Mar 052014
 

colintempletont

In praise of the Leica Monochrom

by Colin Templeton

Hi Steve,

I’ve been a regular visitor to your site over the years, and thought it was time I contributed something, rather than continue to sit on the sidelines.

I work for a national newspaper in Scotland. I love my job – I’m based in Glasgow, as is my newspaper, so much of my work is in and around the city, although I also get to see a fair bit of Scotland.

But the city is what fascinates me. And when I’m not working I get out and about with my Leica M Monochrom. I love to document everyday life on the streets. I’ve owned, and used, a Leica M6 since the mid-nineties, and always liked the images it produced. They seemed to have more life to them, dare I say it, more soul than the pictures I got from the Nikon F5 I used for work, and the rangefinder camera was simply much more fun to use.

When I started at the newspaper full-time, around five years ago, they supplied the camera gear needed for the job, so I was left with all the Nikon kit I had used as a freelance. I sold it all (thank you, eBay) and bought a Leica M9. That camera was a revelation – essentially the same as the M6, but with the advantages of being digital. And when it was announced that Leica were launching a black and white only M, I didn’t hesitate – I traded in the M9, and found myself with an M Monochrom. I’d been converting the majority of my shots into black and white anyway.

Eighteen months later, I’m still smitten by this camera. Picking it up make me want to go out and shoot with it. And I do, pretty much every day (I post a daily photograph on Blipfoto: http://www.blipfoto.com/contraflow). A lot of praise has been heaped on the M Monochrom, and I find myself much in agreement. The camera is very small, light, unobtrusive, a joy to shoot with, and the files it produces are like nothing I’ve seen before. You can step on them hard and they just don’t break up. Not that you need to be hard on them, because if exposed correctly, they need hardly any work. Everything is in the file – it just needs to be breathed on a little to coax the best from it.

One of the best things about the M Monochrom is that you get to use Leica lenses on it. I’m an ex-Nikon user, and now a full-time Canon user, so I know all about the image quality of those two systems. But the tiny Leica lenses have detail and character in spades, by comparison. It almost seems ludicrous how heavy and large a pro Canon DSLR is, when the diminutive Leica has the same size sensor, and much smaller, faster, sharper lenses. Any DSLR I’ve ever used feels like the computer it is. I can’t bond with it. And when I see the results, they fulfil the brief, but it almost feels as though the camera made the picture, not me. That’s a good thing, because it makes the job easier. But there’s no fun involved. Using a Leica rangefinder is fun. You have to really slow down and think. Just take a single shot and make it count. When I get a picture from a Leica M that I’m happy with, I really feel as though I made the image, not the camera.

My two favourite lenses for the M Monochrom are the 50mm M Summilux ASPH, and the 28mm Summicron ASPH. Occasionally I’ll use an old 1960′s 90mm Tele Elmarit “fat” version 1, but generally it’s just the two lenses for me. And mostly it’s the 50mm. A lot has been made about the modern aspherical lenses being too sharp, too clinical in their rendering for the M Monochrom sensor, but I just don’t see it. I think the modern 50mm and 28mm render beautifully, and with plenty of character. But maybe that’s just me.

Anyway, I could go on and on. I adore the M Monochrom. It doesn’t get in my way, it just allows me to take great pictures. It’s like my M6, loaded with an endless supply of all my favourite black and white films.

My website is: http://colintempleton.com/

I’m also a member of the Elephant Gun photography collective: http://www.750grain.com/colintempleton/

And I’m on Twitter: https://twitter.com/colintempleton

Very best wishes, and thank you,

Colin

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Mar 052014
 

Vibrant Bangladesh !!!

By Siddhartha Kundu

Hi Brandon & Steve,

I am from New Delhi, India and a fan of your blog. I visit the your site every day whether on my phone or my computer. The photos posted in your site are truly amazing and have inspired me into the challenging world of street photography. Well .. to me street photography is pretty difficult and I am still learning. I have attached some photographs during my stay in Bangladesh in 2011-12. Bangladesh is a small country (144,000 sq. km) neighbouring east of India. With a population of over 163 millions it is one of the most densely populated countries. While 30% of Bangladeshi’s live below poverty line, it is one of the largest producers of ready-made garments. Most of the big fashion labels source their products from Bangladesh,

I was based in the capital city Dhaka, which is a photographer’s paradise. Streets with rickshaws, hand carts, dented buses and obviously masses of people. While it is very difficult to walk around with a DSLR (& lenses like 70-200) without drawing attention but people are quite friendly to expats. The attached photographs were taken with my old 5Dm2 & lenses like 70-200 & 24-70 L. My dream set up is obviously a Leica M + 50 Lux which I cannot afford as of now.

Some of my photographs can also be found at : http://www.siddharth-kundu.com

Thanking you

Regards

Siddharth

Photo 1: Alms

Canon 5Dm2 / 70-200 1.8L IS 1 F: 3.5 1/250s 

Converted to BW with VSCO Slide (Agfa

Photo1

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Photo 2: A Rickshaw Man

Canon 5Dm2 / 70-200 1.8L IS 1 F: 4.5 1/160s

Converted using VSCO Slide (Kodak E200)

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Photo 3: Welcome to my shop

Canon 5Dm2 / 24-70 2.8L1 F: 2.8 / 1/30s

Converted using VSCO Slide (Kodak E200)

Photo3

Mar 042014
 

An M for every occasion

By Cris Rose

Hi Brandon, Steve,

They say the best camera, is the one you have with you – thats the most important rule I offer to anyone that asks me about photography, and one that lead me to the Leica M. I was probably around 15 when I first saw a Leica, silver and black with a simple form and intricate dials. I had no idea how much they cost, but it looked amazing and clearly made an impression on me. The decade or so afterwards saw a wide range of cameras in my hands, from compact APS, to IXUS digitals, through to my first digital SLR in University. I learned a lot from that Canon 300D and soon moved to a 20D and the well-loved EF 50mm f1.8, the “nifty fifty”. That setup got a lot of use and I learned a lot about photography with it. Then a few years ago, when I stumbled upon your site, I was reminded of that Leica again. The shots from Leica Ms were amazing. I’d picked up a 60D by then, and while it was great, I’d never quite taken to the SLR style of use and I found the digital files cold and clinical. I’d also found the camera and lenses so large, that I never took them out places with me. I was taking my Lomo LCa everywhere instead and while I was really enjoying the look of film in comparison to my Canon, my Lomo was no Leica and the results showed. I followed your blog, and lamented on Twitter, one day, that Leicas were so beautiful, but that I’d never afford to own one. Certainly not your M9.

Then suddenly, I found myself with an M2. An online friend hadn’t used it for years and offered it to me if i put it to good use. I was overjoyed, to say the least. The style of shooting with the M2 was the breath of fresh air I needed, I took to it immediately. It wasn’t long before I realised the Leica bug had bit me, I’d saved up for 9 months, sold my 60D, and bought a used M8. If the best camera is the one you have with you, then my M8 was the best camera I’d owned. I took it everywhere. Today, I find myself, once again, amazed, as I have an M9 that came to me through equally unlikely circumstances, and a solid set of Voigtlander, Zeiss and Leica lenses to use on it. If I arrange to go somewhere, specifically to take photos, I take both digitals, a film M and 4 lenses, all of which fit easily in a very small shoulder bag. But even if I’m just popping to the shops, I take my M9. I never leave the house without it. I like to keep it by my side, strapped to my wrist, ready to shoot. It really is a camera for all occasions and subjects. A landscape, a street scene, a portrait or pet, the flexibility of the M system is fantastic, the quality of the M9 continues to amaze me and the shear compactness of the form it all comes in, means it can always be with me. Every shot here is a result of random encounters.

The M system may not be the newest, or most advanced, but for me, the M9 is my ideal camera.

Contact details:

My photo portfolio can be found at www.crisrose.co.uk, my photoblog at www.crisrose.co.uk/blog. My Flickr is flickr.com/crisrose and my twitter is @crisr. I also have a Tumblr at www.analoguerobot.co.uk if that’s not already enough places to find my photos

Thanks for such a great, inspirational site. I can squarely blame you for my M2/6/8/9 ownership and probably many more Ms to come.

Cris Rose

0163: M9 + CV 50/1.1 Nokton

Midnight Cycle

0587: M9 + ZM 25/2.8 Biogon

Fly By

0799: M9 + ZM 50/2 Planar

Watching The Chef

0808: M9 + ZM 50/2 Planar

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0935: M9 + ZM 25/2.8 Biogon

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0328: M8 + CV 50/1.1 Nokton

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0463: M9 + CV 50/1.1 Nokton

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1524: M9 + ZM 50/2 Planar

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2825: M8 + CV 35/1.4 Nokton Classic

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Mar 032014
 

11 cities minus one in 15 days in Europe with OMD-EM5

By Ramon M Flores

Warm greetings from LA!

I’m an avid fan of the site. It’s one of my sources to better my photography. I’ve learned a lot from all his postings and enjoyed viewing all the images shared.

I thought I might as well share some of my images though reluctantly because I still find my photography way below par as I want it to be. I’m a ‘point & shoot’ shooter who happens to have a Nikon D700, a Fuji x100 and an EM5. This reluctancy delayed my decision to share. I have been thinking of emailing Steve as early as September last year. Then I thought, this set of photos (though quite ordinary) might be something different because of the story behind it. So here it goes.

July-August last year, there was an opportunity for me and my wife to accompany our daughter to her school band’s Europe trip. She plays the trumpet and their band performed in 4 cities during that trip. I was so excited that I brought with me almost all of my camera gears. It’s a 15-day Europe trip to 11 cities and we jump-started in Paris where we spent 3 days & 2 nights. Took a lot of pictures including some snapshots of the last leg of the Tour de France. My mind was all set and already fixed to a photo trip adventure while still in Paris.

…on the 3rd day, we left Paris. And this is the sad part – I lost my Nikon D700 & Fuji X100 cameras to a thief in Brussels, including my Nikkor 50mm 14.G & 14-24mm 2.8G lenses, and Fuji X100 WCL, hence I lost all my photos taken in Paris during the first 3 days of my trip. I therefore have no photo documentation of our stay in Paris.

Anyway, lesson learned.

All of these photos were taken using my Olympus OMD EM5 with the 12-50mm lens kit which survived the remaining 12 days of the trip. This camera is hanging my neck almost the entire trip. I had then the opportunity to play around quite a number of its feature. What a fantastic camera. It compensated or at least eased my sadness in losing most of my gears. My realization is that, with this camera, I don’t need my other gears in the first place. You may call it ‘justification’. This is my second attempt to share some of my pictures with Steve. I did not get lucky the first time I guess. Hope this time around, my photos would merit his attention. It’s an inspiration to move on with my hobby on photography with the likes of your dad around unselfishly sharing his love for photography.

Presently, I’m still shooting with my OMD and haven’t thought of adding gears though I’ve acquired a 45mm & 75mm lens for my OMD.

The photos below is a sampling for each cities we’ve visited (minus Paris of course). All photos shot at base ISO 200 and aperture priority unless indicated.

Thank you and my warm regards.

Ramon M Flores

http://www.pbase.com/monflores

Brussels ‘bikes for rent’

14mm, 1/200s, f/6.3

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Brugge ‘color block’

12mm, 1/6000s, f/5.6

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Amsterdam ‘the red is on’

12mm, 1/100, f/5

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Heidelberg ‘hand held night shot’

12mm, 1/3s, f/3.5

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Hague ‘experimenting on presets’

dramatic tone preset

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Goar-Bingen ‘river cruise’

Pop art preset

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Bavaria ‘from the castle’

36mm, 1/80s, f/5.7

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Cortina ‘open door’

12mm, 1/80s, f/3.5

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Innsbruck ‘my daughter’s trumpet’

37mm, 1/125s, f/5.7

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Venice ‘open canal’

12mm, 1/320s, f/8

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

Feb 272014
 

Aldeburgh: A Fishing Village with My Leica M By Howard Shooter

By Howard Shooter

At 7.00am at the weekend, when most people would be pleased to have the duvet well and truly wrapped around them, I looked out of the window from my parents house in Aldeburgh, Suffolk and scrambled out with layers and layers of clothes to protect me from the East Coast winds.

Aldeburgh is a beautiful fishing village, famous for its fish and chips and quintessentially, traditional english manner. The coastal views are beautiful and the pebble beaches capture the sentimentality of a 1950′s seaside postcard.

The light is beautiful and inspires photographers to shoot the fisherman bringing in their catches. They rely on the local restaurants and the tourists buying the fish from their huts. The families of fishermen have been fishing for generations. My family has had a connection to Aldeburgh for nearly 40 years and have always gone back to London with the freshest, tastiest Sea Bass, Dover Sole, and Cod.

So anyway, a couple of weeks ago there I was with my trusty Leica M240, Leica’s latest iteration of the rangefinder, all weatherproof and digital, trying to capture my Aldeburgh story.

Here’s the techy bit! I’ve used a couple of lenses, mainly the 50mm Summilux and shoot fairly stopped down. I like to shoot using Aperture priority and use the exposure compensation to refine the exposure based on my chosen depth of field. As a very general rule I find shooting inside needs a compensation factor of about plus 2/3rds whilst outside I often have to compensate by minus 1/3rd. This is the same for Nikon, Leica etc.

The Leica is a tricky beast, with manual focus and a hopelessly poor placement of the exposure compensation button… hopefully future firmware will fix this. It’s fussy about light too. It excels with beautifully bright, clean light. This is a camera which demands that you really get to understand its capabilities. Often the initial use can seem underwhelming, but once mastered, it is a tool which, I think can reward the user with the most wonderful natural colour, with serious 3D pop. The files, as has been mentioned by reviewers, are a pleasure to work with, giving you plenty of dynamic range to really flex the levels and contrast with. For the most part though I don’t like to play too much with the raw files, just allowing a tweak here and there.

So here is my Aldeburgh story, my cold red hands were testament to the 7.00am chill, but the feeling of serenity and quiet light, more than made up for it.

1 We Smoke Fish Here

2 Boat trailer

3 Dawn

4 Hooks

5 Aldeburgh beach

6 Aldeburgh front

7 Ice Cream

8 House on the front

9 Bringing the boat back

10 Fisherman

11 Herring

12 Herring

13 Herring in hand

14 Fisherman in hut

15 Fisherman in hut2

16 Sea Scape

Feb 272014
 

Sony DSC-RX1

One year with the Sony RX1

by Raymond Hau –   http://jkspepper.tumblr.com    -    http://www.flickr.com/photos/_dhermes/

 

My setup used to be a Canon 350D with various good lenses, then I decided I needed an upgrade and so, after many a umm’ing and ahh’ing over which full-frame Canon model to upgrade to I went and bought a Sony RX1 instead.

That single action brought about a complete change to my outlook on photography and my photographic equipment needs.

Refreshing

The RX1 concept was different to anything that had existed before it and in my view rather refreshing; to provide the best photography output in as simple as manner as possible… and make it small.

It’s not for everyone, the fixed 35mm lens and lack of a viewfinder will be sure to put off hardcore gear addicts and the price will put off everyone else but for those that really know what they want out of a camera, out of photography, will never let go of this marvel.

Prince Edward

I shot manual film SLRs from my early days, had a break of 5 years or so and then ventured back into photography with both feet firmly in the digital camp with the 350D. I used it for a while and then I kinda. just. stopped. I had gradually lost interest; digital with all its technological advancements was exciting but something was missing, I loved photography but strangely I didn’t love this.

I picked it up again a few years later and rekindled an interest but it wasn’t until I set my hands on the RX1 that I realised what I was looking for and it was refreshingly simple.

Simplicity

The RX1 is in essence a simple device, it does not have a zoom; it does not have a viewfinder; it has neither the ergonomics nor an AF system that works; and it does not even have a battery charger (!). What it does have however is a wonderful lens mated to a superb sensor and that is all I needed.

Mongkok Flower Girls

The tactile feedback from the all metal construction, the well dampened focusing ring and the reassuring click of the aperture ring around the lens gives quiet confidence when your AF is failing and the battery is about to die after only 300 shots, because you know that when you go home and upload your 300 shots, each one will be as beautifully rendered as the next and just how you intended to capture that scene.

I didn’t care that the AF enjoys the hunt because like a Mountie, he always gets his man (most of the time anyway and don’t even bother trying when anything is on the move). I learnt never to rely on AF in certain circumstances and resorted doing things the old-fashioned way.

The Old-Fashioned Way

One could argue that I’m a little bit backwards; why move from a system which gives perfectly acceptable AF, flexibility of focal lengths and adequate cost for something that offers none of that? I had to focus with my feet, manually twiddle the focus ring and lighten my wallet by a fair few G’s (in HKD that is).

But that was the epiphany, the eureka moment, the realisation that I enjoyed it (well, I would certainly enjoy it more if it hadn’t cost me an arm and a leg but I digress).

What was missing from shooting with digital SLR systems (be it Canon or Nikon) was the process itself, I was no longer enjoying the physical process of taking photographs, it didn’t matter whether the output was good if I didn’t care to take the time and effort to get out there with a camera.

More Gloomy Clouds over Hong Kong

It is a slower process, I would even say a more considered one but I’m not a professional photographer so I don’t need the ability to snap a gnat doing a reverse somersault in the tuck position off a cat’s back from 200m at a moment’s notice lest my family starve from lack of income; I’m just a guy, standing in front of a camera, asking for an enjoyable experience.

The Review

When I evaluate a camera during the first few weeks of purchase, I focus on the negative aspects of the camera; once I have a handle on what I don’t like I can then decide whether I can live with it. If I can, I will love it and keep it, if I can’t it’s gonna go; you can see this when I reviewed the Sony A7R.

5

However, with this “One year in review” I will focus instead on the positive aspects of the camera, what I have found to be the highlights after owning the RX1 for a year.

35mm

I love the 35mm focal length. You either do or you don’t I suppose and I do. I’m naturally a wide-angle shooter and lengths from 50mm upwards are awkward for me; I’m always too close to the subject, perhaps I have no inhibitions about getting in close or feel that I lose the intimacy or interaction when shooting people. Oh, and I love landscapes and the close 20cm focus distance when in macro mode is also a boon for those inevitable food photographs.

Smooch @ f/2.0

Carl Zeiss

Consider me a convert to the Carl Zeiss clan; before the fixed 35mm f/2.0 attached to the front of the RX1 I hadn’t had a lot of experience with Zeiss glass, only hearing about them and not giving them much thought. Now I am a true convert and have already amassed a collection of 4 (if you include the one on the RX1). I had never seen the famed Zeiss ‘3D pop’ before now and in good sunlight it is truly evident and a marvel to behold.

3D target

The glass is sharp wide open and right across the frame, the colours are pleasing and at f/2.0 is fast enough and beautiful enough (bokeh!) for me to indulge my creative side. It’s so effortless I almost feel like I’m cheating. It’s not perfect, there exists slight distortions and vignetting which can be corrected in post but for the most part can be considered immaterial.

I have read reviews and musings from the world-wide webs which go on to proffer the argument that this could be one of the finest lenses ever produced, I do not doubt them although having the lens mated specifically to a sensor with micrometer precision obviously has its benefits.

Exmor

The Exmor CMOS sensor is amazing and I am not using that term lightly. I have had access to and have regularly used a number of cameras over time and now also owning the Sony A7R, Fujifilm X-E1 and X-T1, I can empirically say the 24MP sensor housed within that tight metallic body is the best I’ve ever used. Its dynamic range (DR) and noise characteristics are exceptional.

Bar

It’s the only file where I can shoot straight into the sun and then pull every slider in post (using Adobe Lightroom) without breaking the image. It’s the only file where I can create HDR images with only one image (instead of the usual 3-plus images). It’s the only file where I never, ever, worry about artifacting in post and lets me really fire up my creative juices. The A7R and Fujifilm files are not even close on this one, like I have already said, this camera makes taking pictures easy.

Size

This thing is tiny; it’s an engineering marvel how they have managed to fit a full frame sensor inside that body. It’s by no means pocketable (unless you are a giant or like wearing trench coats) but it is vastly superior to its full frame brethren. It means that I can carry it anywhere and everywhere I go and I often do; during the last year it has been to clubs, bars, restaurants, functions, parks, hikes, events, trips; Hong Kong, England, Japan, Cambodia, India, Korea, China, Italy and more.

Dharavi Mother

It’s non-invasive, not attention worthy (especially with black nail polish over the trademarks) and not intimidating. It’s the perfect stealth camera which to many may look like an older 1990’s era point and shooter, obviously the fast and silent leaf shutter helps too.

Cambodia Boat Kid

I’ve been with friends and to people’s houses where they remarked why I hadn’t brought a ‘proper’ camera like their large Canon or Nikon systems. I merely shrug and say “I make do with what I got”, little do they know…

Shutter

It’s a leaf shutter, fast (1/4000s max, although speed limited to 1/2000s when wide open up until f5.6 if I remember correctly) and silent (it really is). It will sync flash at any speed you would want, especially useful for wide open shots during day light.

Viewfinder

There is however one thing the RX1 doesn’t give you and it’s something I know I couldn’t live without and that is a viewfinder; I was so used to optical viewfinders in all my previous cameras that it was a given that I would want the same again. Shooting using the LCD screen just didn’t give that same feel or enjoyment so I almost immediately started to look at the Sony OVF.

Man selling meat sticks

I tested one and was amazed by how large and bright it was; then I saw the ludicrous price tag and decided that it was ridiculous sum of money to pay for a piece of glass so I started looking elsewhere for third party designs from Leica and Voigtlander. What I saw underwhelmed me enough for me to eventually consider the electronic viewfinder (EVF) as I was not willing to spend so much money on what was essentially a dumb piece of glass. Let’s just say that I am now a convert to the EVF world; would I still prefer a large bright digital SLR OVF? Sure. But EVFs do offer some advantages and I can live with the negatives.

Street Meat Vendor

The Sony EVF is a joy to use and only now when I compare it to the EVFs from the A7R, X-E1 (rubbish) and X-T1 that I realised I had started out with a really good example of one. I’m not sure whether the EVF for the RX1 is the same as that built into the A7R but I swear the RX1 EVF is slightly better and is enjoyable to use even alongside the large and bright EVF of the Fujifilm X-T1.

One Year In

I love the RX1. I already know I will not sell it, exchange it or need to upgrade it. When it comes to 35mm, the RX1 is all I need which is why after one year and three additional bodies I still only have one 35mm focal length in my collection and that is the one attached to this camera.

It has changed my whole outlook, my philosophy and my equipment needs.

Julian

City life trams

I want them to be small and manageable; I want that tactile old school feel of an aperture ring; I want a single focal length to keep things simple; and most if all I want to really enjoy using it.

What I would really want is a collection of RX1-type cameras at differing focal lengths; an ultra-wide (~18mm), wide (35mm), normal (50mm) and short-telephoto (85mm). One camera for one task, no changing lenses in the field and if I didn’t bring the right camera with me, I’m not going to stress over missing a shot. Simples.

14

The end.

Raymond Hau

Feb 262014
 

se1t

Varanasi with the Fuji X-Pro 1

By Sebastien Bey-Haut

I just came back from a photo trip in Varanasi (Uttar Pradesh, India) and would like to share a few shots of this incredible city. Varanasi (or Banaras) is one of the holiest cities of the Hindu religion. It’s mostly known for its Ghats on the banks of the Ganga river.

Varanasi is said to be older than history, and frankly speaking it seems true. Going there is like entering another time dimension. It’s the dirtiest but also the most beautiful city I’ve ever seen.

To give you an idea of the local mood the nice guy with the skull is an Aghori Kapalik baba, a member of an Hindu sect known to eat pieces of human bodies found in the Ganga. The “fire shot” has been taken at Manikarnika, the most important “open air cremation” Ghat of India.

You should however not be afraid by these disturbing aspects of the city; these traditions are part of its magic. Going there is actually quite safe, precautions should of course be taken in terms of health (drinking a glass of Ganga water might not be a good idea), but no particular violence is to be feared.

For a photo trip the best would be to hire a local “unofficial” guide (there are a lot of them close to Manikarnika) and ask them to show you the “real” Varanasi (meaning the narrow streets of the old city and the less touristic places). The official guides will be reluctant to take you out of the main touristic route.

One last advice: let your Berluti at home and bring shoes you are comfortable to make (very) dirty, the streets are full of animal and human fluids and materials of any sorts…

In terms of gear I used exclusively my X-Pro1 and Zeiss Touit 32mm (because I stupidly forgot my 18mm home). I used it in the simplest way: OVF, center focusing, no picture preview on the OVF. A good trick is to use the OVF on the “wide angle”: With the 50mm equivalent it allows seeing a lot of what is outside of the frame and thus taking your shot at the right moment.

The only Fuji quirk is the poor raw handling in lightroom, is thus used only neutral jpegs (everything like color, noise, sharpness at middle or low) and then post processed them with the Nik Collection and Lightroom.

The most difficult thing has been to select only a few shots for Steve, many more (including baba portraits, night shots, and shots of the small villages on the other side of the Ganga) are available on my 500px page, please take a look at it.

I’m also considering to sell some high quality baryta prints of the best shots, please do not hesitate to send me an email to discuss it further (sebks @ hotmail.com)

Best regards,

Seb

BO Steve Huff (1 sur 23)

BO Steve Huff (2 sur 23)

BO Steve Huff (23 sur 23)

BO Steve Huff (20 sur 23)

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Feb 252014
 

Fun on Fremont Street in Las Vegas!

There is nothing quite like getting out a couple of times a year to go to place with amazing people watching opportunities. Over the weekend during the Valley of Fire meet a few of us took the 3 mile drive from our house to Fremont Street in Las Vegas to do some people watching and snap a few photos. We went out one night and stayed for a short time and while we mainly walked around and experienced the lights, the sound, the energy and the people we also snapped a few shots here and there over the course of an hour or so.

As I walked around I told myself I wanted to take only TWELVE images during the hour, so I walked and tried my best to stick to that plan but the problem was I was so busy laughing at the antics of the party goers in the street that many times I forgot that I was there to take some photos!

I shot with the Olympus E-M1 and 25 1.8 along with the Panasonic 25 1.4. One walk down Fremont street with the Olympus lens and the walk back with the Panasonic. At the end of the day, both lenses did just fine and I would be 100% happy with either though the Panasonic does indeed have more micro contrast and a slightly sharper image. In other words, it is still the overall best 25mm lens for the Micro 4/3 system by a slight margin. 

After the hour walk I ended up with 16 shots, four more than the limit I tried to set but that was because I just was not finding my groove due to way too much visual overload! Some of the other guys had the same problem. I ended up liking 12 of shots and threw away 4 of them. Nothing special but it sure was a very VISUAL hour :) I decided to convert them all with VSCO to B&W so the grain you see is from the filters.

If anyone here ever finds themselves in Las Vegas then I urge you to take a little adventure off of the strip to Fremont Street..but be prepared for some wild times, especially on weekends!

Click on the images for larger versions!

On Fremont Street people are partying everywhere..drinking, dancing, street performers and a huge mix of people from all over the world. 

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Below is Michael from our group and I asked him to stand with the nuns for this shot. On Fremont street you can forget about morality :) 

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A street performer who was amazingly good. I squatted down to his level and shot between some guys legs for this shot taken with the Olympus 25. When shooting someone down below you, it is usually best to get down to their level for the image.

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More street performers. On Fremont if you see anyone dressed up that means you can get a photo with them but they WILL want a few bucks for this, so be prepared to pay!

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There are always loads of cameras and photos being taken so this is one destination where you do not have to be afraid to take the shot..

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There are even photo opps OFF of Frenont. This was a burger truck called “FUKU” with the slogan of “Get Lucky”. After taking a shot of the full truck I decided to get close and get the attention of the girl working the truck. When she looked, I snapped. 

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Even with all of the booze, the half naked women and men, the strip clubs and the craziness there are people of ALL ages who come to see the spectacle. From young to old..

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This guy who dresses as cupid yells out sexual comments to anyone walking buy and he has been on Fremont for a long time now..get your picture with this scary looking cupid and you will get to put a couple of dollars in his diaper.

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The last shot I took that night  - the crowd and a dancer in the background who dances on a bar to attract people to buy some alcohol

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Feb 222014
 

My Budget m4/3 Eurotrip 2013 with the Olympus E-PL1

By Igor Kolonic

Last summer, after years of postponing, two friends and I finally decided to go on a trip across Europe. With the amazing Interrail train ticket it was possible to see a lot of amazing places in short amount of time. We went for 10 days and started in Austria and went all the way to Frankfurt, Bruxelles, Amsterdam, Berlin and Prag.

I developed my interest in photography a few years back, and started with lomography and polaroid pictures but soon moved to the Olympus m4/3 system. I was never a fan of huge DSLRs so the PEN series was a real refreshment. Two years ago I bought an E-PL1 with the kit lens (14-42mm) and soon after that the amazing Oly 45mm1.8 lens. I wanted to travel as light as possible and give myself an additional challenge so I decided to take only the 45mm lens with me. At first it was quite strange shooting at this focal length all the time but after a couple of hours shooting with it I started being comfortable with it. Although there were a few missed shots due to the camera which is rather outdated compared to everything else on the current market, I was still really satisfied with the results from a combination which is now available for less than 300 euros ( cca. 400 USD )

The whole trip was an amazing experience and I can really recommend everyone to try it at least once. The Interrail tickets are really affordable and the trains in central Europe are extremely comfortable and fast way to travel, besides, you get to see all the beautiful landscapes when travelling by train. So here are some of my favorite shots from the trip:

 

1 & 2 Since I’m an architecture student I really enjoyed all the amazing architecture in Amsterdam and loved taking detail shots of the buildings.

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3 & 4 Amsterdam really is a city of bicycles, it’s hard to imagine how much bicycles there’s in the city until you see it yourself.

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5 One of my favorite shots from the trip, we were enjoying a break in the park when this guy decided to take a break from the everyday struggles. He sat nearby, lit up his cigarette and started reading his comic book.

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6 Vintage cars and motorcycles are also a quite common thing to see while walking around Amsterdam.

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7 Couldn’t resist the opportunity to take a picture of these tourists.

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8 When you’re in Amsterdam don’t miss the opportunity to rent a bike and take a ride through the city!

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9 Loved how surreal the scene looked – an artificial “hill” next to the amazing “Stedelijk Museum” in front of some historical buildings.

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10&11 M. Enjoying the ride through the city.

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12 Some typical Amsterdam architecture.

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13 I was actually pleasantly surprised that E-PL1 could handle moments like this.

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14 I. sitting at the amazing Holocaust Memorial in Berlin by Peter Eisenman. 

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15 Street musician at Potsdamer Platz in Berlin.

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16 Visiting the New National Gallery by Mies van der Rohe was a must! At the time we were there it was hosting an sculpture exhibition.

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17 M. and I. enjoying a beer in the Kreuzberg area in Berlin 

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18 M. writing “Ich bin ein Berliner” in his sketchbook.

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19 M. waiting for the late night train to Prag in Cottbus (Germany)

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I hope you enjoyed the photos, I didn’t bother putting any technical details about them since there isn’t anything new about the camera or lens I was using. For me photography is about telling a story so the “tool” I’m using has to be simple and intuitive as possible, otherwise you could forget that you’re the part of the story you’re taking the photo of. For the next trip I really hope I’ll manage to get the Fuji x100s since I realized that I don’t really have the need to have multiple lenses and really could use a viewfinder.

Thank you for your time!

Igor Kolonic

Feb 202014
 

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Fuji X100s User Report

By Nicola Bernardi

I finally had the chance to lay my hulking hands on the beautiful Fujifilm X100s, the camera over which I have been drooling night and day for the last year or so. The camera that I always wanted but couldn’t absolutely afford (25 years old freelance photographer here, remember?). The camera that one of my favorite photographers of all times, Zack Arias, described as the “DSLR killer”.

The camera that would surprise the hell out of me, but of course I didn’t know it yet.

On January 9th, Fujifilm Italia agreed to be the main sponsor for my next big project, unCOMMON:Wheels , and I’ll be using only Fujifilm cameras while biking from the southernmost to the northernmost point of Japan starting from March 5th. They also agreed to send me a Fuji X100s a couple of months in advance for me to get acquainted with their system and cameras. Needless to say, I felt like a kid on christmas morning: the freaking happiest I could ever be! And with this new toy in my hands, I did the only thing someone can do when they are in such a hype : take selfies in public toilets with it!

Kidding aside, I’ve been using the Fujifilm X100s for almost a month now, and these are my thoughts about it.

  • This camera is BEAUTIFUL. I mean, I’ve always had a thing for cameras, but this one brings it to a completely new level: it’s the kind of camera that makes you turn when she passes next to you, the kind of camera you go home and tell everyone about, the kind of camera you would invite out to dinner, fall in love with, marry and have wonderful camera babies with. Seriously!

 

  • They say dogs are men’s best friends and most loyal companion. Well, they lie. Truth is, the fujifilm X100s is a man’s best friend and most loyal companion! In the last month, not only have I never left home without it, but I have hardly left the ROOM without it! It’s so light, compact, practical and ready to shoot away at all times, that it becomes a natural extension of yourself. You wouldn’t leave the room without, let’s say, your arms, would you?

 

  • It’s so damn versatile: it doesn’t care whether you are in bright sun, in a candle-lit pub at night, or in a club shooting a concert. For as long as the camera is by your side, it will make you shoot wonderful photos.

 

  • Last and most importantly, it’s FUN. It MAKES you wanna capture the things around you, the people you are with and the life that surrounds you in every moment. It was a feeling that, I have to admit, it was long lost for me.

 

  • But, as weird as it sounds to me now (where I got completely used to shooting with this camera only, when it’s not commissioned work), it wasn’t love at first sight. In the first week especially, I had a hard time getting used to its fixed 23mm ƒ2 lens (35mm equivalent) as it is the ONLY lens range I NEVER USE. With my Nikon, i bounce pretty easily between my fixed 20mm and my fixed 50mm and having to get used to such a range proved itself to be though work. So in the beginning, I was unhappy with the photos I was taking not because of the camera, but because I couldn’t get my eye to “think” and compose for that focal length.

The second reason I was VERY UNHAPPY with the first days worth of photos, is that the raw files of this camera are different from what I normally work with. Don’t get me wrong, the X-Trans sensor produces very good files, and handles the colors, highlights and shadows in a great way! The problem was that I found myself processing the raw files in the same way I usually do with my Nikon files, and the results were noticeably different. It took me some time, but in the end I started to realize that it was my workflow that wasn’t correct for the camera, not the opposite.

Since then, and a few more dozen hours spent shooting with this camera after, I can now say that I fell in love with it and that I completely understand why Zack Arias said “this is the first camera with a SOUL”. Being a portrait photographer, I obviously tried shooting portraits with it and the results are extremely pleasing, granted that 35mm is (in my opinion) NOT a good lens for tight portraits, and it’s suited for a more environmental portraiture. I’ve never been much of a black and white guy, in fact, most of my portraits, concert photos and street photos are densely colorful, but this camera makes me wanna shoot in black and white: it renders shadows, midtones and highlights in such a great, detailed way!

Final Verdict:

The Fuji X100s really has something inside of it that makes you wanna take more pictures, that pokes your creativity. It takes away the burden of carrying a heavy camera and leaves you with all the freedom in the world to shoot anything you want, at any time! I really, REALLY like this camera! And here’s some other photos for you to check. Obviously, all shot with none other than the Fujifilm X100s

www.nicolabernardi.com

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Feb 192014
 

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One Journey Two Cameras

by Jason Howe - See his Website HERE, his Flickr is HERE

I’ve not long been back from a trip which took myself and my family back to the UK via a few other places, this wasn’t a photography trip but I’ve included a few of my favourite images picked up along the way. The are more images along with a more extensive write-up on my blog here – The Reluctant Tourist.

I have no idea how much time I wasted thinking about what gear I should take on this trip, certainly it was too much time. In the end I tried to keep it simple and went with what I’m most comfortable with, the Leica M Monochrom. For lenses I went all Voigtlander – 21/1.835/1.2 and 50/1.5. I also had a cheap PROST adapter which was all I could get hold of initially.

My gear plans went out of the window when the Sony A7R arrived by courier just a couple of hours before departing for the airport, at that point I really had little choice but to take it as leaving it meant I’d not see it again for 2 months. Obviously any new camera monopolises your attention and it also means a bit of a learning curve, it certainly did with the MM and the Sony A7R was the same just for different reasons.

I had a rocky start with the A7R, whilst I immediately fell in love with the OOC JPG’s I found focusing accurately at wide apertures to be almost impossible without magnification. Yes my eyesight is fine…

Image 1 – Sony A7R – 35mm Voigtlander Nokton f/1.2 Asph Mk II – OOC JPEG

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Image 2 – Sony A7R – 50mm Voigtlander Nokton f/1.5 Asph

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Image 3 – Sony A7R – 50mm Voigtlander Nokton f/1.5 Asph

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Eventually, I started to get to grips with focusing the A7R utilising the magnifier but for me it’s a little clumsy and I still can’t achieve focus as fast or proficiently as I can with a rangefinder.

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Image 5 – Leica M Monochrom – 35mm Voigtlander Nokton f/1.2 Asph Mk II

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Touching on my original gear selection and with the benefit of hindsight it was totally flawed. I may prefer B&W but I still needed a colour option, fortunately the A7R filled this void. My biggest mistakes were in lens selection though, this was not a light bag!!! I allowed my curiosity to get the better of me and selected the recently acquired 35/1.2 over my v.1 Summicron. The 35/1.2 is optically superb but it’s huge and consequently heavy, in contrast the v.1 Summicron is tiny, light and optically superb. The 21/1.8 I just didn’t use, another weighty option. Instead I found myself wishing I’d taken the Summicron 90/2 on lots of occasions, a lens I’d been using quite frequently before I left. Now I didn’t carry all this everywhere, each day I’d select a camera and lens, on odd occasions I’d take two lenses but when you’re away for so long size and weight are big issues. The real winner was the Voigtlander 50mm f/1.5 Asph, I really do love everything about this lens.

Image 6 – Sony A7R – 50mm Voigtlander Nokton f/1.5 Asph

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Image 7 – Sony A7R – 50mm Voigtlander Nokton f/1.5 Asph

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Image 8 – Leica M Monochrom – 50mm Voigtlander Nokton f/1.5 Asph

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You’ll notice the next two images were taken with the Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 35mm f/2.8 ZA, having tried and failed to get my hands on this in NY I managed to get one in the UK. There were a couple of factors that drew me to the Sony A7R initially, one of those was having a FF camera with the ability to autofocus, there are certainly times when I’ve missed this and I’ve missed shots.

Image 9 – Sony A7R – Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 35mm f/2.8 ZA

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Image 10 – Sony A7R – Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 35mm f/2.8 ZA

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Image 11 – Leica M Monochrom – 50mm Voigtlander Nokton f/1.5 Asph

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Image 12 – Sony A7R – 50mm Voigtlander Nokton f/1.5 Asph

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I’m still very much committed to working things out with the Sony A7R, Indeed I’ve just added the Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 55mm f/1.8 ZA to the kit and I’ll be endeavouring to become more proficient with the camera on all levels. For now, well the Leica M Monochrom is still my favourite camera, you can get great B&W’s from other cameras but there is just that bit of something special in the files from the MM, to my eye at least.

Cheers, Jason.

Feb 182014
 

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A Year in “M” Monochrom

By Ashwin Rao

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Hello, my friends, the time has come to reflect upon a year seen primarily in black and white (and many, many shades of gray, which really is life, now, isn’t it ?) through the eye of Leica’s amazing Leica M Monochrom. I have previously written about my experiences with the “MM” after 6 months of use, and following journeys with the camera in Paris, Italy, New York City, and the Palouse. In this world of constant camera turnover, where every M9 is replaced by an M240, with Sony and Olympus seemingly staking their claims to fame in the digital camera world in place of Canon and Nikon, and with Fuji surprising and delighting us with every turn, the MM is now a venerable camera that remains unique as the only current mass-produced camera with a black and white sensor. The camera’s sensor, stripped of any ability to see in color, rid of the capacity to block moire, ends up being a photon eater, proving and incredible tool for capturing light in its many presentations.

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While it has not yet been around long enough to be deemed “legendary”, the MM is already ascending that ladder, and for those whom have had the privilege of using it, you’ll see that glimmer in their eyes of the prize that rests in their hands. So come along with me for my ride, should you choose, in words and images, of this camera that is destined for legend.

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Over the past year plus, I have taken over 15,000 shots with the Leica MM. I can truly and honestly say that the camera has delivered me the most joy of any camera that I have owned. The camera’s incredible CCD sensor that seems capable of coaxing the very best out of nearly any lens that you could put on it. In particular, the sensor seems to play particularly well with older rangefinder lenses, which in some cases were designed and coated for black and white photography. It provides a rich modern look with today’s aspherical glass, almost providing “shockingly real” views of the world, which I have yet to see from any camera. For me, the look of the MM with most modern glass is almost surreal, and I have thus primarily stuck with using older, “cheap” rangefinder lenses with the camera to great satisfaction. What’s interesting to me, and what I have heard increasingly from users of the camera, is that the camera’s sensor itself seems capable of coaxing something special out of these lenses, even when the M9 and M240 may not be able to coax the same look, clarity, or detail.

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Seeing in Monochrome

First and foremost, the Leica MM is a tool for image capture, as is really any other camera that the photographer may use. However, the sensor’s capacities and limitations have forced me to change my creative perspective. As I began my journey with the MM, I had to accept the challenge of only “seeing” the world around me in black and white. Color was no longer an option, and could not be used as a crutch or a tool ton lean upon. Having converted many of my M9 images to black and white, I initially did not see an issue with the process of only seeing in black and white, but after using the M monochrome a few times, I suddenly realized at what I had given up. Shooting in color offers its own creative possibilities and limitations, and when I suddenly forced out of this option, I found myself jarred. I decided to re-calibrate and try my best to see the world around me in black and white, before I even composed or took the shot. In a sense, I began to focus on light and dark, highlight and shadow, essentially in luminosity. I began to “ignore color” to the best of my abilities and focus instead on the remaining elements of any scene that I wished to capture Over a few months, what first was a challenge soon became inspiration and motivation. I was starting to see the world in monochrome. Just as switching from the AF-10FPS SLR’s to rangefinders is freeing to many photographers who are stuck in a rut, shooting with the M Monochrom re-invigorated me to explore the world around me in new ways. I called it “Going back to finishing school.”

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Monochrom magic?

There is just something about the MM’s sensor that seems magical to me. I know that this may come off as overly dramatic, but for me and for others out there with whom I have discussed the camera, it is true. The images that I have been able to capture seem to defy my own meager skills as a photographer. Lenses that were forgotten or passed aside on the M8 and M9 suddenly took center stage in the manner of how they interacted with the MM’s sensor. Let me say a few more words about this (The following is entirely theoretical, so feel free to disregard)

I have said in many instances that the MM seems to play particularly well with older lenses. Many vintage lenses from Leitz, Canon, and Nippon Kogaku were designed and used in an area of black and white photography, where color options were rare, limited, or non-existent. Thus, such lenses utilized coatings and design that was suited to capturing monochrome images, or so I have gathered. Whereas some of these older lenses’ coatings provide poor color reproduction on digital cameras, they seem to offer subtleties in tonal capture that modern lenses of aspherical design, aimed at gathering maximal contrast and detail across the frame, seem to miss. I have noted than many modern aspherical designs seem to limit the M Monochrom’s abilities to capture shadow detail, in particular, while older lenses, which tend to capture much lower macrocontrast, save these shadows, and instances, highlights as well.

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Second, I suspect that some of the MM’s magic in interacting with old lenses actually may have come from within. When I consider photographers that have inspired me, I have tended to prefer the “look” of the works of the early Magnum photographers, Sebastio Salgado, and others who shot in an era where my “vintage” lenses was their modern options. In a sense, I learned to prefer a way of seeing in black and white in the manner that was reflective of their gear…i.e. older lenses.

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Third, the MM’s sensor seems to be unique in being able to hold incredible detail with post-processing. This seems to be due to the dynamic range that MM images seem to possess in the mid tones. The MM has been roundly criticized for its tendency to clip highlights, and this is absolutely a reasonable criticism. What is often not discussed, however, is the incredible detail and flexibility of tone that preserved in the midtones captured by the camera, as well as the shadow detail that the camera preserves. When I first used the MM, I was enamored by the near infinite shades of gray captured within the RAW file, and as a result, my initial images with the camera tended to look generally grey. Over time, I found myself exploring these greys more and more, and using Adobe LR and other post processing tools to extract the contrast and detail that I desired from this more “boring” grey. One can push and pull the images in any number of ways, and MM files will not fall part, especially those captured at ISO 3200 or less. When used in “decent light”, the camera does just fine at ISO’s as high as 5000, capturing fine detail and suppressing noise appropriately (not really like film, though, but still pleasing).

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Finally, there may also be something to the M Monochrom’s naked sensor that coaxes the most out of vintage lenses. Lenses such as the Canon 50 mm f/1.8 LTM, which seem soft and washed out on color rangefinders, simply sparkle on the MM, both in detail and tonal rendition. I was surprised in particular, by the amount of detail and resolution that some lenses, over 50 years old, are capable of capturing when paired to the MM. I theorize that the lack of the low pass filter and Bayer array allows for optimal capture of unfiltered detail. No blur or image loss is imparted upon the captured image, as light does not have to pass through any barriers.

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The journey from new to old

So here I am, a year later, a year older and hopefully a year wiser, and my journey with the MM continues. The MM continues to be my favorite camera and my preferred way to see the world around me. My aspherical lenses continue to be relegated to my M9, while the MM continues to be mated to classic rangefinder lenses. I feel that for me, what was a casual experiment with vintage lenses has turned into a serious enterprise in how I prefer to see the world around me. It mates the rangefinder experience with a unique way of seeing the world around me and brings me closer to my own idols in the photographic world.

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Onward and Upward

The journey continues, and I hope to report back to you as I gain even more experience with this wonderful camera. Obviously, I can no longer wow you with reports of impressive specs, more megapixels, and quieter shutters. I hope to bring you more images, as my explorations with the camera, its files, and my use of processing, continues. These are exciting times for many of us, as photographers. Gear these days is so excellent that it’s really up to you to choose what tool suits you best. For some of you, it may be the camera phone that is always on your person. For others, it’s the latest greatest offering, with ever improving dynamic range, color reproduction, detail capture, and camera performance. For some, it’ll be the increasing capacity of cameras to deliver images and an experience that can be instantaneously shared. For me, it’s the simplicity of a camera that’s not capable of any of this, not even capable of seeing in color, that will continue to inspire and challenge me to grow my photography in new directions and to new summits. All the best to you all in your own journeys, and I’ll be sure to check in again soon!

Yours truly,

Ashwin Rao

February, 2014

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Feb 172014
 

Myanmar in Transition

By Nikko Karki © 2013

www.nikkokarki.com

http://blog.nikkokarki.com

Adorned with thousands of temples, nestled in the Mandalay region of northern Myanmar, Bagan’s arid landscape has been preserved as if in a time capsule for the past 1,000 years. After remaining closed to the outside world, Myanmar is now open for business, bolstering Bagan as its flagship tourist destination. The children growing up in Bagan will witness unprecedented changes in their local economy and social landscape in the upcoming years.

How will tourism development in Bagan mirror Myanmar as a whole?

Now that the floodgates are open to flocking tourist populations, how will the region and its people react to an infusion of social and economic influences?

Hasselblad 500c  - Carl Zeiss 120mm f/4 - Kodak Portra film

Nikko Karki © 2013 Myanmar Transition 01

Photographer’s note:

I went to Myanmar with an old film Hasselblad, a digital Canon DSLR and an open mind. I had heard warnings about the political past and chose to ignore the history as it’s clear the country is on the brink of a new era. During my trip, I felt a strong connection with the people who welcomed me with open arms. Traveling with only a small pack containing all my gear, I was free to roam around the countryside on foot, taking time to talk with people, observe and feel the strength and beauty of this incredible country. I’m so grateful to the people of Myanmar for this experience and hope to return again one day soon.

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Feb 062014
 

South in Black and White

By David Mello

Hey guys! I’ve never shared my work before, but I’ve loved following your site, so though this might be a good time to start.

I’m originally from south of Boston. A few years ago, I was having a really bad day, so I just got in my car and drove. Traffic was better going south, so I ended up in North Carolina. Long story short, I never left.

I’ve always loved searching out history, but I’ve had to learn to see differently down here. History moves *slower* here, blending into the everyday in a way that is at first elusive, but ultimately quite beautiful. Structures and even towns that would have been torn down long ago in the north, somehow keep existing here, while the world moves on around them. Despite them, even.

I’ve always treated my digital photography as experiential as possible. That is, I never post-process, and shoot directly as jpeg files. Once the picture is taken, its done, for better or (usually) worse. Almost all my photography was taken on either a d700 or more recently a DF, with a voightlander 40mm being my go-to lens.

You can check out more of my work here:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/mellodave/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/mellodave/sets/72157630272838224/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/mellodave/sets/72157630272954562/

Thanks for looking!

Dave

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2. mebane, nc x-pro1 28mm

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3. graham, nc x-pro1 28mm

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4. carrboro, nc Nikon df 50mm 1.2

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Jan 212014
 

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24 Hours with The Fuji X-E2 and 23 1.4. A quick review.

by Steve Huff

This is not really a “review” of the X-E2 and 23 1.4 but more of a report on using the camera for 24 hours. The X-E2 is VERY similar to the X-E1 and there is not much more to say about the X-E2 besides talk about the AF speed improvement and the overall response time. Has it improved from the X-E1? Read on to find out as I write about my 24 hours with the X-E2 and 23 14!

Here we are in 2014 and Fuji is still continuing to pump out X body after X body with another new one supposedly on the way at the end of Jan 2014. For now I will be talking a bit about the Fuji X-E2 which is the replacement and update to the X-E1, which I found to be a good camera but a little slow to focus.. With that said, the X-E1 had the IQ behind it even if I have not been a fan of the X-Trans sensor for various reasons (I am in the minority here, I admit). Nope, I have always preferred the X100 sensor above all of the Fuji cameras as it just a had a tad of magic behind it that I preferred. The X-E2 continues with the X-Trans sensor but these days the support for processing these X-Trans files has finally grown and one can now use Adobe products to process the RAW files without any issues.

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This makes a difference or course and helps to removes some of the “flatness” and odd artifacts I saw in earlier reviews or earlier X-Trans cameras (when using Adobe to process). In fact, I am now really liking what I see coming from these X-Trans sensors and I do not have to download special software or software that I do not enjoy using to get fantastic results.

Fuji X-E2, 23 1.4 at 1.4 and ISO 320

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The Fuji X-E2 looks and feels like the X-E1 though it feels better and more solid when in use with the new and fantastic 23 1.4. Thanks to B&H Photo I was able to shoot one for a few days or so and while I originally was not going to review or do a report on the X-E2 I decided to give it a shot as I really wanted to check out the new 23 1.4 lens, which I knew would rock. Fuji makes some fantastic glass and all of their lenses have been stellar even though a couple of them have had focus speed and accuracy issues. Overall they are solid in the IQ department even beating out the Zeiss Touit designs.

ISO 3200 – 23 1.4 wide open

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With the X-E2 Fuji brings in a few improvements

For starters the sensor is still 16Mp but is now named the X-Trans CMOS II and the processor is also version II. The AF is also quicker and now included phase and contrast detect AF, which indeed does speed up the focus from the snail days of the original firmware X-Pro 1. The X-E2 adds the gimmicky face detection and the LCD has grown by a smidge as well as the resolution doubling (LCD). Same battery, same charger, same everything else but the body is now $999, same price of the X-E1 at launch. Basically it is what the X-E1 SHOULD HAVE been from the get go! But Fuji is learning and I give them the award for most dedicated support because n other camera company has been as dedicated to firmware updates for their cameras. Fuji improves the performance of their cameras with each and every firmware update, and they are not shy about releasing them like some companies (Leica for one).

In use the X-E2 is indeed an improvement over the X-E1!

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Size and Weight

The size of the X-E2 remains exactly the same as the X-E1. In fact, besides some button changes the bodies are almost 100% identical. So the X-E2 feels the same as the X-E1, which as I reported before is a little on the hollowly side of neutral. Both the Sony A7 and Olympus E-M1 feels more solid in the build department and in fact, the X-E2 is bigger than both of them, even the full frame Sony A7! The X-E1 is nice but not quite there yet when it comes to build quality but there has not been any issues reported with the X-E1 or X-E2 so this really means nothing when it comes to shooting and bringing home the image. Just know if you are coming from Leica, Sony A7 or the E-M1 that your 1st impression may be “this feels hollow”. ;) If Rambo were to shoot a mirror less I see him more as a Leica guy…

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What happens in Vegas..gets reported about HERE. Under certain light the Fuji’s always give me this pinkish tone/hue. Talk about bad taste…they do not call it “Sin City” for nothing!

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Vegas Baby!

When I decided to give the X-E2 a try a decided I wanted to take a drive to Vegas and shoot the camera. I brought along the X-E2 and 23 1.4 as well as the Sony A7 and Olympus E-M1, both with 35mm (or equivalent) lenses. All I had with me was one focal length and that was 35mm. I wanted to shoot all three and see which one I preferred shooting. Would I enjoy the X-E2 the most or would the E-M1 slaughter them all for usability? For me Usability is very important because if a camera mis focuses, can not focus or is slow to start-up or just plain giving me hassles I will HATE it. That is one reason the X-Pro 1 bothered me so much with the 1st shipping firmware. By now Fuji has surely fixed all of the teething issues..at least that is what I told myself.

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The good news is that during my 24 hour stay in Las Vegas I had 3 missed shots with the Fuji out of 100 due to not being able to focus due to low light. This is a huge improvement over when I reviewed the X-Pro 1. I also missed a few from the camera taking so long to wake from sleep mode. By the time it popped back on the subject and photo pop was long gone so beware if you are attempting to shoot on the street when you need all of the speed you can get. When the camera goes to sleep it can take a couple of seconds to wake up. Other than that I had only TWO shots that mis-focused out of the 100. So again, a huge improvement over the X-Pro 1 and X-E1 (in my experience).

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This is more like a modern day camera :)

The color was typical Fuji and if you love Fuji and know Fuji then you know exactly what I mean. Fuji has a way of rendering colors that can be very pleasing. They can pop, they can give a feeling of “wow” and they can be very contrasty as well. Throw that Velvia setting on and shoot JPEG and you will have some rich and contrasty vibrant shots and IMO a bit too much. But some love the JPEG presets and they are well known to be that “Fuji Look”.

Rich Fuji Colors will explode from the X-E2. These are colors that do NOT come out of a Sony or Olympus. If you like it you buy Fuji.

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Shooting it with the A7 and E-M1..which did I prefer?

While I was having fun walking around Vegas and looking for a shot or two I was taking turns shooting between the X-E2 and Sony and Olympus. For starters I can say that the fastest and most complete feeling experience came from the Olympus E-M1. To be honest, it feels and shoot with such speed and grace and feels so good doing it many would never need anything more. It does lose quality as the lights get low though and the Sony and Fuji was able to keep plowing through. Still, the 17 1.8 on the Olympus was able to shoot without issue in any light and remained fast in doing so no matter if it was dark or light. The Fuji and Sony slowed down in the AF department when the lights got lower but as stated, the quality stayed high.

So it is a give and take and all depends on what you desire more..speed and usability or the best IQ in all situations. All cameras delivered images for me that I was 100% happy with. None of them left me wanting anything more. I enjoyed them all.

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Auto Exposure..a quick comparison

As a quick test for my own curiosity I wanted to shoot each camera and lens wide open with Auto ISO set to ON. The 23 1.4 at 1.4, the 17 1.8 at 1.8 and the 35 2.8 at 2.8. What exposure and ISO would each camera choose? How much higher would the Sony have to go in the ISO dept to get the shot? The results are below. Be sure to see my full size file comparison of the X-E2, Sony A7 and Olympus E-M1 HERE.

First the Fuji. Set to 1.4 the ISO chosen by the camera was ISO 1600 and the Shutter Speed was 1/60s.

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The Sony was set wide open to f/2.8 and the camera chose 1/60s and ISO 6400! Yes, ISO 6400. Due to the slower lens  the ISO had to be jacked up. As you can see the Fuji DOF looks the same as the Sony but the Fuji need a 1.4 lens to match 2.8 on the Sony. If I threw a f/1.4 on the Sony it would have been much better with a lower ISO, more shallow DOF and more pop. 

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And the Olympus E-M1 and 17 1.8 at 1.8. You would think the Olympus would fail here but it chose ISO 1600 and 1/30s. A little more noisy but still looks great considering the circumstances and low light. This shot has the MOST DOF for obvious reasons. 

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The thing to remember here is that I had an f/2.8 lens on the Sony. If I brought along the 50 1.5 Voigtlander or the Sony 55 1.8 the Sony would have the most WOW factor and neither the Olympus or Fuji could have touched it. for sharpness, noise or 3D pop. In other words the Sony can do better as it has much more in the reserve tank but the Fuji and Oly are maxed out to their limits here.

To sum it up..

To sum it up..the Fuji X-E2 is the BEST fuji X body at the time of this writing. I may still prefer the X100 and X100s but if you want interchangeable lenses then the X-E2 gets my nod for best body today (until the new X-T1 arrives at $1700 US). At $999 it is a good buy and fairly priced for what you get. Many like to claim that the Fuji’s have the best IQ of any camera today. I do not agree with that at all but can say that these Fuji’s have a look all of their own and can pump out fantastic beautiful quality images that have the Fuji signature stamped on them. If you happen to adore that signature then there is nothing better than the X-E2 to get you there.

Fuji is pumping out quality fast primes as well. The 23 1.4 is the best lens from Fuji that I have shot with and the aperture dial on the lens is the icing on the cake. I think ALL camera manufacturers should do this as it just adds to the whole shooting experience.

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Today we have choices like we would have never dreamed of just a few years ago. Sony, Olympus, Fuji, Pentax, Ricoh, Leica are just a few that come to mind when I think of high quality small mirror less. Each one of those manufactures have a solid offering that can deliver images that rival just about anything out there, and imagine..it WILL be getting better in 2014 and beyond.

My only niggle with the Fuji X-E2 is that the auto white balance can be pretty off in some lighting where the A7 and Oly did fine. I sometimes get a pinkish and harsh hue in low light situations (see the nuns above of the table balancer below) which I have only seen in the X-Trans sensors. Other than that I had no problems with the Fuji X-E2.

So yes! I can highly recommend the Fuji X-E2 and especially the 23 1.4 lens.

Where to Buy the X-E2 and 23 1.4 Lens.

X-E2  - B&H Photo

23 1.4 – B&H Photo

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X-E2 – PopFlash.com

23 1.4 – PopFlash.com

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X-E2 at Amazon

23 1.4 – Amazon

More images below from my 24 hours with the X-E2 and 23 1.4! Enjoy!

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Full size from the Fuji X-E2 and 23 1.4. EXIF is embedded. Right click and open in a new window to view correctly.

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