May 262014
 

Photowalk and Workshop Thoughts

By Ben

Steve and Brandon,

The first photography workshop that I attended was the street photography workshop you hosted in Chicago during September 2011. It was a wonderful experience.

I recently had the opportunity to teach a street photography workshop hosted by the local camera shop in my area. I met very passionate photographers and was able to share my thoughts with them. I learned from them as well. I think that workshops are fantastic and I wish they occurred more frequently. I wanted to share my thoughts with you and your readers regarding photowalks and workshops.

Photowalk is not a word that can be easily be found defined in a dictionary. I understand it to mean: An informal organized gathering of people whose intent is to stroll around leisurely taking photos, enjoying themselves, and learning from one another through interaction and observation. I think that photowalks are analogous to photography workshops. They can be considered one and the same.

Workshops and photowalks are great investment and idea for photographers at every skill level. Here is why:

Education

No explanation is necessary. We all benefit from instruction. Regarding workshops in general, photography related or not, I always take something away from the experience.

Interaction

Workshops allow for more individualized attention. Studies have shown that more is accomplished with a smaller teacher to student ratio. A smaller group size allows for more opportunity for communication. Sometimes individual student/teacher time is included during a workshop. Before a workshop I determine what it is that I want to get out of the workshop. I prepare a list of questions ahead of time. Many of these questions are naturally answered through the content of material presented. The other questions I will ask the instructor during a one-on-one session.

Informality

Workshops typically consist of ten or fewer students. In my formal career I have had the opportunity to present, teach, and mentor numerous times. There are benefits to learning in smaller groups. I have seen it with my own eyes. In larger groups and in classroom settings it is harder for people to speak up and ask questions. I once taught a night class at the local college that only had seven students enrolled. The restraint and sheepishness of students was almost non-existent. In that situation I felt less like a teacher and more like a big brother type of mentor. The atmosphere was very relaxed. People felt comfortable. I have observed the same type of social synergy in photography workshops. People interact, they speak up and communicate.

Time

Workshops are generally scheduled for a full weekend or less. I’ve heard time and time again that the best way to become a photographer is to keep your day job. Like most of us, I have a 9 to 5 career. There isn’t time available in my busy life to enroll in formal photography or art classes. Workshops are great because they generally occur over the weekend. They are usually held at a very great location and thus can feel like a mini vacation. One day workshops that are held on a Saturday seem to fit me well. My wife and I will generally travel to the workshop destination on Friday night after work. Saturday day is taken up with me at the workshop and my wife shopping or checking out the tourist attractions that are offered. We meet up in the evening for dinner and a night out on the town. I also use this time out with my wife to get some street shooting in as well. It’s great to multitask street shooting while out on a date with your love. The day ends up being a full day of photography for me.

Camaraderie

People like to spend time with other like minded people with the same interests. Workshops mainly consist of time in a classroom followed by shooting time. During this shooting time there is much interaction. This is where I approach or am approached by others to chat about what has previously discussed during the day. Conversations typically start with “I really agreed with your comment regarding……” or “I have the same camera. Do you like the lens you are shooting with? I’ve considered buying it.” Advertising for workshops should include “For sale: instant friends, just add cameras”. I have met many great people attending photography workshops. Someone usually facilitates email address exchange at the end. I can say that I keep in contact with some people I’ve met through email or simply following and commenting on their blogs, social pages, etc.

Attached are several photos that I captured during the second session of the workshop I taught. All photos were taken with a Leica M9 and Voigtlander 35mm Skopar PII.

You can view more of the photos at:
www.photographsbyben.com
www.photographsbybenmiller.blogspot.com

Thank you Steve and thank you Brandon for keeping such a wonderful website and giving all of us something to look forward to everyday.

Cheers,

Ben

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May 262014
 

NY with Fuji X Pro1

By Pieter Vermeulen

Hi Steve,

Long time reader from The Netherlands here, and I wanted to share some pictures.

After years of shooting with my Canon 5D and other big camera’s I bought a Leica M8.2 a little over a year ago along with two nice Elmarit lenses. In the end, it wasn’t for me. I loved shooting with and getting that Leica feeling, but the ISO performances were so bad that I could not justify it. Thought of buying a M9 instead, but even for the extra money I could not just do it. I also bought the Fuji X100S when it came out and loved it. I did sell it after 2 months because the fixed focal length wasn’t for me. So I sold everything and bought the Fuji X Pro 1 with the 18mm 2.0 and the 35mm 1.4. Fell in love with it. Wasn’t the Leica M but it was what I was looking for.

So when I went to New York for the first time in my life (actually flying for the first time in my life after being scared of flying my entire life) I brought the X Pro. One day… I will go back to Leica… but for now… the Fuji helped in capturing the people of New York. Just wanted to share!

Greetings
Pieter Vermeulen

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May 202014
 

Art of the Grind

By Huss Hardan

Grind: Definition: A skateboard trick where the skateboarder slides on the trucks.

Skateboarding is part of the scene in my home town of Venice, California. Most days when I’m not at work I’m down at the beach on a long board, with my dogs and a camera in tow.
There is a big skate park just off the board walk, which attracts dare devils as well as on lookers.

I took these shots using Leitz 18 and 28mm lenses on a Leica M-E. I found the manual focus rangefinder perfect for this work, as I would pre-focus on a spot, while the optical viewfinder allowed me to keep both eyes open so I could time the release as the rider came into view. This enabled a lag free experience.

I concentrated on the shadows created as I was going for a different look than the usual action shots. This also allowed me to shoot down removing distractions from the frame. I set the camera to add an extra 1 2/3 stops as the extremely harsh reflections from the concrete bowl would normally cause drastic under exposure.

Peace out
Huss

husshardan.com

Art of the Grind 1

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Art of the Grind 3

Art of the Grind 4

May 082014
 

The best camera ever

By Etienne Schoettel

Hi Steve,

I am one of your daily readers looking for your like-no-other reviews and your passionate and crazy comparisons but sadly (for me) I never write a comment. Anyway, I’ve decided to send you this message because in this time when so many tremendous cameras are released (the Leica M 240, RX1, OMD, etc.) I’ve finally realized what I think has always been and will be forever the best camera ever. I think I have your attention but now I may look pretentious. I’ll try to correct that.

#1

But firstly first, let me just introduce myself. I am a French 29-year-old guy living in Paris (pretentious and French that is so cliché) who really loves cameras and smiles all the time. Five years ago, I started small taking pictures without any idea on concepts like bokeh, AF, OVF but with a compact digital camera and my dad advice. Then, I decided to move to a bigger camera (Lumix FZ18) and 1.5 year later to a DSLR (Canon 7D). I really loved all of those cameras because they allowed me to learn at my own pace. But like many people reading your blog, I think that I am a bit affected by what you’ve perfectly described as the Gear Acquisition Syndrome. Indeed, anytime the new killer camera is announced (which often happens these days), I can’t stop asking myself “Hey! What if…” Fortunately enough, for me and my savings, I am quite disciplined and I manage to resist most of the time.

#2

For more than 10 months now, we have decided my wife and I to travel around the world for one year (mainly in South America and Asia). So this means that we will need to leave our jobs, apartment and comfort. Anyway we are sure that this is worth. Of course, we want to share our “future” memories with our families, friends and travelers and that is why we have created a blog. With no idea on how to do this but with some good friends and wikis we managed to have our site. And finally, as any serious traveler blog, we have created a gallery where we will put some shots of our trip.

Now let’s go back to my point (it was about time!). As my wife and I didn’t want to publish an empty blog, we decided to put some old pictures taken during our last trips as an illustration of what the site should look like. Then started the exhumation of files lost in one dust-covered backup hard drive.

#3

What I’ve found were mainly noisy shots, sometimes miss focused but often cropped (due to bad composition). They were taken with the Lumix FZ18 when I was travelling in South East Asia in 2008. Attached to that (not in the EXIF data), there was the answer to my question: what the hell is the Grail camera? The truth is that I have just bought it recently. And my conclusion is that it has not much to do with sensor size, ISO or even IQ.

Let’s do some math. What can we get for $2,800 (which is quite something I must admit)?

A) The Sony RX1 killer-camera-that-fits-in-your-pocket-alas-not-in-my-French-undersized-pockets. Excellent camera no question about that. Please read Steve Huff review!

B) A Leica lens which is so sharp that it is considered as a weapon in some countries.

C) A one-year flight ticket which will offer you so many good moments and pictures that you’ll never regret it.

Yes, my answer is C. This is the price of the ticket (for one person) we paid for our one-year trip. But, you can change the amount for something smaller, even $300 my answer remains “C”. I will always prefer using my money to go somewhere I don’t know that any new camera and that is my Grail. Period (I love them).

#4

I prefer all the imperfect shots taken during my trips with this small camera in Asia that the one taken in Paris with my full stuffed Canon 7D. I just mean that, to me, my best shots are done when I am far away whatever the quality of the camera. I don’t know if it has something to do with me acting differently when abroad or maybe I just try to open my eyes and heart a bit wider… there’s some magic I can’t explain.

You can see some of my pics here: http://pack2life.com/galerie/

Thank you Steve. Please continue your wonderful work. Did you notice that Steve Huff sounds like Stuff (no offense but it always makes me smile)?

Apr 302014
 

organicrisinganthony

Organic Rising. Help Anthony Suau with his new Documentary.

His Indiegogo campaign is HERE, website for the new film is HERE

Hello to all! It’s Wednesday and what better way to get over the hump than to watch a new movie trailer for a new documentary that is looking for your help to get off of the ground. The film is being created by photographer and film maker Anthony Suau, who is not only a friend of mine but an amazing (one of the world’s best imo) photographer who has won multiple awards including two World Press Photo awards and the Pulitzer prize. I saw Anthony in Berlin a couple of years ago and met him again when he was in Phoenix. We sat and talked for almost two hours at a coffee shop. I remember it well as Anthony was out shooting for a project he was doing all across the country and he was very passionate about it, which is always good. I remember saying to myself, and yes, I really did say it..”WOW, this guy is amazing. He not only talks the talk, he walks the walk.” The project he was working on at the time actually hit home with me as I had interest in the same type of thing, but as I said..Anthony spent his life “walking the walk” and for him, this was and is his life.  He is an amazing guy that I was glad to get to know.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Anthony has traveled the world shooting events and imagery that shows a true life dedication to his craft. While I just sit here and review cameras (which is what I love to do) he is out there using this cameras to share with the world, risking his life to do so.

The new film

Anthony is now making a movie, and after watching the intro about it as well as the trailer (and agreeing with his views on this subject) I thought some of you may want to see it as well. His passion for what he is doing is still here of course, full force. If you want to help him out with the films funding there are two cool ways to do so, one includes a new photo contest which is pretty cool (though does cost $6 per entry that helps to fund the film) and also the standard Indiegogo type of funding with rewards for those who help out, including an executive producer credit!

In any case, take a look at the intro and description of the project from Anthony below and if you like what you see head over the Indiegogo for the film HERE to see how you can help. The photo entry page is HERE.

Apr 302014
 

Big and small: in the field with a D800/55mm Otus and an A7r/35mm Summilux

Andrew Paquette

www.paqart.com

My background is as a visual artist, not a photographer. I started out as an editorial artist in New York, then became a comic book artist, a 3D artist in the video game industry, a special effects artist in the feature film business, and then an art director in video games. Throughout my career I have made extensive use of cameras, but only in a utilitarian way. For an illustration I did for Travel & Leisure, I took reference photos with a Polaroid. For an issue of the comic Nightbreed, I used my Nikon 2020 to shoot some friends in my loft, again as reference. For the movie Spider-Man, I used photos taken by one of my colleagues to build part of the 3d New York City set. For my paintings, though I preferred to paint subjects “live”, I sometimes took photos with my D70 for reference. On one painting in particular I had the nagging feeling that if only I’d had a better camera I could have skipped painting it. It turned into a fairly popular poster, but even today I think that a photo of the same scene would have done just as well or even better. Now that I have that better camera, I am fairly sure that is true.

I have read in many places that it doesn’t matter what kind of camera you have if you have a good eye for a picture. I would say that if you don’t have a decent eye for what makes a good picture, it won’t matter as much what kind of equipment you use, but it will still make a difference. If you do have some experience making pictures, the equipment can make a huge difference.

At the moment, my two favorite camera/lens combinations are almost exact opposites. One is huge, the other is tiny. On the big end of the spectrum, I love my D800 when paired with the Zeiss 55mm Otus lens. On the small side of things, I am equally pleased with my Leica 35mm Summilux ASPH when mounted on an A7r. The difference between how these two kits handle cannot be understated. The D800 + Otus is so ponderously heavy that I literally injured my hand using it (and even had to go to the doctor as a result). The A7r + Summilux is so tiny that I can carry it in a hip pouch and forget it is there. At face value, one might think that the small setup is the way to go but I have found the images I get out of the D800 + Otus so compelling that I take it out for a walk just as often as I go out with the A7r. I have not put the Otus on the A7r as others have done because for me, the purpose of the A7r is to have something lightweight and discreet. If I’m going to use the Otus, it won’t be discreet no matter what it’s mounted on, so I may as well have the higher frame rate offered by the D800.

When I bought the A7r, I was planning on switching to an all Sony/Leica system so that I could travel more easily with my photography gear. At first, I thought that was how it would work out, but then the Otus was released and I got curious about it. The next thing I knew, I had the Otus and found that it was capable of a wonderful medium format look. The A7r/Summilux would have been a perfect combination to shoot the subject I painted that was mentioned earlier, but the D800 + Otus would have been better for another painting I made shortly thereafter. Despite the extra weight, I found that I wanted to keep the D800 (and all my Zeiss lenses) and the A7r. Now, I use the A7r whenever I travel by plane, have to stay in a hotel, or if my arm is not feeling up to walking around with the Otus. Otherwise, I almost always use the Otus. For special occasions, other lenses will get a ride on the D800, but these days I almost always use the Otus.

I should also give a plug for Zacuto viewfinders here. After using the Sony’s vastly superior electronic viewfinder on the A7r, I was too spoiled to be satisfied with the optical viewfinder or live view on the D800. I use the Zacuto Z-finder pro 3x on both cameras now, and hardly ever misfocus as a result. As an added bonus, my exposure is much improved thanks to the Zacuto’s ability to isolate the LCD from exterior light. For the D800, I leave the mounting plate attached to the camera body, then snap on the viewfinder when I need it. For the A7r, I do not attach the mounting plate, but wear the Zacuto on a lanyard around my neck instead, then hold it up to the live view panel when needed.

With all that preamble out-of-the-way, here are some photos. Most were taken in Amsterdam, but several were taken on a recent trip to Geneva with the A7r. See the captions for more detailed information.

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1 The A7r+35mm Leica Summilux ASPH

Carnival ride, Amsterdam. There was a carnival in Dam square a couple weeks ago when I shot this image. The ride was moving so fast that I was amazed I could get any shots at all with the manual focus Summilux, but got several regardless. The real problem was that the seats on this ride spun from the arm they were attached to, meaning that I only occasionally had riders facing the camera.

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Breakdancing at Museumplein, Amsterdam. There is a troupe of breakdancers that I have now photographed three times at Museumplein. The first time I shot them on an overcast day with a Zeiss 15mm Distagon, then with a 55mm Zeiss Otus, and here with the 35mm Summilux. Like the carnival ride, I was worried about shooting fast action because of the A7r’s comparatively slow shots per second, but it worked out fine. I didn’t get as many shots as the D800 would have provided, but it was enough to get the exact shots I wanted.

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Indian magic trick at Leidseplein, Amsterdam. Although I avoid doing so with my other lenses, I love shooting backlit subjects with the A7r/Summilux combo. It isn’t that I never get decent shots of this type with other lenses, but this combination yields terrific contrast in these situations.

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Horse-drawn coach, Amsterdam  I’ve tried several times to get a decent shot of this horse, and finally got it with the A7r. One thing I love about the 35mm Summilux is its ability to provide context to a subject, as in this case by showing the environment around the horse.

A7r-04

Particle beam casing and magnets, CERN, Geneva. My friend, Dr. Richard Breedon, has been associated with one of the experiments at CERN for as long as I’ve known him. Recently he offered me an opportunity to come to Geneva and take some photos. I think he gave me something like two days’ notice, but I’d wanted to do it for quite a while, so I got the plane tickets right away and flew down. Taking pictures at CERN was made difficult by the poor lighting and the bizarre colors almost all the machinery was painted.

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Scientist calibrating panel at CERN, Geneva. This was one of a small number of shots I took at CERN that has a human subject in the frame to give a sense of the scale of the beam magnets. This scientist is standing at the base of one of these things, which are about 30 meters in diameter. Like most of the shots taken in this area, I converted it to black and white to get rid of all the brilliant green, red, and yellow painted objects.

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Skier at Chamonix. Richard and I drove down to Chamonix the day after photographing CERN, to have a look at the slopes near Mont Blanc. This shot was taken in an ice cave at the top of a perilous cable car ride. From here, it was all downhill. Most of the shots I took in Chamonix were taken with ISO 50, f 16, and 1/4000 shutter speed. This was one of maybe three shots that had more normal settings. I would post some of the others because I like them, but anyone who has ever been to this location will have very similar shots because there are only a few places to take pictures from unless you want to risk life and limb.

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Geneva auto show, Geneva. This shot looks pretty bright, but it was an indoor space lit with artificial lights, so it wasn’t that bright. This is where having a 1.4 aperture option comes in extremely handy. At ISO 400 I was able to shoot this at 1/400th of a second. One thing I should mention here is that I avoid shooting the A7r at less than 1/200th of a second to avoid shutter vibration, even if it means a higher ISO than I would normally use. In the 1/60-1/125 range, shutter vibration is noticeable, so I just don’t use those settings at all.

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Swan on Lake Geneva. I took about 20 shots of these swans, all in attempt to get one shot of water dripping off their beaks. After thinking I’d missed the shot every time, I found that the first shot got exactly what I wanted.

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Pedestrian, Geneva. This was taken after sunset. Streetlights were just coming on and it was starting to get difficult to see. Despite the lack of light, the Summilux delivered a very nice tonal range.

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Missing the pocket, Amsterdam. When I spotted this couple walking down the street, I had to get a shot of them. I turned around and snapped about five or six shots before they disappeared into a crowd. I particularly like shooting with the Summilux slightly after sundown because of the rich blue violet shades that permeate images made at that time of night. The same evening I took some other nice shots of boats and lights reflected in the canals. Absolutely gorgeous light.

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Roman Road golf course, Wales. I took this on the last day of a conference I attended in Wales. Until that morning, the region had been buried in deep fog that made it almost impossible to shot anything. I was grateful when the sky opened up a little to allow this image to be taken.

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2 The D800+55mm Zeiss Otus

Parked cars, Bergen op Zoom. In the Netherlands, it is very common to see trees trimmed like the ones in this image. Coming from the U.S., I think this looks a bit strange, but interesting. In this shot, I like how the shallow depth of field blends all the twigs together in the background, creating a kind of smoky bramble above the cars.

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Looking and not looking, Amsterdam. To get this shot, I parked myself in front of the violet lamp-post, focused on it, then waited for people to walk by. When I got home, I was fascinated by how sharp the lamp post is. I’m still not used to this quality the Otus has. The Summilux has terrific color and contrast, but the neutral color and outstanding sharpness of the Otus are mesmerizing to look at.

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Artist, Spui, Amsterdam. This shot looks about as cold as Siberia, but it wasn’t very cold at all, nor has it been all winter. We didn’t even have snow this year. Normally I don’t like to take pictures of paintings unless they are mine, but in this case I liked the large amount of white space interrupted by these couple of spots of intense color.

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Couple, Museumplein, Amsterdam. This shot, like many other shots taken with the Otus, looks like medium format photography to me. It also reminds me of the colors one finds in color photography from the 1950’s. The people in the Netherlands tend to be tall, and I like how this man looks like a giant in a tiny seat as he eyeballs my camera.

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Girl with braid, Amsterdam. The primary reason I shot this is because of the colors in this little girl’s clothing. While I think of the Summilux as being particularly good at dealing with blues and yellows, the Otus seems to like pinks and greens more. This may just be my imagination, but it has led me to shooting specific colors with this lens because I think they look better with it.

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Hands with tiny camera, Amsterdam. Unlike the monster I shot this with, the camera in these hands is barely visible. I had wanted to get a picture of this man because of the complex pattern on his jacket, but he ducked into an alcove, took a picture of a building across the street, then went back the way he’d come. I took this in anticipation of him coming out of the alcove in a moment, but he didn’t do it.

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Green and red, Haagse Beemden, Netherlands. I may be the only person in the world that likes this photograph of practically nothing, but I really do like it because of the colors. It is just a garbage can and a big red cylindrical building on the edge of a manmade lake, but I like the combination of red and green.

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Organ, Amsterdam. I have taken a lot of photos of cathedrals, but not as many of the organs, which are usually so high above the ground that it isn’t worth the trouble to shoot them with less than a 100mm lens. This one was lower than most and had great color.

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Breakdancer, Amsterdam. A problem had with the Zacuto is that the D800 live view screen will go black after the shutter is pressed until the image is finished saving. This meant that as I tried to follow the breakdancers with the camera, I could only frame the first shot by eye, and then the rest (if shot in continuous mode) I had to guess. For this reason, I have decided to use the Zacuto for initial focus when shooting action, but will remove it after it is focused so that I can track the action. For this type of shot, I thought the A7r was easier to use because I didn’t have to deal with the Zacuto getting in the way of the EVF.

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Skater, Amsterdam. To me, this skater looks almost like a superhero in this shot. I have at least a hundred shots of skaters in this park, but this is easily the most elegant of the group.

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Intersection, Amsterdam. It almost seems criminal sometimes to turn some of these images to black and white, but in this case I felt it was worth it to enhance the effect of the light falling between buildings on the opposite side of the street, silhouetting the man on the near traffic island.

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Bubbles, Carnaval celebration. This is another one of those shots that demonstrates how brilliant the Otus typically is. It’s pictures like this that have me wanting to think up some decent staged shots, find some models, then do some deliberate shoots to get a specific composition instead of hoping to find something interesting while walking around town.

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3 Conclusion

I have a hard time saying that I think either of these kits is better than the other because they are both clearly very capable systems. A funny thing about the handling of them is that while I wish the Otus didn’t weigh so much and was less bulky, using it is in some ways more comfortable than using the A7r. The A7r is easier to carry and less obtrusive, but I feel less in control of making the image than when I am using the Otus. I think this is because of the long throw on the Otus, which allows more fine focusing. With the A7r, I always worry that I’ve tapped the little focusing knuckle ring a little too far or not enough when taking a photo. Since I can tell whether it is in focus or not by using the EVF or Zacuto viewfinder, it is a silly concern to have, but it doesn’t stop me from feeling more confident when shooting the Otus. Having said all that, when selecting images for this article, I initially had almost twice as many Summilux shots as Otus shots as candidates. Is this because I unconsciously favor the Summilux? I wouldn’t know.

AP

Apr 252014
 

Sicily with the New Nikon D4s

by Mark Seymour

My passion for photography extends beyond recording weddings, it is people’s everyday lives, cultures, beliefs and religious practices that fascinate me and inspire my documentary photography. To develop this interest I schedule photography trips a few times every year to enable me to immerse myself in new places and experiences.

I have recently returned from what turned out to be one of my most fascinating photography adventures, capturing the incredible images of a tradition Sicilian Easter celebration in Trapani and was further enhanced by having the opportunity to meet up with some great documentary and street photographers such as Ernesto Bazan.

The trip was planned several months ago after my son Jonny asked to accompany me on my next documentary project and develop his skills behind the camera. We had an amazing trip together between us we took hundreds of images, impressing me with one real show stopper image of a Christ figurine.

The Processione dei Misteri di Trapani has been performed for over 300 years and retells the passion plays through the most elaborate floats being paraded from the church through the streets of Trapani for 16 hours. We joined them as they prepared and gathered in the church early in the morning and followed them throughout the day until nightfall. The immense effort under which the men carry the floats of Christ and Mary is clear in their faces, and the whole experience is incredibly powerful for even the non-religious visitor. It has definitely provided me with many stunning images to recall my memories from this visit.

The use of black and white documentary style photography really captures the emotions of the day highlights the facial expressions that tell the story of their belief and commitment.

I have selected the key images to retell the story of the day in the following slideshow, the background music is performed by a Sicilian marching band like the ones that accompany the procession.

All the images were taken on the new Nikon D4s which Nikon UK kindly sent me for this trip.

The full post can be seen here http://markseymourphotography.co.uk/trapini-easter-parade/

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Apr 222014
 

Ironwork craft makers

By Sebastien Bridelance

Hi Steeve, Hi Brandon,

My name is Sebastien, I’m french and fond of SteveHuffPhoto.com. I like the way you and your readers share and sharing is also the topic of the little story I would like to tell you.

An event, ‘the european days of crafts’ takes place during the first weekend of April. I would probably miss this but fortunately a friend of mine invite me to visit ironwork craftmakers of his friends. They’re located in Estaires, only few kilometers away from home. Obviously, my camera and me have accepted the invitation.

I’ve met passionate men, lovers of their work, preserving a traditional know-how. They’ve shown me how they shape pieces of iron for building and decorating a banister or a portal. They’re inspired and inspiring persons. I thank them for their friendly welcome. I’ve taken the following photos using a ‘classic’ gear : nikon D700 and two of my favorite lenses : Nikkor 85mm f/1.8 and Zeiss Distagon 35mm f/2. The 85 shot the first picture while the Distagon 35 made the two others. I’ve post-processed the raw files with Silver Efex.

Curving the hot metal – Nikkor 85/1.8 @ f/1.8

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In front of the forge – Distagon 35/2 @ f/4

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Mr Lenglart, owner of the workshop, making a flower from a sheet of iron – Distagon 35/2 @ f/2.8

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Best wishes,

Sebastien Bridelance

cercle2confusion.wordpress.com

Apr 172014
 

Looking Back to the Zeiss ZM 50mm Sonnar Day

By Zaki Jaihutan

Dear Steve and Brandon, thanks for providing the opportunity to share my nostalgic moment with the beautiful Zeiss ZM 50mm sonnar f1.5 or the Sonnar.

Not long ago I traded my Sonnar (together with one other lens) with the legenday leica 50mm summilux ASPH. I’ve been wanting to get my hand on the Lux for quite some time, it has its own strong rendition different to that of the Sonnar (perhaps “slight”, but it’s there).

I am not going to provide you with comparison between the two lenses. Not only that I dislike technical comparison (though I admit this type of comparison has its own use), but I also like to see a lens for what it is, its overall feel, its drawing if you like, how the lens work with my camera and myself. I am not good in giving objective explanation about this and prefer picture to do the talking. My acquisition of the Lux is a pure aesthetic choice (not to mention the opportunity to obtain the Lux at a very acceptable price), and while I am happy with the result I get from the Lux, I cannot say that the Sonnar is inferior to it. I don’t want to sound like I’m defending an ex girlfriend, but the Lux and the Sonnar are simply two different beauties.

When I first venture into the difficult world of rangefinder by purchasing my M9, the Sonnar is my first lens, and it has been my go to lens until I got my 35 lux ASPH about 8 months ago. I choose the Sonnar not just due to price consideration (voigtlander can give you a more acceptable price range with a good quality glass), but from the result of its images, their artistic feel, and….guess what? From the possible problem in using this lens due to its famous “focus-shift” issue. I was a total rookie in the rangefinder world (which I still am, mine you I started using leica M9 for only around two and a half years  ), and I thought, gee, why not challenge myself more? It just sounds cool, using tricky lens to get a certain artistic look.

Believe it or not, I don’t find any focus shift issue. Most pictures I took are spot on where I want them to be. Perhaps its me that is less critical? Maybe the objects I choose do not reveal this issue (smaller object might show this perhaps, e.g. pencil points or something like that?). I remember someone said somewhere in the web that he did not get any focus shift issue, and someone responded that is impossible!!! Well, maybe my lens, or my camera, was already adjusted …or maybe, someone had skillfully painted a different lens and put the mark ZM sonnar to the lens in order to fool me. Maybe, mabe and maybe.

Anyway, looking back at what I can get from the Sonnar, its imperfection which add up to its artistic look, its “drawing” as many people like to call it, I feel a bit nostalgic and would like to share what the Sonnar has done to my worldview. I realize many samples are already there, but I guess additional view to enjoy are always fun. Perhaps this can reignite interest to this classic lens (and an option to consider for those who like to get a good quality 50mm glass with their M, but finds it hard to justify purchasing the uber expensive Lux). All of these were taken with either the M9 or the new M. Most of them can also be seen at my flickr site at HYPERLINK “http://www.flickr.com/photos/jaihutan/” http://www.flickr.com/photos/jaihutan/

See if you can feel its unique soft way of blending the subject into soft focus, and find it adorable. Enjoy.

With kind regards,
Zaki Jaihutan

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Apr 142014
 

My Leica M9 & Grafea bag in London

By Dan Bar

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Hello Steve,

Just got back from London , took my MM as always with my 35 LUX, but this time I also had my M9 + 50 Cron with me, When I sold my previous M9 I knew that I lost a camera I loved dearly, and although I love my MM I knew I wanted my M9 back. I know the market is full off fantastic cameras, like Sony’s , Olympus, Fuji with much better ISO’s , and yet I love the simplicity and colours of the Leica cameras.

So I mostly shot my M9 with the 50, and some b\w with the MM Before leaving to London i was sure I shall buy the Ona Berlin as I needed a bigger camera bag. The Ona Brixton was to be for my taste, but then I found out about the GRAFEA PHOTO bag, which I thought was beautiful and was although the right size I needed. The bag is of great soft leather and has the exact size i was looking for. I called them in England and asked them if they had a bag with a slight defect, Honestly I expected a ” NO ” answer but against all odds they said they had one Caramel Bag ( which was exactly what I wanted ). They sent me a picture and I could not see any defect at all, so I asked them how much would I have to pay, and they said they will make me a 50% discount. :) The bag is big enough to hold 2 Leica M cameras + accessories. The side pockets are soft and contain a lot of filters, cards, cell phone etc. As said big enough for my needs.

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You can find the Grafea bag HERE.

Now for some photos:

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Apr 102014
 

Tokyo, Tokyo, home of Moriyama and Nakahiri, deep blacks and stark whites, grainy, blurred, shocking contrasts over a quirky but sensual rhythm .

By Colin Steel – His web site is HERE

Tokyo has long-held a strange magnetism for me but it has been a long and uncomfortable path to even get to the beginning of understanding this magnificently complex city and its wonderful people. I have been travelling there for over six years and trying to make sense of it photographically for the last two years. It bewilders me, hurts me, loves me but above all enthrals me like no other city I know of. Its incredible complexity and compression of space creates a system of polite mannerism that is at wild contrast with the creativity of many of its artists who, for me, have pushed the boundaries of photography with their beat poem rhythms and blatant disregard of conventional structures. I feel honoured to tread the same streets of Shinjuku and Shibuya as Daido and stop into the tiny bars drinking and searching for the internal buzz that will free me from my rational straightjacket. I like to think that every city I visit has a rhythm and Tokyo is my Bill Evans. It has a perfect, hushed, mellow, modal meandering that is all to infrequently punctuated by strange ventures into the upper registers for that short, sharp thrill and excited recognition of something that we all have and glimpse only so very, very rarely. This is what photography is to me now, the never-ending search for encounters with that fleeting spirituality that combines shapes, light, dark, expressions, movements, glances and beauty into sudden realisation of the perfection that exists in our imperfect world, play on Bill Evans…………………

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Apr 032014
 

Streetshooting the Olympus OM-D E-M1

By Robin Schimko

The last couple of years I was shooting DSLR full frame bodies only and I didn’t care much about mirrorless cameras. After a while I realized that taking candid pictures out on the streets is a lot of fun. The only problem was the bulkiness of my camera that seemed a little intimidating when people noticed me taking their picture. It would have been an easy solution just to step back a little and take a longer lens, but that’s not me since I like to get close. So I got myself a Fuji X100s but even though I really loved it, the AF frustrated me from time to time and I sold it.

Then I started researching about mFT cameras and that’s when I stumbled upon stevehuffphoto.com and I was blown away by his work. That’s why decided to jump into the Olympus system and I bought the E-P5. I was shocked about the super-fast AF system and the pretty good image quality. The only thing I was really missing was a proper grip and suddenly Olympus came out with their new flagship, the E-M1. A couple of weeks later my local camera store had the E-M1 in stock and I went there to try it out. I couldn’t resist and bought one. Usually I am not that guy who is changing his gear so rapidly but the mirrorless world was new to me and I had to find out what would work best for me.

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So, how does the E-M1 perform out on the streets? Well to date it’s the best camera I have ever used for street shooting and there are several reasons to back this up:

Ease of use:

It has a proper grip and looks like an old SLR camera but it’s still lightweight and very comfortable to hold, even though it’s really small compared to a DSLR. The buttons and controls are very well designed and they are all very accessible. The only thing I don’t like is the power switch on the left side, because it’s much tougher to use the camera with one hand only, but it’s definitely no deal breaker. And then there are the custom profiles you can link to the mode dial on top. That’s pretty handy and allows you to change the set-up of the camera in the blink of an eye. Did I mention the viewfinder yet? It’s amazing how good the EVF is even though I don’t use it that often. Coming from a DSLR I was used to use an OVF but with a mirrorless camera I discovered how convenient it is to compose by using the display.

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Reliability

The E-M1 is considered to be a professional camera and after using it for a while now I am absolutely sure it really is a proper tool. There was not a single second where the camera failed on me. I’ve never dropped it but I read stories about people who did and the camera had not one single scratch afterwards. I can’t imagine a place where I wouldn’t take the E-M1.

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Precision

Out on the streets it’s sometimes essential to be really quick to capture a certain moment and here is where the E-M1 really shines. It’s absolutely amazing how fast and responsive the AF works. Sometimes I even use face detection and it can be really useful especially when there is no time to manually change the focus points.

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Quality

Of course, when it comes to image quality, it’s no D800, but it’s not as far away as the numbers might suggest. I am very comfortable with cranking the ISO up to 6400. Yeah, there will be grain visible, but at least to me it looks really pleasing. What surprises me the most was the dynamic range of this fairly small sensor. In post it is very easy to push the shadows like hell, wow that’s something my old D700 wouldn’t have done better.

I think at the moment the E-M1 is a damn good choice for all you street photographers out there. It’s lightweight, powerful and can deliver very decent image quality. At the moment I am testing the Fuji X-T1 with the 23/1.4 and it seems to be a nice combo, but even though both bodies have nearly the same size, the E-M1 with the 17/1.8 is a lot smaller and the focus is noticeably quicker.

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Oh, did I mention that I dumped my D800? I am going mirrorless only and I am happy with that decision.

If you want to check out my websites:

http://www.fotodesign-rs.de/

http://www.hochzeitsfotograf-rs.de/

or follow me on facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/RobinSchimkoPicture

Thank you all for reading,

Robin

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Mar 242014
 

High speed street portraits with the Fuji X-E1 and 35mm lens

By Boris Taillard

Hello Brandon and Steve,

Firstly, thank you for the work you are putting into your website. I am a regular reader and very much enjoy the mix of “real world” reviews and pictures and reports from other readers (and therefore decided to submit my own :-)).

I have been using a Fuji X-E1 for over a year and started doing film photography recently. If you find my submission interesting and would like to publish it, I would be very happy to share my experience using the camera for this type of shots. Also, here is a link to my NEW BLOG.

I have recently joined a street photography group, but have found it difficult to overcome my inhibitions to take pictures of strangers; with or without asking for their permission. As a first step to go beyond this, I set myself a goal to shoot candid portraits of as many people as I could without warning them – and to be gone before they could even realise what just happened. I used a 90 minutes session with my street photography group to give the idea a try in the Dublin city center on a busy Saturday. Another constraint was also to only shoot at 50mm and not to post-process the files coming out of the camera (I only cheated to crop or bump up the exposure for 2 or 3 of them but otherwise all the pictures are OOC JPEGS).  You can see more pictures in this Flickr set, but here are a few samples along with a bit more details of how I did during the shot.

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In addition to gaining more self-confidence, the challenge was also a technical one: the only camera I currently own is a Fuji X-E1 with a XF 35mm lenses, which is definitely not known for it fast operations; especially when it comes autofocus speed. Using the camera in fully automated mode was therefore clearly not an option. Where the camera could shine though is that Fuji is known for their nice out of camera JPEG files, and that manual mode is a joy to use.

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Here are the settings I quickly found were the optimal ones and which were used for most of the pictures:

  • Aperture fixed to F11 (small value to maximise depth of field as I was using manual focus on a preset distance)
  • Shutter speed fixed to 1/500th of a second (fast value to to reduce motion blur as both myself and the subjects are moving while taking the shots)
  • Auto ISO 6400 (so that the camera can adjust the ISO value automatically to get the right exposure)
  • Manuel focus with prefocus for a distance of 1 to 1.5 meter (so that slow autofocus is not an issue, and knowing that I would shot mostly portraits of one person at a time)
  • Astia film simulation mode (gives fairly natural colours and nice skin tones)
  • Highlight +1 and Shadow +2 to increase contrast and give more impact to the pictures
  • Colour 0 to maintained natural skin tones
  • DR400 to preserve highlights and shadows (to cover for a cloudy day with very bright sky and hight contrast settings)

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Of course none of the shots are technically perfect as they all happened very quickly, walking down the street and just raising the camera at someone and pressing the shutter button. There was no way to get them perfectly in focus or to completely avoid motion blur, but having said that I believe I got a few nice ones. It is also quite interesting to capture what people look like when they are just minding their own business and not expecting anyone to look at them (they sometimes do notice you and look at the camera which is good for the picture, but just keep walking and don’t question what you are doing).

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I really like the colours of some of these shots, and while I am not always happy with Fuji’s camera JPEGs, on this particular occasion I think they lived up to their reputation. Another great thing about the camera here is the fact that ISO 6400 shots (most of these) look very clean in good light, which was crucial to capture enough light while maintaining a decent depth of field and being able to freeze movement. The fact that while you are in full manual mode (fixed aperture and shutter speed) auto ISO is still active and can set the exposure right is also great – and I don’t believe all cameras are able to do this.

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On a more negative note, even when it is pre-focused the X-E1 is not exactly a speed daemon. I don’t know if it is shutter lag or a delay with the image refresh on the LCD screen, but I definitely noticed that I had to press the shutter button before the subject had fully appeared on the screen where I wanted it to be. This made taking pictures a bit of a gamble, but with practice it was possible to get it right most of the time.

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Overall, from a technical point of view it was interesting to see what can be done in fast street photography using a not so fast camera. I haven’t used a good SLR or speedy micro 4/3 camera in quite a while, but I would be curious to know if they would cope with this and nail perfect focus in fully automatic mode (comments about this are welcome!).

From a more personal point of view, when you want to get serious about street photography you have to be very comfortable with taking pictures of total strangers – which for a number of people doesn’t come naturally (me included). One way is to take “stolen pictures” like these and the other is probably a more social approach where you make contact with the subject and possible get them to post for you. The first one is probably the easiest one to get away with if you are more technical that social and I am glad I have gone through that stage. I will be working on the second one next :-)

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Thanks for reading, and do not hesitate to post some comments!

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Thanks again and all the best with the website,

Boris

Mar 182014
 

Having Fun with a GX7 in Bangalore, India

By Keith Lewis

My name is Keith Lewis. I am an expat Brit engineer living in Bangalore, India, for almost two years and I prior to that for almost three years in KL, Malaysia. About 3 months ago I came across your great website whilst looking for a review of the Lumix GX7. I really liked the style and content of the site, particularly the Daily Inspiration contributions, and the site is now a highly anticipated part of my daily reading. I am pretty much a novice photographer who has spent much of his life taking a combination of family, travel and sports “snap-shots”. It is only in the last few weeks that I have started taking my photography more seriously, and much of this interest has been inspired by the contributions of many on the website. The site has also motivated me to share some real user experience with the Lumix GX7 and to give the readers some insight into the contrasts of life in my immediate Bangalore neighbourhood. All the photos in this review are JPEG straight from the camera with no PP.

Before I jump into my GX7 review, a little about my camera history and expectations which steered me to the Lumix system. I love travel, outdoor activities and sports. Camera size matters to me because many airlines now have a cabin bag limit of 7kg; therefore, I want to travel with as little gear as possible. Back in college days (more than 35 years ago) I travelled with a little Rollei 35 which I loved. The only SLR I have ever owned was a Pentax ME Super with several lenses; my son loves film photography and is still using these lenses with a fully manual Pentax K camera; he prefers this kit over his Nikon DSLR. I was a very early adopter of digital media and acquired the first commercial Olympus digital pocket camera (1.3 MP) in about 1998. Over the next few years I progressively upgraded through a series of mid-range and rugged pocket digital cameras from Sony, Olympus and even Casio, all of which served my wife and I well on many ski trips, fishing adventures, hikes and camps plus the usual birthdays and family get togethers. I shied away from the DSLRs because of size, not price. I finally upgraded to a “real camera”, the Lumix GF2, on a whim whilst killing time in Singapore airport. With the GF2 purchase I acquired the Panasonic 14mm 2.8 pancake lens, 14-42 mm zoom and I added a 45-200mm zoom to give me the opportunity to do some sports and wildlife photography. Overall the GF2 has met my needs and expectations, particularly to stay compact but with good quality. I have many memorable pictures with this set-up that has travelled with me around SE Asia, Europe and the USA. My major issue with the GF2 is poor low light performance, lousy flash synchronisation and no view-finder. I tried the add on EVF but was very disappointed with the quality, and it seemed poor value.

Whilst in Malaysia last Christmas I was shopping for the Panasonic 20mm F.17 lens to use with the Lumix GF2. I was struggling to find the lens in the many KL Photo and Camera stores when an enterprising salesman introduced me to the “new” GX7 with the 20mm lens as a kit. Frankly I wasn’t really looking for a camera upgrade and I was not even aware of the GX7 because I was relatively happy with the convenience and performance of the GF2. I didn’t jump straight in, being from Yorkshire (notoriously tight with their money) and a very methodical type, I went searching on the internet for a GX7 review and that’s how I first found the Steve Huff site. I really enjoyed the style and enthusiasm of his reviews (especially the GX7 crazy comparison) and this convinced me to go back and take another look at the GX7. After a bit more KL shopping I found a great deal on the silver and black GX7 with the silver 20mm lens. Hot-tip: Malaysia is a very competitive and service orientated location to get photo equipment up to the highest specifications with no sales taxes to pay. I got a much better deal in the high-end KLCC mall (below the famous twin towers) than I could get at any of the “Discount” locations! Unfortunately there was a problem with the EVF on the first camera; I returned it to the store next day (which was Christmas Day) and they immediately replaced it and issued a new warranty card.

Now for the review proper: I really like the GX7 and it has ignited an ambition to become a better photographer and to take much more time and care with composition but at the same time I like to take very quick and spontaneous street shots. The feel and the balance of the GX7 is great. For me it has just the right combination of high quality mechanical controls for mode, MF/AF, aperture, shutter speed and exposure combined with the highly responsive and intuitive touch screen menu options. Having the manual controls has made me want to experiment much more with the camera than my experience with the GF2. The EVF is very bright and the amount of information available is amazing and easy to see. I like using the combination of the EVF and the touch screen i.e., you can set the touch screen to show the camera settings whilst framing the photo with the EVF. This combination allows you to easily access the menu to adjust settings. My one gripe with the EVF, which has been noted by Steve and others, is the white balance is a bit off; however, I have learned to ignore this and generally trust the camera settings for colour. My one IQ gripe with the camera is that in the very bright and intense afternoon sun we often experience in Bangalore the 20mm lens at F1.7 tends to over-expose. I now find myself making exposure corrections and/or stopping the lens down manually when shooting in sunlight. The ISO range of the GX7 is incredible, combined with the in-body stabilisation, means that indoor shots and low light shots are now a breeze. The resulting pictures are impressive, sharp with little noticeable noise/grain until I blow them up full screen on my 27″ iMac screen.

Most of the street photos in this article were taken from the hip (touch screen trigger) with the iA+ (intelligent auto-plus) settings which seems to give very consistent results. I have experimented with most of the other settings and my personal favourites include the in-camera BW options which can produce excellent results with having to do PP conversions. iA+ on the GX7 is much better than the iA setting on the GF2. I find the auto-focus and metering to be very accurate. My favourite lens is the 20mm F1.7 which is quite the brightest and sharpest lens I have ever used.

I have tried many of the features on the GX7, all seem to work as expected, including the WiFi connection and control via iPad – this is a very useful feature if you are using a tripod and want a remote trigger. It is also a great way to quickly review your photos whilst they are still in the camera. However, the WiFi eats battery life very quickly. I have yet to make a reliable WiFi connection to the iMac either direct or via the network. The menu doesn’t seem to be able to manage the fact that I have multiple users with different file directories – I have pretty much give-up on this.

Now for some photo examples. My local neighbourhood is such a contrast of absolute poverty to very high-end expat and Indian living. I often walk the neighbourhood at different times of the day looking for a different perspective and photo opportunities. It has been difficult to choose just a few photos to show this contrast:

 Hoodi Village Street with 5 Leg Cow: 20 mm, F 5.0, 1/1000, ISO 200

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 Local fishmonger: 20 mm, F 1.7, 1/125, ISO 200

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Tea Lady works this stall 12 hours/day: 20 mm, F 1.7, 1/60, ISO 400 (flash fill)

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Water is delivered many times a day: 20mm, F 1.7, 1/60, ISO 250

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Cows Lake Grazing: 20 mm, F 5.0, 1/1000, ISO 200

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Typical Construction Workers Camp: 20 mm, F 4.5, 1/800, ISO 200

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Community Pool: 45 mm (zoom), F 4.0, 1/500, ISO 200

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 Cricket is everything to these kids: 20 mm, F 3.5, 1/500, ISO 200

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Summary

GX7 Likes:

Look, feel and balance.

Overall IQ (especially with the 20 mm lens), and range of conditions including high ISO/low light performance

Great practical mix between manual controls and the touch screen menus (I am already very used to the Lumix touch screen controls and menu)

EVF – white balance is a bit frustrating BUT EVF articulation is a great and very practical

Excellent touch screen – can be tilted 90 degrees for very discrete street shots with a touch of the screen to trigger

Manual focus – once I got used to focus peaking

Wireless connectivity to ipad – I have used this feature for night shots using a tripod

B&W settings – they give really great results!

iA+ auto setting gives very reliable results, no fuss and my wife is happy to use it!

GX7 Niggles:

EVF white balance

Protruding eye piece catches your side when carrying (You can articulate up to avoid this but is looks a bit strange)

Cover to access connections requires the screen to be moved out to open it – quite frustrating

WiFi rapidly east battery life

GX7 Wishes:

I would like it smaller with same performance!

Weather proofing – not sure I would risk it on a fishing or ski trip

 GX7 Still to Try:

Need to do more with the video. With an upcoming wedding I plan to do a lot more of this

I plan to purchase the 45 mm Pana/Leica, or equivalent Olympus lens, and relegate the kit zoom to the GF2 body

Very little experience with the flash since the indoor performance is so good

Thanks again for a great site.

Regards, Keith Lewis

Mar 182014
 

The Sony A7 & Zeiss 55mm 1.8

By Adam Laws

I’ve been an avid follower of your website for the last two years and I find your enthusiasm for photography and that of your various contributors inspirational. I’m an amateur photographer based in London who sometimes finds his passion exceeds his skill in photography. I have never shared my images apart from with friends on FaceBook so sharing my images with your audience is a little daunting to be honest, but I have been encouraged to forward them with a little poking from a big stick from friends. The following images have all been taken on a Sony A7 with the Zeiss branded 55mm 1.8 in a very unseasonal warm London over the last few weekends. It’s taken me awhile to adapt to Sony after spending the last year shooting exclusively with a Fuji x100s. I was originally worried about the additional heft/bulk of the Sony as I prefer to use a wrist strap but it’s not been problem, even with the 55mm attached.

I have missed the hybrid viewfinder of the X100s (Though the EVF on the Sony is very good), and being able to change the aperture on the lens barrel. The aperture thumb dial just doesn’t feel as instinctive nor is as satisfying. Maybe in time I will get used to it or manage to pick-up a nice Leica lens but I think I have to save my pennies up for that. With my only true gripe being the battery performance. I tend to have to have to put in a spare to finish of a day’s shooting. Almost all of the images have been taken wide open as I’ve been experimenting with the increased DOF I now get with the FF sensor. It’s been amazing to see how much difference there is in comparison to my old images. I’ve really enjoyed using the Sony over the last few weeks. Focus is quick and more accurate than the x100s in comparison. Build quality is good, and 55mm is a joy to use with a silky smooth focus ring.

I hope your readers like the images, and hopefully I will have a website up and running in the next month or so to show more of my work as I need to create a ‘learning log’ for a photography course I’m about to start in May (Site domain is Tyrannosaurus Photography, though nothing is on it at the moment).

All the best,

Adam

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