Aug 162013


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.




‘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.



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.


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 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.


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.


‘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.


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.


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.



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.


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?


‘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,



Aug 062013


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.


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.




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.




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..




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.




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.




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.


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

Jul 242013


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….



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 .



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.




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.




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



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!







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.

















May 132013


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! 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.


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.


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



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


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


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



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



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




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…



…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…



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



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


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.




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.


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.



This image was shot at f/2.8


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.



Sharp corner to corner…



The Voigtlander Viewfinders

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


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 :)


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”




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.


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


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 :)


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


Where to buy this lens? 

This lens was sent to me for review by Stephen Gandy at 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.



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


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.


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.

Banded Together

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.

shoot me

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.


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.

Too Cool Fido

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.

Naval Gazing tif

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.


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


Apr 192013

bagan nights

From Steve: Today I want to thank Barnaby Robson for these gorgeous images which goes to show what a camera like the Olympus OM-D E-M5 can do when in good hands. Thanks Barnaby!

A journey in gear

For me, it all started in 2010 with a GF1 + 20mm and 7-14mm lenses.

I loved the small size and relative to a P&S, the image quality, ability to control depth of field, and the focus speed. But the low light performance still wasn’t good enough.

In 2012, the Olympus 45mm, E-M5 and Leica 25mm followed (inspired by And they were wonderful. I was a happy photographer: learning, getting technical, becoming more aware more capable and… taking better pictures.

But I was getting full frame IQ lust.

And then… I picked up the Olympus 75mm on my way through Bangkok on route to Yangon. Before purchasing I was worried about:

• The size and weight

• How often I would use the full frame 150mm equivalent focal length

Firstly it feels right at home on the E-M5, and is very similar in proportions to the Panasonic 7-14mm. Compared to all my other lenses the construction is something else, the cool metal feels and looks wonderful in the hand, with the right heft, the focus ring just glides, the lens text is inscribed in the metal… it just feels wonderful. I’ve never had so many complements about a camera-lens combination.


And as to whether I would use the lens, it’s absolutely my favourite by a mile. I had all my other lenses with me in Burma, but the 75mm remained strapped to the E-M5 as I made my way around the streets of Yangon, across the plains of Bagan, over Inle lake and up Mandalay Hill. The focus is ultra fast and true, including handheld in low light with the lens wide open, the IQ is visibly better than through my other m4/3 lenses and it allows you to achieve genuine shallow depth of field. I’ll let the pictures do the rest of the talking.


A real journey (in pictures)


Exif: 1/400 sec at f2.5, ISO 200

Taxi E-7959

Notes: One of my first shots in Yangon. Taxi E-7959 stopped at the lights. As I lifted my lens, he looked across. Was so pleased with the accuracy of the focus on this one.


Exif: 1/400 sec at f2.8, ISO 200.

Bettlenut vendors

Post processing: Cropped then edited with an Alien Skin Exposure 4 preset (can’t recall which) to bring out the vibrancy.

Notes: Love the vibrancy, clarity and depth of field from the 75mm in this shot.


Exif: 1/80 sec at f1.8, ISO 3200.


Post processing: Cropped, but otherwise straight from camera,

Notes: Taken on the other side of four-lane Mahabandoola Road (busiest road in Yangon). I could see the opp for a great photo (looks like a scene from a 1970s movie to me), but kept on getting interrupted by traffic passing across the field of view. Finally there was a gap in the traffic and the camera/lens hit the nail on the head first time. Shot handheld.




Exif: 1 1/320 sec at f 2.5, ISO 200.


Post processing: Edited with the Alien Skin Exposure 4, Fuji Provia 100f preset.



Exif: 1/800 sec at f3.5, ISO 200.

Amazing Bagan

Post processing: I spent more time then I care to remember bringing out the colours to the desired taste in Lightroom.

Notes: The Bagan sunsets were absolutely stunning. Easily the highlight of the trip.



Exif: 1/60 sec at f 1.8, ISO 3200.

bagan nights

Post processing: Edited in Alien Skin Exposure 4 to bring out the blue-black haze (the dark areas were brown in the raw file). Finished off with a vignette.

Notes: Shot handheld (as were all these photos). This is probably my favourite shot from the trip. Again, this wouldn’t have been possible on m4/3 pre E-M5.



Exif: 1/640 sec at f 8.0. ISO 200.

Inle Lake Clichég

Post processing: Edited heavily in lightroom to bring out the colours, vibrancy and tones, from a rather flat raw file. It’s brilliant how malleable the E-M5 raw images are.

Notes: Inle Lake fishermen are renowned for practicing this distinctive rowing style, which involves standing at the stern on one leg and wrapping the other leg around the oar. Shot handheld from a moving boat. The light was excessively bright. The 75mm has a lot of glass and suffers from lens flare – I would recommend buying the very expensive but beautifully constructed Olympus hood.


Exif: 1/400 sec at f 6.3. ISO 200.

Rebels without a cause.

Post processing: Edited in Lightroom – played with the vibrancy, temp and tint to bring out the blues & greens to my taste.

Notes: The guy on the left is wearing a ‘Fuck the Police’ T-shirt. Given Myanmar is still a hardcore military state, I think this is so cool.



Exif: 1/100 at f 4.0. ISO 200.


Post processing: Edited in Lightroom – used split toning to bring out the yellow – green colour scheme.

Notes: U Bein bridge was absolutely mystical. I was worried there would be loads of tourists, but there were blissfully few.



Exif: 1/500 sec at f3.2

U Bein's bridge

Post processing: Edited in Lightroom – using colour settings and graduated filters to bring out the mist and greens.



It should come as no surprise that I am in love with this beautiful lens. Something about it has gotten me to take more photos in the last four months than I have in the last two years combined. In fact, this lens is one of the impetuses for a current travel lust that I haven’t felt for many a year — I want an exotic subject on which to use it. The lens is looking for a muse…

If you want to see more from the 75mm (and me) check out:

 myanmar cover image-1

Apr 152013


Easter in Sicily with the New Fuji’s

By Colin Steel

(From Steve: Enjoy this superb article and photography from Colin Steel. Colin once again proves it is not about the gear at all..but about skill and vision. Thanks Colin! BTW, if anyone out there wants me to feature their own article or guest post or user report, send me an e-mail HERE. Thanks!)

Hey folks, I am just freshly returned from my two-week trip to Sicily where I photographed the Easter festivals and celebrations. For the Sicilians this as an extremely important and often very emotional event for them and it culminated in following and shooting the highly charged 24 hour procession of twenty-four alters through the regional town of Trapani. Just to add a little fun for me I managed to purchase the new Fujis (X20 and X100s A really useful review by Steve Huff) specially for the trip and I will share my thoughts on them for this type of event based documentary photography. As anyone who has read my posts before will know, what I wont do is dwell on the image quality and technical aspects of the cameras as I find that most cameras nowadays can produce acceptable technical quality results and, given that all of the shots had some post processing in SilverEffexPro, the differences become largely redundant for my purposes. What ‘image quality’ means to me is how effectively can I create interesting photographs with these tools ? Not what do the files look like at 100% enlargement of stamps, bottles or walls. For that reason I wont even say which shots were taken with which camera (mainly because I can’t remember and can’t be bothered re-checking each one :)


Before I go into some background on the shooting and make some observations about the cameras, I think it would be good to mention something important that emerged in my approach to some of the photographs. Never having been to Sicily before or having previously attended an event of this nature, I was taken by the iconic imagery of the paintings and statues within the churches and halls that I was shooting in and I tried my best to imitate that look whenever it was appropriate. I did that by watching for the right light and compositions where I could remove background distractions and create a ‘painterly’ appearance to the photographs. I also used the Tri-X film simulation in silverefexpro2 to add to the feel of the images (more on the editing and PP later)



I have been very lucky to meet many fantastic people on my travels and a few of them have become very good friends despite being from extremely diverse locations such as Costa Rica, Chicago and Geneva. As we share a joint passion for photography and travel we decided to try to meet up this year at a location that none of us have visited before. Also, having previously enjoyed attending workshops hosted by knowledgeable photographers whose work we admired, we decided to combine both and attend an Ernesto Bazan workshop in his home country of Sicily. This turned out to be an inspired decision and I will talk about the workshop experience later as I am beginning to think that, when wisely chosen, these are the best single photography learning and educational investments you can make to improve your skills and style.

The context for Ernesto’s Sicily workshop was to locate everyone in a gorgeous traditional villa by the seaside and near to the town of Marsala as a base and then make the short trips to shoot the various processions and festivities that took place over the Easter week. I think its fair to say that Ernesto’s approach is to encourage the search for emotional and poetic inspiration and as we all know, that is not so easy at the best of times and even more difficult when you are shooting in throngs of people with myriad distractions and ‘shot-killing’ elements. To this end he set a very high standard for everyone and immersed himself with us in trying to interpret the events as we individually and uniquely saw them.


As I said earlier, my own main focus was to try to use the light as best I could to create the iconic, painting look that I had observed in the many churches we visited. Additionally, it appeared to me that there was somewhat of a ‘dark’ and mysterious side to Sicily that I also wanted to try to incorporate without becoming cliched. Given this approach that emerged as to my interpretation of sicily and these festivals, how did the equipment I used help or hinder in achieving the results that I was looking for?


The Cameras (X20 & X100s)

Firstly, as readers of previous articles will know, I have been shooting in a square 1:1 crop and in Black and White for some time now. I am at a loss to explain the square crop other than that I like the tightness and symmetry of the results I get. Although it could be argued that it is more suited to portraits and still life, for me (and many more superior photographers than me like Vivian Maier, Diane Arbus and any of the TLR users) it is not difficult to adapt to documentary style photography although you do lose the undoubted advantage of the 3:2 narrative style. Anyway, I have settled on this format in the meantime and now find it extremely difficult to frame outside of that and this is one of the major benefits of these cameras and in particular the delightful X100s, let me try to explain. The X100s has a marvelous optical viewfinder that frames like a rangefinder and when 1:1 crop is selected the frame lines adapt to a centered square with lots of space around the lines so that you can tighten your composition just like in a Leica or other rangefinder. I appreciate that the vast majority of people shoot 3:2 and the frame-lines are nearly as good in that format and are reasonably accurate. Additionally, the X100s now has an extraordinarily good manual focusing system that is deadly accurate. At first when I read about this feature I thought it was a bit gimmicky but believe me, this is the real deal. If, like me, you like to shoot with a lot of depth of field whenever possible, this manual focusing system is fantastic and lends itself very well to zone focusing at set distances. If you have ever used a split screen to focus (as in old film slr’s) this is based on a similar principle with the added benefit of enlargement to aid and also a ‘focus peaking’ type shimmer on the focused area. I used this a lot and found the best way was to aim and press the AF button which is very conveniently located and then fine tune if needed via the light focusing ring on the lens. For my purposes I find this much simpler, easier and quicker than trying to change AF points and I found that I could get very nice tight results even in very low light.


Having praised the manual focus which I used a lot, the auto focus on the X100s is also vastly improved as well although, despite Fuji’s claims and what I have read, I personally did not find it to be as fast as the Olympus OMD or Nikon V1, but it is more than adequate. On that subject, I still don’t find this camera to be a speed merchant in any area however, I did find that for the type of shooting I do it worked an absolute treat and I was extremely happy with it’s all round performance. I wont bore everyone by re-iterating the key selling points of the Fuji X range but suffice to say that this is one extremely well made camera with exactly the type of manual controls that photographers who concern themselves with the final image rather than playing about with endless mode settings and menu trickiness will value. The ability to have a clear optical viewfinder with superb frame-lines, just the right minimal amount of shooting information required to make a shot and the ability to use the nicely weighted exposure compensation dial with your thumb when you know the meter is going to make a mistake, is all that I can ask from a camera so well done Fuji, this is a classic. Of all of the camera manufacturers these are the guys that are really homing in on what real photographers want and need.


Just to round out on the X100s, like its older variant the X100 the lens is fast and sharp and the silky aperture ring around the lens is a joy to use. For what its worth my preferred set up for the camera is to use the square format, aperture priority, optical viewfinder, B&W film mode with yellow filter and manual focus. As I mentioned earlier, this gives me complete manual control of all of the critical photo making aspects of the camera as a creative tool and it all becomes extremely intuitive and very fast to use. The only other point worth mentioning is that I shoot RAW plus Fine JPG and this gives me the margin for error with the crop in the 3:2 RAW file if I need it (which isn’t often thankfully) I hope you begin to get a sense of how much I enjoyed this camera and the pleasure I got from its ability to get out-of-the-way when I was looking for interesting light, form and content to shoot.


The Fuji X20 is a very different but complimentary camera to the X100 (and nearly any other camera I can think of) for a few very key reasons. Like my much-loved X10 before it, it is stunningly well made and is essentially manual in control of the key creative photographic functions. As you will all probably be aware, Fuji have updated the sensor and processing engine and critically added shooting and focus information to the optical viewfinder. This transforms the camera into a superb, compact shooting tool and I found it even faster than the X100s in practical shooting use as it seemed to me to focus more quickly. Although I very much liked the viewfinder improvements I still found myself shooting more with the rear screen on this camera to compose and this allowed me to shoot from higher or lower angles when I needed to.


When the action was getting faster at the end of the parades, I found myself using the two cameras in tandem by using the X20 when I had to do something fast and reactively and the X100s when I had more room and time to compose. I also sometimes used the X20 at 50mm equivalent on the odd occasion when I couldn’t get as close as I needed for the X100s’ 35mm equivalent. Did I need two cameras to do this? Of course not but I did find that the similarity in controls, function and results meshed very nicely to the extent that I can unreservedly recommend these as a delightful and highly usable pairing for anyone in a similar shooting situation.

I don’t want to go over all of the aspects of this camera that I liked again as they are identical to the ones I mentioned in the previous X10 article but the manual switch on and zoom which I can now guide to 35mm or 50mm by touch is exceptional and the exposure compensation dial which is similarly placed and functional to the X100s completes the control package. Because of the family similarity of controls and menus these cameras make using them together a very simple and attractive proposition. On that compatibility advantage, because I was unsure of how the lighting conditions would play out, I took along the wonderful Fuji EF-X20 flash unit which is a beautifully built but tiny marvel that works equally well on either camera. I did use it very sparingly but once or twice it got me shots that would have been impossible to light otherwise.


I know this will get me in deep trouble with the strobist community but I am personally very fond of the flat, shadowy, frontal look of camera mounted flash and that is exactly where I used this little marvel as it added so little size or weight to the camera. I kind of like the almost grotesque, paparazzi look that can be achieved with it. If anyone is interested in how this style can work as show by a master creative photographer, have a look at Jacob Aue Sobol’s work with the Leica MM where for almost every shot he took he used on camera flash. I had the very good fortune to meet Jacob in Singapore and he explained to me that he had a very unique, high contrast processing style for film which up until that point he had used exclusively and to get similar contrasty results with digital he had to use the on camera flash.


I think by now you can all tell how pleased I was with the Fuji cameras and the ultimate functionality and simplicity of using them to make photographs. To finish off on the X20 my preferred set up is again RAW plus fine JPG in square crop (the square crop does not show in the X20 viewfinder but it’s not difficult to judge) B&W film mode with yellow filter and aperture priority.

Post Processing

Every shot shown here was processed in a similar fashion and here it is: Although I set up for fine JPG in B&W I tend to use that more for review to make sure I am getting the look I want and the actual PP images are taken from the RAW files. The process I used is ultra simple as I hate spending time on the computer. As the RAW files are presented in square in Lightroom, unless I need to change the crop slightly (and that is unusual thankfully) they go straight into silverefexpro2 where I normally apply the Tri-X film look filter and occasionally selectively darken or lighten a distracting area with the simple to use control points. I generally then add a little vignette using the lightest option unless something a bit more severe is required for the mood and that’s it. If it takes more than a few minutes something is very wrong and I usually give up on the shot at that point. Despite never having shot film, I have become a huge fan of the Tri-X 400 look and the contrast and grain is gorgeous. In one or two of the low light shots here this has become pronounced and I love it as it creates exactly the look and mood that I am after. It never fails to astonish me how simple the modern processing tools have made it to achieve this look and this is the reason why I think conversations about the sensor quality and output in modern cameras are pretty irrelevant. To my mind the files output by both of these cameras are very robust and they seem to adapt to the Tri-X look beautifully. I would imagine that if you are a fine art or salon type photographer the X100s could be a dream for you with its sexy smooth looking images.


Photography Workshops

This has been the longest post I have written in a very long time as I completely lost enthusiasm and felt that I had run dry on photography as a subject. I feel the need to change topic here or I will talk to much about equipment rather than the creative photographic art and that is exactly why I lost enthusiasm in the first place !! :) A couple of events changed my life in many ways last year and they were both photography workshops with people who I consider to be at the absolute top of the game for the type of photography I like and it has now happened again this year and I consider it critical to share this with anyone who is reading this that has the drive and passion to try to improve their photography to both better understand humanity and express their uniqueness in their own style. As regular readers will know, I love travel and out of that developed a love of photography however I began to feel that the type of travel photography I was doing (even though it was commercially successful) was very unsatisfying and clearly not expressing any of my personality or thoughts on the world. I still wanted to travel to unique places but also wanted to learn from photographers who to me were credible and whose work I admired. With this in mind I travelled to Sicily, where these photographs were taken, to a workshop with Ernesto Bazan having researched his work and found myself admiring his work on Cuba very much. This turned out to be a completely inspired decision and the environment that Ernesto created and his out-and-out humanity, openness and passion made this a truly life enriching experience. I know some of you may think I am getting carried away here but it’s very true and I think any of the 10 other students would say the same. I am beginning to form an opinion that if you are open to it these type of workshops somehow give you better insight into yourself both from a human and personality perspective and from this comes moments of insight into the gorgeous diversity of this world and the endless visual richness that light reveals to us. Personally, I feel that it is this combination of personal insight and increased sensitivity to visual possibility that transcends technical competence and conventional structure to allow you to be more creative and to express yourself in your own way, this is what Ernesto enabled for me.


In conclusion then, if you are thinking of a photography workshop I would advise going through the following simple thought process before you make your choice; firstly, select a location or event that interests you a lot, this is more important than you may think, secondly, look at which photographers run workshops there (I will add links of my favorites at the end), thirdly extensively research their work, it is vitally important that you admire their work greatly. I think if you follow these simple steps you will find the workshop to be the single best investment that you can make to improve your photography. Forget about new equipment, on-line training and college classes as a properly chosen, minimum 7 day workshop with a real creative artist will reward you with greater satisfaction and development than all of these put together.

If anyone is interested, I have a simple way of funding my passion to learn and develop (and to buy the equipment that I am addicted to….) and that is that I simply stick $50 every time I think on it in my Starbuck mugs that I have collected from the cities I have visited. I am continually amazed at how this accumulates and finances my photography :)

I am sorry if this has been a bit too much of a ramble for any of you but there was a lot in my head that I wanted to get out and writing doesn’t come easily to me so apologies for any grammar, spelling and structural errors :) I do hope that you have found at least something of interest in here and even more hopefully, something that helps you to enjoy photography more.

the links:

Ernesto Bazan

Peter Turnley

Nikos Economopoulos

Best Wishes,



Apr 022013

More Leica in Asia photos by George Sutton

I recently had an opportunity to travel to Myanmar. It is just opening to tourists after being essentially closed since WWII. The military has governed (using that term charitably) most of that time repressing all opposition and otherwise living apart from the general population and controlling all the wealth. The rest of the nation mostly lives as it always has. Today it is one of the most impoverished nations in Asia but that only means a lack of material wealth, not the kind of desperate living on the street and scavenging in garbage dumps for things to eat and wear found in other places. We didn’t see beggars or people crushed by poverty. It is a fully intact society frozen in time in one of the richest Buddhist cultures anywhere (rich in a spiritual, not material sense). For now, taking a tour is unavoidable. The food is excellent but you have to know which restaurants to pick. Paying for anything is very difficult because credit cards are not accepted and US currency can only be exchanged for the local money at some places and they only take crisp new unwrinkled dollars. There are excellent hotels but getting a room can be difficult.

This was a photo tour led by a guy (Karl Grobl) who specializes in photographing Asian people particularly in remote areas or places affected by a disaster. He mostly works for humanitarian organizations but leads a few photo tours to fill his schedule. His style of shooting is interesting. He shoots hundreds of photos then sends them via the internet to clients who select shots to use and do all the post processing. It works best to shoot jpegs. Limited internet access and bandwidth makes it impractical to send raw files. He carries two DSLRs, one with a zoom telephoto and the other with a wide-angle zoom. He clips these cameras on each side of a belt designed to carry cameras. That enables him to quickly grab either camera and get a shot of any scene he may encounter. He currently shoots Nikon D3s because of its high ISO quality and ability to get a rapid sequence of shots. He has adjusted the camera to get the saturation, contrast and sharpening he wants in the jpeg then sends the batch as it comes out of the camera at the end of each day or as soon as he reaches a place with internet access.

I took a DSLR but shot raw. I also took a Leica M9 mostly to try it out and to see if it would work better in some places like walking around a city or village. It worked great in those situations. The DSLR was indispensable in many other places like inside dark temples, when a very wide or long lens was needed, or in rainy weather. I first tried the Leica in a market where I figured it would not be a big loss if the shots were not as good as the DSLR and ended up with some of my favorite shots of the trip. Some of those shots follow.

The first is of a lady who spends hours every day sitting before a statue of Buddha in a monastery. Buddhists don’t worship Buddha. They practice good karma because that is what enables them to live a better life in the next reincarnation and with enough good karma one can escape the cycle of birth and rebirth. They revere Buddha for teaching that and revering him is itself good karma.


The next shot is of men making the alms bowls that monks carry to collect food. Lacking automation, these guys take lids cut from the top of used oil drums and beat them in the bowl shape with hammers. This is literally the main shop of the biggest bowl maker in Myanmar. Once the bowl is pounded out it is painted with a thick lacquer and fitted with a lid and handle made from bamboo.


The next shots are scenes from a typical city marketplace. The old guy has just finished his morning soup and is enjoying a cigar watching a soap opera.


The guy on the large tricycle is a typical delivery man. These are the equivalent of a delivery van in a modern city.


The girl was probably on her way to school. The decoration on her face is a kind of wood dust made into a paste. For her it is makeup but for most people it is a kind of sunburn protection.


The last shot shows a kind of truck used for just about everything outside the cities. I was told it is made in China. These haul people or other loads. The bed can operate like a small dump truck. This one is delivering people to a monastery in a small town in the center of the country.


I hope you like them.


Feb 142013


Traveling through the land of color with a Leica Monochrom and M9 by Daniel Maissan

I think it’s always nice to put myself up for new challenges in life and not take the easy way. Most of the time it ends well, even though I tend to get a bit frustrated and impatient at the start. As I was leaving the Netherlands two months ago on a photographic journey through India, I got the idea of giving myself an extra handicap once again.

So traveling through the land of color I decided to bring a Leica M Monochrom and see what that would do. Since a year and a half I’m completely in love with my Leica M9 combined with the Summicron 35mm. So of course I brought these as well.


At first I did get the frustration that I expected. Several times I switched my lens back to the M9, to capture the beautiful colors of the saris. Writing blogs and facebook  posts on not knowing what to do. Should I just shoot black and white and obey my challenge or should I capture the trip of a lifetime with that what I was comfortable with? After a while though, I did start to get the hang of looking at life in black & white. I soon started to notice that the lack of color made me focus more on what was happening. No distraction of color, only the light, movement and most important the contact with my subjects. For me photography isn’t so much about making the perfect shot. The main reason I use my camera is to make contact with a world I understand less every day.

L1011722 L1010781

Getting more comfortable with the Monochrom along the way, I started to experiment a bit more with it. Compare black and whites that I shot with the M9 and then converted in Silver Efex, with the ones I made with the Monochrom. The difference was huge. Specially when shooting at dusk or at night, the higher ISO options were very welcome. Also the amount of detail in dark areas and the sharpness of the pictures were a treat. I was starting to fall in love with this new way of working.



After a month I shot almost everything with the new Leica, my M9 was drastically neglected at the bottom of my bag. I noticed that the way I looked at things had changed. A lot of times it looked like I didn’t even see colors anymore. Not until I arrived in Jodhpur, the bleu city. There was no way around color here… the bleu houses, the beautiful dresses of the Rajasthan women, the colorful turbans of men. It was time to bring out my old precious again.




Now I’m comfortable with both cameras. The two rangefinders again have done, what Leica did to me the very first time I used one. They make me think about what I am doing every single time. They force me to slow down, make decisions on the settings I’m using, and anticipate on what is going to happen. From now on I also have to decide whether to use color or black and white. I believe these cameras actually make me a better photographer.


Working with the two different cameras changed my perspective of the world I’m traveling through as well. They made me even more aware of what is happening, what situation I’m in and who the person I’m photographing really is. Therefor they make me understand a little bit more.


Don’t forget guys, if you have a GREAT B&W shot and feel lucky, the I-SHOT-IT premium Monochrom competition is underway and heating up. Prize is a Leica monochrom and thousands in cash. How cool would it be if a reader of this site won? AWESOME! – Steve

Feb 112013

My Wicked Journey (back) to the Fuji X100

by Kevin Preblud

My own photographic odyssey began while in Junior High School, shooting black and white on a Nikon FE. I learned about f stops, shutter speeds, film speed, as well as how to develop my own film and print my own photos in an old fashioned darkroom. There was rarely a moment when that Nikon wasn’t slung across my shoulder like a musician with his guitar.

Over the years the depth of my passion ebbed and flowed depending on various life factors, but ultimately the birth of my first child in the early 1990’s, conveniently coinciding with the availability of affordable consumer digital cameras, was the convergence of events that put me on the road that has led me to where I am today.

Over the years, another child was born and various individual and family milestones were recorded for digital posterity. But it wasn’t until my children became involved in a variety of youth sports, that I truly picked up where I had left off with that Nikon at the end of my own childhood. It was time to jettison the pro-sumer digital point and shoot, and get back to the SLR world, albeit a digital one.

Once again my trusty dSLR was rarely missing from my side, shooting every sporting and school event that was on the calendar, at times, even for other parents who knew they could count on me to capture those precious moments of their children while I was for mine.

With both kids now in High School and still active in several sports, I spend many fall and spring afternoons photographing their various games, again now not only for myself, but for the teams as well. While this is the worst paying job I have ever had, the satisfaction of seeing the kids faces as they view their action photos online, like a professional athlete, is payment and satisfaction enough.

But like many fans of this site, while researching the mirrorless revolution, in an effort to add a less bulky camera to my toolbox, I found Steve’s review of the Fujifilm X100. That was it! I didn’t have to read another review. The X100 appealed to me in on so many levels; form, function, image quality, size, and most importantly, a return to the basics I remembered from my Nikon FE. It had a dedicated aperture ring, shutter speed dial, and exposure compensation dial; all the basics I had started with nearly a quarter century earlier.

I immediately went online and made my purchase. Upon arrival, the X100 did not disappoint. It was a rare combination of art and utility, like a fine writing instrument, not usually found outside of the Leica world. I must however admit, it took a bit of time to re-acclimate myself with non-automatic photography, but the more I did, the better the results and my personal satisfaction. As well, like so many others have said elsewhere, the X100 is an eye-catcher. The uninformed don’t know if it’s new or old, film or digital, but the intrigue easily draws them in front of the lens with little anxiety. People want to be photographed with this camera. People want to touch and feel it, making the whole photographer/subject dance much less intimidating and far more engaging.

Sadly however, I suffer from technology BBD (bigger better deal). Despite how much I had come to enjoy the X100, and how much I saw my candid and street photography improve, I wanted the next best thing. No thanks to Steve, I abandoned and sold my X100 for what sounded like the next best Fuji, the X-E1. Sure, there were AF improvements, interchangeable lens capability, and a better sensor, but I quickly realized that although the X-E1 was an improvement on paper, I missed my trust X100. In short order, I returned the X-E1 and went back online to eBay in this case, and re-acquired my trusted companion, another X100.

The bliss returned and we were back in business. You would think the lesson was learned, but yet again, and in no small thanks to Steve and his wonderful review, I was back on the BBD program looking to acquire a Sony NEX 6. So, out the door X100 No. 2 went and in the door came the NEX 6. Certainly the Sony is an able and accomplished camera, but I quickly realized it was no Fuji X100. All the reviews said it has better AF, better IQ, and better functionality, but at the end of the day, it just didn’t “fit” me like the X100. So, once again, back went the NEX for return, and back I went to eBay for X100 No. 3. While I’m not sure how much I have cost myself thru the various exchanges, I can promise that this is the last time the X100 goes out the door……..until of course the recently announced FujiFilm X100s I have pre-ordered, arrives at my door step. I promise I will remain faithful until then!!

The following photos are from a nighttime shooting excursion along Colfax Avenue in Denver. Colfax was the primary East-West artery thru Denver before the advent of the Interstate Highway System. Playboy magazine once called Colfax “the longest, wickedest street in America.” Colfax still continues to provide a variety of photo opportunities; from old neon-lit hourly motels and dive bars to recent urban redevelopment including outdoor shopping malls and the latest trends in fine dining.

Oddly, for one of the X100’s most harsh criticisms, low light shooting, I found it to be a jewel to work with, and I was very pleased with the results. Sure it takes care to be certain of your focus point, but like anything, once you get used to its intricacies; both positive and negative, they become practically insignificant.

And so, although not slung over my shoulder like the old film Nikon FE, my Fuji X100 is once again a constant and convenient companion in my coat pocket……My Journey (back) to the FujiFilm X100!










Want to write an article about  your favorite camera, lens or photo experience? It’s simple! Just write to me for details HERE!

Feb 042013


The Sony RX1 in B&W by Steve Huff and other RX1 owners

The Sony RX1 has been out for a few months now and many owners have been happily shooting with the camera, myself included. Sure, I have access to just about any camera out there on the market but for my personal use I keep 2-3 cameras on hand and lately, my RX1 has taken the #1 spot for my personal shots, family use, etc. It is a jewel of a camera and I have been using it almost daily since it arrived to me and I have yet to have any issues with the camera, no matter what my situation.

That is not to say that if the new Leica M 240 is everything it is cracked up to be that it will not be added to my arsenal, but I can state with 100% certainty that this RX1 is here for the long haul, much like my M9 was.

It is just such a joy and pleasure to use and while not perfect (no camera is) the results that come from this little guy are so damn pleasing. I have recently found out that due to the dynamic range and high ISO capability and sharpness/character of the Zeiss lens that has been matched and attached to the camera that when shooting plain old B&W JPEG with the camera set to B&W the output is quite amazing.

In my review I touched on how easy and simple it is to get results with this camera..without having to fight it for those results. When you mix that with everything else the camera offers, your JPEGS come out looking GREAT and if you want that last ounce of performance then shooting RAW will take you there. I have been hearing from many owners of the RX1 who feel the same way as I do and they also love shooting it in B&W and for the most part, these shooters are just like me, enthusiasts who appreciate great cameras and gear but also LOVE shooting and capturing those memories.

Just a few days ago I noticed that many of the photos posted in the RX1 group on facebook were being posted in B&W. It seems others were coming to the same conclusions that I was..that the RX1 is a great B&W shooter and a fantastic street camera as well.

It also happens to be amazing in color and if you have not yet seen the shots over at the RX1 files HERE or my RX1 gallery HERE then take a look :) Yes, it is expensive. But it does what it is advertised to do and it does it very well while being very solidly built and like I said, it has never given me one issue.

Direct from camera JPEG. Had the camera set to shoot in B&W with lower contrast by 1. Click it to see a larger image, and yes, this is my Son Brandon. Time flies huh?





and how about one at ISO 25,600 in a dark restaurant? With Todd Hatakeyama



EXIF is embedded in all photos and you must click them for larger views or to download them








Others who own and shoot the RX1..

Phillip Lieu


“Due to the extremely high tonal/dynamic range achieved by the RX1 sensor, B&W output from this tiny wonder is producing results that are so rich and mesmerizing, it redefines the genre altogether!” 


Philip Liew

BTW, There’s a link to DXO labs that I setup which you may find helpful - . It’s comparing RX1, OMD-5 & Fuji X100 head to head. As this is a B&W review, please click > Measurement > Tonal range. As you move the mouse cursor to the vertical color bar on the right, it shows how having a great Tonal Range vs ISO affects the B&W output.


Steve Wong


Why I like the RX1:

I love having a compact camera that allows for stunning captures in any light. Despite the drawbacks, it is simply the most enjoyable camera I’ve ever had a chance to use.

Steven Wong


Justin Greene


“Full frame goodness in a small package.”


Alexander Ess




The RX1 is for me a good tool for my passion street photography. Street photography is to transform the ordinary into the extraordinary, to highlight the poetry and the simple feeling of human endeavor.
simply moments of life.  If you won’t mind I would be very grateful if you could find some time and look on my photos
Eric Berg
I love shooting with the RX1 for black & white images, as a digital student of photography it is quite difficult to see in black & white. The RX1 and its evf not only inspire but aid in training your eye to see in black & white.
Eric Berg
Syuck Saito
I sent you two photos taken with the RX1. Best camera I have ever had, period. Thanks for your reviews which helped me make the purchase.

SK Saito



Feb 012013


Using the Hasselblad 200 FC/M for Street Photography by Jerry Bei

“UFO” Kodak Ektar 100


Hi Steve:

I am a street photographer based in Sydney and I have a strong passion for photography in general. I used the Leica M9 and MP as my main tools for street photography in the past couple of years but recently decided to acquire something different. The temptation of medium format have always been there but I could not justify the cost of digital medium format cameras, at least for now.

Hasselblad has always been my dream medium format camera and luckily I got the chance to buy a Hasselblad 2000FC/M camera body with a A12 magazine at a very reasonable price that got me started into medium format. The world of medium format film photography was new to me so I had to learn everything from the start. I got a grasp of how the Hasselblad V system works very quickly since I had quite a bit of experience shooting film before.

“J&M” Fuji Pro400H


First thing I noticed when holding the camera is its superb build quality, I have held many Leica cameras before but this thing is different, it is built like a tank; heavy and solid. The Hasselblad 2000FC/M with a lens attached is significantly heavier than my Leica M9 with a 50 Summilux ASPH combo but still lighter than a full-frame DSLR setup.

“Black Riders” Ilford HP5+

Black Riders

The viewfinder on the Hasselblad V system is like nothing else I have experienced, big and beautiful. It is almost like a live-view 3 inch LCD screen in the modern days but even better since it is all optical rather than electronic. Viewing through the viewfinder is a pleasure and truly a treat to eyes. I have upgraded the original stock viewscreen to a even brighter Accute Matte D screen that helps to achieve faster and more accurate focusing for street photography.

The Hasselblad V system is equipped with a waist-level viewfinder and it is perfect for street photography. You can simply hold the camera at your waist aimed at your subject and most people don’t even know that you are taking a picture. It’s discreteness is perfect for the streets. The shutter click sound is no where as quite as a leaf shutter or Leica quietness but it is still a pleasure to hear the mirror flipping when the shutter fires.

“Circus Lady” Kodak Portra 400

Circus Lady


“Gossip Girls” Kodak Portra 400

Gossip Girls

One of the big advantage of the Hasselblad system over other medium format film systems is its inter-changeable backs, which allows swap between different films on the go. There are several different types of film magazines available that can shoot different number of exposures. The most common is the A12 magazine, which allows photographers to shoot 12 frames of 6×6 exposures of 120mm film. You simply insert the dark slide to remove the film back and apply another back loaded with the film you desire. Therefore, you don’t have to wait until all exposures to be finished and able to shoot B&W or Colour during the same photo-shoot.

The lenses are made by Carl Zeiss thus equates to superior image quality. There are several different types of lenses for the V system, some with lens built-in Synchro Compur shutter like in C and CF lenses and some without that uses the in-camera shutter like the F lenses. My Hasselblad 2000FC/M can uses all three types of lenses since it has a built-in shutter and a top shutter speed of 1/2000 second. The optics are all made by Carl Zeiss and has the typical Zeiss quality with its renowned 3D rendition. Some people buy the system because of their famous lenses. There are also difference in lens coating and are noted by the T* sign. The lenses I used are the Carl Zeiss 150mm F4.0 CF T* lens which is equivalent to 94mm in 35mm format, which is the perfect lens for head and shoulder portraits. I am also using the “magical” lens in the Hasselblad world , the Carl Zeiss 100mm F3.5 C T* lens that is equivalent to 63mm and it is a mysterious lens that is rarely used but contains some magical qualities. One day I hope to get the “Noctilux” of Hasselblad, which is the Carl Zeiss 110mm F2 lens that will produce stunning bokeh!

I loved shooting with 35mm film on my MP, although the film qualities are presented i.e. the great exposure latitude, dynamic range and tonality but the sharpness is not up to the standard that I desired. Medium format film seems to be the “Perfect” solution for this, it has incredible sharpness, even at 100% crop looks tack-sharp amazing to me. Although with the significant gain of resolution over 35mm film but it still retains all the film qualities that makes it so attractive. There is also a great gain in shallower Depth-of-Field and the bokeh from the lenses are incredible. The frame is 6×6 which makes it a unique square shape that stands out from all other images. I have yet to print those images in large sizes but have heard that you can even blown them up to 2 by 2 meters prints, which is perfect for commercial usage.

It has been a real joy to use the hasselblad and I am still amazed at its quality. While my journey in the medium format world continues that I would highly recommend for anyone wanting try out medium format film photography : do not hesitate!

Please feel free to visit my Flickr or 500px to see more of my work:

Flickr: HYPERLINK “”

500px: HYPERLINK “”


“Father & Son” Ilford Delta 400

Father & Son


“Hairy Chest” Ilford HP5+

Hairy Chest 

“1958 Chevrolet Corvette” Ilford HP5+ 

1958 Chevrolet Corvette

“French Nun” Fuji Reala 100

French Nun 

“In the Wind” Fuji 400H

In the Wind

Jan 212013

Street Photography in Paris by Paul Perton

It’s late May and I’ve been very glad of the central heating in my room when I’ve got up at 06:00 and stottered back into my room after 23:00 most nights. When I first arrived, I was puzzled that the central heating was still on. Now I’m very glad of it and on a number of occasions used the radiator as a clothes horse to get shirts and fleeces dry before my daily routine kicks-in once again.

Why am I mentioning this? I’m in Paris and was expecting the weather to be somewhat better, as did the thousands of tourists that flock every street, corner, restaurant, café and museum.

Peter Turnley is the reason I’m here. He’s a sometime Paris resident going back three decades and a street photographer somewhat in the mould of Cartier-Bresson and Doisneau, albeit younger. Peter’s street workshop started on Saturday and has eleven of us walking the streets photographing les Parisiennes as they go about their daily business.


The chilly and damp tourists are of little interest to us; they only hide the real city; ancient, full of light and entirely enchanting.

I haven’t been in Paris for some years and find my hard-learned post-school colloquial French has completely deserted me. In it’s place the awkward sounds and flat vowels of Afrikaans spring to mind as I try to make myself understood. This is a solo trip; Mrs P is at home dealing with builders and so, no use in the translation department.

Despite my clear British heritage, I lie a lot when I’m in France; “Non. J’habite á l’Afrique du Suid” being my biggest porkie. That immediately seems to put the French at ease and like me, which wouldn’t usually happen were I to confess to my real pom roots. At that point experience has taught me that the French invariably sneer, or shrug, but either way, provide absolutely no assistance or succour, depending on what I seek. Pretending to be South African is expedient to say the least.

Curiously, the city does seem to have become somewhat less parochial and on this trip and I hear English spoken everywhere, including the Metro. That’s a definite plus.


Back to the workshop. Peter Turnley is one of a rare breed; a photojournalist that has managed to forge a hard-won reputation for being in the right place at the right time, camera in hand. He is attempting to inculcate us with some of his street wisdom and I for one have felt a significant change in my photographic attitude since arriving here.

The ten others on the workshop are having similar experiences, with varying degrees of photographic success. Peter’s style is as you’d expect for a successful photojournalist; direct and somewhat confrontational. The streets of Paris aren’t a war zone, or a refugee camp in Somalia and I find myself wondering whether such an in-your-face style is justified. His photographs speak otherwise and we are all finding ways to adapt his guidance to our own styles.


After an orientation meeting and dinner on Sunday evening, the pattern of our days quickly takes shape; shoot, edit and submit a day’s images for group discussion and selection, then it’s back out on to the streets for another go-round.

Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday are chilly, overcast and rainy by turns. As the week progresses however, the weather improves as do our skills. Those readers familiar with my early morning habits won’t be remotely surprised to find I was out on the streets at around 07:00 – earlier than that and there really wasn’t sufficient light pour la photographie.


Slowly, we each built a group of selected images on Peter’s computer, the aim being 15 photographs from each of us that would be collected into an end-of-workshop show featuring the work of the entire group.

Interwoven with shooting and discussion were two guest discussions; Voya Mitrovic the Serbian-born darkroom superstar who printed for Cartier-Bresson and an entire galaxy of other Paris-based photographers of that era. He also prints for Peter and his work is full of the love, care and tonality that only a master of his craft can produce.

The second talk came from Gerard Uferas, a master photographer, with a passion for the opera, ballet and haute couture. By his own admission, a sensitive and complexed man, he showed us a collection of the most exquisite, textured and colored photographs. Unusually with a group of people all from various walks of life, the impact Uferas’ work left every one of silenced and awed by it’s sheer beauty.


Meanwhile, my meanderings saw almost 100km disappear under the soles of my shoes, countless cups of café créme, beer and as is to be expected, fine food. On the latter, I should mention a plât du jour lunch of lamb rib chops, a cassoulet fit for a king and on two separate occasions, a wing of exquisitely prepared skate with beurre noisette and capers. For food like that, I’d (almost) live here.

Friday was deadline day for our photographs, as the final show was due on Saturday morning, along with a viewing of the individual portfolios we bought from our various homes. An unusual decision to view this work so late in the day, defended by Peter who makes the valid point that to see this work before setting-out might reveal a professional, or specialist photographer, whose input could adversely impact the hopes and plans of everyone else. Good point.

So, that was it. a week in Paris. Howling wind and rain at La Défense, mellow afternoon sunshine at Pont des Arts, magnificent buildings and some of the worlds most visually interesting people. How bad could that be?


Jan 152013

WORKSHOP: Daytona Bike week with Craig Litten 

March 14-17th 2013 – Daytona Beach, FL

Workshop Signup Page and more details are HERE



UPDATE: I will not be able to make the workshop with Craig but it is going on 100% full steam ahead as it is Craig’s workshop, and I HIGHLY recommend it.

Come one, come all! This is going to be one hell of a photo workshop with so many photo opportunities surrounding you at all times you may just go into sensory overload. Craig Litten and I have teamed up to bring you this AMAZING opportunity to explore your photography limits as you learn how to get comfortable shooting people. In fact, you will have no choice but to get comfortable shooting people as that is all we will be doing!

This workshop is just that, a workshop. Craig Litten will be the main teacher for this one and I will be on hand as well for any questions and of course to shoot with everyone. Craig has done this event many times before and has shot some amazing images that make you say “I wish I was there to document it all”!

Well, now you can be as this will be a 3 day workshop allowing you to grow and open up as a photographer in a crazy environment filled with all kinds of opportunities.

All photos on this page were shot by Craig during his last Bike Week workshop.



So what will we be doing for three nights? TONS! This will be an action packed photo filled weekend and believe me, by the time it is over you will have some amazing photo memories of your Bike Week workshop! Take a look at what we have planned and yes, this is not for the timid because we will be out in the thick of it until 1AM on the 1st night, just when the action is heating up!


Thursday Night, March 14

8-9 pm – Introduction – Intro to workshop, meeting each other

9:30 – Daytona Ale House Restaurant “for Captain Jacks Buried Treasure” (informal group)

11 pm-1 am – Night Shoot 1 “Hit the Mean Streets of Daytona”



Friday, March 15

10 am-noon – Group Meeting 1 – Intro to Photo Mechanic, download night shoot

1-5 – Mid Afternoon Shoot – “take advantage of that great mid-day sun”

6–9 – Group Meeting 2 – Street Shooting Techniques, downloading and editing

10-Midnight – Night Shoot 2



Saturday, March 16

9 am-11 – Morning Shoot – “morning light is pure and beautiful”

1-3 – Group Meeting 3 – one-on-one editing help

4-8 – Late Afternoon Shoot – “evening light, you can’t beat it”

8-10 Free (edit or shoot more, your choice)



Sunday, March 17

9-10:30 am – Peach Valley “Best breakfast in Daytona Beach” (informal group)

11-3 – Group Meeting 4

3 pm – Slideshow of everyone’s work and final thoughts


This workshop will be pretty amazing. If you want to get in on it the fee is $699 for the entire 4 day, three night workshop. This does NOT include Hotel, Travel or Food. For more details and info please visit the signup page at . Craig will be taking the deposits and payments and for all of you who want to get in on it, I will see you there! Expect one hell of a time! It will be a time of amazing photography, new friendships and non stop craziness! SIGN UP NOW as spaces are limited.

I will be trying to get some cool gear to bring as well Maybe the new Leica M? New Fuji X100s? No guarantees but I’m on it and will keep everyone updated!

BTW, ONLY 12 spots available for this one, PERIOD.

Steve Huff

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