Apr 162014
 

Photography, Education, Exams

by Tim Hogendoorn

Documentary photography; one of those magical things in live I love.

My name is Tim Hogendoorn, 23 years old and living in Rotterdam, The Netherlands.
From the year 2010 I have been studying photography in Rotterdam and this year in May, is my graduation.

From the beginning of my study I saw students following the same routine of photography as there has been for years on my school, and many other photography academies: studio portraits.
It is not in a way I felt the urge to be different, but I found myself not being able to express my feelings in that way.

I started experimenting with street photography but quickly wanted to tell stories with my photographs, searching for people who had extraordinarily jobs and telling their stories.

That is also what I did for my exam of my current photography education.
I stayed at a circus family for about a week. Taking photos of the shows, but especially when they were not working or preparing for work.

After being in this study for four years now, and photographing three of those years solely on film, this was my first digital series.
I gave digital a try a couple of times before, but not really feeling it untill now: I bought a really nice second hand 5d mark ii and am using my analog Nikon lenses on that body with just an adapter ring.
The look of the old Nikon Nikkor 35mm 2.0 AI on the 5d sensor is lovely…

The full series can be seen on my website. (like me on facebook and keep up to date with my work: http://tiny.cc/ng9eex )

I wanted to share my experience with the readers of stevehuffphoto because I am a daily reader myself, keep it up Brandon and Steve!
(recently I went on a photography trip to Chicago (my first time in the US: WOAW!), and I would love to be sharing that new series in the near future as well!)

All the best,

Tim Hogendoorn
www.timhogendoorn.nl

Barani_5453 Barani_5601 Barani_series_11_5384

Apr 142014
 

Fuji X-T1 Ergonomic DYI Improvements

by Ronald Grauer

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I will not talk to you about the quality of the camera, we all know it’s a good camera with some little problem like every camera has. Of course, I couldn’t do anything about what’s going on inside, but I could do something about 2 of the major problem I’ve found on it:

- The eyecup is to small and not deep enough. Mostly when shooting in bright light. And also after 3 years with the Sony Nex camera (Nex 7 than Nex 6), I missed a bit the left side EVF found on the Nex Camera

- The rear 4 pad, which has been discussed on every single review on the net… Almost a shame to design such a pad.

So If you want to try this little fix, feel free…

For the eyecup I used a Nikon dk-4. But I think most of the wide, round rubber eyecup should fit. Plenty of them on Ebay.

The eyecup is glued on the plastic base from the original Fuji eyecup. Unscrew the 2 screws to remove the Fuji rubber eyecup.

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But you need to use the Sugru material (I have nothing to do with them…!) or any other similar material. Cause just the glue won’t be enough. I’m not a glue expert, but I tried different very good glue, nothing could hold it. The rubber material is a porous material so you need to shape something on top of these 2 elements. And this will make them more homogeneous for the look.

It’s called ”Sugru”, www.sugru.com

I’ve also used this amazing product to customize the rear 4 pad.

It’s made in England.

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You have an hour or so to shape this “king of rubber”. Let it dry for 12 hours and it will keep the shape and have some elasticity. As sugru says, this material sticks to 99% of the material in the world.

It has been awarded as one of the most amazing material invented in the last years…

It cost around 15 euros for 8 little package…

Hope this post will help many other users…

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I’ll finish by telling you that after all, I’m a passionate photographer.

here is my website link: www.ronaldgrauer.com.

Keep with what you’re doing.

Regards,

Ronald.

Apr 082014
 

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Year of the Alpha – 52 Weeks of Sony Alpha Photography

by Toni Ahvenainen

Introduction

My name is Toni Ahvenainen and I am a 37 years old photography enthusiast who works as a graphics and web designer in Finland. I bought my first own digital camera, Sony Nex-5N, about two years ago and was immediately bitten by a photo bug. During my first year I took over 26,000 pictures, but as much as I liked it, after year and a half I found myself going in circles. I felt I was taking same pictures repeatedly and that there wasn’t anything new to shoot. I could take a couple of interesting shots every now and then, but never found a real reason to do it, because I didn’t have any meaningful place to put them – even in my hard drive I never found appropriate folder name for them. In short, I had locked myself inside my own perception and I needed to find a new direction to my photography.

Late 2013 I decided that the year 2014 would be my year of photography, in which I would concentrate in developing my own photographic eye and also get some publicity to my work. With some planning and inspiration from various ’365 days’ projects I decided to put up a similar photo blog. After couple of months of hard work Year of the Alpha – 52 Weeks of Sony Alpha Photography’ was born and I started my year of photography at January 1st (and will end it at 31st December). So far it has surpassed all my expectations. In first month my photo blog gathered over 40,000 page views, which is quite nice considering that couple of months ago I was just taking pictures on my own and never sharing them with anyone. I’ve also received so much encouraging and positive comments from friendly photographers that it has really affected me deeply. Starting a photo blog has really been a magic carpet ride for me and my photography.

In this article I will introduce my photo blog and share some of the photographs I’ve taken during the first three months. I will also discuss some methods and ideas I’ve found useful while trying to develop my photography. I hope it will be an inspiring read because one of my goals has been to share inspiration with others.

What is Year of the Alpha?


Year of the Alpha – 52 Weeks of Sony Alpha Photography’ is a photo blog where I share my work on a weekly basis at least two images per week and often more. Name of my the blog refers to Sony Alpha brand (no affiliation with Sony corporation) and with this conscious choice as I’m searching for followers who use Sony Alpha photography equipment – but as photography is pretty universal I believe anyone can enjoy it. Chronologically Year of the Alpha is divided into five seasons. With every season I will explore a different theme, all of which are attached to my subjective taste and perception of photography. So far only the first season has been completed. Season of Blackness concentrated on lo-key photography with creative edge and most of the photographs you see here are from that season.

You can find my photo blog here: http://www.yearofthealpha.com

As I said earlier, Year of the Alpha has surpassed all my expectations. I’m mostly surprised about the way it has triggered my creative spot and make me take photographs I never dreamed of before. It’s been a good start and since it’s all about sharing inspiration, here’s what I’ve learned so far.

1. Being able to create photographs continuously is a state of mind 
When I started my endeavor the first thing came to my mind was, how I’m going to find something meaningful to shoot every week continuously for full year. It takes a fair bit of commitment to keep on working with your photography for full year and that’s what the most people are afraid with similar photography projects. Before I started I had, like everyone else, different concerns regarding why it might be difficult to find anything to shoot. You know the story, it’s the lack of ideas and inspiration, bad weather and lighting conditions, mundane close environment, not enough time, bad camera gear etc. Now when I look back after three months of shooting, I’ve come to realize that these reasons are not really about circumstances, they are about state of mind.

If there is one lesson that I’ve learned so far, it is that active photography creates new opportunities and great photographs by its own weight. If you just take your camera everywhere you go and keep on shooting even when circumstances don’t seem fruitful at first sight, you’ll be amazed how much there is good photography to be made. It’s not about ‘finding good subjects or circumstances’, but expanding your own consciousness regarding what you think is good photography. Learning to find new creative possibilities is a process which will happen in one’s mind, not by acquiring new gear or just wandering about in hope of a good situation. Limitations are good, because creativity happens if it has framework which it can challenge. If there is no framework, in other words limitations, there is no creativity either. It’s a self-strengthening process, first you just need to let go of perception that there isn’t anything to shoot – there is, you just have to shoot to see it.

2. Finishing your photographs will close the feedback circuit
The second thing I’ve learned with my project is to finish my photographs. With today’s digital cameras and their massive memory storages, it’s easy to keep on shooting actively but never sit down to really look what you have done. The problem with unfinished photographs is that you are not truly engaged with your photography. Not selecting the best shot, not cropping it for best composition, not post processing it and not declaring it ‘ready’ is same as leaving your work halfway. Half-cooked pictures will not provide you enough feedback neither will they guide your learning process, because they will leave backdoor of your mind open for all kinds of excuses. 

Once I started my photo and was forced to finish my photographs properly, I quickly learned that finishing them will essentially close the feedback circuit of my own mind. After I’ve selected my shot, post processed it and declared to myself ‘it’s ready’, I can evaluate my success and failures more clearly. I would also recommend to put your finished photographs in a special place where you can see them all at once. When you see them there next to each other, you can finally start asking questions. ‘Why I like these shots better than those ones’, What’s common with most of my photographs’, etc. This kind of evaluative view over your own work will help you build up understanding of yourself as a photographer. But it requires that you have engaged with your photographs, which rarely happens if one doesn’t them finish in the first place.

3. Develop your photographic eye with goals and limits
The third thing I’ve learned with my photo blog is that I can develop my photographic eye by setting myself different tasks with goals and limits. My tasks are related to five different seasons which I’m carrying out, but they can obviously be anything from single photographs to total body of work. Setting yourself goals and limits will greatly benefit your photography. First of all, they will give you a guideline which to follow. Persistently diversified paths of endless possibilities will narrow down to something meaningful one can actually hope to realize. Having a goal makes it possible for you to plan your photography and planning means that photographs are something you make, not just randomly take from your surroundings. Secondly, the limits you impose will determine if you are succeeding or not. It’s soothing to have at least to some extent a clear indicator for succeeding. Of course you can make great pictures without limits too, but it’s easy to shoot too diverse stuff and not have a clear understanding of what makes them great in the end. Thirdly, the goals will make your work ready. They will define the stage when you’ve done your job. Without the goals defining the limits, one will easily splash across different objectives and nothing gets done to an end. And finally in the end, how you solve these tasks will shape you as a photographer. Starting a 365 days or 52 weeks project is great way to concentrate on developing your photographic eye, but one still needs to guide it with goals and limits to make most of it.

4. Anyone can do it
If I would have to raise up one thing from this lengthy article, it would be that anyone can do it. Internet opens up a new ground for creative ideas and it’s not meant just for big software developers like Flickr or 500px. It’s also a playground for single individuals who want to find new ways to refresh their photography. With all the diverse services available, one can build up their ideas and get them running very fast with very little costs. It’s been quite fascinating to see what I’ve achieved with my photo blog so far, but it’s not anything unseen before – others have done it before me and with much larger scale. In fact my photo blog was very much inspired by Italian photographer Luca Rossini, to whom I need express my gratitude for all the inspiration and help. But the bottom line is, anyone can do it.

What’s next?
I’m currently running my second season, Season of Tilt, in which I will try to guide my photography to more personal realms. Season of Tilt could be described as a psychologically tilted season which merges things from my dreams, memories and inner feelings. Name of this season also implies to Lensbaby which has been kind enough to support me with their most interesting lenses. With Season of Tilt I’ll be using exclusively Lensbaby Composer Pro with three of their most sought after optics: Double Glass, Sweet 35 and Edge 80. If interested, you might want to follow it through just to learn more about them. 

Thank you for reading my article.

Now, get inspired, create your own project and enjoy doing it!

Sony Nex-5N, SEL50F18, ISO400, f/4.0, 1/1250sec

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Sony Nex-5N, SEL50F18, ISO200, f/2.8, 1/13sec

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Sony Nex-5N, SEL50F18, ISO3200, f/4.0, 1/400sec

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Sony Nex-5N, SEL50F18, ISO640, f/1.8, 1/80sec

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Sony Nex-5N, SEL50F18, ISO100, f/6.3, 1/800sec

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Sony Nex-5N, SEL1855, ISO1600, f/11, 1/4sec

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Sony Nex-5N, SEL50F18, ISO200, f/2.8, 1/30sec

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Sony Nex-5N, SEL50F18, ISO250, f/4.0, 1/80sec

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Sony Nex-5N, Lensbaby Edge 80, ISO400, f/4.0, 0.8sec

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Sony Nex-5N, Lensbaby Edge 80, ISO100, f/2.8, 1/80sec

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Sony Nex-5N, Lensbaby Edge 80, ISO100, f/5.6, 1/1250sec

Image-11Sony Nex-5N, Lensbaby Edge 80, ISO100, f/5.6, 1/1250sec, Raw

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Apr 042014
 

A photographic journey through New Zealand

by Cuno von Hahn

Māori: Aotearoa – New Zealand

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The beauty and grandeur of New Zealand has captured the imagination of movie-maker and photographer in the past years, and the country is a dream destination for many around the world. It is a land of majestic snow-capped peaks, pristine lakes, glaciers descending to rainforest’s, fiord’s, geysers and volcanoes.There are only a few countries that have such a geographical diversity – a reason for me to travel there.

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Of course, photography in New Zealand was as important for me as traveling around. All photos from Newzealand were shot with the X-Pro1, fujinon 14mm and fujinon 35mm.

Many people were asking me, if the New Zealand photos were made in HDR . I always try to avoid shooting HDR. Firstly, it is really complex and a time-consuming process and secondly, in my opinion the pictures become better and more natural, if I use graduate filters for more dynamic range. Surely that is not enough for getting a higher dynamic range. Shooting in RAW is also necessary.

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All my pictures are carefully exposed. While shooting I am always using the histogram as a control tool. I performed almost no post production and no cropping at all. Every correction is made in Adobe Camera Raw (There are enough tools and options integrated). But my maxim is always: Digital darkroom techniques should only be used to adjust the dynamic tonal range and color balance of an image so that it more closely resembles what you saw, and that it communicates the mood of the scene.

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I was also asked if I have encountered the X-TRANS RAW conversion problem. Yes – there are still problems. 20% (low settings) sharpening in ACR and the rest I`m doing in Photoshop. That works for me very well and I get rid of the swirlies. Have a look by yourself – I think the foliage looks nice and crisp.

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If someone would like to see some more scenery images of New Zealand (also shoot with the X-Pro 1) please visit:

www.newzealand-gallery.com

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Finally, if New Zealand is not on the top of your list of countries that you want to visit, change your mind trust me!

Cheers, Cuno

Apr 022014
 

It’s Circus Time with the Leica M

By John Goerten

During the Christmas and New Year period, Trier, the oldest city of Germany, traditionally is hosting a circus with a non-permanent tent and a non-permanent group of artists. http://weihnachtscircus-trier.romanza-circusproduction.de

All shows during this period are sold out. Children get exited about the glamor of the world of the Salvini-Clowns, the Sevriukov family with their flying trapezes, Andy Ortmann with his exotic animals and many other artists. So last January I have been with my family to one of the shows. A fotoshooting was of course my main interrest, and I had prepared my Leica M240 with a 90mm f2.8 Elmarit-M lens. Although I was a bit sceptical about the low light performance of this lens, the final results that I achieved were surprisingly good.

All pictures were hand-held shot wide open at f2.8 at ISO 1250. Post processing was done on DNG files with LR5.

In the past I had been using a few R-lenses both with a Novoflex adapter and later with the original Leica adapter. Although the results with R lenses on the M were very satisfactory, I found the handling of the M with a Vario-Elmar-R 80-200mm f/4.0 lens not suitable for me due to size and weight.

First golden rule for a foto shooting at a circus : Get places in the front row! No kids will be jumping in front of you while you are taking your favourite shot of a spectacular jump or of a clown in front of you.

Second rule: It has turned out that the 90mm focal length was the perfect combo to shoot with my FF camera. A 35 mm would have resulted in too much cropping.

Third rule: shoot in color. Circus is a colourful world, B&W pics will not give the same glamor.

After the last show, the artists go back to their home-circus to continue their show, the tent is packed in boxes, and kept in Trier until December 2015 when the circus will re-open again. I was concentrated to shoot the activities in the manege, and missed the shining eyes of the children around me. Maybe next time I will let my camera turn to the audience as well.

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Mar 282014
 

A tribute to Kodak’s false colour Infrared films

By Tony Kajtazi

 

Sunrise over the Grand Anse beach (Grenada)

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The legend

Here are some of my favourite shots I’ve taken with a very special breed of near extinct film. Like many other great films falling victim to the digital age, it also, sadly, is no longer in production. There have always been disappointments in the past whenever manufacturers decided to stop making a certain type of film, and especially when there was no direct replacement for it elsewhere. For me, this sentiment is felt strongest with the disappearance of the colour infrared films, as there’s just nothing even remotely like it.

These films are capable of rendering crazy, psychedelic colours with tons of clarity and contrast. It can make the most boring of subjects look stunning. Get the exposure right, and you’ll get instant art through colour alone. Couple it with good composition and an interesting subject matter, and you’ll have a masterpiece.

 All photos taken with a Mamiya 7 and the 43mm lens

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Kodak was the only company I know of that used to make colour infrared film. Little of it that remains on the market is largely due to one man in Germany who bought up the last batches of Aerochrome film sheets, hand-cut and hand-rolled them onto 120 format spools ready to be used with any medium format film camera. From time to time some of these rolls would trickle down to the rest of us via his website* where he would occasionally put some up for sale, thus delaying the total extinction for that tiny bit longer.

The consumer variation of this film used to be called Kodak Ektachrome Infrared (EIR), and it came in the standard 35mm format. Kodak stopped making it long before they’d stopped making Aerochrome sheets, originally intended for scientific aerial imaging. I have never used the EIR, but I suspect the end-results would be quite similar. Nonetheless, it’s worth noting that even though they do pretty much the same thing, they are not the same.

The method

 Shoot this film at f8 or smaller for best results, IR light does not behave the same way as normal light. You might have the shot focused precisely for normal light, but the IR light will most likely be out of focus at large apertures.

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A rough explanation of how Kodak achieves this special look is as follows: As with other common types of colour slide film, it has three image forming layers: the red-exhibiting layer, which is sensitive to IR light, so the Infrared light and its unique tonality is mapped as red on the slides, the green layer is sensitive to red light and the blue layer is sensitive to green light. All three layers are sensitive to blue and project it as blue. This is why the blue light is most often considered a “pollutant” and has to be filtered out with a yellow or an orange filter in order to achieve the intended look commonly observed here and elsewhere.

I personally prefer to use an orange filter with this film because it paints the skies dark navy and gives the foliage that deep red colour. The orange filter doesn’t just filter out the blues, but goes a step further and blocks most of the green light from hitting the film. Different shades of orange cut different amounts of green and since Aerochrome’s blue layer is sensitive to green light, a green-cutting filter removes the blue cast from the photographs, so magenta foliage you get with a yellow filter becomes red.

Using a red filter on the lens further limits the sensitivity of the film to only the red and the IR spectrum, projecting only green and red respectively. This makes the foliage orange and the skies green/cyan or even yellow. Nice but in my opinion it constricts the chromatic range a bit too much.

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The photos shown here have all been taken using the B+W 040 filter on the lens, which on paper at least, is identical to the widely recommended B+W 099 for this purpose. The former is a modern version of the latter, and they work equally well. The ISO rating of Aerochrome is approximately 800, with a Wratten #12 filter this goes down a stop to 400, and with the B+W 040 you should rate it at 200. IR sensitivity will wane pretty quickly with time even if the film is stored in a freezer, so the speed might need to be adjusted accordingly if you plan to use it in say, 2 years’ time, and even then there’s no guarantee that your photos will come out looking the same.

The end

Speaking generally, the future of this type of colour infrared look is closely tied to this film, so the day the last rolls get used up is the day we last see pictures like it. Unless someone can convince Kodak to start making it again or at least licence the technology to a manufacturer that is willing to resurrect it (Lomography?), the only option we’re left with is to try to replicate the look digitally.

For anyone that’s tried to emulate the look of any type of film in Photoshop knows that it’s no easy feat to pull off. Imitating Aerochrome convincingly on the other hand is much harder, because it might involve trickery such as double-takes, channel swapping and quite a bit of post-processing, and even then there’s no fooling the trained eye of an Aerochrome aficionado.

For the end, I’ll leave you with a couple of my best attempts at it, and maybe talk about this digital process in more detail some other time.

Picture taken with a full spectrum camera and post processed to achieve the Kodak EIR look

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Close but not the real deal

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Tony Kajtazi

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

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Tonyc-Photographie/336343303149804

Mar 112014
 

The Leica Summilux 21mm f1.4 ASPH on the Sony A7r

By Robin Mudge

I love shooting with ultra wide-angle lenses. My favorite street kit has been a Leica M9 with Summilux-M 21mm f1.4 ASPH and for medium format work a technical camera with Rodenstock’s f4 32 mm HR Digaron-W. This short exposition is a record of my experiences to date using a new Sony Alpha 7r with the Summilux-M 21mm lens.

A year ago a I bought a Sony RX-1 and despite it’s fixed moderate wide-angle of 35mm it has been my camera of choice ever since. Print quality surpasses that from the M9 and while it obviously can’t match up to the technical camera, its compactness and ease of use has made me reluctant to load myself up with the technical camera back-pack for some time. I used the RX-1 with both an optical and electronic viewfinder; the size, weight, almost silent shutter and auto focus made it a dream to use.

However, although enjoying the wonderful fixed 35 mm lens, I still hankered after a wider-angle point of view. Despite being a long-term dedicated Leica user, for me the Leica M240 seemed to be a camera that Jumped the Shark. But a camera only slightly larger than the RX-1, with even higher resolution and with interchangeable lens’ was too much to resist. Enter the Sony Alpha 7r. Plenty has been written about this camera, and many people have talked about potential problems using ultra wide lenses with the 7r but I had not seen much pictorial evidence.

From what had been said I was anticipating notable green/magenta lens cast as well as corner vignetting, both of which are to be expected when matching other manufacturers lenses to a high-resolution sensors, especially with ultra wide-angle lenses. Vignetting is an inherent issue with ultra wide angles because of their design and the green/magenta lens cast is caused by light exiting the lens being refracted as it grazes across the physical structure of the sensor (the problem gets worse the wider angle the lens and the higher resolution the sensor).

With matched bodies and lenses the camera firmware automatically corrects resulting lens casts; something that is not possible when using other manufactures lenses with these bodies, However, I was not so worried about this as under these circumstances it is common to correct lens cast affects by producing lens profiles, which when applied cancel out the effects (a common practice for technical camera users).

With all this in mind I mounted the Summilux 21mm on my newly acquired 7r via a Metabones adapter and set off to photograph a few locations in the neighborhood. At first glance through the viewfinder, I was pleasantly surprised to see little evidence of the magenta/green cast, but it was clear that vignetting was very strong at full aperture and didn’t start to improve until after f4. The extent of the vignetting was not really apparent until shooting the raw files to be used for creating lens profiles.

This involves shooting with translucent plastic covering the lens. A grey image is created that shows all the defects of the lens and sensor combination. This image is then used to produce a lens profile where adjustments are automatically applied to create a perfectly even image, across the entire frame, with both colorcast and vignetting corrected. A lens profile for each aperture has to be produced as both color cast and vignetting changes at each f-stop. The appropriate lens profile is then applied to correct the lens cast before any further processing is done. Of course vignetting tools can be used and are much quicker, but they do not remove any color casts that may be present. One other thing, the lens profile does not correct for chromatic aberration, edge effects or distortion. This has to be done with the tools of your choice. I use Capture 1 to process most of my images because it is relatively simple to produce and apply lens profiles. The Adobe Flat Field plugin does the same thing in Lightroom.

The attached images are of the Peabody Library in Baltimore, and the lens profile image, both shot at f1.4. The series shows both the unprocessed image of both and the post processed images, just with the lens profile applied.

At f1.4 the vignetting is really strong; but whether it is unacceptable or not obviously depends on the subject matter and personal taste. Correcting for it is bound to add considerable noise to the corners of the image and take some time! Sadly, for me, because vignetting does not start to improve until around f4 it seems pointless using this very expensive fast lens on this body. I’m hoping that some of the slower ultra-wades will perform better, we will see.

Lens profile image

21 test-f1.4 calibration image

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Without profile…

21 test-f1.4 library-uncorrected-1

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Both images below are with Profile correction…

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On Moiré.

I have never experienced moiré before, with any of the cameras I have used without anti-aliasing filters. But when looking at a shot in the ‘hood’ of a new apartment development, there it was. The windows were treated with very narrow venetian blinds and voila, instant moiré.

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B’nai Israel Synagogue2

B’nai-Israel-Synagogue1

Feb 102014
 

parkt

Concert Photography with Fuji X

By Piao Yishi 

My name is Piao Yishi ( aka “Park” ). I’m an amateur photographer based in Hangzhou, China. The genre that interests me the most is environmental portrait and photojournalism. My curiosity constantly drives me into the exploration of people’s lives. And photography paves the way.

I’m a Fuji fanboy. I’ve been shooting with a Fuji x100 ( my first serious camera ) for 16 months and added an X-E2 with 18-55 lens to my arsenal just two months ago. Oh, I also own two legacy fast telephoto lenses, namely Nikkor 105mm f/2.5 AI and Nikkor 180mm f/2.8 ED AI-s, both of which are over thirty years old. Despite the age, they managed to contribute most of the pictures in this article.

In the hope of capturing interesting people in interesting environments, I shot a lot of events in the past months, including parties, alumni gatherings and stage performances. They’re great. But none is better than a symphony concert. Why? A symphony concert involves many people ( several dozen performers and many hundred audiences ) in strong emotions, and you don’t see one in town every day. ( Not sure if it’s the same case in Austria though. ) That is why I got really excited when I was offered an opportunity to shoot the New Year Symphony Concert in Hangzhou, performed by the Wenqin Orchestra of Zhejiang University.

Well, how do I shoot such a grand event? Google didn’t have a lot of articles on that topic. There are some good suggestions in them, but my biggest takeaway was “it’s a rare opportunity, you better get ready”.  So I packed my equipments tight and hoped for the best. Here are some of the key learnings from my first symphony concert shot.

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Arrive early.

If you arrive at the venue before audiences are allowed inside, you’ll get shots of a clean stage with all setups and some of the bigger instruments on it, you’ll learn where each instruments are located on the stage. With some luck, you’ll find the conductor sitting alone somewhere off the stage and you’re the only photographers to find it.

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Well, how do you get inside before audiences are allowed to? Be resourceful, talk to the organizer, be nice to people but don’t be shy, and hope for the best. In my case, I was refused to get inside early by one of the staffs that day. When I tried another guy five minutes later, however, I got the greenlight and a badge.

If there’s a rehearsal or a pilot performance prior to the main concert, do everything you can to get inside and rehearse your shots. How do you get in? Same as above.

Talk to people.

The better you know your subject, the easier and more profound your shot is likely to be. How do you know a bunch of performers to whom you are a complete stranger in a symphony concert? Talk to them whenever you feel they will not be disturbed. Your camera is your passport. The retro looking Fujis makes me look more of an safe fanboy and less of a hard nosed journalist. ( Sorry, DSLR guys. ) But at the end of the day, it is you who’s gonna open the mouth and talk to people.

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When I saw the conductor sitting alone far from the stage that day, I went to him without hesitations, showed one of the pictures I took him during the pilot performance two days before ( Go to rehearsal or pilot performances, and keep your best pictures in your phone! ). And guess what, he liked it and asked me to send it to him. So I knew he’s Russian and his name’s Mik. Then I asked if I could take a posed shot for him and a friend of mine who’s a gorgeous looking girl. He happily accepted. During that shot, I saw what a humorous, romantic and interesting man he is. Knowing him in person made possible some close shots of him later that day. And understanding his personalities helped me capturing the best moment of him on stage.

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Another story happened in the back stage when I was trying to photograph a college boy who plays the flute. At first, he was a bit shy and didn’t know what to do in front of a camera. I said to him, when I was in college, my “Venus” was a flute girl, but she never played in front of me, which was why I stopped at him and wanted a shot of him playing that beautiful shiny flute. Then immediately, he started playing without the slightest hint of discomfort. There you see the shot.

Go to the back stage.

Having access to the back stage will give you two advantages.

First of all, during the play, the conductor will be facing his orchestra and therefore backstage all the time. Unless in the rare moments he turn back and say thank you to the audience, you won’t get front facing shots of the conductor if you physically shoot from off the stage. And shooting from there is a big annoyance to your fellow audiences around you. It’s not a rock concert! Symfony fans are not likely to swear to or attack you, but don’t spoil their evening and let them hate you. Plus, you’ll like the beautiful side light falling on players’ heads if you shoot from either side from the back stage!

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Then, you’ll witness plenty of interesting stories in the back stage when performers are anxiously waiting for the prime time. In that tense atmosphere, you’ll see their personalities written all over their faces. And it’s a great place talking with your subjects.

Just don’t skip the back stage if you can get the access.

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Fast long lens, ISO 6400 and a monopod.

We all know a good picture is NOT about the camera. When you take pictures in a challenging situation, however, some features of equipments will make your life much easier. Photographing a symphony concert is the most challenging job I ever did, because:

The stage is relatively large  and you can’t go anywhere you want ( e.g. on the stage, or in front of the first row off the stage ). It’s difficult for the photographer to get very close or very high physically.

Ambient light can be dim. And you are not allowed to use flash. The lighting conditions can vary wildly among different venues. In the pilot performance, with f/2.8 and 1/160 seconds, I was able to get away with ISO 800 most of the time. In the real show however, I constantly needed ISO 6400 for similar shots on the stage. Without a light meter, the performers confirmed they felt the same. I heard one of the venue staffs saying they intentionally dimmed the lighting to prevent details blown out on players’ faces.

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The stage is extremely crowed. With limited point of view options, it requires good observation and creativity to get interesting compositions unless you have shot such events numerous times.

On the stage, you’ll make a few wide angle shots, but not too many, because you can’t get close. Telephoto lenses with big aperture are your friend. Use more than one focal lengths for varying FOV and potentially more interesting shots. For the stage shots, I used the two legacy lenses mentioned earlier. Their 35mm equivalent focal lengths are 158mm and 270mm. They’re all sharp enough wide open. ( In my bag, Nikkor 180mm f/2.8 ED AI-s’s main use is astrophotography. ) I felt they were adequate for the stage that evening. I’m sure there will be larger or smaller stages so adjust accordingly. A 70-200mm f/2.8 zoom will do a better job if your wife plays ball.

And a camera body with usable ISO 6400 is highly recommended. Fuji XE-2 does that very well. I used a shutter speed of 1/200 seconds whenever lighting conditions permit when shooting the stage. In the pilot performance, I found that 1/160 seconds couldn’t freeze the conductor’s fiercest hand motion completely.

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Even if you have all the low light equipments recommended above, you’ll still find occasions where the shutter speed drops below 1/200 or even 1/50. ( I used Fuji’s auto ISO feature. ) I found a monopod extremely useful for such a job. It helped stabilizing my shots and making my arm and shoulder less stressful. Most importantly, it gave me a pivot for experimenting different composition ideas and pull out the best one.

With my legacy lenses, I had to live with manual focus. I didn’t find it a huge obstacle though. Fuji X-E2 has a usable focus peaking feature. ( But add more color options to the peaking pixels, Fuji! ) And during the play, your subjects don’t generally move towards or away from your camera, but remain in more or less the same focal plane no matter how fast they move. Auto focus lenses are definitely more convenient to use. But with those legacy lens, I was able ( and forced ) to shoot more slowly and care for every detail without breaking the bank. A compromise I have to live with, and perhaps a good one. Some of the my pictures ended up not in perfect focus for pixel peepers, but overall most of them are acceptable, IMO.

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Oh, the Fuji X100 always stayed on my neck. This beautiful non-threatening creature is still my best friend for storytelling in those behind-the-scene shots, all of which I shot one-handed. And when I need a wider field of view, I used Fuji XE-2 with 18-55mm on 18mm.

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Shoot long lenses with a wide-angle mind.

For a whole year after I stepped into the world of photography, Fuji X100 was my only camera. It’s a small camera with a fixed 23mm f/2 lens ( 35mm in full frame equivalent ). I had to live with its fixed and wide view of the world, which turned out to be a good thing. It taught me to observe, care for and make use of the connections between subjects and the background. It’s just too wide to ignore the background or the connections between things and just point and shoot.

Back to the super crowded symphony stage, yes, you can play with that shallow depth of field. What you cannot do, however, is simply ignoring, blurring or blackening out all the surroundings of your subject, because they’re too close together, lighted too evenly and you can’t get your camera very high.

Fellow violinists playing together covering each other’s heads? Notebooks in the front blocking your view of the subjects on the other side? None is gonna make a good solo composition. But who said solo compositions are better? Think about how to live with and make use of all things in the field of view. Search for the connections between them. Capture eye contacts between the conductor and his players. Search for moments when the conductor’s baton and violinist’s’ bows point to the same direction. Use the darker audiences as a backdrop for players at the edge of stage, even if you can only see her back. Don’t be afraid to crop tight and try out impossible ideas when composing the shots. Be creative and bold.

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Looking at the show through those long lenses, I felt a sense of similarity and familiarity, because it felt so much like viewing though my X100’s 35mm lens. If you didn’t take good care of the background and connections among different things, you’d spoil the shot. But If you did, you’d be blessed with a chance of getting a more interesting shot than most 85mm f/1.4 portraits.

Leave late and get to know the performers.

The performance lasted more than two hours before the audiences stood up and applauded with the Radetzky March. It was time to pack the bag, right? I didn’t think so. There must be interesting stories going on after the show. And I really wanted to get to know the performers better, get their contact information and send them their pictures the next day.

It turned out they appreciated it. A flute player who has played the new year concerts for seven consecutive years later told me, that all flute players were grateful for the pictures featuring them, because on the stage they sit in the back and normally don’t get much attention. And the violinist who got her back captured said she was very excited to see her picture on the homepage of a local website, even if it was only her back.

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All players are college kids. It was the peak of their life so far so they overreacted, didn’t they? Well, I know a professional model who, after seeing my pictures of those kids’ symphony concert, told me that she was moved and regretted how few pictures she had kept for her own performances. She said normally photographers didn’t care to give the pictures to her after a show. It may or may not be a license thing.

Those kids have stories. The more I know about them, the more I’m confident that I can take my storytelling and photography to the next level in their next performance.

As a storyteller, I’ll make sure I can give away my pictures to my subjects, because what I did is merely freezing, capturing and presenting a split second of their lives. They own their lives. The more they feel the pictures are important to them, the more successful I am as a storytelling photographer.

Park

Feb 102014
 

M240 NIGHT PHOTOGRAPHY

By George Sutton

A recent post showed some photos taken with an M240 in New York at night. It generated a lot of comments, some quite snarky. There appeared to be a problem with skin tones and many commenters declared the camera useless for shooting under artificial lights while declaring their Nikons, Canons and Sonys would do a much better job. I own both a M240 and a Canon 5DIII with Canon’s best L lenses and my experience has been very positive shooting both cameras at night. The only difference I see is slightly better star effects from the Leica lenses, which may be due to the absence of an AA filter. Low ISO performance is excellent with each camera.

I perviously owned an M9 and it was a great camera but the high ISO performance was noisy, much more so than the M240. The following photos were taken in Cologne, Germany last December at the Christmas market held next to the Cologne cathedral. The cathedral is one of the most magnificent in Europe. Cologne is in an industrial region and I suspect air pollution has badly stained the outside of the cathedral. In daylight it is very dark and doesn’t photograph very well but illuminated at night it is spectacular. Below are two shots taken with my M240 on a tripod set to auto white balance, one at ISO 400 and the next at ISO 2500. Following is another photo I took at ISO 400 in the market next to the cathedral. These are the colors as they came out of the camera. Judge for yourself if the camera is up to the job.

Leica M240 with 18mm Super Elmar at f4, ISO 200, 8 second exposure:

L1005861

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Same shot at ISO 2500, .5 second exposure:

L1005800

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ISO 400, f8, 1.5 second exposure:

L1005882a

Again, none of these have been color corrected. This works fine for me. The Canon would do as good a job but not better and would be harder to carry around. I carry my Leica in a small backpack. I also tried a Sony A7r and it took a great photo but not better than the Leica or Canon and I returned it, mostly because the autofocus was poor and more of a hinderance than a useful feature.

Feb 032014
 

A7R with Canon 17mm TS-E tilt/shift

My/the dream team for architecture:

Sony A7R with Canon 17mm/4 TS-E

By Dierk Topp

First I would like to mention, that I am not a Pro, I take pictures for my own pleasure and sometimes for others.

I bought the Canon 17mm TS-E for use with the ordered Leica M240, but when I got the M240, I sent it back after 2 days. The main reason (besides many others) was, that the focus field in life view was fixed in the center. Using tilt lenses with a focus only in the center of the frame is useless, and for shooting a portrait session, when you want the focus on the eyes is useless with a focus control in the center of the image, and shooting stills from a tripod with a fixed focus field in the center is useless as well.

I ended having no FF body for this lens! So I tried to use the 17mm TS-E with my Leica M9 and the MM and it was no problem. I used the 18mm finder for a rough composition and very often had to do only one or two test shots (no live view!) till I got, what I wanted (you will find two images from the M9 at the bottom).

When then the A7R arrived in October 2013, I discovered a big problem: my Metabones adapter Ver.1 was unusable, it is blocking the edges and the vignetting made it unusable. But I found the info, that the new Metabones Mk. III supports FF and I was very happy, when I got it a few days later and it worked perfect.

Why using a tilt/shift lens?

If you know about tilt/shift lenses, there is not too much to say about shooting this combination.

If not, here is an excellent post on shooting architecture with shift lenses:

Let me quote a few sentences, I hope you don’t mind James?

  • Point your camera up at a tall building. See how the lines of the building converge to the top of the frame? That’s an extreme case of perspective distortion. For a shot like that, sometimes it looks cool. But back up a good bit, zoom out, and try to shoot the entire building. More times than not, you’ll notice the verticals are not perfectly straight. It’s extremely difficult to get it right handholding the camera and trying to guess. That’s because in order to have no perspective distortion, you have to have the capture plane, be it film or digital sensor, parallel and plum with the building.
  • There is a lot of misunderstanding about tilt/shift lenses. Basically, it’s a lens that projects an image circle much larger than the frame it intends to cover. Then, it is allowed to be moved independently of the camera body to anywhere within the projected image circle.

If you are interested in the tilt function of this lens, you find an excellent description here at the site from Keith Cooper:

http://www.northlight-images.co.uk/article_pages/using_tilt.html

Now let the images speak for themselves.

  • images made with f/8 and tripod
  • as the camera is on a tripod, I very often just shoot additional shifted images and have more freedom during PP for stitching
  • very often prefer a different aspect ratio than what I get out of the camera and stitch images by shooting two or three frames with different shifted lens. And very often I shift the lens more than recommended and decide later, if I have to cut the outer (blurred) part of the image. With stitched images there is plenty of resolution for that. But you have to plan that during shooting.
  • if I want to get a wider angle of view and shift up (or down), I use two images with the lens shifted left and right up by 30° or 60°
  • if you have a close foreground and/or have to avoid parallax error with slightly differing images from moving the front lens by the shifting, you can use the special “Canon TSE Tripod Collar” from Hartblei: http://www.hartblei.de/en/canon-tse-collar.htm, this collar is mounted on the front part of the lens and keeps it in exactly the same position, while the rear part of the lens including the camera is being moved for shifting.
  • my post processing: LR 5.3, B&W conversion with Nik Silver Efex PRO2, stitching with PTGui or MS ICE (free for Windows)

The A7R or ILCE-7R with the Cannon 17mm/4 TS-E on Metabones smart adapter III

(I took the pictures with the NEX-6 and Micro Nikkor 85mm/2.8 PC, also a tilt/shift lens, on a Metabone adapter, tilted for more DOF)

the lens on this picture is shifted up for about 9mm, as you can see on the scale on the lens in the middle of it.

The front part of the lens for tilting is not tilted, you can see it on the second picture below.

The Metabones MK III adapter supports the electronic diaphragm and correct EXIF, this lens is manual focus (as all shift lenses) and I could not test the AF support of the adapter.

A7R with Canon 17mm TS-E tilt/shift

A7R with Canon 17mm TS-E tilt/shift

and here are some images made with this fantastic combination:

One shot shift up

A7R with Canon 17mm TS-E tilt/shift

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This one stitched of two shifted images (shift left and right), no HDR, 11.000×5.000 pixel

A7R with Canon 17mm TS-E tilt/shift, stitch of 2 shifted images

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This is a 1:1 crop of this picture

A7R with Canon 17mm TS-E tilt/shift

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Gut Trenthorst

again from two stitched images, but this time the shift was 30° up to the left and right, to get the view upwards

Gut Trenhorst, A7R with Canon 17mm TS-E, stitch of two shifted

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from two shifted images (no HDR, the sensor has no problem with this high contrast!)

Gut Trenhorst, A7R with Canon 17mm TS-E, stitch of two shifted

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Now some pure architecture shots

 This is just a standard shot, lens shifted up

A7R with Canon 17mm TS-E tilt/shift

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HavenCity, Hamburg

Shifted full 12mm up, recommended is 8 to 10mm on the long side, the top of the building is getting blurred!

HafenCity Hamburg

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If the camera is perfectly aligned, buildings tend to look strange, as if the top is getting bigger,

just a bit perspective distortion could look more natural.

HafenCity Hamburg

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Bad Oldeloe, Germany

stitch of two images, shifted down and up

A7R with Canon 17mm TS-E, stitch of shifted images

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Three images, shifted left, center and right

image size 12.000×5.000 pixel

A7R with Canon 17mm TS-E, stitch of shifted images

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… the same, three stitched images

A7R with Canon 17mm TS-E, stitch of shifted images

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and Hamburg, Speicherstadt

Three images shifted, 11.000×5.000 pixel

Speicherstadt Hamburg

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…and two images, shifted up 30° left and right, 9.200×5.000 pixel

Speicherstadt Hamburg

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Last but not least:

You can even use this lens on a range finder. Here are two images made with the Leica M9 with a cheap adapter. I used the 18mm finder on the M9 for rough composition and one or two shots, till I got it right. The M9 has no live view for controlling the image before the shot! And for the electronic aperture you need a trick with an extra Canon body.

 The Marienkirche, Lübeck, Germany

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This is a special combination of shifted lens up on the M9 and rotating the camera on the tripod for much more than 120° view. I shot many very much overlapping images to make sure, that it will work for stitching – and I think it worked :-)

Leica M9 with Canon 17mm TS-E tilt/shift

Thanks for your interest and I hope, you find it informative and useful … and sorry for my English :-)

More images are on my flikr:

Canon 17mm TS-E tilt/shift (including A7R) and the Sony A7R images

thanks and kind regards

dierk

Jan 272014
 

My thoughts about photography-gear

By Henrik Ersgård

It’s a cruel world we live in. We have so many options, so many choices and (some of us) an unlimited budget. Does it ever stop? Will we soon be satisfied?

“The best camera is the one you have with you” When it all comes down, this is the truth. The holy grail!

When I first find my interest in photography I was in school and I was 17 years old. Lessons in what aperture means, shutter times, lenses, ISO etc. At first it was OK. Then it went fun. Then I became obsessed. I bought my first DSLR and the journey began. But the journey has not been easy… I am now a part of a company as a photographer. I do not (yet) work fulltime as a photographer. It’s my side-on living/loving/hobby.

I have switched systems maybe 6 or 7 times. I have lied to myself and talked myself into crazy things. Just because this thing called GAS… From DSLR-(new)DSLR-FUJIX100-DSLR-NEX6-FUJIXE1-DSLR-FUJIX100 & DSLR. I now sit here with my second Fujifilm X100 and a huge DSLR. Do I love photography? Yes. Do I think that it’s fun? Yes and No. Why I say No is because me, myself and I have somehow spoiled the fun because I just want to have new gear all the time. New things, because with new things, there is new possibilities! Or?

I, it’s hard to say “we, are creating own problems that somehow was not there in the first place. Instead of picking up my camera, go out and just shoot and have a lot of fun, I start to wonder instead. Wondering and thinking that maybe if I had that new camera, with those beautiful new lenses (who everybody else has) I would have much more fun and take hundreds of keepers! I’m sorry for disappointing you, but that won’t help. But I admit, I am a sucker for things/gear. Especially photography-gear. It is a wonderful feeling you have when you have purchased something new, something new that you have read all the reviews about, something new that just looks so goddamn good. And it feels so right. A big happy moment! A short big happy moment? There are reviews everywhere. This camera can do all this, but it can’t do that. But hey, this camera can do that, but not all this! Choose this one! When you read it, it’s easy! Then why is it so hard? Truth, choosing photography-gear has sometimes been the worst I have done in my entire 24-year-old-long-life. (a little ironic maybe…) All the talking about APS-C, Full Frame, m4/3. Will you not like my picture if it’s not captured with a Full Frame? That’s too bad. Maybe, I can sell my gear and go Full Frame then!…

I need to get back to scratch. Who am I (just kidding…) Seriously, what do I need? Do I need a really blazing fast camera? Do I need all the available lenses? My father once learned me to think like this in nearly every situation; “What’s the purpose?” Now, it’s very clear to me what he was trying to say.

After spending a lot of hours on your site (such a wonderful place) Steve, I stumbled upon this; http://www.stevehuffphoto.com/2013/10/09/a-vintage-year-with-the-om-d-e-m5-and-e-m1-by-neil-buchan-grant/

Such an amazing article! If you have not read it and looked at the photos, you MUST!

And oh, look! The pictures are captured with a Full Frame… m/43 Olympus OM-D E-M5! In almost every forum, there has been some whispering going on. M4/3 is too small. You can absolutely not get the same results or print bigger then A4 with a small sensor like that. Really? What about the “picture”? The purpose why I use my camera, isn’t that about the picture? The final result? Am I a bad person for choosing a small sensor?

Find yourself a camera that can do what you need to do. Then get a lens that you love, the kind of lens that is mounted on your camera most of the time. Maybe two more lenses, regarding the purpose. Because without those lenses, Its’ hard to get the picture. Right? Why I’m writing this is because that I just need to put it on paper and read it for myself. Maybe there are many of you out there who has gone nearly as insane as I have about cameras/lenses/sensors so that you nearly forgot about that it should be fun to photograph. Smile when you pick up your camera instead of gently picking ut up with rubber-gloves so that it won’t be any scratches on it. If there are scratches, then I may not be able to sell it later when I get a new one!!!… That really sounds terrible. It really does.

I read somewhere about a guy who’s wife was about to have a baby, his camera got hit and it became a noticeable mark on it. Instead of crying out loud (who would do that??) this mark on his camera now reminds him of the day his baby was born. That’s how feelings about photography should be. Like a love story. Because all good things DON’T need to come to an end. And oh, because of my purpose I’m about to settle with a Olympus OM-D E-M5. The size, the quality, the feel. Enough!

Thank you very much Steve!! Your website is Nr.1!

Henrik Ersgård from Sweden

Link to my website/blog; www.hersgardphotography.wordpress.com

breakfast

portrait

sjön

chat

harbor

horse blackandwhite

yellow and blue mindre

tiger mindre

to your love mindre

Curious

 

 

Jan 042014
 

dragan

USER REPORT: 9 Photos, 9 Places, 9 Cameras

By Dragan Arrigler

Recently posted Paris photo by Gianmaria Veronese here reminded me of my own photograph I made from almost the same spot in March 1985. It was my 35 mm b&w film era and 16 years later, in 2001 I started to work with digital cameras. I would like to present a short user report and briefly describe the 9 cameras I used to make 9 very different photos of 9 different places from 1985 to 2013.

1. In 1985 I was a photojournalist and I always carried around a lot of cameras, lenses, etc. Still, my favorite combination was Canon F, 24 mm lens, and Kodak TRI X, while the vast array of other lenses and accessories in my bag waited there “just in case”. In those days I used 24 mm lens for almost everything – landscapes, cityscapes, portraits, etc. It gave me such a broad and dynamic view at the world around me. I preferred contrasty, grainy photos and as a rule my b&w films were slightly underexposed and slightly overdeveloped. I still have one Canon F from 1980. In has been regularly serviced (three times in 33 years) and it works like new.

eiffel_tower

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2. I made the picture of Pontevecchio in Florence in 2001 with Olympus Mju (Stylus) Zoom Wide 80 (I have always loved Olympus cameras for their size and weight). It was automatic 35 mm compact camera with 28-80 mm lens, considered very wide for late ’90, when it was designed. It had autofocus, small LCD frame counter and was waterproof. A perfect travel companion. The camera even displayed some sort of metadata, as can be seen on the lower right side of the photo. The kids on the picture didn’t seem to be interested in the magnificent renaissance architecture around them, and neither was I.

kiss_pontevecchio

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3. My first digital camera was Olympus E-20P, purchased in autumn 2001. Soon after that, in February 2002 I had to do a job on Bonaire, a amall island in the Dutch Caribbean. Digital photography being sort of unexplored territory at the time, I didn’t risk and packed my trusted analog cameras as well. Most of the work was indeed done on 35 mm color slides, but with my new toy I made some charming pictures, too. One of them was a photo of windsurfers in beautiful Jibe City on the eastern coast of the island, where constant trade winds and shallow turquoise Caribbean sea waters make ideal windsurfing spot. I sold E-20P the next year after purchasing my first Canon DSLR, but I still remember its perfect zoom lens 35-140mm f 2,0-2,4 with certain nostalgia.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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4. Canon PowerShot S30 was a terrible camera by today’s standards, but was a precious pocket compact in 2003. I took it along on my trip to Provence that summer. It is fun and more or less safe to make photos with such a small and unobtrusive camera – without using flash, nobody takes you seriously, especially when you work in relatively dark interiors or at night. Café de Nuit in Arles, once beloved Vincent Van Gogh’s motif, was a perfect place to prove this. In postproduction, inspired by master’s paintings, I slightly exaggerated the colors, just like he did in 1888.

Café_de_Nuit

Café_by_Vincent

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5. I was presented Holga for my birthday in 2006. Yes, it is a rickety, cheap plastic Chinese camera. It leaks light, the lens is terrible (60 mm f 8,0 – somewhere between normal and wide-angle lens for 120 film) and it incorporates only one shutter speed which is not defined precisely – it’s probably around 1/60. And B, of course. Exposure demands a lot of guesswork. But it gives you the basic thrill of photography: you can never really tell what you will get. If the predictability of digital photography has begun to bore you, get a Holga. For best results use very old films, expired long ago. And there is more: you will never again feel the urge to invest in digital filters which imitate corny emulsions, cross processing, picture frames, over saturated or washed-out colors, vignetting, as well as dust & scratches. Nothing of this was applied to the photo of the romantic old house in Vrhnika, Slovenia.

house_Vrhnika-

6. Another Canon PowerShot, the A640 was used to photograph silhouettes in a small beach bar on Caribbean island Antigua in 2008. This camera had almost limitless autonomy, because it was powered by four AA batteries and I purchased it prior to a sailing trip where I didn’t expect to have any AC outlets at hand. AA are the most common batteries – you can buy them anywhere in the world. You just have to buy a large (and heavy) stock. Being so dependent on energy is digital cameras’ big disadvantage in comparison to analog ones. For instance, I replaced the battery of my 1980 Canon F maybe three or four times in more than 30 years.

bar_Antigua

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7. Yet, it’s a digital era and small cameras are so expendable. I only had the A640 two years and then I replaced it with the third Canon PowerShot, S90. It is even smaller than A640 and claimed to be better, a great third camera for professionals, with a lot of manual controls. But in terms of picture quality I never really saw a big difference – except that it has very usable wide aperture of f 2,0 at 28 mm (equivalent) zoom setting. The other side of zoom, 105 mm (equivalent) f 4,9 is much sadder story, though. Anyway, this camera was used to make the picture of the biker (luckily dressed in red) sweating uphill on endless winding road in literally and metaphorically breathtaking, exotic, hot, humid, Avatar-like island Reunion in Indian ocean. One final remark on this tiny device: it incorporates optical stabilizer, but being so small and light (just 175 g), it just can not match the stability of big and heavy DSLR cameras with big and heavy lenses.

biker_Reunion

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8. If you like red color, Denmark is one of the countries to travel to. Red is a dominant color in their flag and elsewhere. With a bit of luck and good weather you can make nice geometric pictures like I did in the small port of Struer in north-west part of the country. I used Canon EOS 5D, bought in 2005 (can you imagine that it has already been called “vintage”?) and good old zoom 24-85 mm f 3,5-4,5, designed in 1996. In spite of being almost ancient by today’s standards, it is still one of the best and most durable combinations if you want to travel light.

struer_denmark

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9. Finally, I would like to share some observations regarding Voigtländer Nokton 25 mm f 0,95. Read some tests of this product, e. g. here or here and let me just add this: it’s a fantastic toy, a sheer pleasure, but not in the least easy to use. And more than just a toy, of course. It’s solidly built, it’s big and heavy, heavier than my Olympus E-P3, including EVF and strap. Now just think: a heavy lens plus f 0,95 plus in-camera image stabilisation – a photographer with steady arm and some experience can work in almost total darkness without even having to use high ASA setting. The twilight picture of exotic Lisbon funicular was made handheld with 1/25 s at f 1,4 and ASA 320. And there is even more: it can focus down to approximately 8 centimetres or 3,15 inches which almost makes it a macro lens, too. Unfortunately, it has two drawbacks: manual focus and manual aperture ring. It is difficult to focus it in darkness owing to its extremely shallow depth of field (probably this problem will be solved with the newer cameras incorporating focus peaking). In bright daylight, where circumstances call for smaller f-stop, it’s even more complicated; remember, the aperture is manual and you have to focus at working f-stop. This is not easy even at f 4, and nearly impossible at f 8 or f 11. Of course, it’s 25 mm lens and everything in finder appears to be sharp. Not so later, when you critically observe your masterpiece at 100% magnification on the computer monitor. In short, this lens needs some patience and a lot of practice. If you have no patience or not enough time to practice, go and buy Panasonic’s 20 mm f 1,7 lens. It’s a very good solution, too.

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Conclusion: the point of this user report (and hopefully the pictures) is to inspire the readers to grab whatever camera they have, go out and do with it the best they can. There is absolutely no guarantee that they will make good photos with the best camera and the sharpest lens in the world. But there is a fair chance that their pictures will be widely admired even if they were made with cheap, plastic, outdated three megapixel devices. Just consider: would the photo of Café de Nuit be better, had it been photographed with a good, 36 megapixel camera, like Nikon D800E or even 60 megapixel Hasselblad H5D? Perhaps tehnically; it would be sharper, with more details, the resolution would be substantially bigger. But would it match the atmosphere of Van Gogh’s painting? I don’t think so. Sometimes the photos are about mood, not tehnical quality. Buy any camera, get used to it, then just forget it and focus on the pictures. To quote Don McCullin, the famous war photographer of the 1960s and 1970s: “I only use the camera like I use a toothbrush. It does the job.”

Dragan Arrigler

www.arrigler.com

Jan 032014
 
Puerto Rico, India, Family… 2013 & the Leica M240
By Bob Boyd

Hey Steve,

2013 was a very busy year for me. Lots of work. Lots of travel. We took a family trip to beautiful Puerto Rico in July (our first ever outside the states as a family) and then I had the opportunity to return to India this past fall to document some mission work in the field. I’ve shot both an M and an SLR for the last 5 years but for personal work, it’s almost always the M. I made the decision to jump to the M240 early – mainly because of the ISO limitations of the M9 – and was fortunate enough to get an early copy last spring through my longtime Leica dealer, Ken Hansen.

I thought I would share some of my favorite images from this past year with a brief description.

Here’s to a great 2014 for you and your site!

All the best,

Bob Boyd

www.bobboyd.net

A bay near El Morro, Puerto Rico. (Zeiss 21mm f/2.8)

Bay near El Morro, Puerto Rico

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Paths… (Left) a path of doorways at Fort El Morro and (right) Two brothers walk along the beach at sunset in, Puerto Rico. (50mm Lux ASPH)

Paths...

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Coast Guard boat at sunrise near the ferry for Culebra, Puerto Rico. (35mm Lux ASPH)

Coast Guard at sunrise

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Ocean play at sunset… Isle of Culebra, Puerto Rico (50mm Lux ASPH)

Ocean play at sunset...

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Graffitied Tank… The kids inspect an old rusted out tank on the beach in Culebra, Puerto Rico. (35mm Lux ASPH)

Graffitied tank

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Room with a View… Windows of a watchtower open to a beautiful scenic view in the Puerto Rican rainforest of El Yunque.  (Zeiss 21mm f/2.8)

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Fire in the sky… A firey sunset illuminates the post-rain mist on the mountainsides in Puerto Rico. (50mm Lux ASPH)

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Amritsar, India… A Sikh woman bows in the middle of tourists at the entrance of Harmandir Sahib – the “Golden Temple”. (50mm Lux ASPH)

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A Sikh man and his bike outside Harmandir Sahib in Amritsar. (50mm Lux ASPH)

A Sikh man and his bike outside Harmandir Sahib in Amritsar.

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A Sikh man in Amritsar, India (right) and a Christian woman in Punjab, India (left). (50mm Lux ASPH (l), 90mm Summarit/ISO6400 (r)

Common Differences...

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Indian Corridors… (Left) Golden sunset light pours into a market area in Amritsar, India. (Right) A mother walks her children to the village school bus stop.

(50mm Lux ASPH (l), 90mm Summarit (r))

Indian Corridors...

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A remote village area. Punjab, India (35mm Lux ASPH)

A remote village area. Punjab, India

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Two young boys playing in a village in Punjab, India.
(50mm Lux ASPH)

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An elderly man in a remote village in Pujab, India. (50mm Lux ASPH)

An elderly man in a remote village in Pujab, India.
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Brick Factory A worker hauls new bricks at a brick factory in Punjab, India. (21mm Lux ASPH)

A worker hauls new bricks at a brick factory in Punjab, India.

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Children playing with tire inner tubes along a dirt street in Punjab, India. (35mm Lux ASPH)

Children playing with tire inner tubes along a dirt street in Punjab, India.

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A Mother’s love and pride on display as she holds her child. Punjab, India (21mm Lux ASPH)

Mother and child. Punjab, India

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Two women rest on cots at a home in Punjab, India. (21mm Lux ASPH)

Two women rest on cots at a home in Punjab, India.

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Village street scene. Punjab, India (35mm Lux ASPH)

Village street scene. Punjab, India

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A woman prepares an evening meal in a small hut. Punjab, India (21mm Lux ASPH)

A woman prepares an evening meal in a small hut. Punjab, India

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Market traffic… Punjab, India (21mm Lux ASPH)

Market traffic.  Punjab, India

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I’ll end on one last personal image… My wife visiting her 88 year old grandmother who suffers from Alzheimer’s. (50mm Lux ASPH)

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Nov 222013
 

The Leica C goes to the Holy Land

By Gary Perlmutter

leica c

Readers of Steve’s excellent website will know that I have used and written about a number of cameras including the Fuji X100 and The Nikon V1. These tend to be used mainly for my passion of street photography. At present I am using the Leica M8 which whilst almost an antique in the digital world is still capable of producing stunning results, with the right light and lenses that is. However following the often quoted line’ the best camera is the one you have with you’, there have been times when the M8 gets left at home and guess what I miss some shots. So I set about looking for a truly pocketable camera that could still produce results that wouldn’t leave me wishing I had taken the picture on the M8.

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My short list included the Canon S120 and the amazing Sony RX100. However both lack a viewfinder, which being ‘old school’ I still prefer to hold a camera to my eye, at least as an option. It was at this time that Leica announced the C type 112, which yes I know is a rebranded Panasonic LF1. Although you pay a premium for the red dot, at least it includes a copy of Lightroom 5 and I believe a better warranty? I also prefer the Audi design which comes in two finishes, Champagne or Dark Red. I chose the Dark Red version as being the more subtle for my street photography.

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So why the Leica C? Well its unique I believe for a compact in including a built-in EVF, ok the quality of which is pretty rubbish by todays standards and the view minisucle. However when the sun is too bright for the rear screen at least one has an option. It also boasts built-in Wi-Fi which when used with the free app, Leica Shuttle, available for both Apple and Android devices, allows one not only to transfer your images wirelessly to your phone or iPad (and then share to Facebook etc.) but also operate the camera remotely!

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Other features that I liked include the zoom range which extends from 28mm to 200mm, which beats both the Sony and Canon alternatives hands down. Perfect for travel photography which also happened to be perfect timing for me as I was just about to go on holiday to Israel. At the 28mm end of the zoom range the aperture is a fast f2.0 although this reduces to f5.6 at 200mm.

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I have found noise control to be acceptable to as high as 1600 iso providing one shoots in RAW (or DNG to be precise as this is the native Leica method) and edit subsequently in Lightroom. The autofocus I have found to be really fast and never misses, far better than the Fuji X100 and not far off the NIKON V1.Usually like Steve I use the single focus point method, but I have been trying out the focus tracking which has been superb. It’s by far the easiest I have used and great for tracking people walking towards you . Once locked on where the focus point changes from red to yellow, it works a treat. As for other features, it also sports a lens mounted control ring, like its rivals, but better I find than the Sony in that is has click stops. This ring can be assigned to almost any function that suits you. I tend to use it as an exposure compensation dial. Choice of shutter priority, aperture or full manual as well as the usual auto and program modes.

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So any downsides so far? Well yes I wish it had the larger 1″ sensor that some rivals have for better dynamic range and noise control and that the EVF could have been better. However apart from this, I feel I have now found a camera that truly is always with me when I leave home. No more excuses from me for missing that once in a lifetime photo!

Links: http://stephenbartelsgalleryprints.com/index.php?photographer=89

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

twitter: @gazonthestreet

You can buy the Leica C from Ken Hansen ([email protected]), The Pro Shop, PopFlash.com, Leica Store Miami, Amazon or B&H Photo!

Nov 152013
 

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Yes I Do: The Leica M240 as a wedding photographer’s tool

By Joeri van der Kloet

I have shot a lot of weddings with my M9 and M9P. Actually, buying the M9 after using Canon DSLR’s for almost ten years was a pretty good move. Before that, I only took my DSLR if I could make money with it. Not just because my kit was big and heavy, but also because I lost the fun in it. I remember visiting the Leica Gallery in New York – a year before I bought the M9 – and holding a M8 and looking through the viewfinder. My wife told me that I should try to switch to the rangefinder system, because the small camera would suit my documentary approach perfectly. I told her I couldn’t imagine myself shooting a wedding without autofocus…but I kept thinking about it.

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So now, four years later, I’m one of the few photographers shooting weddings with a rangefinder and I couldn’t be happier. The last four years have been a challenge, because I needed to learn photography again. There have been moments where I wanted to toss my M9 out of the window, but there also have been moments of pure photographical joy. I never spent so much time learning to use a camera before, but I needed to make it work. A wedding is a strange event: it is packed with beautiful moments, but most of these moments last just for a second, or even less. And I need to capture them, without zooms and without autofocus. My approach in wedding photography makes it even harder, because I shoot in a very pure, documentary style – that style justifies the use of a small camera of course – . I never stage any settings, never ask my clients to pose, so I’m completely dependent on real moments to happen. Sometimes, my clients and I visit a place to take some shots, but even then, I just let them do whatever they feel like doing. Usually, they take a walk and I follow them, trying to get the best position for a shot. I don’t ask them to kiss, or hold hands, or go to the good light, I just wait and see what happens. So if there is a quick kiss, or a sensitive moment, I need to get it. On many occasions I get the best shots when the couple walks from the church to their car. They are even less aware of the camera and they are overwhelmed by emotions, which makes it a perfect opportunity for photography.

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A few weeks ago, the bride entered the wedding venue through the back door and on her way she crossed a square with a beautiful rectangular sculpture on it. The light was perfect and I took the shot. I know my clients want these real moments in stead of the staged and posed settings that are more common. It means I really need to be able to focus very fast, also with moving subjects. And after four years, I can say that I’m starting to feel confident about it, although I haven’t even come close to mastering it. Every single wedding is very, very hard work and I’m usually exhausted after a full day of shooting. The biggest difference with a ‘non-documentary’ shooter is that I am never sure what to expect, whereas the more traditional shooter creates his own settings and takes the shots he thinks he need to take.

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Being a documentary photographer means I don’t use flash. Ever. I don’t want my clients and the guests to notice me when I’m working. I’ve covered receptions with my M9’s where the couple was dancing and I was shooting at ISO 2500, at 1.2 at 1/15th of a second. It was so dark that it was hardly possible to see something through the viewfinder. Sometimes I would focus just by muscle memory – that’s why I actually train focussing with my camera every day! – and it always worked out. Not for every image of course, but I always got the shot that I wanted. Still, I was pretty excited when the M240 was announced and reviewers reported about the high ISO capabilities of the new M. I got myself on the list and after some waiting, I was able to get one.

I didn’t need much time of practice with the new M, because it felt just like the M9. A little heavier, beefier, but much more responsive. The shutter appeared to be more silent, maybe not just in the amount of sound, but much more in the type of sound. The M240 doesn’t have the whine the M9 shutter has and the sound is shorter. Also, the feel on the shutter button is much better. With my M9, I used a soft release, but with the M240, it isn’t necessary at all. The only thing I took from my M9 is the thumbs up, because the built in one, just isn’t big enough. With my M9, I never was a machine gun shooter and neither am I with the new M, but it is very nice to have a bigger buffer when you need it. I never use the continuous mode, but sometimes I do take two or three shots in a rapid succession.

Another thing I absolutely love is the new battery. I can shoot on just one for almost a whole day, whereas with the M9, I had to change batteries twice. And I really needed to plan these moments, because you don’t want to change batteries in the middle of the ceremony. With the new M, I don’t need to worry about that.

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I heard a lot of complaints about the M9 screen, but I only used it for checking the histogram every now and then. I don’t need to check focus on my screen. First, because I usually get one chance for each moment and second, I know when I’m out of focus. The new viewfinder is even better than the old one. I don’t know what they changed, but it is somehow easier to focus.

Of course, I laughed about the live view Leica implemented. Who would need that? Well, I’ve learned and now I know there are circumstances where live view is pretty convenient. During dancing I still prefer my rangefinder, because it just works better with all the movement. However, if it is very, very dark and people are standing still, I sometimes use the VF-2, the Olympus one – I’m not a fanboy…- and I find it to work nicely. Yes, there is more shutterlag and it takes ages before the blackout is gone, but I can focus very precisely and with my 50/1.1, it is the only thing that really works. My 35/1.2 is easier to focus, because of the longer focus throw and there is just a tad more tolerance, because of the shorter focal length and the quarter stop slower aperture. When I bought the M240 I thought that I wouldn’t use the 35/1.2 any more, but I have come to like it even more than I already used to. With the new M, the 35/1.2 delivers creamy, lovely bokeh and very nice transitions and very acceptable sharpness. Also, with the new M and the 35/1.2, I can handle the worst light you can imagine. Sometimes I tell my wife that my clients must have known that I gained two extra stops, because they reduced the light with two stops, but usually, I can use faster shutter speeds than I used to. And with people dancing, that can be very convenient. Another good thing is the improved dynamic range. Now that I also switched to Lightroom 5, the difference is really big. Sometimes, the DR is even so big, the image gets a kind of HDR look, which I don’t like. Of course, it’s quite simple to lose some detail in highlights or shadows. It all comes down to taste. At least, with this combination (M240 and LR5) you have a choice.

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Yes, there is a difference between the M9 and M240 files. But you need to process them in a different way. I still love the way the M9 CCD renders and with low ISO, it is almost unbeatable. However, I don’t work for my portfolio, or for pixel peepers. I work for couples that don’t care about CCD’s and CMOS sensors. They do care for a photographer that works with a small camera and doesn’t use flash. With the M240, I can be a little more certain that I can get the shots, no matter the circumstances. And because I pay my mortgage with the money I get from my clients, that seems like a wise decision.

Getting two M240’s was not an option, simply because I’ll need to wait for at least a few months again. My M9, or M9P, features as a backup camera, but one of the new Sony’s might also be interesting, since their high ISO capacities are even better than the M240.

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I wouldn’t have bought the M240 if it wasn’t the tool I need to make a living. I was perfectly happy with the M9 as a camera for travel and general photography. And also for wedding photography. However I knew that I was using it on the limit and that a somewhat more forgiving camera could be a smart investment. On my journey around the world I used the M9’s 160 ISO setting for 99% of the many thousand pictures I took. And I love them. Seriously, if you don’t need the high ISO, you might want to check out the M9, because it might be all you need. Lots has changed in photography and – as I write this – Sony just launched the A7 and A7R for much less than the price of a used M9. If you’re just after technical image quality, this might be your camera. To me, the simple layout of a rangefinder, with everything manual, makes me happy as a photographer. I have owned the M8 for some time, as a backup for my first M9 and even though that camera is ‘technically challenged’, I just loved it, because it isn’t cluttered with buttons and stuff I don’t need or want. Some people say there is no future for rangefinder photography and that the rangefinder mechanism is not suited for fast, demanding photographic assignments. Well, I do shoot dancing people in near dark situations and I need to deliver. I hope my work proves the opposite. If you train enough, you’ll be fast enough. And when the going gets tough, the light gets bad, you’re even faster with a rangefinder…

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I’d lie if I’d say there haven’t been moments of doubt. It’s not without a reason most pro’s use fat and fast DSLR’s. They’re pretty reliable, cheaper and there’s more lenses to choose from. Also, IQ-wise it is hard to beat a modern DSLR. It is however a fact that I have shot quite a lot of assignments – also weddings – because I use this weird little camera. Believe it or not, people hire me to work with it. And in the last four years it has become my trademark. A few weeks ago I was invited at a wedding as a guest and I had a nice conversation with the wedding photographer. He didn’t know my name, but when I told him my business name, he suddenly shouted: “You’re that guy with the Leica!’. More recently, I shot a wedding for a Dutch film maker. He also owns a M9 and he really wanted me to get my documentary shots of his wedding. During the reception I managed to get very close to all the people dancing and take my shots without flash. Afterwards, the couple was very happy with the results. And when I read all these kind words and see the pictures I get with my M, I have no doubt. In the world of wedding photography, competition is fierce and working with the M and shooting my pure, documentary style, makes me stand out the crowd. And the fact is: my business is still growing.

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I have started with one on one teaching in the Netherlands where I teach Leica users to focus their lenses faster. I’m still working on a tutorial that I hopefully will finish this year. It is a very practical book with many exercises to improve your focussing, without too much technical details. I’ll let Steve know when it’s finished. He might be interested in a review…

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