Oct 262013
 

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The Phoenix AZ Zombie Walk with the Olympus E-P5 and E-M1!

Just arrived back home from the Zombie Walk here in Phoenix, AZ and it was a blast as usual. This year I brought along the Olympus E-M1 and E-P5 with a 17 1.8, 25 0.95 and 45 1.8. Oh, and also a Panasonic 8mm Fisheye. I was curious to see if I would prefer using one camera over the other and while I thouroghly  enjoyed them both, i enjoyed the E-M1 a little more and most of my faves came from the E-M1 as well. Not sure why that is..because the IQ is VERY close with the E-M1 being a little different in color and sharpness. Just slight.

Some of my faves from the day are below, but what is really cool is that today we have so many lenses in the Micro 4/3 world that can give us whatever we want..from ultra fisheye wide to wide to standard to shallow DOF tools such as the 25 0.95. It’s an all around fantastic system and the REALLY cool thing is I did not have one out of focus image. Not a one. Also, using the 25 0.95 on either camera was a joy. No need for magnification or peaking due to the EVF being so large and clear.

At the end of the day I would purchase an E-M1 if buying into the Micro 4/3 system just because it offers so much and does it all so right. The E-P5 is also awesome, with looks that kill but the large EVF on top sort of kills the Mojo when in use or trying to put in a bag.

I have spoken quite a bit about these two cameras and it seems I can not say enough. I love them but most of all I love these lenses! They are so so good.

The E-M1 or E-P5 along with a Sony A7 or A7r would make for one killer “Do It All” system. One built for speed and versatility and one built for flat-out IQ. G.A.S. sucks.

Check out the images below and click on them for the details!

See ya Monday with the new Sony’s IN HAND!

Steve

The E-P5 and 17 1.8 at 1.8 – click it for larger

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The E-M1 and 25 0.95 at 0.95

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The E-P5 and 45 1.8 at 1.8. This lens at $399 is a must for any M 4/3 user. Trust me. 

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E-M1 and 17 1.8 at f/2.2

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E-M1 and 17 1.8 – Wide open at 1.8. Click it for large and detailed. Who said this lens was soft? This was also in some bright sunlight and the E-M1 handled it nicely. 

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The E-M1 and 17 1.8

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Again, the 17 1.8

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E-M1 and 25 0.95 at 0.95 and up close – amazingly sharp for wide open. The E-M1 works magic on these lenses

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Again, E-M1 and 25 0.95 at 0.95

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E-P5 and 17 1.8

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E-P5 and 17 1.8

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E-M1 and 25 0.95 at 0.95. DOF is thin but I focused on the girl..

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E-M1 and 25 0.95 at 0.95

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E-M1 and 25 0.95

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E-M1 and 17 1.8 – This was in SUPER harsh light but the highlights were easily recovered here in RAW processing. 

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E-P5 and 8mm Fisheye

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E-P5 and 17 1.8

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E-P5 and 17 1.8

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17 1.8

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45 1.8

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Me and Debby! WITHOUT Makeup :)

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ORDER LINKS:

You can order the E-M1 Here

You can order the E-P5 Here

You can order the 25 0.95 Lens HERE

You can order the 17 1.8 HERE

You can order the 45 1.8 Here

Oct 092013
 

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A Vintage Year with the OM-D E-M5 and E-M1

by Neil Buchan-Grant – His website is HERE

From Steve: Hello to all today and happy Wednesday! What you are about to see is an incredible collection of images all shot with Micro 4/3 using the OM-D E-M5 and new E-M1 by Neil Buchan-Grant. As it is all about who is behind the camera, I feel that Neil really shows what these cameras are capable of. My full E-M1 review will be here SOON and I am having a blast shooting with it. Enjoy!

 

Hi Steve and readers!

Its been quite a good year so far photography-wise. Unlike many people who take their camera out every day, I tend to concentrate my photographic efforts into short projects based around travel or events. This year I have been very fortunate to attend a number of amazing ‘vintage’ events and as my relationship with Olympus UK has flourished, they have let me try out their new gear in sunnier parts of Europe

My last submission back in January announced how little I was using the Leica M9 since buying my Olympus OMD-EM5. Well now that the EM1 has been launched, the time has come to say goodbye to the M9 (but I’m keeping the lenses!).

The year started with a long weekend in the Canary Islands where I had always wanted to shoot the dramatic sand dunes of Maspalomas on Gran Canaria.

Shot with the Olympus 12mm f/2 – E-M5

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12mm – E-M5

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On rare occasions I wake early and venture out into Winchester for a dawn shoot, this shot was from the last time this happened.

12mm – E-M5

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Next, a one-day workshop I was asked to host in the historic city of Cambridge produced these two shots

Panasonic 25 1.4 – E-M5

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Panasonic 25 1.4 – E-M5

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I was commissioned to shoot Wayne Hemingway’s vintage festival which this year took place in Glasgow, it was good to be back in Scotland for a weekend. These two pros attend many of the Vintage events across the globe, they own the dance floor!

 Olympus 17 1.8 – E-M5

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Then I was sent out to Budapest with Jay McLaughlin, a very experienced fashion photographer (and Olympus user) to create some marketing images. Here are two of my favourites from the shoot.

Olympus 75mm 1.8 – E-M5

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Olympus 75 1.8 – E-M5

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Goodwood Revival is heritage motor sport race meeting held in the Sussex downs and always attracts a vast number of impeccably dressed vintage enthusiasts from around the world.

Panasonic 25 1.4 – E-M5

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Panasonic 25 1.4 – E-M5

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Olympus 75 1.8 – E-M5

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Olympus 75 1.8 – E-M5

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Olympus 75 1.8 – E-M5

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Panasonic 25 1.4 – E-M5

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And lastly I just came back from Portugal after a week of testing the new OMD-EM1. As a result I am quite smitten with this camera! It was a joy to use on an extended shoot where I took over 5,500 frames. The Swiss/French model who came along for the job had broken her foot 2 weeks before but fortunately didn’t have to wear a cast. She did extremely well, considering she needed crutches to go anywhere. Here are a few of my favourites from the week.

E-M1 and 75 1.8

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E-M1 and 45 1.8

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E-M1 and 25 1.4

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E-M1 and 25 1.4

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E-M1 and 25 1.4

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E-M1 and new 12-40 Pro Zoom

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E-M1 and 25 1.4

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 Hope you’ve enjoyed looking at these as much as I have making them, much more to see up on my blog as usual.

Oct 022013
 

“Down The Drain” 

Down the drain

The Future Is In The Past – The Leica Monochrom and Photogravure

Max Marinucci Photography

Fine Art Photography

Silver Gelatin and Photogravure

South Salem, NY

www.maxmarinucci.com

As a photographer and printer, I’ve always seen the advent of digital photography as a mixed blessing. The gain in speed, convenience, immediacy, offered by digital photography, also meant the gradual loss of film and everything related to it (photographic paper, chemicals) and, more importantly, the loss of learned skills and knowledge that are needed to produce truly hand-made prints. I have, of course, continued to use film for most of my work and honed my skills producing quality silver gelatin prints, in a world when a photographer feels like he is constantly swimming against the digital current. Kodak is no longer a driving force and so many manufacturers have disappeared or stopped making photographic product, with Ilford being the only reliable and consistent source as of today. Over the past year, while still dedicated to film photography and silver gelatin, I’ve rediscovered what is the most venerable, and in my opinion most beautiful of photographic processes: photogravure. A venerable process, and a 19th century invention, it was indeed how photography came to life, on paper, at the dawn of it all. On the camera front, as a devoted Leica user, I’ve continued with my trusty M3 and later film incarnations as the M4, M6, M7 and MP, until finally breaking down and acquiring a Monochrom upon release. There was no denying that the allure of a no fuss, great Leica camera that captures images in black and white only was too much to bear but, as my personality dictates, everything has to have a clear purpose. I am not an inkjet printer and I see no purpose in spending a good chunk of hard-earned cash on a camera to simply post digital snapshots on social networks or photography related websites, in a vacuum, with a purely digital workflow. As a photographer, artist and a printer, how do I justify the investment and, better yet, how do I bring the amazingly detailed images that the Monochrom is able to record, to life, on paper? Marrying our historic photographic past to the latest in technology, in a seamless way, and one that offers the viewer, collector, buyer, a tangible product that is not mass-produced but it is a handmade work of art, seemed the one and only way for me.

The Leica Monochrom and Photogravure: the future is in the past.

“The Old Man By The Window”

Old Man By The Window

Because of technological advances within the printing industry, and pioneers such as Jon Cone of Piezography, Roy Harrington of QTR, and Mark Nelson of Precision Digital Negatives (and few others) today it is possible to print absolutely flawless digital positives to use for the photogravure process. Of course, that doesn’t make this amazing process any easier, as it still involves the same numerous (and full of pitfalls) steps as it did one hundred years ago, but one only needs to admire in person the incredible prints born from Leica Monochrom images and onto fine art papers, hand-made with beautiful inks, to realize how special this is. I firmly believe that for a fine art photographer and printer, who is willing to let go of the constant film versus digital battles and discussions, these can be exciting times, if only one is willing to learn and push the boundaries a bit. For my own work it has now come to a point when shooting film with the ultimate goal of making photogravure plates and prints is almost not worth it. Of course, medium and large format film still offer many possibilities but, at the end of the day, film still has to be scanned and that will always be the weakest link (and probably weaker as we go on, as film scanners are barely in production). While results can be more than acceptable with 35mm, and I will still continue on this path on occasion, the amount of detail and the possibilities available with the Leica Monochrom and photogravure are truly exciting and special.

“Porte, Cassis” 

Porte, Cassis 1

For the novice who may be wondering why go through the trouble of using such a cumbersome and antiquated process to produce a print, I’d like to again outline a few important points: obviously, for as beautiful as the best inkjet prints may be, there are no particular skills required and no “hands on” aspect. If one enjoys actually “making” something, an inkjet print gives no satisfaction. Then there is the aspect of the print itself. With inkjet, we have ink (and a crappy one in most cases), sitting on top of the paper. With photogravure etchings, the image is IN the paper. What does that mean? Well, an etching on copper is basically peaks and valleys. The valleys are the deep crevices, which hold more ink and create the deep shadows and blacks, and the peaks will hold much less and create the highlights in print. Of course, we have everything in between, for a true full range of tones. What this does is actually creating a relief on paper. The images have a structure and depth that one cannot replicate with an inkjet printer, or with any other process.

“Strength and Grace”

Strength and Grace

The Prints:

All prints are in editions of 20, with image size 12×8 for standard 35mm format and 8×8 for square crops. Printed on Magnani Revere or Somerset papers, using Graphic Chemicals, Charbonnelle, and Izote etching inks. Of course archival qualities far exceed those of inkjet prints and even silver gelatin. Every print is hand made by me, and hand pulled using a manual etching press. Aside from the original digital file and the production of a “positive” on clear film, the process is fully analog.

A word about the Photogravure process:

Please do note that when I say photogravure, I mean, “copper-plate photogravure”. There is another printing process that uses pre-sensitized “polymer” plates and a few “artists” have gotten into the habit of calling it simply “photogravure”. It is NOT the same thing! Copper plate photogravure, is an etching process. A gelatin resist that is first sensitized in potassium dichromate is exposed (using first an aquatint screen or rosin dust), then applied to a sheet of mirror finish copper, developed and finally “etched” in a series of ferric chloride acid baths. The Photo-Polymer process is NOT an etching process and it does not require chemicals in any of its steps. It is much easier to master and prints can be absolutely beautiful but…IT IS NOT “PHOTOGRAVURE”.

Sep 262013
 

Head hunting on the Bonneville Salt Flats with the Sony RX100

By Terry Bell

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Hi Steve;

Hoping life is being kind to you. Your site has become my go to photo blog each morning.

A couple of weeks ago, I had the great joy of accompanying a dear friend to the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, where,he would attempt to gain membership in the 200 mph club, aboard his BMW motorcycle.

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I decided to take two cameras with me on this adventure… My Fujifilm X Pro1 with 18-55 zoom and 14 mm wide-angle, and as back up , my Sony RX100.

After watching the first few timed runs, ( from a considerable distance ) it became clear that i was not going to come close to capturing the speed and excitement that some of these motorcycles generate, with the equipment I had.

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I decided that rather than focus on the motion, I would instead, turn my attention to the community of racers and staff that show up each year to make this event so special.

My go to camera for this project was my Sony RX100. It’s big advantage beyond it’s ability to render incredibly crisp images, is that it is, by and large, totally un-intimidating. I always like to work close when shooting people and I have found that the more serious the equipment, the greater the anxiety of the subject.

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Here on the Salt Flats, I was shooting total strangers and rarely was afforded more than two or three trips of the shutter. The little Sony performed flawlessly and took any hint of seriousness off my picture-taking.

As you can see by a couple of other pics, it did an equally fine job at capturing the beauty of the some of the machines, as well.

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Hope this proves of interest.

Terry Bell

Halifax, Nova Scotia

Canada

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Sep 182013
 

Around the world with the Fuji X-Pro 1 by Nate Robert

Hey Steve!

In December last year, I sent you a bunch of photos from the streets
of Iran
, all taken using the Fuji X-Pro 1 with the 18mm lens. I
thought your readers may like an update, as my journey around the
world with one camera and one lens has now passed the 400 day mark -
I’m still going strong and not slowing down – I’ve done 17 countries
in the last month.

I recently spent some time in an unrecognised breakaway territory deep
in Eastern Europe, known as “Transnistria”. After a brutal war of
independence in the early 90′s, the region is now doing its own thing
- due in large part to the Russian military that maintains a presence
on the ground. It was an incredibly interesting place to visit,
especially on Independence Day – held annually on the 2nd September.

Apart from an extremely Soviet-esque military parade, other highlights
included a parade of available brides, plenty of BBQ, and Vodka
flowing freely. It’s a hard place to explain, and I’m not sure my
photos do anything more than seed further confusion about
Transnistria.

In any case, despite being tempted by full frame in the Leica range, I
have stuck with the Fuji and the 18mm for quite some time now. It’s
something I recommend everyone doing at least once in their
photographic life. As time passes, I get to know the capabilities of
the camera, and the lens, in great detail. I’ve used this combo for
street photography, landscapes, and architectural shots. Of course,
the Fuji does have it’s “quirks”, but let’s face it – all camera’s do.
Is any camera really perfect?

Keep up the great work, and I will check in again next time I have
something interesting to share. Iran, Transistria, who knows where I
will end up next. If any of your readers would like to follow my
indefinite  journey, I think they would find it interesting – one
lens, one camera, one world. I’m blogging as I go.

Keep on doing your thing Steve, we all appreciate it.

Nate Robert

http://www.yomadic.com/transnistria/

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Sep 132013
 

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The Ricoh GR in Brazil

by Colin Steel – See his BLOG Here

Hey friends, sorry its been a while since I posted anything but I thought some of you may be interested in some thoughts I have on the newish Ricoh GR which I used in a pretty limited way on a recent trip to Brazil. Regular readers will know that I have been shooting 1:1 black and white for a while now and this trip was no different, I used my trusty Fuji X20 and to a lesser extent the X100s for most of the work I did (working on a post on that to follow). However, I also had along with me a newly purchased Ricoh GR and I decided to see how that worked for me as a camera and just for a change, to show the results in a normal format and in colour. As most of you will know, I kind of take image quality as for-granted with modern cameras and of more importance to me personally is how the camera fits the way I work and its overall usability factor. Here are some links to reviews that you might want to look at if the camera interests you at Steve Huff, and, although I much prefer Steve’s real world user style, here is the more thorough and technical DP Review version. I think as you can see here, you will have no problems with IQ and so on and almost all of the reviews I looked at were very positive on the camera overall.

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Just in case anyone is wondering, I stopped shooting colour and 3:2 because firstly, I am very colour blind and had a lot of problems in Lightroom when editing and secondly, I really find that I can fill the frame more interestingly with a square format. These are only personal preferences of mine and I will try to explain the thinking behind them a bit better in my next post on the main body of work from Brazil. Anyway, these colours look ok to me but please bear with me if they are a bit off in any way. All of the shots here have had very minimal adjustments with a mild saturation boost and a little clarity added and that’s more or less it. Enough of the background stuff, what about the camera as a travel partner and photo tool?

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GR, Friend or Foe?

Quite often camera reviews often end with a ‘who is this camera for?’ statement or an extensive list of pro’s and con’s that can often be somewhat amusing. For example I read a review of the GR that had the fixed 28mm equivalent lens as a con, you have to be kidding !!!!!! Surely no one in their right mind would buy a camera like this if they didn’t see that as a distinct advantage for their needs.

The longer I am involved in photography and the more passionate I become about the creative possibilities of its art, the more and more I gravitate towards simplicity and compactness in the cameras that I use and this little wonder ticks all of the right boxes in that respect with a couple of major operational upsides that I will come to shortly. The reason I mentioned the lens comment is that I have tried to show with the photos that I have chosen to show here that this is an extremely versatile camera and much of that is down to its maturity as a product (the GR range has a strong film heritage) the focal length chosen and its overall ease of use.

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From a handling perspective I really love this camera, I attached one of the marvellous Peak Design cuff wrist straps on it and it becomes a highly manoeuvrable and flexible, one hand if I want it, shooting marvel. Let me explain why and also point out where you have to be a bit careful with this as well. The GR is very easily configured to your preferred set up and very easy to control with one hand if you need to – here is what I find works best for me and you might want to try yourself. First up, I set the camera in the Pentax/Ricoh unique TAv mode which allows you to set both shutter and aperture via the front and back control dials and the camera then gets the correct exposure by choosing the ISO value. This is extremely liberating for me as I tend to value a lot of depth of field but at the same time want to make sure that I can maintain a suitable shutter speed for my situation. I also found that ISO up to 6400 was a breeze for this camera although you need to be very careful in colour if you go beyond that. So, all I do is tweak the setting as I move into a new environment. In other words in daylight I would normally walk around with the GR set at F8 and 1/125th as I know this will get me almost any shot I want as long as there is no great movement going on. Indoors in poorer light I simply open up the aperture F3.5 or something and if things are static drop to 1/40 s shutter speed or thereabouts. This is a very simple process that quickly becomes second nature and gives good predictable results. Then the icing on the cake is that I have configured the ‘effect’ function button which is handily placed on the left hand side to control the snap focus distance and I use this as a kind of insurance policy by normally setting it on 1.5 metres so that I know that if I press he shutter straight down it will focus there and my additional DoF via the aperture will get me the shot. I realise as I read what I have written here that this sounds a little complicated but trust me its not, simply try it for yourself and you will see how it frees you up to think about the shot and what you want to say with it. The only catch I have found with this is that you have to be respectful of not shooting one handed unless it suits what you are doing and this is because of the obvious risk of the inherent lack of stability that goes with this style of shooting. Its fine to control the camera with one hand for the settings and so on but better to get as much grip on it as you can when actually shooting. I believe some of the previous GR models had image stabilising in them and its a shame it wasn’t possible to engineer it in here, just be sensible and you wont find it a big deal. Thats it for menus and settings for me, I simply don’t touch the menus again after that initial set up and only apply small variations to the aperture and shutter speeds as I described. Incidentally, I mentioned that the GR is a mature product and it feels just great in the hand, the grip and tactile feel is superb.

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Here is a good example of the one handed approach giving me an interesting angle and there is a strange story to this shot as well. Two of my companions were Brazilian and unbeknown to me this guy that I was photographing outside the tiny Bar Dos Amigos cantina had told them that he had killed a guy with a machete the day before !!! Not sure if this was true or not but he did look a bit sinister and I am glad I was blissfully unaware. As usual with smaller cams though, they are generally much less intrusive and discrete and I think that, as many of you will have experienced, they lend themselves to a more intimate style of shooting.

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As other reviewers have pointed out, I did find that the camera has a slight tendency to underexpose but personally I tend to like a slightly darker tone and the exposure compensation is a breeze being handily located near the thumb grip. You may want to consider setting the AEL/AFL button on the other side of the thumb grip to exposure lock and using that to control metering off of neutral tones if required or to lock on a sky as in this shot above.

I had intended to keep this brief as in all honesty I didn’t use the GR very much on the trip so I want to finish by returning to the lens and its benefits and then looking at what happens when you push the ISO on the camera.

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At 28mm equivalent focal length this is about as wide as I am prepared to go nowadays as I have come to really dislike the distortions that come in with wider lenses. The distortion is here too in the GR but I chose this shot as an example of how decently controlled it is for such a wide lens. You can see the ‘pull’ on the boys eye and face but for me it doesn’t ruin the shot or overly distract me and I think that is a fine achievement by Ricoh and this is a pretty extreme example. Sharpness is something else that I usually take fore-granted in modern kit as I don’t think its that critical for my style but even with my dodgy eyesight this looks sharp all of the way to the edges. Again, this is born out in the techy reviews.

By the way, all of the shots here were taken using the superb rear screen on the GR and I never once felt that I couldn’t see properly to frame my shots. I have mentioned it in previous posts but I rather like the giant rangefinder effect of being able to see the complete environment while framing. Since returning from Brazil however I did have a bit of luck and found a a Lumix 24mm optical viewfinder used for S$70 and its proving great for when I feel a viewfinder framing is needed. Absurdly the stated 24mm frame lines seem to fit perfectly the 3:2 size of the GR images. I don’t know if anyone else has had this experience but if if you are looking for a cheap viewfinder option I can highly recommend this one.

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I want to draw towards a close with a couple of shots that were taken in near impossible light at what I think was the cameras highest ISO setting. I had to apply quite a lot of NR in Lightroom to these and the they became a bit mushy but I rather think they still just about make it. I am not a purist at all in these matters and prefer the fact that the images have some degree of visual and emotional impact on me that overrides the lack of clarity in the final image. The following shot was taken with flash and unfortunately this one is a bit more mushy but I still like the overall effect and I could probably have gotten away with more in a B&W conversion.

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By the way, I think the marvellous Roger Ballen would have loved this place which was a riverside abandoned sugar cane factory which had been occupied by itinerant fishermen and their families. I would dearly love to go back and try to shoot in a more controlled way, it was an astounding setting.

Which leads me to the end here by mentioning that I have been studying with the very wonderful Ernesto Bazan for a while now and the trip to Salvador de Bahia and Cachoeira was as part of one of his incredible workshops. Ernesto is a dear friend, very fine human being and wonderful maestro so if you enjoy learning and want to develop your style while having a great time, have a look at his amazing schedule.

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Well that’s it folks for this short piece, I sincerely hope that there was something of interest in it and hopefully it will have at least given some ideas to anyone thinking of buying the Ricoh GR. I will round out by saying that I have been carrying it in my bag every day and while I don’t see it unseating the X20 for my personal way of shooting, its definitely a very fine creative tool.

safe travels and happy shooting,

Colin

See his Blog HERE

Sep 112013
 

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REVIEW: The Canon 6D with Sigma 35 1.4 and Canon 85 1.2L

A Canon DSLR with POW, WHAM, BANG and two lenses with a little bit of Magic Dust Included.

Yes I know this Canon 6D camera and  the mentioned lenses have been reviewed by many others and is old news, but I had an opportunity to try these out for a week and decided to give it a whirl. So what you will read here is my experience using and shooting a DSLR after not really seriously shooting with one for a long time. The Canon 6D has intrigued me and I am happy that I was able to test it out with these two stellar lenses. Below is my experience.

DSLR’s are STILL hot

It has been said by more than one photographer in this ever growing mirror less world that “DSLR’s are still hot”. Yep, even with the rise in smaller and powerful mirrorless camera creation and sales, the DSLR still outsells the little mighty ones by a good margin. I saw it first hand while visiting New York City for a 2 day trip to a special Olympus event. I would say that 85% of those I saw on the street were using a DSLR of some sort, mainly Canon Rebels. Why is that? Well, there are many reasons, one being is that many newbies to Photography and those upgrading from little P&S cameras want to look “pro” and to do so requires they get a new Canon Rebel or starter Nikon DSLR..or so they think. 

The Canon 6D and incredible Sigma 35 1.4 ART series lens

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Yep, that is the mindset of many who are delving into photography and 95% of them know nothing about the smaller and sleeker mirrorless offerings that brings with them a similar image quality in a fraction of the size. Why is that? Because they want a large DSLR so they look pro or look cool.  This is a fact. I speak with many newbies every day who email me for advice and they want to know if they should get a Rebel or a Nikon D whatever to start out with. I ask why they want a DSLR and they usually say “my freind has one and I love it” or “it is professional and I want to be a pro” or “The Best Buy guy said the Canon Rebel is the best for quality”. Etc, Etc. I now tell them to check out this steal of a deal which is a starter DSLR style camera with an APS-C sensor called the Sony Alpha 3000. $399 with lens. But even that won’t do it for some because they want a Canon or a Nikon.

So yes, many people out there are getting into serious photography and they feel that to be serious they need a DSLR, the camera that their neighbor or friend has or the one that Best Buy told them was the best, which is usually a Canon Rebel.

But this is only the beginning of why DSLR sales remain strong.

The Canon 6D and the 85 L 1.2 II at 1.2 in a low dimly lit restaurant. One color, one B&W (both from RAW) Low light is NO problem at all for this combo. Click it to see the clarity at 1.2 and its ability to suck in the light. 

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Others buy DSLR’s for pro work, which I agree with. If I was shooting pro work day in and day out every single day (depending on what the work was) a DSLR would make its way into my kit for those times when the Leica M or RX1 just would not work or when an OM-D body would not work (macro or long tele). At that time I would then have to decide if I wanted a Canon, a Nikon or a Sony DSLR. Yes, Sony is an option as they make some cutting edge cameras, including some pretty nice DSLR’s. In the past I have owned a Canon 5D and a Nikon D700. I loved both but to be honest, I enjoyed the D700 more because at the time I preffered the Nikon color and rendering but I always went back and forth on that.

DSLR’s are a hot item even today and there are benefits to using them (as well as the cons of weight and huge size) depending on what it is you shoot. They are well established with a plethora of lenses available from macro to tilt shift to extreme fast telephoto primes to exotic superfast primes. Long story short, they offer everything anyone could ever need for creative photography. The new Mirrorless cameras of today that are so hot can also offer this in a much smaller package but even years after their inception, the lens choices, while great, are not as plentiful as they are with a Canon or Nikon or even Sony DSLR and DSLRS can be had from $300 and up to $8000 or more. So there are choices.

Canon 6D and Canon 85 L 1.2 II wide open

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But to be honest, these days I know that it is ALL ABOUT THE LENSES! Nikon and Canon have some amazing stellar glass in their DSLR lineup but Canon has one or two (expensive) jewels that Nikon can not compete with (in MY opinion) due to the unique looks these Canon lenses give. In fact, there are insane amounts of lenses available for the Canon and Nikon systems including some damn good Zeiss options and now Sigma. But in the Canon lineup there are a few jewels for sure..well, MANY jewels but one has always had a spot in my heart and another lens in the L lineup is close behind and it does not come cheap.

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The main lens I speak of is the Canon 85L 1.2 (version 1 or 2) and the Canon 50 L 1.2.

Being full frame lenses with HUGE front elements and a light sucking 1.2 aperture, these lenses are HUGE, FAT, HEAVY and loaded with abilities that can make almost anyone with an ounce of skill into an abstract artist. NOTHING renders like an 85L 1.2 lens and it is more like a big fat paintbrush than a camera lens. Many have nicknamed it “THE KEG” because it looks like a mini keg of beer. It is large but it sure can pull off a special and one of a kind look.

The way it can “paint” your subjects is quite remarkable and while not everyone enjoys this look, when used sparingly or in certain portrait conditions it can be jaw dropping and sometimes even haunting. Not even a Leica Noctilux can render like a Canon 85L and when I say that I am not discounting the Noctilux, as I prefer the Noctilux look by a slight margin (as it is quite different) but when we put things into perspective, the Canon 85L is a $2000 lens. The Canon 50 L 1.2 is under $2000. The Leica Noctilux is $10,995 just for the lens alone.

Canon 6D and 85 L 1.2 II at 1.2 – Beautiful.

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Late night in Times Square – Canon 85L II and 6D at 1.2 – I love the bokeh this lens creates but Bokeh is a personal thing..some may love it, some may hate it. I like the 3D pop this lens gives and it is sharp wide open at 1.2. 

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and the same, wide open but I did crop this one a bit

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So for $4000 today one can buy a Canon 6D full frame sensor DSLR which is equal in IMAGE quality to a Leica M 240 (just larger, bulkier and heavier especially when these lenses are attached) and an 85L 1.2 lens. For $18,000 one can buy a Leica M 240 (if you can find one) and a Leica Noctilux 0.95 lens. A difference of $14,000. Take another $3500 for the Canon setup and add in a Canon 24L and a Canon 50 L 1.2 and you are at $7500, still less than HALF of the Leica M and Nocti combo. Of course if Leica is in your blood and brain, as well as in your heart and soul, none of that matters. Just putting into perspective. Also, never underestimate the power of a smaller, lighter, more discreet camera as it will make you want to shoot more and take it with you everywhere. Something a DSLR does not do for me.

But keeping it 100% real, while Leica is a true beautiful work of art in itself, and performs amazingly well, the Canon 6D with a lens like the 85L 1.2 is just as capable if you do not mind lugging around a DSLR and HUGE lens attached, and let me tell you..it is HUGE and slow to AF. But HEAR THIS:

from 2005 with a 5D Mk I and 85 1.2 (original V1)

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The 85 L 1.2 II is one reason alone to jump into Canon if you are eyeballing a full frame DSLR and if you have the cash to spare at $2000 for the lens alone, I highly doubt you would be dissapointed. The lens has a perfect 5 star average review rating at B&H Photo with over 500 reviews written. Pretty damn impressive, and I agree with those reviews, it is a 5 star lens without question. Remember, I owned one for a long while years ago. If I owned a Canon 6D or 5D today I would own this lens without hesitation. It’s one of my top two fave lenses ever made, by anyone. A Leica 50 Summilux ASPH is the other :)

The Canon 85 1.8 is MUCH cheaper, why would I buy the 85 1.2 II?

Do not let those who say the Canon 85 1.8 is just as good as the 85 1.2 II L fool you, as it is not. PERIOD, END OF STORY. IN fact, it is not in the same ballpark in the ability to render a “UNIQUE” image in the style of the L.  As I said, no lens on the market for 35mm renders like a Canon 85L. There is a reason it has achieved legendary status. The only problem is the cost, weight, size and slow focus. But to those who own and love the lens, these things do not matter as it is the output that counts and if you want that “look”, the 85 1.8 will NOT give it to you. I should know, I owned both back in 2005 and struggled when I clearly saw the differences in each shot as I wanted the 1.8 to be just as good so I could save some cash.

I kept the 85L back then, owned it for a year or more and sold it because it did not get enough use. Even though it was amazing, it was too large and heavy for me so it was only brought out for certain occasions. Never was it a daily shooter.  That is the one drawback of the lens. It is a BEAST but what a beautiful beast it is. If I could afford just to buy one and hang on to one for those moments where it would come in handy, I would.

Wide Open this lens renders like nothing else. These two images were shot at night and the 6D with the 85L never failed to AF, it just was a bit slow to AF. Still, worked every time.

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Yes, the 85 1.8 will be smaller, lighter, faster and much less expensive but it will not match the 85 1.2 in sharpness wide open, color rendition, build quality or light sucking ability. Take a Camera like the 6D and 85L 1.2 into a dimly lit room and you can still shoot. Your images will look like they were shot during the day, even without a flash and the Bokeh will be mind numbing in some situations, but in a good way. It’s an amazing hunk of glass and there is a reason many buy it even when already owning the much cheaper 85 1.8.

It may be a surprise to many of you to hear me praise a huge and heavy DSLR lens, but I have always loved the 85L when used on a full frame Canon. While I have not owned a DSLR in many years, I still know that they are amazing tools and with the right set of lenses, hard to beat.

That 85L has some serious MOJO at 1.2 and can suck in the light to make it appear there is much more light than there really is on the scene. It’s one of the few magical pieces of glass that does this very well, with nice Bokeh and sharpness even wide open.

Remember to click each image to see the larger and better version! Another three shot at 1.2 from a distance, at night!

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DSLR’s. Don’t you HATE DSLR’s Steve?

No, I do not hate DSLR’s but for me they are a no go in my personal life just due to the size, weight and yes, even high cost involved if you want “the best of the best”, which I always do (Certain cameras have spoiled me over all of these years). But mainly, the SIZE is the killer for me. Carrying around a bag with just a Canon 6D, Sigma 35 1.4 and Canon 85 1.2L is NOT pleasant for a casual stroll or day out with the family but at the same time, a DLR such as the Canon 6D can make incredible photos while being smaller than the larger 5D series, so for many the weight and size may be worth it. Yep, the 6D is a almost mini 5D in my opinion with excellent ergonomics, easy controls, simple menus and fast operation (though I find the normal AF no faster than my old OM-D E-M5) but it is still large as it is indeed a DSLR. This problem could really be solved with smaller and much less expensive lenses but me, if I go for a full frame DSLR, I would want the 85L and 35 1.4. End of story.

The 85L 1.2 has some very intense Bokeh. The shallow DOF possibilities are intense with this lens. 

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Yes Indeed! The Canon 6D is a Jewel in the DSLR World

It takes a lot for a DSLR to grab my attention and the 6D has done just that due to many reasons. It’s smaller size, it’s amazing sensor, it’s ergonomics and controls, and of course, the amazing glass possibilities.

The Canon 6D is feature packed with a 20.2 MP full frame sensor, Digic 5+, ISO from 100-25,600 and 12,800 video ISO, 97% optical VF, 4.5 FPS shooting, 11 Point AF, Dual layer metering and even WiFi built in. Canon included it all in this one and the good news it that the camera is easy to use, set up and even hold. No manual needed as it was easy to navigate the menus, easy to change settings, and overall a joy in the usability department.

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The Canon 6D comes in a slightly smaller package than the 5D MkIII while retaining the same image quality with some improvements in low light. It looks nice, feels nice and has everything I would ever want if I were to go for a DSLR. Nikon has its comepeting camera, the D600, which I have yet to try, but I know the differences between Canon and Nikon and for me, it comes down to COLOR. Canon has always had a unique way of rendering colors and their L prime lenses have a “Canon Look”, which believe it or not, is indeed there. I can always spot an image taken with a Canon DSLR. I used to have a thing for Nikon color but today I like them equal 50/50.

Liberty Text – 85L II wide open 

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Many of you who have followed me for years know that I have only reviewed a small handful of DSLR’s. The Nikon D90, Canon 5D MkII, and Nikon D700 with a quick look at the D800. I also took a look at the Sony full frame A99 offering and the older Canon 7D and the Sony A57. That is about it but I may be forgetting one or two.

BUT, I am one who will tell you right now that you can achieve the same or similar IQ as what this 6D gives you (with say a 50 1.4 lens) from a Sony RX1 or Leica M 240 (using a 35 1.4 lens) which are MUCH smaller, MUCH lighter and just as easy to use. You can achieve what a Canon 7D gives you with a Sony NEX or Olympus E-M5 with the right lenses. All in much smaller packages that are just as well made, with amazing lens choices. You can even use the 85L on a Leica M 240 or Sony NEX with the right adapters so if you want an amazing lens but shoot Leica, it could be worth trying out the 85 on a Leica :) For some special fun, if you own a Canon DSLR try THIS lens out.

The Sigma 35 1.4 ART series lens on the Canon 6D. Under $1000 and IMO beats the Canon 35L in just about every area.

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A DSLR such as the Canon 6D is hard to ignore for what it offers the enthusiast or pro photographer. Smaller than 5D Size, Speed, Full Frame Performance, Low Light Abilities, and choice of glass. Cheap to Expensive. If you love your lenses then choosing a Canon DSLR can be exciting due to all of the choices out there. My 1st Canon was the very first Canon D30 with an old 24-85 Standard Zoom. Back then it was the only game in town beating all others to the punch. I loved that camera but it was my only real choice. The Canon 6D kind of gave me that nostalgic feeling again but what comes out of the 6D destroys what came out of that very 1st Canon D30 many years ago.

I am not going to do a long detailed techie in depth review on the 6D as there are probably hundreds of them online, mostly all will give you a better DSLR review than me as A: I only have the 6D setup for 7 days and B: I have been out of the DSLR loop for years. What this post is mostly about is the glass, the two lenses I used with the 6D as well as my real world thoughts on using a DSLR after shooting smaller cameras for the past 4-5 years. I can tell you this though: I much prefer this 6D to the old 5D and 5DII as well as ANY of the APS-C sensor DSLR’s. I also prefer it to my old Nikon D700. It’s a special DSLR that gets just about everything right, but I was only able to just scratch the surface in my 7 days with it, and to be honest, on two occasions I had the 6D and Sigma 35 1.4 along with the 85L in my Amazon cart just to own for the 85L alone. I know a good thing when I see it and the Canon 6D, if you do not mind the DSLR size and weight, is amazing. I was thrilled with the IQ, responsiveness and resulting files.

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The Sigma 35 1.4 Art Series

The Sigma 35 1.4 Art Series is SUPERB and under $1000 is well worth it especially since when I compare real world images, it is right up there in quality with a 35 Summilux ASPH, just MUCH MUCH larger. 

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This was shot from the hip at night with the 35 1.4 at ISO 4000 without NR – click it to see the real world noise result

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Sigma has come a long way since the last time I shot with some of their DSLR lenses. Many years ago I owned a 15mm lens from Sigma and it was large, looked kind of ugly and performed well though was loud when focusing. Today with the new Art series Sigma has stepped it up 10 notches and now competes head to head (and in some cases surpasses) with Nikon and Canon at their own game.

This 35 1.4 ART lens is superb on the full frame 6D. Corners are sharp, color is rich and saturated and right, bokeh is very nice and beautiful, the lens is built VERY well and looks sweet. In fact, if the Sigma and Canon L 35 were the same price, I would still buy this Sigma. It is that good. In fact, it delivers images just as nice as the $5000 Leica 35 Summilux (though 5X the size) when I look at them and compare qualities side by side. THAT is impressive.

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When reviewing images for this quick review I was blown away by the rich files, the sharpness and micro contrast coming from this combo of 6D and Sigma 35 1.4 (be sure you click on them for larger, and those with large high res displays you will see what I mean). It really did remind me of shooting a Leica M9 or M with a 35 Lux ASPH (the image quality). While the setup was on the heavy side and hurting my back after 7 hours of carrying it, I could not fault the image quality or performance of this setup.

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Below is a FULL size from camera image with the 35 1.4 at 1.4 – click it for full size

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Size Comparison: SIgma 35 1.4 next to a Nikon V1 with 18.5 1.8 Attached

Just for fun I put my V1 next to the Sigma. They are about the same size with a lens on the V1. :)

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My final word on the Canon 6D and Sigma 35 1.4 and Canon 85L 1.2 II

You guys know me..I love my small but high quality mirrorless cameras. The Sony’s, The Leica’s, The Fuji X100′s, the Olympus, The Panasonics, and even the Nikon 1. I love them because they are small at a fraction of the size of a DSLR, a fraction of the weight and they offer sensors from Micro 4/3 to APS-C to full frame. In most cases, these new high powered and good looking mirrorless cameras compete head to head with DSLR’s even though DSLR owners will say otherwise (they refuse to believe it).

DSLR’s have their place as they are polished and refined. They have been around for much longer and manufacturers have been able to tweak, improve and build DSLR’s that are quite amazing when you think about it. For under $2,000 the Canon 6D is now the DSLR I would own if I decided to purchase a DSLR. It is not as large as the NIkon D800 or Canon 5D series and it feels great in my hand. In fact, if I plopped on a slower non L lens that was thin and semi fast, I would not have any issue with the weight or size. It is these nice premium lenses that really jack it up.

The camera is a winner, but most of you already knew that. But it is the 1st DSLR in a while  that got my attention enough to want to review it, and I am glad I did. I loved shooting it around NYC and came away with some cool shots. So if you are looking for a DSLR that performs just as good as the big guys (5D, etc) then take a long serious look at the Canon 6D. I think it offers the most for the money in the full frame DSLR Canon world.

As for the lenses, both of these are AMAZING. The jaw droppingly beautiful 85 L 1.2 II is expensive but a fraction of what a modern day new Leica lens costs and it has a 92% MOJO rate. By that I mean, it has character galore and there is no other lens like it and no other lens will do what it does. There are some that are close and some that are similar but nothing renders like an 85L 1.2 II. Ask any of the tens of thousands of owners of this lens and they will tell  you the same.

The Sigma 35 1.4 has given me a new respect and outlook on Sigma. They mean business and this is evident in this new Art series of lenses. Just like their tiny 30 2.8 lens for the NEX system that I reviewed, the 35 1.4 ART lens is a killer 35mm option that offers speed, design, and IQ that is mouth watering good. I’d buy this lens in a nano second if I splurged for a DSLR like the 6D because I enjoy the 35mm focal length.

So all in all I had fun with this setup and while it did kill my shoulder after a few hours and I did hesitate to pull it out of my bag a few times due to the intimidating size and I did get looks when shooting on the street with that 85L, the results were fantastic. If I had more time with it, or  took it on a portrait session in a nice wooded area with some nice misty lighting the results would be breathtaking. :)

If I did not have so many cameras now I would seriously consider this set. I was tempted quite a few times over the past week as it was. Great stuff. My question to you is, would you like  to see more DSLR reviews like this on the site? If so, let me know. :) I have a trip to Dublin Ireland in 3 weeks, maybe I can review the next in line.

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WHERE TO BUY

You can buy a 6D almost anywhere but as always, my preferred shop is going to be B&H Photo or Amazon. I have shopped with both of these establishments for YEARS and they never let me down.

Buy the Canon 6D Body:

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Amazon

Buy the Canon 85L 1.2 II:

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Amazon

Buy the Sigma 35 1.4 ART Series Lens:

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Amazon

A few more shots from the Sigma 35 1.4, most direct from camera. Enjoy!

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

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

Even if  you buy baby food, napkins or toothpicks at Amazon it helps this site, and you do not pay anything extra by using the links here. Again, you pay nothing extra by using my links, it is just a way to help support this site, so again, I thank you in advance :) More info is here on how you can help! If you enjoyed this article/review, feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of this page and also be sure to join me on twitter, my facebook fan page and now GOOGLE +

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Aug 212013
 

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India with the Leica Monochrom and 50 APO Summicron

by Lee Sungsoo

Hi , Steve

My name is Sung Soo Lee from South Korea.(Just moved in California 3weeks ago) I am a big fan of SteveHuffPhoto.com. Unlike any other site, I can read real field reviews about gears- especially Leica , so I love to visit this site. I started using Leica M6 about 13 years ago. For many years I used Leica and other SLR , DSLR cameras together but now I use only Leica M9P and Monochrom with 50mm Apo summicron and 90mm Apo summicron and X2.As an amateur photographer , handy gear is more helpful for concentrating work.

For me , 50mm lens is the main angle in my works.

When I bought my first Leica , I couldn’t afford other lenses so I had to keep using 50mm summilux 4th for over 10 years. That’s how I’ve gotten familiar with this angle. I also love the dramatic effect of the lens and color. Then I had used the 50mm asph and summicron. Like other users , I agree that all the Leica lenses have different characteristics, which yields excellent results. Fortunately , I got a chance to own 50mm Apo Summicron – the very first one in South Korea- so much exciting things happened to me on February this year!

Some people were asking about the 50mm Apo lens. In my opinion, this lens is super sharp and has a much deeper color compared with other 50mm M-lenses in Leica.

Today, I ‘d like to share some pictures that were taken April, 2013 at Delhi and Jodhpur , India using 50mm Apo summicron lens.

One of my favorite photographers is Steve Mccurry.

Since the day I saw the pictures of Steve Mccury at Jodhpur , one of my dreams was going to Jodhpur for photographing.

Finally, a dream came true!! I spent incredible days in Jodhpur and India. I ‘d like to say thank you to all the people who I met during the trip- they welcomed me to their city with open arms and warm smiles. It was all very touching and I won’t forget the days I’ve spent there.

I hope you enjoy my pictures of India.

Have a wonderful day !

Best Regards,

Sung Soo Lee

www.flickr.com/tjoy7

www.mydaystravel.tumblr.com

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Aug 202013
 

Cycle Messenger World Championships

Cycle Messenger World Championship 2013

by Andrew Tobin – His blog is HERE

As part of my coverage of “unconventional” world championships, I took myself off to Lausanne in Switzerland for the Cycle Messenger World Championships of 2013. I had spotted this event a while ago and put it firmly into the calendar as a “must attend”.

Cycle Messenger World Championships

Packing for the trip proved more complicated than I thought. Having figured out that Lausanne was a pretty hilly place and I would be walking A LOT, and it was going to be hot, the last thing I wanted to be doing was carting a couple of 1D bodies and big lenses all over the place, as well as various bits of remote flash kit and other gubbins. So instead I decided to shoot the whole event with lightweight compact gear, taking 3 cameras – an Olympus OM-D with 45, 9-18 and 8mm fisheye lenses, a Sony RX1 and a newly acquired Sony RX100 Mark II. This combination would give me a good choice of focal lengths and apertures so I could deal with pretty much anything that came my way. With the RX100 in my pocket, the RX1 around my neck and the Olympus and lenses in a belt pack, I was as mobile as I could wish for. In a small backpack went a laptop, flash, pocket wizards, light stand and mini-octabox.

I also wanted to travel hand-luggage only and the big gear would have surely triggered some weight limit or other. Happily the airline (Swiss) didn’t bat an eyelid and the lightstand and electronic trickery went through airport security without any problems as I tried hard to pretend my bag weighed nothing at all.

Gear for the trip. Manfrotto lightstand, Sony RX1 with viewfinder, Olympus OM-D, Yongnuo YN560-II flash, 2x Pocket Wizard Plus II, Sony RX100 mark II, Panasonic 8mm fisheye, Olympus 9-18 zoom, spare batteries for the Sonys (not needed), cards, clip thing (unused), lightstand attachment thing. Forgot to incude the mini softbox in this pic.

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So, an early flight put me in Geneva at 9am on Saturday, and the efficient Swiss train system whisked me into Lausanne in about 45 minutes for me to begin my 2-day walking marathon, with some cycling photography thrown in.

After familiarizing myself with the course, chatting to the organisers and riders, and climbing lots of hills, I needed to make my key decision of the weekend. How to cover the event? I already had some ideas in mind before I arrived, but it quickly became pretty obvious to me that it was all about the people and the “vibe”, and the racing was almost secondary. More than anything this is a gathering of like-minded people who might normally be bracketed as “alternative”. It takes a certain something to be a cycle courier, out in all weathers, always under time pressure, not earning much, very physically fit, and never using any fossil fuels. The camaraderie amongst everyone at the event was obvious from the start. Some competitors had ridden from England down to Paris where they met still others for the 3-day ride from Paris to Lausanne, several on fixed wheel bikes with no brakes (making the mountains on the roads into Lausanne quite challenging!). Lots of them referred to the other couriers as their “family”, so it’s clearly a close-knit group of like-minded people who like nothing better than to get together for a good laugh.

James from Glasgow, who rode down from Canterbury to Paris to Lausanne. Top guy.

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And that was the decision made for me. I would shoot the event more like a documentary, trying to capture the people and atmosphere with the race action as a secondary part of the weekend. This also suited my choice of kit as the small cameras are generally useless at catching anything moving fast (or even slow in the case of the RX1) when compared with a pro body like a Canon 1D. It didn’t stop me trying to get a bit of action though. And I also decided to make most of the pictures monochrome because a) I like it a lot and b) it suited a more documentary style look at the event.

A rider toils up the hill as others dry off in the sun after a dip in the “jacuzzi” up by the cathedral.

Cycle Messenger World Championships

Started in 1993 by Achim Beier from Berlin, the championships comprise a number of challenges including a sprint, a track stand (longest time stationary on the bike), a cargo race where heavy loads are carried on special bikes, and the main race. The course winds through central Lausanne and includes bridges, stairs, cobbles, narrow alleyways and challenging hills.

The main race simulates the job of a bike courier making numerous drops and pickups across the city by following a manifest or delivery/pickup list. Riders need to check in at specific checkpoints, hand over their delivery and get a new one. It involves a number of manifests to be run in sequence, each involving multiple deliveries. As well as being a test of sheer physical fitness lasting 3-4 hours, the race is a huge mental challenge as the riders need to plot their own route from one checkpoint to the next. Ensuring that they take the shortest or most efficient route is a work of the black arts as far as I could see. It wasn’t unusual to see riders pick up a new manifest and then sit somewhere quiet while they worked out their route and sequencing. To make matters worse, at some checkpoints you may need to deliver one item and pick up three, so knowing what you need to do where is vital to avoid repeat visits. Obviously you couldn’t drop something off if you hadn’t already picked it up somewhere else! This aspect makes the whole thing very different to a normal challenge against the clock and the winner is the person that combines the physical with the mental.

Cycle Messenger World Championships

Cycle Messenger World Championships

Cycle Messenger World Championships

It was hot as well. Did I mention that? I had enough trouble climbing up all the steps and hills on foot – the riders were getting a real beating. It didn’t take long for some of the riders to take advantage of the ancient water troughs that are scattered around the city.

Cycle Messenger World Championships

Saturday was practice and qualifying, plus the cargo race which involved carrying large or strange loads. The cargo bikes are bonkers – long things with a load carrying space up front and a linkage from the handlebars to the front wheel. These poor guys had to carry everything from 12 foot long oars to a TV cameraman who wanted a rider’s eye view of the course.

Cycle Messenger World Championships

Having learned the course through walking a lot and getting blisters, taking a bunch of pictures and figuring out what was going on, I was ready for the evening party. These guys party well. The event had been going on all week with a party every night, so they were well-practiced by the time I turned up. Hosted at the Casino Montbenon overlooking Lake Geneva, I had a horrible thought that it would be a dress-up suit and tie job, but then realised that there was no way on this earth that the majority of the riders would get anywhere near a suit other than to deliver one. And so it turned out that it was a very cool event in a club under the casino, with most people out in the open air as the temperature dropped and the sun set over the alps.

Cycle Messenger World Championships

The party game me a chance to break out my little octabox. After some fiddling with Pocket Wizards and the RX1, I got everything working fine and went off in search of interesting suspects, of which there were plenty. I’ll say this – these guys are just so friendly and open – lovely people. Here’s two of them…

Cycle Messenger World Championships

Cycle Messenger World Championships

So the RX1 turned out some beautifully detailed pictures, but occasionally had brain fade and wouldn’t focus properly even though the focus assist light was on. You’ve just got to be quite patient with it when shooting at night, and give it time to get focus and the square to go green before you hit the button. It’s worth noting that after turning on face detection my results improved significantly.

Cleverly, the organisers hadn’t scheduled any early morning starts, with riders needing to be at race HQ by 11am (though quite a few dragged in after that). This allowed ample time for at least 4 hours sleep to let the beer work its way through the system. Free carrots were available to all competitors.

The start itself was mad. The 100 riders (men and women) all started at the same time. The high qualifiers from Saturday got to be at the front of the “grid”. Well, they weren’t at the front, their bikes were. All the bikes were laid down in the road, the first package and manifest was put next to each bike, and the riders were ushered 50 yards back down the hill. At the appointed time after some general un-Swiss fanning about, they were off! The riders had to run up the hill, get to their bike, read the manifest to plot a route, and then head off. With different manifests the riders headed in all sorts of directions, so a few wisely took their time to figure out the best route as there’s nothing slower than riding in completely the wrong direction, especially as the course was one way and if you got it wrong you’d need to go round again.

Cycle Messenger World Championships

There followed all sorts of madness as riders hurtled about. I walked some of the course before stopping and sending a set of pictures to the UK newspapers. Once that was done I walked the course a bit more and took some more pictures. Here’s a few of them…

Cycle Messenger World Championships

Cycle Messenger World Championships

Cycle Messenger World Championships

I had in mind some key shots to get at the end of the race. Obviously the winners, but also I wanted pictures of riders immediately they finished. I rigged up the RX1 again and used my flash held off camera with a simple diffuser on it, triggered by pocket wizards again. The high flash sync speed of the RX1 came in handy here as well as I wanted to drop the ambient light a bit so was up at 1/500th or more.

Cycle Messenger World Championships

Cycle Messenger World Championships

Cycle Messenger World Championships

Obviously I’m not as practiced with the RX1 interface as, when people moved from shade to sun I was often too slow to adjust settings (I was shooting in manual) and had to resort to just switching to aperture priority and letting the camera sort it out. In frenzied situations when people are moving about all over the place it’s vital to be 100% practiced with your camera of choice, which I wasn’t.

And that was it. Race over. Party time (again) followed by a very early flight out on Monday morning.

What can we glean from the gear selection for the event? The cameras did their job, but are no way as good when you absolutely must get the shot as a pro-spec body and lens. There were times when I wished I had a 1DIV and L lenses with me. The speed of focus is the main thing. I could have nailed far more portrait shots after the race with a 1D, even with the relatively slow focusing 24 1.4 lens. However I’d have been stuck with a slow off-camera flash sync speed. I’d also have been knackered hefting all that gear. I watched the 2 or 3 agency guys that were there as they lugged their gear about and felt delighted that I was running such a light setup. Also, people didn’t seem to mind when I got in really quite close with the little RX1 either. Sometimes it’s good to have big cameras to shout that you know what you’re doing (sort of!), but at other times it’s good to be a bit more under the radar.

Looking at my stats for the weekend, I shot most pictures using the RX1 with 242, then the Olympus OM-D with 197 (though there were a lot of 9 frames per second disastrous panning shots), then 41 with the RX100 mark II. Out of that lot, 140 made the final edit. Each camera played its own part, as I used the RX1 when I wanted really high quality and shallow depth of field, the OM-D when I wanted a bit of lens choice and high frame rate, and the RX100 when I lost the plot and just wanted to get a picture, or when I had the wrong lens on the OM-D. The different menu systems and buttons and dials is enough to drive me crazy though as I’d get aperture & shutter mixed up, ISO would be all over the place and so on. What I really want is something the size of the RX1 with pro-spec speed of focus and camera responsiveness. The OM-D is fast, but not fast enough when tracking focus. In any event though, I tried to shoot within the limitations of the cameras and make the best of what I had available.

Just to finish off this unusually long post I have to say what a superb event it was. If you ever get the chance to go in 2014, then do it. Support these guys and girls – they are simply an excellent bunch of people. And should you come across them in some big city somewhere, just be aware that they know exactly what they are doing, are fit as anything, and don’t earn much.

Andrew Tobin

See Andrew’s Blog HERE

 

Aug 162013
 

STREET PHOTOGRAPHY – MAKE SURE TO GET IT RIGHT

By Elie Bescont

Hey there, welcome! Please, have a seat, have a seat. Tea? Coffee? Nothing, you sure? That’s your call, but you are really missing something here. Oh, speaking of which. I almost forgot why I invited you in my virtual living room (don’t make a mess, by the way. I spent the entire afternoon cleaning after a Guns’n’Roses private concert). Well, we are here to discuss a little bit about street photography. Yeah, sorry, we will talk about funnier stuff later. But still, my friends, this is gonna be cool.

I’d like to take you with me on a tour around the entire process of street photography. Before, during and after the so-called ‘decisive moment’. We will first discuss about the philosophy of the whole thing. What is street photography? I’ll give you a hint right away: it has nothing to do with the Google car. I’m sorry to disappoint some of you, but Google Street View is NOT street photography at all. Yes, the Google car takes photographs in the streets, but I must insist, it has nothing to do with it. After talking a little bit about the philosophy, I will take you to the gear department, where you will choose your favorite lens (yes, I’m talking about the lens) and then the camera. We will then discuss about the right place (or the field) for street photography, I will give you some hints to help you taking good pictures (yes, it may sound a little presumptuous, since I’m an awful photographer). Last but not least, I will talk about post-processing, how to market your work, and the reason why you should join or create a photography collective and the right way to do it. You may not agree with me about some details, and feel free to give me your view on the subject. I’m talking about ‘the right way’, bla bla bla, but I do this to hook you up a little bit. This is art, dudes, there is no right way, but you may like to read my advice.

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THE PHILOSOPHY

‘Street photography has nothing to do with the Google car, right?

Calm down, bro. You should really have a tea or something. You’d speak less with something hot in your mouth. Haha I see you coming with your comments about ‘something hot in your mouth’. Well, please don’t. And stop asking stupid questions, I was about to answer that one anyway.

According to Wikipedia, street photography is ‘a genre of photography that features subjects in candid situations within public places and does not necessitate the presence of a street or even the urban environment. ‘Street’ simply refers to a place where human activity can be seen, a place to observe and capture social interaction. The subject can even be absent of any people and can be that of object or environment where an object projects a human character or an environment is decidedly human.’

But, we can read something even more interesting on Wikipedia: ‘Framing and timing are key aspects of the craft, with the aim of creating images at a decisive moment or poignant moment. Alternatively, the street photographer may seek a more prosaic depiction of the scene, as a form of social documentary.’

Street photography has indeed nothing to do with Google Street View, since framing and timing are ‘key aspects of the craft’. I insist on this particular point because I’ve been browsing the internet lately, and eight times out of ten, when people exhibit their ‘street photography’ work, framing and timing are simply not involved. Sometimes, it looks like the person just pointed a camera in a random direction in the street and pushed the button. Sorry to disappoint you but you are not doing street photography here. And there is a very simple explanation: you got the street photography philosophy WRONG. Street photography has not that much to do with the streets, but has a lot to do with photography. Just by reading the description in Wikipedia, we learn that it does NOT necessitate the presence of a street or even the urban environment. Also, it does NOT necessitate the presence of human beings. BUT, on the other hand, framing and timing are key. Please, don’t think about it the other way around.

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THE GEAR

Please, don’t shoot me.

This is the sensitive part of the article. ‘My camera is better than yours, bla bla bla…’

Well, you know what? Talking about image rendering, the camera is nothing. It has very less to do with it. The character of an image mainly depends on the character of the LENS used.

‘Aha! You are fucked, Leica users! Stop arguing about how your EXPENSIVE cameras are great, because what really counts is th… Wait… What?!’

Yes, what really counts is the lens… Talking about the character of the pictures, of course (and everybody knows how GREAT and EXPENSIVE Leica lenses are). Choosing a camera is really about the shooting experience itself… And what lens you can put on the body. There are plenty of great lens manufacturers out there like Zeiss, Leica, Canon (and their f/0.95 TV lens) and so on. Since this article deals with street photography, I will mainly talk about the shooting experience itself – hence, the camera. But keep in mind that it’s the character of the lens which defines the overall rendering of an image.

This said, it you feel comfortable with any camera and if you have no problem at all going on the streets unnoticed with any camera, don’t chose a camera. Chose a lens, and then pick up a body on which you can mount this piece of glass you want.

I’m done talking about image rendering and how it’s important to choose a lens first if it’s what really counts for you. I promise. I just want to make sure everybody gets it because I’m desperate to see camera reviews taken very seriously when there is no mention of the lens used anywhere.

There are some points to take in account when choosing a new camera. First of all, you have to compare how many pixels the sensor can offer. I’m joking, I’m joking! Put that gun back on the table, please. Any film camera is great, and any digital camera which can offer the same equivalent definition is great too. There are a lot of cameras that offer millions of useless extra-pixels and the amount of pixel is not, in 2013, a good point to take in account when choosing a new camera, UNLESS you really need this print to cover the entire wall of my virtual living room which doesn’t even have limits.

Henri Cartier-Bresson once said: ‘sharpness is a bourgeois concept’. Well this is WRONG. Sharpness is not a bourgeois concept, not any more. There are some (a few) very rich photographers out there, and they didn’t get rich by taking sharp pictures. Everyone can take sharp images today with virtually any camera. Sharpness is a poor concept (haha, Henri, you owe me that beer, finally). Remember, Henri was French and us French, we talk like that. He could have just said ‘dudes, sharpness is not what really matters, yaknow’, but he prefered to say ‘sharpness is a bourgeois concept LMAO LOL’. Damn he was so French. Love you Henri, sorry for the trouble. May you rest in peace.

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The question you need to answer is: what kind of shooting experience you like? But even before that, do you want to shoot film or digital? You should think about it. The shooting process is the same with film and digital cameras (except the new professional DSLR’s. ‘BUTTONS. BUTTONS EVERYWHERE’). Here, I have a Canon AE1-Program SLR film camera and a Leica M8 digital camera, and they basically work the same way. Well, one is an SLR and the other is a rangefinder but take an M7 and an M8. They are very similar. The main differences between film and digital have nothing to do with the shooting experience. Yes, you don’t push the button that often if you shoot film because film is expensive bla bla bla. Hey, dude, it depends. I’ve seen six-year old digital cameras for sale with less than 3000 clics. The main differences are elsewhere. Do you want to keep a collection of boxes containing negative film or do you want these boxes to contain SD cards? Do you scan your negatives? Yes? Then you have digital files full of pixels that have nothing to do with film but you still pay for it. Film is great for its nice organic grainy look, no matter the size of the ‘print’. Well, you know the characteristics of each. Then, what kind of shooting experience you like? Do you like DSLR’s? Rangefinders? Both? That is an important question. I saw people on the internet wondering if they should get a Nikon D800 or a Leica M9. No sane people should ask such questions. You know, orange and apples…

I don’t think there is a perfect camera for street photography, or for anything else. The perfect camera is the one that suits you the best. So, try a lot of them, and take the one you feel best with. This said, I’d like to give you a little advice: if you are a street photographer, forget that Hasselblad that weights about three tons, you will understand why soon enough.

THE FIELD

The topic here is the field. Places that are relevant for street photography. Remember, our dear friend Wiki told us about candid situations within public places, but also that street photography does not necessitate the presence of a street or even the urban environment. So, a lot of places are relevant. I would just forget about private properties, but that’s all, really. A forest is a public place, for instance. Never thought about shooting in a forest? Don’t shoot animals, of course, shoot people… Holy crap! What am I talking about?! Please, feel free to replace ‘shoot’ by ‘take pictures’ if I didn’t make myself clear.

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Isn’t it great? You can go virtually anywhere and keep doing what you like the most: street photography. Remember, the place is not that important. Focus on your subject and the situation you want to isolate, and push the button at the right moment.

THE ACTION

‘If your pictures aren’t good enough, you aren’t close enough’ – Robert Capa.

What really counts here is the scene or your subject. You might be looking for a nice scene to capture, or for an interesting subject.

An interesting subject, to me, is someone who is either very typical or who is the complete opposite. Capturing someone who looks completely French with Notre Dame in the background is interesting, for instance. But you could also wait for this woman in niqab to pass by to release the shutter. To make myself clear, look for contrasts or similarities. Things that match or unmatch get along very well.

An interesting scene is basically the same. contrast or similarities. Typical or atypical. A little girl smiling, amused by a clown is good. But capturing a man in suit and tie having fun with gangsta-looking people (bling-bling chains, baggy jeans and all) would be nice too. Public places are where people met, and these interactions are interesting.

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When the scene or subject is found, the next step is to find a nice way to capture it. I will not teach you how to frame because nothing in the world is easier than that. Just isolate your subjects but also take a look at the background. Do you want to cut the top of this tree, there, in the background? You know, you should crouch a little bit, so you will get the top of the tree inside the frame, this would look better… Well, you got my point. Just try to please your eyes with a nice geometry. Then, think about the aperture. If you have only one subject to photograph, you might want to shoot around f/2 to isolate him/her. If you are capturing a scene that takes more place, you’d prefer to shoot around f/4. Again, just try to please your eyes and don’t be afraid to get close. This is not Vietnam. Be gentle, smile and take these pictures.

POST-PROCESSING

First of all, if you shoot digital, you have to be okay with that. Post-processing is not an ugly blasphemy that completely transforms your pictures. It’s just a way to enhance them a little bit. Take a look at Lightroom, Capture One, Camera Raw and Photoshop and use the software that really suits you. Here again, the magic formula works: try to please your eyes. But also remember that the way you process your images will never suit to everyone. There will always be someone to tell you that ‘yeah, the picture looks good but the treatment would be better like this, like that’. Well, hi Dick. Can I call you Dick? Thanks for the advice bro. Have a nice day!

Your post-processing will never please everyone, so try to be happy with it and say ‘thank you’ and ‘have a nice day’ to Dick whenever he gives you a good advice. Experience things, have fun and when it look good, bam. Export the file.

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 MARKETING

That’s it, you took a lot of pictures and some of them are pretty decent. Post-processed files look awesome, but what are you gonna do with it? You probably want to show your work to people on the internet, right? Take a look at Flickr, 500px and Tumblr, creating a Facebook page isn’t a bad idea either. But there is a better way to expose your work. I’ve seen a lot of people out there taking pictures only to show them to other photographers. A page like ‘Dick Dickinson Street Photography’ will certainly catch people who already know, like and do street photography, but that’s not what you want. You want a catchy name for anyone. Also, if one day you want to try something else like shooting in a studio or whatever, your title will be wrong. Thus, you should prefer something like ‘Dick Dickinson Photography’. Or you can see you work as a project and find a name for it. For instance, my page is called ‘Digital Fragrance Photography’. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t chose a name suck as ‘Dick Dickinson Street Photography’, I’m saying that chosing a name that is catchy for anyone (and not only street photography aficionados) may make things easier for you when it comes to marketing. Of course, you can gather thousands of followers with a ‘street photography’ name, and I have a good example: Yanidel Street Photography. Of course, he has thousands of followers but Yanick is more than a photographer. He’s a street photography guru. Are you? I’m not.

UNITE

Are you still here? If so you are heroes, my friends. You deserve a medal. This is the last part of this utterly boring article. Last part, yes, but not the least. What I have to say now is: if you want to give your pictures more visibility, you should really join or create a photography collective. Why? Because once united, you are not alone anymore. Imagine five, ten, twenty people sharing the same project and working together to give more visibility to their work. A lot of things become a little easier. Besides, it creates a lot of new problems too so be ready to face them, but it’s basically a good thing to work things out together.

Okay, pal. I’ll create a collective. But with who? And how should it be named? Can I have some coffee?’

Damn you. I asked you at the very beginning if you wanted some tea or coffee, you said no. And now we reach the end, you want coffee. If you didn’t only exist in my head, I’d kick your ass… Well, not exactly but I would certainly snap your nose. Hum. You can ask anyone to join, but let me give you some advice, again. You should choose people you get along well with, for logic reasons you understand. You should choose people who you’d call talented, still for logic reasons you understand. And, also very important, you should choose people who do something different from you. In a street photography only collective, everyone are competitors and this is quite stupid. Get along with studio photographers, fine art photographers, landscape photographers or whatever. A good collective is a collective where everyone does something different from each other. Why? For several reasons. As you all do something different, you are not direct competitors and the collective can work very well without putting anyone aside. Also, as everyone does something different from each other, everyone will bring a different public and this is good for everyone. How should you name it? Something simple and appealing, for sure. Think about our buddy Henri Cartier-Bresson. He wanted to create something huge, and he called it ‘Magnum’ that means ‘huge’ in Latin. It’s simple, appealing and huge. I’d consider something like ‘Digital Fragrance’ myself. Wanna join?

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‘No more energy’

That’s all. I said everything I wanted to say. It’s quite a long article but I hope you enjoyed it. I hope it gave you some ideas and please, if you don’t agree with me, feel free to share you views and to call me ‘Dick’. I don’t mind.

Take care of yourselves,

Elie

https://www.facebook.com/DigitalFragrancePhotography

http://www.flickr.com/photos/92813485@N05/

http://digital–fragrance.tumblr.com/

Aug 062013
 

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Southwestern Russia with a Leica Monochrom and 35 Lux by Daniel Zvereff

His website is HERE

My mother was 21 and attending university in Leningrad when she met my father, an American.  She was studying English and he was studying Russian. They were married shortly thereafter. In the beginning, she hid her marriage plans from her parents. Her brother even went as far as to hide the wedding rings in a locker at a train station. Her family, having heard all the horror stories of what could happen to their daughter in the West (including being sold into slavery), did not approve.

Eventually, when the administrators at her university learned of her marriage to an American, she was expelled; she was followed around by the KGB, including on public buses and into cafeterias. In 1981 she began to gather all of the proper paperwork in order to be granted permission to get a Soviet exit passport — it took one year. The most difficult hurdle was needing her father’s signature in front of a notary to allow her departure from the USSR. It was her pleas and then, finally, a bottle of vodka she purchased him that convinced him to at least visit the notary. Struggling heavily with the thought of consenting to his daughter going into the unknown, he signed the form, but then he stormed out of the notary and told her she had tricked him into going there. In August of 1982 my mother boarded an Aeroflot flight to Canada where my father would meet her and take her to her new home in San Francisco. As a result, her brother, Sasha, lost his job in Moscow and was sent to the army where he would clear forests in a remote region of Russia for two years as punishment.

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When I was 6 years old, I lived in Los Angeles and loved Ninja Turtles and Peter Pan. I have a vivid memory of jumping into our apartment’s swimming pool without water wings on my arms and sinking to the bottom peacefully before being rescued. It was then, in 1991, that the Soviet Union collapsed. Everything in Unecha fell apart. All the major processing plants were disassembled and sold. The railroads that led to what is now the Ukraine and Belarus fell to the same fate. If you could steal– you stole, which added to the high murder rate. The money that my mother’s family had saved disappeared, but they were just able to feed themselves from their small family farm-plots called dachas. Twenty years later, as the economy and private sector have stabilized and increased, some of the plants and production facilities are running again, albeit as shadows of their former selves.

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It has been three decades since my mother left Russia, and now I am 27 years old. This is my fourth trip on the night train from Moscow to Unecha. I have lucked out: this train is newer and has AC. My Uncle Sasha, who now travels around Russia and inspects the wheels and undercarriages of trains, picks me up at 5 AM from the station. We don’t say much because my Russian is not very good. I rest for a few hours and wake to the smell of fried fish. Lunch starts with a shot of vodka, then fried fish, potatoes, and cucumber salad. After the meal ends, I am full of food and a lot more vodka. We step outside into the cool afternoon and walk towards my grandmother’s apartment, the same one my mother and uncle were raised in.

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As I walk around Unecha, I wonder about what it is about this place that feels so nostalgic to me. I can’t help but think about all the events that took place in order for me to be here as a stranger: the Russian revolution and WWII ( which sent my father’s side of the family first to China and then, finally, California) and my mother’s chance meeting with my father. I don’t feel like I am of this place, but I also don’t feel completely severed from it..

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My grandmother’s apartment is small and railroad style, having been fitted with a gas heater, toilet, and running water only in the last decade. It is a museum of our family. Every single space on the wall is covered with photographs of her children and grandchildren. There are photographs of me that I’ve never even seen. In an instant I can see my entire childhood and young adult life. Even though she wasn’t there for it, she watched me grow up.

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Sasha can barely stay awake inside her apartment. It is dark and warm in a comfortable way.  I can’t stop yawning myself, so we go outside to wake ourselves up. My grandmother looks up at the sky, sizing up the clouds and the weather, deciding if she will take an ancient soviet bus to her small farm-plot in a neighboring village where she plants garden vegetables and herbs. We walk to the bus and ride it to my uncle’s house where he and I get off and she continues on alone to her farm-plot.

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baba

 

Three days later I pack my belongings and hug my grandmother for what may be the last time. My two uncles walk me to the train station.  Fueled by my impending departure and some vodka, our interactions are lighthearted: we crack jokes in a mixture of broken English and Russian.

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I board the train in the few minutes before it departs.  As it sits still,  you can only just stare out the window at one another and wait. There is then a big jolt, and the train slowly starts creaking forward. I quickly look at Sasha and he looks back– we both smile and nod goodbye, both happy and sad.

Daniel Zvereff

You can see his website at http://www.zvereff.com

Jul 242013
 

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Monochrom Italian Adventure

By Ashwin Rao – His Facebook page is HERE, his blog is HERE

“Italy in Monochrome.” A dream, a question, a challenge, and now a reality. Hello, my fellow Huffites, it’s Ashwin, back from a bit of a hiatus. I have been busy with many happy life events, which have kept me away from you. Have I been away from my camera? Not at all! In my efforts to document my ongoing experience with my favorite Leica M camera to date, the Leica M Monochrom, I recently ventured to the Tuscan region of Italy for the very first time. The trip represented a very exciting and personal journey for me, as I got engaged to my fiancée Jennifer on this trip (that part happened before Italy). But that’s a story for another time. Needless to say, I was thrilled to have my Leica M Monochrom available for the trip. Yet, for such a journey, there was some trepidation. The Tuscan hill towns and the glorious city of Florence are known for their beauty, and color is such a huge part of the Tuscan palette. How would shooting the region be, using only black and white to see the world around me? Well, that is what this story is about….

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As many of you know, and as has been well documented here in my prior writings, I have made a wonderful journey of discovery through the legendary past of rangefinder lore. Along the way, I have discovered the beauty and unique properties of many classic lenses designed by Nippon Kogaku, Canon, and of course, Leitz (classic Leica). This journey has allowed me to discover how remarkable these lenses are in capturing black and white imagery with panache, detail, and clarity. One of the hugely pleasant surprises, to me, in using these older lenses, is how well they do on the modern sensor of the M Monochrom.


I continue to be amazed at the designs of years long gone past of the lens masters such as Max Berek (the original Leitz Maestro), Walter Mandler (i.e. the unsurpassed master of Double Gaussian design), Hiroshi Ito and Jiro Mukai (Mandler’s Japanese Counterpart in Double Gaussian/planar lens design mastery), and so many other legends (Barnack, Bertelle, Gauss to name but a few). Okay, I am misting up in my own history lesson .

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The bottom line is that many of these classic lenses, in some cases developed without the aid of computer design, resolve at the level of modern glass (on center at least), and possess character in gobs. Maybe it’s the glass that was used, or the coatings that were optimized for black and white film. Maybe it was the rare earth elements that were sometimes employed to achieve unique looks and resolution. Whateve the case may be, you owe it to yourself to try older lenses on your new Leica and other ILC bodies. For my own journey to Italy, I could not imagine better way to see a land of romance, rich in the traditions of the past, then through the lens of the past, reborn to the present and borne upon the Leica M Monochrom, which I consider a modern classic and possibly the most unique imaging tool in 35 mm photography today. So the modern aspherical lenses remained at home for this trip, and 60-year-old gear came along for the ride.

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Over the past months, I have collected many vintage lenses to test on the M Monochrom. Some lenses, I have loved. Others, I have hated. All of these tests and trials have been wonderful and informative courtships, and in the future, I will tell you stories of some of my favorite journeys in getting to know these lenses. I have found along the way that classic Leitz lenses, those produced before the “Leica” name was applied to the camera’s photographic section, produce remarkable and consistent results on the M Monochrom. Thus, early in the planning process, I made the decision to use my Leitz classic lens kit, comprising the Leitz Summicron 35 mm f/2 (the original 8-element design) , my beloved Leitz Rigid Summicron 50 mm f/2 (2nd version, and the first of Leitz’ rigid Summicron designs), and a Leitz 90 mm f/2.8 Elmarit. These lenses possess, near perfect build, are incredibly compact and lightweight, and have produced images and clarity that have left me baffled and bewildered (in a good way)… Furthermore, the 35/50/90 mm lens kit is one of my favorites for travel, in that it provides a great versatility for rangefinder work. The 35/50/90 frame lines were first introduced in the Leica M2, and represent a classic way of seeing with rangefinders. Why not use this classic approach and channel it through the Leica M Monochrom.

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The images that I have provided represent journeys through the alleyways and artisan shops of Firenze (Florence for us Westerners), the gentle stone footpaths of Volterra and the stately tower lined streets of San Gimignano. They showcase the bustling chaos of Siena, and the rolling wineries of Pancole and the majestic endless arched alleyways of Bologna, with it’s own leaning tower. You may ask, how was it to shoot such a colorful country in monochrome? For me, the experience is liberating, and I now have monochrome memories of this cherished journey with Jennifer, in our first steps toward the path to marriage. To see her ring glint in the Tuscan light, in glorious black and white, makes me smile right at this very moment. Sure, there were moments where I yearned for color, but truth be told, these moments were few and far between. Focusing on shadow and light, on luminance and contrast, are challenges that I welcomed and embraced. I equate, at times, the challenge of shooting black and white to the challenge of stopping down to f/8 to shoot street scenes. Initially, for many of us who enjoy shooting wide open, stopping down can be disconcerting. How does one isolate the subject from chaotic surroundings but by opening up the aperture and blurring away distractions? Well, with creativity and an eye for surrounding detail, one can often paint even more interesting images, integrating subject and surrounds, by stopping down. So it goes with shooting in black and white. Color is often a welcome distraction, but limiting yourself to black, white and the in between shades of grey can recalibrate your own conceptions of what it is to make a meaningful image. I will continue to love color, but I now warmly embrace this challenge of shooting in black and white for the majority of my photos

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Truth be told, much of the Tuscan country site is browns, greens, yellows, and greys. Neutral colors that adjust well to the black and white palettes. Travelling in this way with the Leica M Monochrom in hand doesn’t lose much, and if you are up for the challenge, take out your own camera someday soon, set it to BW, and shoot only in this manner. Initially the experience will be difficult, but soon, you too may come to embrace this “limitation.”

I hope you have enjoyed this little journey, through my own experience, of a special time, with memories of vintage lenses and canvas landscapes. I hope that the images do justice to the moments that I saw. I am happy, but now it is time for you to be the judge.

All the best to you, my friends, and see you again soon!

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Follow Ashwin!  His Facebook page is HERE, his blog is HERE

Jul 012013
 

Shooting with the Sony RX100 by Kaushal Parikh

His Blog is HERE and his website is HERE

One of the most frequent questions I get asked is “what camera do you use?” I just realized that I have been through quite a large number of cameras in the last 5 years.  I am not one who believes that a better camera makes for better images, but I definitely believe that having a camera that you love will inspire you to go out and shoot, and the more you shoot the more good images you make – it’s that simple.

In recalling all the cameras I have used over the years and why I gave them up I also realized that I am pretty fickle when it comes to equipment.  In fact I am the kind of guy that gets bored of things very quickly and always find an excuse to move on to something new.  That is clearly the pattern that has played out with my street photography gear.

I started my street photography with a compact Lumix LX3 digital camera.  It is a brilliant camera to use and I shot some of my best images in b&w with this little beauty.  I would pre focus and just shoot away using the LCD to compose.  The tiny sensor ensured that there was sufficient depth of field and hence critical sharpness.  But the high ISO performance was not great.  I then moved on to a 5D but although image quality was amazing I immediately found it too large and heavy to shoot with in the streets.  Followed it up with a Fuji x100 and loved using it but then slowly fell in love with the tones of film.  So then I got myself a Nikon FM2. A great camera and one that made me decide that film was it for me.  I decided to splurge on my dream camera – the Leica M6 with a 35mm cron.  As expected I grew to love this camera and i made some incredible images with it.  But slowly I started to feel that I needed more speed and bought a Ricoh GR1s. A real gem but i quickly found the fixed 28mm lens too limiting and moved to an Olympus 35RC that had shutter priority and is also an amazing range finder with a fast 42mm lens.  Alas I found manual focus was slowing me down a tad and I got myself the amazing Nikon L35 (Nikon’s first autofocus compact camera).  By this time I was often mixing up my camera use with the Olympus and Nikon compact getting a majority of my time.

It was then that my wife gave me the most wonderful gift ever – a beautiful baby boy.

Since then my developing room has been converted into a nursery and developing my film in the spare bathroom was a ‘shitty’ experience.  That’s when I read about the Sony RX100 and thought it would be great to have a digital compact to go with my film cameras.  So I bought myself one and have been shooting with it a bit and think I quite like it.  It has surprisingly snappy auto focus and decent high ISO performance. Using the LCD to compose feels a bit strange but it is so much quicker and more discreet as I can shoot from any angle.  And best of all I look like the quintessential tourist with an amateur point & shoot digicam.  I am reminded of why I fell in love with the freedom and convenience of using a digital compact camera in the first place.  Back full circle!

Here are a few street images I shot with my RX100.

 

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May 132013
 

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The Voigtlander 21 1.8 Lens Review by Steve Huff

Thanks to new site sponsor CameraQuest for loaning me this lens and viewfinder for review.

Hello to all who lurk here on stevehuffphoto.com! It is once again “review day ” and what I have to talk to you about today is a real GEM of a lens for any and all Leica M shooters, the Voigtlander 21 1.8 M lens. I have already posted many of my thoughts on this lens in my 1st look of it HERE, so if you missed that go take a look if you like.  Wether you shoot an old or new film rangefinder or use one of the digital versions like the M8, M9, M9-P, M-E, MM or M this lens delivers. While I have not shot it on the new M yet, it does well on the M9/ME and is gorgeous on the MM as well. In fact, it does so well I would PERSONALLY take this lens over the Leica equivalent (The Leica 21 Lux) any day of the week, not because it is superior but because it is almost its equal and I would save myself $6000 in cold hard cash, yes…$6000 separates these lenses and the Voigtlander is really good. I’d rather take the 5-10% less build and performance and pocket over $6k to take an amazing vacation/photo trip to really use the lens. If I were a rich man, I’d take the Leica but when it comes to saving money you can do so with this lens and trust me, your photos will not take the quality hit. Hmmm. Did I just finish the whole review? Well, not really, read on…

While not small in size, it is smaller than the Leica 21 Summilux 1.4 and about 90% of the performance..and then some.

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These days, Voigtlander is really rocking it with some of their newest glass and this 21 1.8 is no exception. Compared to the Leica 21 Lux, it has less distortion, is only a teeny bit slower at 1.8 vs 1.4 and is also lighter and smaller. It is just as sharp if not sharper and gives no magenta edges on the M9/M-E, even without coding the lens. It also focuses close at .5 meters though you will lose the RF focusing at .7. I was able to shoot a few at .5 meters by guessing and it works quite well.  Compared to what I remember from the Leica 21 1.4, this Voigtlander has a little bit less micro-contrast and is also a little less contrasty in general and the Leica will win in overall heft and build, but that is about where it ends. When it comes to quality, the Voigtlander and the Leica has it, but this one will cost you MUCH less.

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At $1249 for a fast quality wide angle lens, it is a steal of a deal. Even this little rescue dog thought so :)

The Voigtlander 21 1.8 Lens on the Leica MM, at 1.8

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While this shot is nothing special, the Bokeh quality from this lens is smooth and silky. 

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Shooting WIDE. It can indeed be a challenge. 

I am not really a wide angle shooter, at all. My go to focal lengths have always been 28mm, 35mm and 50mm with rare use of the 28. So shooting a 21, for me, was a challenge when trying to create interesting review snaps. My goal for review images though is to create a mix of interesting shots while showing what the lens can do on a given camera. I look for nice colors if shooting color, I look for shots that will present interesting Bokeh opportunities and I look for detail shots to see what the lens can do with sharpness and detail. I also like to see what the lens can do with B&W photography using the Leica Monochrom, so what you see in this review will helpfully help you to understand what the lens can do on the Leica MM and M9/M-E.

Product shots with the Sony RX1

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Ever since selling off my Leica M 240 to be able to keep the MM (which I already miss… of course) I wondered what this lens would do on a color M. Any color M. I was able to get a hold of a Leica M-E for a few days and took it out with the 21mm. It performed much better than I expected in all areas. Sharpness, color, bokeh, etc. I kept thinking to myself “man, if Voigtlander did this well with a 21mm lens, I can not wait to get my hands on that sweet new 50 Nokton 1.5 that is set to hit in June. While shooting the Leica M-E I was reminded of the M9 color and signature, which is indeed different than what comes from the new M 240. After shooting the M-E again I can easily state that yes, I still and do prefer the new M 240. I hope to have one again within 9-12 months.

When I do get one again I will try out this 21 on it and add to this review.

The Voigtlander 21 at f/4 on the Leica M-E – AWB

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Nature Trail in full AZ sun, mid day. The 21 1.8 at f/4 

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While a challenge to those of us who are “wide angle challenged” the 21mm focal length can be very cool to use sometimes. While not an every day lens, in some situations it can help you capture “more” of the scene. I took the MM and 21 to a local immigration reform March here in Phx (that only had about 100 people show up) and shot some with the 21. It worked out well and using the external viewfinder was a MUST to frame the shots, and man what a nice VF it is. The version II VF from Voigtlander is all metal, hefty but small and just has overall amazing quality. I can HIGHLY recommend the Voigtlander 21mm VF for any 21mm lens you may use. It is large, bright and easy to frame with. One of those products that is a joy to use and at $209, it will not break the bank. If you are using the new Leica M and have the EVF, then you will not need the optical VF of course but this little guy is so clear, bright and well made…in addition to being sexy to look at. (more on the VF later on).

The next three shots ranged from f/2.8-f/4

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The viewfinder… it feels just as high quality (if not more so) than any Leica or Zeiss finder I have tried over the years. It is metal, solid, and feels like it will last a lifetime. Focusing using the rangefinder and then framing with the external is a pain in the ass but if you want to frame correctly, it is needed for this lens and any lens wider than 28mm.

Shooting the lens in B&W on the Monochrom was a pleasant experience as the lens just seemed to be quite amazing for B&W. Just the right amount of contrast and sharpness with pleasant Bokeh makes for a classic yet modern-ish rendering. Shooting at 1.8 also shows that this lens can suck in some light with the best of them. The self portrait shot below (3rd shot) was taken wide open in my kitchen which was actually a bit dim. The lens made it appear brighter than it really was. Great fast lenses do this but not all of them do. For example, the classic Nikkor 3.5cm 1.8 shot in dim lighting results in a duller and darker rendering. Lenses that do suck in the light? Noctilux, Summilux, Canon 85L, Nikon 85 1.4, etc. So this lens is in good company.

This is a crop of an image shot at f/1.8…

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…and this shot was at .5 meters with me guessing the focus by bringing the camera down to the dogs level and moving it in to what I felt was .5 meters…

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…and a self portrait at .5 meters wide open. The Leica 21 Lux focuses to .7 meters while this one gets a little closer :)

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Some smooth bokeh in color – an OOC JPEG at 1.8 on the M-E

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Crop crop till you drop

Using the Leica MM and the 21 1.8 I often found the lens to be too wide for my tastes but at the same time, when viewing that full 21mm frame I kept thinking that I could really grow to love this focal length. To show how wide it is check out the shot below that I snapped in a restaurant. I will first show the original, then a crop and then an almost 100% crop. Click them to see larger and better looking sizes. They look VERY nice on my iMac 27″ display.

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The Monochrom is a gorgeous camera that for me, easily replaces any film camera. It can indeed meet and exceed the quality of any B&W film. Outside of the window in the above scene was the full harsh Phoenix AZ sunshine. The camera and Voigtlander 21 1.8 captured it all, inside and out. This 21 1.8 has a little less contrast than the Leica 21 Summilux so when shooting on a camera such as the Monochrom, it will be easier to avoid blowing highlights as the lens will not render in a harsh way, unless of course you like that look. Then you can just process the photo to give you a higher contrast look like below where I purposely blew out the background to make the image pop more:

This lens has a very pleasing way of rendering on the Leica MM – I blew out the background on purpose to create more pop.

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How sharp is the Voigtlander 21 1.8?

This lens is sharp as any lens I have ever tested, has minimal distortion and during my 2 weeks of use I found no issues with the lens that would deter me from buying one. In fact, if I were more of a 21mm shooter this would indeed be in my kit. I may pick up the luttle brother to this lens, the 21 f/4 as it is much cheaper and smaller and for the amount I use 21mm, it could be just the trick. Then again, if I went that route I would lose the look of the 21 1.8 due to no longer having any shallow DOF capabilities. I love the way this lens renders and it reminds me a bit of classic mixed with modern and somehow they managed to get it all together in the perfect way.

But let’s get back  to sharpness. This lens is as sharp as you can ask for and on the MM and M-E, without any coding at all I did not have any color or vignetting issues, which is quite incredible for a wide angle lens such as this. The lens does vignette wide open at 1.8 a bit but nothing objectionable. Check out the image below which is a 100% full size file from the Leica M-E via RAW conversion. Click it to see the full size detail.

click the images below to see the 21 1.8 in full size on the Leica M-E

1st one at f/4 – focus is one the top of the metal rail, closest to me. Still some shallow DOF here at f/4. Corners are sharp, the ones in focus. The trees in the upper left are not in focus as that is not the focus point, so those are blurred due to shallow DOF.

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This image was shot at f/2.8

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So for me, this lens gives plenty of sharpness and detail, no question. No one would need more.

Below you can see the same shot at various apertures. This lens is sharp at 1.8 and stays that way as you stop down. You can see the slight Vignetting at 1.8 which is all gone by 2.8. Click each image for larger with 100% crop embedded.

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Sharp corner to corner…

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The Voigtlander Viewfinders

Looking through the excellent 21/25mm Viewfinder – All metal construction – $209 

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When shooting a lens wider than 28mm on a Leica M you will need an external viewfinder to frame your subject. You will still use the standard viewfinder/ramgefinder window of your camera to focus, but to frame it all up you will need the external viewfinder with 21mm framelines. This way you can see what you will get on your final image. External viewfinders can look really cool but in reality, for me, they are a pain in the rear. Having to use one VF to focus and another to frame kills any “decisive moment” shots unless you are zone focusing (which is easy to do with a 21mm) but I was able to try out a couple of cool Voigtlander viewfinders. One of them is the 21/25mm all metal designed version 2 viewfinder which is the latest and greatest Voigtlander 21/25mm finder. It is solid, small but has some heft due to its rock solid metal construction. THIS is the VF I would buy with the lens at just over $200.

Comes with a nice little velvety blue bag for storage :)

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There is also the Voigtlander monster of a VF, the 15-35 which will give you 15-35 frame lines. So if you have the excellent 15mm f/4.5 you can use this one for both lenses, all the way up to 35mm. It’s large and bulky but versatile. You can choose between 15, 18, 21, 25 or 35. Also excellent but for those with multiple wide angle lenses.

It’s large and in charge…for those who want one viewfinder that will take on all wide angle lenses. Still smaller than the Leica “Frankenfinder”

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What about the .5 meter close focus? How can you focus this close on an M9/MM/ME?

Here is a quick tip! It may not be the most practical thing to do but as most of you know a Leica M8, M9, MM, ME, etc can not focus closer than .7 meters, even if the lens you are using focuses as close as .5 meters. Old classic lenses usually had a 1 meter limitation. Newer lenses from Leica all focus to .7 meters (most of them) and some other lenses can focus as close as .5 meters, which is about 1.6 feet. Once you turn the lens past .7 meters to go to .5 you lose rangefinder focusing. You can just move in a little closer and guess but it can be hit or miss. If you want to focus close on a regular basis here is a way you can do so and all you need is a string (I used a cable for my example photo so you could see it clearly), a measuring tape and some scissors.

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Simple and effective. You could even tape a piece of light string to your camera body when shooting with a close focusing lens.

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The cons of the Voigtlander 21 1.8. What is wrong with it? My final thoughts. 

In the world of 21mm lenses, this is a jewel of a lens for more reason that the quality it gives us in our photos. The reason it is so special is that it has the look as well as the build and feel of an old classic while giving performance that is nearing the $7250 Leica 21 Summilux. When I tell myself that this lens is $6000 less than the Leica 21 Lux, it boggles my mind. The Leica is larger, heavier, uses more expensive filters, has more distortion and is much more expensive. The Voigtlander has a llittle bit less micro contrast, which Leica is very good at but other than that…well, what can I say?

The Voigtlander is still on the large side for a rangefinder lens and the Voigtlander also has less overall contrast than the Leica equivalent. But without any question of a doubt I would not hesitate one moment to buy this lens if I were a wide angle shooter and wanted a fast aperture wide. It offers incredible performance for the price and gives superb quality build to boot.

So there really is nothing wrong with this lens, and for the cost it is a home run it. There is also a Zeiss 21 2.8 lens but the Zeiss is slower at 2.8, not as hefty in the build and more expensive. When you look for a fast 21 mm lens for your M mount camera, be sure to NOT look past this Voigtlander. They are making some superb quality glass these days and buying an all Voigtlander setup could help save you a ton of cash and possibly your marriage :) This lens is HIGHLY recommended if you are in search of a fast 21mm.

If you have the mega-bucks, just go for the Leica and call it a day knowing  you have the ultimate but remember, you can get just about as good for much less :)

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Below: At f/8 this lens is insanely sharp and again, sharpness across the frame which is impressive for such a wide angle lens. 

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Where to buy this lens? 

This lens was sent to me for review by Stephen Gandy at CameraQuest.com. They are also a site sponsor and sell the 21 1.8 lens for $1249 with FREE fast shipping. You can go direct to their 21 1.8 page HERE.

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LENS SPECIFICATIONS:

Mount Type VM for M-mount Cameras

Focal Length 21mm

Aperture Range f/1.8-22

Angle of View 91º

Minimum Focus Distance 19.7″ (0.5 m)

Focus Range 27.6″ – infinity (0.5 m – infinity)

Lens Construction 13 Elements in 11 Groups

Number of Aperture Blades 10

Filter Size 58mm

Dimensions (Diam. x L) 2.7 x 3.6″ (69 x 92 mm) including lens hood

Weight 14.5 oz (412 g)

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May 052013
 

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One Giant Polaroid

by Brad Nichol – His website is HERE

One of the key questions I pose to my photography students is “why do we take photographs”. It usually leads to great discussions where all sorts of reasons are proffered,  commonly the answers centre around ideas such as recording events, serving as memory joggers and story telling.

All good valid reasons, but for me, photography is focused around two drivers.  First I shoot to create photographic art that is in the main “pre-visualised”, normally in bed at 2.00 am.  Secondly and of the most significance I take photographs because it heightens my visual senses and thus provides me with a benefit I carry with me 24 hours a day.  Simply photography has allowed me to enjoy the visual world to a far greater degree and as I tell my students it matters not whether you shoot with a Leica or a Powershot, the visual appreciation benefit potential is the same.

I happily work with any camera, but acknowledge that each tool subtly changes the way I see and guides what I look for, some days are iPhone days, some NEX days, some Alpha days and there are even film days.  I am not a camera buff as such, and certainly not dedicated to a particular brand but in the main I guess I am a mirrorless guy and the NEX series fills my general needs best at present because they are just so adaptable.

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One the other hand I am a bit of a tech tragic, I rigorously test equipment, develop editing and shooting processes and modify gear to suit my needs.  Perhaps later I will provide some posts on these issues.  All this geeky fervour is not however for mere entertainment, it is in fact for the purposes of preparation and practice so that my vision and projects can be realized without compromise.  I often find folk who want to believe they can create great work by just buying the right camera and lenses shooting on Auto,  just letting the creativity flow.  Let me just say, it’s pretty hard to be fully creative if your techniques and lack of planning are getting in the way of your vision and compromising your work. Some folk might jag the odd great shot but I’d rather not treat photography as a lottery, when I go off to shoot I fully intend to come home with the result I am after, so having full technical mastery is for me not just a nice additional option it is an intrinsic part of the process, hence perhaps my rather anal approach.

So here then is a story of a large 8 month  project that I have just completed, perhaps it will inspire some of you, perhaps it will confirm that I have a certain streak of insanity.

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I love Polaroids, but in particular ways. I am not enamored with the often poor colour,  unevenly processed edges and poor clarity.  But I just love square composition, I am stylistically at one with the layout of the square beautifully placed within the white border with that extra space underneath for imprinting.  I love that you can tag the image with title and date.  There is something compelling also in the slight edge vignetting of the frame of a well-developed roid, and then there’s the feel of the images in your hand, just lovely.  Most of all I love the subliminal message of the format, it says “hey, here is a moment captured in time and it is important to me”.

What I want however is roids without limitations, fauxlaroids in fact.

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Lets backtrack a little, 8 months ago whilst my body and mind waged war against one another a 2.30 am on cool winters night  I had an idea.  My wife and I were about to fly to the US and Canada for a 6 week holiday and having just moved into our new home I was planning the new artworks for the walls, around 50 in total and at this stage I had planned about 20 of them.

The hatched idea was as follows, shoot a set of 200 images that encapsulated what is different about North America.  Distill these down to 120, edit them to look like Polaroids, print them so they look and feel like Polaroids then mount them in a giant Polaroid frame and hang it in our front entrance way.

The project involved several stages:

Planning what to shoot ( it needs noting that I shot a raft of projects over the 6 weeks, so I had to be careful and efficient with time, after all it was a holiday for both my wife and I.)

Cull and Edit the images.

Have the images custom printed and mounted.

Cut up, name and coat the images, which is far more involved than it might at first seem.

Install the lighting for the final artwork.

Build the Polaroid frame.

Determine the final layout within the frame.

Mount the final work, which again is not straightforward as it weighs about 50 kilograms.

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All of this was worked out before a shot was taken, (I told you I have a mental problem) and it  pretty much went to plan, other than costing a little more than intended and being a bit heavier than estimated. The shots were taken on my iPhone 4S and my NEX 5n, and mainly shot at equivalent focal lengths in the 35-50mm range.

What I consider different between Australia and America may of course be very different to what you consider different, but remember I am an Aussie and this is a personal work.  Of course we found many unplanned  things to add to the collection along the way and often it was a case of finding the  subject that best typified the breed. Unfortunately I missed a couple of subjects because I felt I would find a better example and failed to capture the “bird in the hand”.

Compositionally  most images are quite parred down with strong simple elements, this was deliberate because when the final image is going to be only 10 by 10 cm or so and mixed in close proximity with others complexity will somewhat confuse the effect. Additionally all the images were intended to be colour so potential images that needed “monochromatic contrast punch” to work were not considered for the project donor set.

Editing involved colour grading, DOF simulation adjustments, 3D sharpening, etch sharpening, vignetting, careful cropping and some subtle non-constrained resizing to keep everything homogenous within the square frame format. I estimate around 30 hours of editing but it was probably more.

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In colour terms I aimed for a subtle look, no chromacities are pushed beyond the others which meant in some cases reds needed to be held back. All non-specular whites are fully rendered and blacks show neutrality and just a touch of detail. Saturation levels are stronger around the middle tones but at no point do they  get anywhere near MTV colour where it’s all turned up to 11. Printing was  handled by a local art printing business called Arthead who handle all my printing and we tried several papers to find the right one, I am also a paper tragic, but lets not go there now.

Once printed the images were mounted to mat board, which had just the right thickness for the task.  Once I had the images at home they were cut up with a knife and blade which was really straight forward as I had laid the images out on sheets of 40 with cutting guides added onto sheets. Once trimmed, the edges were blacked and then the images carefully tagged and dated with a very fine CD marking pen. Following on the next step involved etching into the edge of the image with a semi sharp knife to simulate the edge of the border paper on a Polaroid where it overlays the border of the image area. Finally the image areas were masked off and the perimeter matte sprayed twice, which makes the image area pop nicely and adds a subtle lift to the overall look.

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The frame was quite involved as the images actually float on 32 mm thick blocks with the cavities between them being painted flat black.  This makes the images pop better and gives a more 3D look but it meant cutting up 120 MDF blocks and perfectly spacing them out. The outer MDF frame is an exact match to SX 70 frame layout and proportions and has been thinned down on the edges with a router so that even when looked at in profile it looks quite thin and proportional. The frame surface is matte painted with several coats of water based white primer and ceiling paint, which have been sanded with very fine paper to give an eggshell like surface and then lightly Matt sprayed for protection.

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So there it is, I am currently very happy with the result but time will tell, as I often tell my students I am never quite sure if my work is any good until I have had it hanging on the wall for a couple of years.

But at the moment I think it does sum up the North American differences that we saw and over the course of our sojourn this specific project focused my attention on the visual feast that was America.

Brad Nichol

 

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