May 182015
 

The Aesthetic of Lostness: Inside Iran with the Fuji X100s

 

By James Conley

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Iran. Although home to one of the world’s oldest civilizations, (dating back more than 5,000 years), since 1979 Iran is most commonly known for the Islamic Revolution that toppled Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and took 66 Americans hostage, holding them for 444 days. Iran is daily in the news, with its military activities in Syria and Yemen, its support of Hezbollah, endless negotiations over its nuclear program, and its detention of reporters like the Washington Post’s Jason Rezaian. “Death to America” is a chant heard in televised demonstrations in Tehran, setting the outside view of Iran as a hostile one to the West.

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In contrast to this public view, I’ve been fortunate to know many Iranians who live in the United States, as well as abroad. Without exception, they love the United States and the common theme among them is a love of life and all it has to offer. With these contrasting experiences in mind, I determined to make a trip to Iran.

Getting into Iran as an American is no easy task. Reams of paperwork, multiple passport photographs, and multiple visits to the Iranian Interest Section in Washington, D.C., are required. Iranians work on a different time scale, and waiting (and waiting, and waiting) are part of the process. The government of Iran is suspicious of one’s prior travel, and does a thorough investigation into who you are. (It’s possible to go with a tour group, but tours are heavily monitored by the government and I wanted freedom of movement.) In the end, it took me over a year to obtain permission to visit Iran.

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Visa in hand, I scheduled a flight. Since 1979, Iran has been subject to a range of economic sanctions, including ones which eliminated direct flights from the United States. Iran is not a close destination. My flight took me through Istanbul, Turkey—with a 7 hour layover. Layover included, total travel time from Dulles to Tehran was 20 hours.

Arriving in Iran was a bit of an emotional let down. Based on my experiences with Iranian officials in the United States, I had expected a high degree of security and curiosity about an American’s arrival. At the airport, I found only a single disinterested official at Passport Control. A glance at my visa, a scan into the computer, and I was on my way without even eye contact or a single question about the purpose of my visit. (I have reason to believe that the arrival experience is highly variable, and your visit may go a very different way!)

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My first experience of the country was an extremely long drive from the airport to my host’s house in northern Tehran. Tehran is one of the biggest cities in the world, with more than 17 million people. It is spread out over more than 200 square miles, and the airport is more than 30 miles south of the city. It was an appropriate introduction to a city and country that are impossible to pigeon-hole, with variety and diversity which are difficult to comprehend.

 

Being inside Iran is much different from hearing about it from the outside. While not an easy country to absorb or function in, the people are warm and welcoming, and there is a vast range of poverty and wealth among a people who have been isolated from much of the West for more than a generation. (Although only the United States and Canada have official sanctions against Iran, the complexity of those sections affects travel, banking, postal services, and foreign businesses who also do business with the United States.) Despite all the international conflict concerning Iran’s political role and its present history, the people within Iran continue to flourish in an environment that’s all their own.

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Working as a photographer in Iran is beset with challenges. I was based in the northern part of Tehran, making day trips to other parts of the country. Each place presented unique difficulties and opportunities.

The primary challenge I try to address in any place is blending in. As a street photographer, my goal is to be an observer. This means being as unobtrusive as possible while maintaining enough involvement to understand and appreciate unfolding events so that I can time decisive moments. In most western countries, these needs are solved by being mindful of one’s dress and manners, and generally taking the “when in Rome” approach is enough that I can fade into the background. Not so in Iran. One can’t blend bone structure and skin color. Although there is a fair bit of ethnic diversity in Iran, it’s all diversity from within the region and, unsurprisingly, I was immediately identifiable as a foreigner no matter where I went, simply because of the color of my skin, hair, and the structure of my facial bones. No matter my efforts to adapt, I was regularly approached by strangers who started every conversation in broken English. Being mistaken for a local wasn’t going to happen. While this interfered with my ability to blend, it also led to some opportunities for interaction which otherwise wouldn’t have taken place.

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Photography inside Iran is not common. I occasionally saw some Iranians at famous places making images with cell phone cameras, but I didn’t see any DSLRs, mirrorless cameras, or film cameras, except a camera carried by a German tourist. Carrying a camera definitely singles you out.

I work as unobtrusively and quickly as possible, and make it habit to have only one camera out at a time. I try to carry only a single camera with lenses in my pockets, or at most carry only a small courier bag. I use Fuji X-Series cameras, which are smaller and quieter than a Leica, and to the uninitiated appear to be amateur pocket cameras. I wouldn’t advise carrying a large DSLR with a zoom lens because you’ll appear to be a journalist (read: spy). That said, most Iranians had little to no reaction if they saw the camera.

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The images here were made with the X100s and its Wide and Tele companions. This set up of 28mm, 35mm, and 50mm (equivalents) allowed me to do 90% of my work while remaining extremely unobtrusive. The Wide converter stays on my camera most of the time, so I was able to carry just one lens, a spare battery, and a spare memory card. In a place where you want to stand out the least amount possible, this was a great kit. It is also relatively fast to change lenses without attracting attention.

 

A few shots required pulling out the X-E1, however. Architecture in Iran is immense, and even the 8mm Rokinon ultra wide angle (12mm equivalent) that I carry struggled to pull in the details. (None of those shots are included in this post—these are all X100s. Additional images can be seen here: http://fjamesconley.com/iran)

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Traveling to places where one doesn’t speak or read the language is not uncommon. Traveling to places where one has little chance of grasping the culture, however, is rare. It’s extremely stressful and overwhelming, taxing one’s creativity as well as one’s emotions. But it’s also liberating to be lost. Removed from even absentminded awareness of so much of what’s going on, the mind has little choice but to double its efforts to observe and make sense of things. Lost, it’s easier to perceive humanistic patterns. Lost, it’s easier to put attention on the gestalt. Lost, it’s easier to let your deeper self emerge.

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The aesthetics of lostness have a quality of their own. The feeling on many levels is one of isolation and disconnectedness. Like any state of mind, these aspects are revealed in the work. My interpretation of the images I made in Iran reflect this: isolated moments; overwhelming scale; and a puzzlement of things. I endeavored to embrace the lostness, however, because the alternative was to find a false narrative which would devolve into stereotype. In the lostness, I sought the commonality of humanity instead of looking for the superficiality of difference.

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Iran is a country, and not a political entity. Whatever its government’s present role on the world stage, Iran’s people and the country itself are magical. I look forward to returning again.

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Additional images can be seen here: http://fjamesconley.com/iran

Here’s my contact info:
website: fjamesconley.com
twitter: @Philatawgrapher

May 152015
 

Film Friday: Riots and Zeiss Biogon T* 2.8/25 on Leica M6

by fiftyasa

Steve already wrote a good review of the Zeiss Biogon T* 2.8/25 back in 2009 (http://www.stevehuffphoto.com/2009/11/18/the-zeiss-zm-25-2-8-biogon-lens-review/), but the lens does not seem very common among Leica M shooters, especially if compared to other Zeiss lenses like the Planar 50 or Biogon 35.

I recently picked up one copy and tried to shoot some street action in the city of Hamburg where every year peaceful demonstrations and riots take place as a tradition on May 1st. Mounted on a Leica M6 loaded with TriX 400 and TMAX 400, I made my way through the “urban guerrilla”…

Shooting from the hip while walking and pre-setting the focus distance seem to work OK with a bit of luck (although the agents seem to smile at me, I don’t think they realized that I took a photo of them shooting from the hip):

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But the lens is wide! It seems you are never close enough… In the following 2 pictures I pre-set the focus distance, walked as close as I could and used the viewfinder to (guess-)frame.

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In the picture “you are never close enough” it is interesting to see that the 2 subjects did not notice me despite I was at less than 1 meter from them, while the young guy and the woman behind were probably asking themselves what I was doing so close…

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Unfortunately most of the copies of this lens bring up the 35 mm frame lines on the M6, M9 and Zeiss Ikon ZM. This is a bit distracting for me. The 28 mm frame lines would be a better choice (but not perfect, this lens is substantially wider!) if the external viewfinder is not available, but, at the time the lens came to the market, it targeted the M8 where the correct frame lines (35 mm equivalent) is triggered.

It is known that the lens can focus down to 0.5 m but the rangefinder disengages at 0.7 m. So if you want to use it from 0.7 and 0.5 m, you’ll have to guess the distance. I would also like to mention that, despite some websites state that the Zeiss Ikon ZM can use the rangefinder to focus down to 0.5m, this is not true. I have a Zeiss Ikon ZM and the rangefinder disengages at 0.7 m like the Leica M6 and M9.

Being the angle of view so wide, the Biogon 25 is an ideal companion for landscapes and cityscapes

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Or to give a “wide angle effect” to your shots:

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Or to capture a lot of things in one frame:

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Yes, the lens is sharp. In the picture above you can actually read the street sign next to the last flag on the right:

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Three more attempts to get closer to the subject:

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These pictures are digitalized by photographing the Kodak negatives with a Sony A7 mounted on a copy stand and equipped with bellow and macro lens Apo Rodagon-D 1x 75 mm. Negatives are inverted with negfix8 and post-processed (mainly tone curve adjustment only).

If you like to see more, please visit https://fiftyasa.wordpress.com

May 152015
 

Between Leica Monochrom & iPhone for street photography 

By Brigitte Hauser

I like looking at street photos and street portraits. That’s why I started to try myself.  I did these streets with following cams.

The Sony RX 1 is my good friend 

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I take it for travelling. The smoking guy is taken on the Azores island San Miguel and the blond lady in the Fernand Léger museum in France. The rx 1 is small, has a silent shutter and an outstanding image quality. It’s an astonishing versatile cam. I like also its macro mode and the high contrast b/w filter. If I had to choose only one  cam, I think I would take the RX1. 

Now a few with the Ricoh GR

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I have a lot of fun. I take it with me almost everywhere, working, shopping, walking with the dog. The coffee shop in the rain and the young man reading Richard Dawkins are taken in Zurich, my home town. The GR is so small, so nice to touch and so easy to use. It’s a joy. You don’t attract a lot of attention if you shoot in the streets with it. Focal length of 28 mm is perhaps a little bit wide for me. But you can set it on 35 mm.

About a year ago I had the opportunity to buy  a Leica Monochrom with a 50 mm summicron lens

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I call it my soul and bitch cam. The IQ is great very sharp  and it seems to me photos have a kind of an artistic  old-fashioned look. For street photography  I’m often not fast enough to compose properly or I miss the focus. But I adore this diva of cam.

The opposite of Leica MM is probably my iPhone 5

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The good thing for street photography with the mobile is: it’s always in the bag and you can really go close. People are not aware that you are taking a photo of them.  But  I just don’t like the experience to take photos with a phone. It’s also not a very courageous way to take street photos.

Thanks for looking
Yours
Brigitte

 

 

Apr 242015
 

Street Photography in Dublin Ireland with Film

By Fergus Fitzgerald

Hi All,
I hope I am familiar to most of the regulars here as I post a lot as a commentator but never before as a contributor. I suppose you could call me a street photographer in as much as most of my photography seems to take place on the streets. My interests in photography these days is in street photography and those photographers who are regarded as being talented in this genre.

I do not take myself too seriously. I think street photography is valuable in the sense that it is entirely without an agenda which is its strength.

I realise this is a gear orientated site and I am definitely not a gear head though most photographers who say that are actually not telling the truth ! How can I explain this ? You see we all start out with an ambition to produce a great image -the image that is in our heads – if we do not succeed we will try again and again always seeking that elusive image. If you have experienced this feeling and know the frustration and remain faithful to that image in your head -then you are a photographer simple as that.

We can try all kinds of ways to achieve our goal -most of us (myself included ) at some time or other will succumb to the allure of the apparatus. If only we could get that new piece of equipment -that would make the transformation for us . In time we learn that the secret is to just keep shooting with what you have and try to become enthused more by the images you are creating and not the apparatus used. Mind you, I am more than willing to concede that gear can and does inspire people. So once you don’t go too crazy, what’s the harm in enjoying a new Nikon Canon Sony or even a Leica ? Not all at once of course !

I have used many cameras in my day and finally settled for Leica for many reasons -firstly they are beautiful and minimalist in the extreme and have superb optics. Secondly I like the European heritage -not to mention a desire to be a bit different.

I think of my images as being snaps for the thinking snapper. I hope anybody who recognises himself or herself in one of my photos will have the sense of humour to just have a laugh as I would never take an image to show a person in a bad way -though I will not allow my photography to become anodyne either.

These images are mostly from my M6 with 35 and 50 Summicron lenses on Ilford XP2 film scanned on my Nikon Coolscan V ED .  The images are just incidents I happened upon as I walked around where I live which is Dublin Ireland . For example the girl walking in costume reading the book was an actress rehearsing her lines during a break at the Samuel Beckett Theatre festival.

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I tend to shoot mostly with the 50mm lens and do not get too up close. Despite what Capa said I feel you can still produce good pictures from a slight distance. I cannot for example imagine myself ever using a 28mm or wider for street -though many do this magnificently.

I traded my M6 for an M8 seven or more years ago and occasionally I get a Lumix G1 on loan from a friend .I used this to get the image of the old lady bemused by the two guys reaction to whatever was on the laptop screen. I actually like the G1 a lot as it is nice and compact and produces good colour images -though I’m not a big fan of EVF’s Actually none other than Saul Leiter used one at the latter part of his career!

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The photo below was taken in Moore St Dublin where traditional traders still sell from stalls and many have family roots going back generations:

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The old gent looking through the view window is in Temple bar which has nice bars and restaurants and is a great spot for street photography. My favourite haunt there is “The Gallery of Photography “where I have seen such wonderful exhibitions as Genesis by Salgado. Keen eyed photographers will see this is not a film scan -it’s actually from the M8.

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Luck and happenstance play a big part in street photography. One day I was in the old Animal Museum in Dublin known to the kids of Dublin as the “Dead Zoo” with my nephew when I snapped a photo of him looking in wonder at a Moose. When the film was processed it turned out to be a different kid altogether as my nephew had wandered off to view something else! Years later myself and friends would visit “Yellowstone Park” in the US and I would have a very similar reaction to a live Moose -Wow they are big!

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When I got the M8 I shot almost exclusively in colour but now I mostly shoot in black and white . I love the way Leica M digital cameras render black and white. I have not seen better. Strangely I now seem to be shooting Black and White on digital and colour on film which is the reverse of a lot of photographers I know. Kodak Portra film has a lot to do with this as I love it‘s subtle pastel like colours. I have now resurrected my ancient Pentax K1000 and a few Takumar lenses for colour.

Hope you like the images.

Rgds Fergus Fitzgerald

PS might post a few colour street photos from the M8 in the future…….? Thanks Steve and Brandon.

Apr 032015
 

Punjab part 2 – with the Contax G2 and 3 Film selection

By Ibraar Hussain – His flickr is HERE

I thought I’d just add a Part 2 to my Punjab trip here for you and for stevehuffphoto.com viewers and lovers.

I really enjoyed shooting with my Panasonic Lumix GX7 with the couple of lenses I had with it. But as usual whenever I travel I take my Contax G2 along with me.  Unfortunately, out of a 15 day trip, 9 days were rained off so I was unable to go where I wanted to and shoot the exotic things at the places I had in mind and planned.

I was able to expose 3 rolls of Film though and experiment with my seldom used lens – the 90mm Sonnar T*. Now this is a lovely portrait lens, great contrast and sharpness and a perfect portrait length – there is one problem though, shooting wide open with it is tricky as the focus on it for some bizarre reason doesn’t always hit right. When nailed the results are spectacular, but more often than not most people have difficulty with this lens. I have hardly ever used it in the past and then not often at f2.8 so I decided to give it a bit of liberal use.

Family of beggars
GT Road
Sarai Alamgir, Punjab
Contax G2 45mm Planar T* Kodak Ektar 100

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My usual lenses are the unparalleled 45mm f2 Planar and the 21mm f2.8 Biogon, but this time I was after portraits of local people in villages around the town of Sarai Alamgir in District Gujrat, Punjab.  The town straddles the Jhelum River and lies close to the city of Jhelum – Ancient Hydaspes of Alexander The Great fame.

I decided to shoot a roll of some different Films than my usual Kodak Ektachrome e100vs and Fujichrome Velvia. I had two rolls of The Original Fujichrome Astia 100 (not the later inferior 100F) my rolls were procured from eBay at a high cost as allegedly they had been frozen and gave accurate colors. I managed to shoot one of these.

My other roll was of a rare Film by Adox – Adox Silverman 21 at 100 ISO. This is a German made B&W Film which allegedly has a high Silver content and gives some unique results. And finally a roll of Kodak Ektar 100 people tend to rave about.

Shoe Shine and Repair Man
GT Road
Sarai Alamgir, Punjab
Contax G2 45mm Planar T* Kodak Ektar 100

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My results were a mixed bag. The 4mm Planar shots were nailed as usual and keepers.  The 90mm Sonnar T* shots wide open at f2.8 were hit and miss. I had as many off focus shots as nailed ones and I was very disappointed with this lens. Sure, the nailed shots are beautiful, but I want to be in charge and not subject to the whims of a focussing system. Anyway, the Astia 100 was pretty nice, not as nice as my beloved Kodak e100vs but not bad. The Adox Silvermax I shot with and without a Hoya Orange filter. I gathered the higher contrast Filter may give some good effects outdoors.

Kashmiri Child
Sargodha, Punjab
Contax G2 45mm Planar T* Kodak Ektar 100

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I developed the Adox Silverman in Rodinal 1+50 and scanned everything using my Plustek Opticfilm 8100 scanner. I cleaned up the scanned Astia Slides in Photoshop (rid dust and spots), resized and gave them a border – hardly any post processing. The Adox Silverman results were very pleasing, I did foolishly drop the negatives after drying and there was hence some dust but very nice tones and feel – I’d love to print these. I used Photoshop Layers to dodge and burn and levels, then resized and border applied – not USM at all here!

The retired Soldier
Jhelum, Punjab
Contax G2 45mm Planar T* Kodak Ektar 100

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The Matriarch
Jhelum, Punjab
Contax G2 45mm Planar T* Kodak Ektar 100
90mm Sonnar T* (bottom)

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The Kodak Ektar is a nightmare. I cannot understand why people use this stuff. In almost all respects it is Inferior to a decent E6 Slide film – the only reason to use this would be latitude and I had no need of such huge Dynamic Range. So this is the last time I will use this or any other C41 Colour Film (unless forced to). Give me Slides, BW or Digital any day. A royal pain to scan and to get the colours and contrast right – at least Slides (and in camera Jpegs) give me everything as I want with no fluffing around – shooting C41 is worse than RAW capture (which I find to be a total waste of time and effort and of vital minutes of ones life).

Anyway, enough ranting, here are even some samples. The others can be found on my Flickr.

Cheers!

Punjabi Widow
Near Sarai Alamgir, Punjab
Contax G2 90mm Sonnar T* Fujichrome Astia 100

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Old lady with a Hukkah pipe
Near Sarai Alamgir, Punjab
Contax G2 90mm Sonnar T* Fujichrome Astia 100

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Jatt Villager
Near Sarai Alamgir, Punjab
Contax G2 90mm Sonnar T* Fujichrome Astia 100

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Jatt Village women
Near Sarai Alamgir, Punjab
Contax G2 90mm Sonnar T* Fujichrome Astia 100

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Happy Village child
Near Sarai Alamgir, Punjab
Contax G2 90mm Sonnar T* Fujichrome Astia 100

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Blind Kashmiri Gent
Near Sarai Alamgir, Punjab
Contax G2 90mm Sonnar T* Fujichrome Astia 100

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Retired Village Gentleman
Near Sarai Alamgir, Punjab
Contax G2 45mm Planar T*
Adox Silvermax 21
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Man with Motorbike
Near Sarai Alamgir, Punjab
Contax G2 45mm Planar T*
Adox Silvermax 21
Rodinal

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Old Matriarch
Near Sarai Alamgir, Punjab
Contax G2 45mm Planar T*
Adox Silvermax 21
Rodinal

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Servant Girl
Near Sarai Alamgir, Punjab
Contax G2 45mm Planar T*
Adox Silvermax 21
Rodinal

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Punjabi Matriarch
Near Sarai Alamgir, Punjab
Contax G2 45mm Planar T*
Hoya Orange Filter
Adox Silvermax 21
Rodinal

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Brothers
Near Sarai Alamgir, Punjab
Contax G2 45mm Planar T*
Hoya Orange Filter
Adox Silvermax 21
Rodinal

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Retired Village Gentleman
Near Sarai Alamgir, Punjab
Contax G2 45mm Planar T*
Adox Silvermax 21
Rodinal

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Kashmiri Village Girl
Near Sarai Alamgir, Punjab
Contax G2 45mm Planar T*
Adox Silvermax 21
Rodinal

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Mar 262015
 

Infiniti Showcar Run - Austin, TX

USER REPORT: The New Sony 28 f/2 on the Sony A7S and A7II…BAM!

by Chad Wadsworth – his website is HERE!

Last week the FedEx guy delivered a box on loan from Sony containing a couple of much-anticipated new FE primes. The 35/1.4 is as good as Steve reported – a near perfect balance of center resolution and bokeh – but what about the little FE 28/2?

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I’m a big fan of the 28mm fov and have owned a few highly regarded lenses (C/Y Zeiss 28/2.8, Zeiss 28/2.8 G, M-Rokkor 28/2.8 & Minolta AF 28/2) and film compacts (Minolta TC-1, Ricoh GR1), so there was a personal expectation for Sony to deliver a modern equivalent of the Minolta AF 28/2.

After a few days shooting and editing, a few things are clear: this little guy is shockingly sharp, renders out of focus transitions smoothly and transmits color with pop. With a price tag under $450, compact size and quick AF, there is little fault to find with. You will notice some minor distortion that should easily be handled by a PS or LR profile, but other than that…no complaints. (Pre-Order it Here at Amazon) – (Pre-order it HERE at B&H Photo)

Early web samples had some forum “experts” calling the bokeh nervous, but my results indicate a good amount of “cream” especially in the foreground. A 28mm is never going to draw the bokeh of a portrait lens but what this lens does produce is attractive to my taste. Samples here are from RAW and processed in LR – most are shot wide open. Stopping down quickly improves the corners but even at f/2 the subject sharpness is just amazing. (From Steve: I also have this lens now and it is just as Chad Describes..a MUST OWN for any A7 series shooter)

With this kind of price/performance level, I hope users reward the FE 28mm with big sales and Sony takes note of the demand for compact, high quality f/2 lenses at reasonable price points. Up to now, I’ve held onto my Minolta AF 28/2, waiting to see if this new FE 28/2 could replace it – I think it is time to let it go…

click images for larger and much better and sharper view!

1st FOUR were shot on the A7II, rest were A7s

Infiniti Showcar Run - Austin, TX

Infiniti Showcar Run - Austin, TX

Infiniti Showcar Run - Austin, TX

Infiniti Showcar Run - Austin, TX

Infiniti Showcar Run - Austin, TX

Infiniti Showcar Run - Austin, TX

Infiniti Showcar Run - Austin, TX

Mick Jenkins - Lifestyle

Venue

Mick Jenkins - Lifestyle

Infiniti Showcar Run - Austin, TX

Infiniti Showcar Run - Austin, TX

Infiniti Showcar Run - Austin, TX

Infiniti Showcar Run - Austin, TX

Infiniti Showcar Run - Austin, TX

Infiniti Showcar Run - Austin, TX

Infiniti Showcar Run - Austin, TX

Infiniti Showcar Run - Austin, TX

Infiniti Showcar Run - Austin, TX

Mar 182015
 

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Panasonic Lumix GX7 and Yashica Makro-Planar in the Punjab

by Ibraar Hussain

I took a two-week trip to the Western Punjab (the real Punjab) in Pakistan and have just returned.  Most of my 14 days were rained off so I couldn’t go to where I had planned and use my Rolleiflex with my Rollienars. What I did do was shoot with my new Panasonic LUMIX GX7. I had initially decided upon the Fuji XE2 but I couldn’t justify the price difference.

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I actually bought it after much research as something to compliment my Rolleiflex and Contax G2. I could also use my Yashica AF lenses with it and could use it to photograph birdlife too. I find the use of adaptors exceedingly useful, and decided to buy one to fit my Yashica AF lenses.

I chose this over the Olympus OMD series as:

a) It’s cheaper
b) Handling was more to my liking – the OMD EM-5 and 10 have a terrible grip and I wasn’t too keen on the overall design.
c) love the tilting EVF and LCD so I sometimes use it like I do my Rolleiflex – with a waist level finder.
d) it’s made in Japan rather than China

Took me a day of playing around at home to get used to it and I managed to set it according to my requirements, I set the Function buttons to what I want, with 1 focus point and Centre Weighted metering.

My weapons of choice were my Yashica AF 60mm Makro Planar f2.8 (this lens, I have been informed by many reliable sources, is a rebranded Contax Zeiss 60mm Makro Planar so Sshh… don’t tell anyone and pick up a bargain – superb lens which doubles as a nice short tele and portrait lens) the Fotodiox adaptor has the aperture control on the barrel which I am so happy with as another niggly hindrance is the jog dial to change the F stop which is cumbersome and slow.

My other weapons were the compact metal, Made in Japan 30mm Sigma AF fit and the Yashica AF 210mm f4 zoom . I left my other Yashica lenses including the 24mm Distagon type at home as I didn’t think I’d need a standard lens as I was aiming to shoot portraits and Birdlife.

Anyway I shoot mostly in the 1:1 square format and I shot some portraits of Punjabi people, young and old, rich and poor, in villages, town bazaars and shrines and enjoyed the experience.  I visited the colonial city of Sargodha, and took a long train ride on the 5’6” Indian wide gauge Railway. Trekked around the villages and fields near Sarai Alamgir near the City of Jhelum by the Jhelum River. And visited the Shrine of the Muslim Saint Pir-e-Shah Ghazi, Dhamrian wall Sarkar, Kharri Sharif, Kashmir.

In a two-week trip I only shot 260 odd exposures with it and most were keepers.

Beggar Kid, at the Shrine of Pir-e-ShahGhazi, at Kharri Sharif, Kashmir.
Yashica 60mm Makro-Planar f2.8

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Beggar Kids, at the Shrine of Pir-e-ShahGhazi, at Kharri Sharif, Kashmir.
Yashica 60mm Makro-Planar f2.8

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A Malang or Fakir or Jogi at the Shrine of Pir-e-ShahGhazi, at Kharri Sharif, Kashmir.
Yashica 60mm Makro-Planar f2.8

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THOUGHTS

This is an excellent camera, and bar some niggles I will explain later, almost perfect in many ways. It looks great, the flip LED and EVF are excellent ideas and so useful. Lovely size and feel, and very quick to start up. Excellent picture quality and very good smooth ISO 800 speed for portraits of people indoors with natural light. Function buttons can be set, so the advanced user can have all at his disposal. 1:1 square ratio mode Takes good video too. Can use other lenses with adaptors. Focus peaking is very effective for MF.

A Malang or Fakir or Jogi at the Shrine of Pir-e-ShahGhazi, at Kharri Sharif, Kashmir.
Yashica 60mm Makro-Planar f2.8

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A Malang or Fakir or Jogi at the Shrine of Pir-e-ShahGhazi, at Kharri Sharif, Kashmir.
Yashica 60mm Makro-Planar f2.8

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DRAWBACKS

I find the constant computerised settings messing around annoying and it tends to get in the way, and things keep happening if I accidentally touch the screen which is sensitive.
Having too much is a hindrance too – sometimes I’d rather just make do with a certain ISO speed and work around this, rather than spend ages pondering what speed to set it at.
This needed dedicated buttons for most things, the Function buttons were ok though.

I find the lack of a dedicated concise Exposure Compensation dial a hindrance, I was constantly having to press the appropriate F button, push one of the toggle dials in and then change – whereas a dedicated compensation DIAL would’ve been perfect.

Changing aperture using the toggle Dial is very annoying and lacks the precise feel and involvement a lens barrel mounted aperture ring gives.
and I think the EVF is a tad small though it is bright.

Beggar Kid, at the Shrine of Pir-e-ShahGhazi, at Kharri Sharif, Kashmir.
Yashica 60mm Makro-Planar f2.8

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Jatt Villager saluting, near Sarai Alamgir, Punjab, Pakistan
Yashica 70-210mm f4

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Jatt village Girl, near Sarai Alamgir, Punjab, Pakistan
Yashica 60mm Makro-Planar f2.8

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Jatt village Girl, near Sarai Alamgir, Punjab, Pakistan
Yashica 60mm Makro-Planar f2.8

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OVERALL

I prefer the use and feel of my Contax G2 for this type of portrait and people photography and the look and feel of 35mm E6 is way beyond what this M43 can achieve, but even so,Great camera with great results and the 1:1 ratio coupled with smooth ISO 800 are great to have.

I cannot see any reason to buy a budget APS sized DSLR or other camera any more, the picture quality is about the same, with the advantages of being compact, well-built and very quick.
All my images were JPEG fine and resized with border added in Photoshop – I don’t shoot Raw.

Some photos are soft, this is because focus is manual with the 60mm and focus peaking though very helpful isn’t flawless and I’m also in my 40ies so half blind!

The Yashica 60mm lens by the way is stellar – wonderful rendering and contrast and pin sharp if focussed correctly.

The 210mm is soft wide open and the 30mm Sigma is a tad long to be a standard lens but wonderfully sharp.

Ultimately though, pictures are as good as the person behind the lens, and I think I would’ve got more or less the same results with any Digital Camera with any sized sensor.

You can see some of the others I shot at my Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/71817058@N08/

Rail passenger. Sargodha to Mandi Bahaudin
Yashica 60mm Makro-Planar f2.8

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View from the Guards window, Sargodha to Mandi Bahaudin
Yashica 60mm Makro-Planar f2.8

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Mr Shahid, in the Guards cab, Sargodha to Mandi Bahaudin
Sigma 30mm f2.8 DN

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Deaf Lad, in the Guards cab, Sargodha to Mandi Bahaudin
Sigma 30mm f2.8 DN

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Hijra’s, Eunuchs at Sargodha Station.
Yashica 60mm Makro-Planar f2.8

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A portrait.
Yashica 60mm Makro-Planar f2.8

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Kashmiri Village Girl, near Sargodha, Punjab, Pakistan
Yashica 60mm Makro-Planar f2.8

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Kashmiri Village Boy, near Sargodha, Punjab, Pakistan
Yashica 60mm Makro-Planar f2.8

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A ‘Sain’ boy, respected as divinely gifted, at a Cigarette and Pan stall
Sarai alamgir, Punjab, Pakistan
Sigma 30mm f2.8 DN

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Jatt Village children at play, near Sarai Alamgir, Punjab, Pakistan
Yashica 70-210mm f4

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Nain village Child, near Sarai Alamgir, Punjab, Pakistan
Yashica 60mm Makro-Planar f2.8

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Kashmiri Village girl, near Sarai Alamgir, Punjab, Pakistan
Yashica 60mm Makro-Planar f2.8

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Kashmiri near Sarai Alamgir, Punjab, Pakistan
Yashica 60mm Makro-Planar f2.8

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Mar 172015
 

titlebjarke

2014 in Twelve images

by Bjarke Ahlstrand

Hi Steve,

Another year has passed, and at least from my perspective 2014 was extremely busy. I fulfilled a dream of mine and opened a rock bar, Zeppelin (www.zeppelincph.dk), + my very own photographic haven/store, One Of Many Cameras (www.oneofmanycameras.com), here in Copenhagen, where I live. The camera store, which deals with both new and 2nd hand stuff gave me even further possibilities to explore the photographic medium and although it hasn’t exactly cured my GAS, it helps that I can just borrow stuff from the shelves now and then :-)

I only shoot manual lenses as they fit my shooting style the best, and I spend most of my photography time on celluloid, expired chemistry and especially large format portraits, but that ol’ Leica M9-P of mine is still my favourite digital camera (since I can’t afford or justify a Monochrome, hehe), but I also adore the little MicroFourThirds camera which was given to me as a x-mas present by my One Of Many Cameras partner Daniel because of its portability, since the large format cameras are a bit bulky to drag around. My work can be seen here: www.oneofmany.dk and www.polaroid.com

Anyways, here goes — once again — 12 images, 12 cameras, 12 months – this time for the year 2014.

***

January · Deardorff 8×10” · 270mm Boyer Saphir Paris f/6.3 · expired Agfa photograhic fibre paper used as a paper negative · ISO3

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January · Deardorff 8×10” · 270mm Boyer Saphir Paris f/6.3 · expired Agfa photographic fibre paper used as a paper negative · ISO3

I’ve been working on a book/exhibition the last couple of years. It’s gonna be called “After” and will feature 130+ portraits of my girlfriend, all shot immediately after we’ve had sex. There will be no pornographic content or nudity but “raw” portraits that try to capture that very special moment just “after”… I went about it in a dogmatic way, so I decided that all had to be shot within a five minute time span and I would max make 3 exposures. It was very challenging as many of the shoots were rather trivial when it comes subject, and location of course, but I managed to use a great variety of cameras and now in the final editing stages of the book, I believe it turned out okay. The book will be published around May/June if everything goes as planned. For this particular shot, Katja laid still for 8 seconds while I captured the light.

***

February · Leica M9 · 50mm Summilux Asph @ f/2.8 · ISO200

2014_02_LeicaM9_50summilux_iso200_Lucer

Still love the Leica, still love rock ’n roll, and I still have a record label, so I actually managed to shoot quite a few album covers in 2014, this being one of them. With vinyl making a serious comeback it’s a joy to shoot band pictures again. The band is called Lucer and they play high-octane rock. Be sure to check them out on Spotify –– or even better, on vinyl.

***

March · Goecker Studio Camera · 270mm Dallmeyer 3B Petzval · Expired Ilford Multigrade photographic paper used as paper negative · ISO3

2014_03_8x10_paper negative scan__Goecker Studio Kamera_Dallmeyer 3B_iso3_Street

I bought an old wooden large format studio camera, dating back to 1913 and it came with a wonderful Dallmeyer Petzval from the 1860s’ so I decided to drag it outside our little camera store (which is also a studio) and test it out. Two teenagers were walking down the street, but I convinced to them to stand still for 1 second while I used my hand as a shutter. Notice the Petzval curve, it’s absolutely wonderful. Oh yeah, the logo of One Of Many Cameras is actually the Petzval lens design from 1840 – both my partner Daniel and I even got it tattooed, so I guess that lens is rather special to me.

***

April · Fuji GX680III · 125mm GX f/3.2 · Ilford Delta 100

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Even though I love large format and the creative possibilities it gives regarding perspective and focus, it’s not exactly portable. Enter the Fuji GX680III, a high-end medium format camera from the final days of the professional analog era. It has a small bellow and therefore tilt-shit capabilities and you can cram 8 images on a 120-roll film, so economically speaking, it’s quite okay (compared to large format). You can shoot the camera handheld – and those Fujinon lenses — whauh. This one in particular, it’s perfect. My youngest clone was shot wide open at f/3.2. Love the bokeh.

***

May · Kodak DCS PRO SLR N · 55mm Nikkor f/1.2 · ISO160

2014_05_Kodak DCS PRO SLR N_55mm Nikkor f12_iso160_Mikkel Munch Fals

I don’t want to (re-)start the whole CCD vs. CMOS war, I’ll just conclude that you’ll find on the CCD-side when photographic civil war begins. I haven’t owned a DSLR since I sold my 5D Mark III and I swore I’d never go down that road again… But then I was presented with this Kodak beauty, the first full frame pro digital camera, which cost a fortune back when it was introduced, and having never shot Nikon glass before (!) I couldn’t resent the 55mm Nikkor f/1.2. The 3 included batteries last only 5 minutes each, the camera breaks down constantly, has many quirks and is hardly usable above ISO400… But that Kodak CCD sensor is absolutely wonderful… I get the same feeling as when I look at images from my Leica M9-P and Hasselblad H3D-39. If I’m working digital (and not doing video), I’ll definitely go for a CCD-camera.

***

June · Leica Monochrome · 50mm Apo-Summicron f/2 Asph · ISO320

2014_06_LeicaMonochrome_50apo Summicron_iso320_beach

Had the chance to spend a day with the APO-Summicron. Took it to the beach along with a Monochrome. Nice combo. Stupid price tag, though.

***

July · Leica M9–P · 35mm Summilux f/1.4 Asph FLE · ISO160

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Took my two clones to Barcelona for our summer vacation, alongside a couple of Leica’s and the Fuji GX680 monster. I keep coming back to the Leica, it’s “like home” every time I shoot it. The swimming pool was nice, too.

***

August · Sinar P2 · 36cm Voigtländer f/4.5 · Impossible Silver Shade 8×10” Polaroid

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Having a record label is nice because you get to meet some really cool people, in this case the Swiss noise-rockers Herod who performed here in Copenhagen, and stayed at my place for a couple of days. I dragged the boys to my attic alongside my Swiss 8×10” large format Sinar camera, and shot an 8×10” Polaroid polaroid. The lens was stopped down at f/5.6 (which is like f/1.4 in 35mm terms regarding depth of field), but with the help of the movements of the camera, I was able to get all 4 members (relatively) sharp.

***

September · Kodak Master View 8×10” · Rodenstock 210mm Sironar f/5.6 · Ilford Direct Positive Paper · ISO6

2014_09_8x10_directpositivepaper_Kodak master view_210_mm_sironar s_iso5_undergang

Another band photo, this time around it was the death metal act Undergang, who were about to embark on a 5 week US tour and needed a band photo for their upcoming LP, so of course we went to a cemetery. I brought an antique Kodak Master View 8×10” large format camera and some Direct Postive Paper, and I snapped this ghoulish portrait with the Rodenstock lens shot wide open. Again with the gigantic negatives (1 x 8×10″ negative = 1 roll of 35mm film), the depth of field is extremely shallow, only a couple of millimeters but that old Kodak large format camera with its bellowsmovements made it possible to get them all “pretty sharp”. I made the vocalist only show the white in his eyes for the second I exposed the Direct Positive Paper, which indeed is a fantastic medium when working with the large format, since it’s like a Polaroid (positive) and you can handle it under red/safe light which makes it much easier than the negatives.

***

October · Sinar P2 5×7” – 21cm Voigtlander Petzval · Expired Ilford photo paper

2014_10_5x7_Sinarp2_21cm_Voigtlander_iso2_when the silver runs dry

One Of Many portraits of my favourite subject(s) – my clone, Hjalte. Almost 16 years old, he looks nothing like the child I’ve been documenting for many years now, as he’s growing rapidly, physically as well as mentally. Teenagers are hard to shoot since they’re pretty demanding, and pretty pimple ridden, but I’ve been experimenting quite a bit with expired analog materials and decided to try to drag the absolutely last silver out of some photographic paper which expired the year Hjalte was born (1999). He sat still for around 4 seconds while I underexposed and then the negative laid in the (also expired) chemistry for around half and hour before it was fully developed. I love it, one of my favourite portraits of 2014.

****

November · Sony A7S · Leica 75mm Summilux f/1.4 · ISO1600

2014_11_SonyA7S_75 Summilux_iso1600_Ruth Storm

Yes, I love old cameras (and especially lenses) but of course I also embrace new technological wonders –– like the Sony A7S. Most of my work is shot at extremely low ISOs, but the A7S opened new doors for me with its extreme low light capabilities. I’ve shot portraits for record covers at ISO 100.000 (!) which look fine on print – and my Leica lenses all perform wonderful on that little Sony. And the ones that can be hard to focus on a rangefinder are easy to nail spot on with the focus peaking turned on. Sometimes I wish the A7S had just a few more pixels as 12mp isn’t a lot for print/pro work, but I use it mostly for videos anyway, and there it reigns supreme.

****

December · Panasonic DMC-GF5 · 1″ Taylor-Hobson f/1.9 · ISO1600

2014_12_Panasonic DMC-GF5_1inch Taylor-Hobson f19_iso1600_trine tree

Yeah, I prefer large format and medium format, and full frame digital sensors. But lately, I’ve come to love a small, not-very-special little Panasonic pocket camera (DMC-GF5) – due to one fact: its MicroFourThirds sensor and the c-mount adapter that came along the little x-mas presents. That combo opens totally new doors when it comes to lenses and look. Old 16mm film lenses (c-mount) shine on that little digital sensor (the ones that cover it that is) and since the camera is very cheap (and lenses, too) I bring it everywhere for snapshots that otherwise were reserved for my iPhone. Here you see the newest member of the Ahlstrand-clan, Trine The Cat, climbing unto a x-mas tree. Nothing fancy, just one of those “family shots”, but I really dig the look of that tiny 1960s 16mm film camera lens, which I just had CLA’ed by my friend, Professor Olsen (repair-guy at One Of Many Cameras).

That’s it. Enjoy.

Mar 022015
 

Travel Photography with Medium Format Color Film

By: Logan Norton

www.seeingthelightworkshops.com

As someone who has done quite a bit of photography oriented travel, I have experimented with many different gear configurations in search of the most suitable solution for my travel needs. I have found that using medium format (120/220) color negative film (c-41) offers me the most versatility while ensuring that I can achieve the “look” that I desire. I know that many of you will probably have serious doubts about the practicality/convenience/wisdom of this choice, but I can assure you that I have tried just about every other format and, for me, this is the one that fits the best.

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Knowing that the digital vs. film debate will inevitably arise from this post is, I would like to address that a little before we get any further. This is not meant to be an endorsement of film over digital. I don’t believe there is a universal truth that one format is better than the other. They are both tools with advantages and disadvantages and the beautiful thing is that they both exist. You have a choice as to how you will achieve the goals you seek through the use of one or the other, or both. I have taken a Nikon D800 and a Think Tank bag full of lenses on a two week Costa Rica trip. I’ve spent a week shooting in Austin, TX with a Fuji X100s and I took a Leica M9 and a 1950’s 50mm summicron on a roadtrip up the west coast for two weeks. Recently I spent a couple weekends in San Francisco with nothing but a Leica MM Monochrom and a 35mm cron and these days, the majority of my shooting is done with a Leica M2 loaded with Kodak 400tx and an older 35mm summicron – a setup that I love for its simplicity.

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The point I am trying to make here is that I have enjoyed an assortment of equipment configurations, both film and digital, and I have been able to create wonderful images with each, despite that fact that all of them have unique challenges. Anytime you seek to find the most appropriate tool for a specific job you have to weigh the negatives against the positives for each option. I spent quite a bit of time doing just that before a recent trip to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. I wanted to simplify my travel setup; I didn’t want to carry multiple cameras with different film format, battery or memory card needs. I wanted something that would not distract me from enjoying the process of traveling and photographing.

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The first question was film vs digital. I realized that I didn’t want to be tempted to spend my evenings poring over the thousands of images I had downloaded into my computer, or to spend my lunches thumbing through pictures on my camera screen. It was important to me that I enjoy the experience of traveling while also taking pictures, rather than being preoccupied with the pictures I was taking on my travels. I also knew that I didn’t want to be reliant on batteries as I often spend long days shooting without any opportunity for charging. Another consideration was that a huge amount of travel photography occurs during the brightest part of the day in very changeable light conditions. Film is able to handle these changes more consistently and pleasingly than any digital format I have experimented with. The latitude that film allows, along with its ability to smoothly control transitions between shadows, mid-tones and highlights makes it a more effective tool for mid-day shooting, in my opinion. I also considered the difference in the way I work with film as opposed to digital. With digital I have a tendency to shoot everything knowing that I have virtually unlimited capacity for recording.

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When I’m using film, however, I find my process slows substantially. I search each setting/situation for the right moment, knowing that my shots are limited. I find that film forces me to really get into each moment and to stay there longer, something that I find incredibly important when I travel. In the end, these considerations led me to choose film as the medium for my travel photography needs.

Next I had to settle on the format. 35mm would allow for smaller, lighter gear and many more shots per roll. Medium format would give me incredible dynamic range, detail and latitude while forcing me to be extremely critical while shooting. In the end, the technical advantages of the medium format option won out over the convenience of 35mm. I knew it was going to be medium format film, and because I was going to the amazingly colorful town of San Miguel I knew I wanted color film. I chose to bring Kodak Portra 400 as my only film stock as it affords exceptionally smooth renderings at low iso while also providing excellent push-ability, fantastic highlight retention (imperative for the bright Mexican sun), and great colors. It also translates very well to black and white Continuing my theme of keeping things simple, I chose a Fuji GW670ii rangefinder camera for the trip. These “texas leicas” are all mechanical so there was no battery life to worry about. Since rangefinder cameras are mirrorless, they are nearly silent in operation and they allow the user to utilize slower shutter speeds with less vibration than slr cameras. These cameras all feature a fixed 90mm Fujinon lens that is incredibly sharp with fantastic bokeh characteristics and color rendition.

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Armed with my newly simplified kit I headed off to San Miguel de Allende for 12 days of exploration and shooting. I would be lying if I said I didn’t immediately question my decision upon leaving the rest of my gear behind, but after the first day I was convinced I had made the right choice. The Portra performed as well as I’d hoped in capturing the beautiful colonial architecture and brightly colored haciendas of San Miguel. When shooting in the mid-day sun I was able to rate it at 100 iso without any need to pull the processing when I got home (which was critical while using the Fuji which has a top shutter speed of 1/500) and it produced amazing results pushed as high as 6400 iso at I spent countless hours walking San Miguel’s beautiful cobblestone streets, sampling the local cuisine, meeting locals, and capturing amazing images. I found it to be one of the most welcoming and warm environments for travel that I have ever experienced. My days were spent exploring the magnificent el Charco del Ingenio Botanical Gardens; the el Tianguis Tuesday Market, a huge bazaar that features a little bit of everything; and the central square known as El Jardin that sits right next to the beautiful Parroquia de San Miguel Arcangel cathedral, the main architectural landmark of the city. During my trip I was privileged to witness two daylong celebrations in and around this immaculately maintained square, as well as a traditional Mexican wedding at the church. These events provided further insight into Mexican culture and afforded me some amazing photographic opportunities.

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Spread around the city are a number of other spectacular cathedrals, as well as a number of other squares where people gather. I could not help but fall in love with the uniqueness and beauty of the city and its people; and I returned home with 53 rolls of film filled with amazing memories from my time there. I cannot wait for Ultimately I was incredibly happy with my decision to simplify my travel photography setup. I believe that the careful process of selecting the right tools afforded me the ability to be in the moment more during this trip than any other before it.

Feb 272015
 

Back to Sony after 30 years away and why the RX10 works for me

By Chris Lamle

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What? I hear you cry… but Sony didn’t make cameras 30 years ago! It’s true, they didn’t, but way back when I was an graphic design student I had 2nd hand Minolta XG-7 (see the Sony connection?), upon which I cut my photographic teeth and learned the basics of taking photographs as well as processing and printing the images.

Fast forward a few years and there’s marriage and kids. The Minolta has long since died and I ditch my wifes’s Canon AE-1 for a Pentax compact (what was I thinking!). Sacriledge I know, but I was looking for something easier and simpler to use and that had autofocus and a zoom. I guess I was a lazy photographer.

Fast forward a few more years and a succession of film compacts, an early Minolta Dimage bridge camera (Sony again!!!), various other digital compacts and a Fuji bridge camera. All were pretty convenient and took, to my eyes at the time, pretty ok snapshots.

I had always enjoyed taking photographs but never considered myself an enthusiast and had only minimal knowledge of such basics as ISO, noise, sensor size and suchlike. I just stuck the camera in ‘P’ and hoped for the best.

It was only after briefly using a friend’s Nikon D90 that I realised that I was missing something. Well a lot really… like rich colours, image detail, bokeh, low light performance, a decent viewfinder. You name it.

So I decided that I would take my photography more seriously and started reading up. And boy did I read… magazines, websites, online reviews, offline reviews, watched video reviews and became immersed in everything to do with photography and cameras, to understand what I was missing.

So what was I looking for in a camera (in no particular order)?

Image quality
Convenience
Versatility
Usability
Quality
Shooting experience

What I didn’t want:

Bulk
Weight
Faffing about

After what seemed like months of research I came within a hairs breadth of getting a E-M5. And probably would not have regretted buying it. Then a friend mentioned the RX10. This, he said, was the Holy Grail for what I was looking for.

So I read up all I could on the RX10, including Steve’s review here. And took the plunge. A big deal for me, especially as I paid launch price for it. That was 4 times more than I’d EVER spent on a camera in my life.

The Basics:

I won’t detail full specs here as there are plenty of online reviews that go into much greater detail. For those unfamiliar with the RX10, it is basically the RX100’s big brother. The headline features are the same 1” 20Mp sensor as the RX100, but paired with a constant F2.8 Zeiss 24-200 equivalent zoom.

So why does the RX10 work for me?
Convenience.
Just 1 camera for stills and video. 1 fixed lens for pretty much all the situations that I like to shoot, whether it be portraits, street photography, landscapes, architecture. It’s reasonably compact, especially given the extra lenses you’d need to bring along from a comparable ILC system. And then there’d be the tiresome bother of changing lenses. Some people argue that the electronic zoom is slow. And it is, compared to a manual zoom. But people forget that while you’re changing out your 24-70mm for a 70-200mm, you’ve just missed the shot that I just got. And the zoom, in video mode, is pretty much silent.

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Versatility.

It’s the Swiss Army Knife or Gerber Multitool of cameras. Excellent at lots of things and just really handy to have around… need more reach and better quality than a compact? Yep. Want better video than an E-M5? Yep. Full manual controls like a full sized DSLR? Yep. Good EVF so you can shoot in bright sunshine, or because your eyesight is so poor you can’t see an LCD screen without glasses? Yep. It can’t take stones out of horses hooves, but there’s not much it isn’t capable of tackling… high speed sports and wildlife excepted.

Usability.

The RX10 scores really well here. Buttons and controls are numerous and customisable. I particularly like the aperture ring on the lens and the dedicated exposure compensation dial. Combine these with the function buttons and dials and I can easily change camera parameters without taking my eye from the viewfinder or delving into menus. And the camera isn’t overloaded with buttons.

The Sony menus seem intuitive and easy to navigate. Plus there is a Fn button that brings up a customisable view of functions that you can change quickly – like metering, drive mode, special effect, ISO, ND filter on/off. Nice.

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Quality.

I’ll divide this into build quality and image quality. Build quality is superb, as to be expected from a camera at this launch price. But it’s a really great feeling piece of kit. It features a magnesium body overlaid with high grade plastics. The Panasonic GH series cameras and entry level DSLRs are like plastic toys in comparison. The lens is a precision engineered chunk of glass and metal befitting its Zeiss badge, with the electronic zoom and aperture ring feeling very slick. The peripheral dials and buttons have that ‘hewn from solid’ feel that you know will last.

Image quality.

The pairing of Sony’s excellent 1” sensor and 24-200 Zeiss lens make a winning combination. The lens is sharp and produces punchy images. I shoot a mix of Raw and JPEG. I find the JPEG processing, although a little mushy when you’re pixel peeping, is more than adequate if I’m taking photos at a social event where the images are only going on Facebook. For landscape shoots or when I want to control the final image more, I’ll shoot RAW. There’s more noise than you would get from a bigger sensor, obviously, but at the A3 sizes I print it’s fine for me. I reckon I can recover plenty of shadow detail from Raw images – see sample of the Cabo Sao Vicente – Europe’s most south westerly point.

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I’ve also included (shock horror on Steve Huff Photo) images of a brick wall!!! I know this isn’t meant to be a hugely technical review and my comparison isn’t hugely scientific or methodical, but shows how how the RX10 stacks up against an APSC camera (in the shape of an EOS M) at ISO 200 and ISO 1600, all SOOC JPEGs. There’s a smidge more noise at 1600, but damn this 1” sensor stacks up well given it’s half the size. The image from the RX10 is actually punchier and more contrasty to boot.

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Shooting Experience

So it may have all these great features, but what’s it like to shoot with? The size is more traditional DSLR than an M4/3 system, but then it does come with a 24-200 F2.8 lens built-in. To to add that range onto a DSLR or even an M4/3 body will add more weight combined, than the RX10 alone. At around 800 grams it feels comfortable to use all day. It doesn’t drag on my neck and neither does it feel heavy to hold for long periods. The grip is a good size and feels nice and comfortable in the hand. Well my hand anyway. The dials and buttons all feel ‘right’ and in the right place. The buttons actuate precisely without any sponginess, ditto the dials which I’ve never had accidentally shift to another setting.

Being a mirrorless camera it has an EVF. Not as bright as an OVF, but good enough for me, and even better than an OVF in low light. The live view is brilliant for getting a more realistic idea of what your image will turn out. Subtle adjustments to aperture and the EV compensation and you can instantly see changes to exposure and/or depth of field. All without taking your eye away from the scene in the viewfinder.

Autofocus speed is good. Maybe it’s not as snappy as an E M5 or an A6000, but it’s good. I rarely find myself thinking ‘just bloody focus will you’. The only times have been at the tele end in low light and low contrast.

There’s also the option of the excellent manual focusing, which you can use with focus enlargement or focus peaking. I haven’t really got the hang of focus peaking yet, either that or it doesn’t work for stills. It never seems to be in quite in focus using this method. Maybe there’s a technique I’ve missed.

Tracking focus is another story. But then this camera is not really aimed at sports or wildlife, which probably includes kids and dogs. You need to take a different approach to this type of shooting, either using zone focusing or presetting a focus point, which I used in the pool shot.

So what do I think it’s good for?
Landscapes. Good dynamic range and an excellent focal length range means it’s great for anything from stunning wide vistas to detail shots, both inside and out.

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Street shooting: the near silent shutter is a bonus, but the fact it looks more like a DSLR and the size make it a little more obvious and intrusive. But, again, the focal range means you can be switching between views and grabbing open street scenes or more intimate moments

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Portraits: subject isolation is possible at its widest aperture and a longer focal length.

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Events and social gatherings: the zoom range and wide aperture makes it great for capturing people at social events. Again the near silent shutter is great here.

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What it’s not so great for:

Basically anything requiring 200mm+ reach is out.
Fast moving subjects using tracking focus
Fitting in your pocket. This is strictly a bag only cam.
If you want ultimate low noise high ISO image quality

A few more images..

All the images have all been taken over the last year and have mainly been taken in Spain, in and around a small town in Andalucia called Olvera. Others are from my home in West Yorkshire and from a short trip to Portugal. It’s a mixed bag as you can see, with a bit of everything from food photography for a local bar, to friends and family, people and places. Sharp eyed Game of Thrones fans may even spot Missandei (actress Nathalie Emmanuel) when we did a spot of papparazzi as the show was being filmed in our neck of the woods in Spain.

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Downsides

OK, so there are some. It’s size does mean it’s not at all pocketable. So maybe I’ll get an RX100 one day as a companion. Ideal for simply popping in a shirt pocket. Battery life is barely a day. Typical for a mirrorless camera I guess. But batteries are cheap enough that it’s not an issue. The switch that alternates the clicky/clickless option on the aperture ring is prone to be activated accidentally. Again, it’s a nitpick really. You need to remember to pull the LCD screen away from the camera before mounting on a tripod, as it won’t slide out otherwise. Not sure if the focus peaking actually works properly, or whether it’s just me. The screen isn’t fully articulated, where I guess most videomeisters would prefer it was.

Conclusions

A great travel and family camera in a moderately compact form. It offers a real step up in quality from a standard P&S, and is not that far behind M4/3 and APSc. For many people it’s literally all the camera they could ever need. No need to bother with lens swapping, no need for a separate video camera. Just get it out and start taking great pictures. Yet it also enables advanced users the option to get fully creative with the manual controls, which are all to hand like a ‘proper’ camera. It’s great for both stills and video.

Talking of video… why no mention of it. Well (cough, shuffles feet), I’ve barely done any. The few clips I’ve done look excellent to me, but I’ve hardly scratched the surface of what it does video-wise. But it’s nice to know it’s very capable, should I get the urge to create a movie sometime. Despite the lack of 4K video it offers serious pro-level features, like a clickless aperture ring. silent zoom, headphone socket, no line skipping full sensor readout.

At the price I paid I thought it was a great all-in-one camera. At its current price of around £650 in the UK, it’s a positive steal.

Hope you enjoyed the review, and the pics.

Thanks Steve.

—-

B&H Photo has the RX10 for $999 – See Steve’s original RX10 Review HERE.

Feb 242015
 

Zeiss35mm14distagonZMSonyA7s

The new Zeiss 35 1.4 Zm Distagon on the Sony A7s

by Sean Cook

Hello Steve!

My name is Sean, and I’m a wedding photographer in Detroit.

I just picked up the new Zeiss Distagon 35mm 1.4 ZM from Popflash Photo in California, and I wanted to drop you a line to give you some first impressions of it and how it works on the Sony A7s.

One sentence summary: It’s sharp all over and beautiful with no color cast, but vignettes a lot and can create some strange artifacts in the out of focus areas.

Quick notice: I have had the lens for a day, and it’s cold in Detroit, so these aren’t exactly exhibition-worthy. I also was mostly shooting to test some of the qualities of the lens, and less just out to make great photos.

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To start, the lens is built beautifully, and if you’ve ever held an all-metal Zeiss lens, you know that feeling. It’s also surprisingly heavy. Including the Voigtlander Close-Focus Adapter, it easily heavier than my big Sony/Zeiss 50mm 1.4 ZA, so while it’s compact, don’t expect it to be lightweight — it’s like a condensed Canon 35mm 1.4L.

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Below: 100% crop of above image, wide open at 1.4

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The aperture ring is really perfectly damped, though because there is no EXIF data to know through the viewfinder where you’re f-stop is, it would be nice if there were deeper detents for the full stops (1.4, 2.0, 2.8…) like you would find on most Leica lenses. The focus is also damped really well. I hate a MF lens that takes a lot of push or pull to focus, and fortunately, even for a brand new lens it focuses quickly smoothly and quickly (though shooting outside in the cold gums of the works a bit). It’s also a very short focus throw (about a quarter or a turn or so), making focusing all that much quicker.

Not surprisingly, the lens cap is terrible and hardly feels like it even fits, and for the price of a used car, a lens hood would be nice also, but probably not anything to get too worked up about.

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I’ve only had the lens for a day now, so I have still quite a bit to learn about it and how it performs in different situations, but so far, it really is a joy to use. It is sharp and crisp, resistant to flare, easy to focus, has great character, and makes me want to go outside and shoot! Which, readers of this site will know, is maybe the most important characteristic. I have included a few photos to hopefully show some of those traits — especially the photo of the alarmingly hip older couple.

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However, it is not without its flaws. So far there are two that really worry me. 1. Vignetting and 2. Ghost/double-image.

Vignetting:
Now, certainly vignetting is easy enough to fix in Lightroom or Photoshop, but the amount that it darkens the image at 1.4 makes it difficult to get the correct exposure at times, and does add a little frustration to shooting. Anyone who’s ever shot video using Slog understands the difficulty in having to imagine later what your image will look like — I would LOVE if I could program in an amount of vignette correction for the camera to apply to allow me to really see what I’m working with.

To give you an idea of the amount of darkening that happens, I’ve included some real-world examples before and after correcting it in Lightroom. For reference, I find the amount I need to move the slider in the manual vignette correction for a 1.4 shot is 100! Literally, the amount is all the way, and the midpoint is all the way in the other direction, meaning the whole shot gets much brighter, and I find I need to then bring the exposure slider back about -0.5, which is a ton. But, while it is irritating, and might be a little bothersome in high-ISO situations, ultimately, it is a fixable problem.

Wide Open Vignetting – Before and After correction.

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Double-Image/ghost:
This one is kind of odd. I’ve never seen anything like it, and I can only assume it’s being caused by the thick sensor and close flange distance, but in the areas that are toward the edge and not in focus, a sort of double-image is created. I don’t know that I can describe it anymore than by just saying to look at the photos.

I tested it a few times after noticing it, because it looks like motion blur, but only in the areas that aren’t on the focal plane. In fact, to prove it isn’t some motion blur, you can see that one of the photos where it appears is shot at 1.4 into the sun, meaning the shutter speed was around 1/4000 of a second.

Honestly, I don’t know what to make of this, or how much it will actually show up or bother me, but it’s worth noting that this lens does not work perfectly on the A7s.

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Beyond those two concerns, the lens is a delight. I shot into the sun, and got only minor CA, and minor flare, and the flare wasn’t especially distracting or ugly — it mostly just gives you a nice glow when backlighting is present.

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Pros:
– Incredibly well-built
– Wonderful character
– Great bokeh
– Zeiss pop
– Great sharpness at 1.4 across the image, as long as the subject is in the somewhat curved focal plane (I shoot people, so I don’t especially need tack sharp at 1.4)
– Combined with the Voigtlander VM-E, allows very close focus
– Very well damped aperture ring and focus ring
– Like all Zeiss and Leica lenses, the value doesn’t drop much over the life of the lens

Cons:
– Expensive
– Heavy
– Strange double-image artifacts towards the edges of the A7s
– Very strong vignette at 1.4

Wide Open Sharpness Test – 1st image, then the 100% crop

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I am going on a quick vacation this weekend to Texas, and I will send in a follow-up set of photos that will hopefully show more of the lens’ character, and help me determine if its shortcomings outweigh its beauty. I would hate to have to use the upcoming and huge Sony/Zeiss 35mm 1.4 FE! So we’ll see!

Thanks,

Sean

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Sean Cook Wedding Photography
Chicago & Detroit

http://seancookweddings.com

[email protected]

Jan 282015
 

Using the Sony A7

By Josh Seeto

Hi Steve and Brandon,

I am an Australian photographer based in Brisbane. Shooting for over 5 years, and spending thousands of dollars buying, selling and trading camera gear (working for 3 years in a camera shop did not help my GAS), I found myself in a creative rut.

Over the new year break I went on a two-week trip to Taiwan with my partner. Starting from Taipei, we worked our way around Taiwan starting from the East coast. Packing my suitcase was the easy bit – choosing ONE camera kit to bring proved to be incredibly time-consuming. Should I go for the mirrorless wonders of the full frame A7? What about the trusty D600? Would I find myself missing wide-angle with the x100s? Hm.. I was travelling – maybe I should drop both and bring along my RX100M2. What about film? I could have brought along 明瞭さ – my modified polaroid 420 or my Instax mini 90.

In the end, I decided to go with the A7 and SEL1635z. The A7 had proved itself as a beast in low light, had a viewfinder and tilt screen for sunny days, great AF, lazy man’s panorama and was easily stored. Restricting myself to one lens due to weight considerations I found forced me to explore and think about my creative options more. The lens itself was no let down, great construction, sharpness was on point and OSS definitely came in handy in low light conditions.

I wanted to share these photos with you and fellow blog readers as I feel they represent my lasting impressions of Taiwan. I’ve framed them to give a cinematic feel with processing in lightroom and photoshop.

If anyone is interested in seeing more, check out my flickr.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/13atman/

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Jan 272015
 

The Kodak Ektanar f/2.8 Lens on the Sony A7r

by Chris Peters

I recently built a custom lens adapter for the Kodak Ektanar f/2.8 Lens. If you think your readers would be interested, I would love to write this up as a user report. The Kodak Ektanar was part of the Signet 80 rangefinder system that the company produced from 1958 – 1962.

The system came with 3 lenses: a 50mm f/2.8, a 35mm f/3.5, and a 90mm f/4. More info is here:

http://photo.net/classic-cameras-forum/00YOZc

And here are the three lenses mounted with the custom lens adapters on my Sony A7R. The lenses are so obscure I had to build the lens adapters on a 3D printer to use them!

This photograph cannot be modified for commercial or advertising use, nor can it be copied or reproduced in any form without the photographer’s permission.

Here are some photos I took with the lens and adapter:

A WALK THROUGH HOLLYWOOD WITH THE KODAK EKTANAR LENS

This photograph cannot be modified for commercial or advertising use, nor can it be copied or reproduced in any form without the photographer’s permission.

This photograph cannot be modified for commercial or advertising use, nor can it be copied or reproduced in any form without the photographer’s permission.

This photograph cannot be modified for commercial or advertising use, nor can it be copied or reproduced in any form without the photographer’s permission.

This photograph cannot be modified for commercial or advertising use, nor can it be copied or reproduced in any form without the photographer’s permission.

This photograph cannot be modified for commercial or advertising use, nor can it be copied or reproduced in any form without the photographer’s permission.

This photograph cannot be modified for commercial or advertising use, nor can it be copied or reproduced in any form without the photographer’s permission.

This photograph cannot be modified for commercial or advertising use, nor can it be copied or reproduced in any form without the photographer’s permission.

This photograph cannot be modified for commercial or advertising use, nor can it be copied or reproduced in any form without the photographer’s permission.

This photograph cannot be modified for commercial or advertising use, nor can it be copied or reproduced in any form without the photographer’s permission.

Jan 032015
 

Hi Brandon,

I have been a frequent reader of your father’s reviews on this website. and this would be my 1st submission, and hopefully 1st of many.

Over a year ago I gave up on DSLRs, and got myself a Fuji X100s when it was 1st introduced. that camera changed the way I take pictures, I am no longer cautious and concerned about being caught taking pictures in public (this is a grey area in my country, no specific rules, but many got into trouble shooting large dslr in public)

I quickly adopted street photography, loved how the Fuji was small, silent, and no one would take it seriously anyways. it made a lot of sense at that time.

However, I always wanted a Leica and last January I got my hands on my 1st ever Leica, I decided on a black M240 along with 50mm Summicron (V4 I believe), and that set was just perfect, small and discreet, slowly I even forgot about my trusty Fuji, and the Leica became my primary camera.

Attached are some photographs taken with the leica M along with the Summicron 50mm.

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Regards,

Fahad A

Saudi Arabia

https://www.flickr.com/photos/fahad85/

Dec 132014
 

Switching to Mirrorless from a DSLR

By Mohamed Hakem

Hello Steve!

Whenever I’m into any stage of photography I come to my passionate website :)

Mirrorless really helped me unhinge a new passion for photography.

I always considered myself as a nature/landscape. I had a D800 and all what I was interested in was landscape, nature and architecture. I was never a people’s photographer, not because I couldn’t but because I’m a little bit shy and not the right personality for doing weddings and commercials. Despite loving street photography and portraits of normal people in the street, it is an absurd dream for me in Egypt. In conservative cultures, people get offended when you point a camera and snap a picture, they might even get aggressive. So for me this category was off the list. Until when I got a Fuji X100 and things change! magically people in the street began accepting the photos! I had more and more confidence and I liked the Idea of having a camera with me 100% of the time! I found myself leaving the D800 and other lenses at home despite knowing that they are way more capable.

I gradually began shifting towards Fuji, I got an Xpro-1 and a couple of lenses and began traveling with the Xpro-1 18mm F/2 + 35mm F1.4. I started to discover new horizons for me in street photography. I really liked it! It wasn’t long since I got an XT-1 and sold all my nikon glass and committed myself to Fuji.

I started to get the courage to get closer to people here in my country and surprisingly having a retro style camera shifts you towards an artist more than a spy or a CIA agent or even a journalist!. I went with some friends all lugging around huge backpacks full of equipment and I really pitted them, I was going light with just the Fuji XT-1, 35mm and a 23mm. I could move more easily, having just a small shoulder bag that doesn’t even look like a camera bag I was able to get closer to people. I took some portraits of amazingly kind and simple people all with a friendly spirit.

I just LOVED mirrorless more and I knew that I took the right decision. believe me people it’s not sensor sizes or charts or dynamic ranges. It’s only you who really knows what makes you happy, Don’t just sit and read articles like mirrorless VS DSLR or buying gears just because it has a PRO marks all over it! for me, being light and mobile allowed me to get more! to discover more and to move more!

before I had the D800 and Nikon’s trinity, I couldn’t wish for more quality and supreme performance, but with the Fuji, going around more and having a clearer mind allowed me to do settings more wisely, intuitively and faster. Yes the Fuji is a slower less capable camera than the Nikon, but its combination with ME is a faster package, even the Landscape that I come from is much easier and nicer.

It reminded me with the good old days when I had the Nikon FM2 and a couple of lenses.

My website:

http://www.hakemphotography.com

http://500px.com/hakem

below are some street photos that I took with my XPRO-1 and X-T1

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© 2009-2015 STEVE HUFF PHOTOS All Rights Reserved
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