Oct 142014
 

Fuji GX 617 panoramic camera

by Dirk Dom

Hi, all!

I want to share some shots made with my Fuji GX617 panoramic camera.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This monster, pictured here next to a Minox, yields 6 x 17 centimeter slides or negatives on 120 film, 4 images on a roll which you can blow up to insane dimensions. It all started in my photo club, where someone showed 1 meter big prints from Schotland. These landscapes were so incredibly detailed and rich they totally overwhelmed me, they hit me like lightning. They were taken with a Linhof 6×17 panoramic camera.

I wanted to do this, too, and started researching panoramic photography. The price of the 6×17 camera’s was so high, however, that I couldn’t possible buy one. The, in a local photo shop, this Fuji for sale. With a 90mm (90° image angle) and an 180mm (45° image angle) A search on the Net confirmed that this, with its interchangeable lenses and good viewfinder, was probably the best 6×17 camera. The price was good, too, 5,000 Euro’s! Impossible. Every time I drove by there, that camera sat there, just to annoy me. I had it taken out one more time, what a piece! In the end I couldn’t bear it anymore and I took out a bank loan.

In the photo club they had told me that finding compositions in the 1 by 3 aspect ratio was extremely difficult. I didn’t dare shoot the camera. After three months of hesitation I decided it was enough and I took it for a spin. All worked fine. That day the lid was off the pot, I shot all day, went to four locations. Then the moment of truth: got my slides back.I can tell you that absolutely nothing matches the impact of a sparkling 6×17 Velvia slide on the light table. The detail was insane. I can tell you I was hooked, then.

The 1×3 aspect ratio came very natural to me and soon I began to shoot worthwhile images. I ran into another limit: The images screamed for really big printing, at least two meters, and such a print, mounted, cost about 400 Euro’s. I got a few made, which were overwhelming, but when I tried to sell them, no one wanted them. First of all, the price (everyone buys posters at the IKEA for 6 Euro’s) and second, no one could hang such a monster print. I could hang one in my small home.

So, there I was, totally frustrated, with 60 mind-blowing images I couldn’t do anything with. Should I sell the camera? I decided on a moratorium of a year.

I found out after a year that I don’t need 2 meter big prints to enjoy the camera. Half meter images also show that there’s something different going on from your regular DSLR images. The detail and colors are much richer. So I started shooting the camera again. Technically, the camera is extremely basic: distance (no rangefinder), speed, opening, transport. It requires very strict discipline to shoot it. That make it a very enjoyable experience, because you’re in total control. The lenses are very, very sharp.

Well, enough talk, let’s see some images! All shots are from Antwerp, Belgium.

This is Antwerp, with the cruise ship Europa in front of it. I read in a local magazine it ‘d be in town for just one day and I went out to shoot it. The original slide is just not sharp enough to read the licence plates of the cars parked. Because the 2 minutes exposure you see no people. At 1PM the boat’s horn went off and a firework started. I had crossed a perimeter to do my shot, and a continuous rain of firework debris fell on me. I was afraid for my lens. I was too close to the firework to make decent images.

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That you make one image, complete, at exposure, is vastly advantageous to stitching in a DSLR. You can take action shots. One of my panorama’s is a flock of pigeons passing over at close distance.
This image I stood on the road, waited for a car coming to me, another coming from behind and exposed for 30 seconds.

Pano Gent.fff 001

This is the image of the fireworks of the inauguration of the MAS (Museum Aan de Stroom, museum at the river) I was at the other bank of the river, used the 180mm; To my amazement I was the only one there, which makes this shot unique.

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I had set up, needing 2 minutes’ worth of exposure.

While exposing, a flash went off. A guy with a point and shoot. My exposure was ruined. I waited until he was gone and started over. Another flash. The guy had come back! Started over again, a third flash. The guy had come back again. I explained that he ruined my exposures and asked him to not to flash anymore. Without a word he turned away.

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The petrochemical industry downtown. On the slide, you clearly see a crane cable two kilometers away.

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The Antwerp cathedral. To make this shot, I went downtown five or six times to get the clear sky. Then I waited until the light was all balanced.

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This is a shot hyperfocally set. The cathedral tower could be a little sharper because of it, but still you see the cement bonding the stones together at the top.

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Bye,

Dirk.

Sep 092014
 

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Shooting with Film: My Rolleiflex Hy6 Mod 2 Experience

By Steve Huff

I will admit it right up front. I never ever shoot film anymore. As more time goes on, digital technology for imaging is getting better and better. Companies like Sony, Olympus and yes, EVEN LEICA are pushing the envelope in many ways from the groundbreaking Sony A7 series to the Olympus OMD series to the Leica Monochrom (A camera no other company dared to even attempt). Digital is starting to mature and we can do things today with digital technology that was not even imaginable back in the glory days of film. For example, can I shoot film at ISO 102,000 ISO and get a results I can use in a pinch? No way. Can a camera such as the Hy6, when shooting film,  give me the convenience of digital? NO WAY, never.

So then, why on earth would I even use this camera and shoot film? I call it romance, beauty, soul, and most of the things that digital usually does not get right. Analog is a different beast than digital in almost every way. The colors, the true B&W, the grain, the contrast and depth and when talking about Medium Format we are talking about a format that also has some magic associated with it.

My fave film of all time, Kodak Portra 160 – click for larger

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Even so, the Rolleiflex Hy6, with a lens and film back and finder will set you back close to $10k. Yes, $10,000. With that in mind, remember than a Leica Monochrom camera with a decent lens will also set you back about $10k and it will only shoot B&W digital in the 35mm format. The Rollei can do B&W film, color film, and even digital if you splurge for a nice digital back. Add to that the size of the film. You will get much more “soul” with the MF rig over any 35mm rig. So price wise, it is up there with the other Niche products in the imaging world. Leica S at $30k, the Leica M at $8k, the Leica MM at $8k, all without lenses. So taking that into consideration, the price of the Rolleiflex Hy6 is about right. Especially considering that it is probably the most versatile Medium Format film/Digital camera made to date. It’s a true beauty in use and with its auto focus capabilities it was shooting faster than the Sigma DP Quattro I had on hand at the same time.

Using Ilford HP5 film with the Rolleiflex – click for larger 

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In Use

This write-up is meant to be a short article about my time with the camera, not in any way a tech review. I find most of those boring anyway so instead I just want to chat about how I felt using the camera, the costs involved with it and the experience of shooting film again. The Hy6 Mod 2 is a large camera, especially when coming from 35mm cameras such as the Sony’s, the Leica’s and the Olympus’s of the world. The Hy6 is not a camera you will casually just carry around. It has a purpose, a meaning, a job to do. A camera such as this with the 80mm lens is really a portrait shooters dream camera. Auto Focus which is pretty fast and accurate (for MF) and a great ergonomic layout with a nice grip. The meter inside the eye level finder worked great as well. When I went out with the Hy6 I felt like I was a serious shooter and I got looks thrown at me like “what the hell is that guy shooting with”. It’s an impressive beast for sure but also a very functional beast.

The last time I shot medium format was when I reviewed the Fuji 670, and I adored that camera. It was slim, large and a true rangefinder. But for some reason, it was a totally different experience that shooting the Rolleiflex. It was lighter, and slower in use. It did not feel nearly as substantial in the build nor was it as bulletproof. The Hy6 is such a camera. It is built to a high standard, has all controls easily accessible and is a true photographers camera. It’s just large and a bit heavy, though nothing like the old school MF cameras of the 80’s which were like metal back-breaking bricks.

1st shot with HP5

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and this one was in near darkness with Delta 3200 film – I LOVE Delta 3200 and always have

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One thing that I thought would limit me when using this camera was LIGHT. With film, you have to use the film you have loaded and when I had Portra 160 loaded, any low light scenario was ruled out. With digital, you can go into any light and adjust your ISO settings in the camera. Easy. With film, you have to change your film when you want different sensitivity. Lucky for me, just as I finished up my roll of HP5, which is an ISO 400 film, I loaded in my Delta 3200 (which is an ISO 3200 film) and was able to shoot the image able in near darkness, even with the 2.8 aperture of the 80mm lens attached to the Hy6. The room was an old solitary confinement prison room from the old historic Yuma Territorial Prison. It smelled of urine, was creepy as hell and Debby was not too cozy inside. I asked her to kneel down and give me her serious face for a dark, moody but nice image. I thought the shot would be blurred or exposed wrong but when the scans came back from the lab I was very happy with the results from 95% of the images I shot.

Overall, when using the Hy6 I LOVED it and had a great time with it. It fit in one of my Wotancraft bags by itself and came out when I wanted a shot that I knew would be nice.

Again with Portra 160 out in Sedona (BTW, we have 2 seats left for the southwest workshop HERE and we will be in Sedona for this trip)

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The Downsides to a camera like the Hy6

There are downsides to the Hy6 but image quality is not one of them. For me, I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the camera. I was able to shoot with it for two weeks and within that time frame I shot 5 rolls of medium format film, 12 exposures each. Out of those images only two had issues that were my fault. The rests were perfect, spot on with metering and the lens performed as it should. But with medium format film one has to consider the costs involved of using it. For me, 5 rolls of film (purchased from Amazon), processing at my local lab as well as scans from my local lab (low res) cost me around $106. So basically, for 60 images it cost me over $100. Sure, many will say “I process my own film” and others will say “I scan my own film”. Even so, processing color film is not something many people do these days. Even if you do your own, you still have to buy the film and buy the chemicals and materials needed to process your own. Then you need to buy a nice scanner. Then you need the hours upon hours it takes to scan and do your own tweaks. It’s expensive and time-consuming.

So for anyone considering film these days, think about the costs involved is using a lab, or the time involved if doing it yourself. As for me, I have NO spare time these days to do any processing or scanning so a lab was my only choice. Shooting 60 images on my digital would cost me nothing so when really looking at it in this light, digital is a bargain :) You still will not get that Analog tangible quality..the old school richness and feel, the reach out and touch it tonality and oh so delicious color. You will get close, and in many case you will get sharper and more details with digital but nothing can replicate the look of Medium Format film.

I see the Hy6 as a camera I would use a few times per year, for special occasions or when I wanted the 6X6 square format MF look. If this camera was $15k with a digital back, I would be all over it and would give up a Leica set to get it. But adding a digital back to this bad big will set you back around $30k and up. This is in addition to the camera cost itself!

So while there are loads of upsides to a camera like this, there are also downsides, depending on what you want to do with it and how much you would want to shoot. There is also no instant gratification with film. It took my lab a week to process and scan.

HP5 ISO 400 film

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ISO 160 Portra

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Wrapping it up

I sent back the Hy6 to Rolleiflex last week and wish I had it for one more week as I am going to shoot some Senior portraits next week. Would have been cool to do some creative shots with some nice film but I did not fink of it at the time. That right there is one of the occasions I would have loved to use this kind of camera for. They are few and far between for me but after browsing my images with this camera, on film, I have to say there is something special about them, even with silly subjects such as broken glass or an old abandoned building. I am a sucker for the square format and when I use it on digital as my aspect ratio it is never the same as a frame of Medium Format 6X6 film.

I really enjoyed the Rolleiflex and if it came inat $3500 I would buy one. At $10k, for me, it is a no go as I would not use it enough but for many this may be just what the doctor ordered. If you want medium format quality in a very versatile camera body that can do film or digital, that can shoot with autofocus and act like any modern-day camera and you do not mind shooting film with its costs and time involved, then the Hy6 may be just what you are looking for. For me, I would buy this over something like a Leica S camera because it is more versatile and I like the design better. With the Hy6 I can do film or digital and with a name like Rolleiflex, I would be shooting with a legend. The Hy6 also acts like any modern-day camera in regards to controls, settings, etc. It is all there on the side of the camera. Super easy to pick up and shoot. I did not even need the manual> i just loaded it, shot it, and it was all super easy without any confusion whatsoever. No long digital menus to drag through, just set it, forget it! Awesome.

You can buy the camera without a lens for $7900 at B&H Photo. They also have the accessories and digital backs for the camera. 

I have shot with only four medium format cameras in my life but this is my hands down favorite to date. If I was buying a MF camera today, this would be it.

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Sep 062014
 

Just for fun: Rolleiflex Hy6 using film vs The Sigma DP Quattro

To those who have shot or do shoot Medium Format film or digital, you know the differences between those files and your run of the mill full frame of APS-C files. With Medium Format film or digital you get an amazing depth, richness and tangible quality to the files and photos whether that is in print or on screen.

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Many times people will say that the Sigma DP series has a “Medium Format” quality but that can be a little misleading. For example, the latest and greatest Sigma DP Quattro was recently in my hands for 3 weeks to review. I reviewed it HERE and even I mentioned it had a medium format look and feel. But I was going by memory as it has been 4 years since I have shot a Medium Format camera (which I reviewed HERE).

Recently I had the pleasure of shooting with a Rolleiflex Hy6 Mod 2 camera and wow, that was quite the experience. From shooting, to feel, to control, to auto focus to QUALITY, this is the best MF camera I have ever shot with or even handled. It should be for $10k with lens and film back but the Rollei just may be the coolest medium format camera made today. At $10k it comes with a 6X6 film back but you can also add a digital back and have one bad ass setup.

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I shot 5 rolls through the Hy6 for my review period and will post that within a week but for now I wanted to show two shots…one from the Rollei Hy6 using Portra 160 film and the 2nd with the Quattro. These are NOT meant to be technical comparison shots, but rather a look at the rendering of each. The Rollei is a low res lab scan and the Sigma is a resized file converted to JPEG. Even so, the depth, the richness and the magical quality is all there in the Medium Format shot and the Sigma appears off in color and lacks the depth and richness that the film shot provides.

The only area where the Sigma is really “medium format like” to me is in sharpness and detail, which it has loads of. But even with that, I prefer the MF shot by far. Take a look below and see for yourself. The MF shot was with an 80mm lens at f/2.8. The Sigma shot was also at 2.8 using the built in lens of the Quattro and shot in 1X1 mode to simulate 6X6. After looking at them side by side it appears digital still has a load of room for improvement in the quiet balance area. Film just nails it it seems. Then again, how long as film been around? Much longer than digital! I did not get a digital back to test with the Rollei but shooting it with film was a treat, even though a pricey one (cost of purchasing 5 rolls plus process and low res scan = $100 for 60 images). The ROllei auto focused FASTER than the Sigma by a little bit.

Click them for larger.

The Rolleiflex Hy6 Mod 2 with the 80mm 2.8 lens and Portra 160 film – low res lab scan. This is best appreciated on a large and well calibrated display. This one has the MF look and soul. Not uber sharp but nice color, great depth and contrast is about perfect.

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Now the Sigma Quattro at f/2.8 – the color is off (a yellow tinge and there is much more DOF even using the same 2.8 aperture. It looks digital (and it is of course) and more flat but very sharp. 

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Jul 222014
 

The new Hasselblad CFV-50c CMOS Digital Back. 

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The new CFV-50c from Hasselblad. A 50 MP CMOS digital back with ISO up to 6400 for the iconic V system. Hasselblad is promising amazing IQ and colors in any light, which is unheard of when it comes to Medium Format as they have always been very limited in this area. While not cheap, the new CFV-50c is not nearly as expensive as I expected it to be, coming in at $14,900 US. Now yes, that is insanely expensive but I expected Hasselblad to come in with this at $25,000. With their Stellar and Lunar Sony bodies coming in at such insane prices, the thought of a full on Hasselblad NEW CMOS 50MP digital back for such an Iconic camera line had me thinking $25-$35k. So $15k, that is about the cost of a Leica M and a 1-2 lenses. ;) Add in a used V series camera setup with lens and you will have a classic, iconic and gorgeous modern day masterpiece. Old with the new. Modern meets classic. I love it. So who makes this sensor? Well, the one company who keeps pushing the limits..SONY. There are even rumors that Sony will be releasing a Medium Format fixed lens MIRRORLESS camera soon. ;) 

You know, there was a time when Hasselblad stood for many things including quality, precision, build, design, soul, magic and originality. Their classic V series of medium format film cameras have always been the gold standard for MF shooting. I have lusted over a 501CM camera for many years, and have only shot with one for one day of my life. It was a very nice experience. The negatives that came back from that camera were gorgeous as there really is nothing quite like a medium format negative. Rich, full of texture, full of soul and life. Using the camera was an exercise in slow, steady and using my brain. Looking through the finder was a very cool experience that felt natural to me.

Sadly, over the years the Hasselblad system started to fade as digital came into play and soon, many of these classic systems started to appear on e-bay for peanuts. Many dropped the system as they no longer used film. Some tried out the digital back that was released a while back, the CFV 50 (minus the C) with good results, but it was limited to ISO 800 and CCD.

This week, Hasselblad has launched the new CMOS digital back for the V system…

Lately it seems Hasselblad has been focusing their energy and time on silliness such as the Lunar and Stellar cameras, which are rebranded high prices Sony bodies that are now out of date. Many have lost faith in the once mighty Hasselblad, writing  them off as a company who would soon be history, or become a spoof of its once former self. Now it seems they are giving something back to all of those who own and use the classic V system. Well, not GIVING, but making it available…at a price.

YEP, this week Hasselblad has announced the CFV-50, which is a new digital medium format back that can be used on all classic V system cameras. Yes, that 501 you have in your closet? You can now add a state of the art digital back to it and use it once again, just as you did in the glory days of film. :) OMG, I so want one. In fact, I would love to have the system just as shown below. This is a new CMOS sensor guys, so much more usable than the CCD sensors in previous digital backs.

The stock image of the new CFV-50 on a 501CM. What a combo!! 

HassebladCFV50

Unfortunately for me, I do not have a spare $20k or so lying around to create something like that but maybe..one day. For me, something like what you see above is sort of a “Holy Grail” setup. Modern Medium Format Digital connected to the most gorgeous and classic medium format FILM camera ever made. It is a thing of beauty and while not a camera for daily use, it would be one for SPECIAL use. I can not wait to see examples that come from this beauty. Hasselblad will NOT be recreating the camera body of course , so you must have a classic V model to use the back. I think this may just drive up prices on the used market for them. You can see a list of compatible models HERE.

From Hasselblad CEO Ian Rawcliffeon the new CFV-50 Back:

“We have experienced a substantial resurgence of interest in our iconic V cameras – users love the traditional ergonomics and the unique appearance. Our research has shown that although we no longer manufacture V models, there is a big demand from our dedicated V System users who want to be able to continue to use their classic cameras but also desire access to our latest technology.”

Research:

See more at the Hasselblad site HERE.  Compatibility page is HERE and Planet V page is HERE. 

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Tech Specs:

Sensor type: CMOS
Sensor size: 50 Mpixels (8272 x 6200 pixels)
Sensor dimensions: 43.8 x 32.9 mm
Image size: RAW 3FR capture 65 MB on average. Tiff 8 bit 154 MB
Capture rate: 1.5 capture/sec. 35 captures/ minute (based on a SanDisk Extreme UDMA7 120 MB/s)
Single shot
16 bit colour
ISO 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200 & 6400
Longest shutter speed: 12 minutes
Image storage: CF card type II (write speed >20 MB/sec) or tethered to Mac or PC
Color management: Hasselblad Natural Colour Solution – One generic profile
Storage capacity: On average 60 images on a 4GB CF card

Battery type: Sony™ InfoLithium L NP-F series
Colour display: 3.0 inch TFT type, 24 bit colour
Histogram feedback: Yes
IR filter: Mounted on sensor
Feedback: IAA – Instant Approval Architecture: provides acoustic and visual feedback
File format: Lossless compressed Hasselblad 3F RAW
Software: Phocus for Mac and PC (included)
3FR files are also supported directly in Apple and Adobe environments
Macintosh: OSX version 10.5 or later. PC: Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7 (32 and 64 bit), Windows 8
Camera support: Hasselblad V System cameras manufactured since 1957. 2000 series cameras and 201F with C lenses only. 202FA / 203FE and 205FCC camera models need a minor camera modification to use F/FE lenses. All other cameras with Hasselblad V interface.

Host connection type: FireWire 800 (IEEE1394b)
Battery capacity: Sony™ InfoLithium L, up to 8 hours of shooting capacity
Operating temperature: 0 – 45 °C / 32 – 113 °F
Dimensions: 90 x 92 x 57 mm [W x H x D]
Weight: 530 g (Excluding battery and CF card)
Package contents: Hasselblad CFV digital back with protective cover, adapter cables, rechargeable battery with charger, EL camera battery adapter, FireWire cable and 8 GB CF card. Focusing Screen (Split image / Micro Prism) with dual format markings.

Jan 312014
 

The Friday Film: The Rolleiflex 3.5F by Ibraar Hussain

This isn’t really a Gear Site, but, if people want to contribute stuff about gear then gear will be featured. To carry on the Gear tradition, I bought myself a precious little Gemstone of a camera.

For those interested in the Leica and rangefinder experience – I suggest you also look to the TLR experience and the Rolleiflex experience as it will give you a completely different feel and vision in your photography. Just owning a classic Rolleiflex is a pleasure in itself, and using one gives a feeling of excitement and productivity and the feel of it all being an event – even if the subject is your cat lounging around the sitting room!

There are many Rolleiflex TLR’s to choose from; Automat’s, Rolleicord’s, 2.8 Planar’s, Tele-Rolleiflexes and many special editions.

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The Rolleiflex is still being made by DHW Photo http://www.dhw-fototechnik.de to this day, and is a work of art, with modern ground glass and super bright image – expensive, but cheaper than a Leica!

I bought myself a mark 1 Rolleiflex 3.5F – a Classic with a capital C and considered by many to be one of the best camera’s ever made.

A camera used by some of The Greats throughout the years and capturing some of the iconic photographs in history such as David Bailey, Richard Avedon, Robert Doisneu, Fritz hence, Eduard Boubat, Lee Miller, Diane Arbus, Robert Capa, Vivian Maie amongst many others.

And a Camera used by iconic movie stars and rock stars over the years .

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Marilyn Monroe with a Rolleiflex (2)

Connery Behind The Lens

Parades End. Call Sheet #22

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Celebrities with Their Vintage Cameras (32)

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I’m not saying owning one will make one great or into a celebrity! But it’s apiece of history which is still a joy to use and can yield lovely results on par with The Best. I’m no expert on Rolleiflex TLR’s but I do know there are many user groups and lists of serial numbers. Buying a Rolleiflex of this type is an investment too.

The value will only go up (depending upon the condition of your Rolleiflex) and one can treasure it as one treasures a Rolex or collectors watch. Anyway, I bought mine with a Rollei bayonet II yellow Filter, lens cap and a Rolleinar II close up filter – a two piece filter with lenses for both viewing and taking lenses.

The close up filter is called the Rolleinar and comes in many different strengths. The Rolleinar I will enable you to shoot head shoulder shots with the 75mm f3.5 standard lens.

The Rolleinar II which I have will be face shots – or close-ups of other subjects.

I wanted a Rolleinar I but for some strange reason, the Bay II Rolleinar’s (along with ALL Bay II accessories) are 3 to 4 times as much as anything Bay I or III (Bay I for the Rolleicord Tessar and Bay III for the f2.8 80mm Planar) so I picked up a bargain Rolleinar II.

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If you have never used a TLR before, it’s easy peasy to use. Flip open the waist level finder to look into a big image of the square scene. Focus using the knob on the left, wind the lever forward and then back, and trip the shutter using the release on the bottom right front of the camera.

It is so easy and so straight forward without any settings getting in the way.

Mine is metered, the array of glass bulbs below the Rolleflex logo is where the selenium meter captures the light. I didm;t bother with the inbuilt meter and just used Light Meter App on my iPhone for the one roll I shot with this camera. The dials at the front are for Shutter speed and Aperture.

I took mine along to my favourite place – Brecon in Wales a few weeks back, and snapped a roll of 10 exposures at the ruins at Tretower Castle. A lovely desolate place in the midst of the Beacons. I shot a roll of Rollei Pan 25. A very slow 25 ISO BW Film which is basically Agfapan 25 rebranded.

I developed the roll in an Agfa Rondinax 60 daylight Tank – great idea, if a bit temperamental, with Rodinal developer. I Scanned using an Epson 4990 flatbed and used Photoshop CS4 to process.

The negatives were lovely with high contrast and rich blacks, and I was pleased with every shot (I wasted 2 by exposing them accidentally in the Rondinax while loading).

I include a selection of snaps here (minus family snaps of me and the Missus).

I have owned a TLR before: MPP Microcord TLR reviewed here on stevehuffphoto.com http://www.stevehuffphoto.com/2012/11/02/the-mpp-microcord-tlr-by-ibraar-hussain/ But this was my first Rolleiflex TLR and it is a keeper and a pleasure to use and to own.

All photo’s of this first test roll.

Rolleiflex 3.5F Mk 1.

Carl Zeiss 75mm f3.5 Planar

Rollei Yellow Filter

Rollei Pan 25

Rodinal.

Rondinax 60 daylight tank.

castle tower Untitled-1 Untitled-2 Walls walls2

 

Jan 222014
 

2013 in just twelve images on different formats 

by Bjarke Ahlstrand

Last year I did a – one year – 2012: 12 months, 12 images, 12 cameras / lenses in total guest report for Steve. It was tough to make, it’s really hard to narrow down a big production to just one image per month, but very rewarding as well.

So I decided to do the same this time around. Those familiar with my work, either here at Steve’s site or my own www.oneofmany.dk will notice that I’ve been drifting slightly towards film and large format recently. The slow process has been healthy for me mentally and photographically speaking. I shoot less images, but work harder for each one, and it’s a thrill to learn new skills — especially ones that aren’t linked to Photoshop.

2013 was a good year for me in many ways, and also challenging. Sometimes I feel I’m balancing between being creative and obsessed, both when it comes to shooting portraits as well as using new cameras and lenses, hehehe. I still treasure my Leica M9-P more than anything else, but the artistic freedom (and limits) the large format view cameras give are very inspiring. Nowadays, whenever I grab a digital camera, I miss the selective focus / shallow depth of field while shooting large format extremely open, but also the tonality and amount of detail that I get from even 100-year-old non-coated lenses. An 8×10″ is approximately 60 times digital full frame, and a Swiss built large format Sinar camera, be it 60 years or 6 years old, is at east 60 times more fun to operate than a modern Canon/Nikon.

Well, here are 12 images, one for each month, all shot on different cameras, formats and lenses.

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FILE: 1 – January – 8×10 – silver shade polaroid

Miss Roxy – Arca Swiss 8×10″ – 305 mm Kodak Portrait Lens (ca. 1930) @ f/4.5 – Silver Shade Polaroid

1 - january - 8x10 - silver shade polaroid

The Impossible Project revived the 8×10″ Polaroid, when they purchased the last production machine from the bankrupt Polaroid plant in Mass, USA, and had it moved to their European headquarters in Holland. The Silver Shade Polaroid, the only one being made in the 8×10″ large format size, isn’t exactly black and white, but still nice to work with, as long as you can live with chemical defects, and manage to get your hands on an antique Polaroid processor which is need to pair the 8×10″ negative with the positive (large format doesn’t work like the old peel-apart Polaroid cameras and film!). Miss Roxy, my assistant posed for this image, which was shot with quite a few tilt and shifts on a 1970s Arca Swiss camera, and the lens mounted on the camera is a wonderful, wonderful 1930s soft focus Kodak Portrait Lens.

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FILE: 2 – February – Hasselblad h3d

Zombieboy – Hasselblad H3D-39 – 150 mm Fujinon HC @ f/5.6

2 - february - hasselblad h3d

When it comes to sharpness, tonality, color and file quality, no digital camera beats the 39 megapixels Hasselblad medium format monster. And yes, I’ve shot the Nikon D800, but it doesn’t even come closer, and neither do the lenses. The Hassy is slow and heavy and really suffers if you go past ISO200, but if you treat it like a film camera, it works excellent, and the resolution it offers is utterly amazing even though it’s a few years old now.

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 FILE: 3 – march – 4×5 – sinar polaroid

Anker – Sinar P2 4×5″ – 240 mm unknown 1860s Petzval lens @ f/3.8 – Expired Fuji Polaroid

3 - march - 4x5 - sinar polaroid

I love the fast lenses! Everyone who’s ever shot a manual f/1 lens, like the Noctilux, Nokton or Sonnetar, knows how difficult it is to achieve a somewhat precise focus. But when you move to the large format, in this case, the 4×5″ film format, things get waaaaay more difficult control — and if your lenses were made in 1860 instead of 1960, you add to the difficulty aspects, but the reward is equally bigger, if you nail it. And even though the output material is an old expired Fuji Polaroid, the depth of field and detail is amazing. It was shot a night-time, using only my Ikea table lamp as the light source — and two small light candles which I place behind him.

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FILE: 4 – april – 5×7 – kodak 2b wetplate collodion berlin

Alex – Kodak 2B 5×7″ – 150 mm Rapid Rectilinear @ f/8 (ca 1890) – wetplate collodion

4 - april - 5x7 - kodak 2b wetplate collodion berlin

Mmmmmhhhh, the smell of ether :-) When I had a chance to join a wetplate collodion seminar in Berlin, held by American David Puntel, I simply had to attend. What a fine (and difficult) process. I’m sure most of you have heard or read about it elsewhere, so I won’t go into the tech/chemical aspects, but just recommend everyone into photography to try the 1850-1851 photography process, which is very rewarding. It sharpens your senses, and you really consider, plan and compose your image, before pressing the shut… ehh, correct that, you don’t use a shutter for this, because the old lenses have none, and you need a lot of (day)light. You just remove the darkslide, take off the lens cap, and let the subject, in this case animation director, Alex Brüel Flagstad, sit absolutely still for 14 seconds. This was a so-called half-plate which is a tiny bit smaller than 4×5″. Notice the silver nitrate on my fingers. It took months before it disappeared.

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FILE: 5 – may – Leica m9-p 35 summicron

Assistant+Artist shot by oldest clone – Leica M9-P – 35 mm Summicron @f/2 (1st version, anno 1964)

5 - may - Leica m9-p 35 summicron

A rare shot of me in action. I am placed one the right with the dark cloth on my head, while planning a 4×5″ Ektachrome dias portrait shoot. My oldest son, Hjalte, shot this behind the scenes photo with the Leica M9-P and an old 35 mm Summicron that I’d just purchased from conflict photographer Jan Grarup, whom I guess is the only real documentary/war professional who actually shoot with Leica for a living. Jan exchanged his old glass in favor for the new Voigtländers, so I got his old 35 mm Summicron. The first version of the classic lens really shines on the M9-P, which is still my all-time favourite digital camera, due to portability and quality (as long as you don’t enter the 640+ iso’s, hehe) and not least lenses, lenses, lenses.

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FILE: 6 – june – leica m typ240 apo-summicron

Katja naturelle – Leica M Typ240 – 50 mm Apo-Summicron Asph @ f/2

6 - june - leica m typ240 apo-summicron

I don’t have a Typ240, I just borrowed one along with the new 50 mm Apo-Summicron Asph for a day. With my love of cameras, I have of course considered the Typ240 many times, but every time I hold one, it just doesn’t feel like my kind of camera. Can’t exactly say why, and I know it beats my older M9-P technically speaking, I just think the CCD sensor of the old Leica renders better/differently (at lower ISOs). The new 50 mm Apo-Summicron, on the other hand, whauuuuh, that one would be a nice addition to my collection of Leica 50’s (Noctilux Asph, Summilux Asph, Sonnetar, Jupiter-3, Summitar, Summar), but the price tag… well, I guess I’d rather buy 10 antique Petzval lenses for my large format cameras… Or a Monochorme. But it sure is nice, resolution wise almost matching the medium format Schneider Kreuznach, Rodenstock and Fujinon HC lenses, just so much smaller. This image is straight out of camera, no adjustments, and wide open @ f/2.

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FILE: 7 – july – 8×10 – Dallmeyer 2A Petzval f4 – Fuji Velvia 50

Katja Nun – Sinar P2 8×10″ – 300 mm Dallmeyer Petzval 2B (ca 1870) @ f/3.8- Fuji Velvia 50

7 - july - 8x10 - Dallmeyer 2A Petzval f4 - Fuji Velvia 50

Same subject as before, my girlfriend Katja, only this time around she was shot on a 140 year old Dallmeyer Petzval lens. The Petzval lenses are famous for their swirliness around the edge and utter sharpness in the center. They’re extremely fast (f/3.8 – f/4 on large format is like f/1 on kleinbild 35 mm in-depth of field terms, and if you tilt-shift the camera it’s even more extreme). I shot this on an old, expired 8×10″ Velvio 50ISO dias in the very last evening light, and she had to sit still for half a second. With the light passing and time it takes to re-focus, load the film holder (which only holds two images, one on each side), removing the darkslide and wait for the camera to stand still, you only have one chance, so you often miss a shot. Especially sharpness wise as the depth of field is extremely small. But not this time around. Of course what you see here is a low resolution file, but the original 8×10″ positive – and scanned file amazes me. If only 8×10″ dias weren’t so tough to come by (and expensive) this would be my preferred medium. But hopefully you get a glimpse of the sharpness and bokeh this old lens produces…

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FILE: 8 – may – 4×5 – Linhof 135 mm

Viking Viggo – Linhof Technika IV 4×5″ – 135 mm Symmar @ f/5.6 – Ilford Delta 100

Picture 211

Now and then it’s nice to go offline. Away from mails, text messages, facebook, hell — even stevehuff.com! Especially if you have kids who are always online, and addicted to it. So this summer, my clones (ages 14 and 9) and I spent one weekend as vikings at a historic “reservation”. The offspring agreed to leave every electronic device at home, as long as I did the same. So I bought my Linhof Technika IV and 5 filmholders, so I would be able to shoot maximum 10 images through out a whole week. It turned out to be somewhat of a challenge, as there were many nice photo opportunities and, for once, I had a lot of time on my hands. But I guess the slow-photography-dogma was therapeutic to me, and when I got home and developed the ten sheets of film, I was thrilled that 7 out of 10 turned out very well. This one is my favorite. I was chopping wood but discovered that Viggo was playing with a kitten behind a tent, so I located the Linhof, guessed the light (1/8th of a second at f/5.6 on a Ilford Delta 100 sheet film), called his name and pressed the shutter. I adore the old school documentary-ish vibe it has to it. This is film when it’s best, and I couldn’t have done something with this tonality had it been a digital camera. Playing viking for a whole week, I sure missed my Leica, but the large format “portable” Linhof proved to be a worthy companion (it was my first time using the German 1960s mechanical metal marvel — the Leica of large format! It’s extremely well-built, like a Leica).

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FILE: 9 – september – leica monochrome 50 mm sonnetar f1

Mrs Madsen On The Roof – Leica Monochrome – 50 mm MS-Optical Sonnetar @ f/1.1

9 - september - leica monochrome 50 mm sonnetar f1

I adore the Monochrome, and I wish I owned one. Every time I borrow one, I love and loathe it at the same time. It’s so extravagantly priced and immensely simple, but it just works — especially with old lenses. Or old lens designs, as is the case with this crazy handmade Japanese lens, the Sonnetar, based on the Sonnar design, but taken to extremes; both size wise and in aperture terms. Wide open its f/1.1, a little hard to handle, but produces dreamy images with out of this world background bokeh (it’s after all made in Japan). I don’t think Steve has had a review or guest report with images taken with this lens, which I bought directly from Japan earlier this year, but if there’s a demand for it, I might do a small review and supply some samples (it handles color images very well as well). It’s very cheap compared to the Noctilux, and performs way, way, way better than the horrible Cosina (Voigtländer) Nokton f/1.1.

FILE: 10 – october – 8×10 – direct_positive_paper

Afghan Princess – Sinar P2 5×7″ – 360 mm Voigtländer Heliar (ca anno 1903) @ f/4.5 – Ilford Direct Positive Paper

10 - october - 5x7 - direct_positive_paper 

I often shoot paper negatives on large format. It’s a cheap way of testing new lenses (paper is way cheaper than negatives), but you always have to either make contact prints in the dark room or scan it and invert it Photoshop. Enter the very nice Ilford Direct Positive Paper, which is sort of a mixture of classic photo paper and polaroid. You shoot it in your 4×5″, 5×7″ or 8×10″ film holder, and when you develop it (in paper chemicals – and under red light) it transforms from a negative to a positive. A bit like wet plate collodion, except this is far easier and less dangerous, chemically speaking. So I’d recommend this to everyone shooting large format, as it’s very pleasing to see the result directly after you’ve shot your image. In this case I did a portrait of an Afghan (refugee) princess with a fantastic 110 year old 36 cm / 360 mm Voigtländer Heliar portrait lens, which even survived a fire some ten years ago and has cement between the elements! Those old Voigtländer lensus unlike the new Cosina-branded ones for Leicas and micro 4/3s are very well made, and perform excellently, even one hundred years are they were made. The Direct Posistive Paper is rated somewhere in between ISO1 and ISO3 and is most suited for pinhole cameras, as it’s very contrasty, but I think it’s nice for portraits as well, as long as you learn to balance your light a bit. For this I used a flash, or was it three ProFoto generators :-?

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FILE: 11 – november – 1913 goecker studio wood camera expired 809 polaroid

Jesper – Goecker Wooden Studio Camera (1913) 8×10″ – Dallmeyer 3B 300 mm Portrait Lens @ f/4 – Expired (1995) 809 Polaroid

11 - november - 1913 goecker studio wood camera expired 809 polaroid

I buy a lot of old gear, and I always appreciate spending time with the old time pros or collectors from whom I get my gear. In this case, I bought some old Linhof cameras (4×5″ and 5×7″) from an old master about to retire. He had been a pro for 45 years (!), and never went digital. In his hay days he developed 2000 5×7″ prints every day! Both color and b&w. He also had an old (dating back to 1913) wooden studio camera in his studio and I immediately fell in love with the old beauty. A 100 year old camera, which still works like a dream. It was equipped with a gigantic Petzval-design portrait lens, the Dallmeyer 3B. Neither camera nor lens had any shutter, which – unless you shoot wetplate or paper negatives – actually can be somewhat of a problem due to the (short) exposure times. But fortunately the old pro found a box of old 8×10″ 809 Polaroid’s, a film I’d never shot before, which expired back in 1995. He doubted I could get anything out of the remaining 4 polaroid’s in the box, but I did. This image was shot only with the light from my living room lamp, using my HAND as a shutter for approximately one second. I absolutely love the final result – what you see here is a plain scan of the image I shot. Notice the text lines next to his face – they come from the “negative condom” or protection sheet that the polaroid’s were wrapped in. Somehow, during the 18 since (since expiration date) some of the text managed to creep unto the negative. Pure light magic.

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FILE: 12 – december – canon 5d mark iii

Teen Clone – Canon EOS 5D Mark II – Canon 24-50 mm II @ f/4

12 - december - canon 5d mark iii 

My oldest clone never wants to be photographed because he’s 1) a teenager 2) thinks his father is embarrassing 3) doesn’t like cameras or photography 4) has braces and pimples all over his face — BUT — he also needed to give his mother, my ex-wife, something for x-mas, so he bought a frame, and asked if I would do a portrait. I did two, actually, an 8×10″ analogue, but then I snapped a test shot with my Canon, and it turned out best. Yes, that’s right. I do digital light metering tests before using precious sheet film / polaroids! I practically never use the Canon camera, as it’s big and has no personality and uses auto focus zoom lenses, hahaha. Well, snobbing aside, its video capabilities talk for them selves, but it is of course the 5D Mark III is a very capable professional tool, very rarely failing in any way. But I still prefer an old Leica, Linhof or an old wooden studio camera :-)

I guess that concludes my 2013 in just twelve images on different formats, cameras and lenses.

Perhaps I should mention, that I’m in the process of my building my own 20×24″ ultra large format camera, so perhaps you’ll see an image from that alongside a Minox next year, hehe.

Best,

Bjarke

www.oneofmany.dk

Sep 242013
 
Scotland with the Mamiya 7
by Brett Price
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Hey Steve,
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I thought I would share a few photos and my experience with another rangefinder I had the pleasure of borrowing from a friend for my trip. Thanks again for creating a place where people can do this. I’ve had 3 other posts on your site, all of which highlight my experience with different rangefinder cameras and systems. I thought it would be good to post another :)
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I recently did a 10 day trip across the U.K. with my girlfriend. I brought my Leica M7 w/ 50lux ASPH, (I wrote about it also here )  Hasselblad Xpan (I wrote about it also here ) and the Mamiya 7 w/ 80mm f4 that I borrowed from a friend. My normal 6×7 camera is the Pentax 67ii, which I decided not to bring due to the sheer size and weight. It is a truly massive camera and I went this whole trip out of one bag so every pound I could save counts. I was at first resistant to this… I love bokeh and out of focus qualities to cameras and the Pentax has the fastest lens for 6×7 that exists, the SMC 105mm f2.4. It is a fabulous portrait lens that melts backgrounds like butter not unlike the Noctilux. But 2 days into the trip, I didn’t miss the extra weight…
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The great thing about the Mamiya 7 is the weight and usability. It’s not the smallest camera but its footprint against 2 other common 6×7 cameras, the Pentax 67 and the Mamiya RZ, makes it look like a olympus pen in comparison. The image quality and sharpness is superb, it could easily be the sharpest camera system I’ve ever shot with. The predecessor to this camera was the Mamiya 6, which allowed the camera to collapse into itself to make it even smaller to carry. This was such a great design its a real shame that Mamiya didn’t incorporate it into the mamiya 7. The other drawback is the lens speed. f4 is as fast as you’re going to get on any of the available lenses which can be frustrating at times when the light is going down. I can only speak to the 80mm but I’ve heard that almost all of the other lenses are just as good in terms of their performance.
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I had never been to Europe before and I have to say that I suffered a bit from carrying 3 cameras with me. Before I left I couldn’t make up my mind as to which one I could leave so I just took all 3. I honestly wish I would have left one of them behind. Probably the Xpan although I really love some of the photos I got with it. One lesson I constantly forget is that you really only need 1 camera most of the time. If I had just brought my Leica alone I would have made it work and been able to get great photos with it and I probably would have never missed using anything else but alas, that is not how my brain works all the time and sometimes I make things harder on myself. It’s a mistake I’m sure ill make and pay for again and again.
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Overall the trip was great. Scotland is just as beautiful as I always imagined it would be and the people we met while there were some of the kindest I’ve come across. I think my favorite place was St. Andrews, a small little coastal town north of Edinburgh which is probably only know due to the golf course that its famous for. It was the only place out of anywhere we went that had almost no tourism, it felt like we had it to ourselves and for a photographer that is heaven.
As far as the other locations, there are some shots from Loch Lomond, and Beachy Head, UK.
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All images were shot on Kodak Portra 400 or 800, Fuji Superia 400, or Kodak Tri-X and scanned using the Fuji Frontier or Noritsu Scanner at my local lab. Filmboxlab.com
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I constantly post to my tumblr brettprice.tumblr.com or my website www.iambrettprice.com if you would like to see more. Thanks for letting me share with you guys again. Happy shooting.
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Cheers,
Brett Price
Feb 212013
 

titlepas

Shooting Medium Format alongside Leica M for Travel and Documentary Photography

by Pascal Vossen

Hi Steve, thank you for your contribution to the photographic community and giving me the chance to ventilate my thoughts to other photographers!

Shooting medium format alongside 35mm format is what I did during my latest trip to Sri Lanka and it turned out really well for me. I enjoyed it a lot and it made sense to me before I left, during shooting and afterwards when I looked at the results. The only ‘regret’ I got is that I didn’t go bigger in film size. Still though, the Leica M was and will remain to be my main travel and documentary camera. Let me first tell you why, before I move on to the medium format part;

Photographing with a Leica M is special. I don’t have to explain that to someone who handled a Leica M before, but to the photographer who didn’t. It’s a camera with a magic feel, handling and character to it. It gives you the best of 35mm in a small and intuitive package. You don’t feel like you are getting blocked off to what is happening around you as soon as you bring the camera to your eye. The design of the Leica M, being a rangefinder camera (i.e. with a separate optical viewfinder), will allow you to stay in contact with what is happening around you. You never loose focus on your subject. You see everything. Notice the light, meter, frame, focus, reframe, anticipate and shoot your image. Its a fast process that always allows you to stay in control. Rangefinder focusing is imo also the most accurate way of focusing, since you don’t have to rely on an auto focus system that might fail. You are in control, you decide where you put the focus. This means that you know exactly where your focus point is. Is this off, then you failed and not the camera.

Leica M7 | 28mm | Portra 400 | Polonaruwa.

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Leica M7 | 50mm | Portra 400@800 | Red Mosque, Colombo.

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Because of its construction, the fact that it is a rangefinder and thus not has a mirror like a DSLR, the Leica M is compact and elegant. It is without a doubt the most beautiful camera I will ever own. The first time I tried one myself I noticed by its reassuring weight that this thing is build to last. Furthermore, it does not scream for attention and gives most people the impression that you are carrying an ‘old-timer’ around. Yes, sometimes that’s true, but its a very competent ‘old-timer’. But then again even the 2013 Leica M (type 240) still looks like the camera Leica build 30,40 years ago. That is partly the beauty of it and gives its user the freedom to walk around without drawing too much attention to themselves. Even the small time street criminal would more often go for a larger looking plastic DSLR from e.g. one of the Japanese brands, because they think you are holding a worthless old camera that is not worth stealing. If I however go on a trip where I suspect to end up in more dodgy areas I would maybe tape off the ‘Leica’ sign and put some more tape on it to make it look broken, just to make sure. I don’t care what it looks like when I am photographing (I do when its on the shelf ;)). The purpose of having this camera is to be able to get the shots I wouldn’t get with another camera. It is inconspicuous and enables the photographer to get really close without getting noticed. Even the shutter won’t give away your presence when you are photographing with an analog M, since it a cloth shutter and therefore near silent. I have found the digital Leica M (e.g. M8.2 that I also shoot with) in ‘discreet’ mode also very silent until you take your finger of the shutter button and the shutter re-cocks. Prepare yourself to be notices or walk away first.

Leica M7 | 50mm | Portra 400@800 | Temple of the Holy Tooth, Kandy.

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Leica M7 | 50mm | Portra 400@800 | Temple of the Holy Tooth, Kandy.

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It is my opinion that photographing with a Leica M stimulates you as a photographer to take pictures in a more intelligent way. This has partly to do with the way you frame your images through the viewfinder. The frame lines give you the possibility to anticipate and be in control of the moment. Furthermore, the typical rangefinder character and lenses (prime lenses, mostly ‘wide angle’ to ‘normal’ focal length) force you to come close or be more creative. These are all reasons why the leica M is my main choice for shooting travel and documentary photography.

Leica M7 | 50mm | Portra 400 | Kandy.

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Leica M7 | 28mm | Portra 400 | Colombo.

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So what made me bring along a medium format camera and why did I think it was a great combination? Let me say this first; Before I left for Sri Lanka I figured out that too many options is no good! I planned on limiting myself to two lenses for the Leica M, the Summicron 28mm F2 for wide angle landscape and environmental portraits and the Summilux 50mm F1.4 ASPH for shots/subjects that are better suited with a normal focal length or less depth of field. But then I threw in a Voigtländer 15mm heliar! I forgive myself since I got some good shots with it.

Then I had the choice of leaving it the way it was, which is a really light travel setup, or fill the bag (i.e. a Billingham Hadley Pro) up with a medium format camera + one standard lens for portrait and landscape. Reasoning behind this was my intention to take close-up portraits and high resolution landscapes. A larger negative means you can capture more information, details and you gain quite a bit of dynamic range (that’s even more true when its digital imo). This and the larger control in depth of field all add to the look of medium format. Nevertheless, the obvious image quality gain was not the surprising part. It was mostly the ease and the way of handling both cameras alongside which I found to be great.

A standard part of my day would be that I would ask my driver to drop me at the beginning of a town/village/city on the way and pick me up a few hours later on the other side. I walked, explored, observed and talked a lot to people. When I saw something interesting I would normally have my Leica M7 in my hand, approach my subject and photograph my subject from the intended angle in the most natural way. This often required me to get pretty close without disturbing them with what they were doing at that particular moment. Would they have noticed me and stopped what they were doing then the image would have been lost. This is definitely important in countries like Sri Lanka where people don’t mind to be photographed and gladly pose with a smile when they notice you. I don’t want that. At least not when its not intended as a portrait. You could consider this ‘phase one’ in the approach to my subject.

Leica M7 | 28mm | Portra 400 | Dambulla.

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‘Phase two’ would be approaching my subject for a short chat, making him or her feel comfortable and then ask them if I can take their portrait. If you photograph people in this way you set yourself apart from the average tourist that just snaps away at them and then walks away without saying anything. It really is more or a social and respectable thing to do and you will notice that you will gain a bit of their trust. Just enough to get close enough for an intimate and well-composed portrait.

Contax 645 | Zeiss T* 80mm F2 | Portra 400 | Dambulla.

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If you use digital you show the image to them, which could lead to fun reactions and even more photos, or you give them a chance to hand over an email address (if they have that) so you can send them the picture you took of them upon arrival at home. For exactly these kinds of shots I would grab for the medium format camera. I have introduced myself and my intentions to them and I can now take the tool that gives me the largest IQ. Handling the cameras together was great since I could easily tuck away my Leica M and take out the medium format SLR (I used a Contax 645 + 80mm F2). They fitted comfortably in my Billingham Hadley Pro bag, which is not a gigantic bag. It has great padding and with its flat shape it fits perfectly to your body. Another great advantage was that I didn’t have to fumble around and switch lenses on my Leica M the whole time. Switching lenses is a process I find annoying and a little tricky when traveling to dusty and humid places.

So, to sum up what I found great about this setup is;

-Inconspicuousness and intuitive handling with the Leica M

-Advantage of higher IQ from a larger negative (6×4,5> or sensor a-like) when needed.

-It is still a fairly compact setup (Leica M, two lenses and a MF camera) and packs well in a medium sized camera bag (most Medium Format cameras are actually not that big if you think about it).

-It avoids that you have to change lenses when you want to take a portrait or landscape (if you are comfortable using one lens on the medium format camera)

Some more medium format examples:

Contax 645 | Zeiss T* 80mm F2 | Portra 400 | View from Lipton Seat, Haputale.

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Contax 645 | Zeiss T* 80mm F2 | Portra 400 | Kandy Bride, Kandy.

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Contax 645 | Zeiss T* 80mm F2 | Provia 400X | Near Adams Peak.

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Contax 645 | Zeiss T* 80mm F2 | Portra 400 | Mihintale.

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Contax 645 | Zeiss T* 80mm F2 | Acros 100 | Galle.

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I have found there to only be one possible downside and one ‘regret’ to this all. Downside was that you would have to bring two different formats of film and load two different cameras (if not one or both are digital). The regret was in a way that I didn’t bring a MF camera with a larger negative. That would have been even better. Thus, in the future the MF camera alongside my Leica M will be either a Mamiya 7 or a MF DSLR (Phase One or Hasselblad) depending on the destination, subject/project or way of shooting.

All images are taken in Sri Lanka and the whole series can be viewed on my portfolio (www.pascalvossen.com):

Flickr

Thank you for reading!

Pascal Vossen

 

Feb 012013
 

HAS

Using the Hasselblad 200 FC/M for Street Photography by Jerry Bei

“UFO” Kodak Ektar 100

UFO

Hi Steve:

I am a street photographer based in Sydney and I have a strong passion for photography in general. I used the Leica M9 and MP as my main tools for street photography in the past couple of years but recently decided to acquire something different. The temptation of medium format have always been there but I could not justify the cost of digital medium format cameras, at least for now.

Hasselblad has always been my dream medium format camera and luckily I got the chance to buy a Hasselblad 2000FC/M camera body with a A12 magazine at a very reasonable price that got me started into medium format. The world of medium format film photography was new to me so I had to learn everything from the start. I got a grasp of how the Hasselblad V system works very quickly since I had quite a bit of experience shooting film before.

“J&M” Fuji Pro400H

J&M

First thing I noticed when holding the camera is its superb build quality, I have held many Leica cameras before but this thing is different, it is built like a tank; heavy and solid. The Hasselblad 2000FC/M with a lens attached is significantly heavier than my Leica M9 with a 50 Summilux ASPH combo but still lighter than a full-frame DSLR setup.

“Black Riders” Ilford HP5+

Black Riders

The viewfinder on the Hasselblad V system is like nothing else I have experienced, big and beautiful. It is almost like a live-view 3 inch LCD screen in the modern days but even better since it is all optical rather than electronic. Viewing through the viewfinder is a pleasure and truly a treat to eyes. I have upgraded the original stock viewscreen to a even brighter Accute Matte D screen that helps to achieve faster and more accurate focusing for street photography.

The Hasselblad V system is equipped with a waist-level viewfinder and it is perfect for street photography. You can simply hold the camera at your waist aimed at your subject and most people don’t even know that you are taking a picture. It’s discreteness is perfect for the streets. The shutter click sound is no where as quite as a leaf shutter or Leica quietness but it is still a pleasure to hear the mirror flipping when the shutter fires.

“Circus Lady” Kodak Portra 400

Circus Lady

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“Gossip Girls” Kodak Portra 400

Gossip Girls

One of the big advantage of the Hasselblad system over other medium format film systems is its inter-changeable backs, which allows swap between different films on the go. There are several different types of film magazines available that can shoot different number of exposures. The most common is the A12 magazine, which allows photographers to shoot 12 frames of 6×6 exposures of 120mm film. You simply insert the dark slide to remove the film back and apply another back loaded with the film you desire. Therefore, you don’t have to wait until all exposures to be finished and able to shoot B&W or Colour during the same photo-shoot.

The lenses are made by Carl Zeiss thus equates to superior image quality. There are several different types of lenses for the V system, some with lens built-in Synchro Compur shutter like in C and CF lenses and some without that uses the in-camera shutter like the F lenses. My Hasselblad 2000FC/M can uses all three types of lenses since it has a built-in shutter and a top shutter speed of 1/2000 second. The optics are all made by Carl Zeiss and has the typical Zeiss quality with its renowned 3D rendition. Some people buy the system because of their famous lenses. There are also difference in lens coating and are noted by the T* sign. The lenses I used are the Carl Zeiss 150mm F4.0 CF T* lens which is equivalent to 94mm in 35mm format, which is the perfect lens for head and shoulder portraits. I am also using the “magical” lens in the Hasselblad world , the Carl Zeiss 100mm F3.5 C T* lens that is equivalent to 63mm and it is a mysterious lens that is rarely used but contains some magical qualities. One day I hope to get the “Noctilux” of Hasselblad, which is the Carl Zeiss 110mm F2 lens that will produce stunning bokeh!

I loved shooting with 35mm film on my MP, although the film qualities are presented i.e. the great exposure latitude, dynamic range and tonality but the sharpness is not up to the standard that I desired. Medium format film seems to be the “Perfect” solution for this, it has incredible sharpness, even at 100% crop looks tack-sharp amazing to me. Although with the significant gain of resolution over 35mm film but it still retains all the film qualities that makes it so attractive. There is also a great gain in shallower Depth-of-Field and the bokeh from the lenses are incredible. The frame is 6×6 which makes it a unique square shape that stands out from all other images. I have yet to print those images in large sizes but have heard that you can even blown them up to 2 by 2 meters prints, which is perfect for commercial usage.

It has been a real joy to use the hasselblad and I am still amazed at its quality. While my journey in the medium format world continues that I would highly recommend for anyone wanting try out medium format film photography : do not hesitate!

Please feel free to visit my Flickr or 500px to see more of my work:

Flickr: HYPERLINK “http://www.flickr.com/photos/jerrybay/” http://www.flickr.com/photos/jerrybay/

500px: HYPERLINK “http://500px.com/jerrybay” http://500px.com/jerrybay

 

“Father & Son” Ilford Delta 400

Father & Son

 

“Hairy Chest” Ilford HP5+

Hairy Chest 

“1958 Chevrolet Corvette” Ilford HP5+ 

1958 Chevrolet Corvette

“French Nun” Fuji Reala 100

French Nun 

“In the Wind” Fuji 400H

In the Wind

Jan 142013
 

Quick Comparison  – Leica Monochrom, Sigma DP2 Merrill and Hasselblad 39CF

by Michael Ma

Hi Steve:

Huge fan of your site. I am lucky to own two pieces of equipment that you have reviewed, so I thought I’d contribute. My Leica Monochrome just arrive today and I decided to give it a spin in terms of image quality. Both the Leica and the Merrill DP2 are reviewed in detailed on your website and they are renowned for their image quality. Since I’m lucky enough to have a loaner Hasselblad with the CF39 digital back on hand, I’ve decided to do a quick and dirty IQ comparison using the Hassey as bench mark.

Conditions:

Dim room light

1.7 meters to subject

All images had gone through only contrast adjustment, no sharpening

On tripod

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Hasselblad 39CF with 80mm CFE lens F2.8, F5.6 1/2, 1/4S

The Hasselblad yielded a pleasing overall image in terms of tone and rendering. With 39 mega pixels 49x36mm sensor, we don’t expect anything less. The 100% crop shows that even when wide open, the CFE lens is sharp and shows nice contrast. Note that the physical size of the Hasselblad image is almost twice as large than the Leica and Sigma.

Hassey picture: 

8371384287_c7dc8e528f_k-2

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Hassey crop (click image for full size cdrop)

8371384899_6f605218b1_b

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Next up is the Leica Monochrome with Summilux 1.4 ASPH latest version F2.8, F5.6

WOW, the Leica is sharp! I don’t have a M9 to test the comparison between the mono sensor and the regular CCD sensor, but the 100% crop looks sharper than the Hasselblad shot and you can see the details in the canvas texture. The image was over blown in exposure but the details are still nicely preserved. Very impressive!

Leica picture

8371415925_e1964062a8_k-2

Leica Crop – (Click image for full size crop)

8372487976_7dac4ef45d_b

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Finally comes the Sigma DP2 Merrill.

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the pictures. It is clearly the most rich and detailed of all three. The photo was shot with the lens wide open at F2.8. Astounding details and color. Now look at that 100% crop. The texture of each brush stroke is so vivid. Beats the Hasselblad hands down.

DP2 Merrill

8372492528_a65fb872a7_k-1

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DP2 Crop

8371420289_59f795c865_b

Conclusion? Well this is a very clumsy test. But besides the poor testing conditions I think there’s a story to be told here. All three are great camera systems. The Hasselblad is older and the lens probably could have used with more stopping down. But this is also a 9000 dollar set up (used price). The Monochrome setup is 12K all in (when bought new). The Leica lens is incredibly sharp and the Monochrome retains so much details in the shadows. But the ultimate winner here is the Sigma DP2. At a tiny fraction of the price of either the Hassey or the Leica, it delivers the best results in color, details, and contrast.

Michael Ma

Nov 052012
 

A Film Legacy by Jason Howe

Hi Steve

I’d really like to share a recent discovery with you, I am posting the full version on my blog HERE but I know this will reach far more people if you show it so thanks so much for helping me achieve this.

I’ve featured my own work on your site several times before but on this occasion I’d like to present the work of a deceased doctor and amateur photographer from New Zealand called Roland G Phillips-Turner who in the 1950’s and 60’s travelled around remote regions of New Zealand’s North Island doing medical research and documenting his travels with his Leica M5 and Hasselblad 500c.

A Film Legacy

I clicked on the email attachment, whilst the image of assorted camera equipment wasn’t the best the list was clear enough….. Leica M5, 35mm Summicron f/2, 90mm Elmarit f/2.8 all caught my eye, words that meant nothing to me only a couple of years ago were now very much etched in to my photographic brain. Other lenses in both M & R mount were listed amongst a myriad of Leica equipment. The email arrived via the father of a friend, word of mouth regarding my fondness for all things Leica had ensured it found its way to me, good fortune indeed. I phoned the contact number and made arrangements to view the items at the earliest opportunity and in doing so acquired not only a wonderful collection of vintage Leica equipment but also the opportunity to show the world the photography of Roland G Phillips-Turner, his film legacy so to speak.

As I carefully packed away the equipment, the daughter and I began to chat about her late father and his photographic exploits, as I listened intently my connection to this newly inherited equipment grew stronger with each spoken word. All vintage equipment comes to you with a history, more often than not it’s imagined on the part of the new owner, to actually know the story behind it makes it very special indeed. With this history comes what I would almost describe as a sense of duty, one I would come take very seriously, lenses have since been serviced and as I write this the M5 is at DAG in the US receiving the attention it deserves. Indeed, upon its return from CLA the 35mm Summicron f/2 (Pre Asph) v.1 made its debut for me HERE.

I’d describe myself as a rational person, I don’t believe in such things as fate and destiny, but I have to admit it has crossed my mind when it comes to this equipment. From opposite sides of the world, separated by two generations and via a huge slice of good fortune this equipment has landed in my possession, the survival and continued use of this Leica equipment is now ensured.

In addition to the equipment I was also entrusted with his slides, these have only been seen by the family prior to this post.

 

Image 1 – Hasselblad 500c – KODAK EKTACHROME

I was so pleased to find this amongst the negatives, after some research I’ve been able to establish that it was taken at Marokopa Falls in the Waikato, New Zealand. It was also fascinating to discover that the photographer used the Hasselblad 500c for the medium format work. I had also purchased a 500c from the USA a month or so before coming across the slides, just another wonderful coincidence.

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Image 2 – Hasselblad 500c – AGFACOLOR DIA

Kuia with a moko – “Kuia” being an elderly woman, grandmother or female elder and the “Moko” is the Maori facial tattoo.

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Image 3 – Leica M5 – KODAK KODACHROME

Image taken with the Leica M5 and most likely with the VISOFLEX that was also included within the set of equipment.

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Image 4 – Hasselblad 500c – KODAK EKTACHROME

Deer Hunters in the Urawera’s, a rural scene that is no doubt still repeated in the present day.

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Image 5 – Hasselblad 500c – AGFACOLOR DIA

In this image Mount Ngauruhoe appears to be active. You may recognise this volcano as Mt Doom from the Lord of the Rings Trilogy.

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Image 6 – Hasselblad 500c – AGFACOLOR DIA

Traveling amongst the indigenous people in these rural areas whilst doing his research must have been the most incredibly rewarding experience. Add to that the opportunity and ability to photograph them and it really must have been a joy on many levels.

Final Thoughts

In years to come will people have similar experiences to the one I have just shared with you? What is the likelihood of my photographs being rediscovered 40 or 50 years from now? You would have to say, highly unlikely! Film has made this discovery possible, it has preserved these images beautifully and ensured their survival to date.

Boxes of slides, stored in an attic, a garage, who knows where, you open it, hold it to the light and instantly you can see the magic, will people recover digital images from old hard drives in this way? I can’t see it myself……..only film can make this possible. I already had an affinity with film, this experience has strengthened that bond still further, I never say shoot film over digital, I always say shoot both. There is true value in both media.

The images posted here are indicative of the collection I have been entrusted with and I will continue to share them over the coming weeks and months, I hope you’ll join me and follow these posts with interest.

Cheers

Jason.

Jul 022012
 


Chasing Light in The Palouse with the Pentax 645D

(& A Brief Review of the Pentax 645D system)

By Ashwin Rao – Visit his blog HERE

The Palouse… Eastern Washington’s pastoral land of rolling hills, has long been a source of photographic inspiration and pilgrimage.  It’s a land replete with broad swaths of color, vistas with horizons that stretch into an endless distance, gently undulating fields of grain, crumbling barns, and giant machines processing the land’s primary industry of grain harvest. Type the word “Palouse” into your browser, and you yourself may be inspired to travel to this beautiful land, situated along the far sound and east of Washington’s boundaries, crossing into Idaho and Oregon. It’s but a five-hour car ride from Seattle, and yet, in a decade spent living in the Emerald City, I had never made the trip to the Palouse until recently. And now, the call of the glorious land reaches back to me.

The inspiration for my trip, of all things, was a change in gear. For many years, I have been a rangefinder shooter, but prior to this time, the DSLR and landscape photography had been my principal passions. As the rangefinder ethos grabbed a firm hold of my soul, my photography drifted towards a more photojournalistic approach, with attempts to capture tiny slices of life in meaningful ways. I had kept a Pentax K5 in my kit for over a year for the rare times where an SLR would see more practical use for a particular assignment of photographic task. And one day, while at my local camera store, Glazer’s Camera in Seattle, WA, I stumbled upon a “find” that jogged my sensibilities…a lightly used, nearly pristine Pentax 645D, priced to sell….and suddenly the gearhead’s dilemma and GAS confronted me. Until this time, I had considered medium format digital photography to be out of my reach financially, lest I up and sell my M9 kit, something I’d not be willing to do. So I was content to view others’ fabulous medium format images and hope that one day, such a camera would fall to my price point. Turns out that this was my lucky day. I quickly travelled home, gathered my K5 kit, and promptly traded it towards the 645D, Pentax’s clever entry into medium format.

For those of you who aren’t aware of the Pentax 645D, here’s a quick overview. It costs $10,000 new as of this writing, and can be had on the used market for around $7,000-$8000, possibly less. The sensor is a lovely 40 megapixel 44 x 33 mm CCD sensor produced by Kodak, which thankfully lacks any anti-aliasing filter., thus preserving the native detail of this conventional Bayer-arrayed sensor. Thus, the images that the camera is capable of producing can rival that of the Leica S2, which has a similar sensor (quality of lens notwithstanding). In fact, there are reports out there that the Leica S2 and Pentax 645D share a nearly identical sensor. Added charms of the 645D include weather sealing (with the appropriate lens) and compatibility with the full lineup of prior Pentax 645 lenses. When compared to the film Pentax 645, one must account for a 1.3x crop factor when using the same lenses, as the sensor in the 645D is 1.3x smaller in surface area than its film counterpart. In contrast, the sensor is 1.25x larger than a full frame 35 mm sensor, providing that much more real estate over which to spread its 40 megapixels. The 645D is capable of ISO’s ranging from 200 to 1600, and it does remarkably well in suppressing noise over this entire range of ISO, without introducing processing/smearing artifacts. The Pentax 645D was initially made available only to the Japanese market for nearly a year after its initial introduction, but it has been available in the U.S. since the early spring of 2011. Other features include a high-resolution 921K dot, 3 inch LCD and a menu layout that is the same as found in the Pentax K5. To boot, it takes the same batteries as the K5 and uses dual SD cards, accepting SD, SDHC, and SDXC cards without issue. It’s not the fastest camera in the world, with regards to buffer or shot to shot performance, churning out 1.1 Frames per second. However, given its intuitive, SLR-like layout, ergonomic design, weather sealing, and “fast” (for medium format) performance, it’s gained a bit of a cult following in the medium format world for being a workhorse camera capable of excellent results. Additionally, Pentax 645 lenses have long been regarded as price-performance champs in the medium format world, coming in at prices far lower than comparable lenses in the Hasselblad, Leica and Mamiya lineups.

Some of you who inhabit popular gear forums have no doubt heard of the stir that the Nikon D800 and D800E have provided to landscape and commercial photographers, many whom use medium format for their work. For pro work, commercial fashion, print, and landscape work has long necessitated the use of medium format (and large format) sensors to optimize capture of detail, tonal rendition, dynamic range, and image size necessary for commercial and print work.  With the Nikon D800 and its “sans AA filter” version, the D800E, the commercial and landscape world has been suddenly challenged by a new option, far cheaper  (in terms of body cost), with a wider array of lenses capable of producing remarkable pixel-level detail required for this type of work, and some say, rivaling medium format.  In fact, many individuals are jumping ship from medium format to join the Nikon fray, to provide them with the flexibility of that system, along with better high ISO capacity. Why then, did I disregard this exodus and jump onto a purportedly sinking medium format ship?

Well, actually, the answer boiled down to price and a desire to try something new. SLR’s have been a “been there-done that” thing for me for some time now, and while the D800E would offer the benefit of superior image quality and clarity coupled with 36 plus megapixels of imaging goodness, it still possesses a sensor with far less real estate (by a factor of 1.5) than the sensor provided in the Pentax 645D. Second: Lens prices. After contemplating the price of the 645D, I naturally began an assessment as to how much it would cost to assemble a kit worthy of this sensor. Would lenses be pricey and add dramatically to the cost of my kit? In fact, many excellent Pentax lenses can be found used for between $150 and $650 dollars. I was able to gather a lens kit that included a 35 mm f/3.5 (28 mm 35 mm equivocal focal length), 75 mm f/2.8, 45 mm -85 mm f/4.5 zoon, 120 mm f/4 Macro (one of the best lenses ever made for medium format by many accounts), 150 mm f/2.8, and 400 mm f/5.6 lenses, for less that $3,000 USD.  If I had elected to purchase only manual focus glass, I could have saved at least half of that price and spent $1,500 to assemble a high quality kit for my camera. It’s kind of mind-blowing, actually, how well priced heritage Pentax 645 glass is.

In order to purchase a Nikon D800E along with lenses of comparable focal length capable of resolving on its sensor (i.e. high end Nikon glass with nano crystal coatings, or Zeiss ZF glass), I would have had to spend more on lenses..well, truth be told far more…here’s a run down, just for fun (keeping in mind that medium format lenses are not nearly as fast/wide aperture as 35 mm equiv lenses, yet allow shallower DOF for any given focal length. Thus the comparison below is admittedly artificial, but would likely give you perspective on price differential for the “best” option for each system at each 35 mm focal length equivalent. This was the process that I went through, essentially trying to compare the best lens option at each focal length for each system, looking at typical lens prices on the open market

 

35 mm equiv focal length Pentax A or FA lens (MF/AF) Pentax price Nikon/Zeiss  high end lens Nikon price
28 mm 35 mm f/3.5 A $ 600-$ 800 24 mm or 28 mm f/1.4 $2000-2500
35 mm 45-85 mm f/4.5 FA (considered the best option at this focal length, better than the 45 mm f/2.8 FA prime $ 600 35 mm f/1.5 $1,650
50 mm 75 mm f/2.8 FA $ 400 Nikon 50 mm f/1.4 $400-500
90 mm/macro 120 mm f/4 macro A $ 300-400 Zeiss 100 mm f/2 Makro Planar $1800
135 mm 150 mm f/2.8 FA $ 500 Nikon 135 mm f/2 DC $1,300
300 mm 400 mm f/5.6 FA $1200 Nikon 300 mm f/4 $1200

If you do the math, you can imagine that for an equivalent kit, the price of the Nikon body ($3,300 as of this writing) plus lenses is at least comparable to the price of a used 645D with the lenses assembled above. The issue for gearheads like me would be that the Nikon system offers many other tantalizing options, including lovely zooms, tilt-shift lenses, and other options, for which the cost would continue to mount. The Pentax 645D is a far more limited system, in terms of lens diversity, and most lenses are cheaper or of equivalent price to their FX Nikon lens counterparts…what is lost is Nikon’s high ISO capabilities, size benefit, and lens flexibility. What is gained is a larger sensor and the medium format look….I decided to jump onto the Pentax 645D kit, for better or for worse.

A Bit About the Palouse

So, with that quick review of my decision to invest in this system aside, it was off to the Palouse to see if the Pentax 645D was capable of delivering excellent results with the lenses that I had purchased for the system. For those of you who have never been or heard of this region, the Palouse encompasses parts of Souteastern Washington, northwestern Idaho, and northeastern Oregon. It is a major agricultural region producing wheat and various other crops.  The region is also crossed by the Snake River and crosses over with Walla Walla, a region known for it’s lovely wines.  It’s through that the regions dune-like geographic formations were formed during the ice ages, cast from the glacial outwash plains. For years, the Palouse has served as a scenic pilgrimage for landscape photographers for its dramatic and unique geography, and it has long been a beck and call for me, as I mentioned above. Thus, I assembled a crew of like-minded photographers, all whom had previously attended one of Steve’s workshops here in Seattle,.All are now friends within Seattle’s Leica users community. From Seattle, it is a 4.5 journey by car to the western edge of the region. Once there, we were met by a talented local photographer, Ryan McGinty, a friend of mine from Flickr (who also came to know of me through Steve’s site), who has lived in the region for many years and magnificently photographs this region through a well-trained and creative set of eyes. For any of you who haven’t had a chance, please check out Ryan’s images on flickr. You are in for a treat, and you will see the possibilities that this wonderful land has to offer through his images:

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

Our journey to the Palouse began along Washington State Route 26, which is the primary byway that brings people into the heart of the Palouse region from the West. From there, we stopped for breakfast in Colfax, and began a lovely loupe through the scenic byways of the Palouse. During our brief, 24 hour stay in the region, we visited many sites along state routes 27,272, 95, and 195. We passed through the towns of Palouse, Garfield, Colfax, Farmington, Pullman, La Cross, and others. We climbed Steptoe Butte to gather in views of the entire region. Along the way, there were old, abandoned barns, farmhouses left behind, windmills, grain silos, winding roads and paths, statuesque trees, horses and lifestock, and endless fields of grain. At the time of year (June), the color palette was principally made up fo blue, green, gold, with hints of brown, and occasional reds. The chance of the occasional thunder/lightning storm will bring darker swaths of blue, maroon, and magenta into the color mix of the Palouse palette, and evening light can add warm yellows, pinks, and pastels. Wildflowers would sprinkle in occasional batches of vivid color now and again, but by and large, this is a land to be taken in macroscopically at first glance (microscopic will come later)….

The wonderful thing about the region that we saw is that there is usually a remarkable vista over every hill, expanding out towards most horizons. In front of us were endless rolling hills, sunbreaks and cloud shadows spotting and colorizing the views in front of us to add drama.  Further, unlike many regions here, the cloud patterns are truly dramatic, with cloud formations ranging from statuesque cumulonimbus and cumulus clouds to wispy cirrus & stratus clouds, providing ever-shifting perspectives of the scenes in front of us. In a very tangible way. We were busy chasing the right types of light as the day passed, sometimes as the contrast, clarity, color, and luminance changed from moment to moment. It was an exhilarating experience for me, a suddenly eager landscape photographer.

The 645D in the Palouse- A New User Experience

I was very excited to use the Pentax 645D in ths majestic landscape. Along with me came a range of lenses from a 35 mm f/3.5 A (28 mm equivalent in full frame) to a 400 mm f/5.6 (320 mm equiv in full frame). I was excited to use the wider lenses to get close and capture scope, while using my telephoto lenses to compress landscapes, while reaching out to grab far away details. Along the way, I did a bit of chimping on the 645D’s wonderful LCD screen, but my and large, I let fate do the talking hoping that the images that I acquired would be in focus, thus allowing all 40 million pixels to shine. Would these older, heritage lenses hold up? After all, Pentax has only unleashed 2 new lenses, a 55 mm FA and 25 mm FA lens, since the Pentax 645D was released. All other glass available to the camera has been present long since the advent of digital photography. IF there’s one lesson to be learned, it’s that digital photography can bring out all of the flaws and softness inherent to imprecise or imperfect lens design or compatibility with the digital sensor. Did my kit of assembled heritage glass work out okay? The answer is…..

A RESOUNDING YES!

I’m psyched. I came home and began to edit my photos on my NEC 27 inch high gamut dual displays, and wham, there it was…detail….lots and lots of detail. The heritage glass did marvelously on the digital sensor, and I must say that I have been more than satisfied the Pentax 645D’s output.

Most images were shot at lower ISO’s, from 200-400, as I had the benefit of a nice tripod (Gitzo 3541L) and ballhead (Arcatech) to stabilize my kit. It should be noted that the 645D incorporates 2 tripod mounts, so that if you add 2 really right stuff brackets to the body, you can rapidly change the camera from portrait to landscape orientation.

The 645D is capable of resolving tiny details at near and far distances. Tiny blades of grass come to life just as much as enormous silos. The Kodak CCD’s sensor (No AA filter) produces remarkable detail, and to my eyes, there’s adequate dynamic range to rescue highlights and shadows in post-processing. White balance is a bit challenged on this camera, however, and thus it would make the most sense to shoot in RAW and post process afterwards.

Speaking of RAW files, they are huge, providing 7264 x 5540 pixels of real estate and file sizes of 80 mb or more. Thus, if you are shooting RAW, make sure to bring adequate memory. I used 16 GB SDHC cards for this trip, but on returning home, I promptly purchased two 32 GB SDHC cards (SanDisk Extreme 45 mb/s) to use and not worry about space.

For the most part, I tried to operate in the wheelhouse apertures of these lenses, stopped down to between f/5.6 and f/11, though I found that Pentax 645 lenses perform admirably even wide open.

Many of you may ask if I am happy with my decision to purchase into this system. Does the medium format experience bond well with a Leica M street photographer? Are the file qualities up to snuff, once one has tasted the M9’s sans-AA filter experience? All that I can say is that I am profoundly satisfied, enough to disregard the Nikon D800, as I am unsure what more image quality that camera can offer, especially given that my trip to the Palouse proved to me that 645 lenses are up to the task of critical digital workflow. Further, I hope that the images provided in this user-experience review communicate how I feel about the camera, and to some degree, what type of image quality the camera is capable of.

 

Concluding thoughts and comments

The Palouse is a beautiful region to visit. It should be on your bucket list, if you are a serious landscape photographer or lover of pastoral scenery. Shooting the region with a Pentax 645D in hand (and on tripod) was a pleasure, and I look forward to returning during another season, when the colors offer a different palate and perspective.Along the way, I found that I was very much impressed by the output of the 645D and its heritage lenses, and I look forward to planning future trips for which the 645D will be taken. I found that the medium format experience is one that can be embraced by someone used to hand holding a discrete kit, when the right opportunity presents itself.

Is the Pentax 645D right for you? Only you can make that decision. For those of you considering a Nikon D800/E for landscape or portrait needs, you may want to consider buying into the Pentax 645D system for a similar cost (depending on your lens selections), as you will be duly rewarded by outstanding image quality, pixel clarity and sharpness, and enormous sensor real-estate.

(From Steve: Anyone interested in a Palouse workshop? A couple of days shooting, learning and getting some amazing images in this beautiful and breathtaking location? If yes, let me know in the comments! If there is enough interest we can set something up!)

645D pro’s

  • Medium format – lots of sensor real estate for BIG prints and BIG crops
  • 40 MP sensor without an anti-aliasing (blur) filter
  • Useable ISO’s ranging from 200-1600
  • Dual tripod mounts
  • Excellent user interface & menu layout (best in class for medium format), making it an easy transition to those familiar with SLR’s and looking to make the jump
  • Dual SD card slots
  • Weather sealing (with an appropriate lens)
  • Outstanding ergonomics (for a medium format camera), including a deeply recessed hand grip
  • Cheap (relatively speaking) selection of Manual and Autofocus lenses, which perform admirably.

 

645D cons

  • Limited ISO range compared to 35 mm
  • Bulky (for a M9 user)
  • Slow image preview times and buffer
  • Slow FPS (1.1 frames/se) make sports or rapid street work difficult
  • Care required to optimize sharpness (every tremble and shake can be easily seen at the pixel level). A stable is a must for critical work
  • Limited number of vendors for Pentax, compared to Canon, Nikon, NEX, or m4/3
  • No AA filter can mean “moire” artifacts are possible (less likely in landscape photography)

 

Jun 052012
 

Istanbul is an amazing city – and for street photography it ranks right up there if not slightly higher than my up-until-now favourites like Mumbai, Cochin, Jodhpur and of course NYC.  Istanbul offers a fabulous mix of culture, amazing people and super food.

Bustling modern thoroughfares and timeless cobbled street neighborhoods are within a twenty-minute tram ride of each other – truly a photographer’s paradise.

I decided to shoot predominantly medium format b&w film on the streets during our 4 day visit. I have grown to love this format that forces me to slow down and think before shooting each frame.  There are only 12 frames per roll and I try to make each one count.

And as it turns out, contrary to what you would expect of large equipment, I was somehow viewed with less suspicion.  And ironically, with a waist level finder on my camera, I found it easier to become invisible when shooting in the streets.  No one would notice when I looked down into my camera finder to frame my shot.  I think most people thought I was just fiddling with this ancient looking contraption.

You can see more of my work at www.kaushalp.com and on my blog at http://kaushalpar.wordpress.com

Apr 232012
 

Traveling and Film Photography by Ibraar Hussain

When people talk about travel and photography, exotic National Geographic or Lonely Planet type pictures come to mind, blue lagoons, snow-crested mountains, arid deserts and dusty hot Asian streets with notes of markets, food and spices emanating from the image.

One hardly thinks of England and Wales as exotic, and Travel photography and the two are hardly mentioned in the same breath. But England and Wales hold many delights for the adventurous, inquisitive, curious, wonder seeking and creative photographer.

We have The North of England and the Midlands; Cumbria and The Lake District which a well-known American photographer; Tom Mackie, says is his favourite place to photograph in the whole world, The Peak District, Yorkshire Dales and “Wuthering Heights, Bronte country”, The North York Moors, Worcester and the Malvern Hills where Tolkien was brought up and upon which The Shire of Lord of The Rings fame is based among many other places, Nottingham of Robin Hood fame, Oxford and Cambridge and of course the old cities of York, Worcester, Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham complete with their architecture, nightlife, history, people and football clubs!

We have the Cotswolds with their rustic thatch roofed houses, villages and bubbling brooks and water wheels, and we have The Victorian Mill towns which Don McCullin has covered so well, farther East we have Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Suffolk and East Anglia with their windmills, marshlands and dreamy coastline, we have Kent and the so called garden of England.

On the western most side of the British mainland are Devon and Cornwall with their Jamaica Inn, Bodmin, Dartmoor, Lands End and St Michaels Mount. I’ve never had the chance to visit Cornwall and Devon yet, but hopefully this summer I will!

In this article I will concentrate on the Counties lying west of my home in London and Wales.

London itself is a fantastic city, with everything a photographer could wish for, but if you’re like me and born and brought up in a place you’ll probably know less than the average tourist about it! Any how, I love London but I tend to avoid it (though I do love walking through Epping Forest) , I’m not one for busy streets and zillions of people taking my space – call me an unsociable b’stard and misanthrope who will, but I prefer the Countryside – and besides, London to me is like being married, course you love your wife but she doesn’t half get on your nerves – but it’s better as I can ‘cheat’ on her all I like, dump her for a more attractive lover, then come back when I feel home sick! ;)

Anyway, we have the “Home Counties”, quaint olde world but rather more affluent counties and green belt surrounding London such as Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Hampshire, Surrey and Sussex, I think they’re called the ‘Home Counties’ as they belong to

Travel West out of London, past Heathrow Airport and you’re into Berkshire with Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire slightly North of it. Through Berkshire and its villages, English Country gardens and Stately Homes, , the Chiltern Hills into Wiltshire with Stone henge, Avebury, its White Horses, ancient chalk figures and burial mounds. South of Wiltshire and we’re in to Dorset with its beautiful and rugged Jurassic coastline. Westwards and we’re into Somerset, Arthurian Glastonbury and then eventually over the Severn Estuary and into Wales.

If you’ve never been to England before, you’ll hardly be surprised that the official language is, English! And road signs are in, you guessed it, English. But cross the ‘border’ into Wales and everything isn’t in English, but in Welsh! Welsh is a Gaelic/Celtic language, but differs greatly from Irish or Scots Gaelic – words in Welsh tend to be real tongue twisters and seemingly unpronounceable! I mean how does one go about pronouncing “Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch” ? haha! Look it up! It’s possibly the longest place-name in Europe and one of the longest in the world and probably the most unpronounceable place-name ever!

Wales is a fantastic place, absolutely gorgeous, sparsely populated with perhaps more Sheep than people! Lovely Villages, towns and pubs, great food, stunning landscape, hills and beacons and best of all, magnificent Castles and ruins and the Magical Roman town of Caerleon with its Roman Amphitheatre, Baths and Barracks.

The best thing to do, if you ever visit England and Wales and want to really see and enjoy the sights, is to join The National Trust. http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/

Best thing I ever did, as I now have access to historic houses, gardens, mills, coastline, forests, woods, fens, beaches, farmland, moorland, islands, archaeological remains, nature reserves, villages and pubs! The national trust was founded in 1895 to save the Nations Heritage and to protect it, and 116 years later, boy, they’re doing a sterling job of it!

If visiting Wales, I recommend the National Trust and visiting http://cadw.wales.gov.uk/?lang=en CADW is the Welsh historic environment service which plays a similar role to The National Trust. You’ll have access to so many castles ruins and places of interest that it’d take years to visit them all!

Wales is dotted with castles, priories, monasteries and fortresses, as Wales has always been a bit unruly, and rebellious. Wales also has The Brecon Beacons, Pembrokeshire and Snowdonia, and these places are dotted with Castles and Forts and Standing Stones.

If you’re adventurous and want to stay in some stunning remote locations throughout England and Wales for peanuts, I recommend http://www.yha.org.uk the Youth Hostel Association. I’ve stayed in many YHA places, in some stunning locations with my family and love every second of the experience.

Anyway, on to some photography, I have spent many years photographing some of these places and am in love with quiet dreamy places tucked away amongst the hills and valleys – I just wish I had more time, and more talent to really capture the feel and mood of some of these places.

Walking or driving around the countryside, Spring will see the woods awash with Bluebells, which bloom in late April and May, summer will see deep red poppy fields showing off their colour and glory, Autumn will show New Englandesque displays of gold, russet and crimson and Winter has its own beauty.

Below I’ve included a small selection of photographs, I’ve taken far too many to post here and I have no gallery or anything online anymore, but I hope you enjoy the photographs, they’re no masterpieces but I hope they can inspire people to perhaps visit!

They’re mostly Black & White, but I had to include a shot of a bluebell Wood and a Poppy Field.

Stowe Landscape Garden

 A huge classical themed Landscape Park in Buckinghamshire

 Fuji GA645, Ilford Pan F 50, Ilford ID11. Epson 4990, Adox MCP 312.

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Tretower Court and Castle

 Ruins of a 12th Century Fort, Castle and Manor House. Powys, Wales

Fuji GA645, Ilford Pan F 50, Ilford ID11. Epson 4990.

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West Kennett Long Barrow
Neolithic Burial Mound, Near Avebury, Wiltshire, with Silbury Hill – a 5000 year old chalk Monument.
Fuji GA645, Ilford Pan F 50, Ilford ID11. Epson 4990.
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The Brecon Beacons
Wales
Fuji GA645, Ilford Pan F 50, Ilford ID11. Epson 4990.
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Drystone Wall in the Brecon Beacons, and Llansteffan Beach and Castle.

Olympus Pen F . G Zuiko 38mm f1.8. Agfa APX 100, Rodinal. Epson 4990.
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Bluebell Wood, Epping Forest, Essex
Fuji GA645, Expired Agfa RSX II 200, Epson 4990.
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Poppy Field
Wiltshire
Fuji GA645, Fuji Velvia 50, Epson 4990.
Apr 152012
 

User Report: Concert Photography & Portraits with a vintage Mamiya Universal Press and Polaroid Back by Chad Wadsworth

Hello Steve Huff Photo readers! Steve was kind enough to let me share with you some concert photography and artist portraits that I’ve taken over the last few years with Polaroid land cameras and an old Mamiya Universal Press with a Polaroid back. It seems like we are all constantly searching for the next new piece of digital gear, whether it be the M10, X-Pro 1, OMD or NEX-7. I’m guilty of buying a ticket to this carousel and have been through my share of m4/3 and APS-C compacts as they certainly do have their important place in our daily photography. That said, in retrospect, the work that is often most satisfying to me personally has been the “lo-fi” analog photos captured with vintage gear.

As a concert and editorial photographer, my weapon of choice is a DSLR. It offers the perfect combination of rugged build (I recently had to use the body of my 5D to brace myself against the stage as the crowd surged forward), speed of focus, access to excellent optics and a comfortable user interface. But as most my contemporaries use the same equipment, it can be challenging to craft a signature to your work outside of composition and post processing. Vintage gear or larger format cameras can bring new looks to your work and are a ton of fun to use.

I won’t take up much more of your reading time other than to tell you a little more about the gear and techniques used.

In this group of shots I am using my trusty Mamiya Universal Press (a medium format rangefinder) with a broken shutter trigger so I have to manually hit the shutter lever on the lens. This particular concert was well-lit but the film was slow – Fuji FP-100 and my shutter speed was around 1/30 at f/2.8 with a Sekor 100mm lens. I basically zone focused and tried to stay steady during an exciting set by one of my favorite bands – Spoon. I also had some fun with a double exposure shot from the stage – not sure if it works completely but I like it fine.

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The same camera and Polaroid back combination was used here for an album artwork shoot. This one was shot at sunset on a farm in the Texas Hill Country.

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The Mamiya / Sekor 100mm also makes for a great lo-fi portrait lens with nice swirly bokeh and strong vignetting. Here are some artist snapshots taken at the Fun Fun Fun Fest in Austin, TX. The artists are: Bounce/Hip-Hop musician Big Freedia, John Dwyer from the San Francisco band, Thee Oh Sees and the truly remarkable Merrill Garbus of the music project tUnE-yArDs

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And finally, here are some photos from an ongoing portrait series using an old Polaroid 450 land camera with portrait lens attachment. Some of these were shot on the real deal – Polaroid 669, others with Fuji FP-100. The camera is positioned about 10 inches from the subject’s nose which can result in an intense emotive quality as they stare into the camera at close range. Artists are: the lovely Annie Clark, also known as St. Vincent, Matt Berninger of The National, Matt Shaw of the now defunct band, Hymns and the beautiful and talented Shara Worden, also known as My Brightest Diamond. Thanks for looking and thanks again to Steve!

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