Aug 282015
 

titlefilmyear

A year with film – Leica, Contax, Nikon, and Hasselblad

By Adam Laws

I hope your well and have a cup of tea close by, it’s pretty miserable here in London. It’s been awhile since my last submission and I thought I would write to you about my year of analogue photography with a Leica, Contax, Nikon, and Hasselblad.

Since my last post on portraiture with the Sony A7 ‘apparently’ I have been going all hipster though I must say without the beard by shooting analogue.

The majority of my work is still shot on my Sony A7.

Sony images 1, 2 and 3 – 

Sony 1

Sony 2

Sony 3

However I have been supplementing my digital work with far more analogue images, furthermore I generally shoot all my personal snaps now on film. I don’t believe film is better in any way but I do believe without trying to sound all hippy film gives a more organic image. Most importantly I enjoy the process of shooting film more, and surely fun is the most important element in the creative process.

So I’ve gone through some cameras this year, which I will elaborate on why giving a brief synopsis/feel of the cameras.

Leica

I bought a Leica M6 TTL with a .85 viewfinder and 50 ‘cron. Leica’s are beautiful aren’t they? The lore written about them makes them sound at times like unicorns at times, as such I romanticized owning one.

My thoughts on owning one – Well they are beautifully built. Solid and satisfyingly weighty. I did struggle with ownership, which ultimately made me sell it after a few months. This is not the cameras fault but more the time in my life I purchased it. Soon after I started my part-time photography degree, I needed to shoot an element of film in a studio and the Leica with its limited flash sync was not ideally suited to this task.

I also struggled with the notion of how expensive it was. Don’t get me wrong it is a beautiful piece of machinery, which evokes an emotive response and for that I totally appreciate why individuals buy them. However for the less money I could purchase a Hasselblad 500cm, Nikon FM2n, and Contax G2 all of them with glass and have change. Is a Leica M6 better than all 3 of these cameras? And would I have less fun shooting these cameras. So I sold the Leica to find out.

Leica images 1, 2, and 3

Lecia 1

Lecia 2

Leica 3

Hasselblad

This camera is a beast. Well it terms what I’m used to. The sound of the low thud of the shutter makes me smile. I do struggle with its size. I’m used to traveling light so having a big medium format camera is somewhat strange for me. It also interesting shooting back to front, something I am still getting used to.

The best thing about the camera, even more so than the negative size it produces is the reaction I get from the model. As soon as a model sees this camera in my experience they instantly get more serious about the project.

Hasselblad 1, 2, and 3

Hasselblad 1

Hasselblad 2

Hasselblad 3

Nikon FM2n

This is becoming one of my favourite cameras I own. The bright viewfinder, the solidness of the camera, and the big manual dials. It does not feel as good as the Leica, not as well made or smooth. I would say the camera is more utilitarian workhorse. I use it with an awesome Nikkor 50mm 1.2, which is a joy to use.

Generally this camera is loaded with FP4 film shot relatively wide own in a studio environment, where I would be using the model light as a source of light in-between shots with Sony or Contax G2. I have started taking this camera on the street with me when I fancy shooting B’n’W.

Nikon 1, 2, and 3

Nikon 1

Nikon 2

Nikon 3

Contax G2

The Contax is pretty much always in my bag. It can do everything my Sony can but it uses film. Unlike the Nikon this is normally loaded with colour Portra. The focus is always accurate and makes a great travel companion.

The contax does feels better in my hand than the Leica ever did. This is due to the thumb rest situated at the back of the camera. In addition the dials are a step up from that of the Nikon, but the camera feels very electronic with autofocus sounding something like Robocop. I also use this as a secondary studio camera generally mimicking the settings I had with the Sony to have a comparative organic film image.

Contax 1, 2, and 3

Contax 1

Contax 2

Contax 3

Conclusion

Generally there isn’t one. I think ultimately as long as you enjoy the process of creating images that is the most important element.

Sometimes there is a more suitable tool for the job, but that doesn’t also mean it is the most fun way to complete the job after all.

For me I like the organic images, the slower pace of shooting, the challenges asked of you using antiquated cameras, and thought processes that go through your mind.

I have enjoyed playing about with different formats and cameras. I think it’s always a great idea to play around with as many cameras as possible that way you know what you like and don’t. In addition the challenges posed by new equipment makes you think about your photography, which is never a bad thing.

You can view more of my work on my website: www.adamlaws.com

However I regular update my Instagram with my newest work: https://instagram.com/adamlawsphotography/

Aug 262015
 
SteveHuffJoaoMedeiros 16

weddingmanual1

A Manual Approach to Wedding Photography

by Joao Medeiros

I’m not comfortable writing. Images, particularly photography are what drives me. Since very young Art was part of my life, I went from painting and waiting to be an architect to abandon everything for a life in the theatre, just to pursue a career in Jazz playing trumpet.

But at my twenties, I was struggling to make it and everyone was making sure I knew I had to earn money to be a successful individual. Money was never my interest, I’m passionate about Art, any form of it. But Photography had a degree of intimacy and control that I had never experienced.

I went to college to take a photography bachelor and complemented it with a bachelor in Fine Arts and a master’s degree in Visual Arts teaching, things went on for a while, drifting in teaching, corporate/event photography, restoration related jobs before I finally found the one area where I had complete creative freedom. A freedom that allows me to choose the gear that gives me pleasure while creating and expressing myself through Photography and eventually sharing my Vision.

SteveHuffJoaoMedeiros 02

SteveHuffJoaoMedeiros 05

Weddings are something that has been with society since we had the need to express our love for our life companion. Happiness is something that needs to be shared and celebrated with our loved ones. And that’s what I like about them, it’s all about family and friends making the most of Life. When I was in college, I did the whole course with only an Olympus OM 1 and a 50mm, since then manual focus is second nature to me, even when I had top DSLR’s AF never grew on me. But when I used the first serious EVF (Panasonic GH2) I knew what I wanted and what I wanted to see while composing. Eventually, when I step up to weddings I needed the best dynamic range and colour I could get my hands on it, so I bought a Sony A99 and a Nikon D800e to figure out my needs. After a year the Sony won me, not because it was superior to the D800e, it was Sony’s approach to photography that made it. The fully articulated LCD, I. S and Minolta’s heritage all over the place made the A99 a superior tool in my hands.

SteveHuffJoaoMedeiros 03

SteveHuffJoaoMedeiros 04

SteveHuffJoaoMedeiros 08

When the mirrorless Sony A7 appeared on the scene I had no doubts and bought one immediately with a set of Zeiss ZM and Voigtlander lenses with the VM close adapter. Since then, shooting has been a real pleasure. Nothing beats feeling your shots, even when we are capturing fleeting moments like kisses, exchanging vows/wedding rings or sharing a secret while on the dance floor at 4 am. Having a small, robust camera with the best glass in the industry makes me feel very confident and secure that when I get home, I have all I need to put together a body of work that reflect my vision. That’s the main lesson I learned, you really need to follow your own unique vision of things.

SteveHuffJoaoMedeiros 09

SteveHuffJoaoMedeiros 11

SteveHuffJoaoMedeiros 12

SteveHuffJoaoMedeiros 13

We are all different, but you really need to push beyond the limits to reach for that inner voice. Recently I added the amazing sigma Art 35mm f 1.4 to my set, the only complain is its sheer size when compared to my little Zeiss ZM 35mm f2. My workflow is pretty straightforward, I use B&W mode to concentrate on composition and focus while having red peaking and magnify to guarantee that every moment is in focus. For 75% of all my work, I use the 35mm focal length with my Sony A7 and take advantage of the articulated LCD from the A99 to get more discrete and intimate portraits with the 85mm, also from Sigma. Just a little detail, I removed the slt mirror from the A99 and use it in manual focus, so it’s basically a big mirrorless camera. I’m more of a guest than a professional photographer, at least that’s how I’m perceived by my clients, family and friends. A friend who happens to make a living from photography. I really try to enjoy the wonderful day, conscious that I’m very fortunate to be at a private party while making a living. I’m always the first to arrive and the last to leave, it’s after all a body of work and not just a staged kiss with the golden hour moment. It’s people that drive me, the concept of family and friendship not staged moments.

SteveHuffJoaoMedeiros 14

SteveHuffJoaoMedeiros 15

SteveHuffJoaoMedeiros 16

SteveHuffJoaoMedeiros 19

SteveHuffJoaoMedeiros 18

I’m looking forward to get the new Sony A7RII since it brings some new features like a new and stronger shutter that it’s better damped, the I. S, min. auto shutter, copyright embed info, better high ISO performance and even the silent shutter option although with some caveats.

SteveHuffJoaoMedeiros 21

SteveHuffJoaoMedeiros 24

SteveHuffJoaoMedeiros 25

SteveHuffJoaoMedeiros 27

Thank you.

Regards

João de Medeiros

http://joaomedeirospamelaleite.tumblr.com/
https://instagram.com/joaomedeiros.pamelaleite/
https://www.facebook.com/MFotografia.JoaoMedeiros.PamelaLeite
http://www.joaomedeirospamelaleite.com/

Aug 252015
 

Fujifilm’s Professional F2.8 zooms take on nature

By Ben Cherry

About me

My name is Ben Cherry; I am an environmental photojournalist and Fujifilm X-Photographer. I’ve been using the XF16-55mm and XF50-140mm alongside the X-T1 for most of the year now. During that time I’ve spent three months in Borneo and two months in Costa Rica, where I’ll be until mid-December for a conservation research role. It is fair to say that these lenses have been put through a tropical boot camp, pushing them to their humid and heat limits. You can find more of my work via: www.bencherryphotos.com

The Lenses

Both are weather sealed with constant F2.8 apertures, these zooms are built to last with superb image quality, making them up to the ever-increasing standard of photographers that need gear to work everyday, all day. Made to complement each other, this could be a two-lens set up for many photographers who want a lightweight system that covers a wide focal length. Indeed if you’re not after smaller F-Stops, then these offer prime quality optics.

I personally do prefer to use prime lenses as I feel that they encourage me to be creative, the likes of the XF16mm have pushed me to improve my compositions. But when on the move, in hot tropical environments, I couldn’t ignore the convenience of these two lenses. The XF50-140mm is a no-brainer for me as it is the longest F2.8 or faster lens currently available. In the rainforest I’ve found that I’ve craved light more than focal length, so this lens ticked a lot of boxes (not that I’m not waiting on the edge of my seat for the impending super telephoto zoom!..).

XF50-140mm-2.jpg (leaping proboscis monkey), XF50-140mm-5.jpg (play fighting pygmy elephants), XF50-140mm-26.jpg (scarlet macaw portrait), XF50-140mm-27.jpg (scarlet macaw in flight)

Certain things stand out in this 1st picture.. Male proboscis monkeys have a permanent erection and when they’re not eating only have one thing on their mind.

Certain things stand out in this picture.. Male proboscis monkeys have a permanent erection and when they're not eating on have one thing on their mind.

Ben Cherry XF50-140mm-5

Ben Cherry XF50-140mm-26

Ben Cherry XF50-140mm-27

As for the XF16-55mm, this was a lens I took a little more time considering whenever it came to packing the bag light. The reason for that is it covers the same range as the XF16mm, XF23mm and XF56mm, three exceptional prime lenses with faster apertures. But again it comes back to one word, convenience. Stuck in a rather wet part of the world, whenever it does rain, it pours and the last thing I want to do is change lens. So more often than not the XF16-55mm gets the nod. Other than missing the faster apertures of the primes, I have no hesitation to use this zoom instead, especially as it is weather sealed. A lot of people are put off this lens by the lack of OIS, yes it would have been helpful… but at the same time I understand Fujifilm’s explanation, I’d rather have the brilliant image quality than compromise some for OIS.

XF16-55mm-5.jpg (Sunrise at Mt. Kinabalu), XF16-55mm-15.jpg (violet woodnymph pit stop), XF16-55mm-17.jpg (vivid Pacific sunset),  XF16-55mm-18.jpg (released baby turtles using red filtered flash so don’t distract babies.)

Mt. Kinabalu at Sunrise

Ben Cherry XF16-55mm-15

Ben Cherry XF16-55mm-17

Ben Cherry XF16-55mm-18

Benefits

Other than the superb build and image quality, these two lenses have very snappy autofocus, especially when used with the X-T1 (the only camera which makes this a weather resistant system). I’ve captured monkeys leaping through the air, elephants fighting, and birds swooping through the rainforest. None of these were easy autofocus tasks. The X-T1 has been greatly improved by a series of firmware improvements. I am sure these two lenses will see a huge performance boost with the next generation cameras, which will have improved hardware instead of only updated firmware. To put it another way, if I was told I could only have access to two lenses then no doubt it would be these two, with the XF16-55mm just pushing out the superb XF10-24mm – please Fujifilm, make a F2.8 WR version!

What is rarely brought up is the effective focal length of the XF16-55mm, which is 24-85mm, that extra 15mm over the usual 24-70mm range is a big benefit. Expanding the uses of this lens, particular helpful for portrait photographers.

XF16-55mm-10.jpg (inquisitive young elephant)

Ben Cherry XF16-55mm-10

Downsides

Because of all that lovely glass, range and build quality, these aren’t exactly light lenses when compared to the rest of the Fujifilm range. Not to say that they feel out of place though. If using the hand or battery grip with an X-T1 then even the XF50-140mm is nicely balanced. I feel like these lenses have more to give but are waiting for camera upgrades, this isn’t necessarily a bad point just one to think about. I have been in situations where I know the lenses can handle the moment but sometimes the X-T1 gets a little flustered. This occasional occurrence is massively outweighed by the general satisfaction I get from using this system over others I have tried.

XF50-140mm-6.jpg (tactile family members)

Ben Cherry XF50-140mm-6

Conclusion

This system has been baked and soaked more than I’d ever admit to Fujifilm representatives… (awkward because they’ll probably read this… sorry!). But it is still working and producing images that I am very happy with. Certainly the products have more to give than I am currently demanding, this encourages me to push myself so I can reach the standard of these brilliant products. The camera market is incredibly competitive, a good thing as there are basically no bad systems out there. However, for me, this weather resistant X-Series is definitely my preferred choice. For anyone looking at camera system options, no matter your genre, I firmly believe that the X-Series at least warrants consideration, it is certainly producing the goods for me with nature photography.

Ben

Aug 242015
 

User Report: My 1st Leica Q Shots

by Yoon-Chou Chong

Got the Q just a day before the family holidays which was just as well to test how easy it is to pick up and go. The early pictures in Sydney were mainly from JPEG and although I have heard of Leica’s limits it was ok and does give it the ‘look’ (vs say the RX1 which probably matches in sharpness). Funny thing is when I am defaulting to Program, it always starts with F1.7 which if you aren’t thinking too much of your shots (that is pretty much what happens if you are shuffling with a 5 year old). The EVF was wonderful, and it brought me back to looking into it (rather than lazily on the screen).

2015-06 Sydney (2 of 16)

2015-06 Sydney (5 of 16)

2015-06 Sydney (6 of 16)

2015-06 Sydney (8 of 16)

2015-07 singapore (4 of 6)

2015-07 singapore (5 of 6)

2015-07 singapore2 (16 of 43)

2015-07 singapore2 (36 of 43)

Aug 212015
 

Shooting from the Hip

By Mohammed Hakem

My website: http://www.hakemphotography.com
my FB page: facebook.com/hakemphotography

In conservative cultures street photography is an absurd dream. It’s very hard for people who haven’t seen enough tourists to accept being captured. The reason behind this is not related to privacy issues, but a stereotype that everybody with a camera is a journalist who will fake some news and speak badly about them. It actually happens a lot that people take random pictures of poor people and insert them into articles related to drugs and crimes. These people might be poor but they all have dignity that matters more than their lives, that’s the main reason why they become so aggressive.

DSCF4990-Edit copy

DSCF2214

To take pictures of these amazing people you either have to build a relationship and let them trust you, or have the balls to shoot candidly. With a DSLR it is impossible to do the second, but with a mirrorless it can be done.

DSCF5016

DSCF5019

DSCF5049

I am a travel photographer and taking pictures of people naturally is part of what I do. I prefer not to let people notice I am there, I know I may be violating a copyright or bypassing privacy space but this is ART and I am not doing anything with the picture afterwards other than revealing lovely places and people to others. Every once in a while a photographer should get out of his comfort zone and shoot something different to what he is used to. Landscapers should go for streets, Fashion and portrait should go for travel photography and so on, it helps you a lot understanding other aspects.

DSCF2480

DSCFM494

DSCF2528
The technique here is to shoot from below. I use the tilting screen of my Fuji XT-1, disable the eye-senor and put the camera on top of my shoulder bag in front of me. People see me as a tourist and they are not frightened but still I don’t know their reaction if I pointed the camera directly towards them, especially that I am not the personality who can talk to strangers fluently so I won’t find a way out if someone yelled what are you doing. I adjust the Aperture for the depth of field and let the camera do the rest. I point to the target and quickly compose the picture from the screen.

DSCF2538

DSCF4040

DSCF4993

DSCF5004

To be Honest I am amazed by Fuji’s V.4 auto focus system, it’s like a totally new camera. To those who don’t know, firmware upgrades in the mirrorless world is a real Firmware! not just solving bug issues that will affect 0.01% of your shooting the firmware introduces exciting features and upgrades the autofocus as if it’s a new camera!. Most of the pictures are shot with the 56 F1.2 lens on F1.2 in Egypt, the country I’m proud to be born in its culture. please make sure to like my FB page and take a look on the website :)

Aug 142015
 
Ogunquit-030

titlewadsworthsony

A Sony A7RII Review

by Chad Wadsworth – His website is HERE

Blasphemy be damned, I’m going to admit that I wasn’t all that excited about the Sony a7R II prior to its release.

I’m a simple stills guy so the 4k video is wasted on me; I also like my fat pixel 12mp a7S files just fine, thank you and I dreaded having to deal with both the processing and storage requirements of a 42mp image. Furthermore, I already enjoy the refreshed body style and IBIS on the a7 II and I’m not a switcher – been shooting Sony for a few years now and sold all my Canon L lenses long ago.

My prior detachment aside, the release of this camera is a watershed moment in the mirrorless epoch. The a7R II spec sheet reads like something out of the future, a no compromise piece of kit that is both evolutionary and revolutionary at the same time. Who wouldn’t be interested in this camera? As professionals or even enthusiasts, we desire the best and this camera promises to be that at a great many things. Even if it falls short in a single category like low light (little brother a7S still reigns supreme), its second best still trumps most everything else on the market.

Ogunquit-009

So yeah, I want the best and I want it compact and rugged and efficient and with a great compliment of lenses. I know it will eventually be eclipsed by something newer and greater but at this point in time, I can with a good conscience state that it is the best digital camera I have ever owned.

I’m not going to do a detailed review, many others are far better at that, but I can share some thoughts and photos that I hope will be helpful. All images have been edited from RAW to my personal taste.

Ogunquit-001

Ogunquit-003

Ogunquit-002

In the pro column, the camera is mature. Sony has had time since the release of the a7 (their first full frame mirrorless system camera) to evolve and improve on many aspects of the platform. The menu system is by now second nature to me but more importantly, with the release of the a7R II, Sony has vastly expanded the level of button configuration. Virtually every physical control on the camera has some level of customization. This means that for all but the most arcane settings, there are direct physical controls. We’ve all seen the comments labeling Sony products as computers or gadgets, compared to other brands’ “real cameras”. The truth is that all modern digital cameras, yes I’m looking at you too Leica, are electronic, computer controlled devices. With the a7R II, I can hide that electronic menu interface for 99% of the photography I do while still harnessing secondary features like IBIS, focus magnification or display options with physical buttons. The closest example of this type of physical control from the golden age of the 35mm film world was the Minolta Maxxum 7 (also known as the a-7!) which was laden with physical controls for every imaginable setting. For the uninitiated, Sony purchased Minolta’s camera and lens line in 2006 – check out this report from way back then – Farewell Konica Minolta.

Ogunquit-023

Ogunquit-024

Ogunquit-028

The a7R II is the second camera in the line to be blessed with IBIS or SteadyShot, also a Minolta invention. Once you’ve used IBIS there’s simply no going back. Hand holding a 135mm lens at 1/5th is doable with IBIS and good technique – amazing. For some of the photos here, I used the lovely Batis 85mm which has its own optical image stabilization that works in tandem with IBIS for even greater control. The jittery view of a long lens simply melts away to calm when IBIS kicks in. Sony saves battery life by engaging the IBIS function only when the shutter is half-depressed so you can see the effect in realtime, before and after you engage focus.

Ogunquit-004

Ogunquit-005

Ogunquit-006

Ogunquit-007

The original a7R suffered a heavy shutter action that was quite loud. Having never owned that model, I can’t comment but I will say that the a7R II has one of the sweetest sounding shutters I have heard. It sounds something like this: shhtiiiickkk. Really, take my word, it is wonderful – quiet and refined. Some people have even confused the normal shutter sound with the silent shutter feature which is incorrect as the silent shutter is just that: silent. And on the topic of the Silent Shutter setting, yes there are some compromises such as a restriction to single shot mode but come on, the use cases for silent high speed shooting have got to be minuscule.

Another aspect of the camera that impresses me is the new EVF magnification. At .78 it is the largest magnification of any modern camera, DSLR or mirrorless (the Nikon D810 comes in at .70) which results in a large comfortable view of the scene with excellent eye relief. This feature did have me excited and I’ll have a hard time looking through a view with lesser magnification now.

Ogunquit-008

Ogunquit-009

Ogunquit-010

Ogunquit-011

Ogunquit-012

The autofocus speed seems on par with the a7 II but tracking looks to be improved thanks to the 399 on-sensor phase detect points. I’ll need to do more shooting to be sure and I also want to do some concerts in low light, but for now I’m very pleased. Using the gorgeous new Zeiss Batis lenses for these first shots in Ogunquit, Maine resulted in quick, sure focus on the 25mm, with the 85mm a bit slower (common for longer focal lengths moving more lens mass) but still speedy. I’m finding that the Batis 25mm truly shines on the a7R II – sharp, sharp, sharp right to the corners with manageable distortion and excellent color. The ability to dial in hyperfocal setting in 2 seconds using the OLED is a nice feature that I used often on some of these tourist landscape shots. If you are looking for a top quality standard wide for the a7 platform, this is your lens. Overall, I’m very pleased with this combination and look forward to more options in the Batis lineup.

One of the big features of the new camera is its claimed compatibility (with an adapter) to Canon EF lenses. The previous a7 models also had this compatibility but the AF speed left much to be desired. With the a7R II, Sony is taking a broad shot across Canon’s bow, claiming much improvement, approaching native AF speed using EF lenses. Since I don’t have any Canon lenses I can’t comment with any authority but there seems to be a consensus in early reviews that the performance claims are accurate. Since the a7R II will be the first Sony camera for many Canon switchers I can only implore them to enjoy the compatibility with their existing lenses but do not ignore some of the class leading native FE lenses that are now available.

Ogunquit-013

Ogunquit-014

Ogunquit-015

Ogunquit-016

Ogunquit-017

Back to the a7R II – what about all of those pixels? The good news is that I’m seeing nothing but sharpness, no shutter shock or blurred details – and my MacBook Pro seems to be chugging along just fine so far. I get a longer delay when rendering a 100% view but for standard editing I haven’t noticed any speed bumps. The level of clarity and detail from the combination of this 42mp sensor and the Batis lenses has been simply astounding and will eclipse the performance of many Medium Format systems. Dynamic range has also been top notch and I expect it to be measured in the 14+ stop range at base ISO.

Shadow boosting and highlight recovery is child’s play with these Sony sensors and the a7R II doesn’t look to be compromising dynamic range or low light performance for high resolution. Check out the before and after sample below illustrating shadow boost at base ISO.

Charter Before-001

Charter After-001

No camera is perfect and I expect there to be a few niggles here and there but as I mentioned earlier, the a7R II is remarkably mature. As a photographer with some manual focus rangefinder lenses I do find that the new larger EVF has an unfortunate downside that lessens the shimmering effect of the older displays. This effect was from edge artifacts and could help the photographer determine when they had manual focused accurately without relying on focus peaking. The extra EVF magnification eliminates those edge artifacts making it more challenging to determine manual focus accuracy without entering one of the focus magnification modes. Now to be clear, Sony never advertised or even hinted of this EVF shimmering effect as a tool for focus, this is simply a trick that I and others have used for our benefit so we can’t berate Sony for eliminating what some may have thought was an annoyance.

Ogunquit-019

Ogunquit-020

Portsmouth-001

Portsmouth-002

Ogunquit-030

Aside from my gripe about manual focusing with the new EVF, I’ve discovered no significant faults that impact operation or lessen my enjoyment of the camera. My initial impression is that Sony has set a new high bar with the a7R II – a camera that will suit many, but of course not all styles of photography. For those that specialize in landscape, architecture, wedding or portraits, as well as the run and gun videographer, this could well be the one and only camera that you need in your bag. And let’s not forget, that bag is going to be a lot lighter.

Chad Wadsworth

Aug 112015
 

The Olympus E-M5II goes to Israel

by Rob Willliams

I wanted to give back to the site because this is the #1 place I respect for reviews of new & innovative cameras and lenses. Your site helped me narrow down my camera search to the A7II and EM5II at the start of 2015. There are other great cameras out there, but I became hooked by in-body stabilization. After renting both and giving them a good run, I finally settled on the Olympus because of the ergonomics and controls. I felt like I could operate and switch my settings easier in the heat of the moment. Plus, I really appreciated the lens availability and compact size.

Photo 1: Tel Aviv Beach. 1/200 at f/10, ISO 200, EM5II with 12-40mm @ 40mm

Tel Aviv Mediterranean Coast

I would recommend anyone trying to choose a new camera go out and rent a few – there’s no substitute for having it in your hands in real situations. I have to admit I really wanted full frame, but at the end of the day I chose the camera that I knew I would carry around with me. I’m happy to say I always have it with me, and I’ve been able to capture some nice moments because of that.

Many day trips and two long foreign trips into the new camera, and I can say I love it. I don’t find it limiting in any scenario. If it’s dark, I feel fine pushing to 3200 or even 5000 ISO and can hand-hold down to 1/4 second — and if that’s not enough, I have my 25mm/1.8 in the bag. If it’s super bright outside, the 1/16000 electronic shutter helps. If I’m in a sensitive area, that same electronic shutter can shoot silently. If I want shallow DOF, shooting up close with a telephoto gives me all I need. If there’s some cool moving visuals, I can capture some 60 fps 1080p video – not really my thing, but I like that I can.

Photo 2: Tel Aviv Residence. 1/1250 at f/4.0, ISO 200, EM5II with 12-40mm @ 32mm

Tel Aviv Residence

Photo 3: Cows in Megiddo. 1/640 at f/5.6, ISO 200, EM5II with 40-150mm @ 150mm

Megiddo Cows

Photo 4: Sea of Galilee. 1/1000 at f/4.5, ISO 1600, EM5II with 12-40mm @ 40mm

All around the Sea of Galilee is where Jesus spent 95% of his life.

I originally gravitated toward the excellent primes, but after trying the Olympus 12-40mm pro zoom, I can’t put it down. It has the exact range I want in almost every situation, and is sharp through the range when shot wide open at f/2.8. The weight is pretty hefty, but the camera body is light so it makes up for it. The combo is light enough where I don’t even have aches after 8+ hour days of shooting, when using the Black Rapid Metro strap system.

My kit is the Olympus EM5II, primary lens being the 12-40mm f/2.8 zoom. For longer reach, I carry the lightweight and ridiculously cheap Olympus 40-150 f/4.0-5.6 – it’s like $99 so an unbelievable deal. At night, after a long day, I usually switch over to the Olympus 25mm f/1.8 prime because it’s lightweight and has spectacular low light performance.

Photo 5: Jericho. 1/640 at f/8.0, ISO 200, EM5ii with 12-40mm @ 40mm

Jericho View from Roof of Restaurant

Photo 6: Masada Fortress by the Dead Sea. 1/1600 at f/5.6, ISO 200, EM5ii with 12-40mm @ 24mm

Masada Landscape

Today I wanted to share a few photos I captured in Israel last month. This is a great destination for travel or street photographers, and I highly recommend it. The Old City of Jerusalem alone is worth the plane ticket — never have I seen so many interesting sights within 1 square km. Everywhere is very photo friendly, and if you are concerned about safety, don’t be. I felt comfortable the entire trip, even in the “bad” areas. Tel Aviv is a modern metropolis with a lot of great places to eat, and in addition to the holy sites there is a surprising amount of history to see, like some of the largest remaining Roman bath houses and theaters. This wasn’t primarily a photo trip for me, but I was able to get a few decent shots. I hope you enjoy the photos below!

Photo 7: Old City Jerusalem Jewish Quarter. 1/640 at f/5.6, ISO 200, EM5ii with 12-40mm @ 40mm

Old City Jerusalem Jewish Quarter

Photo 8: Man at museum. 1/15 at f/2.8, ISO 200, EM5ii with 12-40mm @ 32mm.

Israel Museum

I’m just an amateur photography who does this for fun, but some day I may try to dip my toes into food and restaurant photography. You can check out some of my other recent work on my Flickr page: https://www.flickr.com/photos/rwilliz/albums.

Thanks, and any feedback is welcome,

Rob Williams

Jul 302015
 

My First Impressions – Zeiss Batis 25/2

By Bob Israel

batis_stage_small

Getting a new lens is always exciting. You read the reviews (including Steve’s), you ponder whether your excitement is from the hype from the previews of others. You ponder whether this is really a ‘need to have’ vs. ‘want to have’ lens. Finally, you make the decision and place your preorder. Then you wait . . . and read some more . . . and wait some more . . . and see some images . . . and wait . . . and then . . . it arrives.

First, it’s the unboxing, not like you see on you tube videos but the anticipation of holding the lens in your own hands for the very first time. Today I received the Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2 Distagon. I’ve had a love affair with Zeiss for a long time shooting contax C/Y, Zeiss ZE and ZM lenses. But the Batis 25/2 is the first I’ve owned that will autofocus on the Sony A7 series. To say I was looking forward to this day is an understatement.

Pelican Point 072215-19

The lens is a thing of beauty. It has a modern look and feel and the OLED display just seems cool (yes, I’m a techie). The lens is much lighter in weight than I expected but it feels perfect on my A7II. I went out at lunch today and took a few shots. Nothing earth shattering but an assortment of wide open, closed down and into the sun variety.

Batis25 072115-18

Batis25 072115-27

Then I looked at the images on my laptop. I got the same feeling and excitement as when I first shot with the Zeiss ZE line. It was an OMG moment. The colors are rich and the lens is sharp even wide open. The lens is marvelous when shooting into the sun. OK, I realize I’ve only taken about 40 images, but so far, it’s an instant love affair with Zeiss . . . all over again.

Batis25 072115-44

Batis25 072115-53

Batis25 072115-41

-Bob Israel

Bob Israel
RJI Photography

http://www.rjiphotography.com
http://​w​ww.facebook.com/rjiphotography​
http://www.flickr.com/photos/rjiphotography

See Steve’s full review of the Batis 25 and 85 HERE

Jul 282015
 

User Report: A Nikon J5 Review

by Eyal Gurevitch

ZPR-NIKON-J5-FRONTLEFT-10-100MM

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?

91ekAdTmZ9L._SL1500_

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.

DSC_0069

DSC_0067

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.

DSC_0072

DSC_0445

DSC_0100

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.

DSC_1254

DSC_1358

DSC_0084

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.

81SE1RqcMSL._SL1500_

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.

DSC_0425

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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

Sakura and Mount Fuji

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).

Marina Barrage Singapore

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.

Chinatown Singapore

Great Wall Beijing

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.

Touting in Bangkok

Restocking in Chatuchak

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.

Shrine in Shinjuku

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.

color

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
 
ttcv

ttcv

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.

cava20150628_n0001_lm_gpp

cava20150628_n0009_lm_gpp

cava20150628_n0014_m9_gpp

cava20150628_n0015_lm_gpp

cava20150628_n0017_lm_gpp

cava20150628_n0020_lm_gpp

cava20150628_n0021_m9_gpp

cava20150628_n0030_lm_gpp

cava20150628_n0035_lm_gpp

cava20150628_n0044_lm_gpp

cava20150628_n0051_m9_gpp

cava20150628_n0068_m9_gpp

cava20150628_n0072_lm_gpp

cava20150628_n0077_lm_gpp

cava20150628_n0079_lm_gpp

cava20150628_n0082_lm_gpp

cava20150628_n0083_lm_gpp

cava20150628_n0087_lm_gpp

cava20150628_n0089_lm_gpp

cava20150628_n0096_lm_gpp

cava20150628_n0098_lm_gpp

cava20150628_n0100_lm_gpp

cava20150628_n0105_lm_gpp

cava20150628_n0109_lm_gpp

cava20150628_n0111_lm_gpp

cava20150628_n0118_lm_gpp

cava20150628_n0126_m9_gpp

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
 
vct

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.

5f26745d08a854e3-rooftopweb

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.

e5fed9ef5c0199c1-dormweb

1ea219db9bf95cae-bed3web

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.

2bfeb4d11acb0a18-piano1web

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.

be6717880ed0c70c-shoe1web

b33fa49497a95a72-wheel2web

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.

b7b12efad630c3e6-pool2web

f2377d5205fe103d-duga1web

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.

957f1c2c977277a3-gasmasksweb

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

A7ii 35mm ISO 200 640th sec f 4 pic 7

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

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

A7r 55mm ISO 100 250th sec f 7.1.jpg pic 2

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

Jun 292015
 
camera

Instax fun, fun, fun!

In memory of my father, Andre Lietaert.

By Ivan Lietaert

pict1

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.

camerawo

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.

pict2

pict3

pict4

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.

pict5

pict6

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.

pict7

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.

pict8

pict9

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!

pict10

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.

pict11

pict12

pict13

pict14

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

© 2009-2015 STEVE HUFF PHOTOS All Rights Reserved
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers:

Skip to toolbar