May 202016
 

Hi Steve, Brandon,

Firstly, thank you for the web site and opportunity it gives us to not only gain knowledge but also to share some of our own photographic experiences and journey.

Back in 2013 I submitted an article about my move from Nikon to Leica; I parted ways with my heavy Nikon D700, 20mm, 24-70 and 70-200 lens in favour of a Leica M9-P and told the story on your website http://www.stevehuffphoto.com/2013/01/21/my-goodbye-to-nikon-and-hello-to-leica-by-peter-tomlinson/

I’d now like to share my continuing journey. Having moved to a Leica I loved the compact system, small lenses and unobtrusive camera. However, I just didn’t feel at home; I loved the Leica style, size and image quality…….but……..it didn’t work for me as a camera, I just couldn’t ‘see’ with a Leica and the occasional lock ups certainly didn’t help. I’d really wanted to get a better feel for people and street photograph and although the camera was well suited, I just didn’t connect with it so after 12 months with an M9-P we parted company.

I knew that I couldn’t be without a camera and therefore took stock of what was available, safe in the knowledge that I didn’t want to go backhoe to the large Nikon body and lenses. So, I settled on a Sony A7. At first I started with a 55mm f1.8 lens then after much deliberation picked up a 24-70mm f4 as well. Whilst it’s certainly not perfect as a system it is definitely getting better and has allowed me a compact, lightweight package to carry around on my travels; this has been an important feature as I’ve been based in Singapore for 6 months. I guess my ideal camera would have more of the manual dials of a Fuji, aesthetic appeal of a Leica and image stabilisation now I’m getting older. Perhaps that’s my own form of Gear Acquisition Syndrome.

I’m upgraded from the A7 to the A7II, and in time will probably go for an A7iiR, or whatever the current flavour is at the time. However, at the moment I’m saving for the move to the Loxia lenses (I’d appreciate readers ideas on lens options, especially for something in the 85mm range) as I feel I should really move from the 24-70 to a set of primes which I can match to the developing Sony A7 range. Anyway, without further delay, here are a few images from my time in Singapore. As I posted some landscape images on my last submission, I’ve opted for some people images this time as when writing this I realised that I’ve changed my own style over the last couple of years. I hope the article may be of interest and just possibly be helpful to others as well. Keep up the good work……..

Best, Peter

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Apr 112016
 
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Travel photography in India with a Nikon Df and Zeiss Otus 55

by Sebastien Bey-Haut

Dear Steve,

It’s always a great pleasure to be featured on your site so I’d like to share my experience on shooting a pretty unusual combo: a Nikon Df and a Zeiss Otus 55.

Why unusual? Simply because both camera and lens seem to follow really opposite paths:

– The Df is one of the smallest (if not smallest) and lightest Full Frame DSLR with a modest 16Mp resolution
– The Otus is the most gigantic and heavy 55mm ever produced for a DSLR and could certainly out-resolve a >50Mp sensor

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So, is it as a stupid pairing as it looks? I actually don’t think so, let’s look a bit further than Mp and weight metrics… Beside its fancy retro design the Df has a strong argument in how its sensor renders colors (brilliantly if you ask me J). And what is the best way to get 100% out of a sensor? Simply put it behind the best possible lens! The Otus is not only about sharpness, it’s also excellent with contrast and colors!

Let’s now forget the technicalities and focus on the user experience: I just came back from a 10 days trip to Varanasi (India) and shot from 6am to 8pm almost non-stop using the Df / Otus combo 90% of the time.

First thing I have to admit is yes, walking >12h a day with an Otus around your neck is painful, really painful. I even had a blister on the finger I use to support the weight of the camera while shooting… That said, travelling more than 12h in economy class from Zurich to Varanasi is also painful, so the Otus weight is just a small additional element of discomfort…

The only thing I really don’t like is the lack of weather sealing… Maybe we’re not so many to use them outside of a studio but still, that would be appreciated Mr Zeiss…

So yes, it’s not a trouble-free experience, but what you get in return is still worth the hassle: the haptic of both the Df and Otus are just pure pleasure and contribute a lot to the fun of shooting. The manual focus is butter smooth and the finishing of the lens is just perfect…. Even if I’m not a big fan of the rubber band on the focusing ring: it’s nice looking and very comfortable but does not go well with strong anti-mosquito sprays (the formula attacks rubber). I managed not to damage the lens but had to be extra careful.

Then of course having the best possible optical performance is also very enjoyable: aperture becomes irrelevant in terms of sharpness (f1.4 is as good as f16), you just chose it according to the depth of field you’re looking for. Manual focusing requires a bit of practice but after getting used to the camera / lens combo I easily achieved 70-80% spot on shots. Moving subjects are a bit more challenging but it’s more a question of shooting style: instead of running behind the subject trying to nail the focus you just chose a good spot, prepare your focus, and wait for something / somebody interesting to enter the frame for 100% success. I occasionally used a tripod but could probably have done without.

Actually beside gear the most important thing simply remains the “access”: I was very lucky to be with a local friend who knows everything (and almost everybody) in Varanasi so it made finding the right spots a lot easier… He’s occasionally offering his services as a guide so feel free to reach out to me via my facebook page if you want his contact.

Enough talks for now, here is the set titled “Varanasi dream” because as a friend said these images show Varanasi as you could see it in a dream.

CLICK ON THE IMAGES TO SEE THEM MUCH CRISPER, MORE COLORFUL and FOR AN OVERALL BETTER VERSION!

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You can find more of my work here: https://www.facebook.com/lumiere.exterieure

Thanks for reading,

Sebastien Bey-Haut

Apr 042016
 

The New Nikon DL. The new enthusiast point & shoot Nikon

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Nikon has announced what appears to be a new powerful point and shoot series in a time when P&S cameras sales have stalled. But this is more of a challenge to the Sony RX100 series from what I see, and they are banking on YOU liking it more than your smart phone for taking images! With a 1″ sensor (like the 1 series, CX) the new DL cameras are fixed lens point and shoots with a traditional Nikon look and feel. As they say, designed to look like a classic Nikon DSLR (of which I feel it certainly does not, but still has some charm) and give modern-day performance.

The main competitor in my eyes for the new DL cameras is the Sony RX100 IV which is my fave pocket rocket P&S style camera of all time (digital).

Below are the specs for  the Nikon DL 24-85..what do you think? They also have a wide angle version that sports an 18-50 1.8 to 2.8 for just under $900. The 24-85 version comes in at $650 and they even have a monster zoom version (ala Sony RX10III) with a 24-500 zoom for a grand. You can see all of the Nikon DL options here, with specs, photos and all. 

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The mid-range member of Nikon’s advanced DL series of point-and-shoots, the DL24-85 f/1.8-2.8 Digital Camera offers a versatile 24-85mm equivalent zoom lens paired with a 20.8MP CX-format BSI CMOS sensor to deliver stunning images in nearly any situation.

This NIKKOR lens features a fast f/1.8-2.8 maximum aperture range that can create images with shallow depth of field and perform well in low light. Equipped with aspherical, ED, and HRI glass elements, this camera will capture images with the utmost clarity and minimal distortion and, thanks to a Fluorine coating, it will repel dust, water, and oil. Furthermore, this camera has a Super Macro Mode that can capture subjects at life-size and a Focus Bracketing feature to capture a sequence of shots with varying focus positions.

Ensuring that all of this technology runs smoothly, quickly, and efficiently, the DL24-85 leverages the power of the EXPEED 6A image processor to produce crisp, clean stills and enables UHD 4K video recording at 30p. Paired with the 20.8MP sensor, the camera can work with sensitivities ranging from ISO 160-12800 and can operate an advanced Hybrid AF system with 171 focus points, 105 of which are capable of phase detection. This AF system can even be used during continuous shooting at up to 20 fps, though with fixed focus users can boost the camera’s speed to an incredible 60 fps.

The camera’s body design is inspired by that of Nikon’s legendary DSLRs, with numerous physical dials and buttons throughout. This includes a command dial, rotary multi-selector, customizable function button, and a precision zoom ring, as well as a control ring that can be set to one of numerous functions. Ensuring composition is comfortable, the DL24-85 also features a 1037k-dot tilting OLED touchscreen. A built-in ND filter is available for working in bright light while using the fast maximum aperture. Additionally, it has full SnapBridge support with built-in Wi-Fi and NFC as well as Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology for connecting straight to a smart device. Finally, it has a 24-pin hot shoe terminal for working with Speedlights as well as the optional electronic viewfinder.

20.8MP BSI CMOS Sensor and EXPEED 6A Image Processor

At the core of Nikon’s DL series is a large 1.0″ CX-format 20.8MP BSI CMOS sensor and the EXPEED 6A image processor. This pairing delivers high-resolution still and video shooting with low noise at sensitivities up to ISO 12800. Also, as the sensor forgoes the use of an optical low-pass filter, it guarantees the maximum possible resolution in the final image. This combination also boosts speed in nearly every aspect of the camera, including continuous shooting at up to 20 fps with autofocus or an astounding 60 fps with fixed focus.

NIKKOR 8.8-31.3mm f/1.8-2.8 ED VR Lens

Featuring a versatile 24-85mm equivalent focal length, this NIKKOR 8.8-31.3mm lens makes the DL24-85 a convenient camera for everyday use, including portraiture and travel. Its f/1.8-2.8 maximum aperture range also benefits shooters by allowing shallow depth of field and capturing more light in dim lighting scenarios. Equipped with aspherical, Extra-low Dispersion (ED), and High-Refractive Index (HRI) glass elements to combat aberrations and minimize distortion, the DL24-85 will be able to capture spectacular, crisp images. There is even a Fluorine coating on the front element to repel dust, water, oil, and more. Furthermore, the lens has Dual Detect Optical VR image stabilization that can help compensate for up to 4 stops of camera shake and a Super Macro Mode allows photographers to capture objects at life size at a 1.2″ distance. And, it has an electromagnetic 7-blade aperture diaphragm for smooth out-of-focus elements.

UHD 4K Video Recording & Slow Motion

For the ultimate in high-resolution video capture, the DL series features internal UHD 4K video recording at up to 30p as well as the ability to output uncompressed footage over HDMI. The camera’s processing power effectively eliminates rolling shutter distortion and Auto ISO can smoothly adjust the exposure to fit varying lighting conditions. Other capabilities include a new Superlapse mode which lets you experience moments at double speed, time-lapse for condensing vast periods of time into just 10 seconds, and slow motion video for smooth capture of fast-moving scenes. The DL series cameras will also capture stereo sound via a built-in microphone.

In addition to this exceptional resolution, the DL series can achieve high frame rates in Full HD at up to 120 fps for smooth slow motion capture. Fast options such as 240 fps and 400 fps are available at HD 720p and 800 x 296 resolutions, respectively, and for the ultimate slowdown, users can drop to 400 x 144 resolution for an incredible 1200 fps video.

Advanced Hybrid AF System

Capture some of the fastest-moving subjects with ease by using the DL-series advanced Hybrid AF which has a wide coverage area with a total of 171 focus points, of with 105 points are phase-detect capable for locking on to moving subjects. This also benefits the lightning fast continuous shooting speeds of 20 fps with full autofocus.

Body Design

Ensuring fast operation and DSLR-like performance, the DL24-85 has a variety of physical buttons and dials. This includes a command dial, rotary multi-selector, power switch, and a customizable Fn button. The lens has additional controls, including a precise zoom ring and a separate customizable ring that can be set for aperture, shutter speed, manual focus, or white balance. The rear of the DL24-85 sports a 3.0″ 1037k-dot OLED touchscreen can tilt up 180° for selfies or down 80° for working from multiple angles with ease. Additionally, the DL24-85 boasts a built-in flash for adding some additional light to your scene.

SnapBridge Connectivity

Connect directly to a mobile device for remote control or image transfer by using the Nikon SnapBridge app, in combination with a DL series camera. These cameras offer numerous ways to connect, including the Bluetooth Low Energy protocol for constant connect between your devices. This allows the embedding of location, date/time, and two notes into your files. Along with this standard Wi-Fi and NFC is available for a variety of methods.

Other Features

Dedicated 24-pin hot shoe terminal allows the use of Speedlights and accessories like the optional electronic viewfinder.
Raw image capture provides as much information as possible for post processing.
40.5mm front filter thread.
Built-in ND filter good for 3 stops of light reduction.
Creative Mode with five categories of customizable effects for creating a unique look for your stills and movies.
Six Picture Control options allow you to achieve a signature look that can’t be reached through camera settings alone.
Multiple Exposure Lighten setting for light trail images or time-lapse movies.
Saves images to SD/SDHC/SDXC memory cards.
Up to 4x digital zoom is available for boosting equivalent focal length to 340mm.

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What do YOU think of the Nikon DL? Sony RX100 killer or another yawn release from Nikon? I’m still waiting for a KILLER mirrorless solution from Nikon AND Canon as I feel that when they do finally come out with one (a serious one) it will be pretty special, at least I hope so!

Amazon has the Nikon DL series available for Pre Order. They start shipping in June 2016. 

Mar 232016
 

Photos of my watches

by Christopher Chia

I’m a hobbyist from Singapore and I would like to share some photos of watches. It’s a bit different from what I usually read from your website.

At work, I’m the guy to approach if there is an event which requires a photographer. So, I do a lot of event photography, free of course, to my employer. Recently, I was invited to give a photography talk to my colleagues. While preparing for my photography talk, I realized that I have a specialty, which is watch photography. Collecting watches is my other hobby and taking photos of watches daily is what I do.

I usually shoot watches with an Olympus EM10 coupled with the 25mm f1.8 lens or a Nikon D700 with a 100mm Tokina macro lens.

Here are some photos of my watches, hope you like them.

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Matching Chriscentro a

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Regards
Christopher Chia

Feb 112016
 
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Documentary Wedding Style and telling a Story

by Mark Seymour – His Website

As a documentary wedding photographer, I record the day through story-telling images.

I like to use a lot of beautiful contrasting black and white, as this enhances the intensity and depth of the image, often likened to the work of fine artists in the renaissance period using a technique called chiaroscuro.

The panel here before us include moments from throughout the wedding day that are all totally undirected and therefore pure moments that have occurred naturally without intervention which is my signature style.

Great documentary photography is still about good composition, beautiful light with a third component of knowing through experience where to position yourself and capture that small moment in time to tell a story within a single frame.
The panel is assembled in chronological order from the tension the bride feels whilst preparing for her day, through various ceremonies such as bedekken, the tisch, and the marriage and finishing with the celebration party dancing. Mayfair fine art dealer William Lansbury recently came across my work and quoted “If Caravaggio had a camera these are the type of images he would take”.

Last week I was awarded the first ever Fellowship and Master Craftsman for Documentary Wedding Photography in the UK Here is the panel of 20 Images

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Mark Seymour

Nikon Ambassador

Three time winner UK wedding photographer of the year

http://www.markseymourphotography.co.uk/

Feb 092016
 

Pro’s moving to Mirrorless? Yes they are!

By Craig Roberts

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Are pro’s moving to mirrorless cameras as well as amateurs and enthusiasts? Yes, they are. Is the quality good enough? Yes, it is. Can you still sell the images easily? Yes, you can. Are the images accepted by photo libraries? Yes, they are.

I made the move to mirrorless cameras a couple of years ago and use them for travel and landscape photography. I had intended to invest in the Fuji system with the XE-1, but trying both this and the Olympus E-M5 MK1 at a trade show, in my hands there was no question which felt best and I bought an E-M5 the next day.

The E-M5 has since made way for the E-M1, whilst a faulty E-PL5 was replaced with an E-P5. It’s a great combination of cameras and I have a great set of primes and zooms in the OMD system to cover all eventualities. I don’t like talking gear that much. To me it’s all about the image. The camera is just a tool and whether you choose Olympus, Fuji, Sony or Canon or Nikon for that matter, makes no difference to the end result. It’s the picture that’s important in the end, not what was used to create it.

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That said, mirrorless cameras have some great advantages over their digital SLR cousins and whilst they aren’t perfect, each of the Fuji, Sony and Olympus models have their plus and minus points.
The OMD system works for me as a landscape photographer. It suits me, the cameras feel good in my hands and the system matches my way of shooting and produces fantastic results. If I had chosen the Fuji or Sony instead, I’m sure I would have written the same sentence about them for this feature.

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I started off buying the selection of primes for the cameras, because I felt the small and compact size of the lenses, especially the Olympus ones, suited the smaller and more compact camera bodies. I love working with prime lenses and I like the discipline they force upon you. They make you consider your viewpoints more. They force you to see the world through their focal length and encourage you to put more thought into whether you should stick with that focal length or swop to another, much more than there would be with a zoom lens. Of course, they are smaller, generally faster and sharper than zoom lenses and everyone should have at least one fixed prime lens in their arsenal to appreciate the limited vision that they offer, which is a bonus, rather than a hindrance.

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I do have some zooms and they are useful for certain situations and subjects. There are times when changing lenses all the time is not convenient and so this is where zooms come into their own. Having spent the last 20 years shooting landscapes, I now, like many others, pass on my knowledge though workshops etc. In this changing world of photography, it has often become the way for landscape photographers to earn money from their profession. There’s not many photographers shooting and selling landscape images without using teaching as a way to top up their income.

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I use many was of teaching. Through location-based workshops, online courses, text-based articles and more recently through video. This last medium is an exciting one and a way of teaching that the others can’t match. I have a YouTube channel and I also a subscription service run from my website called e6, which offers even more videos and content. I teach about landscape photography and to a certain extent, the advantages of shooting with mirrorless cameras. I will rave about the Olympus system, but appreciate the choices others have made too. They all have their place and as I said at the beginning, the camera is merely a tool for an artist to use (we photographers are artists aren’t we?!)

I love photography and I love shooting with mirrorless cameras, just as I did with my Canon SLR and my Mamiya medium format camera before that come to think of it. I need a camera that suits my needs as a professional photographer. The Olympus does that in bucket loads and I’m happy to use these new breed of cameras as a workhorse for my work.

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So, the images in this feature were all captured with Olympus cameras. They make fantastic landscape cameras, yet are equally perfect for street photography too. I’m capturing images that I probably never would have with my Canon SLR and they have made me a more creative photographer. They are part of my evolution as a photographer. Why? Because of their size, their design and their flexibility. Yes, they are just a tool, but if you have great tools to work with, your progress isn’t hindered.

My YouTube Channel:
www.youtube.com/channel/UCqRkV8eRVvxwVStV5May0rQ

My website:
www.craigrobertsphotography.co.uk

Feb 022016
 
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A Professional Wedding Photographer’s Perspective on Switching to Sony Mirrorless


by Peter Georges

Excluding short interludes with cameras from Nikon, Fuji and Leica most of my photography life has been centered on Canon DSLRs.

Although it functioned as my workhorse system, I was never completely satisfied with what was on offer from Canon. Issues of sensor technology aside, DSLRs have issues pertaining to focus accuracy once higher megapixels are involved. Issues relating to mirror slap and the lack of image stabilization on prime lenses also become difficult to deal with as the megapixel count rises. As I would later learn, there are other advantages mirrorless systems offer that make it difficult to go back to a DSLR camera.

Read on to find out why I made the switch to Sony Mirrorless, why DSLRs are history for my style of photography and what I think remains to be done to completely seal the deal.

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The Early Steps

Initially it was the Sony A7s that drew me in. Sony became professionally acceptable for video use well before photography. It makes sense doesn’t it? Autofocus does not factor into the equation very much allowing an easy jump into a new camera body while adapting your existing Canon EF lenses with ease.

It stoked my curiosity with regard to the viability of the A7 system for professional photography. I picked up a Sony A7II and the Sony FE 35mm f/1.4 Lens and after some heavy testing went in to my next wedding with that combo. A Canon 5d Mark III kit was available as backup and tele reach. It worked! Almost…

A7II + 5d Mark III wedding: http://www.petergeorges.com.au/jonathan-monica

Although I delivered some of my best images, the Canon had to come out more often than I’d have liked. Unfortunately the A7II wasn’t completely ready. Poor tracking, no continuous autofocus when using eye detect and poor low light autofocus meant the 5d Mark III had to be used for the bridal entrances and for almost the entirety of the reception. Although the A7s was better at picking up focus in low light conditions, the lack of phase detection meant it was simply too slow to capture people in motion.

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The Camera That Changed Everything

Then – almost as if to immediately curb my disappointment in the autofocus performance – the Sony A7rII was announced and I picked up mine on the day of release.

All of a sudden I could use continuous eye detect focus (a revolution in itself), focus in low light and track subjects coming toward me with ease.

A problem with mirrorless cameras is the lack of support for firing IR flash beams to achieve low light autofocus. I believe it’s to do with the autofocus points being on sensor which is behind an IR filter. They need to be many stops better in low light conditions compared to a DSLR to compete. The advantage they do have however – unlike DSLRs – is that the autofocus operates based on the aperture of your lens rather than a fraction of the light being passed by the mirror to a separate autofocus sensor. In all my experiences so far the A7rII with a 35mm f1.4 can achieve focus even in extremely dark club environments.

As high megapixel DSLRs make the job of producing sharp images more and more difficult, the A7rII has the perfect storm of technologies that make it easier than ever:

Image Stabilization which is applied to all lenses including f1.4 primes
• The traditional mirrorless strength of accurate focusing, without the need for per-lens focus tuning
• The lack of mirror slap
• The lack of shutter vibration thanks to an electronic first curtain shutter
• Continuous eye detect autofocus, since getting critical focus on the eye is always key

Add that with a WYSIWYG view on your exposure and it means a staggeringly high hit rate. Allowing you to focus on making great artwork rather than managing the technical aspects of photography.

I happily said good bye to chimping.



Full Sony mirrorless wedding: http://www.petergeorges.com.au/ryan-georgie

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I can’t say enough about the joys of having a tilt screen with the same focus capability as the EVF. It has been a mini-revolution. I rarely hold the camera up to my eye and thanks to IBIS I don’t receive a penalty for the slight loss of stabilization. This has allowed me to experiment with creative angles so much quicker than having to move my whole body into position. Once again it is a culmination of features which makes it impossible to go back to a DSLR.

Current Limitations and the Future

It will only take one or two more generations at the rate Sony is going to completely close the gap on the remaining DSLR advantages: speed, durability and native lens selection. There is no technological reason at all why it won’t happen – and quicker than many expect. Mirrorless cameras have the potential to do everything a DSLR can do. The reverse is not true.

Speed is the key. With faster and faster sensor read outs and more advanced onboard image processing the disadvantages of mirrorless melt away.

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I do have some issues with the current implementation however, so to Sony I say:

• Give us dual SD slots throughout your A7 model range! This is absolutely critical especially if you want to capture the wedding market. Don’t leave this to the mythical A9, put it in the A7iii. This should be a standard and not a way to get people to buy a camera with features they don’t need. At the moment I’m forced to back up my images multiple times throughout the day because SD cards can and will fail.
• Work out a nice solution for moving the focus point. There are situations where there are no eyes to detect and a simple joystick would do wonders. The current system is an ergonomic nightmare.
• Consider releasing larger and more durable models with better battery life.

As for Canon and Nikon? I predict they will eventually strip the mirror box from future generation 5d’s and D810’s while retaining fast autofocus with EF and F mount lenses. They would be absolutely crazy to get rid of their lens advantage. They won’t have the smallest or lightest cameras, but they will be smaller and lighter than they currently are. More importantly, not a single one of my reasons for moving to mirrorless was size or weight.

I’d like to thank Steve for letting me contribute to the site.

Peter Georges

http://www.petergeorges.com.au
https://www.facebook.com/petergeorgesphotography

Aug 282015
 

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

By Adam Laws

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

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

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

Sony images 1, 2 and 3 – 

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

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

Leica

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

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

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

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Hasselblad

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

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

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Nikon FM2n

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

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

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Contax G2

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

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

Contax 1, 2, and 3

Contax 1

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Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jul 282015
 

User Report: A Nikon J5 Review

by Eyal Gurevitch

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What makes a small camera great?

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

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

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

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

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Size matters.

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

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

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The grip. The controls.

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

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The Speed

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

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

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

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The Bottom Line

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

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

May 062015
 

JPDoublemoon

The Power of Symmetry

By José Pazó 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Mar 052015
 

 

4DAYS

4 days in the life of a Magnum photographer

by Sebastien Bey-Haut

Dear Steve,

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

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

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

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

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

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

10 selected photographs 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading

Sebastien Bey-Haut

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

Jan 162015
 

markseymourc

Kolkata India – Shooting the streets and smiles

by Mark Seymour – His website is HERE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Dec 192014
 

Best Christmas Deal Yet. Nikon Coolpix A, $700 OFF!

The fabulous Nikon Coolpix A, the pocket APS-C IQ monster that sold for $1100 since launch has now sunken to an amazing LOW price for the Silver model (which looks really sharp in person). Do not pay $1099, nope! B&H Photo is blowing out the silver Coolpix A for $399. THIS my friends is the best deal of the year I think.

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You can see my Coolpix A review HERE, and then if you want one at this special price of $399 B&H Photo is even including FREE Next Day Shipping! Wowzers! Thanks to Brad Husick for the tip!

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You can also add the nice $399 OVF to the camera and save $300 on that as well! So you can get the camera and OVF for $499 total, free next day air shipping!

CLICK HERE TO SEE OR TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THIS DEAL (WHILE SUPPLIES LAST)!

Dec 182014
 

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

by Robin Schimko

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

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

So, how did it work out?

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

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

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

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

Thank you all for reading,

Robin

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