Sep 172014
 

A Fuji X100S report

by Lachlan Burrell

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I’ve been using the Fuji X100S for about 16 months now, and I believe it’s one of the greatest digital cameras ever made! Obviously not everyone is going to agree with me on that, but here’s why I think so highly of this little camera:

Firstly, I’m a die-hard film shooter, and lover of traditional manual cameras. I learnt the ropes on great 1980’s era SLR cameras like the Olympus OM1 and Nikon FM2, and I still find the direct manual controls and simplicity of these kind of cameras such a joy to use, not to mention the wonderful tones and colours I get from film. So I was never quick to jump into the digital camera market. I got some very nice results from Nikon DSLR’s like the D200 and D3; both were and still are great cameras, but were a very different beast to the old film cameras that I loved.

Then along came the X100 and really caught my eye. Could this be the missing link between nostalgia, classic design and a practical, digital tool? Not one to rush into the latest thing, I waited to see how this camera would be received and how it would perform in the real world. Turns out there were some issues, as there often is with the first generation of any product. When the highly anticipated X100S was announced, I thought it was about time I took the plunge.

It didn’t take very long to warm to this little camera, most of the controls were very familiar and intuitive. I started playing around with the RAW files in Adobe Lightroom using VSCO (Visual Supply Company) Film presets that I had tweaked a little. It was then that I started getting a bit excited! Not only was this a beautiful camera to use, with traditional controls I was accustomed to, the images were the closest thing to film I’d seen come out of a digital camera. I’ve used the VSCO Film presets on the Nikon D3, but I’ve never been able to achieve a film look like I can with the X100S. There’s something about the Fuji sensor that lends itself to the tonality and feel of film. Some might argue, why bother trying to make the images from a digital camera look like film? Well that’s fine if you’re happy with a digital look, but to me digital often looks a bit “plastic” and surreal compared to a film image, and the colours don’t always appear to be rendered naturally. For those of you who are interested, I’ve outlined a few key changes I make to the standard VSCO preset settings in Lightroom. I don’t make any drastic changes, but as a general guide using the Kodak Portra 400 preset, for example, I add about 5 points more Saturation overall. Then I go to the HSL panel and into the individual colour saturation I nudge up the reds, oranges and yellows by 5-10 and knock the green down by about 5. In the hue settings I also nudge up the orange hue by 5-10 points, and knock the yellow, green and purple hues down by 5-10 points. In the luminance panel I knock the yellows and greens down a bit and nudge the purple and magenta up slightly. This all helps achieve a more natural creamy-warm skin tone. Another important adjustment I make is in the Split Toning. As a guide I set the highlights hue at about 40, saturation 5, and the shadow hue at about 210, saturation 5. This really gets close to emulating true negative film tonality. Play around with the grain settings to your own taste; for Portra 400 I have it set at 30, 30, 40. I use the Portra presets for most of what I shoot, but I’ve also customized presets for Kodak Tri-X black and white, Fuji Velvia, Fuji Astia and a couple of the Polaroid presets, which can be very interesting and moody. It really comes down to individual taste, but having shot film for so many years, I have a visual target to aim for when customizing the presets.

As far as my personal camera setup goes, I never use the accessory case, it just adds bulk and gets in the way. I also ditched the lens cap and attached the accessory filter adapter and a top quality B+W UV filter, primarily to protect that beautiful front element. I never use a lens hood, as lens flare isn’t an issue for me…I actually like the effect, and the Fuji lens doesn’t seem to suffer from it excessively.

In addition to the beautiful image quality the X100S can achieve, there are other things about this camera that just rock, in my opinion!

1. The exposure metering is superb; it nails it almost every time. And the rare times it doesn’t due to very challenging lighting, the dynamic range of the RAW files is huge, allowing highlight and shadow detail to be easily “rescued” later. The highlights don’t tend to blow out harshly, but fall off very gradually and naturally, something I haven’t experienced with other digital files.

2. The hybrid optical/electronic viewfinder is just lovely to use. I used to be a little irked by electronic viewfinders, but this one has changed my attitude. I still prefer the optical for general everyday shooting, but there are times, particularly when framing is critical or when the lighting is dim, that the electronic option really shines. The ultimate would be to have a true optical rangefinder with manual focusing, like so many popular consumer cameras made in the 60’s and 70’s. I don’t believe it has to remain the exclusive domain of Leica with a price tag to match. I wait in hope for a manufacturer to break the mould!

3. The compact size and near silent shutter is just perfect for travel and street shooting! I don’t believe there’s any other serious competitor for this camera, i.e. compact, light, full manual control, classic styling and design, delivering professional results.
Is this the perfect camera? I don’t think there is such a thing, because the needs of photographers are so diverse, but this comes close for a travel/street/documentary shooter. If I could change one thing about the X100S what would it be? The fixed 35mm equivalent lens can sometimes seem a limitation, but it’s also what gives the camera its unique appeal. I’ve often felt that a 40mm or 50mm standard would be more useful; I’m not a big wide-angle fan. But now with the option of 28mm and 50mm conversion lenses, I think Fuji have it covered quite nicely!

Lachlan Burrell

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Sep 172014
 

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The Fuji Monochrom

By James Conley

A major impediment most new photographers face is that color is the default mode of expression. Not only are we inundated by color images in every possible medium, but digital cameras presume color as the chosen palette. The tragic fact of these defaults is that it interferes with the development of seeing subjects and places emphasis on the impossible task of trying to capture a color reality which makes little natural sense in two dimensions. The result is a great deal of frustration when the captured image doesn’t match the experience of color.

Few cameras are available that address this problem. The Leica Monochrom is one of few. The Monochrom only records in black and white, and only displays its menus and previews in black and white. It’s the gold standard for capturing black and white—after film. However, the Monochrom body alone costs about $8k. That’s a lot of money to get rid of color. There are cheaper ways.

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The cheapest way to shoot black and white, of course, is to switch to film. Using a film rangefinder is one of the fastest routes to improving the composition and content of images, and you don’t even need a darkroom if you shoot Ilford’s excellent XP2 C-41 process film.

But I’m unable to buy into a Leica Monochrom. The next best thing is the Fuji X100s. The X100s contains all the elements needed to work strictly in black and white. To wit:

• A rangefinder, with an electronic viewfinder which can be set to display only in black and white.
• A fixed lens with a 35mm field of view.
• Small and light.
• Silent. (More silent than my Leica M6.)
• Monochrome JPEG modes with yellow and red filters.

All the images in this post are JPEGs shot on the X100s.

Learning to see in black and white is the process of evaluating the luminance of an object instead of its color. Simplistically, luminance is how much light is reflected from an object. People are often surprised when converting a color image to black and white because a bright color often has more or less luminance than expected and doesn’t appear as one would expect. Through the practice of reviewing the monochrome images you make, you’ll develop your luminance sense and start to better anticipate how a tone will translate into black and white.

A way to speed up that process is by using a monochrome viewfinder. When set to capture monochrome JPEGs, the Fuji X100s will switch its LCD back and EVF displays to black and white. This makes evaluating the scene much easier, and will helps to quickly adapt and recognize luminance values.

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Photographers are blessed with a nearly infinite variety of camera bodies and lenses, which can be shuffled into various combinations to address very specific needs. Photographers are likewise cursed with all those options. Options are choices, and choices are decisions. Having to make decisions is an active process in the consciousness, and it leads to a lot of distraction from the subject. In discussing the thought process behind a “decisive moment,” Henri Cartier-Bresson said:

It’s a question of concentration. Concentrate, think, watch, look and, ah, like this, you are ready. But you never know the culminative point of something. So you’re shooting. You say, “Yes. Yes. Maybe. Yes.” But you shouldn’t overshoot. It’s like overeating, overdrinking. You have to eat, you have to drink. But over is too much.

Making choices about lenses is just as distracting as making choices about color. One lens is enough, and your body can be the zoom. Having to move within space and time to frame your subject makes for far better pictures than standing in one place and letting a variety of lenses do the work of seeing for you.

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The X100s’s f/2 Fujinon lens would be fantastic on any camera. Fuji has a storied history in making high-end lenses for a variety of camera makers, and Fuji glass is world-class. The X100s can use autofocus, or a very smooth manual focus. It also has an excellent macro mode.

Having a small camera means you’ll have it with you, which is the most important ingredient in making any photograph. The smaller and lighter a camera is, the more likely it will be with you. The X100s is smaller and lighter than my Leica M6.

Other than opera or a royal wedding, the best way to do things in life tend to be subtle. That’s especially true for photographers, who are dependent upon other people living their lives so that an image may be made. Unless you’re shooting in a studio, pay respect to your subject by being unobtrusive. Being silent is part of that respect, and an X100s shutter is quieter than my M6.

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Photography is about capturing a moment and then capturing the next . . . and the next . . . and the next. Spending time tweaking and playing with images is decidedly not photography—modifying an image is working with software. The goal of any tool should be to do work so you don’t have to. As my dad always advises about using a saw, “Don’t push so hard. Let the saw do the cutting.” If your camera is making you spend more time post-processing than you do taking pictures, it’s either not a good tool, or you’re pushing too hard. Since we can’t get Adobe to make decent software, however, we can use the tool better by putting the work back into the camera and let it produce quality JPEGs that we merely need to review. This not only speeds up the process of selecting good images, but it also lets you learn the capabilities of the camera just the way you would learn about the qualities of a particular film. This is vital knowledge that helps you see better when you’re out taking pictures, meaning you get better results, which sets up a lovely, positive feedback loop.

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With Fuji already announcing new X-Series cameras, ifyou don’t already have an X100s, you should be able to pick one up for a good price.

Once you get it, go to Shooting Menu 1 and select Film Simulation B with a yellow filter. (Red is another option, and will result in more contrast. Start with yellow.) Scroll down to Shooting Menu 2, and change Highlight Tone to +1, and Shadow Tone to +1. This will give you a decent starting place for your JPEG’s. They should require minimal development work after you import them into a computer. (**You can set the camera to shoot both RAW and JPEG files. This is a good crutch to get you comfortable with the idea of shooting only in monochrome. However, you’ll quickly discover that the Fuji’s JPEGS are very high quality and the RAW files are just a crutch.)

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Use the EVF. It will display in black and white and get you started on seeing the world that way. (Later, you’ll be able to take advantage of the X100s’s rangefinder.)

As you’re taking pictures, keep your thumb on the Exposure Compensation dial and ride it like you stole it. You’re shooting JPEGs, so work at getting the final product the way you want while you’re shooting.

With a few camera setting tweaks, you’re off to a better world in black and white! You’ll now:

• See luminance instead of color
• See shapes, forms, and shadows
• Cut down on development
• Spend more time working on your ideas and making stories

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The purpose of taking a photograph is to capture an image which conveys your impression of an event and tells the story. The purpose is decidedly not about tweaking, playing, collaging, and otherwise twisting the image into something unnatural. So, if you want to become a better photographer, you have to practice seeing what matters. Seeing what matters happens easiest with a rangefinder shooting monochrome images. Long live the X100s. (At least until those Leica Monochrom prices come down!)

website: fjamesconley.com
twitter: @Philatawgrapher

Sep 122014
 

My first 6 months with the Sony A7

by Alfredo Guadarrama

Well, the first 6 months with my A7 went pretty fast and I thought it was a good moment to gather some thoughts on this system. I’m a former Nikon user that had a D600 and a D7000 before with a plenty number of lenses. I had the opportunity to have a variety on focal lengths that gave me a lot of versatility to take decent pictures in most of the common scenarios.

After having several problems with my D600 and D7000 due to oil spots issues in the mechanism that drives the mirror, I decided to sell all my Nikon equipment and look for an alternative system. This was a very disappointing quality issue. I spent a considerable amount of time removing oil spots in photoshop and lightroom. I thought this situation was unacceptable due to the high prices in this gear.

After doing extensive research on systems I didn’t have a lot of alternatives. I wanted a lighter body but also high performance with good quality lenses. The Canon system offered excellent quality with the 5DMIII and the 6D coupled with high-end lenses. The problem is that these bodies are as heavy as the D600. Most of the time I do travel photography, carrying a heavy body all day long is not very nice.

Then, I went to the Fuji X-system. The glass versatility and quality are great, but the bodies are not full frame. Despite this situation, I think that Fuji is doing a great job in terms of quality image. I think that the jpegs from the current line of cameras/lenses are superb. Finally, I decided to go with the Sony A7. I chose this body because it is full-frame. When compared to the A7R (A7S didn’t exist at that moment), I chose the A7 because it had a better autofocus system, lower megapixels (less hard drive space with very good image quality), and was significantly cheaper. The only downside was the lenses. The variety of lenses was and it is still very small with high prices. As we are seeing now with the appearance of new lenses (e.g. Loxia), my hopes of a larger variety of lenses is becoming a reality. I know that you can use third party lenses with adapters, but I’m not the best fan. I think lenses are made specifically to work well in a system, and second, I love having autofocus (I know that peaking mode works wonders in the A7).

So, the lenses I bought were the 35F2.8 and the 24-70F4 from Zeiss. Shot with the A7 and the Nikon 35mm f1.8G (Fotodiox Adapter)

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And here is the Sony A7 + 35F2.8 with a leather half case. Shot with the iPhone 5c

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Since I received my A7 I have had the chance to shoot 6000+ photos with the camera and I must say that it has pros and cons. To make it simple for readers I put them as a bullet list:

PROS

  • Lightweight when compared to a DSLR.
  • Small size that doesn’t take half of the space in your backpack.
  • Viewfinder screen, you see what you’ll get.
  • Superb image quality, especially with the 35 mm (Zeiss).
  • Intuitive and well positioned controls and dials, you have dedicated knobs for aperture, speed, ISO.
  • Internal Wi-Fi, the app works much better than the one for Nikon and the camera has built-in wi-fi. For the Nikon you need to buy a 50USD adapter.
  • Tilting screen is very useful when shooting over a crowd or close to the floor.

CONS

  • Battery life is ridiculous, cannot last one full day of shooting. I had to buy a lot of additional batteries (40 USD each).
  • Usually one stop slower than DSLRs in the same situation. I think this is related to the fact it is a mirrorless system.
  • Small variety of lenses, current line is very expensive.
  • Some distortion with the 24-70F4 at 24mm, the lens works pretty well as a general purpose lens (could be better for the price).
  • Extremely noisy. This camera has been hard to use while shooting inside a church or temple where you need to be quiet.
  • Not weather/dust resistant (would have been nice for travel photography)

I had the opportunity to use the camera in the Boston, Miami, NYC, London, Dubai and several countries Asia. I was surprised with the camera. It performed very well, it was very easy to use and despite being one of the first times using it, I didn’t have any trouble finding specific settings. The lcd screen is big enough to review sharpness and focus in the pictures. The wifi worked wonders when I wanted to share a picture with my family or in Instagram.

Here are some of the shots I have taken so far since I got the camera, most of them are edited in Lightroom with VSCO film presets:

Charing Cross in London, UK

Leicester Square Station

Ultra Music Festival in Miami, USA

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Boston, USA

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Burj Khalifa in Dubai, UAE

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Sumo tournament in Tokyo, Japan

Sumo Fight

Low light performance is astonishing for a camera of this size (no tripod was used in this shot).

Kyoto, Japan

Fushimi Inari

Geisha District in Kyoto, Japan

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Men playing cards near Guilin, China

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French Concession in Shanghai, China

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The skyline in the shot below was taken using a mefoto tripod, Victoria Skyline in Hong Kong

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Ko Phi Phi, Thailand

Phuket, Thailand

Soho, NYC

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In case you own a A7/A7R/A7S, I recommend you watching this video from Ralfs Foto-Bude in YouTube:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mMQES0u-9Bw .

It presents an in-depth analysis of the different menus and options inside the camera. I found it pretty useful when learning how to use the A7.

As a conclusion, buying this camera was a very good choice, amazing are results. This camera was a good choice because it adapts to my photographic needs and delivers the quality I’m expecting. It is not a perfect camera, but is the best solution for me in the current market offering. Please share your thoughts and comments. They will be interesting to read.

Thank you Steve, for giving your website readers the opportunity to share their thoughts. Congratulations for your great work.

Alfredo

P.S. If you want to see more of my work using this camera please go to:

Portfolio: www.alfredoguadarrama.com
500px: www.500px.com/alfredoguadarrama

Sep 102014
 

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Shooting Ephemerisle 2014 with the Sony A7S and a Voigtlander 35mm f1.2

By Judd Weiss – Visit his site HERE

Most places I go lately, I am the best photographer around. But I come to Steve Huff’s site and community specifically because here I am definitely not the best photographer. I’m learning fast, but I’m relatively new to photography, upgrading from a point and shoot to the original Sony NEX 3 only about 4 years ago. Discovering Steve’s site almost 3 years ago was a major turning point in my photography. I started taking it more seriously when I saw what you guys were up to. I’ve been inspired. The daily inspirations that so many of you have contributed has made me rethink what I’m doing with the camera I’m holding. I’ve never taken any photography classes, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t received an education. This community around Steve Huff’s blog is one of the greatest influences on my development as a photographer. So thank you to all who have contributed their vision and creations here. I am very grateful. (Thank you Judd!! Steve)

I’d like to also make a contribution, from my favorite work yet. I shot this entire set of photos with the new amazing Sony Alpha A7S full frame mirrorless camera, with a manual Voigtlander Nokton 35mm f/1.2 lens. That combo allowed me to achieve low light shots never before possible in the history of photography. Ephemerisle was the perfect event to test out what the Sony A7S can handle in extreme low light. And the Sony A7S was the perfect camera to capture the experience of the dark glowy night that made Ephemerisle shine.

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These shots are unapologetically processed, and I admit I went a bit intense with the colors, but I wanted to, to accurately reflect the surreal nature of Ephemerisle. Some of these photos are a little abstract, but believe me when I tell you those are very true to the experience. What a visual experience! Ephemerisle was incredible. I did the best I could to run around and convey what it was like to be there, over stimulated by this new beautiful foreign universe everywhere you looked.

It’s fair to think of Ephemerisle like Burning Man on the water. Imagine a bunch of RVs at Burning Man connected together, but floating. With dance stage platforms between them.

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I think Ephemerisle was the most exciting and fun time I have had, that didn’t involve a girl, since maybe my college days. I loved running around in that crazy dream world meeting the cast of characters you’ll see in the photos below.

I’m not saying Ephemerisle is better than Burning Man. There’s no way an event of a couple hundred people can in any way rival the scope and all the amazingness of the 50,000+ strong Burning Man festival. But I will say that I enjoyed Ephemerisle more. I loved Burning Man, but the desert is a harsh place. No doubt the sea can be unforgiving as well, but I was very happy to trade an over abundance of dust for an over abundance of water.

No way I would bring my beloved new Sony A7S and Voigtlander lens to get ruined by the intense barrage of fine dust on the Burning Man playa.

 Shot at 12,800 ISO

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Burning Man is incredible as it lights up the middle of the desert nowhere into an epic glorious city; being out in the middle of the water nowhere, lit up only by the most amazing glowy party you’ve ever seen, Ephemerisle too is a bright beacon of a testament to our evolutionary progress, while floating over the type of early ocean microbes of life that began it all. How far we’ve come, to create such a stunning atmosphere. A cool blend of excitement and serenity. Like Burning Man, being at Ephemerisle confronts you to face both our fragility and our promise that can only be truly seen in an intentional community that has left many of the comfortable constraints of modern society.

Stylistically people often compare Ephemerisle with Water World, and you can see where that’s coming from, only this wasn’t dystopian. Whatever was rough around the edges wasn’t post-apocalyptic, it was prototype. This is from the future, clearly. These are experiences our grandchildren will inherit when they are our age. But it’s a beautiful future. When the sun goes down, we light up even brighter. Humans evolved from a state of continual starvation in a struggle to survive among brutal nature, and now we master the harshest environments to throw parties of abundance like this for recreation. Humans have no shortage of serious problems, but it’s things like Ephemerisle that compel me to acknowledge our bright future of possibilities ahead.

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You might think I’m hyperbolizing a little much. And if I hadn’t been there, that’s totally what I would think while reading this. But there’s a reason for these reflections of anthropological grandeur. Ephemerisle is comprised of exactly the group of intellectuals, business leaders, and artists who are focused daily on the topic of our evolutionary potential as a species. These ARE the people consciously working to design a more beautiful future for all of us. What a treat it is to see one of their early prototypes. And I have to say, I’m in love with this particular prototype they call Ephemerisle.

I’ve got to thank everyone involved for coming together to create Ephemerisle. They made these photos. I just captured what I saw as well as I could. Their vision created this reality. Congratulations to all of their beautiful minds. These photos are my humble tribute.

Ok guys, get ready to watch the colors move…………

The full album and original post can be found on my blog here: http://hustlebear.com/2014/09/04/photos-ephemerisle-july-2014/

You can follow me on Instagram at http://instagram.com/juddweiss

I’m on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/juddweiss

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Note: The widely acclaimed Canon 5D MIII could not have achieved many of these shots. For example: The below shot, while not the cleanest photo in history, was shot at 51,200 ISO (!!) at 1/125 second, handheld from a bobbing moving boat in the dark. It was challenging to stand, and hard to see clearly, let alone to take a clean photo. Try to get anything remotely usable in those conditions with another camera setup.

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Again, the below shot is not perfectly clean and crisp, but it was shot at 32,000 ISO from a moving bobbing boat.

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I love how the camera rendered the daytime shots as well.

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Sep 092014
 

Using the Nikon DF

By Cosmin Munteanu

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Only for a couple of weeks the local Nikon dealer lend me silver/chrome Df in exchange for a short review about it. Well, the time was not a problem, especially because I have the camera for about three weekends. I had previously experience with Nikon AF system already. The F80 was my first camera and the 50mm f:1.8 AF-D. After it came the Nikkor 35mm f:2.0 AF-D and then the D90 followed by a 24mm f:2.8 and an older Sigma AF tele-zoom lens.

I received the Df with its kit lens, the 50mm f:1.8 AF-S G Special Edition. At first, the camera seems big. And it really is, big and bulky. It can not fit in my Tamrac day by day bag (a Explorer 1 5501). That’s the same bag that can accommodate a Pentax ME or MX with two prime lenses and a medium-zoom or a Nikon F80 with 2 prime lenses and a couple of film rolls. So, I had to leave the Tamrac at home and took my girlfriend’s LowePro backpack. Also, I brought with me my favorite Nikkor, the 35mm f:2.0. Well, as bulky as it is, in fact when I grabbed it, surprise! The camera is much lighter than looks like and sits itself in my hands quite well. It’s almost like Minolta’s x-500 or x-700 but of course with at least a measure bigger, and heavier (~750 g vs. Minolta’s 500 g). The grip, or in fact its luck is not at all a problem. It is big enough for me to hold the camera comfortably.

Now, let’s speak about using it in the real world. At first if you come from a classical 35mm film camera, at least the Df’s top seems very familiar. There are dials for exposure time, exposure compensation and ISO but, surprisingly also an exposure mode switch (PASM). Why such a dial when an “A” on the shutter dial would have been enough? Ah, of course, the new G lenses does not have an aperture ring, so the photographer have to tell to the camera in what mode wants to work. The aperture can be adjusted through the main back dial as on other Nikon dSLRs ar the front dial but I would not recommend that. The front dial is very stiff and can not be used comfortably and quickly because of that. I don’t recommend using this one while taking pictures. If one wants to use the aperture ring to change the f value, first has to make a visit in the camera’s menu. In these conditions the user can photograph like with a film camera. As for the shutter dial, I would have wanted an “A” position. Also the same would be great on the ISO dial too. Now, to switch from Manual to auto iso and vice versa I have to consult, again, the menu.

Other then the retro looking and operating cameras’s top, the camera behaves like a “normal” Nikon dSLR. The viewfinder is big and bright but of course not as big as a manual focusing camera. A split screen would have been a good addition if not necessary, especially for the “Pure photography” believers. I don’t know why they didn’t implement it. This feature would have picked up the DF even more from the “big black dSLR” crowd. The AF system is very good, fast, but struggles a little in low light by not locking on the target. In the same light conditions even the older D90 can surpass it with its central AF point. Shutter sound is short and ferm, not too loud but also not silky smooth as F80’s one. Even if the specifications says that the camera is weather resistant, the kit lens is not, and because I don’t have a WR lens for Nikon I didn’t try the camera in rainy conditions.

The battery life is very good but the door of the memory card/battery compartment is very fragile. Yes, both card and battery share the same compartment which door opens and closes in the same way like Nikon F100’s R6 battery holder.
About the sensor what to say more that I don’t need more that it can deliver. The IQ is excellent, ISO performance outstanding, plenty DR. I can not add nothing cons on this matter.

How would I like to see a future Df2 ? Well, I would keep the sensor, make the camera smaller, by about 5-7mm in deep and around ~10-12mm in height. Also I would like a more sturdy construction, keep the weather sealing and with a much less flimsy battery/card door and a better AF system but not by adding more AF points but by making it more reliable. Also i see a better spread of the AF points on the entire focusing screen’s surface unlike in the case of the present Df. In addition, like mentioned previously, a split screen would be nicer or a better suited for manual focusing matte screen. Keeping the 100% viewfinder’s coverage of course is a must and rising the magnification to at least x0.85 would make the Df2 the dSLR with the biggest optical viewfinder. Despite the cons mentioned the Df is simply put, a daily camera, one that I would always carry with me, paired with one, maybe two small, light and fast prime lenses like Nikkors the 50mm f:1.8, 50mm f:1.4, 35mm f:2.0, 35mm f:1.8, 28mm f:2.8, 24mm f:2.8, 20mm f:2.8 are .

I won’t end this short description wishing you “good light”. In the Df’s case this would be outdated. So I wish you just to be there, where the things happen and don’t worry too much about the selected ISO ;-)
Have fun.

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Sep 052014
 

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The little camera that could. The Canon G10

By Seong Kim

Experimenting with a used $100 camera I purchased online 2 weeks ago. The seller of the camera asks “how come you want this old thing?” I told him it’s for experimental purposes as I am in pursuit of creating medium format style images with a point and shoot camera.

With many years of searching for the best system that suits my needs I have come to a realization that most camera’s out there do the exact same thing. My analogy to this statement is this… “A silver pen is a silver pen which could cost $500 or more… and a plastic pen is a plastic pen where you can receive for free from a business with their logo on it. They both do the same thing, however the person that is behind the pen and writes the stories is what truly matters.” Unless you’re using a crayon that’s a completely different story but I won’t get into that here.

When I landed on the famous President Barack Obama’s Inauguration image by David Bergman, totalling in size of an amazing 1474 megapixels (59783 x 24658 pixels) I was blown away to say the least. I said to myself “This camera must be some sort of crazy expensive system…” Excited as I was, I kept reading the details of how this shot was produced. When I saw the words+numbers Canon G10 my jaws dropped and I said to myself… “I MUST DO THIS.” Immediately I searched online for a used Canon G10 and poof, on sale via local resident for $100. Next I pursued to look for the Epic Gigapan system Mr. Bergman used and luck has it, my local camera shop had all three models. Double smile for me as I did not have to wait if I were to have purchased it online… Even better, they had the exact unit I needed as a their floor model and it was on sale… Without hesitation I said to the manager “I’ll take it.”

Back at the studio, I setup the camera and Epic system and after a few test shots and viewing youtube tutorials, I created my first medium format style image consisting of 9 shots.

Using MF systems such as the H4D’s and the classic 500CM’s… also the high res DSLR “D800E” of course these camera’s IQ is far beyond what the little guy can produce… However to the normal eye, and none photo world, people probably won’t realize which is which… But to the avid camera tech enthusiasts and professionals I am sure you’ll see the difference… H4D 40 at $20K and Canon G10 at $100 a big price gap…

So after producing this 9 shot image totalling a 71 mega pixel count… Not even close to Mr. Bergams Obama image of 220 images at 1474 mega pixels you can still see the great IQ at only 71 mega pixels with 9 shots taken with the Canon G10. After stitching the images together, I ran a large format test print 34″ x 35″ at 300 DPI. The results are fantastic.

Without further ADO, below are the results of the Canon G10 + Epic system which produced my first medium format style image. Pretty impressive for a 14.7 Megapixel point and shoot camera… Full size images and virtual view is available for your pleasure.

Thank you kindly,

Seong Kim // www.seongkim.com
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Screen shots at full view + 100% crop + Virtual view of entire image towards the end.

Printed on 54 inch wide format printer // 4 colour process, my printer prints with a tint and did not bother to adjust as this is a test print to view the image quality specifically the resolution not colour. Please excuse the difference you will see between the screen shots and virtual view.

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Sep 032014
 

Japan and Fuji XPRO-1

By Massimiliano

Dear Brandon and Steve,

I am Massimiliano, and italian photographer and lover of your blog and I am glad to submit you some picture taken by my last travel to Japan this August. Few weeks before moving to Japan I did a very strange deal, I sold my Leica M9 and took a Fuji XPRO-1 and 35mm f/1.4. Why? I am not sure but I was in search of something different from the greatness but sometimes frustrating Leica M9 limitation (I still use an M2 if I want to use Leica camera).

Over all I love Japan and Tokyo is one of the best place were to shot but I was worried to be unable to catch the beauty of the city with a new gear on my hands. What follow are few shot I have chosen that prove to myself again that the XPRO-1 is a really incredible camera well made and with all the feature necessary to modern photography. Most of the shot are taken in the area that goes between Harajuku and Shibuya few weeks ago. When I shot I try to go as close I can to my subject being sometimes intrusive but able to catch what I think is important because I love Japan and I would like everyone knows this wonderful country.

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Massimiliano Tiberi
Journalist & Photographer
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blog: http:://blog.massimilianotiberi.com
galllery: http://massimilianotiberi.photoshelter.com

Sep 022014
 

A Fuji X100S report

By Lachlan Burrell

I’ve been using the Fuji X100S for about 16 months now, and I believe it’s one of the greatest digital cameras ever made! Obviously not everyone is going to agree with me on that, but here’s why I think so highly of this little camera:

Firstly, I’m a die-hard film shooter, and lover of traditional manual cameras. I learnt the ropes on great 1980’s era SLR cameras like the Olympus OM1 and Nikon FM2, and I still find the direct manual controls and simplicity of these kind of cameras such a joy to use, not to mention the wonderful tones and colours I get from film. So I was never quick to jump into the digital camera market. I got some very nice results from Nikon DSLR’s like the D200 and D3; both were and still are great cameras, but were a very different beast to the old film cameras that I loved.

Then along came the X100 and really caught my eye. Could this be the missing link between nostalgia, classic design and a practical, digital tool? Not one to rush into the latest thing, I waited to see how this camera would be received and how it would perform in the real world. Turns out there were some issues, as there often is with the first generation of any product. When the highly anticipated X100S was announced, I thought it was about time I took the plunge.

It didn’t take very long to warm to this little camera, most of the controls were very familiar and intuitive. I started playing around with the RAW files in Adobe Lightroom using VSCO (Visual Supply Company) Film presets that I had tweaked a little. It was then that I started getting a bit excited! Not only was this a beautiful camera to use, with traditional controls I was accustomed to, the images were the closest thing to film I’d seen come out of a digital camera. I’ve used the VSCO Film presets on the Nikon D3, but I’ve never been able to achieve a film look like I can with the X100S. There’s something about the Fuji sensor that lends itself to the tonality and feel of film. Some might argue, why bother trying to make the images from a digital camera look like film? Well that’s fine if you’re happy with a digital look, but to me digital often looks a bit “plastic” and surreal compared to a film image, and the colours don’t always appear to be rendered naturally. For those of you who are interested, I’ve outlined a few key changes I make to the standard VSCO preset settings in Lightroom. I don’t make any drastic changes, but as a general guide using the Kodak Portra 400 preset, for example, I add about 5 points more Saturation overall. Then I go to the HSL panel and into the individual colour saturation I nudge up the reds, oranges and yellows by 5-10 and knock the green down by about 5. In the hue settings I also nudge up the orange hue by 5-10 points, and knock the yellow, green and purple hues down by 5-10 points. In the luminance panel I knock the yellows and greens down a bit and nudge the purple and magenta up slightly. This all helps achieve a more natural creamy-warm skin tone. Another important adjustment I make is in the Split Toning. As a guide I set the highlights hue at about 40, saturation 5, and the shadow hue at about 210, saturation 5. This really gets close to emulating true negative film tonality. Play around with the grain settings to your own taste; for Portra 400 I have it set at 30, 30, 40. I use the Portra presets for most of what I shoot, but I’ve also customized presets for Kodak Tri-X black and white, Fuji Velvia, Fuji Astia and a couple of the Polaroid presets, which can be very interesting and moody. It really comes down to individual taste, but having shot film for so many years, I have a visual target to aim for when customizing the presets.

As far as my personal camera setup goes, I never use the accessory case, it just adds bulk and gets in the way. I also ditched the lens cap and attached the accessory filter adapter and a top quality B+W UV filter, primarily to protect that beautiful front element. I never use a lens hood, as lens flare isn’t an issue for me…I actually like the effect, and the Fuji lens doesn’t seem to suffer from it excessively.

In addition to the beautiful image quality the X100S can achieve, there are other things about this camera that just rock, in my opinion!

1. The exposure metering is superb; it nails it almost every time. And the rare times it doesn’t due to very challenging lighting, the dynamic range of the RAW files is huge, allowing highlight and shadow detail to be easily “rescued” later. The highlights don’t tend to blow out harshly, but fall off very gradually and naturally, something I haven’t experienced with other digital files.

2. The hybrid optical/electronic viewfinder is just lovely to use. I used to be a little irked by electronic viewfinders, but this one has changed my attitude. I still prefer the optical for general everyday shooting, but there are times, particularly when framing is critical or when the lighting is dim, that the electronic option really shines. The ultimate would be to have a true optical rangefinder with manual focusing, like so many popular consumer cameras made in the 60’s and 70’s. I don’t believe it has to remain the exclusive domain of Leica with a price tag to match. I wait in hope for a manufacturer to break the mould!

3. The compact size and near silent shutter is just perfect for travel and street shooting! I don’t believe there’s any other serious competitor for this camera, i.e. compact, light, full manual control, classic styling and design, delivering professional results.

Is this the perfect camera? I don’t think there is such a thing, because the needs of photographers are so diverse, but this comes close for a travel/street/documentary shooter. If I could change one thing about the X100S what would it be? The fixed 35mm equivalent lens can sometimes seem a limitation, but it’s also what gives the camera its unique appeal. I’ve often felt that a 40mm or 50mm standard would be more useful; I’m not a big wide-angle fan. But now with the option of 28mm and 50mm conversion lenses, I think Fuji have it covered quite nicely!

Lachlan Burrell

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Sep 012014
 

Wedding Photography With The Sony RX10 

By Jacob Glauninger

His website is HERE 

This is the first in a series of reviews I’ve been hoping to do. I’m a bit of a gear head amongst my peers, so unfortunately for me I go through a lot of gear. I’m not a big fan of technical reviews, there are plenty of MTF chart type reviews out there. They have their place, but I find they never really show me how my images will look in the field, so I’m going to try to stick to real world reviews. I’m also going to post edited images, because I always find my self curious what a camera is capable of, not what SOOC jpegs of flowers and bookshelves look like. I’m not gonna wow anyone with technical talk or pixel-peeping, I’ll leave that to the other reviewers. The question I am attempting to answer in this review is simply this: is the Sony RX10 a capable for shooting weddings?DSC-RX10_right_bgwh

To give a little background, I have been shooting with a Sony A7 over the past 6 months. I used to shoot weddings with two Canon 5Ds and and several L lenses, but a couple of years ago I briefly gave up the trade and sold all my gear. In turn, I switched over to mirrorless to satisfy my day to day photography wants. First was the Samsung nx100 and the Olympus XZ-1, and then I moved up to the canon EOS M when it went on fire sale. After my wife and I got married in November, I started shooting weddings together with my wife. I decided I should probably move up to something a little more serious than the EOS M. I tried the NEX-6 and hated it. Shortly after I picked up the A7, I loved it. However, the current lens selection does nothing for me, so I have been adapting vintage manual focus glass. Adapting old lenses is fun and all, but I’m getting really tired of manual focusing, especially at weddings.

Between wanting something as a backup camera with autofocus and being interested in cinematography, I landed on the Sony RX10. Whenever I purchase an item I like to test it really hard within the first 30 days. I’ve encountered a few lemons in the past so I always like to make sure everything is functional before the initial warranty expires. Fortunately, my wife and I had two weddings in one weekend, so I really got to push it to its limits.

Image Quality

First, lets cover something important - the RX10 uses a 1-inch sensor. Compared to your iPhone, it’s huge, but this isn’t by any means a full frame sensor. It’s not even an APS-C Sensor, heck it isn’t even a micro four thirds sensor. In the scheme of sensors in professional photography, this thing doesn’t even make it to the feather weights. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It just means you have to understand its limitations and characteristics. Namely, a lack of depth of field, which on the occasion I personally like. It’s really nice not having to stop down my lens to f8 to give my images some clarity. Being a 1 inch sensor, I think the 20mp they cram into it is more of a marketing ploy than anything else. I’d say it’s more realistically a 15mp sensor as far as usability is concerned. You might be able to squeeze 20mp out of this on the wide end at iso 125, but that’s about it. Anything else tends to fall apart really fast when you crop to 100%. I would have preferred that they scaled down the size and gave us smaller files.

Sharpness

On the widest end of the lens it is remarkably sharp except for the extreme corners which fall apart pretty fast. I got my camera used at Amazon Warehouse, so maybe this is just my camera, but I found anywhere else in the zoom range to be disappointing. If you are going to pixel peep, it’s just not sharp. But this is where the beauty of the 1 inch sensor comes into play. There is just so much clarity in the images that it somehow gives the impression it is sharp, when it really isn’t. There is also some noticeable fringing and halo-ing at the long end of some shots – kind of annoying but not terrible. Is the client going to notice any of this? Not likely.

Dynamic Range and ISO

Dynamic Range is pretty darn good for a compact. I was surprised how much detail I could recover from both my highlights and shadows. DXOMark gives it 12.6 stops of dynamic range so that easily puts it in the consumer DSLR range. ISO handling is probably one of this cameras biggest weaknesses. It’s pretty bad coming from a full frame camera, but coming from something like a Rebel or an NEX might not seem so bad. Fortunately the killer image stabilization and image clarity helps offset this by allowing you to shoot at lower ISO levels anyway. Overall I’d say it can manage in low light, but I wouldn’t rely on it unless I had to.

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Bokeh And Depth Of Field

At the wide end you aren’t going to get much more background blur than you would on an iPhone. If you force it, you can find it, but typically you won’t find it unless you only like to take picture 1 inch from your subject. Moving down the range you gradually get more and more separation from your background (due to telephoto compression). At the far end you can definitely get a useful amount of background blur. Off the top of my head, I’d say you are getting about the equivalent of what you would get with a 35mm f2 on a full frame body (minus the telephoto compression and everything else that makes it different). It’s not a huge amount of separation, but you can get it if you need it. Unfortunately, when you do get it, it’s hideous. This is probably the number one killer for me, personally. Onion bokeh galore. It reminds me of all the vintage glass I’m trying to get away from. However, some people like that look. So if that floats your boat, more power to you. The depth of field is adequate for me, but creamy it is not.

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Macro

It does it. Closer on the wide end than you can probably physically get to your subject, and closer on the telephoto end than you are probably used to.

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Build

I won’t talk too much about the build, that’s something you can and should feel for your self at the store. It’s light. Really light. Which is good. Feels a little cheap to me, but I’d rather it be light and feel a little cheap, than have to haul around a luxurious concrete block. Overall I can say it feel nice though. Maybe somewhere between the NEX-6 and the A7. The lens barrel feels really nice.

Controls and Handling

Controls and Handling is where this camera receives its second strike from me. The controls are a little fiddly…on second thought, they’re really fiddly. I don’t really have too many complaints about the layout. The menu is like anything else made by Sony in the last 6 months, and the button layout isn’t all that much different. I’m not crazy about the way Sony designs it’s layouts but I can live with it. My main complaints are little quarks here and there. First, it’s slow. Not so slow that it’s unusable, but slow enough to be annoying. Record times aren’t great, the zoom is really slow compared to anything with interchangeable lenses, and if you try zooming during the shot to review time, it will zoom into the reviewed image and not zoom the actual lens. This sets you back and can keep you from getting the shot. Next, I can’t get it set up like my A7, which is annoying. For those of you who don’t know, Sony allows for highly customizable buttons, but for some reason not completely customizable. For whatever reason, the closest I can get to my A7 is somehow still the opposite, so that continually throws me for a loop. The last notable quark I can think of (but I’m sure not the only one) is found it is really easy for my finger to bump the zoom. Since the zoom is an electronic zoom it’s also really not very accurate if you are trying to do precise focusing. Now, keep in mind these complaints are me nit-picking. Overall, I would say the handling on the RX10 is on par with anything else in its class, so don’t take this as it’s Achilles heel so to speak.

Price

As of writing this, they just dropped the price from a rather pricey $1300 to just below a more reasonable $1000. I picked mine up on amazon warehouse for $850 and since then I’ve seen them go as low as $750. $1300 was a bit of stretch for me, but $750 puts this camera easily in a fair price range.

Conclusion

Can you use this to shoot weddings? In short – a resounding yes. If you know and understand it’s limitations, it really does it all and at a great price too. It certainly won’t be for everybody, but I have to say I’m impressed with what this camera can do. Will I continue using it for weddings? As my main camera, absolutely not. As a second body (and a 4th or 5th to my wife’s cameras) – possibly. However, if I was forced to use this as my only camera, I wouldn’t be in the least bit nervous. In fact, if I was forced to choose one camera, and one lens for the rest of my life, this might just be my choice. Would I recommend it to others? Depends. If they were on a tight budget, just starting out, just want a well-rounded back up, etc., then yes. For someone who has an endless budget and demands only the best image quality, then probably not. The image quality is a compromise. In fact that’s all this camera is – one giant compromise between the best of all worlds (they call it a bridge camera).

The Elephant In The Room

The Panasonic FZ1000. I know. I just gave the RX10 a (mostly) rave review, but the new FZ1000 looks to be a mighty fine contender to the RX10. I can’t really give my recommendation on which one is better as it isn’t available yet, but it looks like the winner to me. From the samples I’ve seen, the image quality looks to be a bit better (and the bokeh, much better), it shoots 4k, extends all the way to 400mm and at a better price too. It has a few other improvements but it also looses somethings such as the built-in ND filter, constant f2.8 aperture, and weather sealing. However, either camera is exciting to me. If this is the start of a new trend in bridge cameras, I could see the bridge camera regaining some notable market share in the not too distant future.

Sample Images

All images below were adjusted in Adobe Lightroom with VSCO packs 01 and 02.

 

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Aug 292014
 

Sony A7 and the Nokton 40mm f/1.4

By Andrew Kaiser

I’m going to share a dirty little secret that is hard to admit. My favorite M-mount lens of all time is not made by Leica. It’s not made by Zeiss either. No, it’s not a vintage Canon or Nikon screw mount lens. It’s a lens made by that red headed step child of a manufacturer Voigtlander and it comes in the form of the 40mm Nokton f/1.4.

I purchased this lens along with a Bessa R3A more than a decade ago. To this day I am primarily a film shooter, mostly medium format. However, at the time I wanted something small I could carry around on occasion and the Bessa was an affordable option. I loved that camera and still own it to this day. Even more importantly I loved the lens. The 40mm focal length is as close to the field of view as my actual vision as I’ve ever used. The lens is sharp but not too sharp. The bokeh is smooth but not dreamy. It’s slightly gritty and feels very authentic to me. Best of all, the lens is ultra-fast and yet comes in a very tiny package making it easy to stick in the side pocket of a camera or messenger bag. When paired up against my medium format gear, I need any and all additional equipment to be small and easy to pack away.

These days I rarely shoot with 35mm film. I like the large negative of medium format and when I want something smaller I go with digital. Unfortunately, using the 40mm Nokton wasn’t much of an option in the digital universe without compromise. Digital Leica M cameras don’t have frame lines for 40mm lenses (yes I know I can approximate with 35mm or 50mm, but considering the price of a Leica I want precision). Adapting the lens to an APS-C camera wasn’t much of an option either as the lens becomes closer to 60mm, a focal length that feels very awkward in my creative brain. Even in the world of 35mm film, the 40mm Nokton was a bit of an oddball. To my knowledge, only the Bessa R3 camera line, the Leica CL, and the Minolta CLE had frame lines for a 40mm lens. So sadly, for a few years my 40mm Nokton sat on a shelf untouched and unloved.

All of that changed when Sony released the A7. I am not ashamed to say I bought the A7 with the primary purpose in mind of using my 40mm Nokton in a digital medium at the focal length the lens it was intended to be. That might seem silly considering the Nokton is typically considered more of a budget lens and not the kind of equipment a photographer should obsess over. But hey, to each their own!

The Nokton pairs beautifully with the A7. The overall package is small and compact, and yet I don’t feel like I am holding a toy or compromising on creative control when I use it. After spending a little time setting the camera up to my liking, its operation is completely intuitive. Nearly everything I want is accessible via its own dedicated dial or button on the outside of the camera. Why it took so long for digital camera designers to grasp the importance of this I will never know, but they are certainly getting it right with the A7.

I admit, having the majority of my photographic experience rooted in the film world made me very apprehensive about the EVF on the A7. Thankfully these fears were put to bed after using it for about two days. It takes some getting used to, but as with most things photography related, there are advantages one quickly learns to embrace, and some disadvantages one learns to overlook. I still don’t love the feeling of looking at my subject through a digital screen, but I have learned to appreciate focus peaking and focus assist when using vintage glass as well as being able to gauge depth of field in real-time.

If I have any complaints about the A7 they are relatively minor. The first would be a purely cosmetic one. I very much wish Sony would drop the bright orange color accents on its professional grade cameras. It’s ugly and sticks out painfully against what is an otherwise attractive camera design. The second is more functional. I would have really appreciated if Sony would have made the shutter release button threaded. This is not only nice when one wants to use a cable release, but it also gives photographers the ability to use a soft release. I’ve become completely addicted to soft release adapters in recent years and consider them an essential part of any camera purchase. Luckily I managed to find a mini-soft release that adheres to a flat shutter button via an adhesive method, but I’m still a little annoyed my choices were so limited. Sony got this right with the RX1, I don’t know why they didn’t do the same with the A7 line.

Still, minor nitpicks aside, the A7 paired with a 40mm f/1.4 Nokton has become my go-to travel companion, and a permanent fixture as a back-up camera next to my medium format film gear. Sony has really made something here that I can see myself owning and utilizing for years to come.

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Aug 282014
 

Shooting a model for the first time

By Andrew Paquette

Website: www.paqart.com

For my summer vacation this year I decided that I wanted to shoot at least one fun sporting event and to set up my first ever model shoot. As of about eight hours ago, both are accomplished. The sporting event, a basketball championship in Amsterdam, was a lot of hard work as far as the shooting was concerned, but was a breeze administratively. I was invited (and paid) to be there, so I didn’t have to worry about getting permission for anything, getting press credentials, setting up the location (or finding it) or anything like that. In contrast, shooting a model for the first time meant I had to do everything myself. What was that like? After deciding that I wanted to shoot a model, preferably a professional from an agency, I had to have a concept, a budget, and some idea where I intended to do this and what kind of permits I might need. In the end, almost everything went differently than expected.

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My first goal was a non-goal—if I was going to pay for all the things that went into the shoot, I did not want to get something that looked like, as my wife described it, “somebody’s girlfriend in the forest”. This doesn’t mean there aren’t excellent photos of somebody’s girlfriend in a forest—I saw quite a few while poring over photographer websites—but they all had something extra to make them interesting. As an illustrator, I had made many compositions over the years that could be readily translated into interesting photographs, but most would require the construction of extensive sets—something I did not want to do because of the associated costs. Instead, I wanted something simple, with maybe one or two models at the most, and preferably something that could be shot in an accessible (and free) public location or an inexpensive day rental of a photo studio, probably in Amsterdam.

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To help give me ideas, I looked through my catalogue of street photos in Amsterdam. I found two that looked good enough as ideas, though not as finished photos, to serve as inspiration for a shoot. Both could be shot on the street in Amsterdam in large public spaces. I didn’t think there would be a problem with this because it isn’t much different from the street shots I already took, but just to be sure, I checked the city of Amsterdam’s website (http://www.iamsterdam.com/en-GB/business/Film-office/Filmprotocol) to see if a permit would be needed. The short answer is that no permit would be required. The only caveat was that I would need a permit if I introduced helicopters, hundreds of extras, food carts, or car crashes into the shoot. I wasn’t planning on doing any of those things, so I was in the clear. They do ask that photographers notify them of pending shoots so that area businesses have an opportunity to complain or stipulate things like a fee for use of their washroom, no trash dumped in their bins, etc.

Next, I had to find a couple of models. The first concept required a female model and an athletic male model capable of Rollerblade or skateboard stunts. I wanted to shoot them at the skateboard park in Amsterdam, where the female model reacted to the male model doing stunts (or, if I found a female model who could do them, the reverse). The second concept required two female and two male models, something that I doubted would be affordable, but I thought I might as well check. I should point out here that I have hired models twice before, but not for this purpose. The first was hired from an agency in Portland Maine, to pose as a generic female character to be used as reference for my work as a comic book artist. Hiring her was not difficult. I just called the agency, told the owner what I was looking for, and $500 later, had the shoot wrapped and a couple of books full of excellent reference shots that happened to be not very good photographs.

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The second occasion was in 1999 or so when I hired a female model from an LA-based agency to have her head scanned for use in a video game. Again, this was not a difficult thing to arrange. I called the agency, they sent over some head shots, I picked one, and then she went to the scanning facility and did the job. Not a problem. This time, it would be different. Why? Because this time, I was a photographer working on a portfolio instead of an artist with a client.

I went first to a site that listed about two dozen agencies in the Netherlands: (http://www.kmodels.com/Netherlands-modeling-agencies-links2.htm).

I started calling and emailing to inquire about rates and how a shoot could be organized. None answered my emails. I spoke with one agency rep at A Models Amsterdam (http://www.amodelsamsterdam.com/) who seemed to think I was asking for a free model because it was for a portfolio. I explained that wasn’t the case, but it didn’t matter—without a client (preferably a major company) their models weren’t available, even for paid work. So here I got stuck. No model means no shoot. What could I do? I found a site that sets up photographers with models, hairstylist, and make-up artists (http://www.modelmayhem.com/) but to get in I had to have a portfolio with photos of four different shoots with four different models. I didn’t have that, but did have some decent shots of more than four different people in situations that looked like different shoots, so I decided to upload those and hope that my industry credits as an artist and art director were enough to deal with any problems in their review process. Unfortunately, my holiday was almost over, so their approval had to come fast or I would have missed my window of opportunity. But then, I got lucky.

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While I was shooting the basketball game in Amsterdam, my wife and daughter attended a figure drawing class. My wife thought their model would work for the photo shoot I wanted to do, so she approached her about it. The model was fine with the idea, so now I had a model. However, I only had one model. The concepts I had for the shoot wouldn’t work. I booked her anyway, then sat down to think about what I could do with one model. In the end I took inspiration from a street photo I’d taken in Amsterdam of a girl smoking a cigarette in front of a dark stone wall. Her features and pale skin contrasted against the dark stone reminded me of old Proto-Renaissance portrait paintings. This would be the theme. With that decided, I had to figure out how far I wanted to go with it. I didn’t own any Medieval artifacts to use as props, and doubted any museum would let me use theirs (I also didn’t want to go through asking for permission, a process that would likely take a long time and then be rejected anyway.)

Location was easier to deal with. There are a lot of Gothic cathedrals in the Netherlands and I had photographed quite a few of them so I knew what they looked like. One of the oldest was in the south of Holland and they gave permission to shoot there. Now I had a model and a location, but needed a way to somehow connect the model to the location. This could be done with a medieval costume. People in the Netherlands love costumes, so at first I thought it would be easy to find one. It wasn’t, but after a lot of looking, I found a costume shop in Den Haag with a great selection of good quality medieval costumes for rent (http://www.dewitkostuums.nl)

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I don’t read Nederlands very well, so I missed the part on their website that said they were open for appointment only, so I went without an appointment. Luckily they were very nice about my lack of knowledge about their policies, and invited me up to look at their costumes. While I was there, I decided to get two so that more variety could be eked out of the shoot. This turned out to be a very important decision, so I’m glad I did it. At the time I was worried because the costumes I rented were among the most expensive they had. My wife was looking at me like she was thinking “are you sure about this?”

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So then I had two costumes, a model, and a location. I had the general idea that these Proto-Renaissance portraits were my inspiration, but how to translate that into photos? What ended up happening is I asked the model to do an impromptu extra shoot when she came in for the fitting. We went out to a local community garden where she was photographed in the more brilliantly colored costume of the two. The idea was that this day she is wearing friendly, upbeat colors and would be shot in a pleasant, green, lush, fresh-looking location. On the next day, she wore an outfit that had much less color and was photographed against stone and black iron. The effect created a contrast between a shire-like garden on the first day with the stately aloofness of a stone cathedral on the second. One is playful, the other austere.

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For cameras, I used a Nikon D800 and a Sony A7r. On the “green” day, the A7r was mounted by a Zeiss ZA 135mm 1.8 lens, and the D800 had the Zeiss 55mm Otus mounted on it. On the “white” day, the A7r had a 35mm 1.4/ASPH Summilux. The D800 had either the 55mm Otus or a Zeiss 15mm Distagon. I also used a Nikon NB-910 speedlight on the D800 and a Zacuto viewfinder for both cameras (I love my Zacuto viewfinder!). I won’t compare the quality of the lenses because each is pretty much the best you can find in their focal length and performed as such. All lens choice decisions were dictated by focal length—what was needed to frame a shot or get a certain effect.

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Aug 272014
 

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Wedding photography with a Sony RX100II

By Dennis Low

There are lots of contradictions when it comes to how photographers think about their equipment. Street photographers, for instance, often value small cameras and we all know the reasons why: when cameras are small, they’re unobtrusive, discrete; unlike dSLRs, small cameras look ‘friendly’ and ‘unthreatening’ which puts people at ease, should they even spot them at all. The ever-ready small camera is perfect for shooting the world unawares, capturing the moment as it happens.

All of this makes perfect, logical sense – until, that is, someone asks you to photograph their wedding. Now, you’d think wedding photographers, with everyone wanting candid, documentary, fly-on-the-wall imagery, would have a lot in common with street photographers, and that small cameras would be absolutely central to the wedding photography industry. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, if you’re looking for a wedding photographer, you’d be hard-pressed to find one who *isn’t* wielding, say, a couple of Canon 5D MK III bodies, 24-70mm f2.8 and 70-200mm f2.8 zooms, maybe with a couple of fast aperture primes to boot, or an outfit that’s very, very similar. With every guest at the wedding taking photographs already, the official photographer, it seems, needs to have equipment that’s bigger, better, and more expensive than everyone else’s – otherwise, what’s the point of hiring a photographer at all?

But surely it’s the photographer rather than the kit that matters, right? Yet, if that was the case, how come you never hear about wedding photographers using the pocket digicams favoured by many street photographers? and what would wedding photography look like if they did?

I spend most of my time developing my fine art practice and trying to find new ways of photographing animals but, last month, I was asked to photograph two weddings (consecutive weekends!). On both occasions, I was asked for candid, documentary-style shots, and instructed to ‘blend in’ and basically not get in the way.

That in mind, I had a think about how I was going to work: I wanted to be free to weave in and out between groups of guests, unencumbered by a huge, heavy bag; I wanted guests I’d never met to not even flinch when I stood next to them and took their picture. Visually, I wanted images that my clients could pore over in years to come, ones that reveal every detail of their wedding days rather than hide them in a gorgeous, creamy blur of expensive, full-frame bokeh at f1.4. (Those classy-looking, ambient light shots where nothing’s in focus except the bride’s left eye, or the groom’s new wedding ring, are actually pretty easy to do, but they don’t actually tell you a lot about the day, where they were taken, or when.) I wanted my photos to sidestep all those old wedding conventions and, instead, somehow tune into the language of the normal, everyday photography that everyone knows and understands, like the stuff you see all the time on Facebook or Instagram. But supercharged, obviously :-)

It became increasingly apparent that the tiny size and huge depth of field of small sensor cameras were just what I needed. So, I took a deep breath, resisted all things dSLR, left my Leica M9 at home, and packed a little satchel with a Sony RX100II, together with a couple of flashes on remote triggers.

What does a digicam wedding look like? can it ever look professional, and is it something you’d ever try to do? Take a look and decide for yourself!

Dennis Low

www.TakeMeToTheKittens.com

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Aug 262014
 

My muse: Alina, with the Nikon V1

By Ivan Lietaert

Hi Steve and Brandon. I would like to present to you and your readers my muse: Alina. She’s my youngest kid, 4 years old, and she’s not (camera) shy at all. (Put a plastic toy microphone in her hands, and she’ll start singing instantly!) The pictures below were all taken in the past couple of weeks, and were taken with my Nikon V1 and the Nikon 1 18.5mm f1.8. I shoot jpeg, not raw, and the pictures were treated with Lightroom and Nik Software plugins, esp. Silver Efex Pro 2. I use natural light only. No flash.

I wrote about the V1 for your website about a year ago. Then, I wrote about the surprising video capabilities of this camera. 

The V1 has become my favourite ‘family trip’ camera for still images because of its fast focus and compact form. I don’t have the budget, honestly, for fancier gear, so I make the best of what I’ve got.

I live in Belgium, a country that has quite strict privacy laws, especially towards the under age. For photographers, it basically implies you need a release form when post portraits online, unless you are the parent (or legal guardian), which I am, of course. Aside from the legal aspect of publishing my children’s pictures online, I do have other reservations as well. I have friends who would never publish pictures of their (young) children online for safety reasons. In the late nineties, Marc Dutroux, a serial child molester and murderer, shocked the country, and now parents of young children are particularly sensitive about the issue.

To be honest, there is a bit of a guilty feeling, mixed with suspician, each time one of my kid pictures is liked or favourited on Flickr… which is sad, not? But there is yet another angle to this. A while back, I was asked by one my best friends to remove pictures from my flickr account. The reason: the kids have now reached puberty, and they are afraid to be bullied for these pictures, which their fellow class members are googling for.

Professionally, I’m a teacher at a secondary school (ages 12 up to 18), and I am the unofficial ‘official’ photographer for many school events. I always take care only to publish pictures in which the kids look good/cool and not goofy or whatever, just for that reason. (When children enroll to our school, they automatically must sign a release form too). Here is a link to an article I wrote for Steve about such a school event.  This is the reality of the world we live in, and I am writing this post because I’m curious about what you, Steve and Brandon, and your readers think about all this.

This is my Flickr account: https://www.flickr.com/photos/ivanlietaert/

Kind regards,
Ivan Lietaert

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Aug 252014
 

Finding time for Photography with a Nikon Df

by D.J. De La Vega

Hi Steve,

The last article I sent to you was all about going the extra mile to make the time for photography. Setting aside dedicated time solely for the purpose of exploring my art. This article however is quite the opposite… It is all about my quest to juggle my photography with my family and work life.

First let me start by clarifying, I am a really, really lucky guy!!! I have an amazing family and a steady job, I could not ask for anything more from life, I want for nothing. When it comes to my favourite craft, there is simply not enough hours in the day for me to dedicate as much time as I would like to photography. For this reason I have become quite adept at shooting the everyday things that surround my every day life around my everyday routines. Always carrying a camera with me whether I am walking the dog with the kids in the park, popping to the shops or cycling to work in the rain. Historically my trusty X1 went with me no problems, small light and unobtrusive. However there are two main reasons I have drifted back to DSLR at the expense of the little powerhouse. Firstly, the X1 is quite delicate in it build quality. It really disagrees with being flung around, bumped and banged and heaven forbid it would ever get wet and dirty. Secondly I always shoot Raw with the compact and this is where the problem of finding time for my photography arose.

Post production for me has always been a headache, I much prefer shooting the photos, experiencing and capturing the moment. The though of sitting indoors staring at a screen endlessly editing photos on my prehistoric laptop send a shudder down my spine, especially if I have a lot to work through. This has led me to try to streamline my post production workflow.

Getting back to how lucky I am, I recently upgraded my D7000 to the magnificent Nikon Df. I learned photography on a Pentax K1000 and later acquired a Nikon FM2n, so getting back to the manual dials and classic style of shooting with the Df has really inspired me. The pace of using this camera is a mix of slow and methodical like my X1 but a lot faster and more responsive. I love the organic quality of the JPEGs from this camera and do not have to spend long at all tweaking them on the computer. Also enter into my life the new Adobe Photoshop Express app on Windows 8. This little app is a dream come true for me…I am new to the iPad/tablet generation but no longer do I have to log onto my ancient laptop to do “proper” photo editing. I can quickly pop the SD card straight into my tablet, adjust a couple of sliders on-screen and I’m done. Minutes instead of hours!
With all my modern conveniences now at hand it was time for a little vacation to visit family dotted around the country. With the Df permanently attached to my shoulder I had the pleasure of shooting some of my own stuff here and there in-between visits and family functions. Just a quick note on the build quality of the Df… it is brilliant. The right balance of sturdy metal ruggedness, but just about light enough to carry around all day every day.

It’d be my honour to share some of these shots with you and your readers to give me a bit feedback on how the finished articles stack up against my older work. Remember, I spent more time shooting than I did quickly and dirtily editing them, so go easy on me…

Photo 1: Shooting the fountains on the street in Peterborough.

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Photo 2: Peterborough Cathedral Selfie… Correct me if I’ wrong, but I’m sure this is what the upward facing mirrors are for???

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Photo 3: Peterborough Cathedral

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Photo 4: The most nonchalant cyclist in London.

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Photo 5: The Photographer Photographed, using what appears to be an Olympus film SLR.

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Photo 6: The Photographer Photographed, using what appears to be a Canon DSLR. 

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Photo 7: A classical underground busker. A great character and a fantastic musician.

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Photo 8: A beam of light in the Natural History Museum. With the weather and the queues I was lucky there was any light left that day. 

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Photo 9: Lincoln Cathedral 

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Photo 10: A view of Lincoln Cathedral.

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Thanks for looking and thanks in advance for any feedback!
DJ De La Vega

https://www.flickr.com/photos/djdelavega/

@dj_delavega

http://instagram.com/dj_delavega/#

Aug 222014
 

Unpolished pictures of unpolished people in unpolished Copenhagen

by Thorkil Brodersen

I felt that I just had to get up from the deep coach, when reading the article from 12. Aug. 14 by Howard Shooter, where he provoked by claiming that Copenhagen is spotlessly clean and beautiful, so are the buildings and even the people.

Therefore I just had to grab down in the picture-pile, to claim he is totally wrong.

Copenhagen, but I have only lived in it and close around it for about 45 years, is a living organism full of life and contrasts, but yes in this our highly praised welfare state, things are getting departed, the poor are getting poorer, the rich are getting richer, and the middle class too. And the poor and “normal” people are getting pushed out of the center while this is getting more expensive, and objects of speculation.

But the city has its own life hidden in the old streets, the old areas, the old walls and the hidden places. You just have to dip your toes a step further down and under the surface. You have to avoid the fancy places. You just have to sense the atmosphere, give yourself time to go inside cityrooms, backyards and old bar’s

Taken with Ricoh GR and GRIV

Best, Thorkil

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