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Showing content with the highest reputation since 26/04/12 in Articles

  1. 10 points
    Street photography is one of those genres that is highly debated. Some want to put it up on a high pedestal and proclaim it restricted to a highly curated set of parameters, while others want it to be anything that is taken out in the streets. I, for one, am not a big fan of strict labels for this kind of thing. For me, street photography is about capturing the essence of a place or location that tells a story and gets you to feel what it is like, or what the people there are like. These are fleeting moments that could change in a matter of minutes or over years. Nikon D700, 1/125, f/7.1, ISO 320 @ 28mm I'd like to share some of my thoughts about my approach to street photography. We'll cover the other photographers that influence my perceptions, how I go about shooting subjects and we'll talk about how I shoot from gear to camera settings. Nikon D700, 1/800, f/4.5, ISO 500 @ 28mm Major Influences I take a lot of influences for shooting from various photographers. This list encompass the top three, but by no means are the only ones. One of my all time favorite photographers is Jay Maisel. He is a commercial and street photographer based out of NYC. I agree with a lot of his philosophies regarding shooting. KelbyOne has a three video series that are actual walk along shooting sessions with Jay, 2 in NYC and one in the streets of Paris. Well worth at least a monthly subscription. Nikon Df, 1/500, f/4, ISO 100 @ 50mm Fan Ho is a street photographer that shows a lot of work from Hong Kong. The work a I appreciate the most from him is his 1970's/1980's images. His work shows what is possible if you learn the area you are shooting in and have patience to allow a scene to develop. It is not all about run and gun. Sometimes you have to wait for the scene to work itself out. Just do a web search and there is a lot of his work out there for you to discover. Nikon Df, 1/500, f/4, ISO 100 @ 50mm Of course, if you said who is the most famous street photographer the majority of people are going to say Henri Cartier-Bresson. I do in fact like his images and from his work, I appreciate the inclusion of environmental components long with the expressions of the people he captured. Nikon D700, 1/400, f/5.6, ISO 800 @ 260mm Shooting Philosophy What draws me to street photography is the "realness" of it. By that, I mean that I like to capture the majority of my street photography images without the subject caring that I am there. That is not the same as being covert about it. I don't sneak or skulk about trying to get images of people or situations without them knowing about it. Olympus EM5, 1/50, f/1.8, ISO 2000 @ 17mm I always have my camera out in plain site on my Black Rapid strap. I want everyone to know that I am out there taking pictures. I feel this puts people at ease. They are also more apt to tell you up front if they don't want to be photographed and you'll avoid some angry people later on down the road. While we are on the subject of angry people, there is an old saying, "go out to make pictures, not friends". While this might seem confrontational, it really is not. What it means is go out and make pictures, do what you set out to do. It's OK if you make friends along the way, but that should not be the goal. Olympus EM5, 1/1600, f/7.1, ISO 200 @ 19mm 99% of the time, if people see you taking their picture, they are going to be indifferent about it. There are those 1% that might be curious about what you are doing or are not happy about it. There are very few situations where your personal safety or the safety of the group you are in is worth a confrontation. If deleting the image, buying someone a beer or backing off will defuse the situation, it is best to do so. As with most things in life, you want to be out shooting street photography with confidence. Go out there and shoot like you have a purpose and a mission. If it looks like you are there for a reason, most people will not question what you are doing. If you show a hesitance or try and sneak pictures then people might get the perception that you are up to no good. Don't give them a reason to doubt you or think that you have a nefarious agenda. Fuji X-E1, 1/50, f/4, ISO 1600 @ 35mm Subject matter is something very personal and different for a lot of people. I like and practice a philosophy I heard articulated by Jay Maisel, which is "go out open and empty". This means going out not necessarily with a subject or objective in mind. Instead, I go out with a vision to find something that interests me and maybe I have not seen before I captured before. I think that this type of philosophy also drives my gear requirements. A lot of time, the shot I want coalesces in front of you and you have but seconds from the time you realize what is about to happen till the time to capture the image. I don't stage shots either, I capture whatever happens. Don't get me wrong, I'm not against setting up a shot - it is just not what I prefer to do. I have been known to request portraits if I think a person is interesting and want to approach them. Again, as above, ask politely and be honest about what you are wanting to do. Most people would be happy to oblige you in your request, other times they will say no. Remember to respect the person and their space. You never know, you could run into that person in the future and they could grant you a portrait of them at that time. Gear Just about any camera can be used for street photography - but the caveat to that is this - it depends on how you shoot. I'm going to speak only to how I shoot street and the capabilities that I require for me. This is my personal preference and how I have the most success and pleasure. Fuji X-E1, 1/50, f/2, ISO 800 @ 35mm The most important factors for me in a street camera is fast operation and auto focus capability. When talking about fast operation, I mean that the camera can be turned on or awoke from sleep mode and be ready to shoot by the time the camera gets from its resting position on the sling strap to my eye. One of the things that turned me away from the Fuji X series of cameras was the amount of time it would take and reliability of turning on and waking from sleep those cameras. I had an X-E1 and there was a lot to love about that camera. Operation speed left me wanting and I lost quite a few opportunities for great shots because the camera took too long to either turn on or wake from sleep. One question you might be thinking, why not leave the camera on all the time? Short answer, battery life. With the early Fuji X cameras, battery life as not stellar, so I thought that turning off during a shooting lull would help. Not really. Allowing the camera to go to sleep was almost worse sometimes as I often had situations where the camera would not wake on half press or would take up to 2 to 3 seconds at times to show an image in the viewfinder. Olympus EM5, 1/100, f/5, ISO 2000 @ 100mm Auto focus speed and accuracy is also another top requirement. I am not one to zone focus and will only prefocus when I have to, and sometimes prefocusing is not an option. This is another area where the Fuji X failed me on several occasions. I had issues with the focus speed and at times the hunting from the CDAF system would not lock on fast enough. I will say, though that the Fuji X cameras are improving every iteration and the X-E2, X-T1 cameras are leaps and bounds better than the X-E1. I'm even experimenting with some zone focusing techniques with a Fuji X100. You never know - I may be a convert some day. Nikon Df, 1/1600, f/4, ISO 400 @ 90mm Right now, my weapons of choice for street shooting are 2 sets of kit. The first being the Nikon Df with a set of three primes - Nikon 24/2.8, 50/1.8D, and a Tamron 90/2.8. The Nikon Df is an extremely misunderstood camera and I invite anyone to really dig into getting to know it. There is a lot there and a whole lot more to love than to hate once you give it a chance. The Nikon Df is the smallest FX camera that Nikon makes. Partnered with some good primes and you have yourself a really great street shooting rig. The AF performance is great and you have a lot of control of DOF with the FX size sensor. Not to mention that you have the dynamic range and picture controls of the flagship Nikon D4 on the inside and you can see the appeal. Being a DSLR, the camera wakes from sleep or from powered off almost instantly. Olympus EM5, 1/500, f/5.7, ISO 200 @ 156mm The second kit was actually a surprise to me. I went in to the camera store one day to look to possibly pick up a Fuji X-T1 or an X100s, but ended up walking out with an Olympus OMD EM5. I, like a lot of people, was running on old information from the very first micro four thirds cameras. Yes, the sensor is smaller and you have all the differences in the shooting experience that come with it. However, Olympus has done something special with the OMD series. The wake from sleep and power on times are greatly improved over what I saw from Fuji and my past experiences with the X-E1. The AF performance is phenomenal as well, at least for the single servo AF. It is as fast if not faster than some of the DSLRs out there. I experience minimal hunting. Partner this camera body with a killer set of fast prime lenses and you have a very capable kit. My favorites are the Olympus 17/1.8 and 45/1.8 Settings Settings are probably more of interest to people than my gear selection. Let's talk about what settings I use and in which situations. These discussions will not be specific to the gear I've listed above. They are more to the situation you would be shooting in. Focus mode is AF-S. Single point, lock it in, get the shot. Every now and again, I might throw it into continuous AF, but that is very rare. Nikon D50, 1/80, f/5.6, ISO 200 @ 60mm WB is set to auto, unless I know I am going into a situation where the color cast is something I know will be extreme, then I will set it manually. RAW or JPG? Majority of the time, I'm shooting JPG. The JPG engines in modern cameras are actually pretty great, considering. I will shift over to RAW if there is a scene that I know I will need to do some extensive post processing on. Olympus EM5, 1/80, f/2.2, ISO 800 In normal, everyday "good" lighting I'm shooting in aperture priority mode. I do this because I want to have control over the depth of field of the shot. I then let the camera do the rest of the heavy lifting. In order to do this, you'll need to be in sync with your cameras metering system and know how it will see a scene. You might need to use exposure compensation or switch to manual if you run into a situation like extreme back lighting or the scenes dynamic range is more than your camera is capable of handling. For ISO, I'm shooting in auto ISO, keeping the base as slow as possible (low being ISO 50 to 200, depending on your camera). I keep the minimum shutter speed around 1/60 and the maximum ISO between 3200 and 6400 (again depending on gear). Shooting during the day is a pretty standard affair, if you thin about it as, exposure wise, it is going to be a pretty decent light to run in. The good thing about the auto ISO in this situation is going to be those times when you might step inside or need to shoot in the shadows, it can compensate for you without you needing to sacrifice your aperture setting. Olympus EM5, 1/640, f/2.8, ISO 100 Where things can get interesting is when we are wanting to shoot either dusk/dawn times or at night. Most metro areas are decently lit considering, but the light sources can trick even the best of metering systems sometimes. You also have the fact that the metering systems want to go for an 18% gray as the normal exposure - this can make the scene more exposed than you probably want. The best way, I have found for me, to control all of this is to shoot in manual. I shoot with as wide an aperture as I possibly can and still have a sufficiently large DOF, keep the shutter speed fast enough that I can still hand hold the shot for a sharp image and a clean enough ISO for a pleasing exposure. A lot of these exposures average out to be something along the lines of f/4, ISO 1600 and 1/60 shutter speed. Olympus EM5, 1/1000, f/5.6, ISO 200 @ 150mm For the setup, you can either put the camera in aperture priority mode and take some test shots, riding the exposure compensation until you see what you like - then set manual accordingly. When doing this test, try and find a scene that looks like a typical one that you will be shooting. This will give you a good ballpark to run from. If you have been shooting for a while, you might be able to get to where you need to be from manual from a few test shots. However you do it is completely up to you and no way is wrong, just different. Nikon D700, 1/250, f/4.5, ISO 400 @ 85mm If you find that you need to shoot at slower shutter speeds (lets say less than 1/60), and don't want to bring a tripod along you have options. Some cameras/lenses have image stabilization. Don't be afraid to use it. Just remember that image stabilizers help reduce camera shake from you holding the camera and it has no affect on freezing action. Shutter speed will control that. Another technique is to use poles or street signs to stabilize yourself. I hope that you found this post helpful. While I don't expect anyone to adopt what I do in total, there may be times when some of these techniques I use might come in handy or help someone get a step into doing street photography for themselves.
  2. 6 points
    My Epson V700 Photo has scanned its last neg. I had bought it after my Nikon Coolscan 8000ED stopped working and Nikon couldn't supply parts to fix it. As expensive as the Nikon was, and as affordable the Epson was, neither ever managed to consistently deliver edge-to-edge grain-focused scans - the only way to get that with the Nikon was by sandwiching the neg between glass in a glassed carrier, but even anti-Newton ring glass still produced those image-destroying interference artefacts. Lately I became aware that the graphic arts people are using LED light panels (like the illumination panels of monitor screens) as a cold backlight source for tracing and the like. They're cheap (A4 size around $20) and the light is consistent and even, and with the panels also being perfectly flat it was a no-brainer to pop one onto my copy stand and use the Sigma sd Quattro-H with 70/2.8 macro lens as the "scanner". I know this technique is nothing new, but previous contraptions of earlier times generally used globes in a lightbox arrangement which were never perfectly even, and the heat the lights generated would encourage film to warp and curl uncontrollably if not under glass (and therefore subject to Newton rings). I'm sure that others have done what I did here, but I thought it might be worthy of mentioning anyway. Anyhow, the setting up of my new "scanner" couldn't have been simpler - just mounting the camera on the copy stand as usual and plugging in the LED panel was all that it took, and I was away and scanning negs far quicker than I have ever done. I used the glassless plastic neg carriers that came with the Epson to hold the film, but should I ever get film that won't lie flat I still have the solid metal neg carriers from my Durst 1200 to keep things flat. What no neg scanner I have used has ever provided has been an ability to manually focus on the neg, or had an adjustable aperture to stop down and increase depth of field should the neg still be a bit bowed. This setup fixes those two things perfectly. What also came to light was something I had suspected for a long time - that the Epson certainly wouldn't have any lenses that could be described as first class, and the barrel distortion evident when flicking back and forth between the two clearly confirms that suspicion. As for working - well what a treat it was to get scanned negs that had crisp, sharp grain uniformly over the whole image. Recently I had taken a shot with my now defunct Pentacon Six and was disappointed that the scanned neg just didn't look sharp - I blamed my incorrect focusing or maybe slightly shaky triggering - but I wasn't at all pleased with the shot because of that softness. So I decided to compare the Epson scan with the new method, and below are the whole images in reduced size, along with two 100% sections. The results speak for themselves, I hardly need to indicate which was the Epson (first) and which the Sigma (second). Note the evenness of the grain in the Sigma scan as compared to the mush of the Epson, which clearly missed focus in its attempt. I have now copied over 60 negs and absolutely every one has been perfectly sharp corner to corner. I've never had that reliability from a scanner. ...and the setup: These 6x6cm negs deliver cropped square files of around 17MP/100MB in size, which of course is pixel-for-pixel with the Sigma, no softening interpolation as from any Bayer or X-Trans sensor being necessary. Blowing them up they easily make 24"x24" with no pixelation visible, and still hold together well at 30"x30".
  3. 4 points
    "Loyal" won line honours, beating the old record by nearly five hours, and travelling the 628 nautical miles (1,163km) in one day, 13 hours, 31 minutes and 20 seconds (a sea voyage on a sailing ship between the two cities in the 19th Century took anything from two to three weeks). Tasmania turned on typically unpredictable Hobart weather for the winner - 15°C, steady rain and dull, grey overcast even though it's the middle of summer. Two days earlier it was clear skies and mid-30's C (90's F). The stern of the winner: From the other end, with the public turning out in raincoats and umbrellas to gawk: Note the state of the two Rolex stickers on the bow - that boat must have been cutting a fearsome bow wave to rip them up like that. And then a reminder of why Tasmania is one of the best places on Earth to live - this is the Tasmanian Premier and his family after they walked right past me as I was photographing the boat, being all but ignored by everyone else, with no security, not even a sole policeman, just heading off to the food stalls as many of the other spectators were doing: Just to show the indifference to having the leader of the State amongst them, that's him in the background (in his checked shirt with half-rolled sleeves, hands in pockets), just above the sail boom of the winner by the yellow stepladder, on his own, just checking out the boats: I can't imagine too many other places where this sort of thing would be allowed to happen as a matter of course. I took both the X-T1 with a 100-400 lens and the X-T2 which I alternated the 90/2, 23/4 and 10-24. The lenses not in use I kept in my rain jacket's pockets, and the cameras slung bandoleer-style, one on each hip. Everything got wet to some degree (I was a bit more careful with the two non-WR lenses), but nothing ceased to function and I'm positive this is about as wet conditions that I'd ever spend two hours in the open with the cameras at any time, and they performed perfectly.
  4. 3 points
    Michael Erlewine is a long time member and contributor to the material found on Fotozones. 1. Tell us about your journey in photography. Where did you begin and where do you think you might end up? In 1956 my father, who was an amateur photographer loaned me one of his cameras for a six-week journey around the country with kids my age in several school buses. The camera was a Kodak Retina 2a, along with a light meter, some close-up lenses, and a small tripod. I was shooting 35mm slide film. When I came back from the trip and Dad had the rolls of film developed, he was shocked at how good they were. So, that was the beginning. I was 14 years old. I was trained as a naturalist, a herpetologist, specializing in salamanders and was very active in that until late in my teens. That also required some field-guide type of photography. I have had cameras most of my life, including early (and current) video cameras, 4K, etc. I see photography as an attempt to capture impressions. I have run a meditation center where we live since the 1980s and somewhat early-on I mixed what is called Insight Meditation with my photography, so the process of taking photos is more important to me than the resulting photos. 2. Your close-up work appears to be very technically challenging. What has been the most complex project you have done in terms of input? I once photographed 33,000 concert rock posters for a project. It took a couple of years. I built my own vacuum table and light setup, etc. Otherwise, most of my work is still life, close-up (not macro), and requires a fair amount of patience, since I sometimes stack 150 images into a single photo. I live in mid-Michigan on the edge of the Manistee National Forest, some 900,000 acres of woods, etc. We have cold winters, so I split my time being outside in the summer, but inside during most of the winter. I have a small studio in my home and a large studio about one block from where I live. 3. Of all the cameras you have used, including film, which is your favourite and why? That would be the Nikon D810, because of its low ISO of 64 and fairly-usable LiveView. I have never even used the Optical Viewfinder, except to check that it works. I specialize in APO (apochromatic) lenses, lenses that are highly corrected for the various aberrations. I also do a considerable amount of my work on technical cameras, my Nikon D810 mounted on the Cambo Actus, a small technical camera with most of the various movements, like tilt/shift and swing. I have a good-sized collection of industrial lenses, like the Printing Nikkors, Noct Nikkor, various special enlarger lenses, and the like. I also have a new Hasselblad X1d mini Medium-Format camera that looks like it is going to produce very good images, so I am working with that. 4. What gear do you recommend for somebody who perhaps would like to do macro/close up photography but isn’t able to afford the specialist exotic lenses and bellows setups? Those on a budget might do well by getting something like the Nikon 7100/7200 camera (a small DSLR) and a lens like the Micro-Nikkor 105mm VR or Micro-Nikkor 60mm lenses. I very much believe good equipment is a big help, so I am not going to tell you to just use any old camera, tripod, head, or lenses. Own something that you are proud of and that can produce really excellent images. In my opinion, that really helps. 5. What is the best piece of photographic advice you ever received that you can pass on? Follow your own sensitivities as far as creating photographic impressions. Do something that pleases you, rather than for others. Plus, post-processing usually demands more time than taking the photos. I have a number of free books, articles, and videos on photography, which are available here. Here is the best advice I know of: The poet Gerard Manley Hopkins came up with a concept that struck me as true. He even made up his own word to describe it, “inscape.” Inscape was to Hopkins an insight into the eternal or beautiful, literally the way or sign of the beautiful. Let me explain. I look forward to my trips out into the fields and woods. They offer me a chance to get my head together, to relax from the day-to-day grind of running a business and generally to relax a bit. This is not to say that just going outside and walking in nature means that I am instantly relaxed. That usually takes time. It is the same with taking photos. In the first ten minutes of a morning shoot I often don’t see all that much to photograph. This too takes time, time for me to slow down, open up, and ‘see’, to let the natural beauty all around me in. It could be that I am still filled with all the workaday-world thoughts, the things I have to do, problems, and what-have-you. It takes time for my mind to relax and let go of its constant chatter. This endless worry and thinking affects my photography. And here is where the word ‘inscape’ comes in. As I get out there and wander through the fields or wherever, I gradually start to slow down and gradually I begin to see things that are beautiful, scenes that I might actually want to photograph. Slowly my view of the natural world around me starts to open up again and I begin to view things differently. I begin to ‘see’. It takes time and usually does not happen all at once. This little pattern of leaves over here or the way the light comes through the forest canopy, grabs me just a little bit, and the chatter of my mind begins to pause and slows. As I continue to walk along, some little thing or scene appears beautiful to me; I am touched by it, however lightly at first. I gradually get distracted from my daily distractions and begin to center. I wake up. These little moments are ‘inscapes’, ways out of my mundane world of distractions and into the beauty of nature or, more accurately, back into the state of my own mind or being. As I take my time, I am able to see the beauty in things once again, and what I am seeing suddenly seems worth photographing. Like most of us, I photograph what catches my interest, what I find beautiful or worthy in the world around me. These inscapes are signals that catch my attention, and they flag me down on my busy way forward to nowhere-in-particular. These moments and signs are how I stop going nowhere, and manage to almost miraculously arrive somewhere once again, perhaps only at my own peace of mind. This is one of the functions of the beautiful, to catch us in the turmoil of life, flag us down, and induce us to pull over and take a moment of rest. Time out. These moments of inscape are different on different days, and different for different people. They represent the clues or signs that catch our attention and show us the way into the beauty of the natural world, actually into the beauty of our own mind. Another way of saying this might be: what is beauty actually? What happens when we see something beautiful? Beauty is not simply somewhere out there in nature waiting to be found, but always here within us, locked within us, we who are seeing this nature, we who can now see the beautiful. Beauty breaks down the rush of the everyday world and opens our heart a wee bit, making us vulnerable again, open to experience and input. Through natural beauty we go inside and experience the inner beauty of things, which is none other than our own inner beauty. That is what beauty is for, to be touched on, seen, so that we find once again the beauty within our own hearts that we may have lost through the distractions of our daily life. We look outside in nature to see in here, to see into our own heart once again. We can be sensitive to beauty in our photography. I would hate to tell you how many photographs I have of this or that butterfly or critter that are perfectly good photographs, but are empty of magic or meaning. They are well lit, well composed, and have everything that makes a good photograph except that ‘magic’ that keys or excites me. Instead, they are ‘pictures’ of a butterfly, but they have not captured any essence of anything. They might as well be in a field guide – snapshots in time with no meaning and for no one. The reason for this, so I tell myself, is because they just happened to be there, photographic opportunities. I saw them and I took a photograph, but at the time they did not instill or strike any particular beauty in me. This, to me, is what I call “gotcha” photography, taking a photo because I can, not because I saw beauty in it or was moved to do so. There was no inscape moment, no moment of vision – snapshots only. I find that it is really worth paying attention to what strikes me as beautiful or meaningful and photographing that, rather than just photographing the Grand Canyon because it is there or I am there. A lasting photograph, in my opinion, requires more of me than that, by definition. It has to mean something to me and, for that to happen, I need to actually be moved or inspired. Photographs that have special meaning for me usually have some form of inscape into a special moment that inspires me to capture the scene in a photo. We can wander for miles looking for something to photograph, chasing down this or that butterfly or animal… searching. Or, we can slow down and let nature herself show us the signs, the inscapes through which we can relax and begin to ‘see’ naturally and photographically once again. We can listen to our own intuition. This process of inscape, of insight into the sublime in nature (the sublime within ourselves) I find to be the key to good photography and to creating photographs that are real keepers, at least in my mind. If we don’t touch our own inner self in our work, we touch no one at all, but when we are touched by a moment, I find that others also feel this. Touch one, touch all.
  5. 3 points
    In an earlier post of photos taken with a Fuji X100, the megapixel question came up, and as this is something I've been spending a lot of time contemplating recently, I thought maybe a discussion thread was worth opening up on the subject, principally concerning the D800 and alternative approaches, or indeed needs. As some might know, owing to the improbably large files I've been generating over the past few years with multi-row stitched and focus-stacked panoramas, at the end of last year I bought a latest upspec PC, (12 cores @ 4.3GHz through 64GB RAM & SSD) which just, and I emphasize just, made working these panos taken with a D3s (i.e. 12MP files) practical. The biggest pano involved 240ºx160º field of view and comprised some 625 individual photographs, some focus stacked with up to 11 steps. It was the image that prodded me into upgrading the computer, because processing on my previous 8-core 2.66 GHz 12GB RAM machine had been impossibly slow. But the D3s has some drawbacks: it is heavy to carry, and on the Nodal Ninja Ultimate panoramic head it is imperative to use the mirror up function with at least a slow 2-count pause before releasing the shutter. There is no room in one of these sequences for even one vibration-affected frame. In a photo with moving objects and less than still air, the slowness of operation thus caused can become a real problem (this shot took 29 minutes to take, moving as quickly as I could). Of course with a slow taking sequence things like a sunrise (or sunset) become something that must be planned and prejudged exactly to even work, as the earth's rotation cannot be put on pause. I think there were close to 300 shots in this sunrise, and that it worked at all still leaves me slack-jawed (took about 12 minutes to expose moving top left to bottom right, along with a three hour return hike the evening before to work everything out so the pre-dawn setup wouldn't be guesswork): Now enter Nikon's release of the D800E. On the face of it the extra resolution & modified anti-alias filtering was oh-so appealing (though I'm not sure why, as the human eye doesn't have a 100% function), along with the draw card of its 14+ stop dynamic range. I was on the cusp of ordering one, but delayed to allow production to bed in, and this delay let the misgivings I had filed into the "do not think about" basket bubble to the surface. My supplier's attempt to interest me in a wide-angle attachment for my Fuji X100 led me on to investigate the new Fuji Pro X1, sweetened by Fuji's promise of a Leica M mount adapter, along with a plethora of 3rd party adapters for umpteen other lens mounts. So I took more interest in my X100 and tried to envision how a mirrorless rangefinder camera with a hybrid viewfinder might fit into the scheme of my "serious" photographic work. Yesterday I set up the X100 on the Nodal Ninja pano head in the backyard and did a really rough 360º spherical set of exposures (74 all-up). Focus stacking is not an option with this camera given that any "manual" focusing involves turning a focusing ring which in turn has the AF motor moving the lens, which is jerky and after-thought style stupid. However a manual focus legacy lens will not have this drawback on a Pro X1. Getting to the point of all this now was that taking the pano was simply lightning fast compared with the mirror-up~...wait~....release of the D3s. Triggered with a good old-fashioned screw-in type cable release, the only problem was not vibration (zero) but rather knowing that the camera had taken the exposure at all, the shutter being so quiet. The X1 will be louder, and this is not a bad thing in this instance. Or alternatively the sonic fake shutter sound could be set in the menu, of course. All 74 shots were completed in 5 minutes flat, including a couple of pregnant pauses where I wondered whether the shutter had gone off at all, and also fiddling with the pano head to adjust for the vertical rows. The desire for the D800E was teetering... So to image assembly - the X100 takes 12.2MP size files. The computer had no problem with this, but the end file size was still a tad over 2GB. So the 16MP Pro X1 using a similar focal length will have one of these spherical panos using a 23mm lens in at around 2.75GB, and for a D800E we're looking at around 6.6GB by simple multiplication - but probably not all that much larger if a 23mm lens was used as the sensor covers more real estate with each shot. However this is getting ridiculous for something to be printed out at a maximum of 24" high @ 288ppi, or worse, made into a quicktime pano tour web-size movie of around 1MB. Even a 44" high print would probably be over-serviced. Have you ever tried to sell a 44"x 8' print? Very small market for this. Tiny, even. As small as the print is large. If I were trying to enlarge a single frame to 34"x24" perhaps the D800E would make sense, but fact is that I rarely do this, and even when I have the D3s files have posed no real problems getting there. Sure, they might not hold up as well under inspection-glass scrutiny, but at a viewing distance of a couple of feet or more, no problems whatsoever. Even though using the same focal length might result in fewer photos needed overall with the D800E, if focus stacking each shot was part of the equation there would be the need to process these full-size D800E files, so a stack of 12 would involve churning around roughly 2.4GB of info in the form of Tiff files. A pano involving stacks from 1" to infinity would be a nightmare, but this is something I'm working on at the moment. Even though there'll be more individual stacks involved, the ~100MB Tiffs from a 16MP camera will be a lot more machine friendly than doing this with 36MP files. Same goes for HDR stacks. The backyard shot below started out at 27771 pixels wide, hammered down to 1389px if expanded by clicking on the forum thumbnail further hammered down to that shown here, so forget about judging image detail & sharpness, just take my word that both are here in spades on the original (the DR is, however, very evident, and yes, I'll paint the shed one day, after I repaint the roof and everything else that a 132 year old house needs in ongoing maintenance ): I had made a lo-res *.mov "tour" file of this but the website refused to upload it (format incompatible?) so the smudge bottom & top won't make sense, but the tripod is what's stretched along the bottom, and I didn't bother with either "nodal" shots to cover the tripod over or the zenith circle either. Edit: I'll also add this 100% section (click on it to see at it's 1000px width) to back what I said about resolution and to give perhaps a better idea of just how big this image is at its native resolution, the dam & post gives the position of this away with regard to the rest of the picture (remember, this is from a 12.2MP camera): Now the Pro X1 has allegedly got the best sensor ever seen in an APS-C format, and given the way that the X100 handled this rough & ready 360º shot covering deep shadow to straight into the sun (no planning at all, only the most cursory exposure reading & setting), I'd have no fear that the Pro X1 will be more than capable of even better. So I'll probably order one next week. Also the 23mm lens on the X100 is too wide for panos with minimal distortion (crop factors are meaningless here outside of the number of shots required, 23mm is 23mm which causes almost unacceptable anamorphic distortion in panos - or horizontal compression, to put it another way) - 35mm is my preferred focal length as a balance between anamorphic distortion and sheer numbers of photos required to cover the real estate, and thus also the end file size. So in fact we're talking even bigger unsampled end file sizes anyway... the first photograph at the top was taken with a 50mm lens to completely wipe out anamorphic distortion, which helps account for the huge number of shots required (aside from the stacking involved). Of course the smaller APS-C sensor on the Pro X1 will require even more shots to cover the same real estate were I to use a 50mm lens, and were I to contemplate a 4/3rds camera, even moreso again. So assuming a 35mm lens will be the best compromise, I have a 35/1.4 AI-s which I bought brand new at end 2010 and will fit a Pro X1 via adapter, and I possibly will nevertheless also contemplate the Fuji's "standard" 35/1.4 as well for those AF-type shots away from the pano head. Whatever, the D800E would appear to be off my shopping list now as being less practical for this sort of thing. Swings and roundabouts, nothing's ever simple, is it? Link to discussion
  6. 2 points
    Two Monday’s ago a fortnight of digital agony began as I set about upgrading the Fotozones software. Usually the software upgrades run smoothly, but in this instance it was anything but smooth. More like a ride on one of those amusement park gravity modifying apparatuses. I am told it is because I didn’t upgrade for such a long time that I ran into problems. Because of previous issues with early upgrades I guess I am averse to major changes, so upgrading software isn’t something I rush into these days. My bad. Anyway, that episode of digital nausea has passed so today I thought I would take some time out for myself to go and play with a new, old camera I got recently, but because of all the software dramas of the past fortnight, has sat on my desk looking expectantly at me like a rescue puppy might. The camera in question is the late 2013 Panasonic GM1 and 12-32mm kit lens. This is a Micro Four Thirds camera. As those of you who follow my writings and videos will already know, I recently sold the Canon 200D I got last year. I don’t have any pressing need to make more videos, but browsing through the classifieds on a local forum I saw an Olympus E-PL5 up for sale at a really keen price. I decided to get it because I actually like the Pen cameras and that model has a flip up selfie screen that would come in quite handy if I wanted to make more videos. So I got it. The cost was less than $100, but it didn’t come with a lens, so I was on the lookout for something I could use for it. I had my eyes open for the Olympus 14-42mm EZ kit lens, which isn’t found used that often. In casual conversation about my lens quest my buddy Peter mentioned to me that he was selling his Panasonic GM1 with the Panasonic 12-32mm kit lens. I wanted the lens only, but Peter made me a really good price on the body too, so I couldn’t pass it up. There went another $180 or so. I should mention that I was still up from the sale of the 200D though. What follows isn’t a review, so don’t expect any in-depth analysis, just some thoughts on cameras in general and how I got along with this particular one on my first outing with it. The GM1 is a really small camera. I mean, it’s ridiculously tiny. If I am out and about on a less than balmy day it will go into a jacket pocket without any issue. Today wasn’t exactly jacket weather, as you will see from the photos, so I put it into a larger bag (the ThinkTank Turn style 10) with some other camera stuff, just in case a Pulitzer Prize winning news moment presented itself to me, you know. I’m of the firm opinion that almost all cameras made since 2013 are good cameras. If you can’t get a great result out of a camera made after that year there can only be one (or more) of 3 factors at play. One, you have a terrible lens; two, you have terrible technique; three, somewhere along the line the camera you bought was dropped and the innards are not operating as they should. The sensors we have been getting in most cameras made after 2013 are brilliant capturing devices. You just need to know what you’re doing with them to get a good result. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that the future for camera testing outfits like Dpreview and various others who play in measurement based camera appraisal systems are probably superfluous to all but perhaps a handful of very discerning photographers these days. The attractiveness of cameras is, I think, going to come down to just how well you can integrate yourself with the way they work, not whether or not they have 18 stops of dynamic range or can blast off 100 frames in a second, or shoot at ISO values that exceed the bank balances of the average Monte Carlo resident. So, getting a good result out of your post 2013 camera is highly dependent on coming to know that camera and working with it on a regular basis. Like in my case I have been using the Olympus E-M1’s since I got my first one in late 2013 (about the time the GM1 got announced) and after nearly 5 years of professional and personal use I don’t even have to think much about it’s operation. I switch it on and if I need to make changes I know instantly where to make them. The once confusing Olympus menu system is second nature to me now. The only things I have to think about, settings-wise, are the advanced features that I have used maybe once or twice, such as the Live Time long exposure thing, or anything to do with JPG settings (which I never use). I’ve only ever owned one other Panasonic camera, the GF1, which I liked, but ended up selling because at the time I had 2 Olympus Pen cameras that I thought were just a bit easier for me to work with. Whilst Panasonic and Olympus share the same Micro Four Thirds lens mount, their approach to operating the camera itself is very different. Kind of like the differences you’d find between Windows and macOS. They both do the same thing, just differently. The Panasonic interface is, I think, very intuitive and easy to learn unlike the Olympus, which admittedly took me a while to get used to coming from Nikon. That said, I do find some things on the GM1 a bit of a fiddle. Like this morning I was trying to change the aperture (in A mode), but kept changing the exposure compensation instead. Turns out that you need to press the command dial button for compensation again to toggle it off (there is only one dial on this tiny little camera). On the Olympus Pens it’s a similar process, just slightly different. You have to press the same button, but you can program the camera to move either the aperture value or the exposure compensation when turning the dial after that button is pressed. The GM1 doesn’t have that level of customisability so if you have burned a neural pathway into your brain from using your Olympus MFT camera a certain way, getting used to a Panasonic like the GM1 might test you a little. Fortunately it’s not an insurmountable hurdle. A bit of practice will make new neural pathways. Without an EVF I found using the rear LCD in this morning’s bright conditions not too difficult. The one thing I do struggle with is the amount of icons that Panasonic show on this LCD screen. Unlike the Olympus method of putting them along the side of the LCD screen, Panasonic have most of them along the top, which together with the row on the bottom can make the screen seem very crowded. It is easy to turn the top row off though by toggling the Info button, which leaves you with the bare bones of exposure settings on the bottom. I think I will be getitng along quite nicely with the world's littlest MFT camera, in spite of the differences between it and my Olympus stable. That they use the same lenses makes it a perfect black sheep cousin. Different, but lovable all the same. Here’s some of the shots from this morning's outing. All with the 12-32mm lens, processed in Lr 7.2. I'm usually showing you photos of my city from the piers we have, so today here's a shot from the North looking towards a couple of the many we have. This is the designated fisherman's pier. It's usually inhabited by subsistence fishermen who spend most of the day (and night) with their lines in the water. There is a space between the sand and the promenade that the city is trying to keep healthy with indigenous dune vegetation we get around these parts. The beachcombers are always out there, scouring the sand for buried treasure. The promenade is modeled on Rio's famous Copacabana beach. You are allowed to ride anything on wheels along there (except for motorcycles and cars). There is an outfit that offers Segway tours. Lazy! This is one of many outdoor gyms that have sprung up around the city in the past few years. I don't know how effective those machines are, but they certainly do seem to keep the users happy. After the beachfront I took a slow drive back home, stopping off at the marina. It was low tide, so I walked out a bit. Shooting almost into the sun here, so not the best result. These tug boats appear to be chasing this Greek tanker out of the bay! Four shot panorama of what was once a vibrant watering hole, but is now sadly neglected by the city's denizens. This was where my younger son played at the Durban Blues Festival.
  7. 2 points
    From the beginning of my fascination with photography, one genre has stood out for me as being the most important of them all. That is photojournalism. I have a small collection of hard cover books by various publishers where the main subject is the history of our world as seen through the lens of the photojournalist. I can look at the images in these books for hours on end, not because the subjects are particularly interesting on their own, but because the moments in time that the images were taken are like windows into history that I wasn’t a part of. For the most part these historical images that have held my attention are seen in black and white, which as we all know was the prevailing medium of photography right up until just after I was born in the late 1960’s. Growing up at this particular junction of photographic sea change in many ways defined my perception of photography as being one where B&W belonged to the past and colour to the present. So when I look at black and white photographs I immediately associate them with what happened before I was born. Anything in colour I associate with having happened during the course of my own life. It becomes very curious to me therefore, to see images photographed up to over 160 years ago being presented in fairly accurate, modern day colour. How is this even possible? Through the process of colorization! Colourising black and white images isn’t exactly new. In the early days of photography colour was often literally painted onto the prints by artists, but as the technology involved in photographic processing has improved, it is now possible for artists to add colour to old monochromatic images using layers in Photoshop. It is for the most part still a pain staking process when done manually, but there have also been advances made in colorization mapping where algorithms determine colour replacement values for certain tones of black and white. This has allowed old WW2 footage to be recompiled into colour as seen in documentary series such as “World War II In Colour”, currently on Netflix. However, algorithmically colourised WW2 footage aside, the brilliant manual colorization of some of history’s most iconic B&W news images, as well as images of historical personalities, both revered and infamous, presented in the form of a new hard cover book entitled “Retrographic” by publishers Carpet Bombing Culture, offers us a compelling and modern window into a history we have always only seen in monochrome. I recently received a copy of the book from the publishers for review and I have been utterly engrossed in this material over the past few days. The author, Michael D. Carroll has curated some truly astonishing colorization works by several contributors, but not only has he done that, he has also written fascinating histories to accompany these photographs. Some examples of the captivating stories I have read thus far are those surrounding Colonel Custer and his famous “last stand” against the allied native Americans led by Sitting Bull (including an alternative account of the Colonel’s demise by one of the Indians who was there); the story of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the hanging of John Wilkes Booth’s co-conspirators; Butch Cassidy’s story as well as that of Calamity Jane, and the sordid demise of Oscar Wilde. In all there are 120 colorized photographs spread out over 192 pages of immersive historical moments in this collection. Some of the more famous images include those of the VJ Day kiss in Times Square (which is on the cover of the book), the Hindenburg disaster, raising the flag at Iwo Jima, Dorothea Lange’s famous image of the “Migrant Mother” at the start of the Great Depression, but for me the most striking colorized image in the entire book is that of the chilling suicide of the Vietnamese Monk setting himself alight, as captured in a Pulitzer Prize winning photograph by Malcolm Browne. The colorization by major contributor to the book, Matt Loughrey is so authentic that it looks more 1990’s than 1960’s. Photographed by Malcolm Browne in Saigon, Vietnam on June 11th 1963, image courtesy of Associated Press. Colourised by Matt Loughrey Photographed on February 19th 1945 by Joe Rosenthal courtesy of Associated Press Colourised by Matt Loughrey If you are interested in colorization of old photographs, or even if you are interested in the history of the last century and a half, this book will make a fantastic early Christmas present to yourself. I highly recommend getting it from your favourite book store.
  8. 2 points
    ThinkTank have released what I think is probably the perfect roller for the photographer who needs to travel by air with a decent amount of kit on any kind of photography excursion. As many of my readers over the years will already know, one of the biggest problems I have had since I began hosting photo safaris, is picking a suitable means of travelling with my gear on local flights. In the past I have used both the other (older) ThinkTank Airport rollers, namely the International and the Security. Both have their own strengths as conveyors of equipment, but for the most part they are also part of the problem in that they weigh a fair amount before you have even put any gear in them. These days the airlines are getting stricter with the carry on luggage limits and most of them in South Africa limit you to 7 or 8 kilos in a single carry on item for economy class seats. There is no way I would be able to get away with dragging the Airport Security V2.0 onboard a local flight as hand luggage these days. It’s a wonderful case to keep your gear safe in, but it’s not the most inconspicuous, mainly because of its size. When the cabin crew who man the gangways and plane doors see you bringing it onboard they will most definitely stop you and ask you to sky check it. The Airport International is a bit smaller than the Security, but it is still big enough to attract unwanted attention from the cabin crew. In preparation for this year’s Ultimate Big 5 Safari I was in a bit of a quandary when it came to deciding which bag I should use. On the two previous safaris I used the ThinkTank Retrospective 50 which swallows up an incredible amount of gear, including my 13” MacBook Pro and a bunch of other things like chargers, hard drives and power supplies. I like that bag a lot, but it is a bit large to carry around casually and I also had an issue a few years ago in getting it to fit in the overhead of a small plane. When fully loaded it also doesn’t easily go under the seat in front of you. My favourite and most used camera bag is the ThinkTank Retrospective 7. It can carry both of my Olympus E-M1 bodies, the Oly 50-200mm (without hood and tripod mount) and a bunch of other items I would want on the safari. However, the pouch on the rear of that bag is designed for iPads and isn’t big enough to fit my 13” laptop. Despite this I had pretty much decided that this was going to be my bag because I could always carry the laptop in its Thule case as a personal item and/or put it into that rear slip long side up. Then ThinkTank announced the Airport Advantage about 2 weeks prior to my departure. Just by looking at photos of it and watching the video on their website I knew that this would be the perfect case for me to take on safari this year. About a week or so later it arrived at my door via courier and boy was I happy to meet it! The Airport Advantage is a lot lighter and more importantly slighter in stature than the other ThinkTank Airport rollers, which means that when you look at it, it doesn’t attract any unwanted cabin crew attention. Yet this roller, in spite of this diminished appearance, possesses some sort of TARDIS-like magical power because it swallows up a lot of stuff, including some very large lenses which people coming on our safaris here in Southern African have been known to bring with them. Configuration Options Like all bags with padded dividers there are a lot of configuration options for the interior of this roller. You get a decent amount of dividers with the case too, as well as a raincoat (more about the raincoat later). The three-part telescopic handle only runs about halfway down the spine of the case so the bottom section has enough depth to accommodate the largest of DSLR’s, including gripped ones, with their big lenses attached. Typically on our safaris we find most of our guests bring two camera bodies, one main telephoto lens (the 200-400mm seems to be the most popular lens), a 70-200/2.8 and a wide angle like the 14-24/2.8, a flash, teleconverters and maybe one or two smaller lenses. So I took the opportunity on this most recent safari to see how this kind of kit would fit into the Airport Advantage. Below are some photos showing exactly how it handled a Nikon D4 with 200-400mm f/4 attached, as well as a D3s with the new 300mm f/4 PF with a 2x TC and the 70-200/2.8 on the side. I also put a Canon 7D Mk II with a 300mm f/2.8 and its hood un-reversed in there. You can see for yourself how easily it accommodates these large items and how much room is left over for other things. For my gear I had more than enough space to carry not only my 13” MacBook Pro (there’s a sleeve on the front for that), but 2 Olympus E-M1’s, the Olympus 50-200mm f/2.8-3.5 SWD, Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO, Olympus 75/1.8, Sigma 19/2.8 & 60/2.8, 2x battery chargers, 2x external hard drives, lots of cables, a back-up card reader and a whole bunch of other items like extra batteries. I even had a dedicated space for my Peak Design Slide and Leash straps. It really is quite an incredible roller! With everything packed I weighed it on the bathroom scale and it came in at around 10kgs, which is still over the official carry-on limit, but the thing is because it’s so compact it doesn’t look like a heavy bag and nobody raised an eyebrow at all on my 2 domestic flights this time around. Features While it is a truly amazing roller, there are one or two things about the Advantage that I think could be improved on. Raincoat Firstly the raincoat, like all other bag raincoats I have ever tried to use in a hurry, simply eludes me. We were out on a game drive and it started to rain, so I tried to cover it up but nothing seemed to fit logically. Eventually I just gave up and left it lying on top of the case as we made our way back to the camp. They really ought to coat these cases in something more water resistant than nylon. Maybe a lining inside the nylon would be better? Pockets The other thing that I would like to have had is an external pocket to put my travel documents in. There is a zippered recess just underneath where you can put your business cards, but it isn’t deep enough to hold much more than a passport, and even that is a bit of a wiggle to get in on its own. I think that they could put a pouch on the flap of the laptop compartment which would then make this the absolute perfect safari travel roller. Unlike the other Airport rollers I have used where there is a stretchy sleeve on the front for putting your laptop in, only to have it fall out if you’re not careful, the Advantage has a proper sleeve with a velcro flap. The sleeve doesn’t have any padding though, so if you’re going to travel with your laptop in there it’s a good idea to have some extra protection for your hardware. I use the Thule semi-hard shell for my MacBook and it survived not only a couple of hours in the overhead bins of the planes I went on, but also 12 hours of road transit between Johannesburg and the Sabi Sands. I was careful to make sure that no other bags were placed on top of it though. Handles There are handles on three sides of the Advantage which makes hoisting it into overhead bins quite easy. I like the design of the handle on the bottom of the case which also doubles as its balancing feet. A nice touch. The other top quality finish is the telescopic handle. This feels very well made. I have wondered though why ThinkTank opted to use a dual shaft handle instead of a single one on this roller. I think it may have been a better design to use a single telescopic shaft that is housed on the outside of the back instead of two shafts that use up space on the inside of the case. Perhaps v2.0 will see some of these refinements? Tripod Attachment If you are travelling with a tripod it is possible to strap one onto the side of the Advantage and Think Tank supply removable straps for you to use with the loops on the bag. Personally I always put my tripod in my checked luggage so I doubt I would use this, unless I was using the roller on a local shoot and needed to take a tripod with. Lockable Unlike the big brother Airport Security, this roller doesn’t have a built-in TSA lock but it is possible to lock it from the zipper with your own luggage lock. I have a cheap combination lock which I have no doubt any thief could probably gnaw off in a matter of seconds, but I suppose it’s better than nothing if your bag might be unattended for a short while. Wheels The wheels are super smooth to run and I put those to the test properly when I had to literally sprint through OR Tambo airport to board my flight home on time. I think Wayde Van Niekerk better watch out - this old dude can shift his molecules quickly when he needs to! Conclusion In spite of my few little nitpicks and improvement suggestions, this is by far the most useful travelling case I have ever used for my camera gear. For people coming on our safaris it’s just about all you will need to bring out not only your essential camera gear but also a fair amount of accessories and of course your computer too. I highly recommend getting one to simplify your travels with cameras. If you would like to support Fotozones please use the link below to order your Airport Advantage. A percentage of each sale is paid to us in commission AND you will also get a free gift from ThinkTank when placing your order using this link. ORDER YOUR AIRPORT ADVANTAGE HERE
  9. 2 points
    Rick Waldroup has been a member of Fotozones since practically the beginning of the original site in 2006. Over the years his photos of American street life shown on FZ have constantly fascinated us. We ask Rick 5 questions about photography and his life in this craft. 1. Tell us how you first got interested in and then later involved in photography as a professional. I was about 8 years old in the early 1960's when I received as a gift, a Kodak Instamatic type of camera. I started taking pictures of my friends and my family. I found myself wandering around my small town taking photos of people, buildings, parks, whatever I could find to photograph. I never gave much thought about why I was taking photos of such mundane scenes, it just seemed like the right thing to do. A few years later, an art teacher gave me a copy of The Americans by Robert Frank, and suddenly, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. That led to shooting for school / college newspapers and eventually shooting professionally for several newspapers in the Dallas area. In the 1980's I abruptly made a career move and started shooting architectural photography. I did this for over 20 years. I later shifted back to photojournalism and documentary / street work and that makes up the vast majority of my photography today. 2. We’ve seen your amazing work in photojournalism shown on Fotozones, what other genres of photography interest you (of any) and why? I mostly admire and follow street and documentary photographers, but I also have a deep respect and a certain fascination with personal art photography or performance art photography. Loretta Lux, Cindy Sherman, and Marie Cosindas are very inspirational to me, just to name a few. 3. The personal project work that you’ve shown us in the past is always interesting. Tell us a bit about the project process and how you work through and decide undertaking a project. I’m personally interested to know if you go out and shoot for your projects specifically or if you file work you have done into projects retro-actively? I find I am at my best when I am shooting for a particular job or project. I am focused, in tune, and usually on target as to what I want to achieve. I also find that I seem to find a deep sense of release when a project is over. At times I go out shooting with a particular project in mind, but I also hit the streets and simply shoot. what I find. I shoot multiple projects at a time. For myself, I find that this type of approach to photography is what keeps me going because my success rate or keeper rate is low, which is as it should be. "We'll Meet Again" is project that I have been working on for several years. This type of project is long-term as I do not go out and specifically shoot for it. It is a series of street portraits which is very different from my normal street photography. I find strange, unusual looking, and eccentric characters to shoot and this project involves me actually interacting with the subjects, something I almost never, ever do with my street and documentary work. "Dream City." This is another project that I would go out and specifically shoot photos for it. Being shot almost exclusively in downtown Dallas, Dream City was my attempt to capture the slightly surreal, sometimes dreamy images that can occur in everyday life in a thriving downtown area. For this particular project, I purchased a Holga lens for my digital camera and I also used a home-made set of diffusion filters to achieve the certain atmosphere that I was looking for." "Riding the Rails." Shot between August of 2008 and August 2009, Riding the Rails documents my travels on commuter trains in the Dallas / Fort Worth area. The goal of the project was to capture images of people who ride the trains and who also frequent the various trains stations. I purchased a particular camera to shoot the photos- a Ricoh GRD II. A very discrete but excellent point-and-shoot camera that proved to be perfect for the project. Almost all of the photos were shot with the GRD. This is the type of project that I go out and specifically search for scenes to shoot. 4. We’ve seen you move from being a Nikon man to a micro four thirds shooter and now back to Nikon again. What prompted the reversal and how have you found it impacting your work (if at all)? After decades of shooting professional Nikon cameras and lenses, in 2009 I decided to make the change to the micro 4/3 system. My first camera was the Panasonic GF-1 with the beautiful 20mm 1.7 lens. I was shifting away from carrying extremely heavy Nikon gear to a lighter platform with an amazing set of lenses at a very affordable cost. For the next 8 years I shot micro 4/3 cameras and lenses professionally and also for my personal work and for the most part, I loved the system. However, when the Nikon Df came out I remember visiting a local camera store and taking a look at the camera and I immediately thought that this might finally be the digital camera I have been looking for all these years. I finally changed systems just a couple of months ago. I do not know how to explain it, but I went back to my roots. I have found the Df to perform brilliantly in low light situations - something I shoot quite a bit of. It is much smaller and lighter than my last professional Nikon cameras, the D2H and D2x. I have assembled a great set of prime lenses and a couple of excellent zooms for documentary work. I am having a blast. 5. With all the changes in the technology of photography, how do you see things playing out in the next 10 years? Despite my latest fling with the past, I see the photography world constantly moving, shifting and above all, constantly inspiring people to share their images world wide. Cell phone photography is the ultimate future, until that future is replaced it does not matter. We are all connected.
  10. 2 points
    FZ: Tell us your story about photography - how did you come to be interested and then fully immersed in it? AL: I’ve always been fascinated by photography. I remember early on, my parents had an old Polaroid 600 camera that they would let me use from time to time. Couldn’t really afford more than that at the time. Fast forward a few years and I start looking for creative outlets. I couldn’t draw, paint or really - do anything artistic... at least that is what I thought. I all but gave up on anything creative. I was just documenting life with a Sony DSC-P51 point and shoot. I then met and started dating my soon to be wife. During one of our “getting to know you” dates, she asked what kind of interests I had. I mentioned photography and offered to show her some of what I had saved on the computer. I didn’t think much of it, but she really liked a lot of the images she saw and encouraged me to take it more seriously. I had the opportunity to get a good deal on a Nikon N90s and 35-70mm f/3.3-4.5 lens with SB-22 speed light. A pro photographer in my area was getting rid of some of her gear and sold the whole lot back in early 2000’s for $100. OK...I’m going to take this seriously! And I used that kit for quite a while. Saving up what I could, learning as much as I could from books and other photographers. Then in 2005, I had just enough to upgrade my camera. A brand new Nikon D50. For a short time I used the old Nikon 35-70 from the N90s. Not satisfied with the range of the lens, I spent a little more and was able to finally afford a Tamron 28-200mm f/3.8-5.6. And for a few years I shot that kit everywhere. On vacations, our pets, family events. Loving the instant feedback. My learning curve increased almost overnight. I was learning more and more everyday about photography, gear, people….it was great. I wanted something faster, and took the recommendation of many and purchased a used Nikon 50mm f/1.8D. Fast forward 2008. I’m honing my skills, getting better and confident enough to share my work outside of showing them to my wife. A co-worker talks to me about how expensive it is for senior pictures and wished there was an alternative. It spurred me to think about getting into the profession. I analysed everything, did the research and in an effort to provide the people in my area a lower cost alternative for portraits, I start my business, Best Light Photographic LLC in June 2008. Having studied many famous photographers, I took the name from a W. Eugene Smith quote, paraphrased “What is the best light? Any light that is available!” From there I got jobs, enhanced the portfolio...but made the classic mistake. I tried to be everything for everyone. I was a jack of all trades, but never had the time to master any of them. Hell, I started out as the “available light” portrait guy. Struggled on some jobs because I didn’t know understand the importance and need for getting that little SB-22 off the camera or diffused. I still had a lot to learn. With the support of my family, I pushed through and learned what I needed to learn to be successful. I enhanced my knowledge not only of the gear I would need, but of the shooting techniques, people skills, business acumen. Still going strong on the business front. Have some returning corporate clients, shoot lots of sports and events. Get some portrait work mainly during the senior school seasons. I’m actively looking for more creative ways of using photography….always moving forward, forever learning! FZ: What are the most important lessons you have learned in photography? AL: Everyone has something to teach you No matter how experienced or inexperienced a person may seem - everyone has a story to tell and a way of doing things that we can learn from. I never dismiss anyone. Even if everything they do ends up not being successful, you have the opportunity to see what mistakes they made and use that as a learning tool for yourself. As the old saying goes, we learn more from the failures than the successes. What I like as a photographer is not always going to align with what the client/viewer likes I learned quite early on that what I find as an excellent image does not always fall in line with the expectations of the client or viewer. It taught me that photography really is art and art as a subjective thing is something that we all will have a different perspective on. Doesn’t mean one person is right or wrong, just different. Don’t try to be everything to everyone (jack of all trades master of none) I tried to shoot everything under the sun when I first started out. In a way it helped me weed out those things I like to shoot from those I didn’t. The nasty side effect being, though - I stretched too thin my capabilities and often over promised and under delivered. I was decent, but not good or great. Love for the art was lost in the mindset of I have to produce and make this successful without actually defining what success was, or better yet...having a poorly formulated definition. At first, success was defined as “was I getting paid”. I retooled my thinking into, “I need to produce a product that not only does the viewer/client like...but am I proud of what I’m producing. If I put out a quality product, the jobs will come. I’m only limited by my imagination Technical perfection is something that we all can achieve. The limit is not in the gear we use or the technology. The limit is what I can imagine. Nothing is out of the realm of possibility. If I can think it, I can create it! Go Out Open and Empty and Visual Pushups - Jay Maisel Jay Maisel is probably one of my favorite street photographers producing today. I first heard about Jay when I had a KelbyOne membership and started looking around the courses for street photography videos. The courses were not about gear, exposure settings but about theory, mindset, attitude. Just all kinds of wisdom bombs, if you will. For certain jobs, I have a set plan of what I want to get, usually at the direction of a client or art director. When shooting for me, for pleasure, I remember Jay’s quote - “go out open and empty”. In a nutshell, if you go out with a preconceived notion of what you want to get - let’s say it is a bicyclist going down the street - you would spend all your time looking for that and missing out on the 20 other great things that are going on. Let the flow of the world around you pull you into a direction and capture what is given to you. Another great one from Jay, is something I still do to this day. I never leave the house without a camera of some kind. I do my daily “visual pushups”. I exercise my brain to think photographically all the time. This way I do not get stale or complacent. I credit visual pushups and street photography for enhancing my professional photography because they both have been great tools in helping me learn to read people and situations. Have anticipation for when something might happen greatly increases your chances of getting a shot not only in the street, but at an event, during a wedding or reception. I wrote a blog post about my thoughts on Jay Maisel. More in depth reading can be done at the link below if you are interested. http://bestlightphoto.blogspot.com/2013/07/words-of-wisdom-from-jay-maisel.html Develop a thick skin No one likes to be told that they suck, their work is garbage. Sometimes it is, other times it may just be misunderstood or underappreciated. No matter!! Push through the nay sayers. Use their criticism to analyse your work, enhance it….make it better...make it even more different. Only through the continual evolution of your craft and artistic vision do you grow. FZ: If you could travel anywhere tomorrow as a photojournalist to cover a story for National Geographic where would you go and why? AL: Japan. I’ve always had a pull toward the far east. Even from an early age, I would watch the Kung Fu Theater on USA channel. PBS would play Seven Samurai and other Kurosawa films. I started my formal martial arts training at the age of 10. I studied Hapkido, Shotokan, and Judo. Digging deeper into the cultures, I studied Buddism, Taoism, Zen, Chinese, Japanese and Korean culture. I always seemed to have a pull there, but never had the opportunity to go and experience it first hand. I’d love to go there and just experience the cultures from the big cities like Tokyo, to the smaller villages in the more remote prefectures. Not only would it be a great opportunity to take some great images, but I would be immersed into a culture that I know very well, but not intimately. FZ: You’ve used a lot of different camera equipment since we have known you on FZ, tell us about your favourite and least favourite gear experiences. I don’t think that I’ve had a lot of very bad experiences. Every system I’ve used has had their strengths and weaknesses and deciding between them was very difficult. If I had to pick, I’d say the most disappointing experience was with the early Fuji X system. I absolutely loved the image quality and the analog control systems. The overall system speed, auto focus speed and system quirks had me move away from it into the Micro Four Thirds camp. My favorite experiences have come from my Nikon systems. My most favorite camera of all time is the Nikon Df. It just fits my personal shooting style and ethos very well. It has a wide range of capabilities of accepting lenses from all generations of Nikon glass. Followed closely behind the Df, is the olympus PEN-F. Having used many Micro Four Thirds cameras in a personal and professional manner, the PEN-F reminds me of a mirrorless version of my Nikon Df. Most recently, I have been finding the joys in using manual focus lenses in Nikon F mount on both the Df and adapted to the Olympus PEN-F. FZ: If you could pick 5 different photos from your work to be the only ones in your portfolio, which would you chose? AL: Brian Shaw - Strongman. In the sports area, this image of one of the top Strongmen in the world, Brian Shaw, is one of my favorites. You see the power, the determination and the perceived ease at which this man dead lifted this tremendous weight. Warrior Painter. This was a spec piece, with very specific requirements from the client. This work allowed me to use my own creativity to show an artist and their personality. This is how I prefer to shoot portraits. Not just a well lit image of the subject, but showing a part of them and their personality in the finished product. The Wedding Kiss. 50 years ago, this couple married and decided to renew their vows. I was honored that they asked me to shoot their ceremony. The church gave great opportunity to use it’s colorful background to make the couples kiss memorable. The framing, lighting...everything just comes together so well. The couple loved this shot and is now living in their home as a large canvas. Zombie. A local, annual event the Zombie Walk Columbus allows those who are interested in dressing up and walking the streets as a zombie the opportunity to do so. The event collects money and canned food for donation to a local food pantry. This image captivates me as we have the out of focus foreground element with the ominous zombie having spotted me in the background. Dog In The Middle. What I think an interesting street photography shot should be. I like the monochrome conversion, the out of focus renderings as well as the depth of this image. The dog is the star, but would not be as interesting, IMHO, if the group was not encircling him.
  11. 2 points
    In this new series of articles Fotoozones poses 5 personal photography questions to some of our more well known members and contributors. In our first instalment the questions are put to one of the most popular members on our site, namely Alan Lesheim (aka @Alan7140). Question 1. Why did you pick photography as a profession? It was always going to be – I can't recall ever seriously wanting to do anything else. My mother wanted me to be a doctor, my father (who was an A-Grade motor mechanic) expressed a preference for me to become a ladies' hairdresser. I guess that paying for my mother's weekly hairdresser visits in the heyday of complex 1950's & 60's permed and bouffed-up beehives led him to conclude this to be a certain way of gaining great wealth. The conditions imposed on me to obtain their reluctant consent to my photography preference (after first trying to scare me off by offering me as a free assistant to the photographer who had his studio next to my Father's service station during my summer holidays at age 15) were that I was to achieve passes in all my subjects to qualify for the various scholarships that would be necessary to pay the fees to complete both 12th year graduation at school and then to qualify for entry to, and pay the fees for the three year tertiary course in photography at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (now renamed RMIT University). I think they thought I'd fail to meet those conditions, and also that they didn't want me to change my mind mid-stream and become what my Father referred to disparagingly as a “professional student”. The fact that I'm now at the tail end of a 46-year full-time involvement in photography is my polite middle finger extended to them for their lack of confidence in my resolve, I guess, along with my undying gratitude that they stuck to their word and never tried to talk me out of it or interfere after the decision was affirmed. Question 2. If you could go back in time to photograph one historic event what would you choose and why? Easy question for me to answer: the trial and execution of Jesus Christ. The connotations and repercussions of what accurate colour photographs of that event would have would make anything else that comes to mind trivial by comparison for the effect it might have on Western Civilisation. My bet is that in the very least there'd be a lot of artists repainting blonde hair very dark brown/black, white skin a lot, lot darker and blue eyes brown, aside from anything else that may eventuate. Question 3. Who's work in photography has influenced your style the most? This is a difficult one for me to answer, but in all honesty I have to say that there is no-one in particular that comes to mind. While there are many photographers whose work I greatly admire, to say that their work has consciously influenced the way I take photographs now would be inaccurate. I've always pretty much done my own thing, which has over the years most definitely cost me in monetary terms, but if “Photographer” is the way I define myself, then I really do just take photographs the way I see fit, and not by deliberately amalgamating styles or techniques of others to do so. That said, I can list the following photographers who I admire most: Henri Cartier-Bresson, Helmut Newton, Ansel Adams, Matthew Brady, Sally Mann, Carol Jerrems, Wolfgang Sievers, Diane Arbus, Jock Sturgess – these were the names that immediately came to mind, so I'll run with those. Probably most notable with this list is that there is no-one in that lot who is known primarily for working in colour, nor anyone who is currently at the peak of their working life (most being deceased), and that most worked large format. Read that perhaps as a disapproval of the volumes of pumped-up colour digital crap we are bombarded with daily these days if you will, for my ongoing disdain for the banal way digital as a rule renders B&W, and the approach many people now take to photographing in B&W, which is often just an originally-intended colour shot with the colour removed. I suppose I also really like and identify with the way these listed people saw the world, the way they went about recording and interpreting that through photographs, and their in-general disregard for photography as being a money-making device, but rather as being a means of expression. If that is defined as an “influence”, well that's also fine by me. Sure they all also made a living from photography, but I'd hazard that the photos they took that pleased them (and their followers) were mostly not taken with making money as being the primary objective. I guess that's been my approach as well, then, and while I'm not in the same league as these people artistically, my original motive for taking photographs was also never primarily the making of money, although that has figured large overall as it is also been my business by default. In fact it's true to point out that when I have photographed with income as a primary goal, I've usually been disappointed both from a personal satisfaction point of view and in the results obtained. Obviously, then, as a career photographer, I've endured a lot of dissatisfaction and disappointment! I can't think of any advertisement, wedding, event or other commissioned job that has left me anywhere near as satisfied as have done almost any of the myriad photos I have taken over the years that I either dreamt up or stumbled upon in my own time, and then taken in my own way for no-one other than myself as the primary audience. Walhalla, Victoria, Cemetery, 1973, Hasselblad 500C/M, Carl Zeiss 50/4 Lens. Lake Eildon, Victoria, 1983 drought. Nagaoka 5x4 Field Camera, Schneider 210/9 G-Claron Process Lens. Growling Swallet, Florentine Valley, Tasmania, 2011. Nikon D3s, 50/1.8 lens. 615 photographs in multi-row, stitched panorama, final print 8 feet long x 42" high. Elizabeth Debicki, Actor, scouting a film location , J Ward, disused Willow Court Mental Asylum, New Norfolk,Tasmania. 2015. Fuji X-T1, 56/1.2 lens. Gordon Dam, Tasmania, 2016 drought, Fuji X-T1, 100-400/4.5-5.6 lens. Question 4. Where do you see professional photography in 10 years time? I have a history of picking this sort of thing accurately (I remember describing tethered studio photography linked direct to pre-press output to my boss in 1974), but equally I have had an uncanny knack of completely failing to get in on the ground floor myself before everyone else jumped on the band wagon (the huge amounts of money usually needed to do so in the early stages being perhaps a prominent player, here). For what it's worth, then, my pick for 10 years hence will have VR as being a prime driver of the business, with a completely separate and much, much smaller parallel field running gallery-type, boutique level stills-photography-as-art-collectibles businesses, accompanied by a dedicated band of amateurs trying to crack the fields in any way they can. Whatever is left will probably have been consumed by whatever the Internet has evolved into. VR, I think, will eventually completely upend the advertising, news, wedding, portrait and fashion photography world in a way that hasn't upset the apple cart since.... well.... photography itself did. Question 5. What advice would you give somebody starting out a career in photography today? Quit and become a ladies' hairdresser. Or, failing that, get heavy and involved with VR now, and adopt advancements early. Footnote: I asked Alan to provide a selfie so that we can see the man behind the answers. He did so in fine style!
  12. 2 points
    Warning! On Fotozones we’re more interested in what we do with our camera gear, but it is also interesting to readers to know what gear works for us professional photographers and how we use it in the field. This is one of those types of posts. Looking back over the past 4 years of my dabbling with the micro four thirds system, I have used many different lenses from at least 4 different manufacturers, as well as no fewer than 8 different bodies for the system (Olympus PEN models E-P1, E-P2, E-PM2, Panasonic GF-1, Olympus OM-D models E-M5, E-M1, E-M10, E-M5 Mk II). I had a system burgeoning with different lenses and bodies, but at the beginning of this year I rationalised and got rid of a LOT of stuff. Here’s what I kept and what I have found works best for me as a professional photographer. Bodies Undoubtedly the very best body for m43 that I have had the opportunity to use so far has been the Olympus OM-D E-M1. It just seems to be able to do everything I throw at it and it produces amazing files that I have yet to find wanting in any way. I’ve shot with it up to 12,800 ISO in barely lit rooms and have been quite happy with the quality of the shots I got. Other photographers might disagree, but I don’t shoot for other photographers so their validation of what I use in my job is superfluous to my output. Apart from an issue with the rear command dial not making proper contact when adjustments are made I have had no other problems with my E-M1. The recent firmware upgrade to version 4.0 brought some new features that have improved the E-M1 in many respects, including the silent shutter and the 4K time lapse video mode. It’s a great photographic tool and the Mk II that we are all looking forward to perhaps later this year or in early 2017 has very big shoes to fill. Panasonic bodies remain a problem for me to get hold of in South Africa mainly because they are no longer officially represented here, so I haven’t tried too many of them. We have to import them ourselves and that comes with a lot of risk, particularly since there is no product support. If your camera needs fixing you have to send it back to where you got it from and that could be very expensive. I have recently been working with a videographer who has a GH-4 body and it certainly looks like a very capable camera, especially for 4K video. It has a lot of features for video that the Olympus E-M1 doesn’t have, most notable being the ability to use focus peaking while filming. When you’re shooting video professionally manual focus is a must, so that feature alone is worth the sticker price for a GH-4. I don’t know that I would buy one for stills, but I am sure it is a decent performer there too. Lenses My Wide Angle Lens Of all the wide angle lenses I have tried for the m43 system the one that I have kept and still continue to use is the Olympus 9-18mm f/4-5.6. This tiny collapsible lens is the same size as the early 14-42mm kit lenses found on many m43 combo deals but it’s got a better build. There is also one of those funky rectangular lens hoods available for it (LH-55B). I bought one but I seldom use it because most of the time I am using this lens indoors for property photography. When I am using it outdoors for landscape photography I would probably have a drop in filter kit on the lens (LEE Seven5 or Cokin) which means the lens hood doesn’t fit into the system. Another thing is that the hood can’t be reversed on the lens because of its shape, so while it may look cool it isn’t very practical. That said it’s small enough to slip into a camera bag pocket without causing a storage issue. I keep it handy, just in case. The other wide angle lenses I’ve used include the new Olympus 7-14/2.8 PRO, the older Olympus 7-14/4.0 (4/3 mount) and very briefly the Panasonic 7-14/4.0. All of them are too big for m43 and in my opinion they don’t bring that significant an improvement in image quality to be worth carrying around. The 9-18mm is tiny in comparison and offers a decently wide enough angle of view to work for me. I’d rather carry less weight than have an extra few degrees of viewing angle offered by the 7-14mm options. I also find the exaggerated perspective of the 7mm focal length to be unnatural on m43. It’s very hard to compose a scene with it. My favourite little wide angle lens is still the amazing Samyang 7.5/3.5 fisheye. I always have this lens in my camera bag. It’s about the same size as the 9-18mm, purely manual focus, but very, very sharp and contrasty, not to mention well built. Used on a mirrorless camera in A mode I haven’t had any issues with exposure at all - the cameras always seems to be able to get it right. I set the aperture ring to about 5.6 or 8.0, set the focus to infinity and everything from about 20cm to the end of the world is in focus. It opens up a lot of creative options for me. On a recent wedding I put it on an E-M1, put that on a tripod, folded it up to use like a monopod and circled the wedding dance floor while filming. I didn’t have to focus it and the footage turned out great. I did try the new Olympus 8/1.8 PRO lens, and while it is an amazing piece of glass it is very expensive compared to the $300 Samyang (I think it comes in at about $1k). It’s also much bigger and heavier than the Samyang. My General Purpose Lens There is only one lens that fits for me and its the Olympus 12-40/2.8 PRO. I can’t extoll the benefits of this lens enough. It’s ridiculously fast to auto focus, is sharp as scalpels when used wide open, has great bokeh and is also weatherproof. What more could I want? I use this guy for a lot of stuff I do, including events, PJ, portraits, interior and product work too (it focuses really close and has better bokeh than the Panasonic/Leica 45/2.8 Macro I used to own). I love this lens! It actually stopped me from getting the Olympus 12/2.0 because at 12mm it’s just as good as that Olympus premium prime lens. I don’t need more aperture for wide angle work, so while the 12/2.0 is very good indeed, it is also very expensive and doesn’t do anything else besides 12mm. My money was better spent on this lens. Telephoto Lenses The best lens in my bag that is classed as a tele is the Olympus 75/1.8 ED. Nothing is better than this lens for low light work where I have some distance between me and my subject. I use it a lot for podium speakers at events and where I want to isolate a subject from the background. I don’t use it a lot at 1.8 because the depth of field is too shallow, but at 2.0 it shines. While I haven’t used it a lot for portrait work, there’s no reason why it wouldn’t work. I would just need to get further away from the subject for framing given the narrow angle of view. The perspective is closer to the classic 85mm portrait lens used on 35mm systems, but it has the angle of view of a 150mm lens on that system. My other telephoto lens is one that has been sitting in my cupboard unused for over 18 months, but which I hauled out recently and put back into service. I don’t know why I didn’t do it sooner. It’s the Olympus 50-200/2.8-3.5 SWD (4/3 mount). It’s got the same angle of view as a Canon 100-400 lens, but it has the benefit of a larger aperture than the Canon and it is much smaller too. Without the lens hood and tripod mount it is just as nimble as the new 40-150/2.8 PRO. Upside is you can pick it up really cheap on the used market; downside is that it can only be used on the E-M1 with the PDAF sensors driving it. The SWD version works very nicely on an E-M1. I’ve been very happy with the results from this lens and will be using it much more from now on. The big plus is that it offers a wonderful range in a small package. It has excellent bokeh, much better than the sharp but nervous 40-150/2.8 PRO. Flash The Olympus FL-600R has all the remote, bounce, tilt capability of a top of the line Nikon or Canon flash unit but comes in a much smaller package. I have 2 of them that I take with me on event shoots. I use a bounce card with them in manual mode and I have had good results. I don’t use the Olympus TTL modes because they can produce quite erratic exposures when the flash is bounced. One really good feature of this unit is that it has a built-in LED light for video. It’s pretty powerful too. Working with the FL-600R can be a bit tricky if you aren’t familiar with the setup, but I suppose that’s true for any system speed light, isn’t it? And that is all I use on any shoots these days. 5 lenses, two E-M1 bodies. I get coverage all the way from fisheye up to what 35mm system users call a 400mm lens. The best part for me is that all of this gear, including the 2 flash units fits into my ThinkTank Retrospective 7 messenger bag and isn’t all that heavy.
  13. 2 points
    The island of Borneo is essentially divided into two parts – Sabah, which is Malaysian Borneo and Sarawak, which is Indonesian. In addition, the tiny nation of Brunei is squeezed into 5000 square km on the West Coast of the island. The Danum Valley Conservation Area is approximately 400 sq kilometres of virgin rainforest located on the eastern side of Sabah. The most common way of getting to the area is on a 2 and half hour drive from Lahad Datu and the only place to stay is at the Borneo Rainforest Lodge (BRL). I have been meaning to do a write-up on the place because it really was sensational and should be on your list. The Lodge: We stayed in a “deluxe” room, because we wanted a view over the river. It was worth waking early (5.45am to 6.00am) and keeping a close eye out on what is happening outside. Every morning we did this, we saw amazing stuff. No dressing up required for meals, it is a very chilled place. It is barefoot or socks only in the dining / bar area (to keep shoes & thongs, which are likely covered in mud, out). We got a private guide and it was definitely worth it. You are in control of whatever you want to see or do and when you do it. Yes, they have a plan and undirected they will follow it, but you can vary it (including time and location etc) and you certainly then control how long you do, or don’t, stay watching some particular thing / animal. If there are things you especially want to see (e.g. birds) they will focus on that. Similarly if there is something you don’t want to see (e.g. tarantula) they will avoid it! They have great, great, food at the lodge! A huge selection of both western & Malaysian. I am sure we actually put on weight despite the amount of walking. Our room was basic, but fine. There is no air conditioning, but it really is cool enough with the smart room design & fans etc. They advise you to keep the lights off if you are not there, which we did, and had no problems with bugs in the room. The lounge / dining area is pretty fancy by comparison. You could take a small umbrella to use when trekking instead of putting on a rain jacket or poncho. They have big umbrellas in each room for getting to and from the lodge area. Some kind of dry bag could be good to take walking to put bino’s or camera gear in if it rains, because when it rains, it really rains! Take a torch for night walks We swam in the river – a great swimming hole is a short walk away from the lodges. We did not see anyone else swimming, but they encourage you to do it, so it is not an issue (and we will swim anywhere). When the river is higher they give you the option of going tubing down it. There are lots of bugs, so insect repellent is a must. We only saw one leech the entire time we were there, but we also only had rain on one afternoon. It would be a very different story if it had been raining more often. We were strict about always wearing leech socks (with insect repellent sprayed around the top) when we went out, so I know this helped. Other people there either did not wear leech socks at all, or only sometimes and they sometimes got leeches and sometimes not. Trekking: We were there five days. We spoke to people who were leaving after 2 (what they had booked for, not because they didn’t like it) who said they were happy to go as they either didn’t see a lot, or had seen what they were after (I assume Orangutan). I would have happily stayed longer. The longer we were there, the more we did, the more we saw. On this theme, if you are up for it, try and get out early (say a 6.00am or 6.30am start). Not only is it cooler, but the animals are more active. You have a chance of seeing the last of the nocturnal animals going home and you see all of the day one’s starting their day and looking for food etc. A typical day is a morning walk, which is the long one, starting anywhere from 6.00am to 8.30am and getting back anywhere from around 10.30am (if you are out early) to 11.30am – so, a 3 to 4 hour walk. Follow this with lunch, a chill out, swim, reading etc and then out for another walk at 3.30pm. The afternoon walk gets you back around 5.30pm. We also did one night walk (sensational) and one night drive (we did not see much) – but I would recommend doing both. We were going to do another night drive or walk, but got caught up doing other stuff with the guides back at the lodge. The walking tracks run the gamut of boardwalk to rutted dirt and, if the guides spot something special, “off road” you go. There is a fantastic canopy walk and there are swing bridges over the rivers – scary if you are that way inclined. Sturdy shoes will give you a better experience. If it rains, they better be water proof. Some of the wildlife: Orangutan... Spiderhunter.. Grey Racer.. Crested Fireback
  14. 2 points
    Mongo was sort of lucky enough to be one of the first to get one of these in Australia. He has had it now for about a month. There is good and bad about it but mainly good (now that is). Mongo purchased it from an authorised Nikon dealer for $1700 Australian Dollars which is a very good price. AF Issues Initially, Mongo had considerable trouble with the lens. The AF seem to go “to sleep” at times and would not work unless you woke it by manually turing the focus ring or turning the camera on and off. Not really what you need when trying to catch wildlife (particularly birds in flight), sports action, aviation etc. These are the things this lens was surely designed for. The other problem Mongo noticed was that the lens seemed very slow to acquire focus on moving objects. The lens was relatively OK on stationary objects (apart from falling asleep as described above). This mystery was largely solved in two steps. First, having the “sleep issue” “fixed” with the firmware update. Secondly, by using the most appropriate VR mode. Unfortunately, Mongo had to work out the do’s and don’ts of VR on this lens largely by himself and the odd rare comment he could find on the net as the lens was still reactively new and few people had used it. It seems that “normal” mode reduced the the AF speed whereas, “sports” mode seems to have far less affect on AF speed. Unfortunately, the lens does not come with a real explanatory booklet - it only has a single open-out sheet. Mongo is all for cost saving to be able to provide this lens cheaply to customers but some information should not be skimped on. VR When you look through the viewfinder and engage “normal” VR mode, the effect is dramatic ! the movement is almost completely halted in a way Mongo has not previously experienced with other Nikon VR lenses. The claim that his lens’ VR is the best to date is probably well founded. However, as with any fast car or precision tool, you must know how to use it to get any good out of it. Mongo has determined that, “normal” mode is best used when handholding the lens and focusing on stationary objects. “Spots” mode VR should be used in all other instances including on a monopod, panning etc. Some of this information is in the instruction sheet but not all of it an not enough to have worked this out effectively in Mongo’s opinion. The combination of the above two steps have now brought the lens to a reasonable standard and one that Mongo is happy enough with and could, potentially, be very pleased with subject to further testing. However, all indications so far are that there is a little more that can be extracted from this lens and that should bring it to the that level of satisfaction. Quality Control Typically, Nikon realised the lens (in Mongo’s view) half baked and poorly tested - if at all. Untypically, Nikon came out within weeks of the lens being sold to admit there were AF issues and had a firmware update to rectify it. See: http://nikonrumors.com/2015/10/06/some-nikkor-200-500mm-f5-6e-ed-vr-lenses-have-af-issue-must-be-sent-back-to-nikon-for-service.aspx/#more-98465 So, Mongo was not wrong when he had earlier complained to Nikon that the lens had AF issues. It should be noted that Mongo noticed the problem within the first few hours of using the lens. One would have to ask how Nikon could not have notice this problem if it had carried out any credible testing. Again, as Mongo has previously stated, this should never have happened and Nikon needs to get its act together about properly testing its products before subjecting the public to them and expecting the public to be its test guinea pigs. If it does so, it may keep more of its customers and regain a lot of lost respect. If you buy a lens with a serial number greater than 2008365, the issue should already have been rectified. So, in the scheme of things, the problem was caught relatively early after the lens’ release. Build Quality & Features Mongo could go on at some length about this but it is easier to summarise it extremely good and excellent value for the money. It is solid, well built and well finished, movements are very precise (not sloppy) and no lens creep. Also, the foot on this lens is not like the 300 f4 AFS. It is , In Mongo’s opinion, it is very solid and well designed for this lens’ needs. In short, you will not have the need or urge to go out and buy an after market foot with possibly one exception. Most of us use the arca swiss attachment system and this lens does not have that feature. That is unfortunate as the foot is big enough and solid enough to have machined that profile into it. Mongo assumes this has not been done due to possible patent issues. Nonetheless, you can buy a short arca swiss plate/rail and attach it to the lens’ existing foot without any concerns. Image Quality What would you expect to get for this money in this zoom range? Well, you would have to think that it has to be at least as good as Tamron and Sigma offerings or there would be no point in making it. Mongo has only tried the Tamorn 150-600mm and found it to be a respectably good lens. He has not tried the Sigmas (although he managed to get a look at them and handle them as well as see some images from them). From that small amount of largely indirect knowledge, it seems they too are very good performers. Mongo’s analysis of the MTF charts lead him to believe that the Nikon is most closely aligned to the Sigma Sport. It would be unfair for Mongo (in these circumstances) to attempt to draw some comparison between the various lenses. So, he will comment on the Nikon more directly. The image quality is surprisingly good, indeed, very good. Even wide open at f5.6, the lens delivers sharp images with good contrast. As a habit , Mongo now largely shoots at f5.6, f6.3 and f7.1 averaging f6.3 most of the time. Even so, he finds that you may need to stop down a little more but largely for extra DOF and not for want of sharpness. This lens is small enough to fool you into forgetting it is 500mm and that you may be too close to the subject unless you add more DOF. Funny but you never seem to forget this when lugging the 600mm f4 around. It is something you will get used to quickly when using the 200-500mm. Having owned and used a Nikon 200-400 f4 VR for a few years, Mongo can say he can not tell the difference in the image quality produced by both lenses. If there is any, it could not justify 4 times the price and more than 30% more weight. The extra stop is not enough to faze Mongo either. Teleconverters Mongo must admit that, due to the other initial issues to try and get the lens right, there has been some delay in testing the teleconverters properly. Mongo had an initial try with the teleconverters before the lens was firmware updated and calibrated. Therefore, those old results are not reliable. Nonetheless, Mongo can tell you that the 1.4EII. 1.7EII and 20EIII all work with this lens although, not necessarily the AF. To break those results down, on the D800E, you get AF with the 1.4EII only but you can manually focus the other converters and the shutter releases and it all works etc. On the D4s, you get AF with the 1.4EII and the 1.7EII (which is very surprising becuase the latter combo is f9.3 wide open i.e more than f8 and theoretically the AF should not be capable of working …..but it does !). Neither body auto focus with the 20EIII. The images Mongo got from all these combos were all good to very good but read further below. While having the firmware update carried out on the lens, Mongo also asked that it also be calibrated (together with calibration of his D4s and D800E). Since getting the gear back about 10days ago, Mongo has been flat out trying to AF fine tune the lens to the camera bodies. At present , despite all having been calibrated and theoretically no AF fine tune should be needed, Mongo has found that the D800E and the lens are best at +4 AF fine tune. Accordingly, Mongo will have to calibrate each of the teleconverters with the lens and redo all the test with them. It may well be that he will get even better results than before the lens was firmware updated and calibrated. This remains to be seen. Commentary There is a thread in this forum started on 4 August. There is much speculation in it because the lens was not really around at that time to gain a real impression and feel for it. Mongo hopes his thread (here) helps clarify some of the lens’ mystery. Certainly, if Mongo were ever to go on one of those safaris he reads about, he would not hesitate to take this lens. Conclusion Nikon 200-500mm f5.6E ED VR is clearly aimed at the Tamron and Sigma competitors and despite its unfortunate troubled birth, it will make a serious indent into their market share of this approximate zoom range. Mongo would now recommend this lens. a quick sample image (view large): D800E , 200-500 @500mm, f6.3, 1/800th, ISO 2000, -0.3EV, +4 AF fine tune, monopod
  15. 2 points
    When you’re shooting product photography or other stuff in studio being able to see what you’ve just shot in the program you are actually going to edit your image in is a huge help to efficiency by taking away a lot of the to and fro between camera, card reader and computer. I used to shoot tethered in Lightroom with Nikon D700, so when I moved to Olympus it was something I missed having quite a lot. I am still not sure why Adobe don’t offer tethering for camera brands other than Nikon and Canon, but with the free Olympus Capture (OC) app it actually doesn’t matter anymore because as an Olympus E-M1 shooter you actually get much more control by using their app than you would from using Lightroom directly. I’m going to walk you through some of the features of the Olympus Capture app and explain how I use it to shoot tethered. Getting It Working The setup of the system is very simple. All you do once you have the USB cable plugged into the camera is open the app. The app will tell you whether or not you have a camera attached and whether the camera is in the tethered shooting mode. To put the E-M1 in the tethered shooting mode you need to go into the E-M1’s custom menu D and right at the bottom of that category you will find an item called USB mode. Set that to the icon that looks like a camera connected to a PC and you should be good to go. You’ll know its working when you see the live view of the E-M1 on your PC/Mac screen. There are some in-app options you can adjust that will give you control over where the images are going to be stored, either on the camera or immediately transferred to a location on the computer. This has some interesting implications that I will get to a bit later. You can change the file names too if you wish. There are also some display settings you may wish to adjust, such as if you are using multiple monitors you can display the app full screen in a designated monitor. It’s unlikely that I am going to install a larger monitor on a set, but the option is there if I want to. Actually, what I would probably do if I was shooting portraits and wanted the sitter to see their shot while they are on set and immediately after it has been taken is mirror the MacBook screen to my Apple TV and put that somewhere near the camera. A bit of a palava to set up, but it can be very helpful in directing people if they can see the frame you’re about to shoot before you shoot it. Setting up olympus Capture is a lot easier than getting the wifi to work on the Olympus Image Share app! The Graphical User Interface When it’s opened OC brings up 4 distinct windows and this is where I think there are some issues with the design. There are two small windows and 2 large windows. The two large windows are dedicated to the live view and the camera controls. In default arrangement they are as shown in the screenshot below, with the settings on the right and the large live view on the left. You can re-size the live view window but you can’t re-size the setting window. screenshot showing the system when it first connects - note the two small floating windows for Rec View and Histogram The other two windows are a live histogram and a Rec view window. The histogram window I have no use for when shooting tethered for a flash lit set because it’s displaying what it sees before the flashes fire, which makes it fairly useless in that situation. I keep it closed. I suppose if you are working with ambient lighting it would be useful if you are using it for exposure assistance, but to my mind if you’re already seeing the image on the monitor in live view you don’t really need the histogram. That’s really there to help you more when using smaller camera LCD’s that can be visually misleading at times. The other window is the view of the recorded images that you have taken while tethered. Now, I might be doing something wrong, but I can’t seem to get this window to display anything. It just says “Waiting For Request” before, during and after taking a shot. Must be a bug. There is a button on the settings window that lets you toggle the live view window on and off, but if you have the Rec view window open it is always on top of the live view window. It never disappears unless you close it entirely. Ideally I would like to be able to toggle between the live view and the recorded shots by pressing a single key and then also be able to scroll through recorded shots using the arrow keys. Hopefully a future update will address this. However, having said this, the software actually interfaces quite nicely with Lightroom by using a little trick that kind of makes sense to the way Olympus have designed the window layout between the controls and the live view. When you are setting up where to store the images that you take with OC, you can specify an Auto Import folder for Lightroom. If you have Lightroom open at the same time you can use that live view toggle button in OC to see what’s going on in Lightroom while you are still shooting. Toggle it on for your live view, toggle it off for the Lightroom captured view. This is extremely nifty design because you can resize the Lightroom side panels to be the same size as the OC camera settings window and it almost looks like it is a part of the Lightroom interface. I have the OC window on the top while I am shooting and I can toggle between the live view and whatever has been imported to Lightroom (in either develop or library mode). If I want to go into Lightroom fully I just click on the window and it sends the OC window behind and I am looking at Lightroom only. I use a hot corner in OS X to swing between open apps if I want to get back to OC. This is how I am using the app now and it works well for me like this. screenshot showing the Olympus Capture settings window with Live View Off and Lightroom in the background The import process to Lightroom takes about 10 seconds on my 2012 MacBook Pro, so it’s not unbearably slow. I’ve seen workshop videos where well known photographers who shoot tethered are waiting about the same time for their shots to appear in Lightroom or whatever they are using. Camera Controls Window Super Control Panel Just like most Olympus cameras, even going back to the now discontinued E-series, the Super Control Panel (SCP) in Olympus Capture gives you an at-a-glance grid view of all your current settings on the camera. From here you can check and change shutter speed, aperture, ISO, white balance, white balance compensation, picture mode (a camera profile), flash mode (for the onboard flash), flash power, focus mode, drive mode (single frame, burst, etc), metering mode, face recognition, image stabiliser mode and file capture mode (RAW, JPG, etc). There is also a slider for exposure compensation that you can drag between +5 and -5 EV. To change any of the values all you do is click on the relevant block and a pop-up window showing all the options available appears. Click on the value you want and it adjusts the camera for you. Simple! There is one thing it apparently can’t do and that is to change the shooting mode from whatever you have it set to on the camera (eg. manual, aperture priority, etc). Most of the time I would be using manual mode when shooting tethered, so it’s not too big a deal. RC Mode (flash) The RC mode refers to the remote control of Olympus’ flash system. Having come from Nikon’s CLS which works extremely well, I was quite surprised to learn that Olympus had also been using this system of controlling remote flashes for quite some time, in fact the E-3 even had it in place. The basic concept is the same as Nikon CLS. You place a flash on the camera and it can be set up to act as a commander to control other flashes that are set up as slaves. It’s possible to control 3 groups of flashes on a common channel from the commander and set each of them to act in a certain way. For instance, if you want to fire them under manual power (recommended), TTL or A mode, you can specify this in the RC menu on the camera. The little clip on flashes that come with the OM-D and PEN series cameras can also act as the commander for the Olympus FL-series hotshoe flashes, so when I am shooting something that doesn’t require my A/C powered strobes I grab my two FL-600R’s, set them into RC mode and play with their settings from the camera. With OC you get the same RC controls in the camera settings window on the app, so you can literally set up an unlimited bunch of FL-series flashes on a set and control everything from the computer you have tethered to your E-M1. You don’t have to go and change the power settings on the flashes yourself. You’re in complete control of everything from the computer. The FL-600R flashes may be small, but they have just as much, if not more functionality than much more expensive flashes from Canon and Nikon, including swivel, bounce and zoom heads, optical slaves built-in, LED video light and full manual controls. The only thing they don’t have is a sync port so if you’re going to use them like a strobist would (with Pocket Wizards) you may need to get an accessory hotshoe device that does have a sync port. These are available really cheap from Chinese manufacturers online. I will write an article about the FL-600R one of these days. It’s on a to-do list I have hidden away. Focusing Manually Via PC Something you gain control of with the Olympus Capture app that I never saw in Lightroom’s tethering options is manual focus of micro four thirds lenses. Yes, that’s right, you click on little left and right arrows in the interface and the computer tells the lens to focus in small, medium or large increments. It also works with 4/3rds lenses on an MMF adapter. Pretty cool to manually focus a lens without actually touching it and this would definitely be helpful for critical focus when creating stacks, for example. Activating the manual focus mode is as simple as selecting the focus mode in the Super Control Panel on the app, just like you would do it on the camera, then clicking on those focus shift buttons. Changing back to any of the other focusing modes is just as simple. You can enlarge the live view on the app to show only the area that is being focused on, which is quite handy, but… the live view is grainy, even when shown in the highest resolution mode. Don’t expect to see the same quality view you get using the camera’s LCD or EVF in magnified mode. screenshot of the magnified view - not the prettiest, but it is an enlargement of a very small area of the image Changing the focus point on the live view took me a while to figure out. You would think that using the arrow keys on the keyboard would be the most obvious way to do this, but whoever wrote the software had other ideas. To change the focus point you need to click the active point in the live view window and drag it to where you want to focus. Or you double click the place you want to focus on and it goes there instantly, but in the magnified view. A little quirky, but I can live with it. Live View Window As I mentioned earlier on in the GUI section of this guide, the live view window takes up the bulk of the screen real estate when the OC app is running. You can toggle it on and off but if you have the other two smaller windows switched on, they are always visible on top of the live view window. I find this quite annoying so I have them permanently switched off. The live view window is primarily used for framing, and making sure you have your set properly lit if you are using continuous light sources. There are some other features of the live view window that bear mentioning, so I will go through them here. Grid Display Clicking on this button displays a grid that you can customise in a myriad of different ways. This is particularly useful for compositional aids such as the rule of thirds, but you can also add other lines for more complex grids when you need them. You can choose the colour of each grid line and you can also choose whether to have them dotted or solid, horizontal or vertical. It’s possible to delete individual grid lines or drag them to different points on the axis. Where this comes in extremely handy is for shooting ranges of products that have to be framed and lined up exactly the same each time. Sure, you can lock down your tripod on a dolly (which I do) but there’s no guarantee that you won’t accidentally knock it off position when you’re moving around in studio. The customised grid lines are a silent blessing in this regard. Highlights & Shadow Warnings Pretty self-explanatory. You can toggle these on and off, but you can also specify thresholds in brightness values in the apps display settings menu. Aspect Ratio You have a choice of shooting in 5 different aspect ratios with OC. 4:3 (native), 16:9, 3:2, 1:1 and 3:4. The button on the live view window toggles between the ratios by masking off corresponding parts of the sensor’s view. It doesn’t re-size or re-sample the image at all. A point to take note of here is that if you are creating Olympus RAW files, the aspect ratio you’re shooting in is carried into Lightroom and displayed that way in both Library and Develop modes. However, as soon as you engage the crop tool you will see your full 4:3 native capture with white frames around where the recorded aspect ratio is. I find this particularly useful when I am shooting un-tethered as I have my E-M1 set up to shoot in 3:2 ratio. If while editing an image in Lightroom I find that I wish I had left a little headroom or footroom I can immediately find some by opening up the crop tool. It’s a hidden gem of a feature that micro four thirds has and it’s saved my ass many times. For tethered shooting I do the same thing, set the ratio to 3:2 (which is the most popular ratio for printing and general use). If I need to reclaim some ground I crop in Lightroom. Auto Focus Target This button is used to toggle between the various auto focus targets available on an E-M1. You can toggle visibility with this, but you can also set which of the target types you’d like to use. I normally have my camera set to use the small single AF targets, but you can choose the larger rectangles or grouped targets, or the whole array if you want. One Touch White Balance I’m kind of confused about the usefulness of this whole “one touch” white balance thing. If I understand it correctly (which is potentially a dangerous proposition), you take a RAW photograph with the camera and then select a grey point on the RAW file to set your white balance and then store that in one of 4 “one touch WB” settings. You would then apply that white balance across other images in the camera by selecting one of the 4 settings from the Super Control Panel when shooting. The OC live view window lets you do the same thing but to be honest I just don’t mess around with white balance that much. If I notice it is off in editing I use the eye-dropper tool in Lightroom to select a target and work from there. If there’s no neutral grey area in the shot I use the sliders. Anyway, it’s there for those of you who want to work that way. Level Gauge Display This button handily displays the level of the camera on top of the live view, so you can use it to make certain of being dead level on jobs that require it. Rotate Display As the name implies, if you would like to rotate the live view display by 90˚ or 180˚ use this button. This would help if you were using a second monitor to assist a person who is sitting for a portrait and you had the live view on that monitor. Or maybe you just like a slanted view of life in general? This would be useful then. Boost (Live View) Let’s just say that you’re shooting in Manual mode on a flash lit set and you are seeing things really dark in the live view (which will be the case if you are shooting at your flash sync speed to eradicate all the ambient light). Clicking this button will boost the live view so that you see what the camera thinks the scene should look like if it was correctly exposed. Micro four thirds cameras do this. They have the light meters built into the sensor which is why you can mount just about any lens from any maker on the camera with an adapter, stick it in aperture priority mode and without the camera even knowing what aperture you have selected, it will give you a pretty good exposure. I use the Samyang 7.5mm fisheye lens this way and I have never had a poor exposure from that lens. The exposure compensation indicator of the camera settings window in the app will show you that you are under exposing by X amount of stops based on the ambient light, but if you’re shooting flash that becomes irrelevant. Having this boost facility simply lets you see what’s going on in the scene and it’s very, very useful. I have this set to on all the time, unless I am working out where to place lights and need to use the modelling lights to see more or less where the reflections are going to be. It’s a simple toggle between the boost and the actual view. screenshot of the unboosted live view - note the compensation slider shows we are 3 stops under exposed with these settings screenshot showing what happens when you have Live View Boost on Preview We all know what the depth of field preview button does on a camera. It shows you how much of your image is going to be in focus when shooting at a given aperture. The preview button on the OC app does the same thing and when it’s used in conjunction with the aforementioned Boost button, you will get a very good idea of just how much of your scene is going to be in focus before you have even taken the shot, without the screen going dark (like it does on cameras with optical view finders). A handy feature. LV Close Up Mode This button will toggle you between the full scene and wherever your selected focus point is centered on. It doesn’t give you the ability to scale the view like you do on the E-M1 itself, but you can pan around the enlarged view with the cursor by clicking and dragging. It’s very helpful to determine critical focus on a point of the item being photographed, especially if you are stacking or you want a particular point to be more in focus than other points (jewellery, for example). Why Shoot Tethered? Tethering has many advantages in a photography production environment. It allows you to exercise exact control over the camera’s settings and having the image in the computer immediately lets you, the photographer, get to see what you’ve produced almost instantly. I like to use tethering in situations where I have to be exact with lighting and also where I am shooting multitudes of the same item. This is usually the case in high volume product photography which I dabble in from time to time. I’ve also used tethering in high volume portraiture before. I was once asked to shoot an entire company’s staff of about 250 people in one day for profile photos they were going to use on Yammer. Shooting directly into Lightroom on that job was quite handy because I could show the person their portrait on a bigger screen immediately. You pick up on errors much easier with this method, especially since I find myself suffering increasingly with presbyopia as I get older. Not seeing lipstick on ladies teeth by looking at the little LCD screen on a camera is a sure-fire way of giving yourself more work to do in Photoshop later. Same goes for discovering just how visible fingerprints are on shiny surfaces like jewellery. I’m really happy with the release of Olympus Capture. Discovering how easy it is to bring your output from OC directly into Lightroom while still shooting was the last swipe of the eraser against advantages the DSLR once held for me. I can now do everything I need to do with the OM-D system without constraints. If you have any questions about shooting tethered with the E-M1 and Olympus Capture please pop them in the comments section below the article and I will do my best to answer you. A quickly edited shot made in the course of writing this guide to Olympus Capture. I could probably have stacked a few images together to get more depth of field, but this was shot mainly to illustrate how I got to the lighting I wanted in a few shots just by using tethered shooting and physically holding a diffused Olympus FL-600R flash in different positions (the shots seen in the grid screen shot above the final image). I used two of these flashes with a small light tent for this shot and fired them in RC mode with manual settings selected from Olympus Capture. If I had had to rely on the rear LCD it would have taken me a lot longer because you literally don't always see the big picture that way and I would have had to put the second flash down with every shot and review. This was literally shot in a few minutes without putting it down.
  16. 2 points
    I have been on record in complaining that digital killed B&W as a truly viable monochrome end-product (unless created by extremely skilled practitioners, of course), with the interpolation of Bayer sensors and the algorithms written for "removal of colour" changing what was once a guttural, organic look that film gave to a B&W image replaced with a smoothed-out "plastic" looking image with the colour removed. the tonal response was now linear, as opposed to the "S" curve response of B&W (silver halide) film. So on Saturday, with the winter sun shining and not a cloud in the sky, I tracked down a few static subjects filled with contrast and tonal gradations, packed my two Sigma Merrill Foveon cameras along with the Fuji X-T1 and my Mamiya RZ67 film camera, along with lenses for the Fuji and Mamiya that would roughly equal the AOV of the DP1 Merrill (19mm) and DP3 Merrill (50mm) with the intent of setting up a tripod and shooting the same scene with Foveon, X-Trans and T-Max in turn, just to verify that my satisfaction with the Fuji, as far as its monochrome rendition goes, wasn't just mere wishful thinking over the battle I had had in getting a B&W result that pleased me with all my previous Bayer sensor cameras. I also threw in the Sigma Merrill cameras to confirm that while they did to a degree reproduce the classic digital "plastic" look, the tonal gradation and acutance with which they did so comes as close to matching or even exceeding a print up to 20x24 from a 5x4 film negative. As I no longer have a 5x4 camera I couldn't do a direct comparison, but I was keen to affirm that the little Merrills definitely surpassed the medium format Mamiya, which a mere decade ago was still up there with the Hasselblad, Pentax 6x7 and Rollei as the standard equipment for professional use. As they say, the best laid plans...... well, don't necessarily follow suit with preconceived outcomes. While the overall expectations were partially confirmed, it was the performance of the once-professional Mamiya RZ67 and the T-Max TMY (400 ISO) film I had loaded which gave me one heck of a jolt as to just how far digital from relatively tiny APS-C-sized sensors has come, and while I was hoping to prove that film still does B&W "better", I have to concede up-front that this is no longer true, and by a surprisingly huge margin at that. I still prefer the "look" of the non-linear tonal response, but that's where it begins and ends. So my quest to find a good used Fuji GSW 690 film camera and start shooting hand-held location and street on film again died a swift and permanent death when the scans started coming off the scanner. I think I'll put the money to far better use in buying either another lens for the Fuji X-T1, or maybe even a new Sigma DP0 Quattro. Thank you all the greedy bastards on eBay who were asking way too much for a 25+ year old obsolete film camera with absolutely nothing other than a fixed lens with inbuilt mechanical shutter, a range-finder viewfinder, a place to put a roll of film, and a shutter button and a crank to expose and wind on the film. You just saved me hundreds of dollars. Much obliged. For me, aside from maybe (very) occasional use of the RZ & RB67 cameras to consume the film I still have left in the freezer, B&W film is dead. So, to the results: I still think maybe that B&W film "looks" better, but IQ-wise the difference now is so great that no matter how good it "looks", you wouldn't intentionally use it instead of digital if you owned either a Fuji X-trans or a Sigma Foveon. The Sigma is still challenged with blowing out highlights and bedevilled absolutely awful software processing support, but the Fuji is none of that - the results are superb, the dynamic range more than adequate, and the equipment itself is a joy to use. I love holding and using that camera as much as I loved holding and using my Hasselblads over a decade ago. All photos cropped to roughly the same dimensions, resized to 1600px high, so you'll have to "click up", and better still, hit the "Click here to view full size" button after clicking up, and save them to a folder on your desktop so you can flick through them to really appreciate the differences. First image (shadow/highlight detail on a mainly monochrome subject) : Mamiya RZ67, TMY (400 ISO) film, 50/4.5 lens, f/16: Sigma DP1 Merrill 19/2.8 lens, f/11 @ 100 ISO Fuji X-T1, 10-24/4 lens @19mm, f/11, @ 200 ISO Second image (shadow/highlight detail, colour differences, vegetation and image resolution): Mamiya RZ67, 50/4.5 lens, f/16 TMY Sigma DP1 Merrill, 19/2.8, f/11 @ 100 ISO Fuji X-T1, 10-24/4 @ 19mm, f/11 @ 200 ISO Third Image (separation of many different colour shades tonally, shadow/highlights, fine detail retention) Mamiya RZ67, 180/4 lens, f/16 TMY Sigma DP3 Merrill, 50/2.8 lens, f/11 100 ISO Fuji X-T1, Zeiss Touit 50/2.8M lens, f/11 @ 200 ISO Method & conclusion: I used the digital cameras at their native resolution - the Sigmas because increased ISO is purely and obviously an amplification of the signal which adds noise, and processing the top layer only of the three-stack sensor for cleanest results distorts the colour response to that of the full three-colour layers when converted to B&W as a whole. Likewise I used the Fuji at 200 ISO to completely kill any possibility of the DR function kicking in as it can at higher than 800 ISO to dramatically increase dynamic range. The object was to see if film really does still have that legendary DR advantage. (No, it doesn't! ) I used T-Max 400 film as (1) I have the most of it left in stock , and (2) I assumed that the huge area of the 6x7 format would enjoy an unfair advantage over the minuscule APS-C sensors if used with finer-grain T-Max 100. (Wrong again! ) As I have already indicated, even allowing for the fact that a scanned negative won't be as good as a directly printed one, fact is that this is the way most negatives will be put to use these days - scanned and an inkjet print - at least that most certainly is the way that my negatives would be put to use. I have absolutely no intention of resurrecting my wet darkroom for printing, even though it is still fully assembled and operational. I've done more than my time under the amber lights over several decades, so never again...... I reckon the Fuji overall blitzes the field here - combining just the right amount of "organic" look with the superb resolution of the Fujinon and Zeiss lenses. I will now stop lamenting the past and start actively pursuing B&W again without thinking that "this would be better done with film". The Sigma can't be faulted for finesse in resolution and smooth tonal transition, but it really is hobbled by the lack of software support and its propensity to blow highlights. The Mamiya - well, that's just an antique, obsolete, collectible curiosity now. From this little exercise, I will now shut up forever about the superiority of film B&W. It isn't.
  17. 2 points
    On the three previous occasions that we have spent a week on photo safari at Little Bush Camp we have seen some pretty awesome stuff, but on this fourth occasion animal sightings got so crazy that on the last drive I dubbed it the “Magnum Opus Safari”. It was that good. I mean, not only is it a privilege to see leopards in the wild, but to see no fewer than 5 different leopards, including some cubs and a newly independent juvenile successfully hunting down a scrub hare (then playing with its food!), is really something quite remarkable. If that wasn’t enough we got to see a mother leopard in a tree with her cub eating off a fresh impala kill the mother had made the night before and then bore witness to one of the great tribulations of the bush, them losing that kill as it fell out of the tree and into the grateful jaws of a spotted hyena who had seemingly appeared out of nowhere. We had all kinds of weather on this safari too. From mild, beautiful days to incredible 42˚C heat, to wind that chased every living thing from our view, to rain and mist and then sunshine again. We saw a pack of belly-engorged hyenas fighting over the meagre remains of yet another kill stolen from a leopard. There was also a cheetah giving chase to a duiker at dusk. We sat in a river bed watching a troop of baboons playing (and procreating). There was a night-time incident between a side-striped jackal and a honey badger that we accidentally came across on one drive. Other nocturnal animals that we got to see included a civet and a bush baby. I think we also saw a caracal but I may have been delusional at that point, such was the level of excitement we had over the course of the week. Then on the final drive of our safari, while unsuccessfully trying to track another leopard, we got word on the radio that African Painted Wild Dogs had been sighted on the far eastern boundary of the reserve. What transpired next was a combination of Formula 1 meets World Rally Champs. I was in what I began calling the “Disney Seat” (aka back row) of the Land Rover and had to hold on for dear life as we sped off in that direction. It was pure adrenaline as we came across these highly endangered wild dogs and their pups. There are only something like 350 of them left in the entire Kruger National Park, so for them to have wandered onto the adjoining Sabi Sands was a true blessing. We watched the pups playing in a meadow while the adult dogs went off looking for breakfast. A few minutes later one of the adults returned to the pups, regurgitated something and they all took off at speed. We followed them (me bouncing along in the back) to where the adults were feverishly devouring an impala yearling they had taken down minutes earlier. It was a frenzy, an absolute frenzy and it took the dogs less than half an hour to demolish the entire animal! I made video a priority at great sightings on this trip. My thinking was that I stood a better chance of taking something away from the sighting if I had it on video than if I was using a series of still frames where so much more could go wrong - missed focus, missed moment, bad exposure, etc. This turned out to be a good decision because looking at some of the action stills I made, I definitely did better on the video side of things. Of course it’s in our photographic DNA to want to get great stills of a great scene, but with the video improvements we’ve seen over the past 4 years since we first started coming to Sabi Sabi, it makes a lot of sense to also explore what these new cameras are capable of video wise. I discovered that the Olympus E-M1 is great at video. It holds focus very well in challenging situations and the image stabiliser does an excellent job of keeping things steady when you aren’t using a tripod. With a good lens and a fast aperture, you’re pretty much good to go with video on the E-M1. However, in spite of the Olympus E-M1’s ability to make good HD video, I now find myself being inexorably drawn towards the Panasonic GH-4 and its 4K video engine. Yes, I know in the past I have said I have no need for 4K video and to be honest I am pretty happy with the 1080p stuff (since that’s all my current monitors will support), but the GH-4 is a giant, Godlike machine amongst videographers, so if I am going to make video a bigger part of what I do on these safaris, this would be the logical weapon of choice since it fits very well with my micro four thirds family of lenses. Damn GAS. We’ll see how this plays out, because the one thing that stands between me and the thought of becoming a video guy is that little thing that prevents me from showing you all the video right now: editing skills. That’s a giant beast to tame and I’m not quite ready to announce myself as a video shooter until I have some idea on how to handle the post aspect of production. For now though, I will share with you just a few of the many stills I am happy I got on this safari. Make sure you click them to view large versions. We’ll definitely be going back to Sabi Sabi next year for another week of this animal mayhem. Dates still have to be finalised by Pepe, but it’s looking likely to occur in late September or early October. We already have at least half the 6 available suites spoken for by returning Safarians, so if you’d like to join us all you have to do is shoot me a PM or email and I’ll send you the necessary booking forms. The juvenile leopard I am now calling Bunny Chow* takes a bite out of his well earned lunch Little Bush female and her cub eating their breakfast, moments before it dropped and the hyena below scooped it up as its own A bloody-faced hyena stops eating his stolen kill momentarily to assess whether the aggrieved Little Bush female leopard is coming after him Hyenas slather over a stolen kudu carcass Hyena silhouetted by a tracker's spotlight The sunrise in the bush The Painted African Wild dogs Satisfied Safarians! * Bunny chow is a local dish found in Durban, South Africa. It is a quarter loaf of white bread where the inner bread is scooped out and replaced with an Indian curry of your choice (not an actual bunny!). It's delicious, especially when eaten on the hood of a parked car at un-Godly hours of the night.
  18. 1 point
    Foreword: Please note that most of the pictures illustrating in this article are scanned from the original publications or past archives and were taken by the auteur during that period of 1987-2001. Sorryfor the very variable image quality since almost all my original slides have been lost or destroyed. Many people that I have known during my active fifteen years in motorsport photography were very curious about the "glamour" side of the job (assignment). But .... almost all of us (mainly men along with a few courageous women) were mainly motorsport fanatics that are loving at first auto racing and ... were dreaming to be themselves real racers. So, doing photography was may be one of the nearest ways to be involved in the sport. At that time period (1987-2001) auto racing was still a dangerous sport with frequent accidents, injuries and time to time deaths even into the smaller and local series. Race track organizations and installations were most of the time on the minimal side and security manners were crude compare to what we see today (which are almost clinically controlled). And most of us (speaking of the regulars) who were covering the whole season were freelancers often attached to the few different Canadian auto-sport publications. The search of the required credential to get free access to the site was the primary task to fulfil. In our small community of fellow’s car racing photo takers who were able to see a mix of old timers, ambitious, groupies and beginners. Sometimes we had the visit of some newspapers correspondents which were notorious for their lack of experience in that domain.  Because doing auto racing pictures is not really an easy task. It requires dedication, physical effort (most of the time for moving yourself to strategic places or simply anticipate and follow the action), good reflexes, a good sense of the environmental movement, an interpersonal involvement, persistence, to be highly auto-critical of your work, the capacity of fast learning, etc., etc.. At the end you have to remember in this nasty (translate by "competitive") world of communication that only results are counting. And what about equipment? Sorry but my little experience in that field have teach me that racing photo editors don’t give a damn of which camera or system you are actually using to do your work. But I can understand the amateurs when they are saying they cannot really make good pictures like the other fellows on the other side of the fence because they don’t have the right equipment and ... the necessary access credential. Doing auto-sport photography was a bit like war photo reporting ... but with less risks for everybody involved. But physical fitness and mental awareness were similar in many ways. Some of us love to work in staged areas, others were more adventurous. Some were well advised, others were more gamblers. Some were very PR, others were shyer. Some were egocentric person, others were very generous. I have enjoyed all the time I was part of that special group of colleagues. Sure I have encountered some difficult working situations like conflicts with officials or very adverse weather conditions (sun, rain, wind, cold, snow!) or very emotional disturbances or simply bad photo output after all these efforts. Many times we were staying at cheap motels (Rooms shared by 4-5 of us!) or in a tent or even in a car and we were eating scarcely at sponsored tents if it was possible or at infamous snack bars. We were begging for taxiing around the circuit from the different teams or circuit workers. And don’t forget we had to bring this fabulous but annoying 20-25 pounds camera bag filled with few cameras bodies, 4-5 lenses, electronic flash, exposure meter, film rolls, without forgetting the monopod for that heavy extra telephoto "dream" lens (a 300mm telephoto lens). Drinking water was another priority to be addressed for surviving around the circuit. Clothing was also an imperative to be consider. At the end you really looked as a war correspondent. And there is a lot of noise (ear plugs were a must!) surrounding you. But during the races we finally all had this adrenalin rush to perform our "duty". No time to think or postpone anything because the action was taking it all. At the end of race day program, we were totally exhausted but really proud to be part of that special group of auto racing passionate photographers. A Racing Portfolio by Daniel M Note: Most of the pictures illustrating in this article are scanned from the original publications or past archives and were taken by the auteur during that period of 1987-2001 All my thanks goes for Formula, the Canadian auto sport magazine; Pole-Position magazine; World of Wheels, Canada's auto magazine; Le Monde de l'Auto, le magazine québécois de l'automobile; Canadian Grand Prix program and to all my photo editors (Thanks to Marc, Luc, René, Philippe among all others) who have believe in my work. A special thank also to my occasional sponsor Fujifilm Canada. Jimmy Vasser: An American in Canada! For a time, Jimmy Vasser did his basic open wheels racing classes in the Canadian Formula 2000 racing circuit before graduating into USA racing circuits. Vasser is the last American born driver to win a Cart championship in 1996. He became eventually a successful Indy racing team owner. Stéphane Proulx: The gifted but uncontrollable Canadian young telegenic champion. The destiny has crushed one of the most talented auto racer of his generation. He was "mediatic" before the hour and before Jacques Villeneuve (son of Gilles). At a time, everybody wanted to be near him but finally almost everybody ignored him at the last moments of his very short life. But he was so a dashing personality even after knowing the complete story. The Fuji Photo of the Month: Every Canadian auto racing photographer wanted to get it (and the pay check of $250!). It finally happened in 1990 for the first time for a Canadian fellow (i.e. me!) and it happened again for me one year later in becoming the first one to get it twice. Thanks Fuji!  Danger around the circuit: All racing editors were loving action pictures (meaning accidents) and many racing circuits of these times were not really fully secured like today. The photographer was able to be very near the racing car at a point you were able to feel the exhaust pulsation on your shirt. Many times, I have selected a normal or semi-wide-angle lens to be able to cover all the subject. Sliding, collisions or mechanical failures like fire were popular. Many colleagues voluntarily ignored these moments for various reasons, but it was not my case. Danger was part of the auto racing context and was adding a lot of dramatic to the sport.  Elio de Angelis: This portrait snap shot have been taken in 1984 at the Canadian Grand Prix. At that time Elio de Angelis was driving for the Lotus team of Colin Chapman. He will be the last driver to win a Grand Prix race for Chapman (before his death). Then, de Angelis changed team for Brabham where he lost his life during a private test. Rain (and cold!) around the circuit: Mont Tremblant mountain circuit is reckoned for its rapid change of weather during a race weekend. During this particular event the light was so low that I have to rely on electronic flash aid and for this reason I have position myself to take side picture of the cars preventing that way to disturb the drivers. Another rainy picture shooting with the "King" Richard Spénard at the Trois-Rivières Grand Prix. Spénard was one of the most experimented Canadian racing drivers of its time. I was talented but also a very generous fellow racing teacher. Greg Moore: Another Canadian sensation young racer that everybody was hoping the best. His short live ended during a Cart Championship race at Fontana, California in 1999. Jacques Villeneuve (Jr): He may be the best Canadian racing driver who was able to win the Indianapolis 500 race, the Cart championship and the Formula 1 Grand Prix season championship (against Michael Schumacher among others) in only three years’ time! He was certainly gifted as a natural driver, but he was also very clever. And he has a charming attitude toward press and photograph people. He can be also a very independent guy that may have affected negatively in the last part of his racing career. Patrick Carpentier, the next "Villeneuve"? Hopes were high right from the start. Carpentier manage to make a professional racer living in the USA before becoming a tv commentator and an enthusiasm race ambassador in Canada. And other fine Canadian auto racers: David Empringham Martin Guimont Claude Bourbonnais Didier Schraenen Michael Valiante Isabelle Roy leading a front pack of astonished guys! My last published racing picture in November 2001: Certainly not my best one but in some way, it announced that change has to occur into the auto racing world if they want to survive. The introduction of women in the sport has to be a real changing factor but seventeen years later it still has to be seen as a general evolution. A special thanks for all the people who have supported me along these years of freelance motorsport photography and more specially to my wife Manon who has understood and encourage my passion for this sport. And a special thanks to Dallas who patiently has worked a lot to reconfigure this article!
  19. 1 point
    The Cayo Largo Island has been (and still is) a frequent destination for recharging your frozen batteries affected by our long Canadian winter season. Located south of the main island of Cuba into the Gulf of Mexico, this idealistic place is share by people in search of calm, of nice long white sandy beaches and of friendly Cuban people. Although many hotels installations are now more on the rustic side because the buildings are suffering a lot into the southern weather since the island seems not to have a lot of material resources to refresh them properly, vacationers from Canada and other countries are coming back year after year and some are paying visits for even a more frequent pace over the year! We know now that there is very few probabilities that the island of Cayo Largo will be ever "americanized" in any ways in the near future. The Italian travel agencies seem to be the only ones really interested to invest on the island and have created a group of specific resorts strictly controlled and only available for their clientele. I am particularly fascinated by the architectural point of view of many earlier buildings since they represent a kind of merging of the hispanic heritage blended into the Cuban modern way of building back in the 1980s and 1990s. And because it has not been reproduced in the last twenty years, it may be important to preserve some image temoignages of what may disappear in mid-term. All the pictures of this articles have been taken with the Fujifilm X-T20 camera and the Fujinon XF 18-55mm F2.8-4 R LM OIS lens.
  20. 1 point
    In my seemingly never ending quest for smaller and lighter gear for my street photography, I recently acquired a slightly used Nikon Coolpix A compact camera. I had previously been shooting with M4/3 gear, specifically Panasonic cameras. The A was introduced in June 2013. It features an APS-C DX 16.2 megapixel sensor in a very small, compact package. It comes with a fixed 28mm (35mm equivalent) f/2.8 lens. The camera has a shutter speed range of 30 seconds to 1/2000 and the ISO can be set from 100 to 6400, with two extensions available- 12,800 and 25,600. While I rarely shoot anything beyond 3200, I have tried the 12,800 setting and the results were really astonishing- very clean and usable images. My settings for the camera are the same ones I have used on all film and digital cameras I have used in the past- I shoot in aperture priority with center-weighted metering. I set the lens to autofocus about 50% of the time. The rest of the time I switch the lens to manual focus, set the lens to f/11, and zone focus by manually focusing the lens on an object about 6 feet away- anything from about 4 feet away and beyond is in focus. The biggest adjustment I had to make when I first got the camera was learning to use a screen to compose the shots with instead of some sort of viewfinder. In the past I had always used some type of viewfinder, whether it be optical or electronic. Plus, in very bright sunlight, the screen on the back of the camera can be difficult to use, so I promptly purchased an Xpro Viewfinder III for the camera. This is an extremely well-made optical bright-line viewfinder with markings for 28, 35, and 45mm lenses. This viewfinder is a real bargain compared to the Nikon viewfinder, which can cost as much as $300.00. The XPro viewfinder is approximately $75.00. I also added a Nikon lens hood which snaps into a ring that surrounds the lens. Using the camera on the streets has truly been a liberating experience. The fixed 28mm lens is just about perfect for street photography. I tend to compose the shots a bit differently than I had previously and the small, compact size of the camera means that I virtually take it with me everywhere I go. A lot of times, I do not carry any type of bag or pouch for the camera- I simply hang the camera around my neck (something I never did previously), stuff an extra battery and memory card in my pocket, and then I am off to explore and see what I can find. In the next few weeks I will be publishing an article about another type of camera I will be experimenting with- street photography using a large format 8x10 pinhole film camera. I will be scanning the 8x10 black-and-white contact prints using an Epson flat-bed scanner. I do not know what the results are going to be using such a large and slow camera for street photography, but I do know one thing- it should be a lot of fun. Stay tuned for the results. Pacific Street - Dallas, Texas Elm Street - Dallas, Texas Animas Street - Trinidad, Colorado The Eye - Commerce Street - Dallas, Texas Houston Street - Dallas, Texas El Dorado Motel - Fort Worth, Texas NW 4th Street - Fort Worth, Texas Main Street - Dallas, Texas Pegasus Plaza - Dallas, Texas
  21. 1 point
    As a focus stacker, I especially like the tilt in tilt/shift lenses and the reason is that by using tilt I can compress the area that needs to be stacked enormously and thus get more in focus using less layers. I had all three of the main Nikon PC lenses (24mm, 45mm, 85mm) early on, but lost interest in them because the quality of the lens was not corrected enough for my taste and they were physically too limiting at times. I liked the 45mm PC the best. I even have one of those small macro-tilt adapters for nikon that provides 8-degrees of tilt only, but rotates 360-degrees. It actually works and is the least expensive way to get tilt on a Nikon that I know of. But mostly my interest in tilt has been in view cameras. I have had a number of view cameras, ranging from big 14 pounders to little miniature view cameras that still had all the movements, but were too frail for real work with a DSLR. And I still have the Novoflex BALPRO system, which is poorly designed IMO, but offers some movements. And of course there is the view camera system I use the most, the Cambo Actus Mini, of which I have a streamlined version. What a great system for my work! And I have taken a number of these view cameras into the field, but have found them pretty awkward, yet have done it just the same. However, I have not done it THAT often because they can be a pain. What if I told you there was a robust, small, view camera that I would not hesitate to take outside and into the field. You might ask: why do that when the wind (in the flat-state I live in -- Michigan) is almost always present and this would prevent any large focus stacks. I hear you, but that’s not the point here. With a small view camera, if it was really small and compact, I could us the tilt feature to compress what needs to be stacked in a single shot. Or, I could create what I call “short stacks,” taking a few close-focus images at key points in the image and stacking just those, perhaps three or four layers. But there is something more useful than that, which is the reason I am writing this piece. When the Hartblei Superrotator Macro 120mm F4 TS came along, I could see that at heart this lens is a tiny view camera all wrapped in a lens and one with a very small vertical component (no more than just mounting a lens), making it relatively easy to carry around and still have some of the main movements that I like in view cameras plus some unique features of its own. Perhaps the Hartblei Macro 120mm is not purposely designed for stacking in the field, but why not? I don’t find that this discourages me. What it does offer is the ability (through Tilt and Shift) to add depth-of-field to a shot, if need be, in a one-off photo. I may not have time (or the wind prevents) to make large stacks, but I can independently rotate to tilt and/or shift the lens to maximize the depth-of-field in a single shot or a short-stack in just a few seconds. The result is I get more depth-of-field by the tilt and shift than I otherwise would. In my work, every little angle counts. And it is this capability that makes this rather complex lens system worthwhile in the field as well as the studio. It shines in the studio! It is a heavy lens, but not as heavy and cumbersome as any of the view-camera systems I have otherwise used with equal features. The Hartblei 120mm Superrotator uses a sturdy collar that mounts directly to the tripod via an Arca-Swiss plate so that the Nikon D850 hangs off the back of the collar mount and the heavy lens hangs from the collar and does not hang on the camera flange. This is very important for a 2 lb. lens. The lens kit also comes with a side-focus wheel which provides 2:1 fine-focusing, much like the focus-pullers I am familiar with in video work. And the lens is called a “superrotator” has three rotations: (1) Rotation Collar (horizontal/vertical) (2) 360-degree Rotation Shift Movements (3) 360-degree Rotation Tilt Movements These rotations are each 360-degrees by increments (all the way around) and the shift and tilt rings can be used independently of one another in any combination. This feature, which is very desirable, is unlike any lens I have ever gotten my hands on and it is no kludge, but very well made and it works smoothly. As for the lens itself, this is the same 120mm Zeiss macro lens that Hasselblad has successfully used for many years, the “Zeiss Macro Planar 120mm CFI/CFE” of the Hasselblad last build. It has been thoroughly vetted and reviewed, so it is a known entity. And the lens itself has two separate focusing helicoids, a ring to get from infinity to 1.2m (170-degrees focus throw) and a second ring for close focus 1.2m to 75cm (160-degrees focus throw). In addition, there is a side focus which allows 2:1 fine-focusing. As a focus stacker, this is right up my alley. And I am told that this Zeiss lens has the best coating on the market; the blue channel is about 15-20% denser than other lenses. However, it’s true that the Zeiss lens used in the Hartblei implementation is not as well corrected as some of my exotic APO lenses, but most of those APO lenses have no infinity, are VERY restricted in their range, have very old coatings, odd-ball mounts, and so on. The Hartblei 120mm looks to be an all-around general purpose lens and not just a specialized lens, although it is special indeed. This particular Zeiss 120mm Macro Lens is well known and has been a feature of the Hasselblad system for many years, so we know what it is and isn’t. And while the optics may be slightly old fashioned, it is certainly fine enough, especially as Hartblei has configured it. Given its very low vertical profile, the sturdy tripod collar, and the refinement of the side-focus wheel, what you have here is a miniature view camera built into a lens, ready and able to work well in the field where I find it can be difficult to cart a larger view-camera system. This lens may have to be used stopped down more than I would like, but it’s portable and for stacking some photos, I can also take a shot wide open to get whatever bokeh I can and feather that in with the main stacked image shot at higher f-stops, if needs be. What is at least a psycho-social barrier is the price of the lens, which is over $5k. Ouch! For me, I am kind of used to high prices and I just have to sell a few more of the lenses I don’t use much. LOL. The Zeiss Otus lenses cost a lot and many of the lenses I most use do also, I guess that’s the price of admission. With the Hartblei Superrotator 120mm, what you do get is a lens of known quality (the famous Zeiss Macro Planar 120mm CFi/CFe), a strong tripod color, a very helpful side focus system, plus the (and let’s use their word) three “Superrotators.” As mentioned earlier, I have had all three Nikon PC lenses (24mm, 45mm, 85mm) and their physical restrictions and too much chromatic aberration make them pretty-much unusable for my work. There is a learning curve with the Superrotator 120mm lens. There is a lot of functionality packed into a small package, in particular getting used to the three rotations. It’s a lot like the old test of patting your head and rubbing your tummy at the same time. And the little release buttons for the rotations are not totally easy to hold down and do the rotation at the same time. For my work, I probably will use the same (or a similar) setup each time, so this may not be a big problem. Also, I have to learn to recognize where the tilt is, since unlike most PC lenses, where the lens tilts, in the 120mm Superrotator it is the camera body that tilts. After all, the lens packs almost a complete view camera, with all of the main movements that I need, into a tiny (albeit a somewhat heavy) package. And while I may not use this lens all that much in the studio because I have so many temperamental exotic APO lenses on hand, I will take the Hartblei Superrotator 120mm f/4 lens into the field where it is just a single lens, albeit a heavy one, and get many of the movements I like and find in the standard view camera. I would like to hear from other owners of this particular lens. Here are a couple of photos, one with the camera setup and a first image with the Nikon D850 with the Hartblei Superrotator. This shot focuses on the leaves and the flower is not stacked.
  22. 1 point
    Choosing Your Gear Gear can be a seductive thing for photographers. There’s this misconception amongst most newcomers to photography that without the pro gear they will not be able to make professional images. It’s simply not true. Granted, the pro gear will give you better optical quality and perhaps more bells and whistles, but as far as image quality goes, it all comes down to how you use it to make whatever images you’re trying to make. I’ve seen photographers with the very best gear available making the most banal and pointless images and I have seen photographers using the most rudimentary gear make some of the most spectacular images simply because they knew how to get the best out of the gear they have and they exercised an often ignored or under-developed human quality, namely vision. Unless you’re obsessed with pixels and bokeh and flare and optical aberrations, you will be quite capable of making exceptional images with even the most modest of equipment. Sure, we all want to have the very best, but getting there needs to be a carefully plotted course of needs versus wants. The trap I fell into when I was first starting out in photography was convincing myself that unless I had that Nikon F5 or that 80-200mm f/2.8 lens I would never make great photos. And so began a very long and financially crippling obsession with gear. I went from a nikon F60 to a Nikon F5 in the space of 2 years (with a lot of others inbetween). Then I decided that I had to change brands, so I sold all my Nikon stuff and bought Canon digital stuff. Then Canon kept bringing out better digital bodies and I couldn’t afford them, so I ended up selling the Canon stuff and bought more new Nikon stuff. I got poor really quickly and my photography didn't improve at all. I was focusing more on gear and less on subject matter. And that problem dogged me for much of my life as a photographer. I was never happy with my gear. I think I am now finally at a place where I have more gear than I will ever be able to appreciate and I am very happy with it. I also find myself less distracted by the newest camera and lens releases because I am happy with what I have. I also know now what it is I want to do with the gear I have and as a result my vision is starting to come through in what I shoot for myself. As David duChemin preaches, “Gear is good, vision is better.” and that is a credo I am striving to live by these days. We have to find a balance between those things. Okay, so with all that preamble said, what gear should somebody who is new to photography be looking to invest in? This is a very genre specific question and it’s something I get asked a lot by many people who are taking an interest in photography for the first time. I've approached this lesson with that person in mind. The first thing you need to ask yourself is this: What types of photos do I want to take? The answer to this question will give you a starting point on the map of gear acquisition. Most of the people who ask me for recommendations are not really serious photographers, but they would like to buy equipment that they can take on holiday, or use to photograph their kids playing sports and use without too much fuss. They don't want to know about f/stops and dynamic range. They basically want the Swiss Army Knife of cameras. There are a lot of entry level cameras to choose from and these days there are very few being made that aren’t producing amazing image quality at a variety of different applications. I actually can’t (and don’t) keep up with the camera releases at the bottom end of the market, simply because there are new ones out every time I open my myYahoo page and look at the RSS feeds I have there from a number of camera review sites. We are certainly spoiled for choice and I suppose it’s like trying to get a handle of what new smartphone to buy these days. A minefield awaits. For Casual Photographers Brand wise there are the two main players, namely Nikon and Canon. Both of these companies have been around for a long time and have built up formidable lens and flash systems around their products. They have cameras at every level of user proficiency and you can go crazy trying to decide which lenses you should buy. A lot of the lower end Canon and Nikon cameras will often be sold with bundled kit lenses, such as the 18-55mm and 55-200mm zoom lenses. I don’t have too much experience with these lenses but on the lower end cameras they certainly give you a wide range of options photographically. You get a moderate wide angle for the times you want to go on holiday and take wider shots, plus you have a telephoto lens that you can use to photograph kids playing soccer or other sports. I would happily recommend these kits to those people who are probably never going to become serious photographers, but who want those Swiss Army Knife features. The systems are affordable and you will seldom have any difficulty reselling them later because everybody knows those brands are the ones the pros use. There are other brands to look at, including Sony, Samsung, Pentax, Fujifilm and the system I am now using, Micro Four thirds, which is supported by Olympus and Panasonic. However, apart from the Micro Four Thirds system which has models in all the user segments, the other brands are slanted more towards intermediate users and this is reflected in the pricing of those systems. There are very few sub-$1k systems available from those brands. The Sony, Samsung and Fujifilm ranges in particular are still evolving, especially on the mirrorless front, so the pricing of those products is more in the $1-2k range. There are also much smaller markets in the west for these emerging brands than there are for the two big players, so reselling could be an issue later on. For the casual photographer therefore I would look at the entry level DSLR options from Canon or Nikon. You can build onto those systems easily and there are lots of lenses and bodies available to buy second hand. For Serious Photographers This is where it starts to get a little tougher to make recommendations, mainly because there are so many more options and the choice of brand and format becomes more of a factor to consider. As I mentioned at the beginning of this lesson, I started on Nikon, moved to Canon and then moved back to Nikon, before now settling on Olympus. Somewhere inbetween there was a brief, but voracious love affair with Leica (a brand that I don’t think any intermediate photographer is going to want to dip their toes into just yet). My takeaway from using all those systems is that they all have their plusses and minuses. They all do the same thing at the end of the day too. Make photographs. The serious photographer should have in his or her mind, before even deciding on a camera system, what kinds of photographs they want to make. This will make it easier to pick a system. Are you looking to do wedding photography? Do you want to do photo-journalism? How about landscapes, portraits or macro photography? Will you be getting into flash photography? Are you going to be printing really large prints? All of the main systems will give you gear that will enable you to do those types of photography, so you need to look at each system very carefully and decide what is most important to the kind of work you want to do. Let’s look at bodies first. DSLR Bodies Canon and Nikon have concentrated their camera business on the DSLR format. If you don’t know what that means, basically it is an abbreviation for digital single lens reflex. The light enters the camera through the lens, bounces off a mirror that is positioned at 45˚ in front of the sensor, is then reflected onto a focusing screen and then either by prism or other mirrors is inverted into a viewfinder that you look through to frame your photos. When you press the shutter button to take a shot the mirror flips up, the shutter opens and the sensor is exposed to light, which is then converted into a digital image that gets stored on the memory card. It’s a complex system that has some advantages, but also has some disadvantages for photography. More on that in a bit. Within the DSLR eco-system of the two main players are a couple of different sensor sizes. There is what is commonly (and irritatingly incorrectly) referred to as “full frame” sensors, which are based on the traditional 35mm film system of old, and there are what is known as APS-C sensors. The APS-C sensors are smaller sensors that are a crop of the traditional 35mm frame. The Nikon system refers to these two different sized sensors as FX (full format) and DX (cropped format). Canon don’t bother with a designation like this, which can make it a little difficult to pick out the full format and crop format models from their lines. Both manufacturers make lenses for each of the formats, but because both formats use the same size lens mount, it is possible to use lenses designed for the larger format on the smaller format. It’s also possible to put lenses for the smaller format onto larger format cameras but the image circle is reduced and as such the frame isn’t fully covered with those lenses. Nikon FX cameras deal with this by masking off the parts of the frame that are not covered and essentially make a photo with less pixels using the centre part of the frame. I’m not sure if the Canon system does the same thing, but what I can tell you is that there are not all that many APS-C lenses designed for serious use as there were at the beginning of the DSLR revolution when we didn’t have the full format 35mm sensors. Nikon seem to have pretty much stopped developing DX lenses and have turned their attention to updating their extensive range of FX lenses. Nikon are also bringing out more and more cheaper FX bodies these days, so for the serious photographer I would suggest looking at the 35mm full format bodies rather than the APS-C ones. You can pick them up at decent prices second hand, especially the older top end pro bodies like the Nikon D3 and Canon 1DS. I just saw a Canon 1DS Mk3 selling locally for the equivalent of about $1100k. That’s a very, very nice camera that offers a 21MP sensor and a full range of features that a pro would use. However, having said that, there is a benefit for wildlife photographers in using the APS-C formats mainly because you have a couple of benefits when using telephoto lenses designed for the full format on these crop format bodies. What happens is that because the crop format is only reading the central part of the image circle, the often less optically pure outer edges of the projection onto the sensor are cropped off, meaning that from edge to edge of the cropped frame you will see less light fall off and also sharper corners. The other major benefit is that you get what appears like a closer view of your subject than would be the case if you were using the same lens on the full format. In layman’s terms you get a tighter view of a subject. I will go into more detail on this in another lesson, but suffice to say that wildlife photographers prefer the smaller sensor size because of these factors. Some DSLR’s are better at some things than other DSLR’s are. For instance, if you are aiming your creativity at the studio photography, or landscape side of things, you don’t need a DSLR that shoots at 10 frames per second or needs to track focus of low flying aerobatic aircrafts. Your needs will be perfectly suited with a higher resolution sensor that you can shoot at lower ISO values. Similarly, if you are intending to become the next Al Bello of the sports photography world you are not going to be well served with a camera that only shoots at 5 frames per second and starts producing more noise than a death metal band at moderate ISO values like 1600 (I’ll get into more detail on these issues in other lessons). These are camera specs and traits that you will need to research online. There are many, many sites out there that provide free equipment reviews. Wherever possible it’s a really good idea to rent the kind of camera you would like to use to see if it is going to fit with the type of work you want to produce. DSLR Advantages: lots of bodies and lenses to choose from good resale from the main brands covers most photographic needs adequately excellent battery life DSLR Disadvantages: Mostly quite large and heavy bodies lenses are big pro level gear is hugely expensive optical viewfinders are not always practical sensors attract a lot of dust Mirrorless Bodies We now live in an age where mirrorless cameras have fully come into the serious photographers sphere of interest and this has sparked many an online debate as to whether a DSLR is actually advantageous in any way to mirrorless cameras. Personally I have completely moved away from DSLR’s to mirrorless cameras, but for many other photographers the mirrorless cameras don’t quite break the hold that DSLR’s have on their needs just yet. Let’s first have a look at what a mirrorless camera is. As the name implies mirrorless cameras don’t have that 45˚ angled mirror in front of the shutter. When you take the lens off a mirrorless camera you stare directly at the sensor, which can be a little unnerving at first. The imaging process is slightly different to that of a DSLR. What happens is that because the sensor is always exposed to light and there is no complex optical system of prisms and mirrors to bounce the light up into an optical view finder, the mirrorless cameras make use of electronic view finders (EVF’s). The live view that is being picked up by the sensor is transmitted to the EVF so you are seeing a digital representation of the unfolding scene in front of your lens. When mirrorless cameras first hit the scene a few years ago the EVF’s were not that great. They were laggy and had somewhat diminished resolution, which meant that for action photography they were no good at all. Also, the sensors relied on a different kind of technology to auto focus the lenses, namely contrast detection, whereas DSLR’s used a technology known as phase detection. The latter is much better for tracking of moving subjects. However, over the past couple of years these mirrorless technologies have improved dramatically and on the more modern mirrorless bodies the EVF quality is exceptional, as is the auto focus tracking ability. One of the many advantages of the mirrorless systems is that they are a lot smaller than their DSLR counterparts and in the case of the micro four thirds system (the one I use) the lenses are much smaller than most of those used by DSLR’s. When you’re carrying around a fair amount of gear for any particular job this becomes a critical factor in selecting a system. Right, so now that I have explained what a mirrorless camera is, who makes them and which one would be right for your needs? At the present time the open standard micro four thirds system (m43 or MFT) is by far the most well supported mirrorless system available. There are loads and loads of lenses being made by many different companies for this system and there are also two main manufacturers of bodies (and lenses), namely Olympus and Panasonic. Both companies have been around for almost 100 years and have fairly diverse product ranges. Neither of them exist purely to make camera systems, their main businesses are in other industries. The m43 system is at the leading edge of most technological innovations in camera systems today, with such astonishing features as in body image stabilisation (IBIS) and multi-shot high resolution pioneered by Olympus, touch screen technology on LCD’s, wifi, and now also affordable 4K video in the Panasonic GH4. It all makes for a very enticing camera system and since I moved to it I have become a very contented photographer gear wise. But it’s not the only system out there for mirrorless cameras. The other serious players are Fujifilm and Sony. Fujifilm have developed a very well loved range of cameras in both rangefinder and DSLR like retro-styling. The sensors are technologically different to those used in many other cameras and as such they boast superior colour accuracy and dynamic range to that found in many other systems, including some DSLR’s. The lens range is increasing gradually, plus they have excellent firmware updates for older cameras, often bringing many new features to older bodies. The downside is that because it is a proprietary system there are not that many (if any) 3rd party lens manufacturers adding to the pool of options for this system. That said, you can adapt pretty much any lens from any maker onto the Fuji’s by using an adapter. You lose the advantage of auto focus and shutter priority metering, but that seldom seems to be a concern amongst the growing family of Fuji users. The other major name in the mirrorless world is Sony. What Sony are doing with their range of cameras is a little confusing, simply because there are so many different systems within one brand to chose from. I’m still not quite sure what lenses work with what bodies, but what I do know is that they are the only camera manufacturer (apart from Leica) to be producing a full format 35mm sized sensor in a mirrorless camera, namely the Alpha a7 range. This larger sensor means you get better high ISO performance, shorter depth of field and of course in some models more resolution. At this time there are 3 different Sony a7 models on the market, each of which is tailored to a specific use. The a7 is a 24MP, general purpose body, the a7R boasts 36.4MP resolution and the a7S is a 12MP super low light sensitive, 4K video capable machine. Each body does well in some areas and not so well in others. If you think that this is the system for you, my advice is to research each one thoroughly before making a decision. They’re not that cheap either. Mirrorless Advantages: some really amazing technologies (EVF, IBIS, wifi) pro level equipment is much cheaper than DSLR equivalents smaller, lighter systems growing market segment with lots of interest from enthusiasts can adapt lenses from any system for use on mirrorless bodies dust is less of a problem Mirrorless Disadvantages: autofocus tracking not as good as DSLR's battery life is not as good as DSLR's resale value is poor some systems don't have a full range of accessories professional backup not as tight as it is from Nikon and Canon DSLR vs Mirrorless: which one is right for me? This is a personal thing. The only person who can answer this question is yourself. As I mentioned near the beginning of this lesson, the most important thing to consider before deciding on which system you want to make your own is to nail down what kind of photography you want to do and then find the system that works best for that type of photography. Each available system has it’s own pros and cons for each type of photography, so you need to know what you want out of it before you go and lay down your money. Research, research, research! Ask me questions. I’m here to help you find your way. As I wrap up this first lesson what I’d like to re-iterate is that once you have chosen your gear, please go out and shoot the daylights out of it. Don’t sit indoors on forums and blogs comparing your shots to those of other photographers using different gear and then surmise that you can only get the same shots if you change your gear. Change your attitude instead! Shoot every day and grow your vision. Learn all your camera’s functions, even the ones that you don’t think you’ll ever use. Make the camera an extension of your body. Make sure that driving the camera is as easy and natural as walking and chewing gum for you (I’m assuming that you can do those things!). The famous golfer Gary Player has a saying that I am somewhat fond of. He says “The more I practise the luckier I get.” It’s true for everything. Repetition is the foundation of excellence. In the next lesson we will start to look at lenses and what you should be looking to invest in when you’re starting out. This articles featured image is from: Søren Astrup Jørgensen
  23. 1 point
    In this video I take a look at the new Photocross 13, a really cool sling bag for photographers who love the outdoors, or photographers like me, who don’t like to fuss about with their camera bags when they are working events. This isn’t a review, but more of an unboxing and authentic initial discovery of the bag, as well as how I packed it for the first time I took it out on a shoot, using 2 Olympus E-M1 bodies, both with battery grips and three of my most used lenses for events. You can jump to relevant parts of the video using the following time codes: 0:05 unboxing 1:00 exploring the pockets and compartments 6:45 putting it on my back 9:15 packing it for my first shoot 15:10 first impressions after field use Apologies for the length of the video. I’ll try and make them a bit shorter in future, but I do value authenticity. You can buy your Photocross 13 using this link and help support this channel. A small percentage of the sale comes to me in the form of a sales commission. https://www.mindshiftgear.com/collections/sling-bags?rfsn=461020.68dc53db2
  24. 1 point
    I have been stacking focus for many years now, so I’m no stranger to this technique. And the track of my learning curve (more like a spiral) has been fueled by my using better and better corrected lenses (APO) to enhance the stacking. In other words, the more finely corrected the lenses, the more careful I have to be in stacking, and on around. It’s like a Catch-22. I get lots of emails and messages about my photos. And not infrequently (at least from photographers) is the question as to whether I have tried one of the automated focus rails. In the past, I have taken a certain amount of pride in pointing out to these folks that I can stack quite well manually, thank you very much. I had no intention of varying my technique. Yet, as I pointed out above, the circular spiral of finer lenses and precise stacking led to more and better apochromatic lenses, like the Zeiss Otus series, the APO-El Nikkor 105, the Leica Elmarit-R APO 100mm macro, and so on. I pretty-much took these fine lenses in stride, hopefully learning to use them more and more skillfully. Then comes the Schneider Macro Varon 85mm industrial lens. I had kind of heard about this lens on and off for some time, but never had seen one come up used on Ebay and even trying to get availability and a firm price from the manufacturer and distributors was difficult. It was almost as if they did not want to sell to me because I was not a company that required industrial lens for line-scanning. I wrote them. I called them on the phone. A more detailed story about the Macro Varon would require a separate article. Suffice it to say that a good friend of mine, another photographer, sent me a FB message telling me that a Macro Varon just came up of Ebay and at an attractive price at that. It took all of perhaps one minute and I had bought it. It was not an impulse buy, because I had decided to get one quite a while ago, just not pay the retail price of about $4500. Ouch! The Makro Varon is a very highly corrected lens, certainly worthy of the name APO. However, perhaps most remarkable was that this was a lens built for a wide range of magnifications, which is unusual for industrial lenses, which usually have a very limited magnification range at which they are at optimum sharpness. The Macro Varon even has a separate ring to compensate for whichever reproduction-ratio is used, actually moving the inner lens elements around to accommodate that reproduction range. And, interestingly enough, its specs showed me that it could easily outperform the sensor of my fairly new Nikon D850. “Hmmmm, I mused. I’d like to see that.” And see it I did and pretty quickly too. But such a revelation soon led me to rethinking my bias against automated focus rails. It was not that I could not stack well, but I continue to get older and I am old enough as it is, and the little bumps, jars, and vibrations caused by me began to be more visible; they got in the way. Anyway, back to this blog. So, there I was, reading about the StackShot, when before I knew it my finger was hitting the return-key to order a copy. And to my surprise, the company (Cognisys) was right here in Michigan, only just up the road from where I live, in Traverse City. So, it was only a day or so before the automated-rail turned up at my door. However, learning to use StackShot was a bit of puzzle. It actually is very simple, but the manual is SO complete that finding the simple in it is hard. At least that’s how it struck me. I just wanted to get going right away and stack something, but although eventually that was easy, at first it was not so. And also, this device is meant for many kinds (or ways) of stacking. It took me a while to figure out what the name for what I wanted to do was. I finally did (Automatic Distance) and, as mentioned, it could not be simpler. Well, it could be explained more simply. LOL. As a software developer myself since the early 1970s, I recognized the kind of manual that indeed was precise, but is no beginner’s guide. I told them so. The problem was, IMO, how do I find what increment or step makes sense for the kind of close-up focus-stacking that I do. I don’t need the kind of detail one needs for stacking a bee’s knees, but I do need enough overlap of images to make the rendering of the stack smooth with no banding. Of course, I called the support line at Cognisys and spoke with a very nice person, only too willing to help. The problem was that at each question, each point where I was stuck, he pointed out that this or that particular choice was variable, very variable. So after fifteen minutes or so, I was right back where I started from, having to figure it out for myself. What’s new? Story of my life! LOL. And it took a while for me to run many stacks at different step-sizes to find a step-size that gave me what I was looking for and not one that took all day by over-stacking what probably couldn’t be seen. I wasn’t stacking a microscope image, but just a flower or two. I messaged Rik Littlefield, creator of Zerene Stacker, the stacking software I use, and asked him about over sampling. His response was that it won’t harm anything to make too many images, but it might add a wee bit of extra noise. After a few happy days with StackShot, here is where I am at. So far, it looks like the more detail you can get with the smaller increments with Stackshot, the better the result, within reason. StackShot likes to work in thousandths-of-an-inch or in millimeters or fractions thereof, your choice. I found myself working with MLS, thousandths of an inch, a setting of 20 Mls seems pretty good. 10 MLS is slightly better, but perhaps not worth the extra time, etc. A lot depends on keeping natural light even, which is hard with variable cloudiness. My thoughts on using the StackShot automatic-rail are positive. I have stacked for many years, always barely touching the focus barrel or whatever mechanism as required. I got pretty good at it, but also made little accidental bumps and knocks, which have never helped at all. And, as I drill down on these ultra-sharp industrial lenses that can challenge the sensor of even the Nikon D850, there is less room for user-caused error and a greater demand for regular precise increments. After many years of focus stacking, my most valuable learned skills are in setting up and composing the shot, although I have always done my best to move carefully through all the steps that focus-stacking requires. However, having tried out StackShot, I am convinced it has a lot to offer me in stability and consistency, leaving me more time to consider what shot I want to take. I am enjoying that. I have a fair amount of testing the Stackshot yet to do, but I am already getting a handle on it. By testing various step-sizes, I am already converging on what seems to work for me. I’m not doing photo-micography, but rather just simple close-up and macro photography. Of the many options that StackShot offers, the one I seem to be gravitating to is Automatic-Distance, which allows me to choose the granularity, the step-size, that works best for my work. In other words, I have one main step size that will be applied no matter what scope or distance I want to cover. Should that not be fine enough, I can easily make if finer, etc. The only caveat might be with spherical objects, where following the curve demands finer steps, IMO. So, the step sizes I have settled on should work. Physically, the StackShot is very well made, meaning it is robust, as strong or stronger than any other focus rail I have and I have ten or so. Its vertical profile for my camera is low, about as low as it could be and I have fitted it with my favorite RRS Arca quick-release clamp, the one with a larger knob. I can see no way that this is not better than what I have been doing myself by hand. And the program allows me to introduce all kinds of latency time, which I have done, so that at each movement of the auto rail, I take a second or so to let any vibrations created by the mechanism movement subside. The only problem, which has nothing to do with StackShot, is that since I use natural light, on a variably-cloudy day the lighting changes from moment to moment and affects the stack. To counter this, I would have to be standing there, slightly modifying the shutter moment-by-moment to keep the light stable. That kind of takes the auto out of automatic, but that’s the price we pay for natural light. It varies. So, my initial impression of the StackShot is not only good, but very good, almost something like “where-have-you-been-all-my-life?” good. I like it. As for taking the time I am used to spending stacking focus at the camera away from me, which I traditionally associate with meditative absorption on my part, it does not seem a problem. My hard-won skills are seeing the shot and setting up for it. With StackShot, I do the creative work and let an expert step through the mechanics while I do other stuff. Makes sense and seems fine. StackShot is easily rough enough to take into the field, provided you realize that it is heavy and if you don’t have any wind. Here in Michigan, I wait to see each day if there is no wind at first light. Rare, but it happens. A Hidden Surprise Surprise, surprise! There is almost always a surprise with new equipment. Using stackshot made one thing very clear. By standardizing the process of focus stacking (the mechanical part) all lenses were treated equally. It’s true that I always did my best to incrementally stack focus as carefully as I could. But, I cannot pretend that on any given day, I may have stacked looser or tighter, even or less even. I can only guess at the variation. But one thing is clear so far from using the StackShot and that is that the regularity of increments (the step size) reveals more clearly than I have ever seen the true or actual difference between any of these highly corrected lenses. It is clear that some of these lens differences were veiled by the more organic (sloppy) process of stacking by hand and not by auto-stacking. However, by regulating the stacking process, it creates a much more level playing field. And I found it very easy to see the differences between lenses, many of which I could never before be certain about. And so, whatever else auto-rail stacking provides (and there is a lot) a wonderful bonus in allowing me to see more clearly than ever how lenses differ, something I have always strained to see (regardless of all the graphs) for myself. By stacking in a more regulated manner removes (at least for me) a veil that has been obscuring these difference all of this time. Below are a couple of tables that might be useful. StackShot likes to work in thousandths-of-an-inch or in millimeters or fractions there of. 1 Millimeter = 39.3701 Thousandth of an Inch 1 thousandth of an inch in is equal to 25.40 μm Thousandths-inch TO MILLIMETER 10-mils = 0.254 Millimeters 15-mils = 0.381 Millimeters 20-mils = 0.508 Millimeters 25-mils = 0.635 Millimeters 30-mils = 0.762 Millimeters 35-mils = 0.889 Millimeters 39-mils = 0.9906 Millimeters 39.37 mils = 1 Millimeter MILLIMETER to Thousandths-inch .25 MM = 9.84 Mils .333 MM = 13.11 Mils .5 MM = 19.685 Mils .666 MM = 26.22 .75 MM =29.5276 Mils 1 MM = 39.37 Mils 1.25 MM = 49.2126 Mils 1.5 MM = 59.055 Mils 2 MM = 78.7 Mils 2.5 MM = 98.42 Mils 3 MM = 118.11 Mils 3.5 = 137.8 Mils 4 = 157.5 Mils 4.5 = 177.2 Mils 5 = 197 Mils Here are three example images, both done with StackShot, one with the Schneider Macro Varon f/4.5 and another with the APO-El Nikkor 105mm f/5.6. A third one is with the Nikkor “O” CRT lens. Also, a poor-quality shot (shot at night in bad lighting) of the StackShot controller (Vecro-ed to a post) and the basic StackShot setup. Not the RRS Quick-Releas Clamp with the large knob.
  25. 1 point
    A couple of days ago a video from Zack Arias popped up on my YouTube subscriptions list. Zack, as some of you may know, is a well known photography teacher in the internet world. He’s published a book on photography (Photography Q&A which I reviewed here) and he has also produced several video tutorials, including the One Light series which I actually bought a few years ago. In addition he’s a regular at the Gulf Photo Plus events in Dubai, along with the likes of Joe McNally and other internet luminaries. It was Zack’s free stuff on how to light white seamless that actually got me started in studio based product photography as I borrowed his technique to use on products instead of humans. It has been working for me for a while. Zack’s a good guy. You can tell that he’s passionate about photography and the industry. The video that he posted is basically a 42 minute long rant about an online photography sharing service called Unsplash. Basically Unsplash are a platform where photographers are invited to share their photos for free use by other creatives and also commercial users. The crux of Zack’s argument is that when you upload a full size image to Unsplash, they allow any person to download the image and use it any way they wish, including commercially. For free. As the downloader you don’t even have to credit the photographer. The image is yours to use however you like. Also, Unsplash don’t provide any model releases for images containing people or branded items that may be used commercially. They assume that you and the photographer will work out those details. This, amongst other aspects of the “model” is what has Zack up in arms. Watch the video here and continue reading below. The legal points he makes in the video are quite relevant, especially in that if you are using an image commercially and you don’t have permission from the people in the image, you are on very shaky ground as as the photographer who has given the image away for free. What is quite alarming is that if you go and have a look at the work on display on their site you will see that there are hundreds of thousands of really good images that you don’t have to pay for if you want to use them somewhere, like on a website or on a presentation, brochure, large print, etc. Here are a few examples that really caught my eye. By Ian Parker - © ? By Ian Parker - © ? By Jason Rosewell - © ? By Reptile Pod - © ? I downloaded full size high res versions of these images without creating an account on Unsplash. I don't know who actually owns the copyright since they have been licensed by Unsplash, but they're here to serve as an illustration of how this service works. Will this really hurt photographers? Is it exploitation? Well, while I agree with Zack on the legal side of things for commercial use, I don’t agree with the premise that we are in a “race to the bottom” as far as professional photography is concerned. I think that if you are a good enough photographer, people are going to hire you for your ability to create something out of nothing, especially in a commercial sense. They’re not hiring you because you know how to light a scene and change a few settings on your camera. A good client wants to buy your photographic imagination. That is why the world’s top commercial photographers don’t really care about micro stock libraries or places who give away free images - they’re always going to be busy because they aren’t just selling technical ability. They’re selling originality. Anybody can become a good photographer and with enough practice anybody can observe and copy a style or a concept (I see this constantly in so called “creative wedding photography”), but originality is the elixir that divides creators from emulators. That's not going away because of Unsplash. On the exploitation argument I am not sure that Unsplash are making any money from their concept, so the jury's out on that one for me. Maybe if they were putting ads on the pages you are downloading from it might be considered slightly exploitative, but then nobody is holding a gun to the uploader's heads forcing them to put their material on there. Is there a future for companies like Unsplash online? People who are not professional photographers are always very keen on sharing their work with others online. Even here on Fotozones it has comprised the bulk of the member content for almost 12 years. As Simon Sinek so elegantly pointed out in his viral interview on Millennials, we are all looking for validation and we get a hit of dopamine every time we see our images being liked by others on Facebook or Instagram. However, as those social media giants have begun manipulating the feeds of their users in an attempt to blend in paid for content (as well as other nefarious pieces of content), the dynamic is beginning to change and it’s no secret that Facebook and Instagram are in serious decline these days. This opens up the door for the likes of Unsplash to offer up a better mousetrap for the validating photographers of the world, so to speak. If you look at the sheer numbers of downloads that non-professional photographers are getting from Unsplash you begin to see the allure for those who are in constant search of this validation. We’re talking massive numbers here, way, way more exposure than you could ever hope to get on the likes of Instagram or Facebook where you have to pay to get your stuff noticed. Here’s an article I read about one user’s experience after 4 years of being on Unsplash (4 years? And to think that until Zack posted his video I had never even heard of this site). So for me the take-away here is that yes, while the “business model” for Unsplash is decidedly sketchy, they are unlikely to be swayed out of existence by people like Zack and others who are waging war on them. They will in all likelihood find a large audience of contributors willing to upload their images there in exchange for the possibility of mass exposure. Whether or not that exposure results in anything fiscally for either Unsplash or the creators who participate, as a concept it certainly has my attention and I will be watching things unfold there with much interest. I look forward to reading your comments on the service (and on Zack's attack thereof) below.
  26. 1 point
    Picture this: it’s 5am. You are in the middle of the Namibian desert and you’re about to drive 60km in the pitch dark to a distant parking lot in the middle of nowhere to meet a 4x4 shuttle driver who you are not sure is going to show up to drive you across a 5km long treacherous stretch of soft sand in the inky darkness so that you can hike for about 40 minutes across soft sand dunes so that you can emulate some photos made by a National Geographic photographer you have never heard of before. Sounds like the beginning of a lark, right? Except it isn’t. It’s what we did on the morning of 9 September, 2013 while on a serious 3 week long road trip photographic safari through Namibia, including a stop to go and re-photograph the already excessively photographed (and much discussed) Deadvlei in the Namib-Naukluft National Park. Why re-photograph it? We had gone there the day before, but arriving at 11am in the baking heat of the Namibian sun, along with dozens of other tourists didn’t exactly make for interesting photography. Over dinner that night the topic of a famous photograph of the Deadvlei taken by National Geographic photographer Frans Lanting came up in conversation and a couple of our Swedish guests decided that they would like to go back there early the next morning to see if they could make a similar shot. Phone calls were hastily made to operators and everything was set up for the lark. I mean photographic mission. A logistical overview of getting to the Deadvlei might help readers understand the need for all this early morning hustle. Basically the park is only open to the public from sunrise until sunset. So if you are using accommodation outside of the park gate, you simply won’t be able to experience sunrise from inside the dunes at the Deadvlei. Unless you stay at a lodge inside the park, of which there is only one, the Sossuss Dune Lodge. However, even if you stay there (which we did for one night) you still have to drive along a 60km stretch of tarred road from the lodge to the parking lot at the end of the road, where a 4x4 shuttle service drives you along another 5km of silky soft sand before you have to get out and footslog it the final kilometer or so on that same soft sand to get to the Deadvlei. In the (almost) dark of pre-dawn. The 3D aerial view from Google seen below shows it best. So there we were on this mission, that is me and my two Swedish guests, Victor and Roland, waiting in our vehicle at the designated parking lot for our 4x4 shuttle to arrive before the sun came up. I can’t recall the exact time he arrived, but it was a fair while after we had gotten there. There was talk between the Swedes and I of getting out of the car to explore while we waited but then there was also talk of rabid jackals and puff adders roaming the area, so we decided to wait for the driver to arrive instead. Which he did. Eventually. The final hike from the drop-off point to the pan with the famous dead trees had taken us about 40 minutes the previous day, but that was in the baking 40˚C heat of almost midday. It was considerably cooler in the morning (as deserts are prone to be), so we made much better time getting there this time around. Our objective was to reach the centre of the pan before the sun rose over the eastern dune and began to slide down the western dune, so that we could photograph the trees as silhouettes against the bright western dune before the sunlight hit the white clay of the pan. Well, that was the plan. Mother nature had other ideas and she decided to put some clouds in the sky which kind of fouled the plan up. The old adage of making lemonade from lemons couldn’t be a more appropriate descriptor for the shot that I am presenting in this article. I knew that because the light was dappled by the clouds I was never going to get anything remotely similar to Frans Lanting’s shot, plus for months prior to getting here to the Deadvlei I had pondered, how it would even be possible to get something visually unique from such an over photographed area. Wider lens? Longer lens? Panorama? Close-up of the ground using a fisheye? Changing my perspective and angle eventually provided the answer. I turned my tripod around 180˚ and faced the Eastern dune. The sun was just about to creep over the top of the dune, so I somewhat hurriedly placed a 0.3 LEE Seven5 graduated filter over the front of my lens to emphasize the clouds and after a few botched attempts at getting it to line up with the cock-eyed ridge of the dune I eventually got this image. It’s one of my favourites from the entire safari. I’ve reprocessed this shot a few times over the years that have passed since I took it (the editing tools have definitely improved since 2013) and it still fascinates me to work with the raw file. The editing on this version has been done in Lightroom using mainly the exposure sliders with some dodging and burning on the nearest tree and the cracks you see in the pan floor. I also added a sharp vignette on the top corners. When I first saw the shot in editing back in 2013 I called it “Dawn Of The Dead”, mainly because to me the trees look like they are emerging from the ground like zombies. Deadvlei, zombies… it has a certain ring to it, don’t you think? This shot below is about as close as I came to emulating Lanting's NatGeo shot. It was taken about 20 minutes before the Dawn Of the Dead shot. But I went wide instead of narrow. I still like it, but there are millions of other shots like it. My take away from this photography outing is that you can make unique photos of things that have already been photographed to death, even the Deadvlei. The main ingredients for doing this involve timing, thinking and of course a little reliance on luck. In this case the timing was the most critical ingredient. We got there at the right time. The morning clouds were just plain luck. Especially for this area. Equipment used: Olympus E-M5 (original) Olympus 9-18mm f/4-5.6 LEE Seven5 0.3 hard grad
  27. 1 point
    In this vlog episode we chat about using the legacy 4/3 lenses from the Olympus DSLR era on the mirrorless Olympus OM-D E-M1 (original) camera bodies. We also demonstrate the auto focus speed of the 50-200mm (with a 1.4x TC) in an outdoor situation. Jump directly to the AF speed demo at 16:00. If you have suggestions for future vlog episodes please let us have them in the comments.
  28. 1 point
    A while a go I asked about scanning old slides with a flatbed vs. using a DSLR for duplication as I had sold my slide scanner a few years ago. Silly me had forgotten to scan the 1999 South Africa trip before selling it. All answers pointed to using the DSLR so here are some observations: Input is from Fuji Sensia slides in Reflecta frames (In contrast to the US, it was very economical to shoot slides in Europe in the '90s, I could get a roll of Sensia with development and framing in proper frames (not cardboard!) for less than $5). They had been stored in boxes in magazines holding 100 each. The boxes are not airtight, so some dust was to be expected. The sturdy frames made it easy to insert them into the copy adapter. I obtained a used ES-1 slide copy adapter and BR-5 step down ring from Mike Gorman (thanks Mike!). The step down ring is needed to mount the copy adapter onto the AFS 60mm macro lens. Even with the ES-1 in the closest position, the slide will not fill the whole frame, so I get 20MP or less (too lazy to really calculate it). If I remember correctly, the adapter was desinged for a 50mm or 55mm macro, not a 60mm. I initially wanted to use an LED panel as a light source, but it was too weak to provide illumination for F11 at safe shutter speeds, so I only used them for focusing and the key light source was an SB800. F11 at ISO 100 with the flash near the lowest power setting. WB set to flash. On very dark slides (sunsets) I increased the ISO to 200 (too lazy to change the flash output, I could set ISO with a mouse click). I fired the flash with a radio trigger (Pocket Wizard). I used qDSLRDashboard to tether the D750 to my PC and set Capture One to monitor the incoming folder. I used a rocket bulb blower to clean the slides before putting them into the holder. Initially I used live view on with AF all the time, but that turned out to be a huge battery drain. With F11, the DOF is sufficient to fix the AF once and be done with it. So I ran this blind. In contrast to using a slide scanner or the Epson flatbed, the setup kept me busy at all times, constantly exchanging slides and then pressing the shutter (via mouse click on computer). With a scanner there is always a significant wait time between the scans (it was several minutes with the Canon FS4000), especially if you use multi-pass scanning with an additional dust removal scan. In the end, the total time spent to get all slides scanned is significantly less with the adapter than with the scanners. I used exiftool in batch mode to change the capture date in the resulting NEFs to approximate the date the slides where shot. The flatbed Epson V550 Photo is not much worse than the Canon FS4000 slide scanner I owned previously, but faster and does not require a SCSI connection. The difference between 3200ppi and 4000ppi is pretty much irrelevant, both show the film grain. So what's the verdict on using the DSLR with the copy adapter? Vervet Monkey in Krüger Park, 1999: 100% screen shot of DSLR copy on the left and Epson scan on the right (the scan would need sharpening). Color: Much easier to get accurate colors with the DSLR than with the scanner, even when using IT8 calibration targets. Accurate is still subjective of course, you get the exact color of the slide ;-) Sharpness: The DSLR wins, but not as definite as with color, the scans need more sharpening than the NEFs, but sharpen ok. Highlights: With the DSL there is much more headroom to fix highlights than with scans. Exposure was set so that there where no blown highlights in the copies. Noise/Grain: Both methods show the film grain, but depending on the scanner the scan can be noisier. I have no noise with the DSLR, only film grain. And still no perfect tool to remove it ;-( I guess I need reprofile my old copy of Noise Ninja. So far it was too drastic. Dust: Well, without ICE (the infrared dust scan) there is dust even after fastidiously using the blower. But it is only noticeable in relatively bright areas like the sky and quickly dispatched with the spot remover of Capture One. F11 makes dust bunnies on the sensor easily visible, so this lead to a sensor cleaning session... Cost: If you get the copy adapter used, the cost is negligible. Film scanners are quite expensive used and one needs to sell it after use, way too much hassle.
  29. 1 point
    Last week my wife and I went on a citytrip to Marseille. We booked a cheap flight with Easyjet and an apartment on Airbnb. This city has a bad reputation of being neglected, run-down and criminal. In an objective comparison with gracious cities like Cannes and Nice our choice for a citytrip loses out by a far margin. Marseille is still mostly raw, dirty but also authentic. For sure there are some nice looking areas like the old harbour and the Corniche but most of the town looks crap. That's the reason Marseille is not very popular with tourists. This has a positive side as the people of Marseille are friendly and justly proud of their city. Public transport by tram, bus and metro is very good and cheap (buy a City Pass from the Tourist Office!) We were lucky to have sunny weather during our stay. All images shot with a Fuji X100 and processed from Jpeg Astia setting. Most areas are covered with street art and graffiti. 1. 2. 3. Some more street art. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. And an intermezzo. 9. Behind the old harbour is the district Le Panier with all kind of workshops and vintage shops. 10. 11. Near the harbour the buildings are pretty with less street art and graffiti. 12. 13. The Vieux Port (old harbour, not the place where the cruise ships moor) was destroyed during WWII but beautifully rebuilt. This place is the eye-catcher of the town and many tourists only visit this area (my advice; look beyond that). Lots of restaurants and bars along the harbour, not cheap but the quality of the food is good to excellent (my advice; also check out the back- and side-alleys for nice and cheaper restaurants). In front is a mirror pavilion designed by world famous architect Norman Foster. From the harbour ships leave for the excursions along the beautiful mediterranean shore. 14. 15. Ferry to cross the harbour, a ride only takes about 1 minute! At the hill on top of the town the basilica Notre-Dame de la Garde. 16. 17. [ The harbour is the place for strolling and giving new meaning to the phrase "walking the dog". 18. In 2013 the MuCEM (Museum of the Civilisations of Europe and the Mediterranean) was built en connected by a walking bridge to the renovated Fort Saint-Jean. On this side of the city this makes for a very nice walk along the harbour to Fort Saint-Jean, to MuCEM/Villa Méditerranée and Cathédrale de la Major. Public transport is well organised and City Passes which include free public transport can be bought from the Tourist Office near the harbour. 19. 20. 21. 22. 23. 24. 25. The final part of this photo essay has some images shot during a boat trip to Les Calanques. This is the rocky shoreline with beautiful creeks and beaches, and of course the fantastic colour of the Mediterranean. 26. 27. 28. 29. 30. I think Marseille is an excellent destination for a citytrip. It's not as overcrowded as more popular cities like Barcelona and Rome and has a lot to offer. Thanks for watching and I hope you enjoyed this post.
  30. 1 point
    ThinkTank recently released their new V2.0 TurnStyle bags and they kindly send me one for the purposes of this review. So, for the first time ever I have created a video review! Let me tell you upfront that this was no easy task. It took me the entire day and much of the evening to film and then edit into what I hope is a useful video for anybody thinking about buying this bag (not to mention the overnight upload to YouTube on a 512Kbps upload line!). Unfortunately I could only upload in 720p, so if you are watching on a high res monitor full screen is probably not a good idea. I used 2 cameras to make the video. The scenes of me were done using the Olympus E-M1 and the overhead demo was done using the Pen-F. The audio changed between them because the Pen-F doesn't have a mic input (I bought a Rode VideoMicro so that I can do more video for Fotozones). Anyway, hope you enjoy the video review format. It's a tad long, but hopefully useful. Please be constructive in the comments by letting me know what I can improve on for future videos (watch out for the bloopers at the end). Remember, you can support Fotozones by using this link to buy your TurnStyle bag directly from ThinkTank, who will also send you a nice little gift with it if you do. https://www.thinktankphoto.com/collections/turnstyle?rfsn=140410.92f763 Like this video? You can help incentivise me to make more content like this by supporting me via Patreon.
  31. 1 point
    Over the years I’ve bought ridiculous numbers of lenses for many different camera systems, ranging from Nikon to Canon to Leica to Bronica and most recently the micro four thirds system. On all the systems there have been dogs, there have been stars and there have been run-of-the-mill lenses. I think I can probably count on the digits of one hand the number of lenses I have used that literally made me gasp when reviewing their drawing characteristics on LCD playback or in the computer. Up in the top 5 of my best ever experiences are lenses such as my Nikkor 24-70/2.8, the Micro-Nikkor 60/2.8 (I use the older AF-D version), a Leica 180mm f/3.5 APO-Telyt-R, the Canon 400/2.8L USM and now joining them is this remarkable little gem from Olympus, the 75/1.8. When Olympus first unleashed this lens there were gasps heard all around the online photography world. Some were saying it was the sharpest lens they had ever used and had bokeh on a par with the likes of the Nikon 200/2. Now that particular Nikkor is almost mythical when it comes to optical performance, so claims like this definitely got me excited. Especially since the lens they were waxing lyrical about is only a little longer than the standard 50/1.4 offered by most manufacturers of 35mm equipment and weighs a mere 305g. Of course 75mm on m43 offers the same field of view of a 150mm lens on the bigger format, which is pretty close to 200mm, a focal length I use a lot on my 70-200/2.8. I had to have one. This article is more an assessment of how the lens worked for me on a recent shoot than an in-depth review. I’m never going to offer any form of resolution charts or figures on articles like this - all I’m going to do is talk about how the lens fits in with my needs and expectations. Ok, so right off the bat I need to explain how I came to acquire the 75mm and how I used it on a paid assignment. Those of you who follow my posts over on Nikongear.com may have read about my purchase of a Nikon D7100 last month to use as a second body to help me cover a 3 day hotel conference here in my hometown. The intention was for me to use the D7100 with telephoto lenses such as the Sigma 70-200/2.8 and then also with the Sigma 120-300/2.8 OS later this year on the Namibia wildlife safari we’re doing. I would use my D700 with 24-70/2.8 for all the other shots. When I got the D7100 home I immediately set about seeing how it played with those two Sigma tele zooms. Well, let’s be frank about this. Either I have totally lost my ability to hold a camera steady (even on a tripod), or there was something wrong with this camera. I tried every Nikon F mount lens I own (a fair number of them) and I couldn’t get it to produce a sharp image at all. I tried calibrating, I tried faster shutter speeds, I tried manual focus, I tried everything I have learned about photography since Y2K. No dice. It wasn’t working for me, so I took it back to the store and they were going to get me a replacement to try out. The problem was I was running out of time and had to get myself ready for this conference within a few days. They didn’t get the replacement in time so I had no option but to ask them for a refund. I then used that money to purchase the Olympus 75/1.8 with its hood, as well as the HLD-6 grip for my OM-D, together with a 2nd battery. I will admit, I was a bit apprehensive going into this conference without a dedicated body for my 70-200/2.8. I would be using my D700 together with the 24-70/2.8 for the normal shots and then relying on the OM-D and the 75/1.8 for shots of speakers at the lectern as well as unassuming delegates in the audience. The apprehension soon evaporated when I got a look at the first shots taken at home with the lens set to f/1.8 and the OM-D set to ISO 3200. Good grief. Was I seeing this right? Could it be that sharp? Really?? After a couple of days of checking and re-checking wide performance in dimly lit rooms at home I felt confident that I would have no problems using the 75/1.8 on the OM-D for speaker shots, as well as whatever else might catch my eye from a distance. I felt comfortable that shooting the OM-D at 3200 would also be OK because even though it does exhibit a fair amount of noise, it’s very manageable within Lightroom’s own RAW noise controls. Having shot many conferences at this particular hotel in the past I knew what the lighting would be like too, which also eased my worried mind. Here are some examples of speaker images shot at f/1.8 and ISO 3200 on the OM-D. Here are some shots of the delegates in a pretty dim auditorium: On the first night of the event there was a "Mad Hatters" cocktail party at another hotel a few kilometres away from the conference venue. This is where the 75/1.8 really shone! Autofocus acquisition in the even dimmer lit bar was outstanding. I had to pump up ISO to 6400, but I was getting very usable shots that I could run through a noise reduction setting in Lightroom. Here’s my assessment of a few key features that photographers will be looking for in a lens review. Sharpness Oh yeah. This baby is sharp and most importantly, it’s sharp where it matters most - at the widest aperture. There’s literally no point in having a fast lens that isn’t sharp at its widest aperture. Yes, all lenses will get a bit sharper as you stop them down to a point, but the whole purpose of having a fast aperture is so that you can let more light into the camera, keep your subject sharp and smooth away the background. This lens does exactly that. At f/1.8 I’m getting stuff that is sharper than any other lens I have ever owned with an equivalently fast aperture. Bokeh It’s as smooth as I need it to be. I’m very happy with the way it renders out of focus highlights. Smaller sensors like those found in the m43 system will normally not provide you with the subject/background separation that you get from bigger sensors, such as those found on DSLR’s. The Olympus 75/1.8 does a very good job of this though, as can be seen in all these images. Build & Handling The lens is just awesomely built. The only plastic found on this lens appears to be the lens caps and the bit that secures the front element into the barrel (you know, the place with the lens nomenclature etched in white lettering). Everything else is made from high grade metals. Not even the focus ring has rubber - it’s grooves are milled! The focus ring is the smoothest you are ever likely to find on any lens. It’s still a focus-by-wire lens, meaning that the focusing ring doesn’t physically engage any of the elements, it merely issues a electronic command to the lens to move the glass inside. Personally this is never something I would see myself using. Up until just a few weeks ago it was only available in the silver colour, but I believe that it is now possible to get a black version for the same money. I like the silver on my silver OM-D. Autofocus Speed On my E-M5 there’s a split second’s hesitation before autofocus engages, which after I did some testing, has more to do with the IBIS system starting up than it has anything to do with the lens. After that initialization of the IBIS the acquisition of focus on any object with sufficient detectable contrast, both near and far, is pretty much instantaneous. It’s darn near completely silent too. It was only when I had the IBIS turned off for testing that I actually heard any noise coming from the lens itself. The Controversial Hood Every lens review that you read online about this or any other Olympus lens for m43 will have the same gripes: why don’t Olympus include the lens hood when they sell us the lens? Why are the lens hoods so expensive? I’m going to break the mold a little on this issue and view the glass as half-full instead of half-empty. I bought this lens and made sure that I got the lens hood for it as well (as you can see from the product shot I took of mine right at the beginning). I had to pay quite a bit more for it, but so what? If you look at the price of the lens with its hood, you’re still well below the cost of an equivalent 35mm system lens at this quality level. Well below! I am of the opinion that the Olympus range of primes for m43 are at the same premium brand level of Leica equivalents. That seems to be the approach Olympus are taking with their range these days, and rightly so, in my opinion. It’s a class above the competition. Have you tried pricing hoods for the Elmars and Elmarits? Summilux anyone? The hood that Olympus uses on the 75/1.8 is made in China, but like the lens it is milled from high quality steel and secures to the barrel with a knurled tensioning knob, very much like those found on super telephoto lenses for 35mm systems. It’s not a bayonet fitting. I always want a hood on my lenses because I never use UV or 1A filters on the front of them. The hood acts as a degree of protection, should I ever get sloppy enough to put the front element of the lens at risk of damage. Paying a bit more for the hood for this lens didn’t bother me in the slightest. I reckon if Olympus are giving us an option of getting the lens for less than it would have cost with the hood, then that’s a plus, not a negative. My Conclusion It’s by far the most expensive lens I have purchased thus far for the m43 system, but it is also by far the best lens I have ever used on that system too. It does everything I need it to and it solved a very important problem for me when it comes to working at a distance in dim light with the small, very lightweight OM-D system. The sharpness and subject isolation is just about perfect for the kind of work I do. I believe that if the next generation of OM-D improves the high ISO performance of their sensor, as well as the AF tracking to match that of the top end 35mm systems, there will be a flood of sensible indoor photographers looking to this lens to replace a lot of the 70-200/2.8 lenses usually seen at indoor events. I certainly didn’t find myself caught short at the conference I used it on earlier this month. If you’re a m43 shooter, don’t dilly dally, just get it. If you've already got one, don't forget to rate it in our official member's ratings thread here.
  32. 1 point
    Three and a half years ago, when Fotozones was first emerging as a forum for photographers who think alternatively about equipment, I wrote this piece called “Why aren’t camera makers thinking out of their boxes?”. Basically I was asking why a proper camera system couldn’t be built around the smartphone that I carry in my pocket everywhere I go. An interesting conversation ensued. It seems that the camera company RED are actually in the process of fulfilling this wish right now. Those of you who follow YouTube tech reviews may be familiar with one Marques Brownlee (aka MKBHD) who reviews a lot of tech stuff and is also a passionate RED user. Earlier today he posted a video showing a prototype RED smartphone called the Hydrogen, which is apparently going to become part of a camera system built around it. The video is embedded below. Watch it and then carry on reading my thoughts below that. So, we’re almost out of the box here. From what I can tell in the video and the limited information available on RED’s website, this phone is going to be able to be used with a variety of accessories that will enable the user to produce not only quality stills photography, but serious video too. According to Marques' video RED says it will be better than any mirrorless or DSLR video out there at the moment. If you skip to 5:06 in the video you will see the kind of modularity RED are looking at providing around this smart phone. This is great news for the camera industry because it will hopefully spark a reaction from the traditional manufacturers, who’s thinking on camera development has for decades been firmly planted in the box, albeit put there by technology limitations (which are rapidly disappearing). What does this have to do with serious photography, you may ask? A smart phone is never going to replace the use of a Nikon D5 with a giant telephoto lens used on the planes of the Serengeti, but if the consumer market for cameras is all but moving into smart phones and the traditional camera makers are not looking to become a part of that market, they are doing themselves (and us serious photographers) a massive disservice. People love to spend money on phone accessories and what better way of creating a market for accessories is there than the gadget crazy world of photography and videography? The revenue from these accessories is ginormous and cannot be ignored by any company who are losing their traditional revenue streams to a market that has moved towards convenience in favour of traditionalism. To illustrate my point I recently took out a cellphone contract for the first time in about 8 years so that I could get a new iPhone 7 Plus to use as my primary video camera for material I want to make on safari this year. I decided against buying the Olympus E-M1 Mk II which has very good video features, because it costs twice as much as the phone I got (not counting the fact that I would have to buy a whole new set of batteries and more, faster memory cards). A new Olympus camera would sit unused in my gear storage bins for 99% of its life, devaluing faster than water draining from a punctured bucket. With the iPhone acquisition I got a brand new, top of the range device that not only takes pretty amazing video and stills, but also runs my entire digital life for me. It’s big enough for me to no longer require an iPad either. And I got a data and calling plan all for less than the monthly cost of repaying an Olympus E-M1 Mk II had I bought that on my credit card instead. My old cameras still work 100% and hopefully they will continue to do so for as long as I need them to. Here’s something else to think about; so far I have probably spent an additional 15% of the value of the phone on various accessories, including everything from cases to tripods, windshield mounts, microphone adapter cables and so on. I’m also giving very serious thought to buying a DJI Osmo Mobile which can track me if I am making a video and moving around my studio. The point I want to make though, is that buying just one device led me down a path of other purchases all related to that device, nothing related to my professional camera system. I might still look at buying an Olympus Air if I feel the need to pare down my system even further and make use of other lenses that I already own, but for the most part the upgrade money Olympus or Panasonic might have gotten from me has gone the way of Apple instead. Their device offers video I can use and not get bogged down getting it set up and ready for use. I choose my resolution and press record, which is all I really want to do. I don't want to know about any of the other things that movie makers need to have control over. I wanted convenience and quality and this little device delivers it. The camera companies of the world need to wake up. They have to make smart phones a part of their business otherwise they are going to go the way of the dinosaurs. I will also say this; as computational photography gets better and better, the need for specialist cameras and lenses is going to disappear faster than a Bugatti Veyron does when you're looking at the back of it. Apple’s Portrait mode on the iPhone 7 Plus may not be perfect right now, but it’s still in beta and I can see that a couple of iOS updates down the line this will be something to take very seriously. So, to end off I applaud RED for taking the initiative in this brave new world and I look forward to seeing not only the system they build around the Hydrogen, but also the competition’s response to it.
  33. 1 point
    In 2012 I did the unthinkable. I cheated on my Nikon cameras by beginning an affair with a svelte retro styled camera that had no mirror. It was the Olympus OM-D E-M5 and the system it belonged to was called Micro Four Thirds. That affair is quite well documented on Fotozones. I had little idea at the time just how seismic this dalliance would be for not only my image making career, but also my relationships with other serious photographers and the industry as a whole. Everyone who was around me at the time I began experimenting with m43 knew me as the devout Nikon guy who had started a forum (Nikongear) dedicated to that brand 6 years earlier, but who was now inexplicably preaching an entirely different kind of sermon on how much more I enjoyed shooting with the Olympus than I did with the Nikon. Things got… shall we say, interesting? I suppose change is something that brings out different things in different people. While it certainly scares me, it is something that I think everyone who knows me, knows that I thrive on. I’m always changing things up in my world. Nothing from the layout of my desk to website logos and even the 20m2 space I call my office (where almost everything except the desk itself is on wheels) escapes the changes I frequently bring about. I guess that in spite of its associated tension, I like change. Others, not so much. They see change as something to avoid at all costs. Was It Worth It? So now, approximately 5 years after I began the affair that resulted in a complete and total divorce from all things Nikon after 18 months of co-existence between the systems in my setup, it is time to reflect on how it has affected my life in photography. Was the change worth it? Right off the bat I can say earnestly that my output definitely improved once I moved to m43. When I pulled images off the memory cards what came out of the Olympus cameras required hardly any post production, whereas my Nikon images had to have the works applied to them in post before I would send them off to clients. Sharpening, colour correction, dust removal, contrast enhancements… the whole 9 yards. This translated into a lot less work for me on shoots I did with Olympus, so I started using Olympus more often. I suppose these improvements may have had something to do with the electronic viewfinder and LCD screen giving a much more accurate depiction of what I was going to get as a photo before I even took it. Maybe it was that the CDAF auto focus of the E-M5 on static subjects (99% of my work) was so reliable that the high rate of out of focus shots I had been used to with Nikon’s PDAF over the years became a thing of the past. I didn’t have to calibrate my lenses at all to cope with the idiosyncrasies of PDAF. It might also have been the incredible in body image stabilisation that totally removed my propensity to shake a little with the Nikon DSLR’s. When I upgraded from the Olympus E-M5 to the E-M1 in late 2013 my confidence as a photographer grew even stronger, especially when it came to difficult shooting situations like low lit venues where slow shutter speeds and high ISO would have gotten me nought with my Nikon D700. Today if you put me in front of an event podium with an E-M1 and a fast lens like the Olympus 75/1.8 I will come away with more usable shots than I ever did before because all those mirrorless camera technologies meld together beautifully to improve my results. My flaws are painted over by a camera that works with me, not against me. It would be unfair to suggest that Nikon stood completely still while I was making Olympus my primary system. They did bring out some great new cameras and lenses for the F mount since my last model (the D700), but in none of those new cameras did they address any of my reasons for making the switch to Olympus in the first place, which were mostly weight and cost savings. Unfortunately nothing Nikon has produced since the D700 has tempted me to return to the brand, because apart from improvements to the sensors in areas that don’t really apply to the work I do, they are still big, heavy machines that would slow me down for no noticeable improvement in my output. The Lens Smorgasbord One of the biggest changes I enjoyed after the move was discovering the wonderful family of lenses available to the m43 system, not only in native form, but also in exploring the charms of lenses that could be adapted and used on the E-M1, including old manual focus glass from the long discontinued Canon FD system. There was also full compatibility with the entire Four Thirds range of glass from Olympus, which if you have ever had the opportunity to shoot with will reveal to you that as lens makers Olympus stand behind nobody. Not even Leica. It’s also possible to adapt some lenses from Canon to work on certain m43 bodies with proper auto-focus and electronic aperture control using a Metabones Speed-booster. I must admit to giving serious consideration to the new Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 II as a potential safari lens. With the 1 stop increase in aperture that would be a seriously versatile optic in the bushveld. Eventually though, in my zeal I acquired way too many lenses. At one point I think I had 23 of them for my system and deciding what to take with me on a shoot became an exercise in analysis paralysis. Purging myself of around 75% of those lenses last year has turned me into something of a minimalist when it comes to photography jobs these days. I literally only need 4 different lenses to do 95% of the work I get, so they get put into whatever camera bag I decide to take on a job and that’s that. For the curious those lenses are the Olympus 9-18mm f/4-5.6, 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO, 50-200mm f/2.8-3.5 (4/3) and 75/1.8. They do almost everything and I have not felt inhibited by them in any way. Scrambled Eggs All Over My Face? On the negative side, the thing that I found most challenging about the change to micro four thirds was managing the incredulity of other photographers who were, for the most part, aghast at this change in someone who was so previously welded to the Nikon brand. I have to say this; it probably hurt me more than anything to see people I had come to be friends with on Nikongear over the years turn their backs on me because of my enthusiasm for a different brand. Not dissimilar, I suppose, to what happens when couples get divorced and find their circle of friends changes completely afterwards. Apart from that, do I have any regrets about dumping Nikon for Olympus? None whatsoever. Genuine. I am still of the opinion that the m43 system is better for what I do than anything else out there right now. It ticks all the boxes that matter to me; weight, price, durability, customisability, lens options, image quality, performance where it is needed and more. If I was making the move to mirrorless today in 2017 would I still choose m43 over Fujifilm and Sony? Absolutely. I did try the Fuji X-T1 last year and it was OK, but it didn’t shake my world the way the Olympus E-M1 did when it came out. I think the size difference between the two systems is significantly in m43’s favour without any noticeable difference in the image quality as far as sensor size is concerned, so why go for bigger when smaller does just as well? On the subject of Sony’s mirrorless system, they are undoubtedly the sensor kings, but as a company I could never trust them enough to buy into any system they put their name on. I have seen far too many Sony products become paperweights because of their capriciousness when it comes to long term customer support. I’m not a fan of the brand at all. However, I do like the RX-100 as a pocket camera and video tool. On the subject of video, looking ahead I see myself moving more into that sphere where the m43 Panasonic GH-4 and GH-5 cameras have all but swept aside the really big names in video capabilities for minimal outlay. Adding one of them seems to be my most likely next move and considering the m43 lens family I have it makes perfect sense. I also see a DJI m43 drone which extends the practicality of those lenses even further. All in all m43 is just a winning, very well supported photography and videography system. Word coming out of the usual analytical sources regarding the camera industry (Thom Hogan) is that DSLR sales are declining rapidly at this time and mirrorless are making some gains. At some point in the very near future the lines on the graph will cross and mirrorless cameras will become the top sellers in the interchangeable lens camera market. For me when that day comes vindication of my move will be savoury. :-) If any Fotozones readers are considering a move to mirrorless and have questions about the Micro Four Thirds system, please feel free to ask questions in the comments - I will be happy to help you make an informed decision. If you like this post, please consider incentivising me to write more often by supporting me on Patreon.
  34. 1 point
    A while back I was in Austin, Texas for a short weekend of street shooting, bar hopping, and just having fun in general. After a wild Saturday day and night on 6th Street, which consisted of me getting thrown out of a bar for taking photographs (a story for another time), I got up early on Sunday morning and hit the streets again. This is my cure for a hangover- get your ass up, with head pounding, grab the cameras, and hit the streets. However, this cure almost never works. I left the hotel and made my way back to 6th Street. It is about 8:00 a.m. and let me tell you, there is no deader place on the planet than 6th Street (the Party Capitol of Texas), than on a Sunday morning. No one, and I mean no one was out and about. I stumbled around a bit, found a coffee shop open and sat in there for about an hour consuming massive amounts of caffeine. After getting a good buzz on and increasing the pounding in my head, I once again made my way down 6th Street. Still, there was very little activity until I heard the preacher long before I saw him. Naturally I gravitated towards this booming presence and soon found myself face to face with a corner street preacher, preaching the gospel to anyone who would listen, which of course, was only me. I instinctively raised my camera to take a shot, when he suddenly stopped, looked at me, shook his Bible and said in a thunderous voice, "I will smite thee ol' Satan if you take my picture." He glared at me, and I did not take the shot. I lowered the camera and he continued his sermon. Again, I slowly started raising my camera and once again he stopped, looked at me, "I will smack you with my Bible if you take my picture Satan!!!" I lowered my camera without taking a shot. I wasn't particularly intimidated by him- I think I was more amused than anything else. I thought, well, what will he do if I raise my camera one more time? So, I started to slowly raise my camera and once again, he stopped preaching. This time he violently shook his Bible and said, "God will strike you down Satan, if you take my picture." I was just about to press the shutter when suddenly there was a huge BOOM!!!! He stopped preaching, I almost dropped my camera and pissed in my pants, and we both looked to our left, where a huge van had passed by and had backfired. He smiled, I smiled, and I left without ever taking a shot. I will always have this moment etched in my memory. This is one time I did not need a photograph to remind me of how absurd and crazy life can be sometimes. God I love photography.
  35. 1 point
    On Saturday I was in attendance at my niece Storm's wedding to Luca, which was held at a lovely riverside lawn venue in the Natal Midlands. The weather was perfect, the bride was beautiful and everything went off without a hitch. I wasn't the photographer for this gig. Everyone in my family knows that I am not a wedding photographer, but I will take casual photos if they ask me. The thing with me and weddings is that I actually find the whole process too stilted and contrived, especially modern wedding photography, so while I am happy to take photos on the day, just don't ask me to engineer these Vogue styled fashion photographs. I don't have that in my repertoire and have no plans of doing so. Snapshots and reportage of the event? No problem. I'm so used to doing that at conferences that it comes quite naturally to me. So, Olympus have kindly loaned me a bunch of equipment to use on my first bush workshop which is happening this coming weekend (24-26 April). Included in this bunch of gear is the EM-5 Mk II and the new 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO. I was asked by my sister-in-law if I could do a video of Storm coming down the terrace on her horse because they didn't have anybody to do an official video. I said, sure, no problem. I can do that. I also volunteered to film the ceremony by putting the EM-5 on a tripod. I used the 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO as the lens on that body and with a couple of other EM-1 bodies did some stills while the video was taking care of itself. On the one E-M1 I had the new 40-150/2.8 PRO. This is a really, really, really terrific lens for wedding photography. It's got the great image quality, the reach, proximity focus, you name it. I took quite a few shots with it and can't find fault with this lens in any way. The only thing I could possibly nit-pick about is that the out of focus areas are not as smooth as I would like. But that is not to say that they are bad, they're not. I have used telezooms from Nikon and Canon with similar bokeh, so I guess it's just inherent to a complicated lens design. The best thing about this lens is that it's lightweight and yet it offers so much versatility. You can take off the hood and the tripod mount and it looks not much bigger than a Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8, yet it gives you an equivalent 80-300mm f/2.8 zoom range. And it can focus at under 1 meter. Ridiculously amazing lens that is indispensable to any photographer shooting with micro four thirds. I have to state that this was probably the worst possible lighting for an outdoor wedding. It was bright and sunny and it took place at 11am, plus most of the time I had the sun behind the subject. Our sun is slowly moving northwards as we press on into winter here in South Africa, but it's still quite intense, so when people are facing towards it they are going to be squinting. Ideally I should have used some fill flash, but because I was not the official photographer I just did my own thing and hoped for the best. Judging by the number of likes I got on Facebook from friends and relatives I think I did OK. Will I consider doing wedding photography as a business? I don't think so, but if I owned this kind of gear I certainly wouldn't have any problems doing it. Here are a few shots from the day. Click to view larger version. The beautiful bride! Tearful father of the bride. The ceremony. Exchanging of the rings (I should have been a bit more centre-on for this shot but I wanted to get Storm's facial expression). Signing the register. The best men (Luca's brothers - that bow tie in the beard was a hoot!). My son playing the guitar for the hymn they sung. The all important kiss! They did this only after signing the register, which I found a little odd. Returning from the "official"photoshoot. Celebrating with cousins! My sons getting in on the celebrating! OK, this last one was with the 12-40/2.8 PRO which is just as good as the bigger brother. A perfect combo for the wedding photographer.
  36. 1 point
    It was some time in 2012 that a friend of mine suggested I should go and have a look at the new Olympus OM-D E-M5 micro four thirds camera that had been brought into stock at a local retailer. At the time I was shooting professionally with two Nikon D700 bodies and a slew of big zoom and prime lenses, some from Nikon and some from Sigma. I had expressed an interest to this friend in getting into a smaller camera system like micro four thirds because whenever I wanted to take a camera with me somewhere it involved dragging this big camera backpack along, something that made me look (and feel) very conspicuous. But the problem wasn’t so much the back pack, it was that I couldn’t always fit everything I wanted to bring with me into the backpack for fear of injuring my back due to the weight I would end up carrying. I was looking for something lighter and a bit more more manageable to take with me on outings. I didn’t want a 1-lens-does-all solution either. I wasn’t expecting to do professional work with it but I did want to get results that I’d be happy with. Prior to me checking out the Olympus E-M5 I had owned both the Olympus Pen E-P1 and E-P2 cameras, plus I had just recently picked up a Panasonic GF-1 with a couple of decent Panasonic micro four thirds lenses on a special. I loved those little m43 cameras, but the image quality, while good, just wasn’t quite in the league of a DSLR and once you’re used to a certain pay grade going down from there is seldom something you aspire to. Those early m43 cameras were good for most things, but not that good in low light or situations that required solid auto focus performance, which is where I often found myself wanting them to be good. So off I went to this shop where they had the OM-D E-M5 on display. I asked the sales assistant if I could get hands on and on touching it for the first time my immediate thought was something along the lines of “Oh, that’s a solid piece of kit”. It really was. Compared to the PEN series cameras this one wasn’t that much bigger, but something about it felt a whole lot more substantial. It felt like a serious photographic tool. Tilting touch screen? I was hooked! You can’t really tell a lot about performance from playing with a camera in a store, so I left it there and of course the first thing I did when I got home was begin searching for online reviews and more importantly sample images that could show me what the camera was capable of producing. I especially wanted to see how it fared with tricky shooting, such as low lit rooms and back lit situations. I wasn’t quite prepared for what I found. There were a LOT of people talking about the OM-D E-M5 online. From the usual reviews and bench tests to the field reviews everybody was unanimous: the camera was great and it was going to be a question poser to DSLR users, for sure. It was still a hard decision for me to make, because I had two copies of one of the best DSLR’s ever made and I was about to go off on safari to Sabi Sabi in a month’s time. I needed both D700’s for that trip. Or did I? One D700 would be used for telephoto shots taken with my Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 lens. The other would be used for… What was the other one going to be used for? Wide angles? On safari? Well, I might as well use the OM-D for that my inner logic said. I eventually bit the bullet and ordered a silver and black OM-D body only from a local dealer. A few days later it arrived and while I still had both the Nikon D700’s in my possession, only a few hours later I was quite certain that I would be able to not only use this camera in conjunction with my D700, but I would also be able to use it in many situations where the D700 simply wouldn’t perform well. I already had a buyer hanging on for one of the D700’s so all it took was a phone call and a financial transaction for me to bid one of them goodbye. The one good decision I made with this change was that I didn’t go crashing 100% into it the way I had done twice before when I moved from Nikon to Canon and then back to Nikon over a period of about 4 years. I ran both the Nikon and the Olympus systems side by side for well over a year before eventually moving over entirely to the Olympus system after the E-M1 came out. That gave me the safety net I needed in my photography career to be able to use a system I was already very familiar with (Nikon), as well as being able to experiment with a new system (Olympus) to see what I could use it for and how effective it could be in any given situation. The things I have learned along this path of change might be quite helpful to other photographers who are considering making a similar change to their setup. Initially I had intended to write an eBook about this move, but I have now decided to write a series of freely accessible articles for potential Olympus users instead. The purpose of this series of articles therefore is to help you understand a little bit more about how the Olympus system works and also how it compares to DSLR systems like Nikon and Canon in various shooting situations. By the end of this series you should have a pretty good idea of what to expect from the system (based on my experiences). I will also cover various shooting situations I have encountered with the camera and show you photos from paid and non-paid jobs I have done with the equipment I have. Why Olympus? The company Olympus has been around since 1919, which means right now it’s just 5 years shy of celebrating its centenary. That’s a long time to have been in business and despite the recent financial irregularity issues that saw 11 of their executives arrested and charged criminally for contravening various business laws in Japan, the company still continues to operate independently of any dominant shareholding. The largest shareholder currently is Sony Corporation who hold an 11% stake in Olympus. I was attracted to the brand for two main reasons: 1. they’re innovative (5 axis in body image stabilisation -IBIS- is such a brilliant idea, and so is the touch screen LCD). 2. their products are excellent quality, especially the optics - in fact the professional grade lenses are renowned for being amongst the very best you can get and there are many very fast lenses that you don’t get from other manufacturers. The Lens Selection Another major selling point for me wasn’t so much the brand, but more the fact that micro four thirds is an open standard, meaning that any manufacturer can produce cameras and lenses for it and this is probably why there are so many lenses available for m43 today. At the time of writing this guide there are over 45 different lenses available for m43 from a range of different manufacturers including, Olympus, Panasonic, Leica, Sigma, Voigtlander and Samyang. This large range includes everything from fisheye lenses to macro and telephoto, as well as some extremely fast prime lenses. There are three manual focus Voigtlander lenses with maximum apertures of f/0.95. Expensive at over $1000 each, but if you’re looking for speed they don’t come much faster than that! Something else that needs to be taken into consideration is that all the excellent lenses that Olympus developed for its 4/3rds DSLR system are now fully compatible with the Olympus E-M1 using an adapter (MMF1, MMF2, MMF3). If you look at the range of Super High Grade lenses on offer you’ll start to get an appreciation of just how significant this development is, especially if you’re after telephotos. Olympus makes some of the finest fast telephotos and tele-zooms you’re ever likely to encounter. They’re all weather proof and most of them have very fast apertures. An example of this would be the 150mm f/2.0, which offers the equivalent field of view of a 300mm lens on something like a Nikon FX body. Then there is the 90-250mm f/2.8 (180-500/2.8 equiv.), as well as Olympus’ own 300mm f/2.8 (600/2.8 equiv.) that offers you the equivalent field of view of lenses with double that focal length in bigger systems (who makes a 600mm f/2.8 or a 180-500mm f/2.8?). Combine this selection with the amazingly effective IBIS of the E-M1 and the options for nature photography begin to step well off the plane of what is possible using bigger systems. Smaller lenses mean less weight and IBIS means less need for expensive physical camera stabilisation such as gimbal heads and ballheads. For those interested in nature photography or birding it is a compelling system to investigate. My interests in photography and the work I actually get paid for are fairly dissimilar. I’m drawn to landscapes and cityscapes as well as action and stage work for my personal stuff, but my paid work lies in event coverage and sometimes product photography. For all those areas I probably relied on 3 different lenses for the Nikon FX system. There was the incredibly wide Sigma 12-24mm FX lens, the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 and the Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 OS. So for the Olympus system to work for me I would need to have lenses that could do the same kinds of things. Initially I was using the Panasonic 14-45mm f/3.5-4.5 kit lens on my E-M5 which is a great kit lens, it really is. But because it’s not so fast and a lot of the time I am shooting indoors, I wanted something that came close to the quality of the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8. My options at that time came down to the very capable and super fast Olympus primes, such as the 17mm f/1.8 (35mm equiv.) and the 45mm f/1.8 which are the two focal lengths I use most of all. Or the Panasonic 12-35mm f/2.8 and 35-100mm f/2.8 zooms. Unfortunately I would have to import those due to lack of brand presence here in South Africa, so I gave the primes from Olympus (who do have very good representation here in SA) some serious thought. I do like shooting primes, but I don’t like changing lenses in the field, so I decided to bite the bullet and get the Olympus PRO 12-40mm f/2.8 zoom lens for about $1000. This turned out to be a very good decision as it is a brilliant piece of glass. Prior to getting it I had always said that the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 was the best zoom I have ever used, but after seeing the results I was getting from this guy I changed my mind and the king of the zooms for me now is definitely this Olympus lens. On the wide angle zoom side there were two options for me to look at; the Panasonic 7-14mm f/4 and the Olympus 9-18mm f/4-5.6. The Panny is a lot bigger than the Oly and it runs a constant f/4 maximum aperture throughout its range where the Oly loses a stop at the longer end. The good thing about the Oly though is that it is a collapsible lens, so when it’s not in use it is very small, which fits well with my whole philosophy and primary interest in wanting to move to this system - size and weight. I read quite a few reviews on both lenses, as well as several comparisons and the general consensus was that unless you had to have the extra stop at the long end and the much wider wide end, you’d be happier with the Oly. Image quality between the two was neither here nor there. One thing that the Oly does have in its favour is that you can use screw in filters on it whereas the Panasonic lens is pretty much like the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 - there is no filter thread. So I ended up getting the Olympus 9-18mm and I am very happy with it. It was a lens I ended up doing some satisfying landscape work with in Namibia last year, plus of course I could use the very cool LEE filters Seven5 system on it. The only thing I couldn’t replace with an Olympus lens yet was my Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8. Yes, there was the very good Panasonic 35-100mm f/2.8, but as mentioned it’s unavailable here where I live. Then I began reading about the Olympus 75mm f/1.8. It gives an equivalent field of view of 150mm on the Nikon FX system, which is not that far from the 200mm I would mostly be using on the Nikon system. If you’ve read my review of the 75mm Oly you’ll know how I feel about it. It’s a piece of glass to cherish. I’ve never used anything quite like it and the shots I got with it during my coverage of two major conferences last year got me high praise from my clients. The people at ICANN being one of them. With this lens I have all three of my main requirements covered and instead of being burdened with a rucksack, I can take them all in a tiny bag like the ThinkTank Retrospective 5 and still have space for other lenses. What Other Lenses? The really cool thing about m43 is that there are some fun lenses you can pick up for very little money. One of my favourites is the $300 Samyang 7.5mm f/3.5 fisheye. I use this little lens everywhere I go. It’s manual focus but it has such incredible depth of field that if you set it to f/5.6 and infinity focus, you are pretty much assured of everything from around 20cm in front of the lens to the horizon being in focus. Recently I was loaned two other fun lenses that I am having a great time with - the Sigma 19mm f/2.8 and the Sigma 30mm f/2.8. The 19mm is a super little lens and I will be writing a more in-depth review of it soon. On the macro side there are two native options: I have the Panasonic/Leica 45mm f/2.8 Macro-Elmarit which I like a lot, but there is also an Olympus 60mm f/2.8 macro that has many macro users all atwitter regarding it's outstanding sharpness and overall optical performance. Some people are even saying that it is in the league of the legendary 125mm f/2.5 APO Lanthar by Voitlander. The long telephoto options are plentiful when it comes to Olympus. You can spend a boatload of cash and get the legacy 4/3rds glass for use on the E-M1, or you can wait for Olympus to bring out their new PRO lenses later this year and early next year. In the pipeline are the long awaited 35-150mm f/2.8 PRO lens and the 300mm f/4 PRO telephoto. The latter will give you an equivalent 600mm f/4 in FX terms but at a fraction of the price. If the optics of the rest of the Olympus range are anything to go by it’s going to be a very desirable lens for the person buying into the Olympus OM-D system. There are also a plethora of slower and cheaper telephotos to chose from, such as the Olympus 75-300mm f/4.8-6.7. I have this lens and while I am not particularly gushing about it, it does provide the amateur photography enthusiast with a very useful zoom range (150-600mm FX equivalent) in a relatively small and well finished package. Olympus recently also introduced a long awaited 25mm f/1.8 prime, which has been very well received and rounds out their fast prime selections really well. You now have the 12mm f/2, 17mm f/1.8, 25mm f/1.8, 45mm f/1.8 and of course the grand daddy 75mm f/1.8. All of them are stellar performers. So there are lots of lenses to choose from in the OM-D system and unless you have exotic needs for things like tilt and shift, the eco-system is well populated. In the next article I will be looking at the photographic gains you will make as an Olympus system user.
  37. 1 point
    In days gone by I spent a lot of time covering various events, things like product launches, conferences, meetings, demonstrations, etc. It’s fairly stress-free work on the corporate side but it does come with its own challenges, most of which almost always come down to lighting and getting access to areas that you need to be in. Here are 4 tips I can offer those of you considering doing this type of work. 1. Avoid Using Flash (if possible) For me personally using flash at a corporate event is a last resort. I think the last time I used flash at an event was when I was shooting with a Nikon D200 where high ISO was pretty much limited to about ISO 800. So tip number one is to try and shoot with a fast aperture lens (f/1.8 or better) and use the Auto-ISO feature of your camera to limits you are happy with. The only time I do use flash is for handshakes and posed photos. Most cameras made in the past 3 years are quite capable of producing decent image quality at ISO 3200. Some of them even go a few stops higher, so don’t be afraid to use this when you can. Your photos are probably not going to be printed very large (if at all) and you can always run them through a good noise reduction rinse in post if need be. The Nik Dfine plugin is now free and it does a good job. I am happy with using the noise reduction sliders in Lightroom and I have a preset of 25 for any images that I shoot above ISO 1600 with the Olympus E-M1. This gives a good amount of detail and the shots look natural, not overly plastic. One thing you need to remember is that the further you are away from your subject, the grainier they will look when you shoot high ISO. So, try and get as close as possible if you are forced to use the upper levels of sensor sensitivity to get your shot without flash. If you have no option but to use flash on shots during the actual event, be sure to bounce it. Remember the inverse square law works in your favour so even if you have to bounce it off the back of the room the light that will hit your subject will not be falling off as much as it does when they are close to you. Obviously this situation is going to be different for every job. You’ll have to think on your feet and come up with a solution if you’re in a very large room with nowhere to bounce your flash. Welcome to the world of professional photography! 2. Take The Boring Shots One of the biggest problems photographers shooting events face is that we are often trying to make every shot look über creative and we tend to forget to shoot the ordinary stuff. That’s not why we’re there. We’re there to document the whole event. We don’t have to always wonder whether the background is flattering or if the microphone is jutting out of the speaker’s head slightly for every shot we take. Context is important for documentary work so don’t be scared of including it in your shots even if its ugly. Sure, every now and then our photographer’s eye will see something that really works photographically and we can shoot it for inclusion in our submission to the client as well as in our portfolios, but don’t get hung up on doing this for every shot. Make the boring shots even when every shred of creativity in you is saying “Ugh!” Last week I had a shoot covering a workshop about caffeine based shampoos for hair-loss and a hair dressing demonstration for a local magazine. No matter where I positioned myself in this room (and there wasn’t much space!) I would either have a PA speaker framing the actual speaker’s head, or the heads of other people in the foreground of the shot. Nothing I could do about it, so I just shot and shot and shot. Some of the images were OK but they all had crappy backgrounds. I knew that nobody was going to do any better than I was doing with their phones so I just got on with it, warts and all. They wanted documentary images, not studio stuff. Lemons anyone? 3. Divorce Yourself From Shyness Can’t say it enough. You have to get in front of people otherwise you’re going to miss the shot or shoot their backs. Have you ever heard of a paparazzo asking for permission to get in your face or stand where they know they’ll get the shot they need? You have to adopt that mentality if you want to make a shot that is not in an easy spot. It’s hard to think this way, but if you’re a stand-off type of shooter you’re not going to be very successful at covering events if you only want to stand in the shadows of the wings. Yes, you will get in people’s way at times, but that’s their problem. You are being paid to do a job, not be considerate all of the time. When the job is done you walk away and you don’t have to worry about it again. Obviously I’m not advocating being obnoxious, but if you see somebody doing something interesting at an event get in there, take your shot and move on. Don’t hover around the periphery hoping that things will unfold in front of you automatically. They probably won’t. You're the photographer, you’re not just another person attending the shindig. Be the photographer. Event planners are famous for not completely thinking through positioning of things like lecterns, tables and stages all the time. I did a wedding on the weekend where the main table was literally positioned in the middle of the room (double-sided too!) and all the other tables were around it. The speaker’s lectern was at the end of this very long table with no working room to stand in front of it for photos. So there were 4 of us (2 video and 2 stills cameramen) standing up in the isles alongside the main table blocking the view of some of the other tables with tripods and monopods. Not ideal, but tough luck for those looking at our backs. We didn’t plan the seating and if the couple didn’t get their video and photos they would not be happy. Who’s paying us? The disgruntled guest or the commissioner of photography? You learn to grow thick skin in this business and divorce yourself from shyness. If you don’t you won’t be working events for too long. Yes, that's the lectern up in front of the fireplace. Who thought this through? 4. Choose Your Gear Wisely Everything in your bag weighs something. If you take things you don’t need you’re going to be carrying them around with you for the whole shoot. My last article was on rationalising my gear and the items I mentioned in that article are more than I need to cover just about every type of event there is. In the past I used to take so much stuff I didn’t end up using because in my mind I was wanting to be prepared for every possible shooting opportunity. So I had lenses and extra bodies with me that never came out of the bag. Like taking a macro lens on a shoot. Or an ultra wide angle. What was I thinking? If some fleeting opportunity to use those items actually did present itself to me while I was working, I’d have to stop whatever I was doing, change lenses to get the shot and then change back to what I was doing before. This is all time lost and honestly, those opportunities to use the specialist lenses are so few and far between that bringing them along is more of a hassle than anything else. For all events you need a good quality general purpose zoom that goes from moderately wide to moderately tele and you need a fast tele for things you can’t or don’t want to get to close to. That’s it. I use the Olympus 12-40/2.8 and the Olympus 75/1.8 on most assignments and I have everything I need in those two lenses. If I don’t need the speed of the 75/1.8 and I want more range I will use the Olympus 50-200mm instead. Yes, I do bring other items like my Samyang 7.5mm fisheye and a flash (just in case), but those items stay in the Think Tank Retrospective 7 bag that I stash that behind the sound desk at events where there is always somebody to watch over your bag. I use the Peak Design Slide for the E-M1 with the 12-40 on it and I use the Peak Design Leash for the other camera with the 75/1.8 on it. They are both bandolier-style drawn across me and hang on my right side at different lengths so they don’t collide with one another. This is such a simple way to work that I don’t know why I never did it before. I charge my batteries before I begin a shoot and I carry a couple of extras in my pocket. Memory cards too, although if I am filling up 32GB cards on the types of events I am doing these days I think I am shooting too much. These 4 tips are based on years of covering events ranging from birthday parties to product launches and everything in-between. I hope they have been helpful to you and if you have any questions or additional tips to share please leave them in the comments below.
  38. 1 point
    I never thought the day would come when I would once again be without a Nikon camera in my kit. There was a brief period between 2001 and 2004 when I shot with Canon EOS but then I returned to my Nikon roots in late 2005 with the purchase of a D70. It wasn’t long before all my EOS kit was traded in for more Nikon lenses and flashes. I was happy again. In 2009 I bought a brand new Nikon D700 and up until 2 days ago I had used that camera almost exclusively for all my professional assignments. Product launches, conferences, product photography, plus of course the wildlife and cultural safaris I’ve been organising all saw the bulletproof Nikon D700 getting used. It never failed me, except for the one time I stupidly broke off the battery compartment door by accident. Photographers are mostly restless creatures. We like to keep pace with technology and having the latest hardware is always something to get enthused about, but since the release of the D700 I have remained very unenthused by anything new that Nikon has brought to market. The D800 with an eye-watering 36 million pixels flies in the face of everything I believe in when it comes to making photography easier, so that model never made it to me. It didn’t help that so many users were reporting serious issues with auto-focus either. The D600 followed as the next FX model and, well, the less said about it the better as far as I’m concerned. A product bellyflop if ever there was one. As we all know a few weeks ago they brought out the Nikon Df, a deliciously sexy looking camera with a price-tag that can only leave one wondering if the brains trust at Nikon HQ have been ingesting some kind of psychotropic substance. The D4 and D3s would have been good for me, but as a regular Joe trying to scratch out a living in sub-Saharan Africa, they remain as financially elusive as buying a new F-type Jaguar. So I got restless and frustrated that Nikon wasn’t bringing out anything I considered a worthy successor to the D700. I also got to the point where I looked at each subsequent Nikon DSLR release and thought to myself, “apart from the sensor, what’s really new here?”. The answer was a deafening nothing. The basic camera remained the same. Heavy, fundamentally mechanical and in some ways fraught with impracticalities when it comes to getting yourself into awkward positions to take photos. I began to look at alternative camera brands. The one that caught my eye was the then new Olympus micro four thirds sensored, retro styled OM-D E-M5. I had previously owned two other Oly m43 bodies in the form of the original Pen E-P1 and E-P2 that I enjoyed using very much, but they couldn’t compete with my D700’s IQ. Eventually I sold them, however the thing that stayed with me about those Oly Pen cameras was just how awesome it was to put them in a little shoulder bag and walk around knowing that I wasn’t going to draw a lot of attention, especially compared to the bag I had to lug around whenever I took my Nikon anywhere. One fine day I found myself visiting a local electronics store and they had an OM-D E-M5 in their display cabinet. I asked the sales person if I could give it a closer look. It didn’t take long for me to know I wanted one. My initial impression was that this was a very robust feeling camera. It had a heft to it that left you with little doubt that it was probably worth the somewhat equivalently hefty price tag. I was intrigued and typically I later became fixated on it, exploring online reviews about the camera with every spare moment. That led me to discover that the OM-D E-M5 was making a lot of very high profile photographers very excited about its capabilities. A few months prior to this I had acquired a second Nikon D700 that had hardly seen any use and with the restlessness for something new growing bigger each day I thought “screw it” and I ended up selling that D700 to get the money to buy this Olympus OM-D E-M5. For a guy who doesn’t usually take risks, this was a big one. I still remember thinking to myself that I must have been crazy to sell a top flight Nikon D700 to buy such a small camera, yet whenever I used the E-M5 I just connected with it on a level that I had never connected with any Nikon DSLR. I loved the touch screen at the back and I loved the fact that wherever I took the camera nobody ever looked at me twice, except to occasionally ask me why I was still shooting with a film camera. In some ways it felt liberating and in others it felt like I was cheating on my wife (entirely metaphorically speaking that is). I bought the E-M5 in August of 2012 and I have loved using it ever since. I own 6 lenses for it at this time and there’s very little it can’t do. On our recent month long safari through South Africa’s Western Cape, Namibia and Botswana I used it 95% of the time while the Nikon D700 sat heavily in my ThinkTank roller case. Looking through the images I took on safari I couldn’t help but wonder why on earth I had sweated bricks dragging a nearly 20kg ThinkTank roller case from Durban to Cape Town on a plane when all I was using on that trip fit perfectly in the ThinkTank Retrospective 5 shoulder bag. My wife’s handbag is bigger than that. The only time I used the D700 with purpose was in Etosha for some wildlife shots using the Sigma 120-300/2.8 OS and then once in Botswana for birds. I think it gave me a dirty look when I did eventually pick it up. While we were on that safari Olympus released a new OM-D body in the form of the E-M1. I remember sitting bolt upright in my hotel bed while I was reading the press release on my iPad. I wanted it right there and then. It addressed every minor shortcoming of the E-M5 (focus tracking being the main bugbear) and it added some other useful features too, not least of which is built-in wifi. Since its release it has been making a lot of photographers very happy. Why shouldn’t I be one of them? Last week I decided that I was going to take another risk. I put my remaining Nikon D700 and Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 lens up for sale. While I was doing that I checked out the shutter count on both cameras. The D700 had done just shy of 30,000 frames in almost 5 years. The OM-D had done over 18,000 frames in 15 months. Those numbers translate into 1200 shots a month with the OM-D versus 500 shots a month with the D700. More than double with Olympus. Any misgivings I had had up until that discovery flew right out the window because here was the bald faced truth in numbers that even the most inventive of statisticians could not argue with. A couple of days ago that D700 of mine went to a new home and yesterday so did the Nikon 24-70/2.8 (my most used Nikon lens). For the first time in nearly a decade I do not own a Nikon camera. I have since placed an order for the E-M1, the Olympus 12-40/2.8 and also the Olympus 75-300mm which I have been hearing very good things about. I will use it as a walk around 150-600mm equivalent until I get the 40-150/2.8 Oly next year. That will bring the total number of lenses I have for m43 up to 9, all of which can fit into a very small bag and which cost way less than the equivalent lenses for the F mount. Many people are asking me why I didn’t just hang onto my D700 and wait for Nikon to bring out something that would fit more with my needs. Some of them even call me crazy and shake their heads. I don’t care. The thing is I’ve been waiting for Nikon to bring out this mythical D700 replacement for many years. It ain’t happening. What has happened while I was waiting for Nikon to produce something that meant something to me though is that I have had a mind shift when it comes to what I need to work as a photographer. I don’t need the hassle of a big heavy system of bodies and lenses, nor do I need to “look the part” of being a pro photographer. It’s a pain having to drag heavy gear around with you all the time. All I need is the knowledge that the equipment I am using is capable of performing and right now I am very happy with the performance of the OM-D system and Olympus’ m43 lenses. They make me want to take my camera everywhere and that’s something I just haven’t ever wanted to do with my D700.
  39. 1 point
    The Rio Grande Gorge Bridge lies about 10 miles northwest of Taos in northern New Mexico. A steel deck arch built in the mid 1960's, it is the seventh highest in the United States, with the river running 565 feet below. The span is 1280 feet, with a 600-foot long main center section. There are walkways on both sides, with six lookout points. Sadly, there have been numerous suicides, and there are now six hotline phones, one at each lookout. At one of the points there are flags and inscriptions in memory of those who have leapt to their death. Standing on the bridge and looking down as well as out along the gorge, I was filled with a sense of awe and wonder at this marvel of nature. The gorge is known as a rift valley, a separation in the earth’s crust caused by faulting and other earth movements. It begins near Colorado and goes on for some 50 miles, with a depth of mostly 800 feet from rim to river. It lies in a flat valley, with mountain ranges mostly to the southeast. I could imagine early explorers' consternation when coming upon it, having to travel many miles to find a crossing place. It is often very windy, which added to the trepidation I felt in walking across. Although quite fearful, that did not halt my traverse nor overly interfere with taking photographs. We were there in early afternoon on a somewhat hazy day, so some of the photos show evidence of this. I would like to return again, not only to confront my fears, but for the incredible experience of the vistas, rock formations, and river, and in hopes of better light.
  40. 1 point
    I was going to put the following as a reply to Andrew's post, but the reply itself became a topic so I started this page. As you may be aware, I spent the greater part of my professional career restoring, preserving and/or copying historic photos - unfortunately something that never got much in the way of publicity but was highly specialised nonetheless. Despite that, to this day I still find the whole subject just as fascinating as when I started my business in 1982, and the deeper you get involved, the more it gets its claws into you. There is something truly addictive, as expertise is gained, in being able to pick up an original 19thC photograph and almost immediately knowing the process by which it was made and to within a few years of when it was made. The early years of photography was littered with different processes as photographers experimented with ways of producing that which appeared an elusive goal, namely the production of a durable, permanent, non-fading image. Unintentionally, then, this continuing experimentation meant that dating early photographs can be surprisingly accurate, far moreso than those of the 20th Century, when processes ran for decades in common use rather than the few years that typified the early years. I would have thought that after all these years, particularly since digital aids such as Photoshop appeared, that we'd have run out of photos in need of salvage, but still they land on my desk, often in far worse condition than in my earlier years just through the three-plus decades more life they've had to endure in that time. If you've ever wondered what an Ambrotype looks like out of its presentation case, I crecently had this one sent to me for image restoration some 10 years after someone else had a go at restoring the original: For those less aware, an Ambrotype consists of a collodion negative that has been underexposed, processed in a ferrous sulphate developer (which whitens the exposed image as it develops), then is either placed in a case with a backing of black velvet; or is coated on the plain side with a black japan coating (results in a reversed image); or - worst for restoring - japanned directly on the emulsion which gives a right-way around image looked at through the glass and saves the need for a cover glass. Let's call the latter a 19thC Polaroid, if you will, in much the same way as a tintype was produced on a piece of tin coated with black abd then the collodion emulsion, and processed the same way. This one had been stuck together with an adhesive coated piece of loose-weave linen, unfortunately without repairing the japanned backing on the plain side (so this image is reversed to real-life orientation). Unfortunately the drop which shattered it also destroyed the cover glass protecting the fragile, forward-looking emulsion, which was then subject to probably decades of scuffing as the cover glass was not replaced. This meant that I had to completely dismantle it, removing the linen and then the deteriorated japan: (the first time I ever did this I nearly had a nervous melt-down - it always really looks to be beyond salvation at first glance! ) .....then re-coating the back (using water-based acrylic this time, so should any future conservation be needed it is easily removed) and reassembling the shards of glass on the copy board for copying to a digital file (using an X-T1 and Zeiss Touit 50/2.8M Makro lens): With the name "Ann Cameron & family" written on the back in old handwriting, along with "Wattle Range, South Australia", it wasn't a great task at all to confirm my early guess of early-to-mid-1860's in that the father Alexander had died in 1859, and his youngest son had been born in 1858. As the son looks to be about 6 or 7 in the photo, a search of itinerant photographers in the Penola area of South Australia at that time came up with just one, Thomas J.J. Wyatt, who is documented as being a user of the Ambrotype process and as having done a photographic foray into the area surrounding his Mt Gambier base south of Penola, South Australia in 1864 and 1867. 1864 fits perfectly with the age of the kids (several of whom I have also found birth/death dates for), and as it had to have been after 1859 as Dad would certainly have been in the shot otherwise (and Mother would not be in black Widow's Weeds), 1864 is almost definitely the year and we also know for an equally high degree of certainty the name of the photographer..... So while the actual restoration of the image itself is in its early stages, I'll post a picture of it at this stage, and if it turns out as i hope I'll post the finished result when it's finished, although that is a while off. There's hours and hours of work to do yet. Perhaps the worst aspect has been rediscovering the eyes of several of the sitters, which had obviously been chemically treated to intensify the image where they had disappeared into shadow, and that either the intensifier was too strong or the image wasn't washed afterwards and the intensifier kept working - whatever, some were just fuzzy white dots with almost no detail, as is readily seen. The rest will just be hours of painstakingly removing defects without compromising the actual image any more than is completely unavoidable. Still a long way to go yet but the basics are done, and the whole image should be very presentable when finished. I'm choosing to restore the whole image rather than just that which was intended under the oval mat as it shows the itinerant "studio" common practice of nailing a dark blanket up on the side of a house as a backdrop, and using sunlight as the source. A carpet would also have been laid on the ground, although in this case the image detail is deteriorated to the point of mere suggestion and guesswork. The top of the window peeking out above the blanket helped in my decision, the cost of the extra time involved I won't pass on, but as I think this is important to show in an historical context, that's OK (there's lots of work to do in these areas yet). As a footnote, this particular part of the Cameron family are the second and third generation of the founders of the South Australian town of Penola, now one of the premier wine-growing areas of Australia (although in this era it was a pastoral area). So, knowing Cameron as the name, as I was working on the photo I noticed the double-oval shield belt clasp of the lady second from right, the familiar look of the ladies' tartan (light centre, dark borders), and the black velvet belt with single oval buckle on the girl at right and checked on my own Daguerreotype taken in the mid-late 1850's by Antoinne Claudet in his studio at 107 Regent Street, London that came into my possession in 1988 as the result of a bequest to a family named Ireland in Melbourne from a deceased relative in England. With no Internet back then, research still quickly named the subject as Julia Cameron (nee Buckley), dates being consistent within the time that Claudet had received a Royal Warrant as noted on the label on the photo (1853) and his departure from the Daguerreotype process (late 1850's/early 1860's) or ultimately his death and the studio burning down shortly afterwards in 1867, and placed the taking date within that window. There a similarity in the people, ages and dress of this Ambrotype and my Daguerreotype, to the point that I'd guess these two branches of the Cameron clan were probably known to each other, or at least aware of each others' existence. Both were very wealthy, which increases that chance exponentially. The modern sources of both these photographs, on the other hand, had no idea of the existence of each of their families. Julia Cameron, Circa 1854-60: People think I'm a bit nuts for having chosen this as a speciality in my career path, but I'm totally fascinated by it.
  41. 1 point
    There’s never been a better time to get into mirrorless than right now with the amazing special prices Olympus have on offer for various items in their micro four thirds range. When it came out three years ago the OM-D E-M5 caused quite a stir in the photography world. For the first time there was a micro four thirds camera that could hold its own against many of the DSLR’s of the day. In fact it won camera of the year at a couple of big name photography sites, beating out some very solid competition from all the other names in the game. The E-M5 could also go way beyond what you could do with a DSLR and I won’t linger on too much about the advantages this little camera offers because I have already written many articles on this theme here on Fotozones - just look them up. Suffice to say that if you’re looking for something small and unobtrusive with great image quality, you can’t really do a lot better than the current special deals on the E-M5 being offered around the web for $599. If those deals were available here I’d certainly consider getting another one. $599 is about half of the amount I paid for mine in 2012 sans lens. Hard to believe that we’re on the short march to 2015 already, but man, that little camera has served me incredibly well in the two and a half (or more) years I have owned it. I have used it to produce documentary work, landscape work, product work in studio, stage work and more. It has been more of a workhorse for me than the Nikon D700’s that formed the basis of my career up until the point the OM-D system came into my life. It has proven itself to be a very capable camera system for me. I couldn’t be happier. If you’re thinking about getting the E-M5, you should also look into some of the lenses that Olympus also have on special at the moment when purchased with the body. These include $200 off the amazing 12-40/2.8 PRO or 12-50 EZ general purpose zooms, as well as $200 off the 9-18mm wide angle and the utterly fabulous 75/1.8 ED. Serious bargains! Here’s a full list of the various options together with the amount you’ll save when you buy them with the E-M5 at $599: Save $200 on the Olympus 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 Ver. II R Lens Save $200 on the Olympus M Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm f/2.8 Pro Interchangeable Lens Save $200 on the Olympus M ED 9-18mm f/4.0-5.6 micro Four Thirds Lens Save $200 on the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-50mm F3.5-6.3 EZ Lens Save $200 on the Olympus M. Zuiko Digital ED 12mm f/2.0 Lens Save $200 on the Olympus M. Zuiko Digital ED 75mm f1.8 Lens Save $200 on the Olympus ED 14-150mm f/4.0-5.6 micro Four Thirds Lens Save $100 on the Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm f1.8 Lens Save $100 on the Olympus MSC ED-M 75 to 300mm II f4.8-6.7 Zoom Lens Save $100 on the Olympus M. 25mm f1.8 Lens Save $100 on the Olympus M. Zuiko 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 EZ Lens Save $100 on the Olympus M. Zuiko Digital ED 45mm f1.8 Lens Save $100 on the Olympus MSC ED M. 60mm f/2.8 Lens Save $100 on the Olympus M. 40-150mm F4.0-5.6 R Zoom Lens Save $100 on the Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm f/2.8 Lens And if you would really like to show your appreciation for the Fotozones community you can help our Christmas stocking by using this link to get to Amazon and make your purchase there. It won’t cost you anything more, but will send a little Christmas love our way, courtesy of the Amazon affiliate program. Happy shooting!
  42. 1 point
    The most critical component of any photo is light. Without it, you have no picture. Today, let's take a journey through my approach to how I light my subjects and scenes. I'm sure most of you have heard the story about the infamous W. Eugene Smith being asked a question about lighting at a seminar. The question from the audience was, "what light is the best light?" Smith answered, "Why, available light, of course!" There was a pause and from the crowd some muttered rumblings. Then, Smith continued with, "By that I mean any damn light that is available!" I believe that to be true as well. I don't hold someone who shoots ambient only any higher or lower on the skill level as someone who uses off camera flash. I judge a photographer by the end product they deliver. Out of necessity, most of us start out in photography with very little money. Cameras and lenses are expensive and after that money is spent, there is generally very little left for anything else. So, the first thing we learn, is how to harness the power of ambient lighting. That is followed very shortly by using constant light sources in the shooting environment. And why not? It is cheap and the majority of the time it looks decent because it is what our eyes are used to seeing. Problem? You generally have little to no control over it. Also, it has a tendency to look "average" because it is what everyone else is used to seeing. How do we make it stand out from the pack? Figure out different ways of shaping that light. For example, you can get reflectors to use as fill light sources. You can use diffusion material to cut down on the harsh midday sun. Reflector kiss generally have a diffuser as part of the unit, white bed sheets can also be employed. There is even a quote from Joe McNally that I remember, and that is, "If you want something to look interesting, don't light all of it." Sometimes less is more and, the attention to the image can be directed by what is lit and what is not. By our very nature, we tend to look at the brightest or shiniest part of an image first. Don't forget that environmental elements can be used as well. Open shade is a good place to be. There are small some structures that provide for good diffusion of sunlight. Windows in a home or building, glass arboretums are also a nice option. After we've cut our teeth on ambient light, we start seeing all these great portraits with this sculpted light, well controlled and contrasty and we think to ourselves, "self...I want to create pictures like that!" We have no clue where to start. You look at the price of flash units and studio strobes and think that it is impossible, can't be afforded and then think about giving up on the idea. Then you decide you'll check the internet and find some more info on the subject. You stumble across some place like Strobist and you are renewed! You start buying flashes, triggers, light modifiers, stands. ... you go a little crazy and but a bunch of stuff that you don't know how to use, when to use it or control it. You stick with it though, and after a while you get the hang of it. AND YOU LIGHT THE HELL OUT OF EVERYTHING. You go through a mode where you think that everything looks better bathed in light from every angle. And you love it for a while, but then it stops being fun and taking images becomes a chore, seeing up 3 or 4 lights, lighting subjects and backgrounds, getting the ratios right, the anymore just right. Out of no where it hits you. Shooting purely ambient or purely flash doesn't always have to be the case. You've backed yourself into an unnecessary and arbitrary corner. The basic point is this - shoot the best way that makes sense for your environment and subject. That means it can be flash, ambient or, dare we say it...a combination of the two together. How do we decide? Finally, we've reached the meat and potatoes of the article. Let's talk about my decision making process. The majority of the time, I go through this iteration when I am shooting portraits. One: Scope out the shooting environment and find where the best light is. Can I shoot ambient here? Two: Take an ambient light reading to see what light I'm dealing with. I take a test shot on auto and see what the camera tells me. If you have a light meter and prefer that method, do it to it. Three: What do I want to do with the background? Is it too distracting and do I want to shut it down, or is it an integral part of the shot and I want it in the image? Four: Determine if my subject is going to be over/under exposed in comparison to the background elements. Five: What kind of mood am I looking for in this shot. This will determine the user of light mods and such. Once I have all this figured out, I can determine in my head if I should add in lights and reflectors, shoot straight ambient and what I'll need to shoot the type of shot I want. For those gear obsessed, let's get into that here for a moment. After that, will do a walk through of sample images and how they were lit and with what. Truth be told, if I can shoot with the ambient light, I will as it can be much easier to get your shots without having to setup lights for each situation. If the ambient light is not cooperating or I'd rather relight the whole scene or parts of it to get the look I want - out come the flashes. Most of the time, though I'm shooting combinations of ambient and flash. Strobes - for portability, I've got 4 Nikon speed light units. The older SB are great because they offer good manual settings and have the ability to be TTL controlled. More on that later. They have good power levels and decent recycle times. For studio or more intensive work, I picked up 2 Alien Bees, the B400 units, with a Vagabond mini battery pack. Great for when you need near instant recycle times and more power than you small flash units. If you need the ultimate in a studio unit for a great price, consider looking at the Einstein units. Good price for the power and control you get. Triggers: When I knew I needed radio triggers, I wanted Pocket Wizard reliability, but not the price. I found that in the Radio Popper branded triggers. Remember above I mentioned having TTL capability in the old nikon SB units. With an add on device called an RPCube, the Radio Popper JrX Studio units can remotely control the power of the flashes from the transmitter. It uses the quench pin to control the power signal on the flash unit. Light Mods: I've been through them all and these are the ones I use 99% of the time. Shoot through umbrella, umbrella softbox, Lumiquest softboxes, grids. These generally cover all of my lighting control needs. Light Stands: I've a bunch of the standard light stands plus one c-stand with a 40 inch boom arm. This is a one light portrait in studio, one Alien Bee with an umbrella box camera left and a white reflector to camera right. The light source is very close so as to add a softer light. I picked this light mod because I wanted more contrast in the light transition from one side of the image to the other. A regular shoot through umbrella would have spilled way more light into the room than I wanted. Control here was accomplished by allowing the light to only come through the front of the umbrella. This is the same light setup as above, but with a shoot through umbrella. You can see that the light is more wrapping because the spill is registered more. I picked this sort of modifier because I wanted a more lit, high key feel to the image. This is from a child portrait shoot. This is an example of using the ambient light in combination with open shade and a reflector(camera left). Now, if the light on the image left side was too intense, we could have used a subtractor(black card) to knock down some of the reflected light. Another example of ambient sun light, open shade and a reflector. Straight ambient. The light was so good that day, when it works, use it! This is a more complicated shot. I liked the ambient light on everything but the couple(their faces were too dark). I exposed the scene for the ambient, then used a Nikon speed light to camera left with a 1/4 grid to pop light onto the faces. A cloudy day gave us a perfect diffuser for this ambient only shot. This is a portrait of a local parks and recreation director. I wanted to show one of the fields that his department maintains, but the only time available was during a very hot intense sunlit day. I exposed for the ambient background and used a Lumiquest LTP softbox to camera right to illuminate the subject, balancing the light sources. C-stand coupled with a gridded speed light above and slightly in front of the camera here gives us this interesting light. I used this to show the textures of the camera body. You can see the effects of the grid on the fabric the camera is sitting on. Notice how it looks like a spotlight, but instead of an abrupt end of the light into the dark, you get a bit of a softer transition.
  43. 1 point
    This photography excursion I’ve just returned from was originally marketed as the “Wild Waterways of Botswana Safari”, however, in geographic terms we only spent 2 nights in the town of Kasane, Botswana at the beginning of our trip. The rest of the time that we were on the Chobe and Zambezi rivers we were actually “resident” in Namibia, mainly because the Zambezi Voyager houseboat we were on is registered there and only moors on the Namibian side of the river (the Chobe river forms part of the border between Namibia and Botswana, as well as Zambia and Zimbabwe further East). When we entered no man’s land (well, no man’s water really) at the Kazungula border post from Zambia we could literally have entered any of 4 countries simply by pointing our boat in one of 4 directions. As far as border posts go, Kazungula is a total mêlée of cargo trucks, all lined up down the road as they wait to cross the river using the ferry barge. This barge can only take one truck at a time and when we arrived there Guts Swanepoel our local guide told us that the queue of trucks on the Botswana side was 11km long, so the truck drivers sometimes face a wait of up to 5 weeks just to get across the border! The authorities who walk around at the border posts don’t like you taking photos there, but I managed to sneak this one which shows the convergence of trucks on the Kazungula, Zambia side. As we were exiting Zambia we were told by our driver that one of the trucks that had just crossed over into Zambia was being sent back over to Botswana because it had some cargo that was not compliant with the paperwork. Can you imagine having had to camp out in a truck for 5 weeks at a border crossing only to be told on the other side that you can’t enter? We were very fortunate to not need the vehicle barge as we had arranged a private boat to shuttle us across the river to Botswana, so our passage through was totally hassle free. Kasane is a very small Botswanan town found on the banks of the Chobe River and very close to the Chobe National Park. We were spending 2 nights at the Kubu Lodge, which is just a little out of the main bustle of the larger central lodges found in town. It’s a decent little lodge, but what makes it a stand-out is that the food there is amazing. We enjoyed some excellent meals out on the restaurant deck. The rooms are all free-standing log cabins with hot water, electricity and a private deck. Fortunately for me they also had a curio shop in the reception area where I was able to buy a pair of zip-off trousers and a new outdoor shirt while I anxiously awaited news of my missing luggage. Part of the reason why I don’t have any photos to show of the lodge is because I was conserving battery life as much as possible for when we were on the river, otherwise I’d have had a lot more to show. So the first two days of our safari we were with Guts and his river guide “Killer” on this amazing photographic safari boat. Guts has spent an inordinate amount of money building this flat bottomed vessel specifically for photographers. It features 8 swivel seats, each of which is equipped with an articulating arm on which there is a Benro gimbal head that you can attach your lens to. The arm is also height adjustable so you can set it to exactly the level that’s comfortable for you. It’s very easy to swing out of the way too. Killer at the helm The boat photography experience was pretty awesome. Guts and Killer (I’m told these are nicknames, but I am too polite to ask how they got them) were amazing and we will most certainly be offering this trip again, possibly with more than just the 2 days in Kasane next time. Photographing wildlife from the water is very different. You are able to get much closer to big animals like hippos and elephants than would normally be the case with land based game drives. Here are some of the photos I got on the first couple of outings with the boat. Click them to view enlarged. Above: a Marabou stork gulps down a chunk of putrified dead buffalo Below: another Marabou contemplates which part of the carcass to snack on A yellow-billed stork presides over its chicks Yellow billed stork chick wishes it could fly Cleared for landing Nervous but thirsty baboons A good reason to be nervous! A couple of fish eagles found in a tree The 5-legged thing... The Chobe lends itself very much towards bird photography. There are hundreds of species of birds to be found here. As many of my readers will already know, I am not much of a bird photographer, mainly because I have yet to find the patience required to make great bird shots, but on this trip I seem to have managed a few decent ones. Most of the time I was using the Olympus OM-D E-M1 with the Olympus 50-200mm f/2.8-3.5 (4/3rds) lens on an MMF-2 adapter, but as you will see in some of the shots above I also used the Olympus 75-300mm f/4.8-6.7 II on the E-M5, which although I initially wan’t all that thrilled with, has certainly proved itself to be quite a good performer. I have definitely warmed to it and having that 600mm equivalent reach at a very reasonable price is totally worthwhile. The one thing that will stick in my mind about this trip though is the incredible sunsets we were treated to every day on the river. They are quite simply breathtaking. Marabou stork against the setting sun In addition to the amazing boat, Guts also has a nifty Unimog off road vehicle that has been fitted with permanent beanbags at two different heights, so you can shoot either standing up or in your seat. I’m exactly 6 feet tall and it was possible for me to stand up in the vehicle without hitting my head on the roof. Because of the height of this truck its also no problem at all when you’re in the Chobe National Park at a crowded sighting because you’re high enough to shoot over the roofs of other vehicles. John and Pepe standing in the Unimog In the next instalment of this report I will talk about our experiences on the houseboat.
  44. 1 point
    Have had the opportunity to check out and shoot with the Olympus 75-300 f/4.8-6.7 II lens. This particular copy was obtained used and was shot without a lens hood. I shot it as I normally would shoot on any other day, any other assignment or any other outing. I do this because I want to see if the cameras or lenses fit my shooting style. I also post processed these images as I would any other images I share because for me, it is about the deliverable at the end of the day. Images straight out of camera mean very little to me in the grand scheme of things. Please click on the images to view larger versions. 1/320, f/8, ISO 320 @ 300mm Why this lens? I look at it this way. I can optically get out to a field of view of 600mm and with the 2x digital teleconverter, I can reach out to an astounding effective FOV of 1200mm!! 1/640, f/4.8, ISO 200 @ 75mm In order to get this kind of reach on an FX sensor size body, the cost would be a whole lot more at the current market rates. Below I will share some images from this lens at various focal lengths and one using the 2x digital teleconverter. 1/320, f/6.1, ISO 250 @ 200mm Right to the point - this is a great lens, but not exceptional. It is wonderful to use right up to about 280mm (560mm FOV) at which point I noticed that it did soften up a bit. 1/800, f/5.1, ISO 200 @ 100mm It did hunt for focus from time to time, but only at the long end of the zoom range. It also did miss focus once or twice, but I'm not sure if that was the gears issue or mine - I was hand holding all the shots, so it is possible that the missed focus was due to user error on my part. The 75-300 is also a relatively fast focuser (not 45/1.8 level - but respectable) and silent because it is classed as MSC (movie and stills compatible). 1/320, f/6.7, ISO 800 @ 300mm The zoom ring is nice, smooth and precise. It will get you where you want to be. The manual focus ring is adequate and useful at times, especially when shooting in the zoo conditions found in our sample images. Shooting through fences or dirty glass can cause the AF system to focus on the foreground elements and not your subject behind them. 1/800, f/6.7, ISO 200 @ 281mm The bokeh quality is not one I would call top notch, but respectable. I do see some jitteryness in the out of focus areas. I will also state that I've seem way worse. If you bow to the alter of the bokeh gods - you'll most likely hate this lens... however, you need to also understand that there are really not a lot of options for this zoom or focal length on m43. The other options being the Panasonic 100-300mm, which optically is indistinguishable from the Olympus. The Panasonic is also a bit bigger because it uses in lens IS and is a 1/3 stop faster. 1/200, f/6.7, ISO 1000 @ 300mm w/ 2x digital teleconverter While the aperture is really slow, optically this lens delivers more than what you pay for it - much like the Olympus 40-150 does. Given the current used prices, you can get yourself an adequate 600mm shooter(optical) or 1200mm (2x digiteleconverter) for under $1000. Not bad, actually. All images taken, handheld, with an Olympus OMD EM5, IBIS enabled. Post processing was done in Lightroom, and any black and white processing was aided with the onOne Perfect B&W plug-in.
  45. 1 point
    Why I become a Pro Photographer It took a significant change in my personal circumstances back in 2009 to force me into calling myself a “full time professional photographer” after being a semi-pro for the better part of that decade. It wasn’t a move I had planned on making, yet in the light of my impending economic doom it did offer a glimmer of hope that I could do something I loved and make a living from it. Or so I thought. The thing I didn’t count on in 2009 as I got into the photography profession full time was how our ever-evolving digital landscape would affect photography going forward. Yes, I knew that ultimately being a professional photographer was about much more than knowing what colour space to use or which buttons to push on the camera, but I hadn’t figured that in 5 short years the differential advantage I had relied on to force sales of my time and expertise (namely artistic photographic vision) would be downgraded in the market to the extent that it has been today, leaving me wondering if being a lensman for hire was really a worthwhile profession to pursue? In 2009 who could have seen the effect that social media and easily transferable imagery via smart phone would have on a world that grows increasingly less dependent on professional image makers? Back then there were no real smartphones around. I was using a giant Nokia Communicator that could barely fit in my pocket. Apple’s iPhone wasn’t officially available here where I live and Samsung were still making crappy clamshell devices that were useful for making calls and sending text messages. Skip forward 5 years and we now have phones that are delivering high resolution images and HD video clips to news desks, phones that can control cameras and phones that can translate languages in real time. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have exploded in popularity to the point that you can’t even scratch in public without somebody on the other side of the world knowing about it a second or two later. Significant changes. At the end of the day these advances in technology and the inability of most image consumers to absorb any kind of imagery for longer than a few seconds, or on media that makes it possible to perceive any level of quality differential, has resulted in an endemic lack of work available in my main area of service delivery, namely corporate events. Most of the photos I take are used in social media or on company websites. They hardly ever get printed and if they do get printed it’s likely to be on newsprint or on media that isn't all that demanding of image quality. What I do just isn’t all that much in demand anymore. I have to accept that. I could spend an inordinate amount of time analysing why this has happened, most of which will probably see me shaking my fists at what I perceive to be an unfair universe with poor economic conditions that were not of my doing. It won’t get me any new work. However, understanding the market for photography better may give me the insights I need to make changes to my offerings if I am to continue on as a pro photographer. I need to understand who is still buying photographs and why? What do they use them for? How can I become a supplier for those needs? In short I have to change my target market if I am to survive. An Opportunity Something I have noticed lately is that I am getting a steady stream of inquiries from people asking me to quote on photographing their products as they begin opening up online stores. I guess there are entrepreneurs who, like me, are finding themselves marginalised by changing economic circumstances. They have products to sell and like anyone who sells a product they want it to look as good as it can be. They need quality product photos and I can give these to them. The problem I have found with this type of client in the past is that they are extremely price sensitive. They want the high quality images of their products, but they simply can’t afford the rates I would ordinarily charge my corporate customers for the same service. Do I turn them away or do I try to engineer a solution that is mutually beneficial to both of us? Common sense dictates that I do whatever I can to make them love me, so this is an identified specialist area that I need to develop a solution for. The customers are there, my service isn’t. What can I do about it? Product photography is hard work. It’s not something that everybody knows how to do well, let alone actually wants to do on a full time basis, so there’s a distinct possibility that if I make this my new niche I might end up going stark raving mad doing product photos for clients all day long, especially if I am doing it for small rewards. With my current setup for product photography I typically shoot on a white background with up to 4 strobes. I have a scale of pricing that is based on the number of items shot: the higher that number, the lower the per item price. It starts at $10 per image and goes down to $5 per image, depending on the complexity involved. This is where it gets a tad expensive for clients who don’t have a large budget, but do have a great number of items to photograph. If there are (say) 100 items and they want at least three angles of each item they’re looking at $1500 to do their shoot. It’s quite often way more than they are prepared to spend, especially if the items are not high value and may not sit in their inventory for periods long enough to justify the initial outlay. I could reduce the price, but then I would be shooting myself in the foot because there’s always a lot of post production involved with product photography. Unless you take great care to dust items off and wipe them down for fingerprints, strobes and macro lenses will pick up every smudge and speck. This is extremely time intensive to fix and has traditionally been the reason why I shy away from doing product photography for people who are not prepared to pay for it. Also, a lot of the time they ask for deep etching, the process of drawing a clipping path in Photoshop around the object so that it can be placed on any kind of background. It’s mind numbing work! Recently I discovered that there are a number of online image editing houses based in low income countries like India and Bangladesh where for as little as $1.50 per image they will deep etch and colour correct for you. I’m very tempted to give this a try, although I am also mindful of the fact that many of these places are no better than sweatshops, so I’d have to investigate them before I went ahead. But the concept of outsourcing the finishing is a definite winner in my eyes, simply because that’s the part of product photography that I least like to do. If I can find a local finisher to take over that aspect of the work at reasonable prices then I can re-price my part of the job and happily follow my lighting formula, churning it out factory style without working up a sweat. I’m already up on the marketing of this service simply by virtue of how I have optimised my pro photography website. If you Google Durban product photographer or similar terms I am right up there in position 1 on page 1 of the results, which is a good start. That’s good for local businesses but if I want to get work from customers around the country I will need to begin marketing the service in a different way. I’m tempted to register a more appropriate domain name that is specific to this type of work and then possibly operating it as a completely specialised business entity. It’s just one option I am investigating. I’ll be keeping all you readers up to date on how I progress using this new column here on Fotozones.
  46. 1 point
    I’ve become something of a specialist conference photographer in my hometown. I never intended to do this kind of work, it just sort of found its way into my life and I’ll be honest, I kind of like it. It also helps a bit that Durban is a top international conference destination so there’s work to be had, albeit somewhat seasonal (nobody wants to come here in summertime because it’s extremely hot, humid and often rainy). The first job I was contacted to quote on was a huge international radiology conference back in 2008. The organisers probably just looked up “Durban photographer” and came across my blog. I gave them a quote that got accepted and the next thing I knew I was in at the deep end. At that stage I had I had just come out of a failed business venture and had only been a full time professional for a few months. I was “testing the waters”, so to speak, of what would work for me as a professional photographer. I knew I didn’t want to shoot weddings and I knew that my skills and equipment were very far from being at a level where I could pass myself off as a commercial photographer of any worth. I also saw no financial future in trying to sell my services to ordinary customers such as aspiring models looking for TFCD shoots, nor was I about to get back into sports photography, something I had done as a part-timer years before. Sports photography had even more limited returns than aspiring models looking for portfolios. You have to have the best equipment available and you also have to have the right contacts in order to get your work published, let alone just getting accredited to shoot events. Corporate photography seemed like a good fit for me. I was presentable, punctual and above all because I had been a slave to it for 12 years (partly in marketing) I knew what makes the corporate world tick, which is not something a lot of people who go directly into a photography career can quite grasp. One big advantage I had in pitching myself at the corporate market was a lack of competition from “weekend pros”. Considering that most corporate gigs happened on weekdays, all those guys who had flooded the wedding industry with $300 packages simply couldn’t get the time off work to do these types of gigs. It also meant that I could charge pretty much what I liked (within reason) and get hired simply because there weren’t too many other guys available. A lot of pro photographers also view this type of work as being “beneath them”, which is great for me. The types of photography you get to do on a corporate job are quite varied. I’ve done everything from the cheesy social photos to properly lit portraits using umbrellas and backdrops, to also chasing people around as they do the fun things you get to do on conferences (team building events usually involve alcohol, bows and arrows, balls of fire and a bunch of other things designed to excite or embarrass staff). To cover all these bases effectively you need a mix of different skills. Here are 10 pointers for photographing conferences that I have picked up along the way: Always include the branding Without doubt the most important aspect of any corporate event is the branding. You need to make sure that you include it in as many shots as possible and I’m not talking about taking shots of just the banners and bunting that you’ll see around the room, but rather try and use it as part of the background of people mingling around it. Those types of images make managers and event organisers happy, especially marketing managers and they’re usually the ones with the biggest budgets, so make sure that you befriend them whenever possible. Click on the images to view larger. Know who the VIP’s are The last thing you want to be doing is taking lots of shots of people who are not that important in the corporate ecology. You want to target the MD’s, VP’s, keynote speakers and other bigwigs, so what I normally do is get the organisers to point them out to me at the start of an event. They especially like it when you photograph them talking to other VIP’s and always make sure you get shots of them posing together. It is a big deal for corporate guys to have a great photo of them meeting somebody important. Don’t photograph people eating There’s always food at corporate events, but when it comes out put your cameras away, sit down and get a bite to eat yourself. Nobody wants photos of people eating. What you can do is take general photos of people in the room at the tables that give the impression that there was food at the event, but don’t approach the tables and definitely don’t interrupt people eating to ask for a table photograph. That’s just poor form. Look for groups with women in them at cocktail parties My least favourite part of shooting corporate events is the cocktail party. These are part and parcel of the corporate world but its never easy to get good photos of these things, yet clients lust after images of these things to post on Facebook pages and use in company newsletters. You just have to grin and bear them, but what I have done over the years is formulate the process. People are always standing around in groups at cocktail parties. There will be groups of men, groups of women and mixed groups. I usually always target the latter two because men talking with men are almost always scowling about something and most of the time view your presence as a major annoyance. They don’t want to be photographed. However, throw a few attractive women into the frame and suddenly its a different story altogether. They’ll jostle for position and smile their faces off for you. Women in groups without men are usually receptive to being photographed, especially if there’s 4 or more of them. They appreciate the attention and will usually ask you jokingly to please photoshop their wrinkles or flatten their tummies. All I do is throw them compliments and remind them that they don’t need Photoshop - they’re beautiful without it. For some reason this always brings a smile. Take Shots Of The Venue It’s important to event organisers (ie. your clients) that they have a good record of the venues that they have chosen to hold their events in, especially the gala dinners. You need to show the decor and also try and capture the ambience and mood of the venue where you can. I always include a wide shot of the room as its filling up with people, as well as the table settings before guests arrive. Sub-contractors who do the catering and decor will love you for these shots so what I try to do is get their details at the event and then I send them a few shots at no charge. This is an invaluable network builder and a little goodwill can go a long way to your name being at the forefront of their mind should they ever be asked to recommend a photographer to their clients. Shooting Speakers Is Tough - Chose Your Moment This is always tough. Sometimes you get lucky and the organisers have positioned the lectern or stage in a way that is conducive to good shots, where you’ve got a nice background and the lighting is good. Sometimes you don’t get so lucky. I’ve been stuck in positions before where I was shooting right up the nostrils of the speaker, or I had the emergency exit signs as a background. There’s not much you can do about that other than to make the best of what you’ve got. You should never be afraid to move around the venue, but take care not to get in the way of the video cameras (there are always video cameras at big events that are used to project images of the speakers). When you’re shooting speakers you need to take a lot of shots and chose the best of them to give to your client. Peoples faces look funny when they are frozen mid-speech, so try to wait for a pause in their monologue and also wait for them to look up at the audience if they are reading from a script. Patience is the key. Essential for this kind of shot is a fast telephoto lens. I am getting my best results ever using the Olympus 75mm f/1.8 ED lens on the OM-D E-M5. It’s like a match made in heaven those two. I usually run auto-ISO up to about 3200 maximum and the shots come out great. You can’t use slow lenses and flash for this type of shot - you’ll just end up wishing you were dead. Fadi Chehadé, CEO of ICANN Bruce Fordyce, 9 time winner of the Comrades Marathon Miss South Africa 2014, Rolene Strauss Don't Forget The Audience My job when I’m shooting conferences is pretty much summed up with the phrase rock photographer Jim Marshall used to describe himself: I’m a reporter with a camera. So I need to report on the event as a whole. I need photos of the venue, the branding, the speakers and also of course the audience, without whom the event wouldn’t be occurring in the first place. There are a few audience shots I look for at conferences. There’s a wide shot taking in everything in the room, including the speaker, a shot of a person in the audience hopefully looking attentive to what’s being said, plus a shot I always try to look for now is to get behind the speaker and try to include the audience as the background. Not always easy but sometimes they make for cool images as they give a sense of participation. Professor Tim Noakes addresses AIMS Congress in Durban Get shots Of Interactions The entire premise of a conference is to get people to interact, so your images need to show as much of this as possible. I try to be the proverbial fly on the wall with those shots and to this end the diminutive nature of my kit these days helps tremendously with that. The Olympus OM-D tilting touch screen also gives me a big advantage in this regard and I often find myself using the camera at right angles to where I am pointing my body, touching the screen and getting the shot I want without the subject even being aware that they are being photographed. The Cheesy “Grip ’n Grin” Shot The dreaded handshake shots of people getting awards are my least favourite shots to make, but they’re a staple that you have to include in your service. It’s not rocket science but there are a few things you can do to ensure that you get the shot because you literally only have a few seconds to get it right and as we all know that’s all it takes for things to go wrong. Here are some tips: always use flash and compensate it down where needed if you can, do an incident metering beforehand and use manual flash settings because the TTL pre-flashes will make some people blink - alternatively use the A mode of your flash and check the distance readings it gives (most advanced flashes will show this on the LCD) always take more than one shot to help with blinkers. If its an important shot you can always transplant the faces in Photoshop afterwards. Trust me, I’ve done this before and they’ll never know! Be assertive when setting up group shots Believe it or not people who are being photographed in a group for an informal but specific purpose are actually looking to you to help them get organised. They will very seldom assemble themselves in a way that makes sense, so you need to take charge and make sure that they know you’re the expert, not them. If you stand around in front of them and try to direct proceedings from a distance they are going to be non-responsive. You need to get in amongst them, tug gently at arms or nudge shoulders if you need to. Put the short people in the front and try to be symmetrical about things in the back. Also try and bunch people together so that there are no visible gaps between shoulders as this tends to make people look isolated. This is especially the case with those people who end up standing on the edges. They’re there because they’re probably the most insecure about being photographed, so what I do is I single them out and pull them into the middle of the shot, getting those already in the middle to move outwards. The people moving to the outside want to be in the middle so they’re less likely to detach themselves from the group. This is especially the case if you have a VIP in the dead centre of proceedings. Go figure. Something I always do is count the shot down from 3 so that they know when I’m taking the shot and can smile accordingly. It doesn’t always work, but there’s nothing worse than waiting for a photographer to take the shot while you’re forcing a smile. Another tip I picked up from a fellow shooter recently is to get your subjects to say “Yes!” as you’re taking the shot. This somehow makes people’s eyes light up and smile at the same time. Combine this with the countdown method and you’ll hopefully improve your chances of getting a better shot. Conclusion Since I started doing this kind of work I’ve met some interesting people, including captains of industry, government ministers, sports stars, professional speakers, artistic performers and others. I’ve been moved to tears at talks given by exceptional key note speakers and bored to tears by people who have no idea what to do in front of a microphone. I’ve had some great clients along the way and many of them have referred me on to other people who have also commissioned me to do work for them. It’s a great way to grow your professional network. This isn’t the kind of work that appeals to most photographers, but that’s why I’ve made it my own speciality. It’s something I do with pride. My most recent event was the Association of International Marathons (AIMS) Congress last month which is where I first began using my Olympus E-M1 to Tweet images directly from the event. This is a bit of a breakthrough for me because as the world becomes more and more in tune with social media at a corporate level, offering services like this will put me ahead of the next guy when I pitch for business.
  47. 1 point
    If you have already invested in a well rounded camera system from any manufacturer, why would you want to look at getting an Olympus mirrorless camera and a bunch of micro four thirds lenses? It’s a fair question and I think that you need to weigh up your options quite carefully before you go splashing down all your hard earned money, or selling off your old system and then regretting it later. You need to assess the advantages you'll enjoy before you do that. This series of articles is based on my own experiences and if you are looking to do a system change perhaps my needs might intersect with yours. Size & Weight The biggest and most attractive aspect of this system is that you’re cutting down the weight and size of your equipment by a considerable margin. If you consider the Olympus 75mm f/1.8 ED lens, the closest lenses to it in terms of light transmission and field of view from the big 135 system cameras are the Canon 200mm f/2.0 and the Nikon 200mm f/2.0. The Canon lens weighs 2.54kg and is 208mm long. It costs $6,000. The Nikon weighs a little more at 2.93kg and is 203mm long. It costs $5800. Now these are both incredible high performance lenses from the big names in photo gear and I’m not suggesting for a second that the Olympus 75mm f/1.8 is their optical equal (I think it’s pretty close in terms of sharpness though), but the angle of view from the Olympus lens is very close to what the other two offer. It’s the same as a 150mm lens on the bigger sensor and its aperture is faster than both those other giant lenses. The main difference you may notice between the two big lenses and the Olympus comes down to the depth of field observed. The big lenses are awesome in this regard, completely blurring out the background, but I’ll tell you what, the Olympus 75mm can hold its head up very high too. The really big material difference between these lenses? Well, the Olympus 75mm will cost you $900 (+ $75 with the hood) and it weighs a mere 305g. That is slightly more than 10% of the mass of each of the two other lenses. It is only 69mm long, which if Mens Health is to be believed, is less than half the length of the average male erection. While you’re mulling over those numbers in your head and looking at your nearest ruler, I want you to think about when you’d use a lens like a fast 200mm or equivalent. As a highly specialised short telephoto lens they’re typically used for indoor sports or stage performances. If you’re shooting live shows you’re probably going to pair this up with something like a full bodied pro DSLR like a Canon 1DX that weighs in the region of 1.5kg. You’re up to almost 5kg in your hands now with just one lens and camera body. Handholding that combo for the length of a 2 hour long live concert is going to result in arm fatigue, even if you’re fairly gym strong. If you’re not handholding you will have to bring along a monopod or tripod with a decent head. More weight. More things to look after. Those of you who have done photography at live shows will already know what a pain it is to have to try and use dedicated camera supports in the places where you have to shoot from. If you go to a show or indoor sports event with the big system your camera bag is going to be large. You’re going to need a lot of personal space around you to take things in and out of it and as somebody who has tried this before, it’s not always possible, especially if you’re in a theatre where other people who have paid to see the show are now having to put up with your enormous camera presence. Try walking into an arena concert with a DSLR and 200mm fast lens. You won’t get in, simple as that. But with an OM-D and a 75mm f/1.8 you’re looking way less conspicuous. Yes, you could use a different lens, such as a 70-200/2.8, but then you've already lost a stop and a third of light, or you could put an 85mm f/1.8 on an APS-C body, but that's probably as close as you're going to get. How good are the 85mm f/1.8 lenses out there compared to the Oly? In my experience of shooting both Nikon and Canon versions in the past... not even in the same sport, let alone ballpark. You just don't get lenses like this for DSLR's without paying huge money for them and making enormous trade-offs in convenience. The example of the 75mm f/1.8 lens is just one of many where the physical advantage of a smaller system is obvious. Travel photography is an area where the advantage is huge. Anyone who’s ever had to travel by air with a lot of camera gear knows just how stressful that can become. Over the past few years I have travelled domestically within South Africa for safaris and each time I have had to rationalise my kit just so that I could avoid being detected as a carry-on “over-loader” by the airline ground staff. The thought of having your precious camera gear checked in and falling prey to airport baggage handlers and automated sorting systems is enough to leave you sleepless. (this shot was taken in near darkness at very close range in a Himba hut in Namibia) A system like micro four thirds is physically minuscule when compared to larger DSLR systems like Canon and Nikon, and to a fair degree even the APS-C systems. You are able to pack a lot more gear into a much smaller space without giving up much photographically. I am well known for using the ThinkTank Retrospective bags and I can get 6 lenses plus one of the OM-D bodies (with a battery grip) into the Retrospective 5’s main compartment. If I really want to I can also put a second OM-D body sans lens into the front pouch, or I can slip a couple of flash units in there. If you’ve ever seen the Retro 5 bag you’ll know how small it is. Electronic View Finder (EVF) For me another plus of the system is the Electronic View Finder (EVF). It’s a big change to using optical view finders, but it is the way of the future and in my humble opinion it will make you a better photographer if you know how to use it properly. The EVF found in the Olympus E-M1 is awesome. It really is. Imagine you’re shooting something backlit. You need to increase your exposure by compensating if you want your subject to be properly exposed. Any good camera will have compensation on it, but you’ll have to chimp at your results to see the effects of it when using an optical view finder. With the EVF you’ll see the exact results before you’ve even taken the shot. The E-M1 has what they call “Adaptive Brightness Technology” built in. So what this does is it adjusts the brightness of the EVF depending on the ambient light, but it does it in a way that doesn’t trick your eyes into believing that the image in the EVF is brighter than it actually is. What you’re looking at in the EVF is fairly representative of the scene in terms of its brightness and contrast. You will also see what areas of your image are going to be blown out or blocked up detail wise by activating the highlights/shadow warnings. It works just the same way it does in Bridge or Lightroom, red marks the blown highlights and blue marks the blocked shadows. Again, you’ll see your results before you take or potentially mess up your shot. If you’d prefer to not see big blobs of red or blue, you could opt to use the live histogram instead. Another advantage of the OM-D EVF is that you can activate the level indicator in the EVF to show you when your horizon is going to be skew, or you’re introducing key stoning by tilting the lens upwards or downwards. I find this pretty handy when shooting interiors. Focus peaking is another very cool EVF feature you’ll find on the E-M1. I have set mine up to be activated with the Fn1 button, which rests just below my right thumb when holding the camera. If I am using a manual focus lens via adapter on my E-M1 I can get it into focus simply by looking for the brightly highlighted edges of my subject as I move the focus ring of the lens. It works very well. If you would prefer more precise control then you’d probably want to use the magnifier feature of the EVF. This takes a small portion of the scene and magnifies it so that you can manually focus more accurately. Another E-M1 feature I have discovered that lends itself to being helpful is the HDR modes. Wouldn’t it be great to see what your HDR is going to look like before you make the exposures? This is what happens when you select one of these modes - you’ll see an expanded HDR preview in the EVF. As soon as you hit the release the camera will make its exposures, combine them in camera and then give you a single image. Too cool. Something else that I have found to be an amazing advantage is that if I am outdoors I can look into the EVF to see my shots, zoom into them and also change the displayed information about them. If you've ever tried to see what's on the back of your LCD in daylight, you'll know how tricky that can be. In Body Image Stabilisation (IBIS)This feature of the E-M1 is nothing short of remarkable. It was good on the E-M5, but now it’s ridiculously good and it is possible to hand hold exposures up to a couple of seconds and still get perfectly sharp images. For low light work where you don’t have a tripod handy it’s an advantage that can be the difference between a useful shot and something you throw away. The real beauty of the IBIS is that you get stabilisation with any lens. Yes, even that old Nikkor 105/2.5 from the 60’s I have in my collection of old lenses is stabilised and unlike optical stabilisers where the jiggling of lens elements produces weird artefacts in the out of focus areas of your image (double lines for instance), the IBIS doesn’t seem to exhibit the same behaviour since its the image sensor that does the jiggling. It’s also very effective in video mode. You can switch off the IBIS but I leave it on all the time. Why risk camera shake when you don’t have to? However, something I recently discovered is that you can also set the IBIS to only work in a certain axis if you want it to. For instance, if you are panning horizontally you can switch off the horizontal stabilisation and use only the vertical stabiliser. I wish I had thought of that when I was making panning shots of fast moving skateboarders recently. Wifi Camera Control & Sharing Several years ago when I got my very first iPod Touch I wrote a review of the OnOne app that allowed you to tether your camera to a laptop and control it from your iPod. It actually worked quite well, but the problem was that you had to have the laptop in the vicinity of the camera. It was a bit gimmicky, but seeing your camera’s live view being transmitted to your iPod was pretty darn cool. Things have evolved a bit since then and one of the features of the E-M1 is the built-in wifi capability that lets you do the exact same thing as the OnOne Camera Control app did, except you no longer need a laptop to create a wifi network for the app to connect to. The camera now creates its own network and when you connect your smart phone or tablet to it, it allows you to not only control the camera, but also send its images to the controlling device for onward transmission to another location, be it a social network, image sharing service, or even Airdrop it to another Apple device. That applies to any images you have stored on the SD card - you can import them to your iPad or iPhone. How is this useful? Well, here’s a real world example; when I am shooting tabletop product shots in my small home studio and I want my client’s opinion on whether they are happy with the way the products are arranged, I import the shot to my iPad’s Camera Roll via the Olympus Image Share app and I can email them a small version of the shot. I also prefer to see the larger Live View on my iPad than what's on the camera LCD screen. Now, with the addition of Lightroom for iPad I can even do minor edits to the shot before I send them a sample. This is a real advantage and the screenshot you see below was done in exactly this manner. In the past I would have to copy the file to the computer, add it to the Lightroom catalog , edit it there, create a small version of it and only then could I send it off via email to my client. Bit of a rigmarole. Screen grab of Lightroom for iPad - I will be writing a more in-depth assessment of this app soon The OIS app is still a bit of an infant though and in the future I hope to be able to send files to a service like DropBox or iCloud directly from the app instead of having to import them to the Camera Roll. I’m pretty sure that could be done in future upgrades. The Tilting & Touch Screen A lot of people think this is very gimmicky, but it's actually quite a useful thing, especially if you don't want to go crawling on your belly to make exposures of things at that level (think macro, etc). You can tilt the screen upwards to use it as a waist-level finder, then tap the screen like you would an iPhone to make an exposure. This is a nifty trick to use if you want to make candid shots of people who are unaware that they are about to be photographed. Street photographers will be in their element with this feature. These are just some of the big advantages I have experienced with the OM-D system. In part 3 of this series I will talk about the compromises you will have to contend with if you are considering a switch to OM-D. That will be published next week Monday.
  48. 1 point
    This desert seems to roll on without end. It's like one very long and undulating beach. Wherever you look there's only sand and more sand. It's nothing and everything all at once. A stark, barren reminder of just how harsh the earth's surface can be. At one time this place must have looked very different, perhaps it was full of vegetation once and slowly over millions of years it developed into this dry, sandy patch of the earth's skin. The geologists will have a theory on that, no doubt. But for me, in this moment, all I can see is nothing and nothing is more powerful than that. click to enlarge Taken handheld out of the window of the vehicle seen above (while it was moving). The images are of the dunes just outside Swakopmund on the Namibian coast. All taken with the Olympus OM-D E-M5 during an afternoon excursion to the region where we photographed chameleons, snakes and a variety of other life forms that somehow survive out there. If you'd like to join our small group (no more than 5) of photographers returning to this area in 2014 please get in touch.
  49. 1 point
    Introduction Back at the beginning of this century when I became interested in photography, one of the first specialist lenses I bought was the original Sigma 105mm 2.8 EX Macro. I got it because at the time I had been pre-conditioned into believing that anything with a 2.8 maximum aperture was going to be "da bomb" for any pictures I took with it. This one had been purchased off an auction site and it was my intention to use it for portraiture. The lens was very sharp, but it was a specialist lens that required a great deal of user knowledge in order to obtain the maximum output. For a start it was extremely slow to focus and it grew longer than Pinocchio’s nose the closer you focused it. I actually did my first paid product shoot with that lens in my bedroom when I was still tied into the Matrix (which is Dallas speak for “corporate rat race”). The shots were made with my F5 on Velvia 50 slide film and were super saturated. Boy, was I green when it came to choosing the right tools for the job back then. I had the right lens and camera, but Velvia 50 for products? Fast-forward more than a decade to today and while things have certainly changed in the imaging world, product photography is still a big part of my life and I can at least boast that I have progressed to a point where I am able to convince some people that they should pay me to take pictures of their products. The lenses I am using have progressed too and the one I am reviewing for you here is the re-incarnation of that same Sigma 105mm 2.8 Macro I used to do my first ever product shoot, but this time with a little added refinement. Application Why use a macro lens? What is the point in them? Optically they are designed to let you get closer and produce magnification that is at least 1:1 with real life in your camera’s sensor, or in some cases even closer (with accessories). This one does 1:1 on it’s own and let’s you work as close as 31.2cm from your subject. I use macro lenses for my product photography because of this ability to work closer. Sometimes it’s a blessing and other times it’s a curse, because filling a frame with a small object, while possible on shorter focal length macro lenses, can change the perspective of the object you’re trying to shoot. I shoot a lot of books for one of my clients and I have found that with a 60mm macro lens I tend to use only half the frame because if I get any closer the book begins to look like a looming giant. This is why I began looking for a lens that would allow me to work a little bit further away, but still retain some sense of normalcy in perspective, all the while filling the FX frame with the product I am shooting. I don’t shoot any flowers or insects, nor have I ever done any focus stacking, so please bear this in mind when reading this review. I’m reviewing the lens based on my typical applications, which are product shots, some close ups of stuff, and very occasionally a portrait or two. The new Sigma 105mm 2.8 EX HSM has evolved from my first Sigma 105mm 2.8 macro lens dramatically. It’s a completely new lens. We now have a lens that has super quick focusing, thanks to the built-in Hyper-sonic motor (HSM); has internally shifting elements, meaning that the lens doesn’t get longer, or have a rotating front element when it focuses closer; plus, the biggest change of all, it now has an optical stabiliser built in. On paper it seems to be the perfect lens for what I do, so let’s find out if it is. Aesthetics and handling The Looks The first 105mm Sigma macro lens I had was finished in that horrible metallic paint that would always peel off and leave the lens looking like something straight out of a war movie. This new one is made of the same polycarbonate material that my sigma 70-200mm 2.8 OS is made from. It’s lightweight but it does seem a bit plasticky to the touch. Because of its smoothness it also tends to pick up fingerprints quite easily, which shouldn’t be a consideration in making a lens choice, but I thought I would point it out nonetheless. I can’t help but think that this lens was modelled on the shape of a can of beer. Take off the lens hood and it has very similar dimensions! Don’t leave it on the table if you’re on a Nikongear workshop where Erik Lund is present because he’ll saw off the bottom, take out the gizzards and likely call it an improvement on the original! Speaking of lens hoods, you can expect the usual Sigma two-part hood in the box, which you bayonet together depending on whether you are shooting FX or DX format cameras. I don’t know if this actually makes a difference - I don’t have a DX format camera to test it out on. Also there is a soft nylon clad padded case for it. In short it is a pretty nicely made lens. Focusing The focusing ring is fairly close to the front end of the lens but in my opinion this is the perfect place to put it, because when you’re holding the camera properly (ie, with your left hand cradling the lens from underneath), it’s a short movement of forefinger and thumb to reach the focus ring, instead of having to hold the lens closer to the camera body if you are focusing manually. The focus throw is pretty short when you’re doing this manually. I don’t have a protractor to measure it with, but a movement of only a few degrees (or notches on the rubber ring) when I am at the minimum focusing distance shifts the focus depth by more than 10 centimeters. This could be critical if you are engaged in focus stacking something like jewellery and only want to shift focus very slightly. You’re going to need a skillful touch to get that right unless of course you have the luxury of a focusing stage for your work. Like most modern lens designs, the new Sigma 105mm Macro allows you to manually over-ride the autofocus without fighting against the HSM motor. I personally never do this, but many other photographers do. The auto-focus speed is very decent on a D700. Nikon forgot to send me copies of the D4 and D800’s so I can’t comment on how this would work on those cameras, but as a man who is committed to his short-term photographic future with the D700, I have to say that this lens has great auto focus ability on that camera. I tested it out in very dim light using both the center and extreme focus points of the D700 and with even the slightest bit of detectible contrast the lens snapped into focus faster than I can say “where the ---- are you?” Sigma advertise that the lens is compatible with their EX range of tele-converters. I have both the 1.4x and 2.0x converters on loan from them to test with the new 120-300mm 2.8 OS so I gave them a whirl on the 105mm too. Under the same conditions as using the lens bare, with the 1.4x tele-converter there is no perceptible degradation in the auto-focus speed as far as I can tell. It’s still pretty darn fast. The 2x tele-converter is a different story: no auto-focus at all. You have to focus manually, which given the short focus throw already mentioned leaves you with limited applications for that combo. On the plus side the optical stabiliser still works with both these TC’s. Image Quality Macro lenses need to be sharp and they need to have the ability to make the subject literally “pop” from the background, which itself is hopefully rendered with creamy smooth bokeh. Those are the most commonly desired characteristics in any lens, but in my case (where I am shooting product) I also need the lens to be sharp at minimum aperture with as little chromatic aberrations on the edges of shiny items as possible. You also don’t want the lens to give you any unnatural colour casts, particularly when you are shooting product, as this will make your post processing just that little bit more tiresome. So, it’s those optical characteristics I set out to discover the virtues of for the purposes of this review. Sharpness Let’s begin with the most desirable characteristic of any lens. Is it sharp? Yes. I found that it is definitely sharp, to the point where I wouldn’t have any problems photographing product with it. I also have the Tamron 90mm 2.5, Nikon 60mm 2.8 and Nikon 105mm 2.8 VR macro lenses and short of trying to measure the actual sharpness of this Sigma compared to those others, what I can say is that I found it a bit sharper than the Tamron wide open, but not as sharp as the Nikons are wide open. When stopped down to values between f/8 and f/22 there’s nothing in it. They’re all as sharp as you could hope them to be and it’s these stopped down apertures where you will find yourself in macro work most of the time. Box ticked. This is the kind of work I would be using this lens for 100% crop (Nikon D700) Bokeh Nearly every macro lens is optically engineered to give you the kind of defocused background that you need to separate your subject from distractions like chain link fences, or big bushes full of leaves with sunlight sprinkled on them. The bokeh refers to the characteristics of how the out of focus highlights are rendered in your photograph. The softer circular highlights are the better the bokeh. Modern lenses mostly deploy curved aperture iris blades to improve this mystical quality of the optics and the Sigma also ticks this box. Out of focus highlights are acceptable to me. This was photographed at fairly close range @f/3.5 with a palm in the background about 1.5m away And here's the same set-up shot at f/8 Chromatic Abberations If there are any, I’m not seeing them clearly enough for it to be an issue and I shot this lens at all apertures and under a variety of different situations. Box ticked. Image Stabiliser It works as it is intended to and I found myself being in the familiar position of being able to use the lens hand held at fairly slow exposures. However, the OS on this lens seems to be very noisy. It makes a loud, indescribable noise on engagement as well as when it stops. I found it quite unsettling and am not sure if it is like this on all copies, or just this test one. There are two modes for the OS; position 1 is for normal shooting and position 2 is for shooting objects that are moving horizontally to the camera. The lens information brochure advises that one should switch off the OS when you are attaching the lens to your camera. I always switch off my camera when I am changing lenses, so I guess that doesn’t really make a difference to me. Compared to the Nikkor: It’s going to be obvious to anybody that the alternative to this lens is the Nikon 105mm 2.8G VR, which I own. As I mentioned, I found the Nikon fractionally sharper at wider apertures than the Sigma, but to be honest, I really had to study the images long and hard to make that conclusion and the difference is so minor that it probably comes down to something like effective aperture at close distance, more than optical formula. The Nikkor is shorter and fatter and has a much bigger lens hood than the Sigma, so looks wise it is a bit different. The handling on this count will also come down to personal preference. One area that I did comparisons between the two lenses thoroughly was the autofocus. I found that the Sigma seems to be slightly quieter than the Nikkor, but when it travels the full length of the focus range it is somewhat slower end-to-end (probably because its optics literally have farther distance to cover). An advantage it has over the Nikkor on AF is that it offers three distance settings for focus limitation. You can set it to cover the full focus range, 0.45m - infinity, or 0.312m to 0.45m. The Nikkor only offers full range and 0.5m to infinity. Overall Opinion & Conclusion Sigma is constantly evolving with their product offering and it’s great to see them giving photographers more options. This lens is like many of those you will find in their EX (pro) range. It’s solidly made, optically excellent and in my opinion you can’t go wrong with this one if you are looking for a good lens for macro purposes. The deciding factor between this lens and that of Nikon’s own 105mm VR for Nikon shooters is probably going to come down to personal preference, because price-wise there isn’t a whole lot of difference between them. The Sigma sells for $769 on both Amazon.com and B&H, whereas the Nikon sells for between $899 and $999 at those same outlets. So if you approach this option logically, the $130 savings that can be had on the Sigma will give you enough to add the 50mm f/1.8D Nikkor to your basket, or a nice new camera bag, or dinner for your SO, or … [fill in your own $130 value]. If you're the kind of photographer who likes to shoot close-ups, or even perhaps extremely sharp portraits on FX frames, I would wholeheartedly suggest looking at this option. It's a great lens. While I still have the sample lens with me I will be adding more sample images to the dedicated sample image gallery for it. If you have images of your own to add to the gallery, please use the link below to get them up there. Reviewed by Dallas Dahms What our members say about this lens Sample image gallery Support this site and use this link to purchase this lens
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