Jul 282015
 

User Report: A Nikon J5 Review

by Eyal Gurevitch

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What makes a small camera great?

When asked what camera is compact and excellent I have no straight answer. It’s complicated, I tell them. You must sacrifice zoom range, or the max apertures of the lens, or the price of the camera, or its controllability, or its size.

So what’s the best compromise, they ask. It depends, I say. Would you call yourself an advanced photographer? Do you enjoy controlling your camera? Change its settings much? Must you have a large zoom? Can you pay more? Can you carry more?

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How can you compete with a x30 zoom of a 240 gram camera, or a x83 in a camera the size of an entry-level DSLR? How can you challenge a 1” sensor in a 300 gram camera that also has a useful zoom range and an f/1.8-2.8 aperture range?

It’s tough for camera makers to keep pleasing us photographers. To keep surprising us. But somehow they keep it coming. Such is the Nikon 1 J5. No, it’s not a groundbreaking camera, it doesn’t bring anything entirely new to the market. What it does it to balance some really great qualities in a single, triumphant package.

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Size matters.

With its 10-30mm kit lens, the J5 is not any taller or wider than the implicitly aforementioned RX100 IV. It is thicker, due to the length of the lens, so it’s not pocketable and that’s a big difference, but in terms of conspicuousness, they are virtually the same.

So why even consider the J5 over the RX100IV if they have the same sensor size and body size, but a large difference in max apertures, in favour of the Sony? The first and most obvious argument would be the ability to switch lenses. However, most Nikon 1 lenses mounted on the J5 would render it cumbersome and unbalanced, so other than for a niche use of a large aperture prime or a long zoom here and there, the capital practical use of this camera would undisputedly be with the 10-30mm along with its f/3.5-5.6 apertures.

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The grip. The controls.

There are two significant changes the Nikon did with the J5 over the previous body. The first is the all new BSI-CMOS sensor that delivers 20.8 megapixels but much more importantly better image quality and richer colors. The second is a thought out design of dials, buttons and controls added to the camera body without adding to its size. There’s a new Fn button in the front, a new dial around the video button, PASM modes in the main control dial and there’s a new grip. I would never understand why all cameras don’t have a grip as deep as their smallest attachable lens. The new grip of the J5 makes it oh-so-much easier to hold, especially compared to J4’s bar-of-soap-like slippery body. All these additions turn the J5 into a camera that’s easy to use and easy to control.

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The Speed

Nikon take pride in the fast shooting abilities of the J5 and they have almost every right to do so. Just like the J4, it can shoot a max of 20 shots per second with AF at full resolution, or 60 shots per second with locked focus. It has an impressive variety of slow modes in video (but an unimpressive 15fps in 4K). The only caveat being its slow processing, taking long seconds and sometimes even minutes to save the large amount of photos taken during a quick burst.

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There’s also the cool best moment capture feature, which keeps buffering images as long as you half press the shutter, taking a batch of 20 shots when you fully press it, 10 out of which are from the second before you pressed it.

In this regard there’s no change at all from its predecessor – you’re sure to capture the decisive moment, but probably not the next one.

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The Bottom Line

The Nikon 1 J5 is a highly capable, intuitively controllable compact mirrorless camera. It’s a huge step up from the J4 in terms of body design and as well as in image quality, making it a viable competitor in the high-end, large-sensor compact camera market, standing against the likes of the Sony RX100 IV as well as the Panasonic GM5, and with a truly attractive price tag.

Check out the Nikon 1 J5 at B&H Photo or Amazon.

Jul 212015
 

Moment, Chaos and a Personal Perspective

By Shaul Naschitz

Hi Brandon and Steve,

I have been featured on your site more than once before, but hopefully you allow me to contribute a few thoughts once more.

I consider myself a savvy amateur photographer. I started with this means of self-expression about thirty years ago and kept doing it with more or less involvement ever since. Naturally, the digital revolution inspired a significant boost to my photographic endeavors; not least by the ever evolving technologies of creating photographs and “publishing” them. Between 2010 and 2012 I dedicated a lot of my spare time to writing about photography. The resulting blog, with its 900+ posts, never got much attention (maybe because it’s written in Hebrew…). One day, perhaps when I retire, I might try to make a nice and thick book of it.

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Anyway, in the past year or so my interest in photography has been progressively waning. I don’t carry a camera on a daily basis anymore and when I do use one I tend to do so more purposefully than before, so I shoot much less. It is not the cost that deters me like in the olden days; it is the tedious task of browsing through a mountain of rubbish to pick the few gems worth keeping. The paintwork on the Delete buttons on the backs of my cameras is always worn out.

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Another recent development is I don’t care anymore what others think of my work. Especially peers on web-based communities. I have long ago forsaken the aspirations of making a living of my hobby and finally accept the notion that I am not “better” than others. If anything, my sense for business is way below average, just like the pleasure I get from fulfilling the expectations of complete strangers. So why bother? I am old enough to serve as my own judge.

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I know that all of this sounds like old cynical bickering, but I assure you I have never felt happier, more light-hearted and liberated about my photography. After so long I feel free to explore this fascinating medium and create art, my own art. The charm in photography to me has everything to do with its inherent limitations and “flaws”. It is a great tool for observation, much less so for expression. In fact, any other art form is superior to photography in terms of sheer creation. Photography is so tightly embedded in the physical world it can’t really escape. So creating art using this medium must involve dismantling rather than construction, authorship rather than creation. Photography dissects the flow of time into distinct moments and allows us to concentrate on those fragments. That property is unique to this medium and gives it its strength.

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Cartier-Bresson coined the obscure and much debated “moment decisif” as an ideal of thematic and geometric order in a chaotic situation. But I am interested in the opposite: chaos itself. A bit of chaos makes things messed up, tense, interesting. Instead of fighting the ever-present, crude randomality I now work with it.

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The symbiosis of moment and disorder is what makes photography so fascinating to me. An extreme example of that are group dance performances, where despite the meticulous planning a lot of individual character comes through. You can’t usually observe slight synchronization errors or fleeting facial expressions when watching a live dance show, but a camera can reveal a lot. The same principles are obviously relevant to more reactive genres, such as street photography and photojournalism. It is just a matter of giving up control and letting chance play its role. And I didn’t even mention the fun in doing so.

Shaul Naschitz

Jul 132015
 
Sakura and Mount Fuji

A Review of the Sony A7II from a Newbie to Photography

by Alex Foon

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Hi Steve!

First of all thanks for hosting such a wonderful, no-nonsense website that I’ve been religiously visiting every single day. The past six months had been a roller coaster ride for me (photographically speaking) and I just managed to find time, sit down and write a photography beginner’s review of the Sony A7 mark II.

Prior to 12 Dec 2014, my tool for photography had been limited to camera phone and then smartphones. Back then, I never understood why some of my friends were into this expensive hobby called “photography” – the hassle to carry DSLRs the size and weight of a bowling ball, lifting it up to your face, adjust the settings for what lasted like an eternity, and then fire in burst; when the simple action of whipping out the iPhone could seemingly produce similar results.

Fast forward to the fateful 12 Dec 2014, I touched down at the airport after a grueling business trip, in my mind I was thinking perhaps I could do a little shopping therapy and so I aimlessly walked into the Sony store. The storekeeper told me that their latest release was the Sony A7II (just launched that day) and 10 minutes later I walked out with the A7II kit bundle, not knowing better what I had gotten myself into.

Of course over the next few days I was quite excited about my new toy, I had absolutely zero idea about what was aperture, shutter speed, metering, exposure, depth of field and etc. (maybe I still don’t quite get it now). It was frustrating to have such a high-end camera and yet the images I captured were not up to my expectation. I started researching online about how to operate the camera and how to capture a photograph properly, and that’s when I chanced upon your review of the A7II. It was almost instinctive that I made another investment in a prime lens (FE Zeiss 55 1.8, still my favorite lens to date) instead of keeping the kit zoom 28-70 (not that it’s a bad lens either).

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And then things started to get very interesting.

I suppose I needed to justify my impulse purchase, hence I brought the A7II with me everywhere I went, from daily grind in the office, to Penang, Ho Chi Minh City, Bangkok, Tokyo, Beijing and many more locales to come. The delectable combo of the lightweight A7II body coupled with solidly build FE lenses means it’s possible for me to carry them in my backpack all the time, and this allowed me to shoot whenever I find pockets of time in between.

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The improved ergonomics of the second iteration of the A7 series body should not be underestimated. The grip is beefed up for a firmer one handed operations when needed, and coupled with the placement of the shutter button, this alone potentially allows an additional stop of stability over the corresponding mark I’s in the series. And you’ll be surprised that a 45 degrees slant of the C3 button (C2 in mark I’s) can really improve the functionality of the camera especially when using manual focus.

Speaking of focusing, having such a shallow depth of field in full frame bodies makes the autofocus unreliable at times, you thought you might have nailed the focus on the eyes but when you review it again the spectacles were in focus instead. So 90% of the time I opt to use manual focus. MF is made stupidly easy and some might even argue that it is faster than the AF on the A7ii, turn the focus ring and the image magnifies, press my assigned C3 button and the focus magnifier further zooms in for fine tuning.

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With the OLED EVF, what you see is what you get! No more worrying about whether you nailed the exposure or the focus. The in-body 5 axis image stabilizer further supports the notion of WYSIWYG because I could be having seizure and still manage to see through the EVF and get a shot in focus. (alright, I promise this would be my only attempt in over-exaggerating, but you guys get the idea ;-D)

The short flange distance of the full frame A7ii camera body, working in tandem with manual focus assist tools and the IBIS, enable users to mount possibly every single camera lens ever made, as long as there is an adapter made to mount it. From my current favorite and affordable Minoltas, to the wallet breaking but absolutely fantastic Leicas, there is a lens for A7 users on any level of budget.

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I understand that Sony had announced the lustrous A7RII, and how willing am I to sell a kidney for that one. Looking at it from another angle, I’m glad Sony had priced the A7II at almost half price of the A7RII. And for all the joy and memories it had brought me over past half a year, I think this was the best impulsive buy that I had ever made. Today, I hope I had at least learnt something about aperture, shutter speed and whatnots, and I might have found a lifelong passion in photography.

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I will check out for now with 10 photos I had taken over the past 6 months with the A7II. Hope to finish my first roll soon on the Minolta SRT Super so I can send some entries in for Film Friday ;)

Till then, keep shooting.
Alex

Flickr: alex.foon
Facebook: facebook.com/sotongball
Email: [email protected]

Jul 082015
 
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NYC Pride Parade

By Carlos Varela

Hi Everyone!

My name is Carlos Andres Varela and I am a professional wedding and fashion photographer and have been an avid street photographer for the last several years. This is my first submission to a blog or website that features work that I was not hired to shoot.

I’ve been a Canon shooter for over a decade, but a few years ago, feeling a bit burned out and looking for something new (and not wanting to carry my heavy DSLR everywhere), I bought my first Leica -the Leica M9- and fell in love with using a rangefinder. Although not the perfect camera by far it was the most fun and pleasurable experience I had had in a long time. Thus began my journey, a journey of needing to shoot street and travel photography for my own pleasure on an almost daily basis.

I later went on to buy the M240 and the Fuji X-T1.

When I first got the X-T1 I loved it and used it non-stop for about 3 months but in the end I missed shooting with a rangefinder. If it wasn’t that I love shooting with my Leica’s, I would not have stopped using the Fuji. I feel it is the best general purpose semi-professional camera out there (If you take into account size, weight, functions, usability etc…) but the pleasure of snapping a picture is still much greater -for me- with my Leica rangefinders.

These NYC 2015 Pride Parade pictures were taken with both Leica’s (M9 and M240) and with either the Voigtlander 28mm f/2.0 or Zeiss 50mm f/1.5 Sonnar.  Processed using Lightroom CC.

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I’m currently in the process of renovating my website (www.cavaweddings.com -I shoot weddings with my Canons-) and creating a few more with my fine art work (represented by Vogelsang Gallery -Mostly using Phase one’s or Hasselblad’s), Street photography (mostly using my Leica’s), Events (Canon’s again) and Fashion (all will be separate websites).

In the meantime you can see more of my street photography via my instagram account:

https://instagram.com/cavaphoto/

and a few more of the parade on my FB:

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10153477327761532.1073741835.544846531&type=1&l=69d2b851e2

Feel free to contact me with any questions or comments.

Carlos Andres

Jun 302015
 
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Visiting CHERNOBYL. A Photo Diary

by Gary Mather

 

Here is some brief history –

On Saturday, April 26, 1986, a disaster occurred which has been widely regarded as the worst accident in the history of nuclear power in the world. The accident occurred when the fourth reactor suffered a huge power increase. This led to the core of the reactor exploding. Due to this explosion, large amounts of radioactive materials and fuel were released into the atmosphere. This lit the combustable graphite moderator on fire. This fire greatened the release of radioactive material, which was carried by the smoke of the fire, into the environment and atmosphere.

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Radioactive fallout drifted over parts of the western Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, Scandinavia, the UK, and the eastern United States. Large areas of Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia were badly contaminated. About 60% of the radioactive fallout landed in Belarus. About 350,000 people needed to be evacuated and moved to other places where they could live after the accident.

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Once the seriousness of the situation was known, Mikhail Gorbachev, the president of the USSR at the time, quickly gathered the top physicists and nuclear experts at his disposal to assess the situation. Thirty-six hours after the initial explosion, these experts decided the residents of Pripyat must evacuate. Residents were given two hours to gather their belongings. The evacuation of Pripyat’s 43,000 residents took 3.5 hours, using 1,100 buses from Kiev. Residents remember that everyone was in a hurry, but nobody was panicking.

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The residents of Pripyat were initially told they would be evacuated only for three days. However, to this day, the town is uninhabitable. Pripyat city was founded in the 1970s, when the nuclear power plant opened. The site today is practically a museum showing the late Soviet era. With entirely abandoned buildings, including abandoned apartment buildings (four of which were yet to be used), swimming pools and hospitals, everything inside remains, from records to papers to children’s toys and clothing. Prypiat and the surrounding area will not be safe for people to live there for several centuries. Scientists think that the most dangerous radioactive elements will take up to nine hundred years to decay sufficiently to render the area safe.
We were there for a total of 2 days and I can feel we only scratched the surface of what happened on that fateful day.

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I was 13 when this disaster accoured and my only fleeting memory was seeing clips on the news as a child. To me it was something that happened a long way away in a place I could not even pronounce. I have wanted to visit this site for quite some time now, and I was, for want of a better word, lucky to have had that privilage just a few months ago.

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It is only when you are actually there can you understand the impact of such a huge global disaster, the heroism of the firefighters and the people first on the scene. It will be a memory that will stay with me for a very long time, It’s just a shame our time here was so fleeting.

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We explored hospitals, schools and the fairground where stands the almost iconic ferris wheel still waiting to be ridden to this very day. The piano still standing in the music hall and the 3 empty seats left in the burn out lecture room. In the hospital maternity dept room full of empty cots sit silent. Of the whole trip the most poignant moment was seeing the childrens gas masks littered all over the floor of the elementry school in the town of Pripyat.

Gary Mather

Jun 292015
 

Sony A7II with FE 35 1.4 and A7R with 55 1.8

by Kenneth Wang

Hi Steve,

I’m a old school amateur photographer who waited until 2009 to change from film to digital cameras. Prior to making the switch, I searched the internet for information about digital photography, when I found your site, your reviews and user reports provided a good guide for me to make the leap.

I now take pictures with Sony equipment, and in my recent trip to Japan and Alaska, I used a Sony A7II with the new FE 35mm 1.4 lens, along with a Sony A7r with the FE 55mm 1.8 lens.

Both the A7II and A7r systems take great pictures, but the character of the pictures are different as you compare them in the following pictures. The A7II has a natural rendering, while the A7r has a 3D pop.

Both the FE 35mm 1.4 lens and the FE 55mm 1.8 lens are sharp, precise and colorful.

Pictures 1 – 4 were taken with the A7r system, pictures 5 -8 were taken with the A7II system

A7ii 35mm ISO 100 125th sec f 1.4 pic 5

A7ii 35mm ISO 200 640th sec f 4 pic 6

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A7r 55mm ISO 100 80th sec f 10 pic 1

A7r 55mm ISO 100 200th sec f 4 pic 4

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A7r 55mm ISO 100 500th sec f 4 pic 3

Jun 292015
 
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Instax fun, fun, fun!

In memory of my father, Andre Lietaert.

By Ivan Lietaert

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On the 28th of February, my father, Andre Lietaert died. As my family and I were coming terms with this loss, we were going through old shoe boxes filled with pictures and old photographic albums, sifting through the pictures covering a whole life of 78 years. Then I suddenly came across a picture I had totally forgotten it even existed: a polaroid picture of me and my dad, shaky and awkward in color, between 35 and 40 years old. It must be the oldest picture I have of the two of us. In the days and weeks that followed, I was on an emotional ride, and my attention shifted to organising the funeral and more mundane tasks that needed to be done.

But that polaroid had nested deep inside my brain and soon after, I started doing research about instant pictures anno 2015. I quickly came across Fujifilm’s take on the instant picture: the Instax cameras. Until some weeks ago, I was so preoccupied with digital photography (and video), I didn’t even know that instant film is still around, or put to words even better: instant film is coming back. Polaroid stopped producing their instant film, but enthusiasts recreated the original film, and now have a huge following with their “Impossible Project”, I learned. And then there is Fujifilm’s Instax, quite popular in Asia, but less known here in Europe.

After quite extensive research, I decided to jump the wagon and I bought the Instax Mini 90 Neo Classic, Fujifilm’s most advanced camera, targeted towards the creative enthusiast.

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Now, the thing is that using this camera requires a whole different approach and technique compared to digital photography. There is no chimping, no snapping, no shooting tens or hundreds of pictures and then simply deleting the bad ones. No! Taking an Instax picture is an event, it produces a unique print, that will cost you about 1 euro or 1 dollar. So immediately it makes you much more considerate and careful about the framing and the lighting, and even then, you will from time feel guilty when a shot failed. Basically, as when shooting film, it slows down the whole photographic process, and then, of course, there is the exciting waiting game as the picture is developing right there in your hands. As the picture leaves the camera after exposure, a rolling mechanism spreads the developing chemicals across the photographic paper and the development starts. After a minute or so – speed depends on the ambient temperature – the first details appear, and the picture is fully developed after approximately 10 minutes, when the chemical process comes to a halt.

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So I took my little daughter to the park and shot my first packet of 10 instax pictures there. I soon found out that this kind of photography is definitely lo-fi, with quite unsharp results, and the lighting/metering is tricky as well, with various degrees of success. But I found the whole thing so intriguing, I was hooked, I guess, and by the end of the week, I had ordered an Instax 210 online, which takes Instax Wide pictures, double the size of the Instax Mini. Both Instax cameras have been around for several years now, and I find them to be both quite well built, though plastic, of course.

Instax has been marketed in various ways. First, there is the ‘fun approach’. Young children love instant pictures; they are fascinated by the pictures as they slowly, as if by magic, appear. Kids (and their parents!) will love it when you give them the pictures to take home, much more than staring at your phone, or the back of your camera. It is great fun at parties – for the young and the old – and the people take home a lasting memory of the event.

Second, Instax is also targeted towards the hipster crowd, male and female; the younger generation of creative people, fashionable, who appreciate the things that really matter. Especially the Mini 90, with its sleek, retro-modern Fujifilm design, seems targeted at young fashionistas and cool, macho hipsters.
There is yet another, more relevant argument to consider: Print It Or Loose It! As this campaign article explains, up to 70 per cent of the youth between 16 and 24 already have lost pictures of important events in their life (due to drive crashes, faulty memory cards, stolen phones etc). Not convinced? Read more about the phenomenon called data rot here. With the Instax camera, you get instantly printed pictures and they will last a lifetime, and beyond. So even in the scenario a global, cataclysmic event, in let’s say 50 years time, your Instax pictures will survive and be a testament to posterity! So here are a couple of my pictures that illustrate how families are likely to take advantage of the Instax cameras.

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None of the Instax cameras have a true manual mode; in fact, I tend to get good results in auto mode, but still the outcome of each shot is quite unpredictable. My Instax Mini 90 has a tendency to slightly overexpose, which can be a nuisance. Also, the flash seems to have a mind of its own, ignoring my input. Both cameras have a fixed aperture (F12), there is no zoom and there is little tweaking possible as far as exposure is concerned: one can darken or lighten a picture, and that is it. The Mini 90 has a built in macro mode which allows the closest distance to be 30 cm. The Instax Wide comes with a macro/selfie clip-on lens. The macro mode is interesting for detailed close ups, and it also allows to create a background blur… sort of.

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I have used both cameras for some weeks now, and I have still not made up my mind which camera I like best: they both have their positive sides, and their drawbacks. The Mini 90 is small and has lots of creative modes (macro mode, party, kids, double exposure, bulb, darken/lighten). The mini pictures are slightly smaller than a credit card. The Instax Wide is much bulkier, ridiculous really, but renders a picture double the resolution and size of the Mini; also, the great Robert Frank, yes the one of the legendary, groundbreaking photographic book ‘The Americans’, owns one and was quoted saying it takes pictures of “very high quality”. Mind you, this Instax 210 costs only about 70 euros… If you can’t seem to choose between the mini and the wide, like me, buy both because they are dirt cheap anyhow!

The Mini 90 has the most creative modes and my favourite is the ‘double exposure’; here are two results. Again, the outcome of the technique is quite unpredictable, which is actually a good thing, because it is all very exciting.

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Really, these Instax cameras stimulate creativity a lot, and soon I was laying out the pictures on my scanner, with various fabrics, cloths and shirts on top them giving this as a result, like a scrapbook. It is great fun, and if you don’t have a scanner, just organise the instants on a nice surface, take out your mobile phone, and take a digital picture of them. Remember: it is likely that the original instant picture will outlive yourself and the digital scan/picture you made of them!

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Admittedly, these two fun, dumbed down, plastic toy cameras had rekindled my photographic enthusiasm! I have even dreamed about them, really! But then I started wondering about how useful they would be in a more serious context. What about the unimpressive latitude/dynamic range of the Instax? And, when you start pixel peeping, these instax pictures are awfully unsharp, aren’t they? So my next step was to look at what could be done with them in post, creating a digitally remastered instant picture! I soon discovered that these Instax prints get even better when you add a bit of sharpness and detail. Then I discovered that they can be easily successfully worked upon in post, with various, very unique results. I prefer using the official Google+ app, these days, for my post work, and usually, adding just a few tweaks and effects, will give quite a spectacular, atmospheric result. Below is a picture I took at Polygon Wood, a World War One cemetery nearby where I live – the Ypres/Passchendaele region in Flanders, Belgium. The first is a scan of the original Instax. Those under that one are various tweaked images I got in Google+. Now, I’m not saying these are masterpieces, but they clearly illustrate my point.

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Finally, I must warn you, dear reader, on at least two points. First, shooting Instax is highly addictive, and it is not a cheap addiction. So before you go out with one of these, make sure you are in a serene, meditative, controlled mood; if not, Instax costs will eat your wallet empty soon enough.
Second, using Instax may open the gate to analogue photography. I may introduce you, like it did with me, to a whole different photographic universe of laid back, slow paced photography… which, of course, is not a bad thing, is it?

Ivan Lietaert,
Belgium

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

BUY THE INSTANX AT B&H PHOTO HERE

Jun 232015
 
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My Sony A7II and 55 1.8 Experience

by Simi Tometi

Hello Steve, Brandon, and fellow site readers. My name is Simi Tometi, and I am a biochemistry student from Dallas, Texas. School usually keeps me busy(and broke) for the most part but whenever I do have some spare time I indulge in photography.

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I recently sold my RX1(with the external EVF), to fund the purchase of a refurbished Sony A7II with a FE 55mm f/1.8 lens. Due to the simple fact that I’ve only shot with the 55mm a handful of times, I must admit don’t I feel qualified enough to provide a full comprehensive review. With that being said my initial thoughts regarding this lens are primarily positive.

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From a purely aesthetic standpoint, Sony ZA lenses are by far my favorite with their remarkable matte black finish, metal focus rings, and conspicuous zen blue Zeiss badges. As expected the 55mm continues the holistic tradition with its gorgeous utilitarian build, whilst being only a few millimeters longer than the Canon 50mm f/1.8 II.

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In regards to image quality there isn’t much I can say that hasn’t already been said by countless more reputable sources. This lens is just flat out outstanding. DxOMark(the industry leader in comprehensive image quality evaluation) has it rated as the sharpest lens in current production, besting both the OTUS 55mm($4000) & 85mm($4500).

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As for focus speed and accuracy, I generally shoot this lens wide open yet it always hits its mark, but admittedly it isn’t the fastest.

My sole grievance with this lens has to be its price. Though it yields industry-leading performance, I often find myself asking if it was worth its initial price tag of $1000. This is likely due to the fact that it’s my least utilized lens. Having said that I don’t mean to deter anyone from purchasing this phenomenal piece of glass, it’s just that for my style of shooting I sometimes feel as that my money would have been better spent on the FE 35mm f/2.8 or FE 16-35mm f/4. Anyway, thank you for reading this and I hope you enjoy the photos✌.

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*All photos were shot in RAW and proceeded using Adobe Lightroom 5 with VSCO Film

*All photos were shot in RAW and processed using Adobe Lightroom 5 with VSCO Film 06*

Tumblr: http://justsimiphoto.tumblr.com/

Instagram: https://instagram.com/justsimi/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/simi.tometi

My Sony RX1 review: http://www.stevehuffphoto.com/2015/01/23/6-months-with-the-sony-rx1-by-simi-tometi/

 

Jun 082015
 
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The Mitakon Dark Night 50 0.95

By Isi Akahome

mitakon_announcement

Hi, my name is Isi, and I’m a bokeholic. It all started when I first shot with a rebel t2i in Target, and I fell in love with blurred backgrounds. Ever since then, I’ve chased after the widest aperture lenses. I remember drooling over the Leica Noticlux 50mm 0.95 when Steve and Digitalrev did their reviews on the lens. I wanted one, but unfortunately, the acquisition cost was laughable. My favorite lens on my old Nikon D800 was the 50mm 1.4, and then mirrorless cameras came out and that opened up the opportunity to get even wider apertures on a full frame sensor. Last November, I got the AMAZING Sony A7S and I started looking into moderately priced manual lenses with good optics. The thought of manually focusing was scary, but now I wouldn’t have it any other way. The first lens I got was the Canon fd 58mm f/1.2, but it wasn’t as sharp as I would have liked and didn’t provide the amount of contrast I was looking for. This image below is a perfect example. The lens does render bokeh quite nicely.

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Then the Mitakon lens was announced! 50mm f/0.95 for under $1,000? It was like a dream come true. I remember scouring the internet for reviews and sample images for weeks. The comparison Steve did with the Noctilux was very helpful, because the difference in performance wasn’t nearly as close as the difference in price. In fact, in my opinion, it was negligible. After a lot of contemplation, I decided to get one. I found a demo copy on eBay for $750. The packaging was exceptional. It made me feel like I just purchased a priceless work of art. The box the lens comes in is quite spectacular, and the lens has a nice heft to it. It looks very well built, and for the price, I have no quibbles about the build quality. I decided this was going to be the lens I would use for most of my assignments. It seemed like it would be up to the task. I just had to master focusing with the lens wide open with that razor thin depth of field. The results have been nothing short of amazing. The subject isolation I was getting was just so unique that I was only shooting at f/0.95.

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Getting sharp focus accurately and consistently is quite challenging, but focus peaking comes in quite handy, and my accuracy has gone up substantially. Sometimes I just move a couple of inches back or forward as my subject(s) move, instead of turning the focus ring, and that makes a world of difference in getting shots in focus. When the focus is spot on, the sharpness wide open is very good, especially for portraits. Here a few shots I did for clients in varying situations.

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The one advantage that’s rarely mentioned about wide aperture lenses is the amount of shadow detail you get in situations when the subject is backlit. The faces of subjects are much brighter than with any of the other fast lenses I’ve used. Even in this photo with the harsh backlight from the sunset, the amount of shadow detail is quite impressive.

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Wedding season is about to start, and I’m both nervous and excited to use this bad boy to shoot full weddings. I think the difference between f1.2 and f0.95 is noticeable, it could be due to the fact that the lens has a certain look and character that makes the images unique to my eye. I don’t really have any complaints, except for the distracting bokeh rendering of foliage or busy backgrounds I sometimes get.

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I also shot the lens at smaller apertures because I had to in studio conditions, and it performed just as well as I would expect. These were shot at f5.6.

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I am very pleased with the results I have been getting with this lens. Even for random shots, it works fantastically. I took this as our plane was taking off from New Jersey.

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Mitakon has done something special with this lens. It is such a bargain considering what the lens can do. I would recommend this lens to anyone looking for a fast 50mm lens for their Sony A7 series camera, or other bokeholics who just want the shallowest depth of field with the added benefit of a versatile focal length. It’s a lot of fun to use, and you get all the bokeh you can handle. Don’t worry about manually focusing either. With focus peaking, it’s a breeze, and it almost forces you to compose your shots with more thought, purpose, and precision.

Thanks for reading. You can see more samples of my work on: www.isispiks.com.

Keep up the awesome work Steve! You’re a rockstar.

Isi Akahome

Jun 042015
 
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SEEING RED! The Redhead Days Festival

by Ori Cohen

Hi Steve,

My name is Ori Cohen and I have been following your website for many years. I am an avid photographer, a computer science Phd student, and a graphic artist, but first and foremost I am a redhead, a redhead married to a redhead. As you well know redheads are usually singled out most of their lives and the and it may come as a surprise to everyone, but redheads share this unexplained bond; to a point where you walk down the street, lock eyes with another redhead and instantly there is some connection. You can probably guess why I married a redhead.

Once a year at the beginning of September there is a special weekend for all redheads. In the town of Breda, Holland, thousands of redheads from around the world gather in the redhead days festival. Our first time was two years ago, we went to the festival in order to see for once, how does it feel to be the same as everyone else around us. It is hard to explain the first shock of seeing so many people who kind of resemble you, and in many ways it is intoxicating. In the festival I had the opportunity to photograph a lot redheads; many became our friends and today we have a growing community of redheads on facebook. In fact, last year while travelling abroad, we randomly met a redhead that recognised us from the festival.

Photography wise, I like carrying as little gear as possible. I usually carry several small near-weightless primes. On our first visit I brought my trusty Sony A300 and a Minolta 50mm f/1.4, and on our second visit I had a Sony NEX-7 Sony 16mm\F2.8, Minolta 24mm f/2.8, 35mm f/2, Sigma 30mm f/1.4 and a Minolta 50mm f/1.4. For portraits on a crop sensor I tend to use 30mm, 35m, and 50mm as they allow me to shoot in situations when people are around me. For group shots, crowds, and In doors I used the 16mm or the 24mm, which allows me to get a better sense of the atmosphere in the room.

The festival holds several main events: the pub-crawl, the opening ceremony, and the gathering in the park. There is an atmosphere of friendliness all around, and I can shoot anyone without asking for permission. I usually just aim the camera at random people and they stop for me, for as long as I need.

The pub-crawl provides a wonderful opportunity to get to know new people and capture some of the conversations and playfulness that happens after dark when people are drinking A LOT of beer, and it’s also a wonderful opportunity to get to know new people from around the world.

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During the ceremony I try to find a spot on the balcony, which overlooks a crowd of several hundred redheads, while trying not to lose sight of my wife. I usually don’t need to worry about losing my wife in a crowd, but when everybody has the same hair color as her, I need to keep a watchful eye :). You will be surprise to learn that there are many types of “ginger” genes out there, not just for fair skinned people, even dark skinned people can get a reddish hue in their hair, as seen in some of my photos.

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Immediately after the ceremony, people walk slowly toward the park for the annual record-breaking count of redheads. Two years ago we even broke a Guinness world record. While crammed in one spot, it is a perfect opportunity to shoot portraits of people. My wife thinks that I only shoot pretty redhead girls, but I actually try to do as many portraits as possible (of everyone!).

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The festival is not only for redheads but also for their friends, anyone who wishes to participate can come, in fact the city is crawling with photographers and videographers from all around the world. Everyone is welcome!

Thank you for reading.

My facebook photography blog: https://www.facebook.com/oricohenphotography

May 132015
 

Leica M6 TTL & Eeyore’s Birthday Party 2015

By Khunya Lamat Pan

M6

Hello all! Some might recognize my name and you may attribute it to my extreme loyalty to the Pentax K1000 and the Super-Takumar line of lenses. While I still LOVE the hell out of those, I finally made a big purchase on my dream camera and bought a nearly mint Leica M6 TTL body with a Voigtlander Nokton 50mm f/1.5 lens. I chose the M6 due to its pure mechanical nature, with the exception of the light meter. Much like the K1000 actually! I like having the option of using a light meter, but if it fails or the battery dies, I can at least keep on shooting without any hiccups.

Bark

Drum Men

Not long after I bought the new setup, the annual festival in Austin, TX known as Eeyore’s Birthday Party took place. For anyone not familiar, the festival is a celebration of the character Eeyore created by A.A. Milne. Most everyone probably knows him from Winnie-the-Pooh. The festival has live music, egg toss, yoga, drum circles, food/beer, a real donkey, etc. It’s an all day event held in a beautiful park, and while it can get quite intense, the best thing to do is to find a nice shady patch on the hill within the trees and set up camp to watch all the interesting people walk by.

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Hammock

Legs

The M6 performed flawlessly. Like any Leica, it didn’t attract attention to itself in a horde of people. And while nearly everyone at the festival had a DSLR with them, I still felt relatively discreet. For the intensity of the festival, I felt the M6 was the perfect tool. I never felt like I had to worry about it, it just always works and feels smooth and precise. Even changing film on it in a crowd of people was easy, and I was expecting the worst since many people seem to hate the M6’s loading system. It was a very hot and sunny day, so I chose Ilford Pan F+ 50 and Efke KB 25 film. Efke is not longer in production, but I have stockpiled a lot of it in my freezer for special occasions like this. My style has always been to shoot more wide-open, so these two films are perfect for me, especially since I reside in sunny Texas. I developed them using Rodinal and Ilford Stop/Fix baths, and scanned myself using the Plustek Opticfilm 8200i 35mm film scanner.

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On to the pictures! You can follow me on Flickr here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/khunya

You can also check out my website here: http://www.khunyalamatpan.com/

Thanks for looking, and I hope you enjoy!

-Khunya

May 062015
 

JPDoublemoon

The Power of Symmetry

By José Pazó 

In this article, the third one I am sending you, I am going to talk about an unexpected camera: The Nikon S32.

It is a very simple, waterproof, Coolpix series, yellow piece of plastic. Probably, for many out there, one of the worst cameras anyone can buy. The specifications are incredibly basic: diminutive sensor, lots of noise and tones of glare. All types of chromatic aberrations and quirks of use. At least, very cheap. I bought it for my 2 years old daughter, but cameras are always nice temptations. At the end, like Homer Simpson does with his bowling ball for Marge, this camera was partially for me. Do not tell my daughter.

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My prior two articles have been about film, b&w film. I like mechanical cameras (Leica M3, Hassy 503), old glass and expected and unexpected results. I still keep some reservations about digital cameras. I have a semi-old Ricoh GRD and a Pentax K01 that I like because nobody likes it. Call me old-fashioned, but pixels are like gremlins in my deep reptilian mind. Preys for ghostbusters. So I bought the Nikon S32, and when into my hands this yellow piece of soap came (probably the most non-ergonomic camera I have tried –slippery as hell), and while playing with it, the miracle showed up in the ancient form of symmetry. ¡Symmetry!

I guess I am a very asymmetrical type of guy. Although I like and practice yoga, one of my legs is shorter than the other, and size and shape of my nostrils are very unequal. Maybe that is the reason why I love Japanese art so much, because of its tendency towards asymmetry. While asymmetry is humble, subtle, suggestive and dynamic, symmetry is solid, pompous, affirmative and static. Symmetry is in general very much related with power. Japanese art tends towards asymmetry, but Chinese art (and power) leans towards symmetry. Japan hides power; China shows it. So I guess that, with the Nikon S32, a Japanese camera, I discovered ancient China and its marks in the Western world and in my reptilian brain.

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Symmetry creates admiration, or at least aw (The White House, the Taj Mahal). It also produces endless decoration (the Cordoba’s Mosque, the vegetal decorative motives of the Alhambra). Symmetry is also present in almost any altar or oratory in the world. Our bodies also tend towards symmetry (at least some bodies), our faces too. Studies have shown that babies prefer symmetrical faces, and religious iconography indulges in it. Greece was almost symmetrical, Rome was over symmetrical, gothic cathedrals and Viking homes were too, the Empire State Building is symmetrical. Butts are. Busts too. Eyes, fruits, shells… (When they forget Fibonacci, another aurean way of symmetry). Monsters and extraterrestrial beings are usually symmetrical. Hearts not so much. That is probably why they keep us unbalanced. But they produce rhythm, and rhythm is symmetrical. Trees are rotationally symmetrical and so are kaleidoscopes, one of my childhood loves.

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Nikon S32 can produce symmetrical images. If I were a fashion photographer, I would be using it to play with models to create enticing, almost religious, visions. Since I am a mere dilettante, I am sending you a batch of everyday pictures. They are technically terrible, but visually addictive. Interiors, monsters, altars, flying trees and perfect landscapes. Etscheresque, for those who enjoy Etscher, the painter. At least for my obsessive brain. This first batch includes photos related with the vegetal world. I do not know if you are going to find enough merit in them to be published, not to even mention other batches. If so, thank you in advance.
As always, regards from Madrid to the whole Steve Huff’s clan. Keep your vision and very personal approach, I find lots of value in it. And the same for all of you who write or visit here. Tons of talent around. I do not have a webpage or similar. Thinking of making one but, for the moment, I enjoy just sending pics to others. So, hasta la symmetrical vista.

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Apr 272015
 

The View from the Rearview

by Mark Steiglman

As I was recently interviewed on the Leica Blog, I thought I would submit here as well.

Spending hours a day commuting in my car has made me acutely aware of my surroundings. One day while looking in my rear view mirror I became very interested in the comings and goings of the cars behind me. The scenes unfolded like little vignettes of humanity, people laughing, arguing, crying but mostly just looking bored and trapped within their heads as well as the glass and metal box they confine themselves to in their daily commutes. I wanted to capture what I was witnessing.

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After working out the technical aspects, my first attempts lacked the direct, unreserved look I was after as people were recognizing the camera. There is a long history of documenting people without them noticing. Walker Evans shielded his camera within his coat while making his subway series. Ben Shahn, while documenting for the WPA used a right angle mirror attachment on his lens pretending to take pictures of his wife while actually shooting what was off to the side. I solved this problem by buying a small stuffed bird, ripping out the stuffing and cutting a hole for the lens. The bird cam has made it virtually impossible to know that I am photographing and my pictures suddenly became what I had seen on that day I conceived of the idea.

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The imaginary line of public verses private space that the windshield seems to represent became my “monitor” for both real and imagined tableaus that raise so many interpersonal and social questions during the moment of exposure. Coming from the whole “social landscape photography” genre, these are the kinds of pictures I have always taken except now I am within the confines of my car taking photographs of my subjects within the confines of theirs.

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Mark Steigelman

marksteigelman.com

marksteigelman.wordpress.com

https://instagram.com/msteigelmanThe

Apr 022015
 

There is no “I” in Team

by John Tuckey

Team Efforts

I wouldn’t advise anyone to overload a shoot with unnecessary bodies. The fewer people cluttering your space, the better. The less people to organise the better. It’s an absolute if you’re trying to create a sense of intimacy or intrigue and a simple practicality when you’re working to a budget or a tight time scale as most of us are. But ‘one man and his lens’ is not always enough – indeed, modern professional work is hardly ever created so. It’s a creative collaboration between the photographer, an art director, a stylist, a make up artist, a hair stylist, a lighting technician and possibly a set dresser. That amazing image in magazine ‘X’ is usually the result of a tight team who have a good working dynamic – not ‘one man and his lens’.

If you’re thinking about crossing this river and working your shots with a team it can be daunting at first. My advice is to keep it simple and pick your team carefully, don’t waste your resources and know who you can and can’t live without. I get my moments, but I’m still no pro – so I won’t worry about an assistant until i try a complicated location set-up. And a stylist isn’t even on my list unless I get involved in a commercial fashion shoot and the client specifically requests one – and even then they will probably be chosen by the art director.

So I’d suggest that for an amateur or hobbyist, the bodies to make sure you have covered on a model orientated shoot are the make up artist and the hair stylist. Sometimes the model can cover this off herself, but indispensable doesn’t even come close to describing the best I’ve worked with. And without even thinking I can give you three very good reasons why they’re always worth stretching the budget for.

Transformation

A skilled makeup artist can simply transform a face. Try these two of Emily, one with ‘normal’ self done makeup and the Next from a Make Up artist.

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The Devil is in the Detail

Much of my work revolves around vintage themes. Having the right make up or a particular hair style makes the world of difference. In these portraits of Olivia, the lighting may well have achieved the look on its own, but the work of the hair stylist in those thirties style fingerwaves added the polish – making the vintage feel of the final image effortless and complete.

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Tricks, Shortcuts and FX

These Lonsdale shots aren’t just about beauty and boxing, but also strength, character and control. The make up artist on this shoot pulled the FX off with ease: Jammy the model was engaged with the concept and we got some great shots as a result.

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Saving Time in Post

Doesn’t digital mean make up artists are a waste of money? If you don’t think of the hours you’ll spend in post-production as money, then I’ll grant you that a hair or make up artist might not be your best use of budget. But I’d rather get it right for real on the day and trade that time in front of a screen for more time with a camera thanks – a good MUA allows that.

If you are interested in my images or my workshops you can follow me on facebook at http://www.facebook/jrtvintage, on twitter where I’m @jrtvintage, at my own site at http://john.tuckey.photography or on my gallery page at Saatchi Art http://www.saatchiart.com/jrtvintage

Credits:

Models: Emily, Olivia Harriett, and Jammy Lou
http://purpleport.com/portfolio/oliviaharriet/
http://purpleport.com/portfolio/raspberryjam/

Emily and Jammys Make Up: James Minahan

https://www.facebook.com/pages/James-Minahan-Makeup-artist/482722908502345?pnref=lhc

Olivia’s Hair: Le Keux Salon
http://www.lekeuxvintagesalon.co.uk/
Best regards

John Tuckey

Mar 052015
 

 

4DAYS

4 days in the life of a Magnum photographer

by Sebastien Bey-Haut

Dear Steve,

I just came back from what has been one of the best photographic experience of my life and would like to share it with your readers.

I indeed had the privilege to attend a Magnum photography workshop mentored by Stuart Franklin in Panjim, a small town in Goa State, India.

It all started while browsing the Magnum website a couple of months ago: I saw a post calling for applications and having nothing to lose I sent a portfolio without too much hopes as they would accept only 12 participants worldwide… I received the good news a few weeks later: I was accepted! Living in Switzerland it meant a long trip (40h) for only 4 days of fun… But no way I would pass on it, so I booked my tickets, packed my gear and here we go !

The workshop was quite intense with mornings dedicated to discussions with Stuart and peer reviews, afternoon to shooting and evening / night to post processing. Our objective was to present a coherent 10 photographs story to be showcased at the Goa Photo festival… If possible without putting too much shame on our mentor’s name.

Of course having someone like Stuart reviewing your work is an incredible experience, his critics were always constructive but he would not miss the slightest default. Composition, tones, alignment of the different elements, everything has to be perfect or the photograph will be rejected without mercy.

The focus of the workshop was in building a coherent story and in editing our work so in order to give you a sense of what we went through I’ll first present the final 10 photographs we selected with Stuart:

10 selected photographs 

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Then here are some other “Stuart approved” photographs which did not make it into the final cut

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And to finish some of the images that I personally liked but were rejected by Stuart:

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As you can see the “image quality” is not what really matters, Stuart was looking for images which would invite the viewer to imagine a story behind it, transmit emotions, and more generally have their own strengths. Anything looking more like a nice “tourist postcard” was discarded, which is what happened with most of my portraits…

As a conclusion the main outcome of this workshop was to teach me how to be more demanding with my own photography, which is highly inspiring and will for sure be very useful in the future.

The gear I used is quite irrelevant to describe this experience, so I’ll let you guess what it could have been. One hint: Stuart was using the same camera “hipster” camera…

You can find more of my work here https://500px.com/Sebastien_Bey_Haut

Thanks for reading

Sebastien Bey-Haut

PS: I’d like to take this opportunity to send a big cheers to the Secret Magnum 12, keep the good images coming!

© 2009-2015 STEVE HUFF PHOTOS All Rights Reserved
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