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.

boot afgewerkt klein

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.

vuurwerk afgewerkt lage res

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.

lange wapper afgewerkt klein

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

petrochemie afgewerkt klein

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.

toren afgewerkt klein

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.

toren met put afgewerkt klein

Bye,

Dirk.

May 292014
 

Digitizing slides and negatives on the cheap

By Dierk Topp

what is this about?

A fast, easy and cheap solution for digitizing slides and negatives

The main idea is, to use the light of a tablet as a neutral white light source and solve the (my) main problem with the light.
The rest can be done in many different ways.

Many of us have tons of analog photographs in form of slides and/or negatives at home. I think, most of us don’t even look at these pictures any more, as it is just too much effort for showing slides compared to the great show of our digital images, stored on a stick and shown on our large TV screen. Even worse with all the negatives, that where never seen as positive print.

Since many years I was looking for a solution to digitize at least my slides with all the old pictures of the family, vacations and many other events, that I like to remember and give copies to my family. I used my DSLR with macro lenses and my Photo scanner but have been always very disappointed.

The problem with the DSLR was the light and the resolution (at that time 12 MPix) and the problem with the scanner was the boring time per scan, and also the resolution of only 2400 DPI!

Some time ago I noticed, that my tablet can be used as an ideal light source.
The light is very neutral (I checked it with the Colorchecker). And I came up with the following quick and “not so dirty” solution, of course not for professional work.

What do you need?

1. a camera, that gives you 1:1 close up images (the Sony E-mount Macro 30mm does it, many compact cameras as well)
2. your tablet (a smart phone may do it as well) as light source
3. a tripod or better a copy stand to mount the camera
4. clear glass pane (I use the glass of a cheap photo frame)
5. a bubble level to align the base and camera horizontally and/or a small mirror

optional:

6. a remote trigger for the camera to avoid vibrations
7. a transparent etched glass pane (or a milky glass pane, but that absorbs much light)
8. a negative holder from a photo scanner
9. a good blower to clean the glass and the slides or film
10. dark paper or card board to protect the lens from direct light from the tablet with a matching whole in it for your picture
11. cotton gloves for the handling of your negatives and slides

The set up:

(sorry for my English, I hope, I can make it clear enough)

* For first tests I used the Sony NEX-6 and the Sony E-mount Macro lens 30mm/3.5 with the IR remote control. After a few test shots I found, that the Sony Macro is very soft in the corners, but it offers AF! This could be very convenient, if you copy different slides with different thickness.
After that I decided to try the excellent Leica Makro-Elmarit-R 2.8/60mm with the Leica Macro-Adapter-R for 1:1 with very good results. BTW you get the used Leica lens for about the same price as the new Sony Macro lens. Plus a Leica-R adapter of course.

* The copy stand (mine is from B.I.G.) for about 30€, for small cameras. I cut a hole into the base plate and put the etched glass pane under it and below this the tablet

* On the base of the copy stand I put the glass of a picture frame

* You have to make sure, that the film and the sensor are parallel! I did it with a mirror, that I put on the glass and aligned the camera till I could see the reflection of the lens exactly in the middle of the screen. A bubble level on the glass (to control, how horizontal the table is) and on the camera display will help as well.

* Before you start, like in the good old days or nights in the darkroom you have to clean the glass and of course the slides or negatives carefully!

* On the tablet you need a neutral white image. I made one by taking a screen shot of an email with very little text and enlarged the screen so much that I had only the white background and then did another screen shot.
Of course there are many other ways for a white screen.

Try to focus on the grain with the focus magnification of the camera, as we used to do in the darkroom. With original lenses you do not have to take care but on adapted lenses like my Leica lens in this case open the aperture and focus with the magnification – and don’t forget to stop down again! I used f/11 to compensate for any misalignment. With the Sony Macro lens the AF worked as well. But with AF you definitely need an etched or milky glass pane, otherwise your camera will focus at the contrast of the LED of your tablet most of the times! This will be the same with other AF cameras.
What resolution do you get?

any, only limited by the grain!!

If you do the whole film with one shot, you get the resolution of your camera. If you need more resolution, you have to get closer and shoot multiple images and stitch. In that case of course with manual exposure.
With 35mm film this does not make much sense, as you may get beyond the resolution of the film grain.
With larger formats is makes a lot of sense.
I have 24×56 negatives from my Horizon 202 panorama camera and shoot two images (left and right) and stitch.
With 6×6 negatives I did 4 shots (2×2) with the NEX-6 and stitch. After I tried the Sony A7R with 36 MPix I decided to do only one shot and crop the sides to the 1:1 format. If I need higher resolution for a really good photograph, I always can do it again later with multiple shots and get higher resolution.
With my 4×5 negatives I did 6 shots (2×3) and stitched. Again I can do one shot now and do multiple shots for more resolution later, if I want.
How long does it take?

If everything is aligned and cleaned, I shoot 10 negatives in 15 minutes or even faster.
For comparison: I scanned a 6×6 negative with my old Epson 2450 Photo with 2400 dpi resolution and it took 10 minutes and I got less resolution!

Post processing

I import the RAW files into Light Room and use Photoshop for the conversion from negative to positive and do basic exposure and contrast corrections. Back in Lightroom on color images I try to find a more or less white or gray spot as a reference for the white balance and do the final processing.

A picture is better than many words, here is my set up:

The Sony Macro 30mm in 1:1 position for slides and 35mm negatives
a dark paper mask protects the lens from the light source, the paper on the left protects against the light from the window or you shoot in a dark room you see the mate glass pane and under it the tablet with the white image on the display.

setup for digital photography of  slides and B&W negative film

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you see the whole in the copy stand for the light from the tablet
the NEX-6 with the Leica Makro-Elmarit-R 60mm with 1:1 Macro-Adapter-R on a Metabones adapter

Mail Attachment

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a 6×6 negative, I used the negative holder of my scanner

setup for digital photography of  slides and B&W negative film

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The alignment with a mirror
see the image of the mirror in the center of the display of the camera!

setup for digital photography of  slides and B&W negative film

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And here are first results :-)

the color images are here on my flickr
https://www.flickr.com/photos/dierktopp/sets/72157644569983692/

35mm slides

digital photograph of color slide 24x36

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I don’t remember the film, but it was a high speed film with Vaseline on the filter for the soft focus
focus on the grain was a must on this one

digital photograph of color slide 24x36

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This example is very special, I made it 1970 in New York City
you see the World Trade Towers during construction with my at that time new 17mm/4 Fish-Eye-Takumar
the quality of the slides is very poor

Mail Attachment

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These are stitched images from 24x56mm negatives of the Russian Horizon 202
images on flickr are here:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/dierktopp/sets/72157644195467248/

digital photograph of Horizon 202 (24x56) B&W film

Horizon 202 (24x56) B&W film

6×6 images made with the DDR made Pentacon Six

are here on flickr:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/dierktopp/sets/72157644569983672/

6×6 color negative Agfa Ultra 100
color negative is not easy, you would need a profile to compensate the color mask of the film

digital photograph of 6x6 color negativ film, stitched of 6 imag

and B&W from Agfa APX 100

digital photograph of 6x6 B&W film

Pentacon Six 6x6, Zeiss Flektogon 4/50mm, Agfa APX 100

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this one is from a 4×5″ B&W negative, made with Gandolfi Variant II
6 stitched image parts (2×3)

analog 4x5 B&W, stitch of 4 image parts, Sony A7R with Leica Mak

Last but not least panorama images from a time, when stitching images was not jet invented.

My plan for these images has been, to mount the printed images together as a panorama – but it never came out good enough.
Now with the simple to use software it worked great to my surprise :-)

4 images 6×6 from the Pentacon Six on Agfa Ultra color negative film (1992), stitched with PTGui
the image with this resolution is about 17.000 pixel wide. Compared to the possibilities from today this does not sound much. I just did a panorama with 7 images from the Sony A7R hand held, resulting in 37.000 pixel – o.k. just in case I want to print it 5m wide :-))

Pentacon Six 6x6, Zeiss Flektogon 4/50mm, Agfa Ultra 100 color n

A last one, I made with the Gandolfi Variant 4×5″ field camera

This is the most complicated panorama, I ever made :-)

It is made out of two 4×5″ shots from Gandolfi Variant.
First image with shifted front standard to one side and back standard to the opposite and the second image with shifts the other way around.
Lens was Rodenstock Sironar-N 150mm/5.6 MC
and the usual darkroom chemistry ….

PP:
digitized both images with Sony A7R and Leica Makro-Elmarit-R 60mm
each image with 4 shots (2×2)
each image processed with LR5 and exported as TIFF
stitched with PTGui 9
the negative converted with CS6 and base contrast alignments
final processing with Nik Silver Efex Pro2
the result is about 7.600×17.200 pixel = 130 Mpix.

La Palma, Canary Islands, view from El Time

analog 4x5 B&W, stitch of 8 image parts from two photographs, So

this is a crop of this image

Mail Attachment

I hope, you got the idea and start checking all your slides and negatives and wake them alive again

dierk

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

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Jan 232012
 

USER REPORT: A stitch in time … with an M9

by Kefyn Moss

One thing I don’t see very often are stitched images using a Leica camera. Maybe this is anathema to many Leica users or maybe it’s just that the camera is so often used for a different subject matter that doesn’t suit them. I used to own the brilliant Nikon D700 but for travel purposes, which forms a large portion of my photography, I was wanting something more portable. I travel light. Even with a D700, three lenses and a tripod I can go with only carry-on luggage for months at a time. I’m definitely a minimalist, so reducing the size and weight of my photographic equipment while retaining full frame is a high priority. I had considered the M9 before but couldn’t afford it and keep my Nikon at the same time, but I finally took the plunge, sold all my Nikon gear to pay for it, and bought the Leica.

Monastic Outlook #2, Zeiss 35mm, 10,814 x 4897 px (53MP)

Leica glass (new) was almost impossible to find at the time I was looking, and out of my price range or not what I wanted with the few models that were available. I opted for mostly Zeiss optics (I had to literally scour the world for these too, in the time I had before leaving on a trip to Greece) deciding on the 25/2.8 Biogon, 35/2.8 Biogon and 50/2 Planar.

I also got a 90/4 macro Elmar second hand but used it far less than I thought I would. I have a variety of tripods and ball heads and normally use a Really Right Stuff head with the pano clamp and nodal slide, but this time, due to the small size of the lenses the accuracy of finding the exit pupil was not such a concern for me and I just took a lever release head and leveled the tripod. This still necessitated an Arca-style QR plate on the camera so I also shelled out for the RRS set which includes a replacement base (fits perfectly), L bracket and hand grip, which I found brilliant for hand held use (more ergonomic than the Thumbs Up IMO).

Monastic Outlook #4, Zeiss 25mm, 7039 x 4443 px (31MP)

 

I didn’t have a lot of time to familiarize myself with the camera before heading off for six weeks, but I was confident that it’s the photographer that takes the photos, not the camera, and I wasn’t going to blame the camera for my shortcomings. Some things I expected to be limiting, such as the high ISO performance and slow processor but high ISO isn’t a concern for tripod mounted shots, and the buffer/write speed? Frustratingly slow, which occasionally led to missed, or at least crippled, opportunities (waiting for the buffer when bracketing and watching the light starting to change … c’mon, c’mon) even though I tried to plan for it.

The metering was better than I expected (I didn’t expect too much having been used to Nikon’s accurate multi-pattern metering and having owned the lovely Olympus OM-4 with multi spot metering I find CW average to be a bit primitive on its own) but I bracketed a lot to make sure and I love how the camera automatically shoots the number of shots chosen when bracketing – this should be standard on all cameras! Manual controls were a joy to use in general and specifically I use the DOF scale on manual focus lenses for “f8 to infinity” which became my mantra for this type of photo. I haven’t had any issues with rangefinder calibration so selective focus using the viewfinder was a non-issue and focus lock is built in!

Calm Fortitude (this is actually an HDR pano for those that think HDR has to look over-the-top rather than to render highlight/shadow detail realistically), Zeiss 25mm, 7080 x 4499 px (31MP)

 

I don’t travel with a laptop, just a HyperDrive (although a MacBook Air would be OK), so I had to wait until I returned home before assessing the results. I wasn’t expecting the lack of an AA filter to be an issue, after all I wasn’t shooting fashion, but in a few cases moiré reared its head (the fences in the fish farms in “Klisova Lagoon” for example) and marred a potentially good image (desaturating the offending area didn’t often help and created more post-processing work).

The biggest annoyance however, and Matt Draper in his recent article seemed to have a similar experience, was DUST. The camera came with a dusty sensor and it just got worse with each lens change. Keeping one lens on the camera in street photography or portraits would reduce the problem significantly, but it is after all an interchangeable lens camera and the omission of some sort of sensor cleaning is, in my opinion, very remiss of Leica. For me this created a huge amount of work in landscape and architectural images during post processing. In (single) images taken in the latter half of the trip I have counted literally hundreds of dust spots that would show up on a large print – thank Adobe for the spot healing brush tool (and sync settings in Lightroom for multi-image stitches) is all I can say. And to answer the question “why not take sensor cleaning gear?” I would reply that: a) as I said I travel light so with the insane carry-on restrictions I can’t take cleaning fluid, and b) I have traveled with a D700 in a similar fashion with no dust problem (the mirror probably helps a bit too) so wasn’t expecting or prepared for the severity of it – when I did clean the sensor at home it took 3 or 4 “wet” cleans to remove some of the more stubborn crud!

Klisova Lagoon (the camera wasn’t vertical for this one), Zeiss 50mm, 10,765 x 3264 px (35MP)

 

There is inevitably some pixel loss with final image cropping, but to demonstrate finished file dimensions, I have included them with the relative image. Luckily I have an 8 core Mac Pro with 12Gb of RAM and a 30” NEC MultiSync monitor, so processing these huge files wasn’t too time consuming and the merge to pano in PS CS5 does a great job 95% of the time – no specialized software required anymore as far as I’m concerned.

Klisova Lagoon detail. Moiré does show up in some landscapes…

 

So is the M9 the best tool for stitched panoramas? Definitely not, as the frame-lines are not accurate enough for me to take sequences without building in more overlap error protection than I would normally use, increasing the time to take them, which is critical when the light is changing rapidly and already a limitation with that pitiful RAW buffer and slow write speed. But the low distortion lenses of small physical size and relatively simple design, the portability of the camera and system and the designers of stitching software all contribute to making it a usable tool for stitched panoramas and, as they are not the only photos I take, I am more than satisfied with the results. I hope you are too, but constructive criticism is welcome.

Thank you,

Kefyn Moss (and thanks Steve for providing the opportunities that you do).

 

Lasithi Plateau, Zeiss 50mm, 11,786 x 5161 px (60MP)

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Lasithi Plateau crop. A nice rendering for this landscape to my eye…

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