Mar 022015
 

Travel Photography with Medium Format Color Film

By: Logan Norton

www.seeingthelightworkshops.com

As someone who has done quite a bit of photography oriented travel, I have experimented with many different gear configurations in search of the most suitable solution for my travel needs. I have found that using medium format (120/220) color negative film (c-41) offers me the most versatility while ensuring that I can achieve the “look” that I desire. I know that many of you will probably have serious doubts about the practicality/convenience/wisdom of this choice, but I can assure you that I have tried just about every other format and, for me, this is the one that fits the best.

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Knowing that the digital vs. film debate will inevitably arise from this post is, I would like to address that a little before we get any further. This is not meant to be an endorsement of film over digital. I don’t believe there is a universal truth that one format is better than the other. They are both tools with advantages and disadvantages and the beautiful thing is that they both exist. You have a choice as to how you will achieve the goals you seek through the use of one or the other, or both. I have taken a Nikon D800 and a Think Tank bag full of lenses on a two week Costa Rica trip. I’ve spent a week shooting in Austin, TX with a Fuji X100s and I took a Leica M9 and a 1950’s 50mm summicron on a roadtrip up the west coast for two weeks. Recently I spent a couple weekends in San Francisco with nothing but a Leica MM Monochrom and a 35mm cron and these days, the majority of my shooting is done with a Leica M2 loaded with Kodak 400tx and an older 35mm summicron – a setup that I love for its simplicity.

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The point I am trying to make here is that I have enjoyed an assortment of equipment configurations, both film and digital, and I have been able to create wonderful images with each, despite that fact that all of them have unique challenges. Anytime you seek to find the most appropriate tool for a specific job you have to weigh the negatives against the positives for each option. I spent quite a bit of time doing just that before a recent trip to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. I wanted to simplify my travel setup; I didn’t want to carry multiple cameras with different film format, battery or memory card needs. I wanted something that would not distract me from enjoying the process of traveling and photographing.

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The first question was film vs digital. I realized that I didn’t want to be tempted to spend my evenings poring over the thousands of images I had downloaded into my computer, or to spend my lunches thumbing through pictures on my camera screen. It was important to me that I enjoy the experience of traveling while also taking pictures, rather than being preoccupied with the pictures I was taking on my travels. I also knew that I didn’t want to be reliant on batteries as I often spend long days shooting without any opportunity for charging. Another consideration was that a huge amount of travel photography occurs during the brightest part of the day in very changeable light conditions. Film is able to handle these changes more consistently and pleasingly than any digital format I have experimented with. The latitude that film allows, along with its ability to smoothly control transitions between shadows, mid-tones and highlights makes it a more effective tool for mid-day shooting, in my opinion. I also considered the difference in the way I work with film as opposed to digital. With digital I have a tendency to shoot everything knowing that I have virtually unlimited capacity for recording.

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When I’m using film, however, I find my process slows substantially. I search each setting/situation for the right moment, knowing that my shots are limited. I find that film forces me to really get into each moment and to stay there longer, something that I find incredibly important when I travel. In the end, these considerations led me to choose film as the medium for my travel photography needs.

Next I had to settle on the format. 35mm would allow for smaller, lighter gear and many more shots per roll. Medium format would give me incredible dynamic range, detail and latitude while forcing me to be extremely critical while shooting. In the end, the technical advantages of the medium format option won out over the convenience of 35mm. I knew it was going to be medium format film, and because I was going to the amazingly colorful town of San Miguel I knew I wanted color film. I chose to bring Kodak Portra 400 as my only film stock as it affords exceptionally smooth renderings at low iso while also providing excellent push-ability, fantastic highlight retention (imperative for the bright Mexican sun), and great colors. It also translates very well to black and white Continuing my theme of keeping things simple, I chose a Fuji GW670ii rangefinder camera for the trip. These “texas leicas” are all mechanical so there was no battery life to worry about. Since rangefinder cameras are mirrorless, they are nearly silent in operation and they allow the user to utilize slower shutter speeds with less vibration than slr cameras. These cameras all feature a fixed 90mm Fujinon lens that is incredibly sharp with fantastic bokeh characteristics and color rendition.

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Armed with my newly simplified kit I headed off to San Miguel de Allende for 12 days of exploration and shooting. I would be lying if I said I didn’t immediately question my decision upon leaving the rest of my gear behind, but after the first day I was convinced I had made the right choice. The Portra performed as well as I’d hoped in capturing the beautiful colonial architecture and brightly colored haciendas of San Miguel. When shooting in the mid-day sun I was able to rate it at 100 iso without any need to pull the processing when I got home (which was critical while using the Fuji which has a top shutter speed of 1/500) and it produced amazing results pushed as high as 6400 iso at I spent countless hours walking San Miguel’s beautiful cobblestone streets, sampling the local cuisine, meeting locals, and capturing amazing images. I found it to be one of the most welcoming and warm environments for travel that I have ever experienced. My days were spent exploring the magnificent el Charco del Ingenio Botanical Gardens; the el Tianguis Tuesday Market, a huge bazaar that features a little bit of everything; and the central square known as El Jardin that sits right next to the beautiful Parroquia de San Miguel Arcangel cathedral, the main architectural landmark of the city. During my trip I was privileged to witness two daylong celebrations in and around this immaculately maintained square, as well as a traditional Mexican wedding at the church. These events provided further insight into Mexican culture and afforded me some amazing photographic opportunities.

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Spread around the city are a number of other spectacular cathedrals, as well as a number of other squares where people gather. I could not help but fall in love with the uniqueness and beauty of the city and its people; and I returned home with 53 rolls of film filled with amazing memories from my time there. I cannot wait for Ultimately I was incredibly happy with my decision to simplify my travel photography setup. I believe that the careful process of selecting the right tools afforded me the ability to be in the moment more during this trip than any other before it.

Feb 272015
 

Back to Sony after 30 years away and why the RX10 works for me

By Chris Lamle

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What? I hear you cry… but Sony didn’t make cameras 30 years ago! It’s true, they didn’t, but way back when I was an graphic design student I had 2nd hand Minolta XG-7 (see the Sony connection?), upon which I cut my photographic teeth and learned the basics of taking photographs as well as processing and printing the images.

Fast forward a few years and there’s marriage and kids. The Minolta has long since died and I ditch my wifes’s Canon AE-1 for a Pentax compact (what was I thinking!). Sacriledge I know, but I was looking for something easier and simpler to use and that had autofocus and a zoom. I guess I was a lazy photographer.

Fast forward a few more years and a succession of film compacts, an early Minolta Dimage bridge camera (Sony again!!!), various other digital compacts and a Fuji bridge camera. All were pretty convenient and took, to my eyes at the time, pretty ok snapshots.

I had always enjoyed taking photographs but never considered myself an enthusiast and had only minimal knowledge of such basics as ISO, noise, sensor size and suchlike. I just stuck the camera in ‘P’ and hoped for the best.

It was only after briefly using a friend’s Nikon D90 that I realised that I was missing something. Well a lot really… like rich colours, image detail, bokeh, low light performance, a decent viewfinder. You name it.

So I decided that I would take my photography more seriously and started reading up. And boy did I read… magazines, websites, online reviews, offline reviews, watched video reviews and became immersed in everything to do with photography and cameras, to understand what I was missing.

So what was I looking for in a camera (in no particular order)?

Image quality
Convenience
Versatility
Usability
Quality
Shooting experience

What I didn’t want:

Bulk
Weight
Faffing about

After what seemed like months of research I came within a hairs breadth of getting a E-M5. And probably would not have regretted buying it. Then a friend mentioned the RX10. This, he said, was the Holy Grail for what I was looking for.

So I read up all I could on the RX10, including Steve’s review here. And took the plunge. A big deal for me, especially as I paid launch price for it. That was 4 times more than I’d EVER spent on a camera in my life.

The Basics:

I won’t detail full specs here as there are plenty of online reviews that go into much greater detail. For those unfamiliar with the RX10, it is basically the RX100’s big brother. The headline features are the same 1” 20Mp sensor as the RX100, but paired with a constant F2.8 Zeiss 24-200 equivalent zoom.

So why does the RX10 work for me?
Convenience.
Just 1 camera for stills and video. 1 fixed lens for pretty much all the situations that I like to shoot, whether it be portraits, street photography, landscapes, architecture. It’s reasonably compact, especially given the extra lenses you’d need to bring along from a comparable ILC system. And then there’d be the tiresome bother of changing lenses. Some people argue that the electronic zoom is slow. And it is, compared to a manual zoom. But people forget that while you’re changing out your 24-70mm for a 70-200mm, you’ve just missed the shot that I just got. And the zoom, in video mode, is pretty much silent.

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Versatility.

It’s the Swiss Army Knife or Gerber Multitool of cameras. Excellent at lots of things and just really handy to have around… need more reach and better quality than a compact? Yep. Want better video than an E-M5? Yep. Full manual controls like a full sized DSLR? Yep. Good EVF so you can shoot in bright sunshine, or because your eyesight is so poor you can’t see an LCD screen without glasses? Yep. It can’t take stones out of horses hooves, but there’s not much it isn’t capable of tackling… high speed sports and wildlife excepted.

Usability.

The RX10 scores really well here. Buttons and controls are numerous and customisable. I particularly like the aperture ring on the lens and the dedicated exposure compensation dial. Combine these with the function buttons and dials and I can easily change camera parameters without taking my eye from the viewfinder or delving into menus. And the camera isn’t overloaded with buttons.

The Sony menus seem intuitive and easy to navigate. Plus there is a Fn button that brings up a customisable view of functions that you can change quickly – like metering, drive mode, special effect, ISO, ND filter on/off. Nice.

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Quality.

I’ll divide this into build quality and image quality. Build quality is superb, as to be expected from a camera at this launch price. But it’s a really great feeling piece of kit. It features a magnesium body overlaid with high grade plastics. The Panasonic GH series cameras and entry level DSLRs are like plastic toys in comparison. The lens is a precision engineered chunk of glass and metal befitting its Zeiss badge, with the electronic zoom and aperture ring feeling very slick. The peripheral dials and buttons have that ‘hewn from solid’ feel that you know will last.

Image quality.

The pairing of Sony’s excellent 1” sensor and 24-200 Zeiss lens make a winning combination. The lens is sharp and produces punchy images. I shoot a mix of Raw and JPEG. I find the JPEG processing, although a little mushy when you’re pixel peeping, is more than adequate if I’m taking photos at a social event where the images are only going on Facebook. For landscape shoots or when I want to control the final image more, I’ll shoot RAW. There’s more noise than you would get from a bigger sensor, obviously, but at the A3 sizes I print it’s fine for me. I reckon I can recover plenty of shadow detail from Raw images – see sample of the Cabo Sao Vicente – Europe’s most south westerly point.

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I’ve also included (shock horror on Steve Huff Photo) images of a brick wall!!! I know this isn’t meant to be a hugely technical review and my comparison isn’t hugely scientific or methodical, but shows how how the RX10 stacks up against an APSC camera (in the shape of an EOS M) at ISO 200 and ISO 1600, all SOOC JPEGs. There’s a smidge more noise at 1600, but damn this 1” sensor stacks up well given it’s half the size. The image from the RX10 is actually punchier and more contrasty to boot.

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Shooting Experience

So it may have all these great features, but what’s it like to shoot with? The size is more traditional DSLR than an M4/3 system, but then it does come with a 24-200 F2.8 lens built-in. To to add that range onto a DSLR or even an M4/3 body will add more weight combined, than the RX10 alone. At around 800 grams it feels comfortable to use all day. It doesn’t drag on my neck and neither does it feel heavy to hold for long periods. The grip is a good size and feels nice and comfortable in the hand. Well my hand anyway. The dials and buttons all feel ‘right’ and in the right place. The buttons actuate precisely without any sponginess, ditto the dials which I’ve never had accidentally shift to another setting.

Being a mirrorless camera it has an EVF. Not as bright as an OVF, but good enough for me, and even better than an OVF in low light. The live view is brilliant for getting a more realistic idea of what your image will turn out. Subtle adjustments to aperture and the EV compensation and you can instantly see changes to exposure and/or depth of field. All without taking your eye away from the scene in the viewfinder.

Autofocus speed is good. Maybe it’s not as snappy as an E M5 or an A6000, but it’s good. I rarely find myself thinking ‘just bloody focus will you’. The only times have been at the tele end in low light and low contrast.

There’s also the option of the excellent manual focusing, which you can use with focus enlargement or focus peaking. I haven’t really got the hang of focus peaking yet, either that or it doesn’t work for stills. It never seems to be in quite in focus using this method. Maybe there’s a technique I’ve missed.

Tracking focus is another story. But then this camera is not really aimed at sports or wildlife, which probably includes kids and dogs. You need to take a different approach to this type of shooting, either using zone focusing or presetting a focus point, which I used in the pool shot.

So what do I think it’s good for?
Landscapes. Good dynamic range and an excellent focal length range means it’s great for anything from stunning wide vistas to detail shots, both inside and out.

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Street shooting: the near silent shutter is a bonus, but the fact it looks more like a DSLR and the size make it a little more obvious and intrusive. But, again, the focal range means you can be switching between views and grabbing open street scenes or more intimate moments

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Portraits: subject isolation is possible at its widest aperture and a longer focal length.

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Events and social gatherings: the zoom range and wide aperture makes it great for capturing people at social events. Again the near silent shutter is great here.

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What it’s not so great for:

Basically anything requiring 200mm+ reach is out.
Fast moving subjects using tracking focus
Fitting in your pocket. This is strictly a bag only cam.
If you want ultimate low noise high ISO image quality

A few more images..

All the images have all been taken over the last year and have mainly been taken in Spain, in and around a small town in Andalucia called Olvera. Others are from my home in West Yorkshire and from a short trip to Portugal. It’s a mixed bag as you can see, with a bit of everything from food photography for a local bar, to friends and family, people and places. Sharp eyed Game of Thrones fans may even spot Missandei (actress Nathalie Emmanuel) when we did a spot of papparazzi as the show was being filmed in our neck of the woods in Spain.

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Downsides

OK, so there are some. It’s size does mean it’s not at all pocketable. So maybe I’ll get an RX100 one day as a companion. Ideal for simply popping in a shirt pocket. Battery life is barely a day. Typical for a mirrorless camera I guess. But batteries are cheap enough that it’s not an issue. The switch that alternates the clicky/clickless option on the aperture ring is prone to be activated accidentally. Again, it’s a nitpick really. You need to remember to pull the LCD screen away from the camera before mounting on a tripod, as it won’t slide out otherwise. Not sure if the focus peaking actually works properly, or whether it’s just me. The screen isn’t fully articulated, where I guess most videomeisters would prefer it was.

Conclusions

A great travel and family camera in a moderately compact form. It offers a real step up in quality from a standard P&S, and is not that far behind M4/3 and APSc. For many people it’s literally all the camera they could ever need. No need to bother with lens swapping, no need for a separate video camera. Just get it out and start taking great pictures. Yet it also enables advanced users the option to get fully creative with the manual controls, which are all to hand like a ‘proper’ camera. It’s great for both stills and video.

Talking of video… why no mention of it. Well (cough, shuffles feet), I’ve barely done any. The few clips I’ve done look excellent to me, but I’ve hardly scratched the surface of what it does video-wise. But it’s nice to know it’s very capable, should I get the urge to create a movie sometime. Despite the lack of 4K video it offers serious pro-level features, like a clickless aperture ring. silent zoom, headphone socket, no line skipping full sensor readout.

At the price I paid I thought it was a great all-in-one camera. At its current price of around £650 in the UK, it’s a positive steal.

Hope you enjoyed the review, and the pics.

Thanks Steve.

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B&H Photo has the RX10 for $999 – See Steve’s original RX10 Review HERE.

Feb 172015
 

Another photographer’s 365 project.

By Hilmar Buch

I can hear you guys sighing… but please keeping reading.

As many other photographers I decided to do a 365 project which for me meant to take a photo every single day throughout the entire year of 2013. Yes, we are talking 2013. It’s only a few days ago that I eventually finished off this project. Of course, I took all the photos in 2013 but editing and processing my images took until this time of year (February 2015).

01 January Binoculars

Apart from some wedding jobs I love to do as the primary shooter for friends and colleagues I am not a professional photographer. Thus, carrying out a 365 days photo project forced me to cope with the normal workload in my regular job as well as to convince myself to look for photo opportunities regardless of whether I felt tired or unmotivated. And I can tell you that this happened rather often.

For example, my girlfriend and I did some extensive traveling in 2013 to Namibia (see my earlier report on Steve’s website HERE.  Also Portugal HERE. As easy as it is to go with the flow on your vacation and feel inspired by the people you meet and the landscapes you see, the difficult it is to withstand the creative gap after being back home. If you have a look at the photos I took the days right after returning home, you can clearly see how bad these photos are because I did not feel inspired at all.

02 February Travelling across the universe

Or imagine your regular work day that sometimes can be really challenging. Feeling extremely exhausted when leaving the office in the cold dark winter night makes it hard to feel motivated to find a great photo opportunity, in particular if you only want to get home as fast as possible or have other personal obligations to meet. Taking a decent photo under these circumstances is not easy and a few times I felt like stopping my photo project from one day to another.

03 March Munich in the 1960s

These are the bad feeling that naturally arose but I do not want to complain at all as I enjoyed doing what I did! I did not give up.

I did the project just for myself in order to progress and to work with continuity on my photography skills. It definitely paid off I find. Although I do not know whether I got any better in the course of 2013 I can say that going out and just doing it yielded some photos I would never have gotten if I had not taken the effort to try. Without carrying out the project I would have taken far less photos and I would not have carried the camera with me almost all the time (I rather wore the camera than just took it with me…).

04 April Crane Stories - old vs new

05 Mai The silhouette

And often when I had no desire to shoot and when I was sure I would not enjoy it I was rewarded big time. My mood changed while I was taking photos and sometimes I met interesting people or found interesting places I would never have seen if I had stayed at home. So this was something I learned. By hindsight this experience means more to me than improving my photography skills although the latter were the primary reason for getting me started.

07 July Untouchable

09 September Street portrait

10 Oktober Lisboa you love or hate it

When I have a look at my photos these days, I am of course not content with every photo I took. Most of the photos are not special and just depict everyday life. But that is absolutely alright with me. I must not forget that for an entire year I got off my backside every single day and tried to capture something. The project is not about the single image but about my feelings, my challenge for power of endurance and me trying to do the best under the specific conditions.

06 June No standing

As I cannot show off all the photos I took in 2013, I chose one picture per month. If you want to have a look at the entire project, please follow the link to my website which can be found here:
http://hilminson.com/album/threesixfive-13?p=1

Cheers,
Hilmar

Feb 022015
 

Four steps in Milan, with the Leica M-E

by Bruno Taraffo

Hi Steve, hello everybody!

I’m an Italian man 38 years old regularly reading your beautiful site and, about a year ago, I decided to make myself a gift: a brand new Leica M-E!!

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That’s what I call “Love at first sight”, since I simply cannot imagine a more sensual object to take pictures…

I’m not the kind of guy walking around with tripod and filters shooting at silky waters; I like real life and I just try to catch its shades with my own gear and sensibility.

I’m a huge fan of italian photographer Gianni Berengo Gardin and, of course, I go mad for black and white. Nevertheless, since I know life is in colors, sometimes I give them the chance to stay in my pictures…

Recently I spent a few days in Milan in good company: my wife, my Leica and a 35 Summicron Asph, and here you have the results…

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I really hope you enjoy my shots and, if you have the time, give a look at my Flickr profile as “Bruno Taraffo”

Best regards, Steve!

Bruno

Jan 162015
 

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Kolkata India – Shooting the streets and smiles

by Mark Seymour – His website is HERE

My photography travels have taken me to some of the most beautiful, interesting and diverse locations but I can honestly say this was unknown territory for me and before I left I really didn’t know what to expect. The little knowledge I had of India from its unique colour and spices to its religious and cultural heritage, the ornately carved temples to the lush landscapes, the fabulous history of the maharajahs to the well broadcast poverty, did not prepare me for what I was going to experience. Kolkata, once known to the English traveller as Calcutta, it is the capital city of the Indian state of West Bengal. Kolkata is the principal commercial, cultural, and educational centre of East India and is the third most populous area in India.

My opportunity to photograph the streets and people of Kolkata came from the Hope foundation and professional photographer Mark Carey who regularly runs a week-long training workshop that in addition to providing photographers like myself the most amazing opportunity to build their personal portfolios, but also enables the Hope Foundation to raise some important funding and their profile for their valuable work with the local children.

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Over 250,000 children are forced to exist on the streets and in the slums of Kolkata. 30,000 children are trafficked into Kolkata on an annual basis to be forced into child prostitution, child labour and child slavery. The Hope Foundation was established in 1999 by Irish Humanitarian Maureen Forrest to help these children.They provide support to over 60 projects including education, primary healthcare, child protection, children’s shelters, vocational training and drugs rehabilitation. HOPE has extended its support and now provides a holistic approach to development which includes working with the children, their families and the community in Kolkata.

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Joining four other photographers we prepared ourselves as much we could before heading out onto the streets and slums that form the living areas of the local people. I can honestly say that what confronted me was challenging and life changing. But what struck me most and what I believe I captured was the spirit of the adults and children as they lived their lives, photographing everyday moments. For me the power of the images was in the expressions on their faces, there was so much joy and laughter in such difficult circumstances.

Initially they were curious and taken aback by our presence as we wandered in and out taking photographs, but they relaxed and engaged with our cameras, smiling and welcoming us into their world. I can honestly say these people touched me in a way I was not expecting. Their sense of pride and joy was humbling.

Whilst we were there we were invited to a special event put on by Hope, a picnic for some of the projects they fund. They ate, drank, played games and enjoyed colouring activities.

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I predominantly photograph my street images in black and white, but colour is an important element of visually recording India. My photos captured the very young through to the very old, living, working and getting on with their daily lives. My favourite images are of the children at play, just like children all around the world, enjoying climbing, exploring and making up their own games. The difference was in where they were found playing, not play parks and gardens, instead railway lines and amongst the confined spaces between the homes and make-shift buildings.

I travelled all the time with my Nikon D4s and two lenses The Nikkor 35mm F1.4 and the 28 1.4 although some days I alternated with the 35 and old but superb manual focus Nikkor 58 1.2. All the shots were handheld, the light was generally really good however it got dark quite early which is where the Nikon D4s really coped well as I quite often upped the ISO to 8000 to let me continue shooting without flash. I’m a great believer that it’s not about the size of the camera more about how you conduct yourself, how you move around and communicate that gets you the best images.

For me I can say that with all my heart I will be returning to India and extending my experiences of this beautiful land of extremes.

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Jan 122015
 

My Fuji X100T Experience

by Vasu Jagannathan

Hi Steve,

Here is my User Report on the Fujifilm X100T digital camera.

My X100T is black. It is beautiful to behold and, as befits a Compact, it is easily carried in the hand. But, as I did not find the grip to be super comfortable while shooting, I will be attaching Fujifilm’s MHG-X100 handgrip in the near future. Since that’s my only real caveat one can guess that I really like this camera!

I took it out just one day after receiving it without making any prior practice shots. As I’m one of those who never had either one of the preceding X100 or X100S cameras in the series, it says a lot for the X100T that I was able to get comfortable with it within the space of a single photo shooting session. Just by way of background, the X100T is a 23 mm (or a 35 mm EFOV) fixed-lens camera with an APS-C sized XTrans II sensor packed inside a compact body.

Picture 1 - Entrance National Gallery of Art 12 Dec 2014-DSCF0002

 

In taking the pictures shown here, I used Aperture Priority, changing the f values as needed. I also used the Auto ISO option with the range 200 to 6400. For Metering I chose the Spot option and Focus was Auto. In order to feel out the camera’s performance, I shot some pictures wide open at f/2.0 (see Pictures 3 to 6), pushed the ISO to 1600 (see Picture 5), and fired off handheld at 1/40s (see Pictures 2, 4 and 5).

 

I also switched in the built-in Neutral Density Filter for Pictures 7 and 11. All pictures were shot in Raw Mode and converted to Jpeg in Adobe LR 5. One small point. When it comes to those Fujifilm cameras that use a XTrans digital sensor, I am really not sure whether Adobe LR is really the best thing to use for demosaicing the XTrans Raw files. I haven’t yet explored using other software such as Iridient which may be more optimal for Xtrans. I believe that aspect should be taken into account when looking at the color rendering in these pictures.

By way of background information, the attached pictures were taken in Washington DC – some inside the National Gallery of Art where the use of Flash is prohibited – and some outside. I am not going to describe every picture word by word as that would be boring. Rather, I would like to point to certain aspects of some of the images that speak to the performance capabilities of the X100T camera.

Pictures 2 through 6 were taken inside the Gallery where the light is subdued mostly for the sake of preserving the paintings. More specifically, Picture 2 was a bit challenging for the X100T because it was shot in a dark tunnel between two wings of the Gallery with myriads of small decorative type of lights that went on and off.

Picture 2 – 1/40ths

 

Picture 2 - Connecting Tunnel National Gallery of Art 12 Dec 2014-DSCF0003

I must have gotten this one in the full-on cycle. The ISO was 1250. Even so, the camera took this in stride at a shutter speed of 1/40s.

Below – Pictures 3, 4 and 5

Picture 3 - Inside The National Gallery of Art 12 Dec 2014-DSCF0006

Picture 4 - Inside The National Gallery of Art 12 Dec 2014-DSCF0007

Picture 5 - Inside The National Gallery of Art 12 Dec 2014-DSCF0009

 

Picture 6 which shows the original Little Dancer sculpture by Degas currently on exhibit here.

Picture 6 - The Little Dancer by Degas in The National Gallery of Art 12 Dec 2014-DSCF0010

The lens was held wide open at f/2.0. Among other things, I think the X100T nicely captured the Dancer’s reflections in the surrounding transparent box. All in all, the light and shadow aspects seemed to be well-handled by X100T in these indoor set of pictures.

Stepping outdoors, Picture 7 was taken in sunlight so bright that I decided to trigger the built-in Neutral Density Filter for this one.

Picture 7, ND filter engaged.

 

Picture 7 - Fountain outside The National Gallery of Art 12 Dec 2014-DSCF0014

Additionally, I shot this one with a shutter speed of 1/2500s just so I could freeze the motion of the fountain’s water jets. In this situation, the X100T set the Auto ISO to 850 and captured a good quality image. In all these pictures, the actual exposure values used in developing the Raw via Adobe LR 5 are of course very subjective, being my personal choices. Someone else may have developed the light and shadow differently but I believe that the intrinsic quality of the image produced by the X100T would still have been just as good.

Pictures 8, 9, and 10

Picture 8 - Pennsylvania Avenue Washington DC 12 Dec 2014-DSCF0015

Picture 9 - The Capitol Washington DC 12 Dec 2014-DSCF0018

Picture 10 - The Supreme Court Washington DC 12 Dec 2014-DSCF0021

 

Picture 11 was a challenge for the X100T due to a great contrast in light (the flaring sunlit cloud) and deep shade (the Library of Congress’ Jefferson building).

Picture 11 – f/16

 

Picture 11 - The Library of Congress Jefferson Building Washington DC 12 Dec 2014-DSCF0022

I switched on the built-in Neutral Density Filter for this one and stopped down the aperture to its smallest f/16 value. I hope the picture is suitably dramatic as well showing a nice performance by X100T. The inspiration for the last picture, Picture 12, was the interesting cloud hovering over Union Station.

Picture 12

 

Picture 12 - Union Station Washington DC 12 Dec 2014-DSCF0024

It’s the kind of situation where a Compact like X100T comes perfectly to hand and the fact that it has a large APS-C sized sensor gives one the confidence that you can pull off a good shot with a decent workable dynamic range in the Raw file. To finish up, I believe that this camera will not substitute for a top notch full frame DSLR or a Leica M Rangefinder in situations where that type of camera is needed. But what the X100T does, it does well. While it is not a pocket camera like the Ricoh GR, still it is easily carried in one hand or in a briefcase or messenger bag.

Its greatest asset, perhaps, is that someday when you are out there and see something so totally photoworthy that it would be a shame to depend on a cell phone camera with all its inherent limitations, then out comes your X100T and, then and there, you will be able to capture a high quality image that is all yours to savor at your leisure. Yes, from that perspective at least, this camera is a keeper.

You can purchase the X100T at Amazon HERE or B&H Photo HERE OR PopFlash.com HERE

The new Thumbs up is now available for the X100T as well, HERE.

Jan 082015
 

Me and my Fuji X100 (original)

by Jonas Luis

Hi, Steve!

I have followed your website for several years, now. I always look forward to new entries especially new reviews and daily inspirations submitted by photographers all over the world.

I started photography 8 years ago and was primarily a Nikon user. Then, came the Fujifilm X100. I just fell in love with the design of that camera. It reminded me of my Dad’s Kodak Retinette. So, I pre-ordered it and read all the online previews and rumors. I kept on waiting, even after production halted in the Fujifilm factory in Sendai, Japan due to the devastating earthquake and tsunami. After almost a year of waiting, I finally received my order. I wanted to use the X100 as my travel camera, not just as my primary travel camera, but my only travel camera. Of course, I had to contend with the built-in lens. I thought having a single lens would be liberating (if you have a DSLR with multiple lenses, you know the mental anguish of choosing which lenses to bring, packing, etc.) I sold all my other Nikon DSLRs but one, and traveled with my little X100. I also put-up a group pool in Flickr called X100rumors for users of the X100 camera and its future variants. Yes, coming from DSLRs, the X100 was frustrating initially: back-focusing issues, useless manual focus, camera freezing up, etc. (all of which were vastly improved and solved by firmware updates). Still, instead of traveling with an entire system, I now travel with “a camera”. In the beginning, the limitation of having a single lens bothered me. Soon after, it became a personal challenge to obtain the best image I can with that single focal length.

Before I took photography as a hobby, I usually buy souvenirs from my travels. Now, traveling with a camera, I am more inspired to bring home photographs of a place – photographs that I could truly call my own. Before traveling to a particular place for the first time, I would Google images of that specific place – trying to see note-worthy attractions, what tourists usually photograph. Then, I would choose which attractions to photograph, and imagine how I would shoot it in a way that probably nobody has ever done before (or at least not shown in Google images, Flickr or 500px). I usually take note of the predicted sunrise, sunset and weather on each day during my travel. As you all know, aside from the Golden Hour, a lot of exquisite images can also be taken in the rain. The following images were taken by my little X100 throughout the years. They were all re-sized for this website in Lightroom.

This first image was taken when I first saw the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. I noticed that the other tourists had their cameras with zoom lenses and camera phones aimed only at the bridge. I soon spotted these array of coin-operated binoculars just in a corner, seemingly neglected – seating there while time and technology just whizzed by. They were probably fascinating and a novelty during their time, but now, just a relic. Yes, I was more enchanted by these shiny binoculars than the enormous man-made achievement that everybody flocked here for. I took a photograph of the binoculars, edited the image with Fujifilm’s free SilkyPix software and a free open-source software, Gimp. I ended up calling this piece, “The Old Robot”.

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Image number two: my girlfriend and I traveled to Chicago. I wanted to have a souvenir photograph of the “Cloud Gate” like everyone else who has been there. If you Google it, you would know that this piece of art has been photographed a million times. So, I decided to have our souvenirs by putting my X100 in a Tamrac Zip-shot tripod, attached an infrared filter and with a couple of Cokin neutral-density filters to the lens. I then set the camera on long-exposure. My girlfriend and I took turns photographing each other. The shots were very long exposures, so we would take a comfortable pose while the one photographing would continually wave his or her hand like a conductor in an orchestra – letting the other know that the shutter is still open and for not to move. The image was converted to black and white and edited in Lightroom.

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The third image is a photograph of the Smithsonian garden in Washington, DC using the same tripod and infrared filter. I was carefully composing my shot one afternoon, when a gentleman just sat down on the bench at middle of my frame and unmindfuly read the day’s newspaper. Irritation turned to inspiration when I started seeing the results on my X100’s LCD screen. To me, the resulting image just exuded leisure and relaxation. My office and I ended up gifting a framed print of it to a co-worker who recently retired.

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This photograph of the beach, was taken in Cancun, Mexico. I was initially drawn by the red color of the floaters. Up close, I was amused to see a beer bottle under the lifeguards’ tall chair. Looks like they had a little “refreshment” while at work. To me, the image says, “Chill out! You’re on vacation! You are not in the USA!”. This was edited in Lightroom.

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The fourth image was taken in Richmond, Virginia. While gazing up the monuments and buildings, it reminded me of the architecture in the Eastern Bloc during the cold-war era. So, I edited this image to have a utopian look in Lightroom.

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My foray into street photography is pretty limited. Unlike other photographers, it is hard for me to find something to photograph on the street, that to me, seems worth-while. Maybe, I don’t have an eye for real street photography, or maybe, because of my little experience with a film camera as a child, that I try not to waste a photograph unless I see a potential story in the picture. In my mind, I keep on judging a potential photograph as just a regular snapshot, or a potential story that is worth telling. In this case, my girlfriend and I were crossing the street in Chicago, after a late dinner. I saw this cyclist coming towards us. It was close to midnight, it was cold, it was raining and I thought, “Why is this guy out here on such a miserable night? Is he going home? Going to see his lady, perhaps?” Granted, he could just be a regular commuter but I can’t sometimes help making up crazy stories like these. So, without thinking, I just stopped in the middle of the street and took a photograph while the cyclist and all the cars are rushing towards me. All the while, my girlfriend is shouting at me to cross the street. Until this day, whenever I look at this image, I still wonder where this night cyclist was heading to. This image was edited in Gimp.

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Image seven is a photograph of the outdoor public market in my hometown in the Philippines. During some days of the week, there is a public outdoor market, and vendors are there as early as two in morning, preparing their wares and produce. I took this photograph around sunrise. Now, I don’t know any of these people. I was only walking around taking photographs. I like this particular photograph because when I took it, I was in the middle of the crowd. But as you can see, I was nothing but invisible to everybody. Everyone had their own stance, their own gaze – as if actors on a stage and only I, could notice the play unfolding. Almost like a Renaissance painting. Edited in Lightroom.

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This colorful image of lights was taken at Disney World. I took this hand-held with the X100. I was surprised when I opened this image on my computer because it already looked perfect, straight out of the camera. The X100 has a great low-light capability. I converted it in-camera from RAW to Velvia. I only increased contrast a very tiny bit in Gimp. But you are hard-pressed to tell the difference between the edited from the original.

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This next image of a crashing wave is when my X100 nearly got nearly got killed. I was in Pebble Beach in California. I was trying to take photographs of incoming waves with a small tripod. Because the X100 doesn’t have a zoom lens, you really have to keep the camera a little close to the water, the tripod was set low and and I was almost seating on the rocks. Anyway, while composing my shot, I noticed a rather large wave coming in. I was quickly debating if I should go back and save my camera, or hold my ground and maybe, will have a helluva of a shot. I decided to hold my ground. So, as soon as the wave came crashing in, I took a single frame then immediately, raised my camera with the tripod over my head. My shorts got wet, but that little gamble paid off. Image edited in SilkyPix.

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The last image was taken in Baltimore, Maryland during one summer. There were a bunch of kids playing and running around the fountain. Like in a playground, all these kids were all chasing each other and playing despite being practically strangers to each other, all but these two boys. I saw that they were in their own little world, brothers – probably twins. Somehow, it reminded me of my brother and I, during my own childhood. So, I edited this image in Lightroom in a way that invokes a sense of nostalgia.

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All these images were taken by my beloved Fujifilm X100. It was only more than a year ago, that I upgraded my computer that I was able to embrace Lightroom and Photoshop. For more than five years, I was using a free program called Gimp and also the SilkyPix software that came with my X100. To me, having the X100, limitation became inspiration. Could I have made these shots with a DSLR, given the chance? Most definitely. But I selected a particular tool and made full use of it. Even my choice of editing software is of no importance. Coming home from a travel, I usually personally judge my photographs if they are worth the ink and paper they will be printed on, if not, I usually not bother sharing them. Years ago, I would spend more on gadgets and lenses. Now, I’d rather spend on printing and framing and decorating the house.

Finally, I continually strive for the elusive “6-second photograph”. If a stranger is able to look at a photograph for six seconds or more the first time, then I would consider that as a very successful photograph. Have I tested that silly theory? No. But it’s a lifelong goal that keeps me on clicking.

I hope I can inspire all of you, especially to those who are just starting photography, that regardless of the camera that you have, regardless of the latest editing software, the most important thing is your own vision and the stories you can tell. Only after extensive use of your camera that you will develop your own style and personal inspiration in photography. Even in music, the student plays somebody else’s music in the beginning. Only when they feel comfortable and proficient with their own instrument, when they usually feel inspired making their own tunes. Gadgets, extra lenses and accessories are fun, but most of the time, they just distract you from your own imagination.

Now, with my X100, would I be upgrading? Maybe not anytime, soon. Now unless… Fuji comes up with a X100T in graphite silver? :)
Keep on clicking!

Jonas Luis

JonasLuis.com

Jan 082015
 

Traveling with my Leica M6

By Philipp Wortmann

I’ve been following your this site for a while now and I thought it was time for me to try to contribute something to.

This is a small selection of pictures I took during a 3 week road trip through the southwestern USA this summer. To document the trip in the most simple way I decided to only take 1 camera, 1 lens and 1 type of film with me. These were: Leica M6, 35mm Summicron and a whole lot of Kodak Portra 160. Before leaving for the trip I was worried shooting film only might be too much of a risk or I might miss shot due to not being able to change ISO or the manual focus. But it turned out to be a complete joy! Taking this minimalist approach allowed me to focus on all the beautiful moments during this trip rather than LCD screens, settings or back ups. Using only Portra 160 gave me beautifully consistent results I couldn’t be happier with. I currently don’t own any digital camera and after this trip I’m confident that this will stay that way for a while to come :)

As mentioned this is only a very small part of the images. I shot 26 rolls of film and if you want to check out the final edit of the photos you can check out the little photobook I made HERE.

You can also see more of my work here: lifeon35.tumblr.com or https://www.flickr.com/photos/derphilipppp/

Best regards and thanks for running such a cool site,

Philipp

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Jan 072015
 

My experience shooting 35mm film in Croatia

By Sebastian Castilho

Hi everyone!

I have been a fan of this blog for some time and am excited to be able to make a guest post here.

I guess you could say photography runs in my blood. My grandfather had a large passion for it and I myself have been shooting with whatever I could get my hands on since I was a kid. I’m now 24 and work as an animator. This career has allowed me to afford expensive modern cameras. My photos for a naked calendar were recently featured on national and international news (paper and online). However I’ve always loved the aesthetic of real film and over the years collected a few 35mm film cameras.
Towards the end of Summer I went over to Pula, Croatia for a family vacation. It’s a beautiful place with clear waters and a very peaceful vibe. At the time, my digital camera had broken and so I was forced to use my film cameras. I’d been looking for a reason to make use of them for a long time and this was the perfect opportunity.

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On the left is the Minolta SRT-101 with 55mm f1.7 lens. It is my grandfather’s SLR, made in the early 60’s. I had a 28mm for this camera but the 55mm is sharper by far. On the right is the Yashica Electro GSN I bought from ebay some months ago in immaculate condition for only £70.

HANDLING

Both cameras feel great in the hand, with the Minolta feeling more substantial owing to its heavier metal construction. That being said, the shutter button requires a deeper press followed by a loud mirror slap that makes you worried the image may come out blurred (though they never did). The rangefinder uses a leaf shutter; it’s almost like a conveyor belt that goes around the camera. The quieter shutter means you can take a picture without attracting as much attention, meaning more natural shots of people.
The Minolta is fully manual and has a fairly accurate exposure meter within the viewfinder. The circle moves up or down depending on the exposure of the scene. Adjusting the exposure settings on the camera will move the pin and you have to align it with the circle to achieve correct exposure (in the picture the pin and circle are already aligned). The fastest shutter speed of this camera is 1/1000th. I had to use an ND filter to be able to use the widest aperture in daylight.

The Yashica changes its shutter speed automatically to achieve a 0 EV exposure. You can trick it into under or overexposing by setting the ISO dial to something the film stock isn’t. The fastest shutter speed of this camera is just 1/500th – which is another reason I used this one for the low light stuff.
With the SLR you rely on sharpness to focus. With the rangefinder you rely on contrast because you have to align two images. It’s a really interesting way to find focus, but in daylight is not as effective. In low light is where it actually shines.
And so I took either camera with me depending on the time of day. Convenient really as it allowed me to use the correct film stock for the occasion.

Kodak BW400CN, Ilford FP4 Plus 125, Fujicolor Superia X-tra 800 (x2), Kodak Gold 200, Fujicolor 200, Ilford Delta 100, Kodak Professional T-Max 100

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PHOTOGRAPHY

I was in Croatia for a little under a week. As I mentioned, it’s a very peaceful place with beautiful waters. There isn’t much obtrusive construction going on like in the cities I’ve always lived in. In fact there’s a lot of old architecture, like the Roman arch and amphitheatre.

The lenses on both cameras had a focal length of about 50mm, so I couldn’t get really impressive wide shots of that architecture. I ended up focusing on capturing interesting shapes, tones and moments. A few times I stood overlooking some architecture that created a frame within the photographic frame, and then snapped the photo when something else came into the frame to finish it off

 

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I do think zoom lenses are detrimental to your photography. You end up spending a lot of time zooming in and out, recomposing and repeating. And in the end you’re still not completely satisfied by the composition. With fixed lenses, your mind develops a sense of framing and you automatically see a good opportunity for a shot long before you’ve lifted the camera to your face.

RESULTS

When I got the printed photos back from Fujifilm DS Colours Labs in Manchester (UK), I was blown away by them. The colour and tonality (especially of the monotone pictures) were simply brilliant. I really wish you could see them in this form because the in-house scanned negative don’t do them any justice really. They come highly compressed and oversharpened. I had to import them all into Lightroom and move the Clarity slider to about -25 to reduce the artefacts. And then I had to adjust each picture to make them look closer to the print version.

This is really the downside of film photography. You can scan them into your computer but they just pale in comparison to the print. If you like to put most of your work online, you really are better off using a DSLR (or mirrorless). Most modern sensors do have better shadow and highlight recovery too.

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CONCLUSION

What this journey made me realise for sure is that photography isn’t about upholding to the classics of carefully adjusting dials and knobs on your camera to achieve perfect exposure and focus. It’s about chasing light, finding compositions and capturing moments. For that, you need a camera that suits you. A camera where you don’t get lost in menus. A camera that’s fast to use and doesn’t get in the way. That’s right, I’m now a staunch supporter of autofocus and auto settings (that still allow you to select an exposure).

You can see more of these photos (over a hundred of them) on my Flickr album: https://www.flickr.com/photos/ scastilho/sets/72157647726972102/ and you can also find me on my website (sebcastilho.com).

Jan 062015
 

Traveling Middle East with a Leica M6

By Johannes Carlsohn

Hi Steve,

I want to share with you and your readers the experiences I had on a trip to the Middle East with only a film Leica. I bought my first Leica (an M6) a year ago, in December 2013.

I fell in love with it instantly and decided to use it as my main camera for all the trips I was planning to do in 2014. So I used it in Madeira, Barcelona, Greece and Georgia, sometimes accompanied by digital cameras.

For the last and longest trip of the year, 3.5 weeks in October to Iran and Oman, I decided to go film only. So I packed my M6 and few lenses (15mm Voigtländer, 50mm Summicron, 35mm Zeiss) and 35 rolls of film.  I relied on my iPhone for quick pictures to share with the family or on Facebook.

Shooting only film gave me a peace of mind I wasn’t used to before. No worrying about batteries or memory cards, no file formats, no settings, hardly switching any lenses (I shot 80% of the pictures with the 35mm), and that all in a small package that was never a burden to carry around.

I have not once had the feeling that focusing manually has slowed me down, but I definitely felt that unobtrusiveness of the Leica, that helps shooting strangers in the streets.

Apart from photography I can only recommend traveling the Middle East. The people, especially in Iran, are friendly, helpful and welcoming on a level I haven’t experienced anywhere else. The cultural heritage, the nature and the way of living there are amazing. And no, we have not felt unsafe at any point of the trip, nor have we had any trouble with authorities.

In the end I shot 29 rolls of film, had only a hand full of badly focused or exposed pictures and a lot more keepers than usually.

In the meantime I switched from my Nikon D600 to a small Ricoh as a digital backup. I planned to buy a digital Leica in 2015, but after having so much fun with the M6, I decided to postpone that investment for at least another year.

Keep up your great work!

Johannes

Munich, Germany
http://500px.com/blende2acht
www.blende2acht.de (has been a work in progress for the last 3 years…)

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Dec 182014
 

From a Nikon D800 (DSLR) to Olympus and Fuji (Mirrorless)

by Robin Schimko

Three months ago I had the opportunity to do a reportage on a sailing boat cruising along the coastline of Crete, in the Mediterranean Sea. Last year I did the same thing in the Caribbean but this time I didn’t bring a heavy and bulky DSLR, since I‘ve gone fully mirrorless at the beginning of 2014. For this trip I brought a Fuji X-T1, 23/1.4, Samyang 12/2, Samyang 8/2.8 fisheye and of course my Olympus E-M1, 42.5/1.2 and 75/1.8 with me. I was basically covered for almost any possible situation and at the same time my kit was relatively lightweight and compact.

The day I arrived I met up with my client and the moment he saw my gear he became skeptical. For him it was hard to believe that a camera this small is able to deliver good image quality and a certain look that screams “professionally” taken images. He was very pleased with the images I took in the Caribbean with my D800. So I gave him my tablet to have a look at some of my pictures I took prior this trip just to make him feel more secure and it worked fine.

So, how did it work out?

Well, the mirroless set up had two major advantages over my former D800. The first one is really obvious and that is the small form factor and the light weight. Compared to my DSLR, the Fuji for instance with attached lens is less than half the weight and that makes a huge difference. On a shaky sailing boat it can be really tough to move around safely, especially if you’re carrying heavy gear which needs to be secured with one hand to make sure it’s not bumping into something or someone. The mirrorless kit was much easier to handle and it was a breeze to use. Attached to the Fuji was the Easy Slider by Artisan & Artist which allowed me fit the camera very tightly to my chest, so I could use both hands to secure myself in case I needed to. With a bulky DSLR that would have been much more uncomfortable over the duration of a whole day or at least a couple of hours. The second advantage was the ability to shoot from the hip incorporating the tilting screen. When you look through the viewfinder it can easily happen that you punch yourself in the face with the camera and yeah that had happened to me in the past. :D Like I wrote before, the boat is constantly shaking around and the intensity of those shakes can vary randomly.

In two weeks there was only one thing I wasn’t really keen about and that’s the battery life. Especially the X-T1 tends to eat batteries very quickly and that did concern me. One could say that this is not a big issue if you bring enough spare ones. That’s totally true and I had five batteries with me, but I had no idea that these batteries had to last up to three days. Last year I could recharge every day, but not this time. The boat was quite old and electricity was only available every now and then. That was indeed the only issue I had using mirrorless cameras.

The sailing itself again was a very nice experience. The first week the weather was crazy good and we did sail a lot. The second week everything changed dramatically not just the crew and the second boat that joined us, but also the weather. There was a storm approaching and we couldn’t leave the harbor for two days. Eventually we left on the third day, but the sea was still very rough and half of the crew got seasick. Luckily I wasn’t one of them, but taking photos was almost impossible without a waterproof housing, because every couple of minutes there was a big wave coming in.

Here are some shots I took during my trip and if you like my work, you can follow me on facebook (https://www.facebook.com/RobinSchimkoPicture)
or check out my blog (http://www.fotodesign-rs.de/)

Thank you all for reading,

Robin

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Dec 082014
 

The Zeiss 35 1.4 Distagon ZM (Leica mount) Lens Review

by Cemal Sagnak

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Many People belief, a Leica Camera needs native Leica lenses, although there are Alternatives by other German Companies like Carl Zeiss with a long optical history in making lenses and Rangefinder cameras. As a passionate Leica Photographer, I always search and look for high quality alternative lenses for my Leica M Typ 240.

One of my favorite lenses is the Carl Zeiss Biogon T* 2/35 ZM, a versatile documentary and Photojournalist lens with outstanding optical performance and my standard Lens on the M.

I was very tempted to read the announcement during the last Photokina in September about a new fast 35mm f/1.4 hoping this can match with my Biogon 35/2 in optical performance but with a fast f1.4 aperture.
I could not be happier when last week my Demo Lens arrived.

My initial impression was extremely good, although the Distagon T* 1,4/35 ZM is larger (lengths 87,3 49mm Filter, 381gr) vs. the Biogon T* 2/35 ZM (lengths 68mm, Filter size 43mm, 240gr) the finder blockage is still moderate. You get immediately a feel of the build quality, all metal finish, robust and made for the next generation, something I definitely expected from a Carl Zeiss Lens.

The Distagon is build with 10 Elements in 7 groups with and the10 blades can be set in 1/3 steps giving you a good haptic feedback, you can feel comfortably each click on the aperture wheel. The focus wheel is on the right spot, perfectly accessible and smooth in handling, Rotating is not to tight and not to loose, which is important for a fast lens shooting at f/1.4 to achieve precise results.

The lens is equipped with the T* anti-reflective coating to control flare we will see later how good it performs using the Distagon against strong sunlight. The Distagon is made to be used under low light condition or for a clear separation of the subject from the background, don’t be surprised to see many pictures shot at f/1.4.

The Data sheet is promising; with a relative distortion of less than -1% the Distagon beats the Summilux –M 35mm f/1.4 ASPH on paper. Lets see how it performs.

Non-Leica Users need to know that sharpness of a rangefinder lens is relative and depending on the skills and eyesight of the User behind the Finder.

Before I took the Lens out, I did some shots at home on a tripod to see if there is a focus shift or misalignment. One shot through the RF and one with the LCD of the M and no surprise, all was good, as you can see in the crop of the image taken through the RF.

BTW, I tried the EVF of the M240 but I come to the conclusion that I am better and faster with the optical RF and composing is much easier. I turn on the LCD just when I use a 21mm lens to control the frame. I maybe would use the EVF if someone puts me a Noctilux under the Xmas tree and for sure with Leica – R lenses. But coming back to the Distagon…

My first session was taken in my new hometown Cologne, known as the capital of German Photography and this is not because of the Photokina only.  Pictures are DNG files converted into jpg in LR 5.7 I took some random street shots including the Xmas market to get warmed up with the character of the lens.

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The Bicycle shot shows rich and contrasts colors with a nice background blur and a great sharpness on the flowers. I tried similar with people, I am glad my daughters share my passion so they are always great models to try new Gear.
My second opportunity using the Distagon was a fashion shooting with the lovely Dana, who is running a fashion blog and needs regular shots of her in the seasons dress-up.

A 35mm lens is not the first choice for Portraits and People. Still the results were highly satisfying, color and focus are as well. Flare is not always welcome but in this case I used it as an element. Unfortunately Zeiss did not deliver a Lens Hood with this demo unit. I recommend purchasing a hood with the Lens.

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Beside some lens flare, I identified chromatic aberration, which appears when shooting wide open. Nowadays nothing software cant fix and also visible in some of my Summilux pictures. The third part of my Test was the low light capability of the lens, using it in some urban lightning and using it for what it was made for, wide open in low light, I travel much, so taking a tripod with me is a hassle and 100% of my shots outside are handheld. Maybe this is the case for many Leica Users.

This leads me to the Part 3 of my test…. Paris! A perfect Place using a Leica Camera and going for a photo walk along the river Seine and visiting places where Grandmasters of Photography took many iconic pictures. The Zeiss Distagon performs well wide open and paired with the great ISO abilities and Dynamic range of the M240, you will be able to get extraordinary results shooting this combo in the dark.

Here one Bokehlicious shot from a brigde in Paris.

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After all, I am pretty impressed by this new lens. I have owned the Leica Summilux 35mm ASPH (pre-FLE) and use currently the Biogon 35/2 which are the natural competitors. Before I come to my personal conclusion here is a price overview (Prices in Euro )

LEICA SUMMILUX-M 35mm f/1.4 ASPH – 4200 Euros
CZ Distagon T* 1,4/35 ZM – 2000 Euros
CZ Biogon T* 2/35 ZM – 1050 Euros

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Now my question before I started this lens test: is it worth to pay almost double the price compared to the Biogon 35/2 for one f stop faster? For me it is, not that everybody needs an f1.4 lens but if you like shooting fast lenses, this is the lens, which delivers the image quality sharpness and details starting from f1.4.

Please find below the comparison shot at f2.0 between the Distagon and the Biogon. The Distagon is clearly sharper, I plan some more shots for a detailed comparison. Is the Carl Zeiss Distagon T* 1,4/35 ZM capable to compete with one of the best available lenses the Leica Summilux 35mm ASPH FL?

35 Biogon f/2 at f/2

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35 Distagon 1.4 at f/2

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Based on my experience with the Summilux , the Distagon is definitely worth to consider and not only because its half the price. Sharpness is on par between both lenses. I would like to do a lens comparison but I assume difference is very small and can be better measured in a LAB test rather then comparing pixel.

35 1.4 Distagon and then a crop

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The Carl Zeiss Distagon T* 1,4/35 ZM is announced to be ship at the end of 2014.

You can order the lens HERE at B&H Photo.

Cemal Sagnak

https://cemalsagnak.wordpress.com

Dec 082014
 

Tourists Everywhere? Include them in your pictures!

By Pierre Aden

So finally you’re going to Rome (or some other beautiful Italian city) and you are excited to see all these historic monuments, pure history – only for you and your camera! You are going to Vatican city, the Colosseum, the Pantheon to take lots of amazing pictures of these places like no one did before and you see… people, every place is so crowded that you’re hardly able to see the sights at all! Gone is the vision of your perfect photo of the empty St. Peter’s Basilica in HDR.

Let’s face it: All these places have been photographed thousands, if not a million times before. Chances that you will make the perfect architecture picture in these places and being on the cover page of National Geographic are as low as Schwarzenegger becoming the next US president (or even lower). Tourists are everywhere, 12.6 million visitors have been counted in 2013 in Rome.

So why not have some fun and include these tourists in your pictures? This is what I thought when visiting Rome in September and Sicily in October, facing these conditions. Suddenly I thought it would be more interesting to make pictures of the people surrounding me and include them in the pictures of the sights, making the people from all over the world the real attractions.

Here are some examples of my 5 day trip to Rome, all taken with the Olympus E-M1 or the Olympus E-P5 and different lenses. I had a great time and people running into my pictures was not annoying but actually wanted.

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If you have comments, suggestions or simply would like to get in touch with me I will be more than happy if you contact me via the following channels:

Pictures

www.ultraweit-verwinkelt.net

Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/ultraweitverwinkelt

Google+

https://plus.google.com/110027262868810382651/posts

Thanks for your attention!

Nov 282014
 

A7S in Bagan, the ancient kingdom of Myanmar

By Peter Amber

Hi Steve,

What a year for Sony.  Just 10 months ago I had a guest post here sharing my experience using the A7 with legacy lens on a trip to New Zealand.  Since then I have progressed along the entire A7 series, selling the A7 for the A7R and repeating that with the A7S.  The A7R is a great camera but a GAS mistake for my needs.  It choked up more disk space and if A7S did not come along I would probably have gone back to the A7.  My move to A7S is strongly driven by the silent shooting mode, which brings me back to the discrete shooting days with the X100s.  Now that you announced the A7ii, I’m pretty sure it makes another good reason to get a backup body…sigh..

In August I took the A7S on a photo/video journey to Bagan, exploring by e-bike this ancient kingdom of Myanmar.  The silent shutter is a welcome relief while shooting around the sacred temples without attention nor disturbance.  One flaw I noticed with the silent mode is the inability to use it which shooting time-lapse through the Sony app.  During time-lapse shots, I had canon/nikon users turn round in amusement at the clacking shutter.  The silent mode is also disabled for picture profile modes so for video users it can be quite a hassle.  Other than these minor quirks, the A7S is a great camera for all day/night photography.

Here is our travel video shot with A7S and some drone shots:
https://vimeo.com/110650618

Below are some photos of Bagan – best seen from the sunrise hotair balloons.  All shot with Sony A7S with 24-70mm FE.

More photos/videos at our new site http://www.peteramber.com

Thanks!

Regards,
Peter

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Nov 182014
 

Travelling with the Nikon Df

By D.J. De La Vega

Hi Steve,

It has been nearly two years year since I had the privilege of sharing my photos on your site from my photogenic road trip to Tuscany with my Leica X1. In that time I began to lust after a camera with a better optical viewfinder. The 36mm Brightline viewfinder on the X1 is a lovely piece of glass and a joy to use, but unfortunately as it is completely passive, it is not very practical and requires a lot of patience and compromises (and a lot of missed opportunities). This lead me to have a “Moment Back with my D7000″and since then I have not looked back and upgraded to the Nikon Df and have not regretted the decision for a second.

Meanwhile the time was upon me again for what has become my annual photogenic road trip. This year after many deliberations and alterations it eventually ended up being Tuscany again, only this time with a stop off in Barcelona on the way. No longer would my trusty X1 accompany me on my travels, as the Df is now my go to camera day-to-day. Initially I was concerned the added bulk and weight would impact upon my journey as my camera is strapped around my neck every minute of the waking day. In reality however I found if you are prepared to lug a camera with you all day regardless of the size, it is the practicality of actually carrying it not the physical exertion that is the issue. The Df is actually way better suited to life around my neck (not tucked away in a bag or wrapped in leather armour like my X1) and I can absolutely confirm it is a robust piece of kit for its size and weight. I have banged it around quite a bit and even inadvertently tested the weather sealing by spilling a cup of Coca-Cola all over it!!!

In use, I find the Df to be a magnificent camera. The dials are exactly where I want them to be and like my X1, I can look down at my camera and adjust the settings at a glance without raising it my eye. This comes in really handy when walking the streets in built up areas as the light can change from street to street depending on whether the low winter sun is obstructed or uninhibited. As I turn a corner, I will instinctively change the ISO on the top plate depending on how the street is lit, and found in bright sunlight I often used the L1 ISO to facilitate shallow depths of field in bright sunshine. At all times I am aware and can see what the camera is set to in case an opportunity should present itself.

So that is enough of the technical side of my gear, to my results. As I mentioned, my first stop off was Barcelona. This was serendipity as to get the best deals to flights to Tuscany I got to spend a day and a night in the capital of Catalonia. I admit, this is nowhere near enough time to explore such an expansive City, so I concentrated all of my time around the Gothic Quarter and food markets. These were wonderful locations for taking in the culture and atmosphere of the city and they presented me with countless opportunities for my photography.

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For street photography the Df is as responsive as you would expect any DSLR to be. It is no super fast sports camera, but for spotting an opportunity, lifting the camera to your eye and shooting, it is about as instantaneous as you could possibly hope for. Certainly without hyperbole a hundred million times faster than my X1.

From Barcelona to Pisa and then Siena: This time around I did not want to recapture the same photographs I achieved previously. By focusing on this philosophy I was able to explore a lot deeper than before, ignoring the local landmarks and focusing on the people and the ambiance of these underrated cities.

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For me, the pièce de résistance of Tuscany is the incredible city of Florence. This time around I made sure I had ample time to really soak it all up and immersed myself over three days and nights aimlessly wandering the charismatic streets. I do not posses an adequate number of superlatives to begin to describe the culture, art, architecture and culinary delights of this amazing place.

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(I genuinely only took this shot of the chap shooting the street with the M9 for this site to see if he was a reader or to see if any readers knew him?)

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I hope you have enjoyed my results even half as much I had making them!
DJ De La Vega https://www.flickr.com/photos/djdelavega/

@dj_delavega

http://instagram.com/dj_delavega/#
P.S These are the links to the relevant articles mentioned at the start of the post.

http://www.stevehuffphoto.com/2012/12/24/photographic-road-trip-ii-tuscany-by-d-j-de-la-vega/ 

http://www.stevehuffphoto.com/2014/02/26/a-moment-back-with-my-nikon-d7000-by-d-j-de-la-vega/ 

BUY…

You can Buy a Nikon DF at Amazon or B&H Photo

See Steve’s Review of the Df HERE.

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