Feb 222011
 

Lately I have been having fun with my posts and reviews by shooting the little fun cameras like the Micro 4/3 bodies, the Sony NEX-5, and little Ricoh GRDIII. All this time I have not been giving my true love in the camera world, Leica, as much attention as I used to. One camera that is in the same category as all of these small body/big sensor bodies is the Leica X1, which I have not shot in quite a while..AND I now have the “itch” to do just that. (my review of the X1 can be seen here)

Problem is, I no longer own an X1 so I can’t but I did spend about three hours last night looking over some X1 photos that I shot during the time when I did own the camera. What I saw with the X1 pictures put those that I shot with the NEX and M4/3 bodies to shame. Really. The X1 is really the KING of these types of cameras, though it has its limitations that we all know about.

The Leica X1 is hands down the winner for overall Image Quality and beauty in a compact camera body. The crispness of the files, the colors, the high ISO performance are all beautiful. Where the X1 falls is in the auto focus department which is VERY slow when compared to todays compact cameras. The X1 is the most expensive of the small body/big sensor cams but if you want a camera that has the beauty, feel, and prestige that IS Leica, along with the best IQ you can get in a compact, the X1 is THE one to get. Keep in mind I am talking about small body/big sensor cameras here. If you want the REAL KING of digital 35mm, and have the cash then you want THIS.

As for the X1, It doesn’t matter that it has a fixed lens, for me at least. Heck, when I shoot the NEX-5 I always use the 16mm prime lens. When I shoot the Olympus E-P2 it seems I always use the Panasonic 20 1.7 or Oly 17. I’m a prime kind of guy so the fact that the X1 has a fixed 24 Elmarit, giving it a classic 35mm equivalent is actually a bonus. I am NOT a fan of zoom lenses. Period. Give me a prime ANY DAY of the week. If I need to zoom, I will use my feet :) Prime lenses are just sharper and give better color and contrast.

Check out this out of camera JPEG from the X1. This was not from RAW but an OOC (out of camera) JPEG! Click on the image to see the real 100% crop and look at the detail the Leica lens pumps out…

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How about a nice full size  out of camera file? Click on the image for the FULL size and check out the X1 detail

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How about HIGH ISO? Even at ISO 3200 the files remain CRISP and detailed.

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ISO 1600 is super crisp if exposed properly…

 

Damn, I’m tempted to sell off a camera or two to buy the X1 again. Really! I do know the AF speed is being improved in the upcoming firmware, but how much improvement there will be, I DO NOT know. The Fuji X100 is coming VERY soon and is poised to take on the Leica X1 by throwing in a viewfinder, faster AF, and also giving us that classic look that most Leica lovers LOVE! I guess I will wait for the X100 before I decide but something tells me it may not beat the X1 in the IQ department. I have yet to really see a small camera that can. This is where the X1 shines. It simply offers the best IQ in a small package that can go anywhere you go. C’mon Leica…let’s get this firmware released. If you can boost the AF speed I think there will be renewed interest in the X1!

The Leica X1 may not have video. It may have a low res LCD. The X1 also is no speed demon in any way. It’s not a sports camera, it’s not an action camera, yet it costs $1995.00.

What I like to call the X1 is a “Life Camera”. The one thing it does extremely well is record your life. Your memories. The images I have captured with the X1 seem to give me more smiles than those captured with the other small compact cameras. Hmmm. Maybe Leica DOES have some sort of magic going on in their factory :)

Here are some random shots from the Leica X1 that I may or may have not posted before. Either way I think they stand above the Micro 4/3 and NEX images I have posted recently. Enjoy! BTW, the Leica X1 is usually in stock at B&H Photo in ALL Black and the classic Grey. Dale Photo also has them in stock HERE. Of course Ken Hansen also has them and he can be reached via e-mail at [email protected]. Looks like Leica shipped out a bunch to their dealers recently!

The Ricoh GXR. Since posting this article a few hours ago I have had a few ask me about the Ricoh GXR that I really enjoyed (and purchased after testing) in comparison to the Leica X1. Well, this is a tough one. The GXR is up there with the best of the small body cameras with big sensors, meaning…it is just as good as the X1 in many ways, better in others but also worse in some ways! It has the same size APS-C sensor as the X1 and for the price of the X1 you can get the GXR body, the 28 f/2.5 module and the 50 f/2.5 module.

The main niggle I have with the GXR is the limited shutter speed in daylight. It maxes out at 1/1000s when you are shooting the lenses wide open. This makes shooting in daylight with shallow DOF problematic. Other than that, I did compare the two cameras HERE. I love them both and explain why in that article.

You know…I have also heard from a couple of sources this past week that Leica also has an ALL NEW camera they have been working on AND supposedly there are some prototypes floating around out there somewhere. I did some digging and rumor sites are claiming it is a full frame – rangefinder-less M9 style camera to be priced well under the M9. No rangefinder, more like an EVIL M. Hmmmm. Could be all BS and hot air but thought it was worth mentioning. You never know!

Enjoy and as always, click on any of the images below for a larger and much better view :)

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UPDATE 2/23/11! I bought a Black X1 for myself…had to sell of some M4/3 gear but could not resist the charm and lure of the X1, plus I was able to get a deal from Ken Hansen. He has 1-2 more in stock if interested. Also bought the OVF for the X1 which is fantastic.

HELP ME TO KEEP THIS SITE GOING AND GROWING!! IT”S EASY TO HELP OUT!

Remember, anytime you follow my links here and buy from B&H or AMAZON, this helps to keep my site going. If it was not for these links, there would be no way to fund this site, so I thank you in advance if you visit these links. I thank you more if you make a purchase! I have nifty search bars at the upper right of each page so you easily search for something at either store! I currently spend 10-14 hours a day working on this site and the only way that I can pay for it is with your help, so thank you! Currently my traffic has been increasing but my funds to pay for the site has been decreasing, so any help would be GREATLY appreciated!

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Feb 212011
 

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Hello to all and HAPPY MONDAY! After a few months of deciding on this I think the next photo meetup will be in Seattle this July. Just trying to gauge interest here for this one. It may even be a TWO day event with loads of shooting, processing tips, Leica M tips, guest appearances and much more. Before I get to work on arranging and setting it up leave a comment here if you would have interest in a Seattle Meetup/Workshop. The one from last October in NYC sold out quick and this time I may limit the availability to 15 instead of 20.

So let me know if a July meet-up in Seattle interests any of you! Images from the NYC meet up can be seen here.

Feb 212011
 

More fun shots with the Sony NEX-5

It was a slow weekend for the site huh? No posts Saturday or Sunday which is unusual for me but hey, it’s allowed sometimes.

Yep, I took a 36 hour “leave” from the site as I was driving west with camera in hand. I was in Los Angeles attending a birthday party of a close friend and for the trip I decided to only bring one camera with me and it was not even a Leica! Yea, call me crazy and insane, but I am in a mood lately where I just want to have fun with my photography so I brought along a small camera to serve as a serious point and shoot :) Not that I do not have fun with Leica cameras, quite the opposite, but for this trip I wanted small, light, and no muss or fuss. Besides, I would just be shooting for fun and it would give me a great chance to try out the Sony for some street shooting again.

I wanted to bring along a camera that would be light, quick, take good video AND give me decent image quality. I was browsing old articles on the site on Friday and many of the Sony NEX-5 posts made me pick up this little camera once again and take it out for some fun in the California sun. There is just something about this little NEX system and it also seems to be gaining in popularity. I keep coming back to it just like I do the Olympus E-P2.

“A Break For The King”

I blew the dust off and decided that the little NEX and somewhat mediocre 16mm lens would be my only companion for the overnight trip. Last weekend I shot the Olympus E-P2 and 14mm at the Renaissance Fair and enjoyed it for its sharp contrasty images with nice color that popped. This weekend I decided to give the NEX-5 some love so around my neck it went, and stayed.

I shot maybe 20 images all weekend as I was too busy enjoying myself, shopping, meeting up with friends and all kinds of other fun stuff. Still, the little NEX-5 proved itself again and again. Sure, the 16mm lens is soft wide open, has soft corners and distorts worse than Joan Rivers face…BUT the easy going style of which you can shoot the NEX-5 is very nice when walking the street. I actually saw 3-4 people with NEX cameras (mostly NEX-3 cameras) taking street shots and I was only on the street for about an hour! NEX mania seems to be hitting hobbyists everywhere it seems. Even J-Tec, a site sponsor makes cool products for the NEX cameras (with more cool stuff on the way I am told).

BTW, ALL images you see in this post were shot with the NEX-5 and 16.

I did review the NEX-5 HERE a while ago, as well as talked about the 16mm lens HERE as I shot it at ISO6400 on the NEX-5 and came away with some cool results. As I walked down Hollywood Boulevard yesterday I just fired away some quick snaps which is easy to do with the 16 as it is so wide! With the APS-C sensor in the NEX-5, the 16mm becomes a 24mm Equivalent 2.8 lens, so it is pretty wide allowing those who use it to get more of the good stuff in the shot.

“Spielberg admiring the NEX?” Lol..

I was finding that even my snapshots were looking pretty fun and I started to realize that I am becoming more and more used  to shooting wide angle. I’m liking it because I am enjoying shooting and getting more of the environment of which I am shooting into the photo. I also have the 18-55 zoom with the NEX but I have to say that the little Sony and the 16mm make for a great take anywhere and shoot system.

This next image was shot “from the hip”. It’s not a perfect image but I love the boys facial expression and his “lucky shirt”. Fun :) I also enjoyed converting these into black & white. Once again I used Alien Skin Exposure 3 which is my fave B&W conversion software these days.

Love the look on this kids face PLUS he is wearing his Lucky Shirt!

I’ve had some questions over the past 3 months or so from many of you asking advice for a “first” serious camera under $1000. Some of you ask if Micro 4/3 is the way to go. Others ask about the NEX or Alpha DSLRs. All I can say is that choosing a camera is all about personal preference and choice. The NEX-5 has crazy high ISO ability for its size and will always beat Micro 4/3 for ISO noise and Dynamic Range, but as of this writing the NEX lenses kind of SUCK for serious photography. Probably why I use it for fun snapshots like  you see here.

I do know that new lenses will be coming out and there will be Zeiss lenses coming in the near future. Once this happens I think the NEX-5 will go up to a whole new level IQ wise as I have seen some great stuff from it with Leica glass. Imagine the Zeiss 3D pop and warm colors in an Auto focus NEX mount lens. Wow.

Until then, my NEX will be fitted with the 16mm for those days where I want a light, swivel LCD –  fast camera to take along. Besides, it is great as is for those gritty B&W street shots many of  us like so much.

“From The Hip”

All of these small body/big sensor cameras are starting to get pretty popular, and for good reason! They offer almost everything a mid range DSLR offers but in a TINY package. The NEX-5, Ricoh GXR and Leica X1 are all small and all offer superb image quality with the X1 besting them all in overall IQ, but the NEX-5 and GXR are right behind the mighty $2000 X1 as they all share the same sensor size. Micro 4/3 has more limitations in the Dynamic Range and high ISO dept. because their image sensors are quite a bit smaller than an APS-C size sensors but honestly, after shooting ALL of these cameras, any of them..and I mean any of them can create wonderful photos for you.

Do I have a favorite? Not really as I truly do enjoy them all. The X1 is beautiful with flat out image quality that beats ALL compacts big and small but damn, the thing is so slow that for street shooting it is VERY hard to use. I’m really hoping that Leica has indeed sped up the AF with the X1. The new firmware is supposed to drop in March so we shall see soon enough. If Leica can get the AF speed up to NEX-5 or Olympus E-P2 levels I would easily say the X1 is king. Due to its sluggish AF I find it more enjoyable to shoot with the other cameras these days but if shooting stationary object, the X1 would be my choice in a smaller body camera. Other than that I always seem to reach for Micro 4/3 or the Sony NEX for my small camera needs.

“The King Has Risen”

or has he?…

The pictures here are just snapshots really but I had great fun just snapping away with the NEX as my experience was different than the E-P2 and EVF from last week and also different from shooting a Leica or a small sensor Ricoh GRDIII. It’s funny because I find myself shooting in a different style when I shoot the NEX-5 due to it’s swivel LCD. It’s a bit more versatile and so easy to hold with my thumb at the shutter button while I hold out the camera in front of me, usually holding it lower rather than higher up.

Anyway, I just wanted to share some photos from it that I shot this weekend as well as let everyone know that I still thoroughly enjoy this little Sony camera. I find it was one of the most unique and important camera releases of last year due to its design, style, quality, features and future potential. I can hardly wait to see what Sony does in 2011 and 2012 for it’s NEX line. A pro body would be cool as well as those sweet promised Zeiss lenses. More for us photo nuts to wait for and drool over :) BTW, I bought my NEX-5 from B&H Photo.

I will have some cool posts this week and yes I am still waiting for a Fuji X100 to be sent my way. Someone emailed me and said I should do a showdown between the X100 and Leica X1 in Tombstone AZ so that is what I plan to do as soon as I get the X100. I can’t wait!

In any case, I am back home from the trip and it’s 1:17am. I have to get some sleep. I will leave you with a few more shots, even a couple in Color.

P.S. – I may be planning my next Meet Up for Los Angeles, and soon. Stay tuned!

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Feb 162011
 

The Panasonic 14mm f/2.5 Micro 4/3 Lens Review

By Steve Huff

More Micro 4/3! It seems like evey few weeks I have a new Micro 4/3 item in my hands! Just a few weeks ago I wrote about the SLR Magic Toy Lens for Micro 4/3, and I really enjoyed it. You can see that review here. Today I am writing about a lens I have shot for the last two weeks, the Panasonic 14mm f/2.5 lens and I have been shooting it on an Olympus E-P2..yep, the classic E-P2 :) I call it a classic not because it is old and discontinued, but because I feel it has proven itself as a game changer in the world of small camera/high quality imagery. The E-P1 was good, but the E-P2 improved upon it with speed and the EVF addition. It’s a very cool camera with it’s sleek design, and super high fun factor. Yea, this is why I chose the E-P2 to shoot with the Panasonic 14mm for this review!

ISO 1600 on the E-P2 with the 14mm at 2.5, wide open. Gotta love it!

…Speaking of micro 4/3, Panasonic has recently come out with the new GF2 and I have had a chance to handle it and check it out. I HATE IT! The GF1, IMO was a much better camera. I hate to say it and be all negative but I have to speak the truth. FACT: The GF2 uses the same sensor as the GF1. No improvement in IQ. The handling of the GF2 stinks in comparison to the GF1 and yea, the Sony NEX-5 (which handles beautifully). If I were in the market for a Micro 4/3 body I have to say that lately, Olympus has been winning the game. The E-P2 and the E-Pl2 are both WINNERS (My E-PL2 review is here). Panasonic has some good ones as well. The G2 and GH2 are great but sorry to say they lost me with the GF2. Im looking forward to a newcomer to the Micro 4/3 arena soon which *should* put out an awesome body. Also, the rumored PRO E-P3 should be something to behold. Until then, in the M4/3 world Ill stick with the trusty E-P2 and the E-Pl2 with an occasional fling with the Panasonic G2 :) The Huff household has been overflowing with cool cameras lately! Ha ha.

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OK…what about the lens review Steve?

The Olympus E-P2 and 14 2.5 at 2.5 – ISO 200

OK…let me talk a bit about this lens as well as some other fine Panasonic lenses for micro 4/3. Panasonic, as many of you know, created one of the hottest selling and fabulous lenses for the micro 4/3 format. One of my favorite lenses ever, the Panasonic 20 1.7 lens is still today a bargain in the world of fast lenses that perform superbly. I say forget those huge bulky DSLRs like the Nikon D7000 and Canon 7D and pick yourself up a small, sexy, stylish and great performing E-P2/E-Pl2 and a Panasonic 20 1.7 lens. You will be amazed at what it can do! I wrote a  review of the 20mm lens HERE so check it out if you want to see what it did for me. I pit it against a Nikon D3s and 50 1.8 and the E-P2 and 20 1.7 won. Amazing.

The Olympus E-P2 and Panasonic 14mm 2.5 at f/2.5 – Gorgeous!

With the 20 1.7 being so good I was curious as to how some of the other Panasonic lenses would perform. When I tried them I was not disappointed! The 7-14 and 45 Macro both performed gorgeously! (My 45 review is here). I even tested out the 45-200 zoom, which was crazy cheap at $250 on the Panasonic G2 here. WOW, I loved it! Check out the review and look at the Gorilla shot. That was taken at 1/15th second at 200mm! For the money, this zoom was fantastic!

So after trying all of the Panasonic “must-try” lenses I had high expectations for this little 14mm pancake. After shooting with it for a couple of weeks I can proudly say that I LOVE IT!

One reason I love the 14mm 2.5 is because it gives all Micro 4/3 shooters a 28mm f/2.5 equivalent lens. A 28mm is a pretty popular focal length and having one this small with a semi fast speed at under $380 is pretty nice. I’m not much of a wide angle guy but 28 is nice to shoot with sometimes as it gives us “more” of the picture. A 28 can be great for environmental portraits and group shots as well. It’s also nice because it is very small and makes your M4/3 camera that much more “pocketable”.

Excuse the crappy picture, it was  taken with an Iphone as my battery was dead in the Ricoh :) You can see how small and thin the 14mm is here.

I also have the Olympus 17mm lens which is pretty close in focal length to the 14mm. About the same size as well because both are considered “pancake” lenses. For those who do not know what a pancake lens is, basically it is a small, flat lens. Much like a pancake! Small and flat! These lenses are SO much nicer than fat bulky slow zooms and I really prefer prime lenses over zooms any day of the week.

I always enjoyed the Olympus 17mm but this 14mm is not only sharper and more contrasty it is a bit faster at 2.5 vs 2.8. Hmmm. The 14 would make for a nice standard lens on any M4/3 camera.

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Battle Of The Pancakes: The Panasonic 14mm vs the Olympus 17mm


I wanted to see these lenses side by side, how they would perform because if  the 14 did about the same as the 17 then me buying the 14mm would be a no no. Why would I want to shell out $380 for a lens like this when I have one that is just 3mm longer at 17mm? Hmmmm. So here is what I did…

I shot this image with both lenses to test the sharpness of each lens at a 2.8 aperture. Who won? Scroll down to see the 100% crops.

100% crops

Whoa! The Panasonic slaughtered the Olympus 17 here, and I even have one of  those snazzy special edition BLACK 17mms! Damn…now I have been sitting here asking myself if I should buy the 14 and sell my 17. I think a great combo to have for any M4/3 system would

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Full Size Downloads To Evaluate

Here are two images that you can click on to open the full size out of camera files (from RAW, ACR). The 1st one was shot at f2/5, the 2nd one at f/4.

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and one more at f/2.5

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IMO, the 14mm is great wide open but even better when stopped down. I find the color, sharpness and contrast to be fantastic. Wide open we have slightly soft corners but hey, even some Leica glass has soft corners on an M9 so for the cost of this lens it is performing at or above its price point!

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At The Renaissance Festival

As always, my “reviews” are more of a real world kind of thing. I don’t have some fancy room filled with tech tools to measure resolution or color accuracy. Nah, I believe in just shooting the heck out of the camera or lens and then evaluate it by looking at the images it has taken. What it was made for! I remember when I started my site two years ago! I was told by many of the pros and established sites that my site was ridiculous and would never be read by anyone serious about photography! I find it cool that here I am, two years later being read by thousands who are very serious about photography and passionate about learning more. Damn, it appears someone else even cloned my site!

This tells me  that people do want to read real world reviews and I am happy to see this idea spread wild across the internet and some review sites. Pretty cool!

Last weekend my girlfriend and I decided to go to the Arizona Renaissance Festival. We brought along my son and his girlfriend, so we made it a double date :) Man, my boy is growing up fast! Seems like yesterday I was snapping shots of him taking his first steps! Time does indeed fly. Anyway…

I decided to bring along a Leica M9 and 90 Summarit as well as the Olympus E-P2 and 14mm 2.5 lens. While there I was having great fun shooting the E-P2 with the 14. Not only was it light and thin, it also focused very fast. For the fans of video, the 14mm lens has silent focusing which helps it with video as well.

I found the lens performed as I expected it to but I also saw the limitation of the m4/3 format. Dynamic Range. When shooting in full Arizona sun it is pretty hard for any digital camera to hold onto those precious highlights! Other than that, the little combo of E-P2 and 14 did deliciously well. Check out some of the images below…

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and how about some Black & White?

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Overall I was pleasantly surprised with the results. I used the Olympus EVF on the E-P2 and had no issues composing the shots or getting quick grab shots. I can highly recommend the EVF for anyones shooting with an E-P2 or E-PL1/E-PL2. IMO, it is a must own for the camera!

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Bokeh. Does it exist with this lens?

I have had questions asking me if it is possible to get shallow depth of field blur with this lens. The answer to the question is…NOT REALLY. You CAN if you get real close to your subject and shoot at f/2.5, but even then you are not going to get that delicious and creamy result that you think of when you hear the term “Bokeh”. If you are after some shallow depth of field there are other choices for Micro 4/3 that will give it to you, one of them is the Panasonic 20 1.7. Being such a wide angle at 14mm, this lens offers depth of field with almost everything in focus. Get close and you will get some background blur though you will also get distortions, especially if going for a portrait.

Here is what happens when you shoot up close and set the lens to 2.5:

Not bad, especially for ISO 1600 on an E-P2. Up close, you can get shallow depth of field but then you also start getting distortions for being so close.

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when up close, the distortion of the wide angle starts to rear its nose :)

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How cool is this?

Check this out! I recently found out that the little RICOH OVF (Optical View Funder), the GV-2 will work wonderfully on the E-P2 or E-Pl2 with the 14mm lens. The OVF is a 28mm VF so it is a perfect match and looks Sexy as can be! You can buy the little OVF at popflash.com and it runs under $170 so it is not exactly cheap but it is much smaller than the Oly EVF. The build and quality is superb.

My Final Thoughts on the 14mm f/2.5 Lens

What can I say about this lens that hasn’t been said already? I’m so tempted to keep this lens for my micro 4/3 collection. B&H Photo sent it to me for review but one e-mail to them and they will charge my card for it and it’s mine! Hmmm, Im not fully decided yet but it’s not because it is a bad lens, it is only due to $$ concerns and the fact I already have the Oly 17mm (which is not as good as this 14mm)!

I really had fun with this lens and took loads of images with it.  I found it performed excellent every time it was slung around me on the E-P2. What else can I say besides I LOVE IT! Over 500 frames shot with it and I found no issues or problems so I really have nothing bad to say about it. Is it as good as a Leica lens? NO, but this is under $400, not $4000 :) If you want a wide angle prime that is lightweight, thin and not so expensive then this one should be on your short list without question.

You can buy this lens at B&H Photo or Amazon and its always under $380 or so. This lens makes a great companion to the 20 1.7! No complaints at all! They also sell the Olympus E-P2 all black kit that I used for the review :) Thanks for reading!

I will leave you with more images and a message about how you can help me continue on with this site! ENJOY!
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HELP ME TO KEEP THIS SITE GOING AND GROWING!! IT”S EASY TO HELP OUT!

Remember, anytime you follow my links here and buy from B&H or AMAZON, this helps to keep my site going. If it was not for these links, there would be no way to fund this site, so I thank you in advance if you visit these links. I thank you more if you make a purchase! I have nifty search bars at the upper right of each page so you easily search for something at either store! I currently spend 10-14 hours a day working on this site and the only way that I can pay for it is with your help, so thank you! Currently my traffic has been increasing but my funds to pay for the site has been decreasing, so any help would be GREATLY appreciated!

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Feb 162011
 

The Panasonic GF-2 Review

By David Babsky

(Note from Steve – I was going to review the GF2 myself but decided against it as when I handled one I felt it was a step backwards from the classic and functional GF1. In an attempt to beat out the Sony NEX-5, Panasonic went backwards in design (IMO) with a smaller form factor and lack of controls. Some will love it, but many do not. The GF-2 uses the same sensor as the GF1 so no real improbements to IQ were made. Just size, simplification and full HD video. It seems to me the GF2 is aimed at a different market than the GF1, which was a true “photographers camera” in my opinion. If choosing today I would take the E-P2 or E-PL2 over the GF2. I hope you enjoy the thoughts of the GF2 from a different perspective, by David Babsky.)

Micro Four Thirds (m4/3) races ahead with new cameras appearing every few months from competitors – or is that ‘colleagues’? – Olympus and Panasonic. (Leica was in the original trio of Four Thirds camera makers, with a variant of the Panasonic L1 sold as the Leica Digilux-3, but seems to have dropped out of micro4/3.)

Rumour says that Panasonic makes the sensor chip used in both Panasonic and Olympus cameras, so it’s no surprise that the new small Olympus E-PL2 and the new small Panasonic GF2 both now shoot at ISO 6400 (up from ISO 3200), and both cameras come with a new style 14-42mm autofocus lens (Panny’s previous kit lens was a slightly bulkier 14-45mm with an image stabilisation On/Off switch).

The BIGGEST difference between Panasonic’s previous ‘EVIL’ (Electronic Viewfinder Interchangeable Lens) compact GF1 and the new compact GF2 is that the mode dial on top of the camera has gone, and most selections can be made by TOUCH on the rear hi-resolution touch-screen display. (The display, as before, is a 3″ 460,000 dot LCD. Olympus have just upgraded the screen on their E-PL2 to 460k from the 230k of their previous E-PL1.) It’s more of a “press-screen” than a touch-screen, and is not as touch-sensitive as, say, an iPod touch or an iPhone. But that means you don’t get accidental choices made without realising you touched it!

Other differences between the previous GF1 and the new GF2 are:

1 – Video goes up from AVCHD-Lite (1280x720p) to smooth, creamy AVCHD Full-HD 1920x1080i

2 – Built-in STEREO mic, instead of mono (but still no external mic socket)

3 – Highest stills ISO now 6400, up from 3200 (but always ‘Auto ISO’ for video)

4 – Camera is slightly smaller (officially 18% smaller)

5 – Menus and shooting activated by touching the screen, as well as normal button squeezes

6 – Focus region/distance selectable by touching the screen

7 – Pop-up tiltable (ceiling-bounce) flash – previous GF1 pop-up flash fires only straight ahead

8 – Image stabilisation constantly ON in new 14-42mm kit lens (previously switchable)

9 – Older *Four Thirds* lenses now AUTOFOCUS, but didn’t/don’t on the GF1

10 – Smaller, lower capacity battery (1010mAh 350 shots, down from 1250mAh 400 shots on GF1)

Think of the GF2 as a Panasonic G2 electronic-viewfinder SLR, but without the built-in viewfinder bump on the top, and with a very compact body, and with *Full HD* video recording.

Quick comparisons between GF2 and OTHER m4/3 (and similar) cameras:

[a] GF2 has (currently) low resolution 230k pixels optional add-on tilting electronic viewfinder; the bulkier SLR-style Panasonic GH1 & GH2 have a built-in HI-RES (1,440k GH1; 1,533k GH2) viewfinder, but GF2 has (like other Pannys) a fairly hi-res 460k rear display screen; Olympus E-PL2 has an optional add-on HI-RES electronic viewfinder, larger Sony APS-C NEX cameras have HIGHER-res 922k rear display screen

[b] GF2 has a 12 megapixel sensor with similar resolution and movie modes to Panny’s SLR-style 12 megapixel GH1, but with the touch-screen facility of the G2 and GH2 SLRs

[c] GF2 has less vivid jpegs than Oly E-PL2 (though GF2 colour can be boosted via menu)

[d] GF2 has touch-screen menu choices & shutter-release, etc; other ‘compact EVIL’ cameras don’t

[e] GF2 has fixed display screen; GH1 & GH2 DSLRs have swivelling touch display ..but the GF1 & GF2 add-on finder tilts through 90º

[f] GF2 has stereo-sound TV-friendly AVCHD FULL-HD 1920x1080i movie shooting besides computer-friendly 1280x720p Motion-jpeg movie shooting (both also on higher-pixel-count SLR-style GH2), manual audio control, but NO external mic input; GH2 SLR has external mic input, but no manual audio control. Olympus E-PL2 has optional slot-in external mic socket

[g] GF2 has no image stabilisation in the camera BODY, but various telephoto lenses have stabilisation built-in

[h] Larger APS-C-sensor Sony NEX models have bigger-than-m4/3 sensor but have no built-in flash, poor menu structure, no standard flash hot shoe, no proper tripod socket, but do have higher resolution 922k display and higher max ISO 12800.

But what do the GF2’s pics look like, and how does the touch-screen (“press-screen”) system compare with using a proper top-mounted mode dial?

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These crops are *hand-held* shots (not tripod test rigs in a lab) pretty much as I’d shoot normally, and they’re crops of the distant, dim clock-face at about 12 feet away, at maximum aperture, filling the viewfinder screen, shot with the hefty Lumix 4/3 14-150mm stabilised zoom (of the old Panasonic L1/Leica Digilux-3) to see the difference between jpgs and RAW files from the GF1 and the new GF2, at the GF1’s maximum ISO 3200. Then there are comparisons between the GF2’s ISO 3200 and its new top ISO 6400. And finally that older 4/3 14-150mm is compared with the newer, more compact, lighter Lumix 14-140mm ‘HD’ zoom.

The GF1 ISO 3200 – FROM RAW

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The GF2 ISO 3200 FROM RAW

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The GF2 ISO 6400 from RAW


The very slightly larger, very slightly heavier, easier-to-grip GF1 gives less-shaken shots than the teenier, lighter GF2. And the pics from the older, bigger, expensive, 4/3 Lumix zoom look a little more contrasty, with more apparent resolution than the newer, smaller, lighter Lumix 14-140 ‘HD’ m4/3 lens. But these are just “off-the-cuff” tests. And this is trying these cameras and lenses at their extremes: hand-held, heavy lenses, maximum apertures, dim light. In normal day-to-day use there’s no really visible differences, except to say that ISO 6400 RAW (on the GF2) is rough, but usable!

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Taking your finger off the GF2 shutter button to touch the rear screen and bring up a virtual mode dial is no different from taking your finger off the GF1 shutter button to twist a dial-in shooting mode (Auto, Program, Aperture-priority, Speed-priority, Manual, Scene, etc) ..except that if you KNOW what mode a real, physical dial is in (e.g; ‘P’ for Program) then you know that one click anti-clockwise puts you in Aperture-priority mode, 2 clicks into Speed-priority, and 3 clicks into Manual mode. There’s no similar ‘do-it-by-feel-without-looking’ facility on the GF2 touch screen.

A quick glance down at a proper mode dial before shooting shows which mode you’re in. But a similar letter (P,A,S,M, etc) always shows in red at the top-left of the GF2’s screen, so you do always know which mode the GF2’s in. Touching that letter offers all possible alternatives ..then just touch the one you want – e.g; ‘A’ or ‘P’ – and that can be faster than twisting a physical dial. The GF1 has a self-timer switch on its top panel, and you can instantly see if it’s set. The GF2 offers a self-timer option via a menu, but it doesn’t show a confirmatory icon onscreen if ‘minimum’ icon-display is selected ..in which case there’s no way of knowing whether the delay is on or off till you shoot! Duh!

Older lenses have BETTER compatibility with the GF2 than with previous m4/3 cameras. Even though the battery in the GF2 is smaller, with less capacity than the GF1, the GF2 now supplies power and feedback to the auto-focus system of old Four Thirds lenses. The excellent ‘Leica’ Four Thirds 14-50mm f2.8 (with image stabilisation) doesn’t and didn’t auto-focus on the GF1, and nor did other Four Thirds brands such as Olympus or Sigma – though the very sharp 4/3 Lumix-branded f3.5 14-150mm (equivalent to 28-300mm) does. But the GF2 now provides autofocus with ALL these different brands, not just ‘Lumix’. The newer made-for-m4/3 Lumix 14-140 HD lens (intended for interchangeable-lens m4/3 MOVIE cameras) is lighter, focuses faster and puts less strain and drain on the battery than those older, bigger, heavier, wider-aperture 4/3 lenses. But the Leica-brand 14-50mm – from the old Digilux-3 – does give one extra stop of light, and a softer background, than the newer teeny Lumix 14-45mm (or 14-42mm) f4, so it can be a useful lens to have. And now it works properly with the GF2.

Those old 4/3 Olympus and 4/3 Sigma lenses which do now autofocus on the GF2 give a lot of juddery hunting with the contrast-detection focus system of the GF2 (which the newer Lumix lenses are specifically designed for), so I wouldn’t recommended using those other ‘golden oldies’. And NON-stabilised telephotos (like the Sigma 4/3 55-200mm) are better used with an internally-stabilised Olympus body, than on a non-stabilised Panasonic body. But the old Lumix 14-150mm f3.5 and Leica 14-50mm f2.8 have a particular advantage over other – including the latest – m4/3 lenses: an aperture ring. Set the GF2 to ‘A’ or ‘M’, and you can quickly set the aperture you want by twisting the lens ring with your left hand. Want it wide open? Twist it straight to 2.8; no fiddling with camera dials or choices. And the GF2 (or the GF1, but with only the Lumix 14-150mm f3.5) shows a range of speed settings to match your chosen aperture.

Ergonomics? Buttons and a (single, rear) dial on the GF2 work as options to the touch screen ..because the screen’s switched off – and touch won’t work – when the optional electronic viewfinder’s attached.

The compact ‘EVIL’ GF2’s video now approaches that of the (higher-resolution) 16 megapixel GH2 DSLR by offering 1920x1080i stereo AVCHD – and with manual audio level adjustment! – but it’s still a good way short of the quality of the massive full-frame Canon 5DMkII ..though shooting on a nice bright day, you could intercut GF2 and 5DII footage and not notice very much difference – except for the 5DII’s signature shallow depth of field. (The Voigtländer 25mm f0.95 manual focus lens, shooting video on the GF2, can sometimes bring results fairly close to the shallow d-o-f of the 5DII, but the Voigt 25 is ‘soft’ at wide apertures, and doesn’t have the ‘bite’ of Canon’s wide aperture lenses.)

I praised the GF1 the other month as an “M-nine-and-a-half”; a cheaper, smaller, handier, pocketable version of the Leica M9 when it’s used with Leica glass ..though I was admonished for suggesting (which I didn’t) that it would somehow produce a “Leica file” when used with Leica lenses. Of course it won’t ..especially not in low light.. but it makes a very good Leica ‘substitute’ for a fraction of the money if you’re not severely magnifying or cropping photos. And the same’s true for the GF2.

Panasonic’s great wide-aperture 20mm f1.7 “pancake” lens (behaving as a 40mm f1.7 on the small m4/3 sensor) gives NO purple fringing on the GF2 (or GF1) even at its widest aperture (possibly software-corrected inside the camera, or due to the straight-on horizontal light path from lens to sensor), but Leica’s own 24mm f1.4 ‘Summilux’ does give purple fringing until stopped down to f2.8, after which it’s perfect on the GF2 (and perfect at f2 on the GF1) ..except that its low-light supremacy has thus been lost, and it won’t focus anywhere near as close as Panny’s 20mm pancake. (The Leica 24mm’s closest focus is 0.7 metres/2 feet, Panny 20mm’s closest focus: 0.2 metres/0.6 feet.) The f1.7 aperture of the 20mm pancake gives almost the same depth-of-field as the (equivalent focal length) Leica (or Minolta) 40mm f2 on a Leica M9 ..a great match, and with handy, fast autofocus.

The GF2’s updated ‘Venus engine FHD’ to handle its imaging sensor takes fractionally longer to display a RAW file after shooting than does the GF1 ..which instantly displays the last shot. So the GF2 is more “Leica M9 like” in churning through the data to display a RAW file, whereas the previous GF1 “just does it” without a pause.

Now the big question: would I swap the previous GF1 for the new touch-screen GF2?

For video? ..Yes. The GF2’s video resolution is up at proper HD (1920×1080) and gives “creamy” TV-friendly ‘interlaced’ video, which looks less “stuttery” on a TV screen than supposedly higher-resolution all-data-at-once ‘progressive’ video. (1280x720p, as on the GF1, is still available on the GF2 in M-JPEG computer-friendly format, as well as now Full-HD 1920x1080i in AVCHD format.) Although the GF2 goes up to ISO 6400 in stills mode, it’s set to ‘Auto ISO’ in movie mode, so the camera decides what ISO to use for movies.

For stills, would I swap? ..Probably not. The GF2’s touch-screen menus are NOT trickier or more long-winded to use than the GF1. It DOES offer a (just) usable higher ISO 6400, particularly in RAW rather than jpeg. It now provides autofocus (and manual focus, of course) with old wide-aperture Leica/Lumix 4/3 zooms. But as it’s smaller than the GF1, the ball of my thumb kept inadvertently pushing on the rear four-way keypad, producing involuntary adjustments of mode, white balance, flash settings, etc, which I didn’t want and hadn’t asked for. The very slightly wider body of the older GF1, and its slightly different (and differently-positioned) keypad, doesn’t have that problem. And my left hand, holding and adjusting the lens, obscures its low-light infra-red focusing-aid lamp: shouldn’t that have been noticed when the prototypes were tested?

GF2 PROs (as a stills camera):

o – Higher ISO (6400)

o – TTL bounce flash (direct flash, as GF1, partially obscured by optional wide 7-14mm lens)

o – Better backwards compatibility with aperture-selectable 4/3 lenses

o – Touch-screen focus area selection (not with optional clip-on electronic viewfinder)

o – Slightly faster flash metering than GF1 (double-flash almost unnoticeable, MUCH faster than Leica M9)

CONs (as a stills camera):

! – Accidental operation of keypad!

! – Left hand obstructs low-light focusing-aid

! – Shorter battery life

! – Slightly slower picture replay (RAW only)

It’s a great little interchangeable-lens camera ..rather like a cut-down and massively upgraded Leica Digilux-3 (it even takes the same lenses, with a 4/3-to-m4/3 adaptor, and has the same size sensor, but with more pixels) ..so I’d call it the new Digilux-4! It may best suit people with smaller hands than mine ..though mine are perfectly average.

Its drawbacks are very few ..far, far fewer than I’d expected.. and it certainly APPEARS simpler to use for a novice. It’s a very nice little interchangeable-lens compact camera. But I’m not a novice. So I’d use it for movies (or for the 4/3 Leica 14-50mm f2.8 low-light portrait zoom) but otherwise I’ll stick with the GF1 (the “Leica M9.5″) for stills. Out of 10? Eight-and-a-half ..and I can hardly wait for a HI-RES clip on viewfinder, to match the resolution of the GH2 SLR.

You can buy the GF2 at B&H Photo!

PHOTOS:

GF2 + 14-140mm, and Digilux-3 + 14-150mm lens, with pop-up flashes open

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Tilt-flash shots


Feb 152011
 

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From Steve: It’s been a little while since I posted a Daily Inspiration due to the craziness of the m9 contest! Starting today they are back and I will start it off with some Sony NEX-5 love from Shawn Hsu :)

Hi Steve

My name is Shawn Hsu and I’m a musician in Taiwan. I’ve been a regular visitor of your site since last summer, and yes, I was also converted to a Leica lover then, thanks to you. And oh, you have no idea how your site has made me a poorer but much happier man.

I started taking my interest in photography seriously about 18 months ago. I had a Canon 7D but somehow it didn’t feel quite right to me. I’m mainly into street/documentary type of photography and DSLRs are just a royal pain in my book. After getting an M9, 50 lux, and a 28 cron, I did see a lot of improvement in my photos and the way I take them. But a couple of months ago your post about the Sony NEX series caught my attention again, so I got one as my everyday camera (M9 is just too precious to me).

Last week I took a family trip to central Vietnam and I brought along only a NEX 5 and a 28 cron. While not quite matching the result produced with an M9, I am rather happy with it. Particularly because of NEX 5’s swivel LCD, I could stay invisible to my subjects (oh that sounds cold) most of the time and just ‘shoot from the hip’.

These photos were taken at 1/1000 sec, F4 (or 5), with iso 800 because I wanted to maximize the DOF and take the photos without stopping. They are post processed with Lightroom.

Hope you like them!

All the very best

Shawn

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Feb 122011
 

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UPDATE: Since posting this page I have had no less than 180 “requests” from entrants to NOT show their images here on this page. Digging out and finding these who do not want to be shown takes a considerable amount of time, so I may not be posting any more of the entrants here. I just do not have time to do it all and with so many not wanting them up it kind of kills the whole idea anyway. Sorry!

ALL ENTRIES IN THE M9 CONTEST WILL BE POSTED ON THIS PAGE!

Many of you asked for it and I really wasn’t terribly excited to post 1300+ entries as this will take loads of time AND bandwidth, but hey, I know if I was on the other side I would love to see ALL of the entries. This page will be updated every day or two with 5-10 new entries. It may take a while to get all 1300+ up here but it will happen! I have to arrange each set in a side by side format and resize them all so bear with me. Also, these will be small versions only so my bandwidth and load times do not go nuts!

I’ll try to add to this page every single day until ALL of the entries are posted. This way if we give away an M10 in 2012 (I have NO knowledge of an M10 for 2012!) we can look back here as a reference for the 1st official M give away :) Once again, thank you to EVERYONE who participated in this as you all made it a huge success!

Enjoy!

Cathy Kesselman – “Too late to go South for the Winter?”

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Edward Khoo – “Respects for Elders”

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Fabiano Sangiorgi – “The First Time”

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Kelly Roher – “Cat & Mouse”

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Matthew Lamb – “Rock Star Dreams”

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Normand Primeau – “Wheres the Self-Timer?”

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Paola Terranova-Jancek – “Dreams” (hard to see here but the 2nd image is a letter congratulating her as the winner of the M9)

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Zach Allia – “Before & After Food”

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The very 1st official entry! Peter Samson – “Smile You Will”

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Simon Taylor – Milkman

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Vasilla Sapountzi – “The Snow Angel”

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William Chen – “Innocence”

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Roberto Fregona – 180 Degrees Of Seperation

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Chun Wai Ho – “Frog Prince”

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Peter Chueh – “Finding The Way Home”

More will be added every day or two..check back!

Feb 112011
 

VOTING IS CLOSED!

The last three finalists are Helene Marie Pambrun, Jonathan Cook, and Jacques L. Gudé! Congrats!

Ok guys, here it is. So far I have revealed 12 of the 15 finalists in the Leica M9 give away contest.

To make it even more fun, exciting and suspenseful  I decided to put up 10 more of my favorite selections here for YOU to vote on. Starting now you can vote for your ONE favorite. On Monday Feb 14th at 9am Phoenix, AZ time I will stop the poll and the top 3 vote getters will go in to the finals with the 12 already selected. THEN, those 15 will go to Heidi Klum and Rankin for a final vote for the winner and 2nd place winner.

This contest has been intense, fun, exciting and suspenseful. As with ANY photo contest there will be those of you who disagree with my choices but hey, all of these are worthy of the top spot IMO. So great job to all! I did my best to choose the 15 that spoke to me and told a clear story but it is hard when you have 50-60 great entries to go through. Believe me!

Ok, no more blabbing…the time has come! On to the final step. The 10 below, to me, are equally as good as the ones in the top 12 already so your help is greatly appreciated! Review them and vote in the poll at the bottom of the page.

As for the poll, it will only count ONE vote per person, per IP address. The poll uses IP address as well as other methods to avoid cheating. Sure you can keep voting, but only one will count. Again…There is no way someone can sit there and click away all day as the vote will only register once so make sure you vote for your top pick, only one vote counts!

Good luck to all 10 but only THREE will make the cut! The official top 15 page is HERE!

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CLICK ON THE IMAGES TO VIEW THEM IN MUCH BETTER QUALITY!

#1 – Jonathan Cook – “Guy Jones - My Arm Was My Pillow”

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#2 – Juha Saransalmi – “Finding the power of music”

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#3 – Matthew Miller - “Operation Mend”

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#4 – Eric Poe Miller - “Gaby Reaching for the Finish Line”

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#5 – Stefan Viehbacher – “The Journey Of A Goose”

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#6 – Steven Caddy – “Too Early For Goodbye”

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#7 – Aaron Hardin - “First Snow Penance”

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#8 – Dan Moruzan – “Pig & Pork”

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#9 – Helene Marie Pambrun – “Some scars can’t be hidden”

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#10 – Jacques L. Gudé – “Dreaming”

Feb 112011
 

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Ahhh, contests. You gotta love ‘em. Especially contests that are posted on blogs and forums. When I was approached by Seal who wanted to donate his Leica M9 to this site to give away to one lucky reader, I went through a few emotions. First, I was excited. Then, when we discussed having a photo contest I was a bit… “Uh Oh”….

Why? Well I knew that no matter what that it would be popular. I also knew that with a prize of this caliber that there would be those who strongly disagreed with the top 10 or 15 that I would choose for the finals, and I also knew there would be whiners and haters commenting and talking a bunch of BS (Bullshit). Even though I do not pick the final winner I knew this!

This is why I posted this on the finalists page before I posted ANY of the finalists:

“The decisions made here are final and as with every contest I have held or participated in,not everyone will agree with MY choices. BUT, I have gone over each and every one of these submissions to make sure I did not miss anything. I did this three times and every time I came back to the 15 that you will see on this page. These submissions are the creme of the crop and all of them completed the objective which was to create a photo narrative with TWO photos..basically, to tell a story. Yea, it was tough to do with only two shots but these finalists all did it! So please, no rude comments, none of the “my entry was better” comments and no bitterness! Besides, we may be planning a few more contests to keep everyone motivated and full of passion!”

The finalists were then posted and there were the usual complaints which I expected. Critiquing was there which is a good thing, but the whining and complaining by a few posters was completely unnecessary. FACT: The contest is on my web site and the rules stated that I would pick the finalists. Plain and simple. It is what it is. Accept it.

So just as I guessed by the third day the whiners and haters were in full force. I also noticed it was really only 2-3 rude individuals. One guy had a problem with Amy Medina’s “Saying Goodbye” saying it was in bad taste. He seemed offended that she took one of the shots in a graveyard. Then there was the complaining saying her shots were posed. Umm, of course they were. Who says telling a story via photos can’t be planned out shots? I sure didn’t. Others called it exploitive. Nonsense. It’s a series that is poignant and she did a great job telling her story with her two photos.

A few of you seemed to think that this was some sort of magnum caliber pro photography contest to be judged on perfect composition, light and image quality. WRONG! Anyone who read the contest details would know that it was a contest for ANYONE ,using ANY camera, and of ANY skill level. The only goal was to tell a story with TWO photos. ALL of the finalists did just that and if you can’t figure out the stories then you should probably study the photos a bit more. Everyone may interpret them differently but to leave comments talking smack saying they are garbage photos, that is just wrong. I found it funny that those talking the smack did not even enter, so that says it all right there. Typical.

I guess it is just not possible for some people to accept the decisions made for some odd reason. One guy (the same guy moaning about Amy’s shots I believe) seemed to want me  to remove Megan Bakers submission because she used photoshop and used old photos of children in her own photo to tell her story. He commented “Be a man and do the right thing”. Hmmm, how about  you be a man and accept she is a finalist? I am floored by the nerve of some people sometimes.

Megan created the story for her submission called “A Solitary Game”. I liked it, and everyone I showed it to REALLY enjoyed it and put it in their top picks out of 50 or so. She shot her images in the time frame and submitted them. She even asked me up front if she could take images of old photos and use them in her photo and I said YES. Done and Done.

Again, for the few who keep telling me I “broke the rules” by allowing Megans photo, no I did not.

Feel free to read the rules again on the contest page. Megan shot her images within the time frame. She even shot the images of the children from an old photo in the time frame by traveling to antique stores. She drove 200 miles for the location and put in hours of work. Megan sent me an email after all of  this nonsense letting me know the details and she probably put more work in to her set than any of the finalists. No rules were broken. To those who say they were please point out the rule she broke. Her image tells a CLEAR story…do you see the red string in the girls hand? Anyway..moving on…

There was also a disqualification today and it was 100% due to an oversight of the guy who entered. He shot on film so there was no EXIF and he somehow didn’t see the rules that said the pictures had to be shot between Jan 05th and Feb 05th 2011. I hated to drop his as I loved his work but he shot them a year ago. Was an honest mistake and he already posted about it in the comments.

For some reason there are others who feel their submissions were way better than the ones posted but when I go back to look at them I scratch my head and wonder why they think that. Bottom line is this. The final choices are the final choices. The top 15 will be looked over carefully by Heidi and Rankin and THEY will pick the winner. Any rude comments about the final winner will be moderated and removed. Time for the childish BS to stop because on my site I usually do not put up with it and won’t.

On the other hand, 90% of the comments were civil and spot on. It really was only 2-3 people causing trouble, and no Elaine, I do not think you were one of them :)

So in just a few hours the remaining 10 sets will be posted and it will be up to YOU to select the top 3. They are 10 great submissions so vote away and please…no bitching and moaning about them as it will serve no purpose. All decisions are FINAL.

One lucky winner will walk away with the M9 and believe me, whoever that person is will have won it fair and square.

Feb 092011
 

Well it appears Fuji has been full steam ahead with the X100. A few bloggers have managed to get their hands on a  pre-production sample and so far everything I have heard has been positive (except for those who are disappointed with Fujis sample images). It has been said that the build quality is exceptional and it feels like a classic camera. Fuji has updated their X100 website with a cool promo video as well as some images from the X100. You can see the video right on their main page, and you can see the sample still images HERE. I took a look at the samples provided by Fuji and I have to say that I never understand when a camera company posts drab photos to showcase their cameras. Fuji seems to have done this but I downloaded a few full res files and did a few photoshop tweaks and they looked remarkable. Sure, the sample photos are kind of boring but I am guessing the quality will be there once this camera gets into the hands of a more capable photographer. It seems that it is always the case. For example, we all know DPREVIEW. Every time I look at their sample photos I think “Oh no! This camera sucks!” But when I shoot the camera I realize the quality is there, it just has to be coaxed out :)

Still, I’m not going to get terribly excited until I have a full production camera in my hands, which should be by mid march (I am trying to get one sooner). One thing I do know is that Fuji is doing almost everything right with this one in terms of marketing. From the design to the copycat Leica X1 naming (X100, hmm..must be better than an X1) to the website and viral ad campaign they have created. Lots of pressure on this one for Fuji and I am really hoping that they get it right because after all of this hype the X100 HAS to be a great camera. I’m thinking it will be and could possibly be the hottest camera of the year sales wise.

Fuji is bringing back the old school design, feel and operation of the classic cameras to digital for under $1200. THIS IS GOOD :) I expect Nikon and Canon to follow. I KNOW Canon has a trick or two up their sleeve but I am a fan of Fuji cameras so if the X100 has it, I will be ALL OVER IT. Yes, she will be mine :)

Feb 072011
 

UPDATE – ALL 15 Finalists have been posted! Congratulations to all! The winners will be announced on March 1st 2011!

Ok, as promised I am starting to post three finalists every night for the rest of the week. By Friday all top 15 will be posted on this page. Before I post the 1st three let me state that these are not in any order. I really had a hard time choosing for this contest but the 15 I did choose were ALL fantastic in my opinion. All of them told a story, and any of them could win the grand prize :) When I chose the top 15 I was not out there looking for image quality or even someone with amazing photo skills. I was looking for TWO photos that when put together told me the story that the photographer was trying to tell me. There were a few in the top 15 that had it all..superb photography skills and the story. For this contest it was more about the vision that the photographer had for his/her story.

With so many amazing entries I was having a hard time narrowing it down so I asked for help. Ashwin Rao, who contributes to this site on a regular basis, looked over my top 35 and chose his favorite 15. I then took his favorites and compared them with my favorites and then narrowed it down to the final 15 that will compete for one of two top prizes! The Leica M9 donated and signed by Seal along with my 50 Summitar is the grand prize, but let’s not forget there is also the brand new Leica V-Lux 2 that was donated by Leica Camera for the runner up! Also picortwo.com also had a huge hand in this so be sure to follow photographers there such as Seal and Heidi.

When all 15 have been posted the official judges, Heidi Klum and Rankin will be looking over  this page and picking the final winners. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Even to those who entered and did not make the top 15 YOU ARE ALL WINNERS! Why? Because this contest motivated you and got you out there to shoot. Your brain started working and your creativity was elevated. This contest had over 1300 entries and all of you did a great job. I am a humble guy but I have to admit, this contest ROCKED! I can not wait to see who will win the cameras as I am sincerely excited for all of you who made it.

One more thing before I start presenting the finalists. The decisions made here are final and as with every contest I have held or participated in,not everyone will agree with MY choices. BUT, I have gone over each and every one of these submissions to make sure I did not miss anything. I did this three times and every time I came back to the 15 that you will see on this page. These submissions are the creme of the crop and all of them completed the objective which was to create a photo narrative with TWO photos..basically, to tell a story. Yea, it was tough to do with only two shots but these finalists all did it! So please, no rude comments, none of the “my entry was better” comments and no bitterness! Besides, we may be planning a few more contests to keep everyone motivated and full of passion!

Without any further hesitation I bring you the first entries that will be part of the final 15.

PLEASE! Click on the images to view the larger version! They are MUCH better this way!

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Andy Allaway, Crystal Lake, IL USA – “Accomplishment”

Chalid Mawardi Nasution, Indonesia – “Octopus Hunter”

António Miranda, Portugal- “Just living.”

Bram Platel, Eindhoven –  The Netherlands - “Free as a bird in my own world”

Ann-Marie Hensley, Brentwood TN – “Dachshund Through the Snow”

Brian Wytcherley, Shuangliu, Chengdu China - “Shortage of rural doctors in China’s Yunnan province”

Daniele Zedda, Ciampino (RM), Italy – “Faith in Yourself”

Dan Hartwright, West Sussex, United Kingdom - “My first camera tastes funny!”

Amy Medina, Holbrook, NY“Saying Goodbye”

Sasa Gagic, Bosnia and Herzegovina EUROPE - “Everyday is a new struggle”

Megan Baker, Brooklyn NY - “A Solitary Game”

Dan Skjæveland, Rogaland, Norway – “Our Future Hope”

Helene Marie Pambrun – “Some scars can’t be hidden”

Jonathan Cook - “Guy Jones – My Arm Was My Pillow”

Jacques L. Gudé - “Dreaming”


The remaining three finalists will be added to this page on Monday Feb 14th. Tomorrow a new post will be put up with 10 finalists and YOU will be able to vote for your favorites. The three with the most votes by Monday morning at 9am Phoenix, AZ USA time will make it here to this page. Good luck to all and congrats to those who made it so far!

Feb 072011
 

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The M9 Contest Top 15 Update…

Wow!! I have gone through all of the M9 contest entries as they came in and again over the past 24 hours. I have been looking for the strongest set of images, those that tell a story with BOTH of the photos. There were some that I thought were very powerful, some that were very personal, and quite a few that told the same story. (lots of you had the same ideas) It has been very rewarding to see so many amazing photographs. A true inspiration. As of today I have narrowed my choices down to a top 25 and now have to attempt to get that down to a top 15. In all honesty I found about 60 sets that I thought stood out from the 1300+ entries but there can only be two winners. One first place for the M9 and one second place for the V-Lux 2. The photos that have been submitted (and the top picks) have come from every corner of the world…the power of the internet is magical sometimes :)

So instead of waiting until the 15th I will be posting the top 15 THIS week. I will post 3 of them later today and then 3 a day for the rest of the week. By Friday, the top 15 will be up all on one single page! I had to figure out a way to make it exciting, so I thought that revealing three every day would be pretty fun and exciting for all who entered.

So later today look for the 1st posting that will feature three of the top 15. Keep in mind that the top 15 will not be in any order. In other words, the first three I post will not be my favorites but rather just three random choices out of my favorite 15. After the top 15 are all posted Heidi Klum and Rankin will look them over and choose the winners! Woo hoo!

Accessories for the GRDIII!

New reviews on the way!

More Ricoh! Just today Fed Ex delivered a box of accessories to me for the Ricoh GRD III. I received a great leather ever-ready case, a smaller soft case, the wide angle 21mm adapter and lens, a nice strap and both of the viewfinders that are available for this camera! I will be testing them out this week and writing up a post about them along with some photos of all of the accessories on the camera. Probably a video as well. I’ll also show some new shots with the 21mm attachment. I’m really enjoying the GRDIII as it seems like a very mature and well rounded compact that is capable of taking superb photos. Look for that this week!

Also, I have some new stuff on the way to review. The Panasonic wide angle 14mm lens for Micro 4/3 will be arriving to me Thursday and shortly after I should be getting the Panasonic GF2 and GH2 to review. I’m also hoping that I will be one of the first with the Fuji X100 and I believe I will be, so that will be coming next month.

My Leica 90 Summarit lens review is a little delayed, mostly because I have not had time to get out and shoot due to the contest! But, that is also a review that will be coming very soon!

Feb 042011
 

Hi Steve,

My brief profile…I’m a motorsport photo journalist in Indonesia, single mom, emerging artist on abstract art photography with experiences in documentary filmmaking, assisting director for creative advertising, managing Media Relations and PR, writing a published poetry book, mentoring in photo workshops, social media and my own Jagamine Project : http://jagamineproject.wordpress.com/

Photography is more than just a passion; it has been my main source of livelihood and is something that I have experienced on many different aspects, starting from hobby, professional journalistic to serious art. I am currently preparing my first solo exhibition in April on abstract photography as art.

My portfolio :

portraiture : http://poeticpicture.wordpress.com/

General/abstract : http://www.poeticpicture.com/

I’m submitting for Daily Inspiration Pic I hope you like them….

Best Regards

Marrysa Tunjung Sari (sasha)

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Feb 032011
 

Capturing Beauty in Asia with the Leica M9

By Neil Buchan Grant - See his Website

A little background

I have been making landscapes and travel images for 10 years, using almost every digital Canon from the Ixus to the 1Ds Mk III. In the past few years I had started noticing the special quality of images shot with Leica equipment. When I started experimenting with micro four thirds cameras I bought a Leica 35mm Summilux and a 75mm Summicron to use with a GF1. Even with this cut-down sensor, I was amazed at the quality of the images coming from these lenses. The resolution seemed endless and the look seemed to be in a different class. It was as if I had been eating omlettes all my life and suddenly I was given a souffle. I hardly used my Canon equipment for over a year. Becoming more intrigued by all things Leica, I soon came across Steve’s site and devoured almost every page. Finally, last year, I realised that if I sold all of my Canon gear I could just about afford an M9 and 2 more lenses, a 28mm Elmarit and a 50mm Summilux.

Eventually after what seemed like a lifetime (only 6 weeks in reality) the box arrived! Compared to even the mighty Canon pro bodies, the build quality and materials used lent the Leica M9 a truly ‘industrial’ feel. Even its shape had a strangeness I soon came to adore. I found the transition from AF to MF was a bit hit and miss for the first few weeks, but I soon got to grips with the rangefinder focusing. These first full frame images simply blew me away, they even surpassed those of my best Canon primes. In particular, giving a beautiful ‘organic’ look to the out of focus areas. The sensor seemed to hold a ridiculous amount of detail in the dark areas of pictures. I had not felt so connected with the sheer joy of making photographs since I had used manual SLRs in the late 70’s.

An early shot with the M9 and a 50mm Summicron at f2

A new direction

As much as I love the aesthetic beauty of good landscape photography, I had been wanting to make more people shots for some time. There’s something very powerful and mesmeric about a well shot pair of eyes that no landscape can equal. In the best work of this kind there’s a perceived connection which can induce the full gamut of human emotions, and for me anyway, reaches the parts that landscapes cannot reach. I discovered a web-portal called Model Mayhem where models of all levels of experience often seek out photographers who could help them develop their portfolios, in a reciprocal trade of time for images. This discovery was soon followed by a long-postponed decision to visit my brother who lives in Jakarta, Indonesia in South East Asia. The trip would last 3 weeks so I set about using the website to find models in Jakarta who would be interested in a shoot with what I fully admitted, was a novice in this genre. I had very few responses but fortunately just enough to plan a few definite shoots. Having a set budget I decided not to go for 20 nights in a 3 star hotel or to stay with my brother for the duration. Instead, my accommodation would switch from a selection of nights in five star hotels to a mattress on my brothers spare bedroom floor! Of course I co-ordinated the shoots to make the most of the plush hotels.

Sheila, the first model I shot in Jakarta M9, 50mm @ 1.4

My first shoot was with Sheila, a lovely 19 year old girl who’s portfolio was full of very edgy, high fashion shots using extreme make-up and black leather costumes. As the shoot was to take place in the refined surroundings of a 5 star hotel, I suggested she wore something classy. She turned up in a stunning long sequinned gown which it turned out, she had worn to her prom night. The M9 came out and I went to work with the 50mm summilux and a simple 42 inch reflector disk. I shot wide open for most of the session, the lens’s wafer thin depth of field seemed to be designed for this kind of work. The methodical procedure of focusing on the models eyes and recomposing for each release of the shutter, seemed to create a steady rhythm allowing the model to anticipate the next shot and adjust her pose for maximum variety. I found the better we got at this, the quicker I shot and a few times I had to take a break to allow the M9’s CPU to catch up, as it processed a stream of RAW images. Undoubtedly, a fast-shooting SLR would probably be a more common choice in a fashion or beauty shoot, but I was really enjoying the slow, sure pace of the Leica. When I stopped to show the model some of the results on the screen, her reaction was one of complete amazement that such incredible images could come from such a simple looking camera.

Angie, my second shoot, M9, 50mm @ 1.4

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Angie M9, 50mm @1.4

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Adik M9, 50mm @ 1.4

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Adik M9, 50mm @ 1.4

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Adik M9, 50mm @ 1.4

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Paradiska, M9, 50mm @ 1.4

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Paradiska 50mm @ 1.4

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Finally, after years of trying (and more often miserably failing) to photograph reticent friends, relatives, girlfriends or wives, I was actually taking photos of someone who actually ‘wanted’ to be photographed! It was nothing short of a revelation! The nature and pace of the interaction occurring here was quite unique, I’ve never experienced anything quite as rewarding as capturing a fleeting look that could melt an iceberg. There were no awkward silences or embarrassing screams of “Yeah Baby!” I was simply engrossed in the challenge before me, confident in the knowledge that the tools I had chosen were up to the job. The hours flew by.

Kartika worked in a sports bar, M9, 50mm @ 1.4

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Over the next few weeks, the M9 (and mostly the 50mm) helped me make some pretty ok beauty images (by my own novice standards) which I burned onto CD and gave to each of the 10 models I photographed. The models ranged from a very professional girl who arrived with 10 fine dresses, 5 pairs of shoes and 2 large men (one of whom was a qualified make up artist!), to girls I spotted working in bars who were clearly beautiful and luckily upon further enquiry, had a desire to be photographed properly. Although I speak no Indonesian, many Indonesians speak a little English and its quite amazing how effectively an iphone’s picture library can act as a communication tool.

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From the roof of one of Jakartas hotels, M9, 28mm @ f11, 2 minutes (B)

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This was my first visit to Asia. Its no understatement to say that I was completely enchanted with the people of Indonesia. Mention Jakarta to many people who have visited more popular destinations in the far east, and you may hear stories, gleaned on a quick stop-over, which could put you off visiting. But for all its traffic problems, pollution and the obvious chasm between extreme wealth and desperate poverty, Jakarta was a fascinating and exciting city. I very much intend to return there whenever I get the chance.

A bus drives past a mural of President Obama wearing a turban, M9, 50mm @1.4

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Caddies from one of Jakarta’s many golf clubs, M9, 50mm @ f2

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Waiting for a bus, M9, 50mm @1.4

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This was shot with a 75mm f2 @ f2 on a Sony NEX5

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Shot in very low light at dusk with M9, 50mm @ 1.4

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Shot in very low light at dusk with M9, 50mm @ 1.4

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Doing around 25 MPH M9, 50mm @1.4

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Batavia Square, Jakarta M9, 50mm @ 1.4

As for the M9, it was a joy to use. I shot 5,000 images in 3 weeks using only one spare battery, I didn’t run out of power once. The sheer discipline of manually focusing each shot gave me a much higher rate of in-focus shots than with any of the auto-focusing cameras I have used. I was quickly able to employ manual exposure settings regularly, which freed me up to interact with the subject and concentrate on their expressions. The M9 is a total workhorse and at the same time a tool capable of incredible finesse. Thanks for reading my story and keep up the great work Steve!

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