Micro 4/3 delivers! Daily Inspiration by Nicolas Raddatz

Micro 4/3 Delivers – Daily Inspiration by Nicolas Raddatz

Hi Steve!

I’ve been a reader of your site for a long time, and thought it would be cool to share with you and the community some daily inspiration. The pictures I’m sending belong to a black and white photo essay on the Guajiros, Cuban peasants who produce world-renowned cuban tobacco in the Viñales valley.

All pics were taken using Panasonic GH2 and GF1 bodies, Panasonic 14mm and Olympus 45mm. The kit was carried using a Billingham Hadley Digital, a fantastic small bag for a light and inconspicuous micro four thirds outfit.

This was the first time I travelled with an m43-only outfit, and it proved to be perfect for street/travel and candid shooting. I could carry it everywhere due to small size and weight, and it allowed me to be more intimate without being threatening or disrespectful – I find pointing a bazooka-sized zoom to people quite disrespectful if you know what I mean.

I hope that you and your readers find the pictures interesting. I would love to hear feedback from the readers of the site.

The complete photo essay can be found here: http://www.nico-foto.com/guajiros/

If you are interested in seeing more Cuba photographs shot with this same kit, you can also visit my Flickr set here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nicolasraddatz/sets/72157632464051675/

Best regards to everyone!

Viñales, Cuba - 12/2011

Viñales, Cuba - 12/2011

Viñales, Cuba - 12/2011

Nicolás Raddatz






  1. I like the eyes the eyes in the last photo and the composition and tone in the first. Very good. Again not the camera but the photographer makes the shot.


  2. These are excellent pictures with fine composition, story telling and processing. Way to show how most photographic tools can produce excellent results when attention is paid.
    As to the comments and critiques about processing I believe the processing is perfect for your intentions. You set out with a vision and you accomplished. I think often people critique photos, especially processing, based on the way they enjoy working or the visions they like to see. Often conservative is the norm due to a backlash against the over processing that is often evident in newer photographers or the “instagram-set”.
    But in this case It’s obvious your processing is intentional and well suited to the story about Cuba you are telling.

  3. Very nice pictures ! I also saw yours Flickr pages, i’m enthusiast. And it’s a real pleasure for me to see again the bolivian altiplano, Vinales, La Trinidad : i went there some years ago (with a contax G)
    Your comments about 4/3 as the best compromise are also very interesting, coming from such a shooter !

  4. Great images, Nicolas! Visited your website and flickr link as well and had a great time! I will continue to follow your work on flickr. Keep up the great work!!!

  5. Really evocative shots – I like the third one especially.

    I find the post processing interesting. For me it’s the engagment with the subject that makes these pictures so good, and the pp applied is not to my taste. You see this look a lot online, and often in pics taken on m4/3 and other smaller sensor cameras. Would be interested to see these printed up, but wonder if a lot of people actually do produce prints of images pp’d like this?

    Anyway, just musing, more than anything else. Congratulations Nicholas, you should be proud of your work!

    • Mm….I curious why you think this PP is related to a smaller sensor camera? I don’t think there is a correlation at all. PP is a personal choice regardless of camera.

      • I know – it’s just when I see pictures and think “there’s too much pp on that, it’s over sharpened and contrast has been played with too much so the tones are broken” it’s often taken on a small sensor camera, aps-c max – I shoot MF (not digital sadly – I bought a flat instead…) quite a bit, so defintiely see aps-c as small, even though I doubt many on this site agree with that. That’s anecdotal of course (kind of has to be as pp is so subjective anyway).

        It’s just an interesting apparent correlation. I wonder if the tonal range and larger dynamic range offered by bigger sensors is part of the cause, or whether it’s a shooting for screen rather than a shooting to print thing?

        As I say – just musing, and it’s all a matter of taste, but it is something that I have picked up on, and wonder if others have a view.

        • Well I do agree that APS-c and m4/3 take a bit more work in PP than a FF and particularly MF! No doubt those formats will provided better resolution and in a lot of cases better rendering.

          However the technology about now I think both the APS-c sensors and m4/3 have closed that gap substantially. If shooting for larger type print then fair enough but screen….it’s all pixel peeping.

          That said I’ve seen some stunning work from the likes of Rx100, m4/3, etc and you’d struggle to tell what camera it came from.

          I have owned both x100 (APSC) and now OMD (smaller again) and I personally find the OMD files will require less work in any PP. It seems to bring a better dynamic range to the table and more contrast when comparing RAW files….IMO!!

          As for MF I’ve just purchased a Mamiya 645 Pro so looking forward to seeing what it produces.

          • Interesting – I hear amazing things about the OMD, and love a lot of the pics I have seen taken on it. One of my favourite cameras of all time is the OM2s/p – everything you need in a tiny form.

            There’s definitely no “best” in this – I’ll shoot what ever I am carrying, but if I’m off somewhere specific to focus on photos I’ll take the biggest sensor I can beg borrow or steal, and then manage to get into an overhead bin and up the path at the other end.

            That said, I really like Nico’s photo’s and guess that he wouldn’t have got them if he’d been waving around an H4D with a 120 f4, I just think they are strong enough to stand out with a more natural approach to pp.

          • Well I think you are right re with a more natural approach. That is that they would stand out but I think he’s done a nice job. And what it boils down to is “taste” and how he envisions the atmosphere. He is the one who was there and experienced those people and in a corny way….it’s his canvas!

            As for big is better, well thats your turn so cudos to you. For what its worth though give the OMD a go…borrow one and get a good prime lens on it and head out. Apart from the sensor size you won’t be disappointed 🙂

          • Absolutely. Just interesting to see trends and try to understand people’s approach.

            Tempted by the OMD, and I had the money for one – went on a very good deal on an M6… I’ve wanted one of those for years.

        • Thanks for your comments nick. Post processing has a lot to do with taste and vision. In this particular essay, I was not looking for a “natural” look. Quite the opposite. I wanted images to have a dreamy, melancholic feel to them. I don’t think there’s one “good” way of rendering images.

          But, I tend to agree regarding the “look” of smaller sensors, particularly tone gradation. It always seemed to me that m43 images (particularly the panasonic sensors) quickly got crushed and lost tonal subtleties when post processing them. The E-M5 seems better in that respect, probably on par with what I could achieve with my Canon 7D (APS-C) when I used to have it.

          • Absolutely, I agree it’s taste, it was just a comment on a trend, I think the way people see images moves quite interestingly, and in line with technology, and I was commenting on the movement to a particular way of rendering I had seen recently.

            And as I say, I think these are great, Cuba’s high on my list of places to visit, and pictures like this, which are so much more interesting than the usual “old car, man playing jazz” images only affirm that. Really good, I’ll follow you flickr and website with interest.

            Interesting to note, we’re truly spoilt with the pace of technical improvement at the moment.

  6. Well done Nicholas. Very nice set……I have seen before on Flicker. I like the composition and the B&W. You’ve captured the mood or at least conveyed that well in these.

    Keep travelling and keep taking photos…..

  7. These images are extraordinary…I viewed the complete photo essay and it only gets better. I love the black and white rendering of these images and the compositions are wonderful. My favs are the one with the Ox and the truck on the road, which can be viewed going to the link for the complete photo essay. Actually, the truck image is brilliant. Thank you so much for sharing.


  8. Overall a nice set of images displaying the potential of smaller formats — though I agree that the post processing appears a bit too heavy and elaborate at points.

    Another piece of constructive criticism regarding the last photo: I really like this portrait and the center oriented framing, but overall I feel that the photograph would have benifited from a slightly increased depth of field. There is an interesting symmetry between the ripples on the neck of the guy and the pattern on his hat, and this would have been brought out more by bringing these elements into focus. In addition, I feel that there are interesting details of his face that appear slightly out of focus.

    I mention this last point also because I see an increased tendency today to shoot portraits with the smallest possible DOF. More often than not, this choice weakens the resulting photograph (at least in my opinion). It is time people got over the “wow-factor” of shooting their fast glass wide open and started focusing (pun intended) on creating strong images.

    • I agree. One of the nicest portrait shots I’ve seen recently was with a D800 at f10 and the entire face was in focus but background sufficiently blurred. So many D800 portrait shots look very unpleasant to me because the depth of field is so shallow on wide open fast lenses. So many noses in focus rather than eyes. No excuse for that.

  9. Great shots! But all these white halos and blur effects, bringing to much attention to the post processing, kind of destroy the beauty for me.

    • Atma, I was about to write something very similar. It’s almost as if the shots were taken on very dark days with large dollops of fill flash.
      The distracting halo edging the hill in the first shot is not a good look.

      The portrait shot is pleasant but I found myself looking for more resolution. Not sure if that is the sensor size trade-off or something else.

  10. I like the work, I like the format and I like the vignetting and the postprocessing…it all works together. I saw the full set of these on Nicolas’ Flickr page, they are quite enjoyable as a body of work. (maybe a couple could have been toned down a slight amount with the post processing…but you did a great job overall!).

    • Thanks Bob! Everyone has a right to like or not like the post processing, tastes vary, but I believe that I came up with a coherent set of images that depict the way Guajiros live, that hint at the life in rural cuba, and that have a point of view, and, why not, soul.

    • Thanks Ben. Fortunately m43 has some very good lenses in its lineup. And also, don’t forget that with a smaller camera, you get access to intimate events in a way you would not with a bigger DSLR.

    • Actually, the sensor size does matter, depending on what you are trying to do. It’s easy to take the simple approach and dismiss the different formats and say one is better than the other but there are always tradeoffs. These are great images and the m43 is a fantastic system. You can get amazingly high quality shots with tiny lenses and there is a distinct advantage to that. If you enjoy shallow DOF shots then the larger sensor sizes will give you much more of that. Here’s some examples:

      Take the great Olympus 75mm f/1.8. That’s going to give you the same type of DOF as a full frame 150mm f/3.6. The m43 still acts like an f/1.8 in terms of exposure and light gathering etc but it’s a totally different look.

      That Olympus 12mm f/2.0? A fine lens. That’s a 24mm f/4 in FF equivalent as far as DOF. Is that going to give you the same options as a Nikon 24mm f/1.4 G?

      Different tools for different purposes. Choose the system that gets you what you want, but don’t fool yourself thinking there aren’t tradeoffs for either way you go. My all time favorite lens is the Nikon 200mm f/2. There is nothing like that in a m43 system (would be a 100mm f/1) that is ever going to give me that look. Sure, it weighs as much as a newborn baby, but that’s another story!

      • Jonny,
        I’m aware of the DOF differences as I shoot with MF (tlr’s mostly) and 35 mm (Leica M6). I just hate the debate regarding m43 image quality due to sensor size. People need to be more concerned about the lenses they have than the IQ their sensor is capable of. Cheers.

      • The increased DOF can be a benefit. I often shoot in very low light (dark bars mostly). When shooting at 1.4 you do get an equivalent FF DOF of 2.8, but, you still let in the same amount of light. This allows you to shoot at slightly higher shutter speeds with a greater DOF. This is a benefit to me. 🙂

        • Good point Ben! I think there are pros and cons to everything and that is a very good example of something that may be considered a disadvantage that is an advantage to you. Thanks for that insight I hadn’t thought of that. Also, to have a high speed lens in such a small package is a great thing for a m43 system.

        • You kinda forget that bigger sensor usualy have better high iso, so you can easily compensate the swallower dof.

          But well, this is gear talking, the best camera won’t make you a better photographer 🙂

          • you can maybe compensate by a half of the stop, not more with a larger sensor vs. latest m4/3 so if you need more DOF (and yet quality) the m4/3 is clear winner over any current system.

  11. Great work! I agree that the vignetting is a bit heavy for my tastes, but otherwise I think your post-processing is very well done. Care to share some info on your technique?

    • Thanks for you comment. Regarding processing, I basically used LR4 to get to a base point (proper white balance, working highlight/shadows, etc). At this point I also try to do localized exposure changes. After I’m comfortable with the image as it is in LR, I edit it using Nik’s Silver Efex. It has loads of presets. I generally do a trial and error process, testing different presets, to get close to what I’m looking for. At that point I customize the look. And…that’s basically it. It is not a long process, but, it certainly helps if you have an idea of what sort of mood or look you’re looking for.

  12. Like the images but as someone else implies I think the first is over post-processed. Just a bit too much vigneting.

    • In this particular photo essay, I wanted to work around the idea of memories. This whole portfolio is an idealized, somewhat romantic version of Viñales and what I saw there. I wanted to work within this idea of digging in the past, as Cuba is like a living time machine – so the pictures are in black and white, with heavy vignette, and the portaits have like a timeless quality to them, they could very well be pictures from the fifties. I may have gone too strong on the effect, but there was an aesthetic as well as conceptual reason for going for that “look”, a certain “atmosphere”.

  13. I’m not one of those guys how just LOVES every picture on every daily inspiration, but WOW, you really show the potential of the MFT system!

    Nice images and especially nice post production! You should shoot a bigger format!

    • Thanks Thomas. I used to shoot APS-C, but moved entirely to m43. For me it has the best ratio between size/weight/IQ when it comes to portability, and it has some great small primes available. I may buy a full frame camera in the future, but I don’t foresee having another APS-C DSLR anymore.

  14. Am I missing something here? Title says OM-D but “All pics were taken using Panasonic GH2 and GF1 bodies, Panasonic 14mm and Olympus 45mm.”


    • Ahhhh! Sorry about that! I had three sets of Daily Inspirations here. Two from the OM-D and one from the Panasonic’s (this one). My mistake as I was confused..I meant to post the OM-D Daily Inspiration and posted this one instead, so my text and title did not match up for this set – the good thing is that these are just as wonderful. Goes to show what Micro 4/3 can do.

    • Hi everybody, it seems I’m late to the party – I just found out Steve had posted my daily inspiration submission. Thanks Steve!!!

      All pictures were taken with GH2 and GF1 cameras. Since I took those pictures, I sold both Panasonic cameras, and got an E-M5. I’m thrilled by it. The tactile feeling is so much better, and the way it handles highlights is much more gentle and, dare I say “natural”. And, for color pictures, they render much more pleasantly than the panasonic ones, which always looked kind of off, with a weird magenta cast.

      • I was surprised that these were billed originally as OM-D shots since my OM-D shots look so different even considering post processing variations. However, the subject, the story, and the mood are what grab my attention with your shots.
        There have been quite a few comments on your post processing. The look you got was interesting and that counts for a lot. My own post preferences tend to be toward more minimal for documentary or photo journalism type shots but more over the top for artistic shots. I think your photos fall into both categories at the same time. Thanks for sharing.

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