacked in my camera bag was a native FE mount lens. I had been considering buying the Sony Zeiss 50mm f/1.8 FE. The reviews of that lens have been very positive, and I was on the verge on buying one when Steve posted his first look preview of the Mitakon Speedmaster last April. I was immediately intrigued by the Mitakon. It wasn’t the sharpest 50mm lens by any means. It suffered from some light falloff at f/0.95, the bokeh could be a little quirky in some situations and it didn’t come with a lens hood. But there was a quality in the look of the sample shots I was seeing on Steve’s site and elsewhere that I really liked, especially when used wide open.

So, to make a long story a bit longer, I decided to get in on the pre-order discount price, and waited. And waited. And waited. The June delivery date came and went. The revised date in mid-July passed, and still no lens. The distributor, MXCamera, was apologetic. Their factory was having trouble getting the lens coatings right and they were shipping at a fraction of the anticipated rate. Finally, on August 6th, three months after I placed my order, I emailed them saying I was tired of waiting. To my surprise they replied the next day and said they just got a few units in from the factory and they’d ship one to me ASAP and gave me a tracking number. I was delighted.

The following day, MXCamera dropped a bit of a bombshell. The Mitakon Speedmaster had been discontinued! It was being replaced by a redesigned “pro” version of the lens that they dubbed “The Dark Knight”. Not only that, but everyone who had still not received the original version they ordered would now be getting a Dark Knight in its place!

Wow, I was taken aback. At first I was annoyed. Maybe if I hadn’t emailed them they would have sent me a Dark Knight instead. It was an odd situation, because a lens I had waited three months for, and was now finally enroute to me, had been discontinued before it even arrived!

But now that I have my Mitakon and shot with it, all is forgiven. I’ve decided that henceforth it will be known as the “Mitakon Speedmaster Classic”, a rare and highly coveted beast. Will The Dark Knight prove to be a better lens than the Classic? (It has yet to be reviewed as I write this.) Maybe. I have no idea, but more importantly, I don’t care. I love what my Mitakon does for me and that’s all that counts in the end.

I’m fortunate to live in the San Francisco Bay Area. It’s one of the most beautiful regions on the planet and San Francisco is one of the biggest tourist destinations of all. For this user report I wanted to show what the Mitakon could do when used wide open in low light. I decided on ISO 1600 for all of the shots, because the A7 does very well at that speed and at f/0.95 I figured it would be fast enough.

I decided to shoot in the evening in a San Francisco neighborhood where there would be lots of tourists milling about on the street, so someone wandering around with an A7 would hardly be noticed, and that meant Fisherman’s Wharf. Me and my buddy Chris arrived at dusk on a Saturday to explore it with our cameras. As anticipated, the Wharf was swarming with tourists. Perfect for people watching. I always shoot in aperture priority mode, and I’m happy to report that the A7’s shutter speed never dipped below 1/400 the whole time, even when I was shooting inside the Museé Mécanique arcade, where the light is low.

I hope you enjoy these photographs. I had an absolute blast taking them. If you’d like to see more of my work, I invite you to check out my gallery: http://dougfrost.tumblr.com

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Aug 182014
 

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Got IQ? The Sigma DP2 Quattro Review. 

Here I am again with yet another Sigma DP body. This time, the newest super funky DP2 Quattro model. I have never seen ANYTHING quite like the design of this Quattro and after using it and shooting with it I can state up front that I actually adore the style and design. For my hands, it feels superb when out shooting and when held correctly it really is easy to shoot with, and a joy. The last time I was with a Sigma camera it was when I reviewed the DP2 Merrill. I loved the Merrill for its amazing image quality, which was the best I have seen in any small camera. Very much like Medium Format and in some ways even better.  Now the Quattro has taken that image quality, improved the AF speed and other aspects and then jammed it into an all new body that is worthy of a whole conversation in itself.

Out of camera JPEG of my Fiancee’ Debby. This is complete OOC. Just resized to 1800 pixels wide and no sharpening. You can see the larger size if you click the image. For me, this is gorgeous out of camera color and IQ. From detail to color to bokeh. It looks fabulous. 

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So what is the Quattro?

The Sigma DP2 Quattro is a super funky designed camera that houses a new Foveon sensor and it will give you some of the best image quality you have ever seen, period. Even when shooting JPEGS. IN fact, I much preferred shooting the enhanced resolution JPEG’s over shooting RAW as shooting RAW is a process. Why you ask? Well, shooting RAW means you have to process those files in the Sigma Slow Photo Pro software as the files from the Foveon chip are not compatible with any other software. This means, no using lightroom for your Sigma DP2 files.

The Quattro has a 29MP Foveon X3 Quattro CMOS image sensor which will give you 5424X3616 files. The color and detail in these files is absolutely beautiful. Some of the best I have ever seen.

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The Quattro has a unique design as well and does not look like any other camera I have seen or used. It is long, oddball and with a strange reverse grip. When I first held it I was saying “OH NO! What have they done? The grip does not feel right”!. Then after  few hours of use I was saying “This feels great! Shooting with two hands feels natural and easy”.

My Quattro Video Overview

Basically, the design..while odd..is very effective for me. I have small hands but the camera fits me well and the buttons and dials are easily within reach.

Image quality is through the roof and when browsing over images I took, which were mainly quick snapshots, I was continually blown away by the complete lack of adjusting the photos. No need for changing or adjusting color, no need to sharpen, no need to fix exposure and no need to change ANYTHING. Out of camera JPEGS were just so pleasing with a rich file and crisp 3D feeling images. The Quattro, IMO, offers the most pleasing IQ from any DP camera to date though I have found the Dynamic Range to be on the lower side when compared to other cameras like the E-M1, A7, etc. When you blow a highlight you will not be able to bring back the detail if it is severely blown.

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The lens is a 30mm f/2.8 that gives us the equivalent of a 40mm 2.8 with the APS-C sized sensor. The lens is sharp and with great color and rendering. The Bokeh is smooth and pleasing and there is plenty of detail to be found here. No complaints on the lens at all.

Build quality is also fantastic and a step up from the previous versions. It feels solid and well made but I do have one major complaint. I feel it is a big one. The door that houses the SD card is not a door at all but a rubber flap that has to be pulled out and moved to the side to access the SD card. Over time this rubber will break off and this will mean that the SD card compartment will be exposed to the elements of dust, dirt and moisture. Horrible design on the SD card part. Sigma should actually fix this in the current production and replace it with a legit door. Not sure who designed that or who approved of it but it is the worst design SD card compartment cover I have seen.

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The Sigma is also missing any kind of EVF or OVF and the LCD does not tilt or swivel. If Sigma would have added these two things they would have had a serious camera that would be tough to pass up for those who love their image quality. The brand spanking new Foveon X3 Quattro direct image sensor is quite a bit different from the previous Foveon sensor due to a new top layer with a higher res. This should now give more detailed results with faster image processing and overall speed. So Sigma has reworked their sensor tech and the 29MP Quattro is said to give the results and resolution of a 39 MP normal sensor. Pretty cool.

Here is what Sigma says about their creation:

“Unique and without peer among image sensors, the Foveon direct image sensor is similar to traditional color film in that its multiple layers capture all of the information that visible light transmits. Vertical color separation technology produces incredibly rich color gradations, which in turn make possible texture and expressive power that are immediately apparent to the eye. Even when you are photographing an object with a single color, the sensor captures the full gradation perfectly, with no discordant jumps between lighter and darker areas. Proof that capturing color accurately one pixel at a time really makes a difference, these perfect gradations are at the heart of what we call “full-bodied image quality.”

While delivering this rich, colorful, ultra-high resolution that optimally replicates what you see in the real world, the new dp offers image files of a reasonable size in an easy-to-process format. To achieve this combination, we thoroughly rethought and redesigned every aspect of the camera, including the sensor, engine, lens, body, and interior layout. The result is a camera that carries on the dp tradition and gives you unprecedented image quality.

To a radical degree, the new-generation dp series embodies SIGMA’s philosophy of creating cameras that produce works of art. Featuring the highest level of fundamental performance, this series unites artistic expression and daily experience as no other cameras can.”

As it stands, the camera produces some of the most gorgeous colors and files I have seen…comparable to real medium format files but are the weaknesses enough to put you off from buying it? Let us take a look at everything in a little bit more detail.

My son Brandon and my Nephew John while visiting the domes of Casa Grande, AZ. Sigma Sp2 Quattro at 2.8. This is from RAW. Click it for larger!

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The Auto Focus speed of the Quattro

With the DP2 Merrill the AF speed is what killed it for me. Even the write times to the card were horrible. I wanted to love the DP2 Merrill and buy one as I started to get addicted to the image quality. At the end of the day I could not do it as when it launched it was $999 and for me to spend a grand I need a camera that will not frustrate the hell out of me to get a shot. The DP2 Merrill with its quirks and annoyances put me off from buying one, even at the current price of $699. It is just too slow and doesn’t feel right in the hand to me. You can read my review of that camera HERE.

With the Quattro I had hoped that Sigma improved the Auto Focus speed. If not, it would be the same thing for me and the design would not have saved it.

After shooting the Quattro in many different conditions I have found the AF to be much better this time around but still on the slow side of the tracks. It will not compete in AF speed with the Olympus E-M1 or E-P5, the Fuji X-T1 or the Nikon 1 series. It is nowhere near DSLR Focus speeds either, but it is much better than the old DP2 Merrill. The camera is full of flaws but IQ is not one of them.

When shooting in decent light it is quick enough to get a grab shot though not fast enough to catch a super quick moment. Even with the speed increase, which also is seen in write times, it does not even come close to making the Quattro any sort of action camera. I still say that this camera is best for static subjects. Portraits, scenes, landscapes, urban decay, etc. This is where the camera will excel. I have found the images to have a medium format feel in color and details. In fact, the IQ is so special with this camera that I feel the speed increases seen, while still slow, make the camera worth a purchase for those who value superb color and IQ. For portraits this camera just gets it right and if used from ISO 100-800 you will not be let down by the IQ. If coming from a Merrill of even older DP2 you will find the speed increases very welcome indeed. Just do not expect a speed demon, as it is in NO WAY a speedy camera in operation.

The next three images..all OOC JPEG

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What the DP2 Quattro is missing, in my opinion

While I have been enjoying my time with the little Quattro I have been wishing that it has a few things that it does not, and if it did, it would make it complete IMO. For one, I love the fact that it is so simple. It is a device built for one thing, all out image quality without any stress of color, sharpness or quality. In this regard, it just works. Image after image, even of plain old mundane subjects looked superb, reminding me of the old Leica M9 in many ways with the crisp yet pleasing details and slide like film color. Add in some medium format smoothness and you have a camera that REALLY delivers in the IQ department. I know I said this already but for me, the IQ is almost worth the asking price alone here. Add in the funky design (which I love) and the ease of use and you have a real camera that photo geeks and enthusiasts will really enjoy when shooting in good light.

But the DP2 is not perfect, far from it.

For starters, there is no EVF  here. An EVF embedded into the body would have just added so much to the experience. When out in bright light the LCD gets hard to see and framing your shot is basically not possible. It turns into a guessing game for everything. An EVF would have solved this and made it more enjoyable to shoot. Sigma is releasing an OVF (Optical View Finder) for the Quattro but there are issues to using an OVF with a digital camera.  For starters, let’s say you shot with the LCD off (which is as easy as a button press away) and wanted to frame with the OVF. You will not get an exact framing nor will you know where the camera focused. If you want precise focus you will need to use the LCD. An EVF would have been perfect.

Also, the LCD does not swivel and while I appreciate this being done to keep clean lines and save on thickness, it hurts the usability because without the EVF or a tilt LCD it takes away points for versatility. Then we have the shoddy high ISO performance. I have been using the Sony A7s as my main camera for months now and have become quite spoiled with the ability to shoot anywhere and at anytime. With the DP2 Quattro forget low light interior shots or ISO above 800. After ISO 800 the noise gets nasty and even with color I would prefer to stop at ISO 400. This is one area where the Foveon sensors just have not been able to improve upon. At base ISO and up to 400 the file quality is outstanding in color or B&W. After 400-800 you will want to go B&W only, and yes, you can get good results at ISO 3200 with B&W. OOC B&W mode looks great.

So while the IQ and design is beautiful (for me and my tastes) the camera still lacks due to not having an EVF, swivel LCD and not so great high ISO performance.

With that out-of-the-way, if one wants a camera for certain subjects like portraits, landscape or scenic type of stuff then the Quattro will deliver better than almost any other camera. I feel it has better IQ than the Leica M9 that came in at $7k. From color to detail, it is stupendous. If we treat it like a “Mini Medium Format” then it is understandable  that it is lacking in many ways but up there with the best of the best in other ways.

As long as you know what you are getting with the Quattro then it is highly unlikely that you will be disappointed with it. I recently saw a YouTube video review of this camera and the guy concluded with “It’s a piece of crap”. I have never seen such a horrible review as the guy had no idea how to use it to its potential. The Quattro is far from a piece of crap and is highly capable when it comes to making/creating an image. From the color to the detail to the rich file. You just have to realize what it is and what it is not!

The NONO’s: No action shots, no low light interior or night shots, no easy framing in harsh sun. Battery life is below average but camera comes with two of them.

The WOW’s!: Gorgeous MF like IQ & color, unique design and simple menu setup. OOC JPEGS look fantastic.

There more OOC JPEGS…

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The Shooting experience with the Quattro

The DP2 Quattro, as previously stated, is a unique design. I am a HUGE fan of those companies that go outside of the box when it does to design and features. I love to see companies push the envelope and do or try things that no one else does. When I saw the design of the Quattro before it was released I was very excited about it because it was something different from the normal ho hum camera shape. I found the DP2 Merrill to have an awful body design. The Quattro, while odd at first while holding it soon becomes comfy and natural. I had zero issues using the body, holding the body or controlling the camera. The magnesium alloy body feels solid and secure and everything is top quality (besides the dumb rubber SD card cover).

Brandon getting the shot with his Diana camera. OOC JPEG. Blown highlights outside in the sun. 

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Using Auto Focus with the Quattro is a much nicer experience over the DP2 Merrill, which was borderline unusable for most situations. At least now we have a somewhat snappy AF and while it will hunt in low light, it is not bad at all. I expected worse, so it exceeded my expectations in the Auto Focus speed department. The Quattro does not do the fancy tricks that other cameras do. Video? Nope. Fancy built-in effects? Nope. No panorama, no smile detect, etc. It is a simple camera with a simple design and button layout.

The Menu system is superb. Clean, elegant and easy to browse. I wish all were like this. It reminds me of a Leica menu in its simplicity and the quick menu is so clean, so easy to navigate and make changes. I love it.

When I washout shooting with the DP2 Quattro I always loved taking it out of my bag to shoot and I even had a few people ask me what it was I was taking pictures with. It is a conversation starter and stare getter for sure, so forget about being stealth with the Quattro. Never once did I have an issue with anything and it always delivered the goods. I had a wonderful time shooting with it unlike the previous DP2 Merrill.

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It’s all in the details

Even when shooting JPEG you can see the immense detail in the image. Below are three images with 100% crops embedded. You must click the image to see it with the crop. Remember, these are from JPEG!

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High ISO Test and Crops

The Sigma DP2 Quattro, or any DP camera for that matter is NOT a camera made for low light shooting. In fact, for best IQ keep this camera set to ISO 100-400 and no more than that. Yes, very low on the ISO scale but there are always trade offs as there are no perfect cameras. The DP2 Quattro is a camera to pull out of the bag when there is good light available. Then it will reward you with beautiful colors and results.

I am posting a few high ISO files below starting with base ISO 100. I them move on to 400, 800. 1600, 3200 and 6400. The best are 100 and 400 but see for yourself. Once you get to ISO 1600 problems start to creep in including odd color shifts and reduced DR. Stick from 100-800 and you will be just fine.

For best viewing experience, right-click and open each image in a new window. These are full size files from the camera, OOC JPEG

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JPEG vs RAW comparison

I have found that shooting the Quattro in JPEG  to be quite good. In fact, with all of the hassles of processing the RAW files of the DP2 Quattro I would just shoot JPEG for 95% of what I shoot. If I was shooting something very special that I was going to print large t hen I would process the RAW file for sure. Below are two images, one out of camera JPEG and one processed from RAW.

JPEG is up top, RAW underneath. Right click and open in a new window to see the files in their full size. 

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Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Outstanding Medium Format image quality!
  • Unique design and shape that works well for my hands
  • Conversation starter
  • Detail, color and 3D feel is all here
  • Camera ships with two batteries and full charger
  • 30mm f/2.8 lens is sharp corner to corner
  • Sigma’s best DP to date
  • Faster Af and processing over previous DP cameras
  • Great JPEG engine
  • Super JPEG size:  7,680×5,120
  • Superb for B&W shooting
  • OVF is available for those that want one
  • Good Dynamic Range up to ISO 800
  • Menu system is simple, clean and elegant
  • Most Unique camera of 2014!
  • IQ puts most other cameras to shame…really.

Cons

  • Still slow to AF compared to other (non DP) cameras
  • No swivel LCD
  • Must get exposure correct as it is tough to recover highlights
  • SD Card rubber “door” will break eventually
  • No kind of EVF even possible
  • Shape may be trouble for some
  • Battery life is not the best, sucks down quick.
  • Fixed lens means only 40mm equivalent
  • Limited ISO use, best from 100-400
  • Dynamic Range suffers after ISO 800+
  • RAW files can only be opened and processed by Sigma Software, which is SLOW as molasses.

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Who is this camera for?

The Sigma DP2 Quattro is a camera for camera pros, enthusiasts, and hobbyists. It is not a P&S for a new camera buyer or for someone without any knowledge of how a camera works. It is for those who crave detail, rich color and unreal micro contrast. It is for those who want a Medium Format look and feel in a camera that is much smaller and lighter, as well as cheaper. It is a camera for portraits, landscapes or still life. It is not for someone who wants to shoot running kids inside the house. No way, no how. If you shoot outdoor scenes, landscape or people and you want a camera that will deliver some of the most beautiful files you have seen, the this may be your camera. I find it works great as a 2nd camera for special situations or those moments when something like this will work for you.

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Final Word

As I sit here and think about my time with the DP2 Quattro I am extremely pleased and happy with the image quality. It exceeded every expectation and beats out some much more expensive cameras when shooting in the iSO 100-400 range. For IQ, this is one of those camera that just scream out with it. It doesn’t get better in IQ even in the 3K range! It was reminding me of such cameras as the Leica M9, Sony RX1R and even a few Medium Format cameras when it comes to IQ. That is some pretty impressive company, especially when you consider that the camera sells for $999. Well under the others I mentioned.

But will the IQ be enough for most of you who are in the market for a new camera? Probably not. The Sigma DP Quattro would not make for a good “one camera” to own because it limits your shooting to daytime or good light, ISO 100-800 for color shooting and it does not offer an EVF or swivel LCD. The Battery life is tough (but it does ship with two) and the camera does not do video or the gimmicky tricks that some other cameras do so well.

The DP Quattro is about one thing and one thing only…making memories in decent light with the best quality possible in this size and format for under $1000.

The Auto Focus has improved greatly from the DP2 Merrill I tested but it is still lacking in speed when compared to other cameras. I never found it unusable or missing the shot, not at all, but again…it is only good for still shots, NOT action or moving subjects and in low light it slows down and hunts. The DP2 Quattro has the all new sensor that delivers faster speed and better performance across the board and the 29 MP Foveon sensor is said to give the same results as a standard 39MP sensor. I would not argue that point. The battery life has improved from the Merril’s 50-60 shots per charge and now I can get about 120-140 shots per charge The two batteries supplied should be good for a day of shooting as long as you are not a speed demon machine gun shooter (if so, this is NOT your camera).

Shooting the Quattro is something you will either LOVE or HATE. If you can get along with the funkytown design then you will enjoy shooting with the Quattro. If you find the grip odd or off, then forget it.

Me, I love the design. I think it is the loveliest camera design of 2014.

So will I buy one? When B&H Photo sent me this camera to review I assumed I would “like” it but not “love” it. Well, I fell hard for the special image quality which does have some magic embedded in it. I also enjoyed the faster AF and write times and beefier design. I hate the flimsy rubber SD card “door” but overall enjoyed my time with the camera. I feel it is worth the $999 if you are after IQ for landscapes or portraits and as a 2nd camera for those times when you want the Foveon Look. So I have to ask myself if I would use it enough. I have a Leica, I have a Sony A7s and still have an Olympus E-M1 lying around. Do I need this one? NO, not at all. Do I want it? Sure, I would love to own it just for the IQ, color and design. I feel one day this camera will sit in a museum for its unique yet oddball design! It may be a flop sales wise but it sure is unique ;)

So would I buy one? Yes indeed, if I had the spare $1k to spend, without hesitation. If I can save some cash I may just go for it. I passed on all previous DP models but this one is my favorite without question. I can not image ANYONE being disappointed with the image quality. Just beware that you will need light because after ISO 400 or 800 the IQ degrades fast.

I would love to test this camera and the upcoming DP1 (28mm equivalent)  during my upcoming Southwest workshop as it would create some breathtaking images I am sure. I may have to buy one just for that trip :)

WHEN YOU SIT AND THINK ABOUT IT…the Sigma DP Quattro beats the Leica M 240, Sony A7 and others for Image Quality, has Auto Focus (the Leica does not) and comes in at $6k less (than the Leica) but includes a lens where the Leica does not. When you look at it in this way then it is a no brainer and worth the cost if you value high image quality above all. Just be ready for what this camera does NOT do well (low light, action, etc).

Overall it gets a recommendation from me, and a high one..but only if your main concern is image quality and you do not need a camera for low light or for fast moving subjects.

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Where to Buy

The Sigma DP2 Quattro is available at the links below from my recommended dealers:

B&H Photo – You can see or buy the Dp2 Quattro at B&H Photo HERE

Amazon – Buy the Quattro at Amazon by using my link HERE

Outside the USA? Use my Amazon UK, Germany and Canada links HERE.

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Aug 152014
 

Shooting film with a Leica M6

By Kjetil Andre Dalheim

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

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

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

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

Analog vs digital

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Workflow

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

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

M(240) vs M6

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

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

Summilux vs Summarit

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

Summarize

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

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Aug 142014
 

My 26 day road trip thru Australia with a Ricoh GR

By Gabriel Lima

Hello everybody!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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SIZE:

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

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

EASY OF USE

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

AUTOFOCUS

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

SNAP FOCUS MODE

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

IQ

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

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

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

What could be better?

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

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

You guys can follow my adventures in:

www.facebook.com/gabriellimaphotography

instagram.com/travel_gave – my iphone dairy

plus.google.com/+GabrielLima87/

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Aug 132014
 

A Pair of Fujis in Paris

By James Conley

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

~First, the backdrop.~

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~Second, the law.~

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

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

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

~Third, the people.~

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

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

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

~The Fujis~

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

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

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

website: fjamesconley.com
twitter: @Philatawgrapher

—James

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

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Aug 122014
 

Copenhagen with the Leica M 240 and 50 APO Summicron

by Howard Shooter

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

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

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

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

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

No 2 L1004229

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

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

No 5 L1004263

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

No 4 L1004304

No 8 L1004164

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

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

Howard Shooter

www.HowardShooter.com

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