Aug 172011
 

The Olympus E-P3 is in stock now!

The hottest color and lens combo in the E-P3 is the ONE that is in stock now at B&H photo – $899. Act fast! Click here to get it, these have been selling out pretty fast! After reviewing the camera and new 12mm, I ended up keeping the review sample and yes, I had to pay full price! Great camera and improvement over past PENS. Just wanted to spread the word as there are a few of you looking for this exact color/lens combo!

I will be getting a Sony NEX-C3 today so will be heading to Las Vegas to review it and to finish my review of the the SLR Magic 28 2.8 E Mount lens and 50mm 0.95 for E mount. Woohoo! If anyone is in Vegas on Wednesday/Thursday send me an email and maybe we can meet up for a quick chat!

OH, and all Micro 4/3 owners THIS LENS is the lens to watch for – Cant wait to see how this one does. FINALLY!! Fast primes are coming to M4/3 users!

AND…as of 08/17, B&H released the new Olympus 45 1.8 lens for pre-order and I am hearing whisperings that it is arriving VERY VERY soon. This appears to be a fantastic lens, equaling a 90mm in 35mm and with a fast aperture. I have spoken with a couple of people who have been testing this lens already and they LOVE it. $399, so not a bank breaker like the 12mm f/2.

Aug 162011
 

The Chicago Workshop/Meetup Is Here!

Street Photography in the Windy City! Awesome like minded people, Presentations, Instruction, Motivation, Great Food, Street Shooting and Great TIMES. Did I mention cool cameras and guest speakers?!?! What are you waiting for! THIS IS CHICAGO!!! My kind of town!

A few spots remain! 

Scroll down for Agenda which will be updated more as we get closer.

THE DATE: Saturday September 24th 2011 – Mark your calendar!

THE PLACE: Right smack dab in the middle of downtown, Magnificent Mile, Millennium Park and more! RAIN OR SHINE!

THE AGENDA: Two guest speakers, three presentations (one from myself as well), street shooting 101, street shooting tips, overcoming fears, travel photography. GREAT FOOD. Street Shooting, editing, critiques and a visit to Chicago’s OLDEST camera shop, Central CameraONE DAY ONLY! 

THE COST: $300, full DELUXE Chicago lunch at world famous Pizzeria Due included as well as coffee and snacks for breakfast – 15 people maximum, credit cards accepted. If you want to attend buy quick to avoid missing out! Date is approaching quickly! E-mail me if interested [email protected]

 

 

Chicago!

Been getting loads of e-mails requesting workshops and meet ups everywhere, in every corner of the globe! Thank you for your e-mails and requests! It seems to me though that the most popular request has been my home town of Chicago! I live in Phoenix, AZ these days but was born and raised in Chicago and am thrilled to announce that the next workshop will be held in the windy city! It is such an amazing city and the perfect location for the next workshop/meetup. While it is still in the planning stages, it will be held right in the middle of it all near Michigan Avenue and Millennium Park! We will have access to great food (on me)!, fantastic street shooting opportunities, and will also be situated in a great studio location where we can share our photos from the day, do some actual hardcore critique, and get to know each other! All minutes from the action.

There will be two guest speakers at the event and we will be doing street shooting photo walks during the day. This will be a one day only event Near the end of September. It’s coming up quick and Chicago has gotten tons of response so be sure to sign up quick! The cost for this one day workshop event will be $300 and includes the entire days events from 9am to 7pm as well as morning coffee and snacks and a full lunch featuring famous and delicious Chicago Pizza at Pizzeria Due (that will be included free of charge)! I am limiting this to 15 people and my past two events in NYC and Seattle sold out 100% so get in quick if  you want to attend Chicago!

It will be a quick, fast paced, high energy event full of new friends, good times, learning, presentations, street shooting, editing and great food!

THE AGENDA FOR THE DAY (May be additions and slight changes as we get closer)

8:30AM – Meet at the location, everyone introduces themselves, brief intro by Steve

9:15 AM-10:00AM – Head to Intelligentsia Coffee – World famous coffee/espresso. Coffee and breakfast snacks ON ME. 

10:00 AM- 11:30AM – Guest Speakers/Presentations

 

There will be TWO goes speakers at this event. Stuart Sipahilgil and Steven Blewett.

Stuart Sipahigil

Stuart Sipahigil is an award-winning photographer, author and teacher. He is a staff photographer for Outside Source Design, a multimedia design agency in Indianapolis, Indiana, working for such clients as Eli Lilly & Company, The American Diabetes Association, and others. In addition, he’s the author of Close to Home: Finding Great Photographs in Your own Back Yard (available at http://craftandvision.com). Stuart also teaches photography and post-processing classes at the Cornerstone Center for the Arts in Muncie, Indiana. He posts his thoughts on photography at his blog, http://www.thelightwithout.com.


and some inspiration from Steven Blewett on Travel Photography

My traveling has taken me to many places over the years for business. I work for a Construction Co. and Document Construction Projects as well as Supervise. I have been in photography since High School but didn’t start seriously Shooting Travel Photography until 10yrs ago. The Camera didn’t get into my hands until I realized how much I was missing.  A point and shoot or a disposable camera works. But to find how to capture the places I have been to in a way that captures the whole essence of what those places mean to me and covey that to others. In other words… To share. That is what drives me for others to see the way I see through my Photographs.
It’s more than pushing a button it is a Passion. A Passion that I hope to share with you.
and a slideshow by your yours truly about shooting on the street and why you should not  fear it! 

111:30 – 1:30PM – Street shooting at Millennium Park and all of downtown. Me and one of the guests will be on hand for questions and instruction. An assignment will be given to each of you and we will critique these assignments at the end of the day!

1:30 PM SHARP – Lunch at world famous Pizzaria Due – This is the BEST Pizza ever. We will all have Pizza and drinks, again, on me!

3:00 – 3:45 -Visit Chicagos oldest Camera shop and oldest Leica dealer, Central Camera!

3:45 – 5:30 – More shooting time and one on one time. We will venture deeper into the city….

5:30 – 7:00 – Editing back at the location with final critique and your best three shots of the day shown on the big screen. Shots will then be posted on this site for all to see. 

7PM and on.. Optional night out at a local pub or bar for some beers (NOT on me!) for whoever wants to go!

There are MANY hotels in the area and if you stay an extra day or two I may hang around an extra day or two as well to see the sights. Things like Navy PierThe Lincoln Park ZooThe Art Institute, and all of the historic architecture throughout the city. The street life in Chicago is amazing!

Check out the video below to see Amy Medina’s photos from the last Seattle workshop! Her website is HERE!

NO NEED TO OWN A LEICA TO ATTEND! Any camera is welcome, even film!

I should have an M9 or two on hand for demo purposes for anyone who wants to give one a spin. If you shoot micro 4/3, you are welcome (I’ll have my E-P3 and lenses as well as my M9-P)! If you shoot ANY camera, you are welcome! Shoot an iPhone? You are welcome!

I will release details here on this page as they become available. Guest speakers will be announced soon. Exact location will be given to those who sign up well in advance.

Also, all attendees are encouraged to bring their Laptop with them for editing!

HOW TO SIGN UP FOR THIS EVENT!

 EARLY BIRD SPECIAL THROUGH SEP 1st! SAVE $50! E-mail me and sign up before September 1st to save $50! 

Easy! I can accept credit cards through google checkout. If you want to sign up just send me an email at [email protected]. I will then email you an invoice from google that you simply click on and pay. About 1 week before  the event you will receive an e-mail with instructions, what to bring, where to go, etc. Again, this page will be updated as guest speakers are confirmed and more details are released!

The entire group from the last huge two day Seattle workshop! It was an amazing time!

JOIN US IN CHICAGO! Looking forward to seeing you all!


Aug 152011
 

ISO WARS: The Olympus E-P3 vs The Sony NEX-5!

When Olympus released the E-P1, the camera suffered from slow AF, poor high ISO performance and it always lost out to the Panasonic M4/3 camera (slightly) and other larger sensor cameras. The E-P2 did nothing to improve upon the high ISO but the AF did get a speed boost and the video control improved. With the new E-P3, Olympus claims better high ISO performance, and if you read my review you would have seen that I loved the AF speed boost, and just about everything else about the camera. But I did not really get into high ISO performance so much and I recieved a few e-mails asking me  to pit it against the Sony NEX-5 at 3200, 6400 and 12,800.

It was just over a year ago when I reviewed the Sony NEX-3 and 5 cameras. At that time, their high ISO capability was unheard of! 12,800 ISO in a small camera like that was a first, and everyone raved about the quality of low light shots, even me!

With its APS-C sized sensor (not quite full frame, but larger than the Micro 4/3 sensor) the Sony was able to do better at high ISO and low light than other small cameras and it competed with larger DSLR’s. The E-P3 is here and still has the 4/3 size sensor of course, so I wanted to see how it would stand  up to the NEX, not only in noise, but in detail. I used the 12mm f/2 lens on the Olympus at f/3.5. On the Sony I shot with the higher end 18-200 at 18mm, f3.5.

I did a quick and dirty test, using the STEADYSHOT  of the 18-200 and the built in IS of the E-P3. I turned OFF the Noise Reduction on the E-P3 as you can. The Sony does not allow you to turn it off but it does let you switch it to “WEAK”, so this is what I did. I wanted to let each camera give the most detail without letting Noise Reduction get in the way and smear it all up. I shot JPEGS as there is still no Lightroom or Photoshop support for the E-P3 RAW files.

The first comparison shot of a couple of books was taken in my living room, at night, with a very dim lamp shining in from my office. Here we go!

FIrst I will show you a couple of resized images from each camera – ISO 3200 and then ISO 12,800. After that I will show you the crops from each at 3200, 6400 and 12,800. You can click on the images for larger 1800 pixel wide versions.

The E-P3 at ISO 3200 – 12mm – f/3.5 – 12mm (24mm)

Sony NEX-5 – ISO 3200 – f/3.5 – 18mm (28mm)

Ok, let’s go to ISO 12,800

BELOW: E-P3 at ISO 12,800 – Click image for larger version – scroll down for 100% crops

NEX-5 at ISO 12,800 – Click image for larger version – scroll down for 100% crops

CROPS

E-P3 1st, NEX-5 2nd

ISO 6400

ISO 12,800

What happens if you convert the JPEGS to black and white?

First the E-P3 at ISO 12,800 – Click image for larger 

NEX-5 at ISO 12,800 – Click image for larger

How about another subject with a little more light. I my Kitchen area…

The E-P3  – ISO 3200 – This time I had it set to F/2 though. MUST CLICK IMAGE FOR FULL 100% CROP VIEW!

and the NEX – ISO 3200 – MUST CLICK IMAGE FOR FULL 100% CROP VIEW

and one more…

Oranges

BELOW: E-P3 CROP

BELOW: NEX-5 CROP

What I see in all of the images is that the Noise Reduction in the NEX is hindering the detail. Also, the Olympus 12mm lens is a sharper lens than the $799 Sony 18-200. I actually prefer the grit and grime of the E-P3 versions over the somewhat dull and mushy NEX versions. Olympus did a good job with the E-P3 and when NR is turned off there is still plenty of detail in the files, even at high ISO. Next test should be against the X100 :)

Also, if you have been on the fence about the 12mm Olympus Lens. I HIGHLY recommend it. It is simply SUPERB. B&H sells it HERE.

HOW ABOUT MORE VIDEO SAMPLES WITH THE E-P3? Even a low light video that is pretty free of grain!

I’m still waiting for the “PRO PEN” with a built in EVF. Also, the rumored Sony NEX-7 with built in EVF should up the stakes yet again. Below are a couple of high ISO shots taken with the E-P3 this evening just to test it out. Enjoy!

ISO 6400 – spot metered on the can – in camera B&W JPEG (not the art filter grainy B&W, but MONOTONE color selection. Click for larger.

ISO 3200 – NIGHT – OOC JPEG, NO NR, NO PP

ISO 3200, night..f/2 – 12mm


E-P3 – 12mm,  f/2 – ISO 6400, in camera B&W, NR OFF, evening, no lights on.

HELP ME TO KEEP THIS SITE GOING AND GROWING!! IT’S EASY TO HELP OUT & I CAN USE ALL THE HELP I CAN GET!

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!

Even if  you buy baby food, napkins or toothpicks at amazon it helps this site, and you do not pay anything extra by using the links here. Again, you pay nothing extra by using my links, it is just a way to help support this site, so again, I thank you in advance :)

If you enjoyed this article/review, feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of this page and also be sure to join me on twitter or my new facebook fan page! Also, you can subscribe to my feed at my subscribe page HERE and read these posts in your browser or news reader! Be sure and visit the all new forums on the site HERE.

Aug 112011
 

HELP WANTED! 

Video Animation Needed!

Looking for a video whiz to create a new intro for my review videos. Looking for something cool, with motion and color. Just the video intro. If you know video animation and have any ideas, email me at [email protected]. Of course, I will pay for this as well (please be affordable) but it has to be COOL!! Would be cool if you had samples of some work.

Workshop Help Needed!

Are you in San Francisco, Chicago or Southern California? Paris or London? Australia? Looking for guest speakers and co-ordination help in these cities for upcoming workshops. E-mail me with what you can offer and I will get back to you with details! Looking for people to help with speaking, helping with areas to shoot, hotels or places to stay, restaurants, etc. Again, e-mail me at [email protected] if you are interested!

Aug 112011
 

SLR MAGIC CONTEST EXTENDED, NEW GRAND PRIZE OFFERED! Now THREE Prizes!

WOOHOO! As I posted over a week ago, I am giving away a SLR Magic 28 2.8 Manual lens for the NEX E-Mount cameras (NEX-5, 3, C3, etc) and the contest is underway with some fantastic submissions already sent in to me. To enter and read the rules, be sure to go to the contest page!

SLR Magic/NOKTOR donated the lens for a giveaway and they wanted to sweeten the pot a bit so they sent me another super cool prize to GIVE AWAY for this contest and it is their top of the line E-Mount offering, the Noktor 50 f/0.95 Hyper Prime for E-Mount. I already announced that Noktor is releasing a 50 0.95 for Leica mount, which will be an ALL NEW Lens design but this one for the E mount is similar to the Micro 4/3 version. I did a few test snaps around my house with the lens and it looks pretty good so far. I did NOT get to take it out anywhere so I have no idea of the quality but I am going to do my best to review it before shipping it to the winner :) It would also be cool if the winner wrote up an article with some images shot with the lens…hmmmmm.

The lens is new, in box. It has the end cap and screw on metal lens cap. The lens is all metal, solid and heavy and seems to perform a bit better on the NEX than M4/3, probably due to the larger sensor. THANK YOU Noktor for donating this lens for the contest! Free stuff for the readers here is always VERY cool!

 

ANYWAY, keep sending in your submissions to the contest! I have extended the deadline now to August 26th 2011 at noon. All other rules remain the same and the top ten will now be posted on this site on September 1st 2011. THEN you will vote for your favorites and the top three vote getters will win!

1st place: Noktor Hyperprime E Mount 50 f/0.95 lens

2nd place: SLR Magic 28 2.8 E mount lens

3rd place: ThinkTank Photo Retrospective 5 Bag

To see the official contest page and the rules and how to enter, CLICK HERE! 

GOOD LUCK TO ALL and remember, all you have to do to get a chance to win is to send in your best shot taken with a Sony NEX camera!

Aug 102011
 

CRAZY COMPARISON! The Olympus E-P3 with 12mm vs the Leica M9 and 24 Summilux ASPH!

It’s Wednesday morning at 6am and what better to kick off the hump day than with a Crazy Comparison?!?! I have not done of these in a loooong time so I figured it was about time for a new match up. This time I am pitting the Olympus E-P3 micro 4/3 camera with the new 12mm f/2 lens against the bag, bad Leica M9 and $24 Summilux ASPH. The E-P3 set comes in at about a $1700 price tag while the Leica M9-P and 24 Lux comes in at about $14, 500. Now, the Leica has the full frame sensor so I was never expecting it to lose out to the much smaller 4/3 sensor but that is why this is called a CRAZY COMPARISON!

It is just for fun, so please…no need to get all bent out of shape (as many of you did with previous Crazy Comparisons).

The files are ALL Out Of Camera JPEGS because the E-P3 RAW files are not yet supported by Lightroom or Photoshop. All settings were the same. Same ISO, SAME aperture, SAME (equivalent) focal length. The Oly 12mm comes out to a 24mm equivalent on the E-P3. We get the 24mm Field of view with 12mm Bokeh. The M9 uses the 24 Summilux which gives us a true 24mm field of view and 24mm bokeh.

This is a comparison of JPEGS only, as they come out of the camera, in each cameras native resolution.

So…let’s get on to the photos!

YOU MUST CLICK EACH PHOTO TO OPEN THE FULL SIZE OUT OF CAMERA JPEG FROM EACH CAMERA!

Each file was saved as a level 10 JPEG after opening the file in Photoshop. No PP!

1st up, the Olympus E-P3 – 12MP – 12mm (24) – F/2 – ISO 200 – AWB

CLICK IMAGE FOR FULL SIZE OOC JPEG!

and now the Leica M9-P with 24 Summilux, same settings – F/2 – ISO 200 – 24 Summilux – AWB

CLICK IMAGE FOR FULL SIZE OOC JPEG!

In the 1st comparison the Oly picked the better White Balance. Both were set to AUTO WHITE BALANCE to test each cameras AWB rendition. I was curious and it appears the Oly wins in that dept. This makes the Oly the more accurate representation color wise. Of course I could take the M9 RAW file and fix it up easily but again, this is just a simple OOC JPEG CRAZY comparison! If you click each image you can view the full size file. Both were shot at F/2 which was wide open for the Olympus 12mm, and the Summilux was stopped down to f/2 from 1.4. It appears the Lux vignettes even at f/2, which is one thing full frame sensors seem to do with wide angle lenses. It also appears the little Oly’s Dynamic Range is decent. The sun was hitting the bins directly.

Ok, let’s do another one. This time I will start with the M9 file.

Leica M9 – 24 Lux at f/2 – ISO 200 – Click image for full size OOC JPEG file

Olympus E-P3 – 12mm (24 equiv) – f/2 – ISO 200


It is clearly evident that you will get a more shallow depth of field (background blur) when shooting on a full frame camera with a full frame lens, meaning, when you shoot with a 24mm lens you get a 24mm field of view. When shooting the Oly the lens is a 12mm but do to the half frame sensor we are getting a 24mm equivalent view, but still the depth of field of a 12mm lens. Still, I LOVE this little Oly lens, it is incredible if you are invested in the Micro 4/3 format.

Ok one more! Why not? This time I resized both down to 1800 pixels wide so when you click on these you will NOT get the full size OOC JPEG but rather the downsized versions. It’s easy to see the more shallow depth of field in the Leica shot (2nd shot), and this the “Leica Look” with the Summilux rendering.

1st shot, Olympus E-P3

2nd shot, Leica M9-P

So that’s it! I posted this for fun, not for any kind of scientific reasons. If you look down below at the related posts you will probably see older crazy comparisons and they are always fun to check out :) It seems like both the M9-P AND Olympus E-P3 are pretty hot right now as they seem to be out of stock everywhere.

Site sponsors B&H Photo sell the Leica M9-P as does Dale Photo and Ken Hansen (email: [email protected]). Lensrentals.com rents the entire Leica lens line if anyone out there wanted to give the 24 Lux a try. Me, I’m happy with the M9 and a 50 these days. Gotta love the M9 and the 50 Lux ASPH. Magic!!!

As for the E-P3…I have been using it non stop and Olympus has a winner, no doubt. It’s the best PEN yet!

Aug 102011
 

Random Photographs from my month on tour with Seal that were never posted!

Let’s see. I’m a photographer and being away for a month on tour across Europe would mean that I most likely took LOADS of photos right? Well, yes and no. I did take quite a few photos but I tried to be selective most of the time :) I am not the type of shooter that machine guns it, especially when using a Leica M9. BUT there are a few photos from my month long journey that never made it to the blog so I decided to post a few that I liked here. This is a photography blog after all! The times I had during those 30 days are times I will never forget, and I am thrilled to have photos to remember it all :) Enjoy.

 

Aug 092011
 

The Fogg B-Laika Camera Bag Video Review

Hey ho, lets go! It is Tuesday and just realized I never posted the Fogg B-Laika bag review video I did yesterday nor did I let many of you know of the E-P3 video samples I posted in the review a couple days ago. So here they are! Oh, and my rocking’ intro music for the bag review is a one time thing, so don’t get too excited :) I know you will want to get up and dance so feel free. Lol.

The Fogg B-Laika Luxury Camera Bag – The best of the best (if that is your thing)

You can buy this bag at tamarkin.com

and I added this to the Olympus E-P3 review to show the video quality and the Jello effect in some of the shots. I did find out if you DISABLE Image Stabilization then the video does NOT have the Jello Effect. I have to say, I am still shooting the E-P3 with the 12mm and it is one hell of a combo. I will be posting a “Crazy Comparison” tomorrow between it and the M9 and 24 Summilux! Woohoo!

Aug 092011
 

ROCK ‘N ROLL SHOOTING WITH 80 MEGAPIXELS
by Bjarke Ahlstrand, Copenhagen, Denmark

I’m a television producer, doing documentaries, reportage and fiction during working hours, and in my spare time, I’m a happy Leica M9/Hasselblad H3D-39/CANON 5D MARK II shooter. I was quite fond of Canon’s 5D Mark II, especially since I also use it for “professional” purposes, video-wise, and some of the Zeiss glass is really nice. But all that changed with the introduction of a digital Hasselblad in my life last year. Suddenly colours; skin tones and grass looked “right”. And the sharpness and amount of detail of a medium format camera and 39 mega pixels is of course impressive. I find some of the same nuances with my Leica M9, which I totally love (except for the dust spots on the sensor and the utterly lousy service from Leica!) and I now consider it my main camera, also due to the portability and low light abilities.

Recently I met a really nice guy, Jacob, from PhaseOne, which is actually Danish based alongside Hasselblad. (Being a Dane it’s quite weird that the biggest still cameras in the world are manufactured here, but that’s another story…). Having just released the world’s BIGGEST resolution digital back with the new PhaseOne IQ180, 80 stunning megapixels with an amazingly-price-tag. I had seen the usual press/example photos, documenting the abilities of the camera (in sterile studio enviroments), I asked why they didn’t let me borrow the camera for a couple of days to see how it would perform. Since my M9 is currently at Solms for dust spot removal (second time in a row since they didn’t clean it at all the first time), the upcoming Roskilde Festival seemed like a good (dust) spot (haha) — and to my lucky surprise, they agreed. To let me take the most expensive camera in the world (the back alone is US 44.000$!) into a realm filled with drunken people,
dirt and rock ‘n roll. Brave them.

So armed with the IQ180 digital back, a PhaseOne 645DF camera and two stunningly sharp Schneider lenses, a 55 mm f/2.8 and 110 mm f/2.8 respectively, I entered the festival, I was armed and ready to shoot.

On my way to the car, I convinced my colleague, Ruth, to participate in a test-shoot.

Whauh. Nice first shot. And the details in those 80 mpix are amazing, I’ve never seen anything like it. And this is “raw” from the camera–I didn’t (re)touch it all.

The Roskilde Festival is the biggest musical festival in Northern Europe, and attracts some 100.000+ people, most from Denmark, Sweden, and Norway. And Zombie- land it seems.

ISO 200 · 55 MM · F/3.5 · 1/10 SEC

A zombie handheld at 1/10 sec with a heavy medium format camera, will never be sharp. And the thing about cameras–the most expensive they become, the worse they handle ISO, so shooting more than ISO200 on the most expensive digital camera in the world simply isn’t an option, even though, it technically can go up to ISO3200. But then the images “downscale” to “just” 20 mpix resolution (like a full frame 5D Mark II or Leica), but it looks very bad. So the zombie had to be a little blurry, but I’m sure he can live with that :-)

ISO 200 · 55 MM · F/3.5 · 0.7 SEC

Ooops, another unsharp image–but at least it tells a story. It’s something about a fire breathing musician warming up backstage before entering the stage, and a sign saying something a true photographer will never ever read. Shot from the hip, nobody noticed anything.

ISO100 · 110 MM · F/2.8 · 1/100 SEC

At concerts you won’t see many Steve Huff’s running around in the press pit with little Leicas. Nope, most likely you’ll see a bunch of Nikon and Canon carrying men with their 24-70 and 70 – 200 mm lenses shooting constantly at everything that moves. I’ve been there, but I wouldn’t go back. A prime lens forces you to think about what you shoot and how to frame it, and I personally find zoom lenses to be boring, even though they have a flexibility that primes don’t.

The band playing here is Norwegian black metallers 1349, and the monk-looking bass player took it all the way to the underworld of … bass lines.

ISO 100 · 110 MM · F/2.8 · 1/125

I converted this one to black and white in Nik Silver Efex, other than that it’s totally raw, and it looks amazing on print in high resolution.

ISO 100 · 110 MM · F/2.8 · 1/160

In the media section of the back stage the Canon and Nikon Professional Services teams were heavily represented and all the pro’s had the opportunity to borrow lenses etc. for free. But I was more interested in the guy from HP and his huge, I mean GIGANTIC printer. I didn’t get its model number (hey, it’s a printer, not a camera or a lens :-) but he made prints of the best of the Nikon concert shots. I convinced him, for testing purposes, to print one of my images so we could check out the details and sharpness. I chose the last image I took of 1349, backstage, after the concert.

I used a single Canon Speedlite and took only two shots before the band was off. Bang, there it is. That sharpness. Check out the drummer’s eye, the guy farthest to the right. The printer guy printed a huge print and was very impressed and claimed that we could have made wallpapers out of this easily.  All the Nikon shooters and representatives didn’t understand what camera took that shot, haha. Oh, the little things in life…-

ISO 100 · 55 MM · F/5.6 · 1/100 SEC + SPEEDLITE FLASH

 Here’s a crop of that same image.

Roskilde Festival is four days of music and people in an intense but friendly melting pot. So for the next couple of days, I just wandered around, drank some beers, shot some people, drank some more beers, shot some music, and … you get it.

Nice girl…

ISO50 · 55 MM · F/4.5 · 1/60 SEC

 

Guy with glasses next to graffitti with … glasses

ISO35 · 55 MM · F/7.1 · 1/60 SEC

 

She just blends in, that orange girl, with the emo-rocking-gothy looking people

ISO35 · 55 MM · F/5.6 · 1/80 SEC

Nice bokeh in front of the mohawk.

ISO100 · 110 MM · F/2.8 · 1/80 SEC

 –

They’re not faking it.

ISO35 · 110 MM · F/4 · 1/60 SEC

Perhaps this Indian Indian is faking it a little bit

ISO100 · 110 MM · F/3.5 · 1/200 SEC

12 year old finding it hard to believe that he should clean his room, when grown ups don’t.

ISO35 · 55 MM · F/5.6 · 1/125

There was sun, there was dirt, there was rain — and when you mix it, you get something else…

ISO35 · 55 MM · F/5.6 · 1/10 SEC

Here’s one of yours truely, the one on the left. It’s not everyday that I meet someone who has
my tattoo on a t-shirt, so I had to get my Nikon-shooting friend, Daniel, to immortalize this moment.

ISO35 · 55 MM · F/4 · 1/400 SEC

These are only very low resolution copies of the actual images, which are full size 10328 px x 7760 px = 80.1 megapixels. I promise you, if you look at this image in full resolution, you can see every detail, every tiny ink stroke on his tattoos, every hair, all the … Well, I’m glad I’m not shooting fashion or doing retouching, because the files coming out of the IQ180 are huge. Around 90 mb as raw files, and if you save them as 16 bit tiffs (you have to import them via the CaptureOne raw converter software for the best results), they turn out as 480 megabyte files… Heavy cameras demand heavy computers, and my iMac I5 with 8 gb ram came to its knees a few times.

Fortunately you shoot a lot less images with a “big” camera. Through out the 4 days and nights at Roskilde, I shot 610 images. That’s not much–since I was all over the place, eager to test the camera–and I know for a fact, that some of the professional concerts shooters easily end up with 700-1000 images … per concert!

ISO35 · 55 MM · F/4 · 1/125 SEC

My son, Hjalte, was with me one of the days, and he has an age (12), where he thinks it’s quite embarrassing when his old (young!) man stops strangers and ask to take their photo. But when we met my best friend, Michael, and his wife Klara, even he couldn’t refuse…

ISO35 · 55 MM · F/4 · 1/160 SEC

…and when he met his biggest idols, Danish supergroup “De Eneste To” backstage before their concert, he actually asked me to take a photo with them.

ISO35 · 55 MM · F/5 · 1/250 SEC

But then he got so exited that he dropped his iPhone and and smashed the glass/screen.Instead of being a good parent and helping him pick up the pieces, I shot this one, a split second before he burst into tears.

ISO35 · 110 MM · F/6.3 + SPEEDLITE

Oh my god, the sharpness in those little eyes, it’s simply amazing. Not that I enjoy seing my son unhappy, but testing a camera on something you know, really works for me. I don’t fancy shots of jewellery or fancy shining cars–give me a person and I’ll see if it handles skintones etc. the way I like it.

And even though I actually think that my 39 megapixels Hasselblad H3D does a better job with colors (those fantastic Fuji ones :-), the IQ180 beats everyone and everything when it comes to sharpness and the amount of details.

ISO35 · 110 MM · F/6.3 + SPEEDLITE

And the last concert shots of “De Eneste To”, here’s Peter Sommer

ISO100 · 1100 MM · F/2.8 · 1/125

And here’s Simon Kvamm

ISO100 · 110 MM · F/2.8 · 1/125 sec

And the two of them after I added grain and converted to black and white with Nik Silver Efex.

ISO200 · 110 MM · F/2.8 · 1/125 sec

Well, that concludes it on my behalf. Even though I’ll never be able to afford the PhaseOne kit (approx 76.000 US $ incl the two lenses !!! ) I took rock ‘n roll shooting with me to Roskilde Festival, it was a nice experience. It was quite easy to use and produced excellent images (as long as you don’t exceed ISO400 :-). The post was very heavy, but zooming 100% in on a nice shot, makes it worthwile.

Now I miss my little Leica. So you there in Solms: will you please get your fingers out of your … and clean (the sensor)!

Aug 072011
 

Chaiten; a town digging itself out of the ash.

On May 2nd of 2008, after 9000 plus years, a volcano erupted near the town of Chaiten in Patagonia, Chile. The more than 4000 people who made their lives in this  small town had their lives changed dramatically. The Chilean government temporarily evacuated all the people to other various towns as far away as 200 miles.

A few weeks after the eruption, during heavy rains, the Rio Chaiten which was plugged up with debris and ash, suddenly produced a enormous Lahar (ash/mud slide) flooding 2/3 of the town and swept away many of its houses.

The Chilean Government declared that “the town of Chaiten is destroyed and uninhabitable “. The people of Chaiten were not allowed to return to their homes,  but rather only take a few of their belongings.  They could no longer live in their homes because they were deemed unsafe.

The plan was to build a new Chaiten, north of the old town, protected from the volcano by the mountains. Fifty or so citizens, however, refused to leave their houses and businesses that they had worked for their whole lives. Instead, they persevered;

They dug out their houses, cleaned off their inventory, put in small generators and put water tanks on their roofs that they filled with water from a nearby creek (unaffected by the volcano) and tried to stay open for business.

For two long years following the eruption, these people were left to their own devices of trying to rebuild their lives. They felt that the government had forgotten about them and their town as well as the 4000 other people of Chaiten-now living in various other towns in Patagonia.

Then, finally, as it only can happen in South America, in January of 2011 the Chilean government decided to restore the old town and not to build a new town. New electricity lines were put in and water supply was restored to the houses. Slowly but surely the former citizen of Chaiten are starting to return and things are finally looking up for the town of Chaiten and its people.

Below are a few of the photos I took of Chaiten during the last few years.

Aug 042011
 

The Olympus E-P3 and 12mm f/2 lens Review

By Steve Huff

I can not believe I am sitting here writing a review for the new Olympus E-P3. Why? Well, it seems like just a few days go that I was writing about the E-P1 and then the E-P2, man…how time flies by!

Here we are with an E-P3 already and this time Olympus seems to have a semi-winner (more on that statement later). The camera has gone through some cosmetic changes, has gotten some speed enhancements, a couple of new “pro” style lenses, a touch screen OLED display, a built in flash, and a few other new things like high ISO capability and added Art filter effects. Olympus calls the sensor “new” but the image quality is just about exactly the same as the E-P1 and E-P2, so not so sure what the new sensor has added besides speed and higher ISO.

NOTE: ALL images in the review are OUT OF CAMERA JPEGS. NO RAW files were used because at the time of this writing there was no way to convert the RAW’s using Photoshop or Lightroom (what I use).

CLICK ON IMAGES TO SEE THEM HOW THEY ARE SUPPOSED TO BE SEEN!

Chicago 2011 – E-P3, 12mm, f/2

Some argue it has better Dynamic Range but honestly, I have not seen anything different while shooting. Others say it has better color. I beg to differ. In fact, I think it has the same color as the E-P2 and E-P1, both of which had that “Olympus” color style. The E-P3 is no different.

As most of you may know, I was and still am a huge fan of the E-P2 and my one and only wish for an E-P3 was for a built in EVF. Something like the one in the Fuji X100 would have been sweet, but it appears Olympus has decided they want to still sell the external EVF which makes the camera all huge and much less portable. Hell, I have been wishing for a built in EVF since the E-P1! I feel that something like a nice and solid metal built E PEN series camera with a built in EVF would be a camera to contend with. Also, a swivel LCD like they have put in the new E-Pl3 camera that is coming out soon. THIS, to me, would have made me sell all of my cameras (besides  the M9-P) and just keep the PEN as my take anywhere compact.

STATEMENT: All images in this review were shot as in camera JPEGS. No RAW images were used because at the time of this writing, lightroom or photoshop could not read the E-P3 RAW files.

The E-P3 with the 12mm lens. Shot my son Brandon on an Airplane as we travelled to Chicago. 

E-P3. NEW SENSOR OR SAME SENSOR?

I have been shooting with the E-P3 and new 12mm f/2 lens for a while now and can say with 100% confidence that this is the best PEN camera and best Micro 4/3 lens to date. It is indeed an improvement to the E-P2 in many ways but it seemed at first that they were using the same old 12MP sensor (with new tropic 6 processing) that they used in the E-P1 and E-P2. It seems some websites are saying the sensor is new, and others are saying it is the same. I finally saw this from Olympus:

“The Olympus PEN E-P3 uses a variety of features to achieve speed rivaling that of the professional Olympus E-5 DSLR. Focus and shoot faster with the camera’s new 12.3-megapixel Live MOS Image Sensor, TruePic VI Image Processor and new FAST AF Tracking System. The Olympus PEN E-P3 offers 35 separate focus points spread over nearly the entire sensor, enabling the camera to pin-point focus accuracy on small subjects wherever they appear in the frame. Selectable 3×3 groups within the 35-point area are especially effective when shooting active subjects. The camera’s fast shutter response time ensures that you will never miss the shot, even in the toughest shooting environments.”

So this appears to be a new sensor this time around but the IQ seems about the same as the previous PEN cameras which means that you will still get better image quality from the APS-C and full frame sensor cameras.

“Thats Hot” – This is the comment I get the most when I take out this set…

I’m getting great quality though but in my opinion, what is bringing the IQ of the PEN series up is this new 12mm lens BUT as I just stated, the overall IQ of the E-P3 is NOT up there with APS-C sized sensor cameras, though it is the best IQ I have seen in an Oly PEN camera. As for the new 12mm,  I have not done any scientific testing (I never do) but from the real world photos I have seen so far, it is sharp corner to corner, has great color and contrast, and has much better build and feel than any previous M4/3 lens. The silver looks stunning on the camera and the manual focus is smooth as butter (though still fly by wire). Even though it is expensive and IMO, $200 more than it should be, this new lens is a reason to buy the E-P3, it is indeed pretty slick.

I STILL LOOOVVVEE the built in Grainy Black & White art filter! This gives you a great almost film like B&W right out of camera. This was shot with the 12mm wide open at f/2 – click image for larger view!

The bottom line after my research shows that this IS indeed a new Live MOS sensor. As stated though, I am not sure what the new sensor brings to the table besides the speed and ISO enhancements. It is still 12MP and still giving us about the same image quality. The upgrades of the E-P3 are in its speed, startup time, OLED touch screen display, on board flash, new grip, art filter additions, etc.

More from Olympus…

Outstanding New Features:

  • 12.3 MP Live MOS Sensor – Utilizing new Fine Detail Processing Technology for greater detail in the photograph, the sensor is optimized to maximize the performance of all M. Zuiko digital lenses in all shooting conditions;
  • TruePic VI Image Processor – This new image engine, designed specifically for the Olympus PEN, features Real Color Technology for improved color reproduction and faster speeds;
  • FAST AF – To meet the demand for focusing speed, Olympus has introduced the new FAST AF Tracking System. The FAST AF Tracking System features 35 focus points as well as new Tracking AF to ensure fast & accurate focus each and every time;
  • Low Light Performance – AF Illuminator / Built In Flash / ISO to 12,800;
  • Fast Shutter Response – Never miss a shot again with fast shutter response time of less than 60 milliseconds;
  • Full HD Movie – Shoot up to 29 minutes of full 1080i HD video in either AVCHD or AVI formats; and
  • 3-inch 614,000 pixel OLED Touch screen – Bright high-resolution screen features a newly-designed touch interface that provides an innovative touch display solution.

THE WORLDS FASTEST AUTO FOCUS!?!? This is what Olympus claims!

The auto focus is indeed blazing fast with the new 12mm f/2 lens and is some of the fastest AF I have seen in any camera PERIOD! Remember the slow AF of the E-P1 and E-P2? Well, no more! The AF on the E-P3 is almost instant (when using the 12mm) and now passes the Panasonic equivalents. From what I understand though this is all lens dependent. The new lenses like the 12mm and 45 1.8 will focus fast on the E-P3 but slower on the E-P1 and E-P2. The older lenses will have some improvement on the E-P3 but they won’t be blazing like the new lenses.

The blazing AF at work…f/4 with the 12mm and E-P3 – The AF is almost instantaneous.

So to get the most out of the super fast AF, you will need the newest lenses with the E-P3. The new kit zoom also focuses fast, and is smaller (and cheaper feeling) than the previous versions. Olympus claims this 35 point AF system is the fastest in the world and the E-P3 shares the same AF speed as their flagship 4/3 DSLR, the E-5. In good light, the AF is wicked fast. As the light gets lower the AF slows down a bit but I have NO complaints at all with the AF. It is FAST and accurate. I have not had one shot out of focus with the E-P3!

You can set the camera to use all 35 AF points or you can do what I do and use the center point only. I ALWAYS use the center point because when I use multiple focus points what I want in focus is never in focus as the camera chooses something else to focus on.

E-P3, 12mm, f/4

12mm at f/2 indoor mid-day

 

The Olympus PEN Matures

They say the 3rd time is the charm and I have no doubt the next “pro” PEN will be even better than this one but it seems to me that the system as a whole is maturing. We finally have a sleek sexy body with fast AF, we are finally getting some amazing lenses like the SUPERB 12mm f/2, the $399 45 1.8 and the Panasonic/Leica 25 Summilux 1.4. Even the Olympus 14-150 is a great lens.

Panasonic recently released the new micro 4/3 G3 which I played around with a bit but was totally un-interested in due to the cheap feel and body style. In fact, I preferred the G2 to the GH2 and G3. It seems to me that Panasonic is going backwards after the superb GF1 and G2, but that is just my opinion. Olympus seems to be heading forward, at least with the E-P3.

Again, the grainy B&W mode gives us greg B&W tones direct from camera. I do not mind the grain. Perfection is over rated :)

The PEN series are all MICRO 4/3 cameras!

For those who found this review on google while searching for Olympus E-P3 info, the E-P3 is a micro 4/3 camera, which means the sensor size is a 4/3 sensor. This is the standard for these cameras and there are always limitations with the smaller than APS-C or full frame sensor. Usually these 4/3 cameras lack in Dynamic Range and high ISO shooting but they make up for it with small size, small lenses, and great quality. There is also a huge fun factor involved with the PEN series and I find it much more fun to shoot than the Sony NEX-5, Ricoh GXR, and yes, even the Fuji X100. The E-P3 is also getting much closer to the quality of APS-C sensors with what appears to be improved DR and high ISO noise performance. I guess the “tweaked” sensor paid off somewhat!

The other reason the E-P3 is so much fun is because when you hold it, there is a feeling of quality and with the 12mm lens it is a beautiful looking combo. The speed of the camera and lens also lends itself well to street shooting, wether using AF or the Manual Focus snap feature. THIS COMBO is better than any other combo in the M4/3 arena, if you can deal with a wide 24m equivalent lens.

Here is my 1st look video that I recently posted that shows the camera and lens in more detail.

Quality of the E-P3 with 12mm Lens, it is SUPERB!

FULL SIZE OUT OF CAMERA JPEG – 12mm f/2 – click image for the full size JPEG

At the park… – 12mm, wide open! The White Balance and color is great, OOC JPEG!

f/2.2

Up close you do get some slight barrel distortion but remember that this is a really wide angle lens! The character of the lens is sharp, medium contrast, and with gorgeous color. The shot below is another in B&W mode but shows the distortion you can expect when shooting up close.

 –

The 12mm at f/4

and this time at f/5.6…

The expensive $799 12mm lens Olympus has released is a beautiful lens, and actually pushes the limits of the E-P3 sensor. The build is nice but it is not Leica like. It is more Zeiss ZM like but much nicer in build and looks than ANY other Micro 4/3 lens to date. The silver color and all metal build is striking on the camera and while reviewing this camera and lens combo, I was approached a few times by people asking me what this cool camera was I was carrying. It is after all a VERY lovely looking piece of kit.

As for you guys, the questions I have been getting in my e-mail inbox is “Is this a good buy for $799?”, “Is the lens worth the high cost?”, and “how is the quality of this lens?”

The answer to these questions is simple. The price of $799, I feel, is a bit much. I think if Olympus released this at $599 it would be been a home run MUST BUY hit. At $799 it is a but much BUT, it is IMO the best lens made for Micro 4/3 to date. It has super fast focus for still AND silent fast focus for video. It’s build is solid and metal but the lens is still light, the manual focus feature where you snap the focus ring back for manual and to the front for full AF is genius. It seems like a wonderful street lens…leagues better than the kit zoom or 17mm. BUT for much less you can buy the wonderful Panasonic 14mm (my review of that lens on the E-P2 is HERE).

There is no question that this lens is a great quality piece of glass, BUT again…for $329 you can buy the Panasonic 14mm (28mm equivalent) and it is also a fantastic lens. Not as slick looking, not as fast of AF, not as wide (4mm equiv difference) and not as nicely built but it is $329 vs $799. Still, if money is not of a concern I would buy the Olympus 12mm lens if you are buying the E-P3. Me, personally, I would choose the 12mm just for that extra 4mm AND the snap focus feature that turns it from an Auto Focus to Manual Focus lens in an instant but I enjoy QUALITY camera gear as this is my #1 hobby AND my job. Nice gear inspires me  to shoot it. This lens is no different. Quality wise, I have ZERO complaints with this 12mm lens. If you have the funds and want the coolest lens for your E-P camera and want a wide angle 24mm equivalent, then GO FOR IT! B&H seems to have it in sock most of the time HERE. Remember, every single image in this review was shot with the 12mm and E-P3.

My Mother who has more energy than me hoola hooping in the street…

Up close to some fresh baked Banana Bread :)

Shot at f/2, colors right of the camera

Wide open once again but up close – This lens can focus down to 0.2 meters!

High ISO Performance

One (slight) improvement of the E-P3 is that Olympus now gives us the opportunity to crank up to ISO 12,800 like the big gun SLR’s. Yes, 12,800! BUT… usually these cameras are not usable at these crazy high ISO’s (and the E-P3 is no different). The only camera I ever seen with truly incredible high ISO performance is the super pro Nikon D3s. With that said, the E-P3 does seem to do a little better at higher ISO… better than I see from the E-P2. It appears that in the JPEGS the camera does some aggressive Noise Reduction and many times the images are soft and somewhat smudgy. The lower the light of course, the more smudgy the results. But isn’t this the time when we want to use HIGH ISO the most?

Below are a few samples at higher ISO…make sure you click an image for a much larger view…

ISO 1600 – Panasonic 20 1.7 at 1.7 – Candle Light was the only light source – Converted from RAW

ISO 1250 – f/2 – click for larger

ISO 1600 – f/2 – click for larger and to see 100% crop

ISO 6400 – f/2 – click for larger

ISO 1600, f/2

TURN OFF THE IN CAMERA NOISE REDUCTION FOR MORE DETAIL IN YOUR HIGH ISO SHOTS!

ISO 3200 with NR turned OFF. Click images for larger view.

Below: ISO 12,800 – No noise reduction!

Overall I see an improvement over the E-P2, and just to have a somewhat usable ISO 6400 mode on the PEN is an achievment in itself. Not sure how much Olympus can further push the envelope with the Micro 4/3 sensor format but this is about as good as I have seen it. Bravo!

The E-P3 and 1080 HD Video. Is it better than the E-P2?

The video of the E-P2 was good. 720P HD quality was good enough for me but the new E-P3 raises the game with 1080 HD video recording. The only problem is that the video now has the JELLO effect if you shake the camera even a little bit. I mean, if you move the camera too much when recording video the effect is pronounced. I will upload a video here in the next day or two to show you this effect. If you plan on shooting video, I would recommend using a tripod or keep it REALLY steady when handheld or else you will get the odd effects that most DSLRS give you.

Other than that the video quality is really superb. Check out the clip below, and check out the lower light stuff where I shot some stuff at the Aquarium in Chicago.

UPDATE! If you turn off the in camera I.S. the Jello effect pretty much goes away. Here is another video of samples, including a low light sample.


The famous Olympus “ART FILTERS”!

The E-P1 had the 1st Art Filters from Olympus. The E-P2 expanded on these and now the E-P3 expands on them even more! We now have a slew of them with some old favorites and new twists on the old favorites.

The included filters are: Pop Art, Soft Focus, Pale and Light Color, Light Tone, Grainy Film, Pin Hole, Diorama, Gentle Sepia, Cross Process, Dramatic Tone.

My favorite is still the grainy B&W and that is really the only filter I use with the PEN. I occasionally will use the Cross Process or Dramatic Tone but for me, the Grainy B&W is THE Art Filter to use! Here are a few shots using some of the filters..

DIORAMA

POP ART with Pinhole effect added

PINHOLE

One with the kit zoom…

STREET shooting with the E-P3 and 12mm f/2 lens. 

I took the E-P3 and 12mm with me for my 24 hour Las Vegas trip where I was reviewing the new Sony NEX-C3 but I have to admit, I had MUCH more fun with the E-P3 and 12mm. The E-P3 is a joy to use, hold and shoot. The AF is lightning fast and when walking the streets it is so fast you can just raise and shoot. I tested it out in combination with the B&W Art Filter which makes for a nice gritty rendering. I feel the 12mm makes for a GREAT street lens though it can be a bit wide, making you get up close and personal with your subject. I would rather shoot the E-P3 for this kind of shooting over just about any other small format camera. Yes, over the NEX, the Panasonic GF series, etc. I can’t stress enough how awesome the 12mm f.2 lens is. Expensive but for me, well worth it. I kept my review samples of the E-P3 and 12mm, and yes I paid full price. That right there says it all.

Also, the manual snap feature of the 12mm is AMAZING! I had the camera set at 4 feet for some shots and the camera was REALLY instantaneous as it didn’t even have to AF. If I wanted my 4 foot pre-set distance I would just pull the focus ring back. If i wanted my AF back I would push it back forward. This is a genius implementation and what makes the 12mm lens worth owning.

Some samples, click for larger. All shot at night and all should be wide open at f/2

A quick comparison of the 12mm f/2 vs the Sony NEX-C3 and 16mm – Both 24mm Equivilant lenses

I had a Sony NEX C3 here for a few days and did a quick comparison snapshot with it and the 16mm kit lens, which is also a 24mm equivalent. Many were telling me that the C3 had better corner performance, even with the kit lenses and from what i found after taking about 30 comparison shots is that it does NOT have any improvement over the NEX-3 or 5 in regards to corner sharpness with the kit lenses. Below are two shots. One taken with the NEX-C3 and 16mm at 2.8 and the other with the E-P3 and 12mm at 2.8. The NEX C3 and 16 has the soft blurred corners that we saw with the NEX 3 and 5 and this lens. The E-P3 is share corner to corner.

and a 100% crop – YOU MUST click the image for the larger size and full 100% crop view

My eyes are telling me that the Olympus is kicking the pants off of the NEX in this test, but it should! The E-P3 and 12mm combo is $1700. The NEX-C3 is $599, and the Sony 16mm is known for being soft. I just wanted to show this so people do not thing the NEX C3 is giving better corner performance with the kit lenses. Still soft as ever. If you stop down the 16,, to 5.6 it sharpens up nicely but at 2.8 it is soft.

The E-P3 vs all the others…and the bottom line conclusion.

I KNOW I will get asked “Which one should I buy”?, or “Is the E-P3 worth the upgrade from an E-P2”? Well, in comparison to the Fuji X100 or Ricoh GXR system with 28mm 2.5 module, the E-P3 with 12mm lens is more expensive than either. The Fuji comes in at $1199 while you can snag the beautiful Ricoh & 28 for $950 or so. The E-P3 with the 12mm lens is coming in at $899 plus $799 for a total of $1600. Quite pricey for a micro 4/3 camera system. Maybe this is why I felt that the Panasonic G3 seemed “cheap”…(because it is priced much lower).

The E-P3 is a camera like no other though. When I shoot with any PEN camera I have FUN. The camera inspires me to take it with me at all times. Its small, sleek, thin and light. The out of camera JPEGS are very good and many times I shoot it just with the B&W art filter as I really love the look it gives. But the big question is IMAGE QUALITY! How does the E-P3 compare to the other cameras? Well, in all reality it is up there and close but you will still get better overall image quality from the X100, X1, and Ricoh GXR. You will get a bit better Dynamic Range from the larger sensors as well but I can say that with all of the new enhancements in the E-P3, this is the best micro 4/3 camera to date…IN MY OPINION. The Dynamic Range of the E-P3 is the best of the Micro 4/3 cameras I have seen to date, in real world use, not charts.

The high ISO capability is indeed better, the camera is MUCH MUCH faster, the new OLED display is gorgeous (though can have a green tint when looked at on an angle), and I think that the new 12mm lens is the best M4/3 lens to date. If you are invested in the Micro 4/3 system then this camera is a worthy upgrade to all of the PEN cameras that came before it. This IS the PEN Flagship (at the time of this writing) so if you have an E-P1 it is 100% worth the upgrade. If you have an E-P2 you have to ask yourself if all of the new features and speed is worth the upgrade cost. I think it is.  The new flash, the touch screen (which is actually pretty damn cool), the new dual core processor for speed, the new true pic 6 engine that allows for better processing and higher ISO use, and the new Olympus made sensor that while is still 12MP, does offer some improvements, again in ISO, Dynamic Range and color.

I have not yet been able to process any RAW files so it is tough to see if the DR is enhanced much over the E-P2 (I could easily tell with a RAW file). The bottom line is that the new E-P3 and 12mm lens is as good as it gets in the Micro 4/3 world for taking photos in every area. Body style, build, and output. Period!

Out of camera JPEG/Color!

UPDATE AFTER SHOOTING MORE WITH THE E-P3, AND buying my review sample!

So I have now had the E-P3 for a while and have been shooting with it EVERY DAY. Yes, even my Leica M9P has been sitting lonely on the shelf and today as I drove around with E-P3 in hand I asked myself what the heck I was doing? I have this work of art camera at home, the camera I adore and love, but I had been bringing out the E-P3 and 12mm with me every where instead! As I pondered the question I knew the answer but did not want to admit it or say it aloud. I mean, I am preferring taking out the little half frame E-P3 over m gorgeous and new $8,000 M9-P and the worlds best 50, the Leica 5o Summilux? Well, for the past 3 weeks I have indeed been enjoying the E-P3 more and I will tell you why.

  1. It’s SO small and light, even more so than the M9.
  2. It’s so quick and easy. I can raise the camera at any time and it focuses and fires almost instantly.
  3. The IQ is not up to the M9 league, no way…BUT it is VERY good and for my “snapshots” and family stuff it is more than enough.
  4. I can shoot JPEG and get superb quality! No messing with RAW files.
  5. It’s 12 MP, so the files are fast and easy to work with.
  6. The 12mm is one damn fine lens all the way around. After using it more and more I find it is worth the asking price. Not one regret in buying it. (though my wallet says otherwise)
  7. The out of camera color, in the right lighting is stellar. Auto white balance is the best Ive seen in any M4/3 cam as is exposure. Wow.
  8. MOVIES! I have been shooting more personal video lately and may actually do a whole project/mini documentary with the E-P3, 12mm, 25 1.4, and 45 1.8.
  9. The cool factor is also there in its look, feel…this IS the best Micro 4/3 camera to date IN MY OPINION!
Now, with all of that out of the way let me state that my M9P is still my favorite camera of all time. When I pick it up and shoot it always delivers super rich and deep files. BUT for my daily snaps, it is not needed so I am finding having a 2nd camera like the E-P3 is a perfect addition to my stable. So much so, I let go of my NEX-5 and my Ricoh GXR. I do have a feeling the new Sony NEX-7 will get me but for now I am having a love affair with my E-P3 and 12mm and looking forward to the 45 1.8 and 25 1.4. The camera is not perfect, it doesn’t do low light as good as the bigger sensors but for what it is, with it’s size, speed, features, quality and style..it is simply a super recommended camera. If you bought one you would not be sorry and if you were, that is what return policies are for :)

WHERE TO BUY?

If you want to buy one, B&H sells them in Black, white and silver. They also sell the 12MM lens. If you get one, let me know how you like it!

PROS AND CONS OF THE E-P3 AND THE 12MM F/2 LENS

PROS:

  • Loaded with new features over the E-P2!
  • SUPER fast AF, finally! 35 point AF is a screamer! (with newest lenses)
  • New built in flash
  • New OLED Touch Screen Display
  • New Dual Core Processor
  • New Sensor
  • Better HIGH ISO performance
  • Still the same great E-P build and style
  • Added video record button
  • Added 1080 HD Recording
  • Mode dial now on the right with other controls
  • Olympus finally releasing “pro” lenses
  • New 12mm is best M4/3 lens to date in fit, finish, and performance
  • New menu system is clean and easy to navigate
  • Seems like it has better Dynamic Range
CONS:
  • Expensive with the 12mm lens, but not so bad with the kit zoom at $899.
  • No built in EVF included. Again.
  • No tilt/swivel LCD..again.
  • High ISO can get a but smudgy but color stays good, turn off noise reduction for best results.
  • Battery lasts for about 300 shots due to new focus system eating up the battery life.
  • Jello effect in video is pretty pronounced this time around but if you turn off IS it goes away.
  • Even with the new Dual Core processor, it is still choppy when recording video using some art filters (like B&W)
E-P3 and Zeiss ZM Sonnar at 1.5 (with an adapter)
E-P3 and SLR Magic 12mm 1.6 at 1.6

 –

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Aug 022011
 

The Road to Somewhere Else by Donald Barnat

“I think it pisses God off when you walk by the color purple in a field and don’t notice it.” – ‘Shug’ Avery in The Color Purple by Alice Walker

I-15, the highway to and from Las Vegas, is traveled by an endless caravan of Southern Californians every year, alternately speeding and crawling their way to Sin City to pass the hours into weekends throwing money away in smoky casinos. With the disposable income gone and the pool parties over, the line of cars moving back through the desert to Los Angeles is most impressive in the sheer single-minded execution of its purpose. Eyes fixed (we can only hope) on the road ahead, it’s pretty clear that everyone just wants to get home.

The setting of this perpetual movement of cars and people is what calls to mind The Color Purple thought quoted above. More on that setting in a second.

But first, does God really get pissed off when we pass by the color purple without noticing? For an athe-nostic like me, the question would go more like this: if nature has created something spectacular to behold, what does it say about us if we routinely pass by it all with our eyes squarely focused on the road ahead, our perspectives blinkered by our desire to simply get someplace else?

Whether it’s an angry God watching down on us or the collective guilt of too few of us, given the sheer magnitude of both the transgression and the number of souls involved, the 270-mile drive between Las Vegas and Los Angeles — through the Cajon pass and over the Mojave Desert — would surely amount to something of a worst-case-scenario for someone as thoughtful about such things as the fictional Suge Avery.

The vast empty expanse of the high desert alone has a visual silence that borders on the metaphysical. One turn of the head and the eye takes in endless vistas completely absent the presence of humans. Appropriately miniscule in scale, the only people to be found are contained in the narrow band of highway snaking through the midst of a truly timeless landscape.

Drivers blow through the desert as fast as they can. Except for a few small towns, there’s only a smattering of rest areas along the way and the occasional supersized gas stations. With nothing really for hundreds of miles but great scenery, it would be difficult for anyone inclined to deviate from the beeline of automobiles to actually do so.

We take the drive ourselves just about every year, always in the winter or late spring. There’s usually weather off in the distance and sometimes we run right into it. We stop occasionally at one of the rest areas for 10 minutes or so, in a hurry, like everyone else. There’s a wind that seems to live at those huge gas stations that can’t in good conscience be called a breeze and, while the cold smack of it after two hours on the road is exhilarating, it always feels really good to get back in the car.

There were the familiar clouds, rain, even thunder, and snow on the ground in the mountain passes, but this time driving through the higher altitudes there was the disorienting sight of even more ominous looking clouds lying in the valleys far below the highway. There was sunshine, maybe mostly sunshine and, of course, the wind. Not surprisingly the air smells like desert and I guess to recall the old vent windows in cars from my childhood, I like to open my driver’s side glass just a crack to hear the whistle of the wind as I drive.

Maybe it’s too much of the things we did back in the seventies, but my imagination plays in the flat desert and hills there in the wide panorama shot. I’d like to hire a helicopter and tell the pilot to set down in the hills underneath the clouds in the left part of the image, get out, take pictures for a while, breathing in the desert, then point to a sun-drenched valley in the distance and say, “Okay, let’s go over there.”

I’m not a natural scenery shooter and I think the snapshots presented here will attest to that. I hesitate to add that the Leica M system of cameras is said not to be well-suited for landscape photography. The hesitation is because the M7 was more than adequate given my capabilities.

I hope these shots from the California high desert find you in a place and time where you can take notice of its incredible beauty. With most of the country sweltering in a mid-July heat wave it would be wonderful if this article even briefly transports some of you to the brisk springtime captured in the photographs here. If you try, you just might hear the wind whistling at my car window and imagine for a moment the cold desert air in your face.

Remember, God may be watching. Personally, I don’t think so, but I’ve been wrong before and these shots and this piece amount to my own personal penance just in case.

All the images taken with a Leica M7, Voightlander Nokton 40mm 1.4, and Kodak Portra 160 VC.

Aug 012011
 
How to Save a “Throwaway Shot”
 
By Ashwin Rao
 
Hello, my fellow Huffites, it’s Ashwin again, coming fresh off the excitement-packed Seattle 2011 Photo Workshop. Steve, Roger Paperno, Charles Peterson, Tim Isaac & his wife Lily, and myself entertained and photographed with over 20 very talented photographers from both near and wide. It was a great experience, filled with good times, new friends, and lessons learned.
Speaking of lessins, I have slowly been learning a few lessons myself, along the way to trying to get the most out of my photos. One challenge that I have given myself is to periodically revisit old photo shoots, ones that I may not have though successful, and try to coax more out of the images….maybe by revisiting old images, I could find new inspiration and rediscover a diamond in the rough. I hope to tell you my story of just such a “diamond-in-the-rough” photograph in the coming words and images.
In the summer of 2010, I visited nearby Mount Rainier with out-of town friends. The day, while nice enough, wasn’t spectacular. In fact, typical of “moody” Northwest weather, the forecast that day ended up presenting “mostly cloudy”, with a few sunbreaks. While this made for a nice stroll around the Paradise Visitor’s area around Mount Rainier, it seemed to make for poor photo-making circumstances. Yet, I prevailed and took a a few photos with my Leica M9 and APO-Summicron 90 mm f/2 Asph lens as I wandered around a few trails with friends.  I brought the lens in hopes of compressing landscapes and relating the scale of the surroundings to the giant mountain off in the distance. For the most part, my photographic muse was uninspired. Rainier was shrouded by or covered completely by clouds for large chunks of the hike, but in moments, during those rare sunbreaks, the giant mountain would peak out and tempt us. So away, I snapped, hoping for the best.
On returning home,  I quickly downloaded the images, and here’s a sample of what I got….an image that I’d consider thoroughly uninspiring….
As you can see, the image was fraught by poor composition, dust on the sensor, and a lack of clear cohesive direction. Being an eternal optimist, I did my best to tweak the image. I did a bit of liberal cropping to re-center the image and get ride of some dust, and thought I had done a reasonable job of capturing a somewhat bland summer mountain moment. I have plenty of these in my home photo collection, half-finished images that simply don’t seem worth much more effort:
To me, the image continued to seem underexposed in the foreground, and generally dull. I tried to tweak things a bit more by increasing the “green” luminance channel in Adobe Lightroom to bring out the trees (as well as some more dust on my sensor, which came about as a result of my processing)…What I got reminded me of some of the garish HDR images that I stumble across, but at least I gave it a reasonable effort and improved the overall exposure.
I moved on and looked at other shots, but ultimately put the photos away for nearly a year. For some reason, maybe due to the crummy weather that occupied Seattle through much of the spring, I decided to go back to those images from a year ago, and give the image another try….
This time, The approach that I took was to say, for a change, let me try to bring out my “inner Ansel Adams”….Every once in a while I find it fun to mock up images in the style of a famous photographer, and in this case, I decided (with the best humor possible) to put on the hat of the famous Ansel Adams, known across the photographic world for his wondrous black and while work.
To all of you who believe that a photograph should be taken and left as is, please read up on Ansel’s techniques. Adams used extensive photo processing to achieve the look that he desired. He did a ton of dodging and burning, to bring out the intended highlights and sink the intended shadows to create some of history’s most compelling images. Today, in the world of digital imagery and wizardry, processing becomes much easier, and I was able to simply refer back to my Lightroom library and do a quick Black and White conversion. Stepping back to the last edited image in my series, here’s what happened, after a bit of dust removal and contrast adjustment:
To me, suddenly the image in front of me, left for dead a year ago, came to life. I suddenly saw Mt. Rainier as a looming giant in the mist, with the foreground telling its own story….so I I decided to tweak further, pushing the highlights and shadows a bit more to see what would happen….
What I found was that the mountain was becoming even more mysterious…What had originally been intended as a snapshot of Rainier, dashed by the poor weather, was becoming a moody shot, and a “keeper” to my eyes….
So after a bunch more tweaking, that involved adjusting shadows, doing a bit of selective dodging and burning, and performing a series of little tweaks that involved emphasizing the cloud and fog that I saw in this modified image, all in Lightroom, here’s the final result:
So what do you think? I personally feel that I saved an image….a throwaway image at that….Sure, I manipulated the image extensively. Some might argue that what I performed took the image from the realm of photography to something more like graphic art. To me, the image is still a photograph, albeit one that’s extensively interpreted for effect. But again, I feel that this last image is a “keeper”….
I’d be curious what the traditionalists and digital manipulators among you think. After all, this series of images provides a flow from “Before” to “After”, and you can see how what the end-result of the image represents is a far distance from the reality of the day.
Yet, this is now how I “see” Mt. Rainier, as a mysterious giant, hiding in the Northwest’s dense fog, occasionally peaking out, tempting us. Tempting us in its beautiy, challenging us towards becoming better photographers, and to me, better photographic editors….
Until next time, your thoughts and comments are warmly invited….

Jul 282011
 

UPDATE!!!

SLR MAGIC CONTEST EXTENDED, NEW GRAND PRIZE OFFERED! Now THREE Prizes!

WOOHOO! As I posted over a week ago, I am giving away a SLR Magic 28 2.8 Manual lens for the NEX E-Mount cameras (NEX-5, 3, C3, etc) and the contest is underway with some fantastic submissions already sent in to me. (see details below).

SLR Magic/NOKTOR donated the 28 2.8 lens for a giveaway and they wanted to sweeten the pot a bit so they sent me another super cool prize to GIVE AWAY for this contest and it is their top of the line E-Mount offering, the Noktor 50 f/0.95 Hyper Prime for E-Mount. I already announced that Noktor is releasing a 50 0.95 for Leica mount, which will be an ALL NEW Lens design but this one for the E mount is similar to the Micro 4/3 version. I did a few test snaps around my house with the lens and it looks pretty good so far. I did NOT get to take it out anywhere so I have no idea of the quality but I am going to do my best to review it before shipping it to the winner :) It would also be cool if the winner wrote up an article with some images shot with the lens…hmmmmm.

The lens is new, in box. It has the end cap and screw on metal lens cap. The lens is all metal, solid and heavy and seems to perform a bit better on the NEX than M4/3, probably due to the larger sensor. THANK YOU Noktor for donating this lens for the contest! Free stuff for the readers here is always VERY cool!

Here are a couple of quick samples shot with this lens around my house, at 0.95 on the NEX-5. I have NOT been able to take this lens out anywhere yet so silly house snaps is all I have!

 

2nd place prize, win an SLR Magic 28 2.8 E Mount lens! E

It’s contest time! This one is for all of you NEX camera owners. In addition to the 50 f/0.95 E-Mount Noktor, SLR Magic has also donated their newest creation for me to give away here on the site, the 28 2.8 manual focus lens. They sell this lens on their E-Bay page for $190 and it is a metal lens, well made, manual aperture and focus and gives a unique rendering. They also sell it with a cool MACRO adapter that works amazingly well (just got mine this morning)!

The lens is slightly soft in the corners, sharper in the middle. This is not such a good lens for landscape but can be a good choice for people, especially black & white. With the new focus peaking feature of the NEX, this lens is now much easier to use and shoot with. My review is coming soon but for now I decided to give away the lens t0 one lucky winner. My 1st look can be seen here.

To wet your appetite here are some shots from the lens on the NEX-5..

I believe this was shot in beautiful Tallinn, Estonia a few weeks ago. Click image for larger view. Wide open at 2.8.

In beautiful Amsterdam, 2.8

HOW TO ENTER & WIN!!!

It’s simple! Starting today, NOW…you have until August 26th to gather and submit to me your BEST image taken with any NEX camera. I will choose the top 10 and post them on the site and YOU will vote for the winner in a poll.

The top pick will win the NOKTOR HYPERPRIME f/0.95 LENS, the 2nd prize will win the 28 2.8 lens, and the 3rd place winner will also win a nice prize, a Think Tank Retrospective 5 camera bag which is a GREAT bag for any NEX system!! 

So get to it! You can submit old shots, or a new one BUT the only rule is that it must have been shot with a SONY NEX camera! Submissions can start NOW but the deadline is August 26th 2011 at NOON (Phoenix AZ time). You can e-mail the images to me at [email protected].

RULES, follow them or else your image will NOT be entered!

  • Images must not be any larger than 1600 pixels wide horizontal or 1000 pixels wide vertical.
  • ONLY ONE IMAGE can be submitted. JUST ONE! If you send more than one you will be disqualified!
  • Post Processing is allowed but nothing so crazy that it changes the image. In other words, no “photo art” or additions to the image in PS. Just things like levels, contrast, color, etc.
  • Images MUST be shot with a SONY NEX camera. NEX-3 , 5, VG-10, 3C, etc.
  • Old or new images can be submitted but must be with a SONY NEX
  • EXIF data MUST be intact.
  • Submit image with your full name and mailing address.

ANYWAY, keep sending in your submissions to the contest! I have extended the deadline now to August 26th 2011 at noonAll other rules remain the same and the top ten will now be posted on this site on August 29th 2011. THEN you will vote for your favorites and the top three vote getters will win! Voting will last through September 4th and the winners will be announced in Monday September 5th 2011. 

1st place: Noktor Hyperprime E Mount 50 f/0.95 lens

2nd place: SLR Magic 28 2.8 E mount lens

3rd place: ThinkTank Photo Retrospective 5 Bag

Jul 272011
 

 The image above of me was shot by Ed Tan in Seattle. Thanks again Ed!

Site news, Updates, Google +, NEX 5 & 7, E-P3, and a Mish Mosh of Information…

More Workshops Coming…

Happy Tuesday to all! Just wanted to post and say that I have a bunch of stuff in the works and I am finally recovered from my busy month on tour with Seal and then the Seattle Workshop weekend. The workshop was FANTASTIC and I have been getting feedback from the group, which is great to hear. Thanks one more time to everyone who participated in the weekend. Speaking of workshops, I have plans to set up 2-3 more and once again, will add to them with more instruction, more critique and more hands on/visual things like technique, overcoming street shooting fears, etc. Look out for San Francisco, Chicago, Las Vegas, Southern California, and yes…maybe even Paris. These will be the next locations and announcements will come soon. If any of you live in the Las Vegas, Chicago or San Fran area and would like to help out with hosting, guest speaking, etc then e-mail me. Also…with the help of Roger Paperno and Ashwin Rao we may be doing a week long workshop throughout Europe…sort of a “luxury” workshop :) If this happens I will share the amazing details soon.

But here is a question, and feel free to leave a comment with your answer. If you would be interested in participating in a workshop in San Francisco, Chicago, Las Vegas or Southern California then let me know. I will schedule these events around interest. Also, no need to shoot Leica to attend! All cameras and skill levels are welcome, just like they are here at this site!

Just a coulpe of  the e-mails I received in the last two days about Seattle…

“Thanks again for opening up your home to us for the weekend.  It was such a great time, the most fun I’ve had in a workshop.   Meeting all of the Leica shooters and learning from you guys was worth making the trip up to Seattle.  My studio is open to you guys when you plan a Southern California workshop, so please let me know when you’re planning your world tour. – Todd Hatakeyama”

“Steve & Ashwin: Thanks so much for hosting and presenting a superb gig (not quite sure what to call it – a mixture of workshop, meetup and pissup (that’s Aussie for good time with beer involved)). I had a great time and picked up many useful tips and tricks. Thanks again. Cheers Peter”

Love that he called it a mixture of a workshop, meetup and pissup! Awesome as that is just what it was :) Lots of passionate photographers who wanted to get out there and shoot with others who are just like them. Here is a page you have to see, Ashwin’s post with his have images from the weekend. Enjoy!

Social Netoworking Insanity…now join me on Google +

Just when I thought I was all set up with Facebook and Twitter, along comes Google +. So yes, now you can join me on Google + which seems like it will be “the place to hang” really soon and it also appears there is a growing community there already of Leica shooters so be sure and get over there and JOIN ME HERE, add me to your circle! Also, if you haven’t already feel free to “Like” me on Facebook! Every “like” helps. All you have to do is go here and press LIKE! It is not a “friend” request, just a like :) Finally my Twitter page is HERE and my YOUTUBE videos can be subscribed to HERE. Oh! How can I forget my RSS feed? See what I mean? All of this Social Networking..INSANITY! Remember the old days before the internet? Hahaha.

More Reviews Coming…

So….right now I have a Canon 5D MKII and 50L that I am messing with. My goal was to do a “Crazy Comparison” between it and the M9/Noctilux/Summilux combo. Ive taken a few shots for this but will be heading on a trip next week for 7 days (Going to visit Chicago) where I will get the bulk of the shooting done. Should be interesting. I mentioned in another post or comment that the 5D files seemed more “flat” or “lifeless”. Well, upon closer inspection, and with some tweaks it is getting closer :)

5D MARK II AND 50 L WIDE OPEN AT 1.2

Also, I am going to review the NEW MICRO 4/3 Olympus E-P3 soon and ALSO show a video overview of the new NEX-5 features that were recently added via firmware, especially the focus peaking which in my short experience has been working great. Speaking of the NEX series…what about the supposedly upcoming Sony NEX-7. Did you guys see this one? An EVF included in the body. YES! Looks mighty interesting!

Even more NEX coming soon. I have been shooting with the new SLR Magic 28 2.8 NEX E mount lens and will even be giving this lens away in a contest at the end of this week. Ill be posting my review soon, again, I need more images to evaluate it. Also, you heard it here first…something super delicious is coming soon…something really cool. Damn, thats all I can say :)

So the Canon/Leica comparison, the E-P3, the NEX-5 Focus Peaking, and the SLR Magic 28 2.8 all coming REALLY soon! Hoping I can get the new Oly 12 f/2 to test as well. In many ways it looks interesting, and in some not so much so.

So there you go, the latest happenings here at the site and in my home! Haha…be sure to check back a bit later today for a really cool Daily Inspiration! Until then, get out and shoot!

Steve

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