Michael Erlewine

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Michael Erlewine last won the day on 22 October 2016

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About Michael Erlewine

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    Michael Erlewine
  • Birthday 18/07/41

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  • Gender
  • Location
    Big Rapids, MI USA
  • Interests
    Lenses, Focus Stacking, APO, Medium Format
  • Edit my pics?
    Ask Me
  • Fav. Camera
    Nikon D810, Hasselblad X1D
  • Fav. Lens
    Zeiss Otus Series
  • Fav. Editor
    Adobe Photoshop

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  1. On point. This is where it is heading.
  2. Attention to process, IMO, is never too much trouble.
  3. Right now, with the X1D, I am learning to take photographs, as in: the process. I am not quite there with the camera enough to capture my ‘impressions,” at least not yet. And it’s not just the learning curve I’m talking about either, but the entire process, in particular getting the focus and the aperture just right. This will take some time. The process involved in using the X1D is more involved than the simplistic camera it is made out to be. Since I tend to use LiveView, outside and in sunlight, this requires some kind of optical viewfinder to block the sunlight and offer some magnification. I started out with the Zacuto Z-Finder, hanging from a lanyard around my neck. However, the Z-Finder is so robust that its heaviness proved distracting. So, I switched to one of the ELVID viewfinders that, while not as good as the Zacuto, are so very light that I even forget I’m wearing it. Still, it is sharp enough and magnifies adequately to work just fine. I don’t need the extra clarity offered by the Z-Finder, at least not with the LiveView screen on the X1D. I can see to focus via the magnification “star” button. Meanwhile, I am still very put off by the fact that LiveView switches off automatically after 15 seconds. This is not helpful when setting up a shot with the X1D, so I have no idea what they were thinking. However, I have been assured that this LiveView problem is fixed in the next firmware update, so I can wait for that. I am getting too old to always be the sacrificial lamb at the altar of technology, even (or especially!) with a Hasselblad. I will leave it to others to comment on using the X1D for sports or walk-around shots. I may get to that, but so far that has not happened. I do have to keep remembering to have the timer on, since often (but not always) it turns itself off when I turn the camera off. Perhaps someone could tell me how to set it and have it on permanently. Since there is no hard-wired remote cord, I am stuck with the timer or using Phocus on my iPhone, which is just one more stone around my neck to carry around. I am happy with the color on the X1D although I do find myself looking to NIK’s “Color Efex Pro 4” to tweak the removal of color casts from time to time. As mentioned earlier, at this stage in my learning curve I am just taking photos with the X1D, not actually creating them yet in my style, although I am getting close. I am more or less happy with the lenses and understand that they may be working to improve the focus shift of the 90mm lens. I do everything with manual focus, and that is working OK. As for stacking, no problem, but I have not attempted large stacks, only what I call short stacks of maybe 3-4 layers. Like all cameras, this one takes some study, coupled with learning to use a medium-format lens, such as it is. There is no doubt that I move more slowly with the X1D compared to the Nikon D810, and it is not just because it is a new camera to learn. In large, being more careful and attentive to process is good for me, and the X1D demands this if I want good results. So, I am into it. Things I would like: Aside from leaving LiveView on, I would like a wired or IF remote and not have to haul around (and be careful of) my iPhone with Phocus software to be a remote. No thanks! I would like a separate button to return to LiveView other than trying to guess how much pressure to place on the shutter release without accidently taking an unwanted photo. That is a pain. And I would like my 30mm lens to arrive, which they took the entire money for but have yet to produce. As for batteries, when I asked the fellow at B&H when my two extra batteries would come (this about a month ago), his answer was July, which I couldn’t believe. So, at GREAT expense, I found and bought the first two batteries to come up on Ebay, giving me three. That is enough for now... I hope. As for repairs, I have not needed any, but I did call the Hasselblad Bron center in New Jersey and they explained that they try to repair things there; otherwise they send them overseas. So, I’m crossing my fingers. And finally, I am waiting (like many) for the release of the 120mm Macro lens in June, since that is the lens I need for most of my work. I don’t do much macro anymore, but I do a lot of close up. That’s the state of the situation with the X1D for me. A shot with the 90mm, lightly stacked. Not there yet, but working on it.
  4. The last of the spring shadow photos, this one at the local cemetery. The lovely tree and branch shadows on the ground will be gone in a couple days, for the leaves on the deciduous trees are starting to pop. It will soon be all shade. 45mm lens, Hasselblad X1D
  5. The Eleventh Hour with the X1D Recently, after about ninth months of studying and waiting, I finally decided that the Hasselblad X1D was not ready for Prime Time, at least for my work. And since I can’t afford all the cameras I would like to have, after weeks of testing, I decided to return the X1D while I still could for full credit. I carefully packed the X1D and the various lenses in their original packing, carefully putting each piece in a plastic bag and otherwise preparing it for the UPS truck. The shop I purchased it from was on Jewish holiday, so I had to wait an extra day in order to cancel the return and put the packages in transit. I could have used the X1D for another day but, no, I had made up my mind, so instead I spent that last day shooting with my trusted Nikon D810 and some of the various great lenses i have, like the Otus 55mm APO, the El Nikkor 105mm APO, and the legendary CRT Nikkor. Since I often stack focus, the post-processing work always takes much longer than taking the actual photographs. Well, I did all that and when I was done, the photos looked pretty good. As I looked through my photos for my favorites, it hit me that something was missing here. It took some time to figure out, but finally I decided that what wasn’t there was a certain lightness of feeling, call it luminosity or whatever. It was not sharpness, because the lenses for my Nikon are sharper than the X1D. I probably can’t find words to describe it, but it was a certain spaciousness or brightness or simply “light” that was missing in my Nikon photos. That was a surprise. Despite whatever warts or failings I had found in the Hasselblad X1D, there was some quality that it has that could not be denied and I was suddenly finding myself not denying that fact. “Parting is such sweet sorrow” as Shakespeare said. A certain kind of sadness came over me about having to say goodbye to this lovely camera, even though it did not do everything I needed it to do. Still, there was something about the X1D that I suddenly missed. It was almost like being condemned to not stretch any farther than I had with my Nikon D810. Ouch! Yet, it was clear to me that I could not afford to keep the X1D, in case Nikon or Sony came out with something in the same ballpark that would work better for what I do. I must say I was a little depressed by all this and suddenly felt limited by my Nikon D810 for the first time. This kind of thinking and feeling went on for some time and it was no fun at all. Then I realized that I had a lot of high-end video equipment sitting in my main studio that was depreciating these days at lightning speed. I don’t use it and pretty soon it will be worth just pennies on the dollar. I’m just going to sell that and be done with it, and so I am. I am keeping my Hasselblad X1D, if for no other reason than to keep that little bit of light it offers in my life. So, there you have it, a 180-degree flip on my part. The Hasselblad stays in the family of cameras I use.
  6. I (believe) I have finished many weeks of testing the Hasselblad X1D and the Fujifilm GFX, both frontier-pushing cameras. As for which one I will keep, the answer is neither. I have talked about the GFX before, so I will just leave some comments on the Hasselblad X1D. I don’t think my particular problems with these cameras will probably affect most other photographers, but here they are. The problem I have with the Hasselblad X1D has to do with lenses. At this point, it does not have a focal-plane shutter, although there was some talk that it could be added to firmware, but I consider chances of that slim to none. What this means is that the lenses that have been announced up to now by Hasselblad are f/3.5, not the fastest lenses. And lacking that speed means that if I want to focus-stack by painting focus with the lens wide open where I want it to be (while leaving the rest go to bokeh), with f/3.5 I don’t really have the kind of blurry bokeh that a fast lens (f/1.4) can produce. So, photos taken with the X1D are going to have the background more in focus than I like. Another point is that the lenses for the X1D I have (90mm and 45mm) are sharp, but not Zeiss Otis sharp or, for that matter, all that well corrected. They are fine for many tasks, I will agree. I have been spoiled by the Zeiss Otus lenses, the APO Zeiss 135mm, and a rather large group of industrial lenses that I have collected over the years, all of which can’t be mounted on the X1D. As mentioned, the Hasselblad lenses are “sharp enough,” just barely for what I like to do, but if I look too close, they are not really, really THAT sharp. I can see the limit (and the difference) and I focus with LiveView magnified (and check aperture preview, etc.) very carefully. So, right now, that’s it for sharpness. Is that something I can live with? I know that many people are happy with the degree of sharpness offered by the XCD lenses, but am I? I go back and forth. Sure, I can put up with it, but does it make me happy? No. It makes me feel resigned or limited. That’s just me, but I found it an inhibiting factor. Part of me says, forget-about-it, and just take some photos. They will be sharp enough. But there is another part of me that keeps nagging me with “It’s not really sharp, but just barely sharp enough.” Given that bokeh depends on its contrast with sharpness elsewhere in the photo, for me this is kind of a losing proposition. Anyway, that war is still waging inside me. I like the X1D. It is easy-to-use, clean, small, great haptics, everything I could ask for, but it does not take all the lenses I have collected over the years that are highly corrected (APO). It’s that simple. I know. This should have been clear to me from the start, but I always have to see for myself what I can and cannot do. There was a chance that all would be copasetic. It did not turn out that way. For me that means I have to use all of my APO lenses elsewhere and with another camera. I can see that, but for me that makes the X1D a very expensive “alternate” camera to my Nikon D810 and other technical cameras. The X1D then becomes a large money sink against getting whatever new camera that either Nikon or Sony will debut in the next year. I can’t afford to have all the new cameras that pop up. I also carefully tried the Pentax K1 and the Fuji GFX, looking for Mr. Good-Camera (for my work) each of which also had problems I found these problems hindered what my work. All are great systems, but not for what I do. And so I wait for Sony or Nikon to debut something that I can perhaps work with. I will, in the meantime, continue to work with the D810 and the Sony AR7 II in a variety of ways. That’s my two-cents. Here is a photo taken with the Hasselblad X1D, an example of what kind of photos I tend to do.
  7. I sent back the Fuji GFX, the Pentax K1, and so on. I also came close to sending the X1D back as well, but I got at least a little breath of fresh air in all this. I feel I am beginning to understand the X1D and perhaps medium-format cameras in general. I used to have a Mamiya RZ67, which I probably never understood well enough; anyway, I never really learned to use it. Using the Hasselblad X1D these days, I begin to (perhaps) better understand what the old hands with medium-format cameras have been trying to point out to those of us coming in from the DSLR. For one, these small medium-format cameras like the X1D and GFX are not just the next version of the DSLR, like many of us are looking for. I know that, because Nikon has failed to update the D810, I am looking for the next version of that camera, if not from Nikon, then from somewhere else. However, what is starting to sink in or at least come through is something a little different from what I imagined the X1D (or GFX) is all about. We can imagine that cameras like the X1D are the next step beyond full-frame DSLRs, as I did, but this is really a different kind of camera, not simply an extension of the full-frame DSLR. I am starting to understand that. No, the X1D (at least so far) is not as “sharp” as what I can get with the Nikon D810. That’s true. It’s a different take on photography, one with some subtlety, at least for me. It is hard to put into words, but I will try, so please don’t shoot the messenger. I am just trying to grasp the nature of these little medium-format mirrorless cameras, and to get with the program. There is somehow more space with the 50 Mpx sensor, and certainly more light. I have never seen as gentle a roll-off for highlights than with the X1D. There is something similar with the Nikon D810 blacks at ISO 64 that is magic. This I know. But I can see there is a corresponding thing happening with highlights and the Hasselblad X1D. My question now is how to learn to use this particular approach to light. At least I am respectful and realize I have been barking up the wrong tree by trying make the X1D the future of full-frame DSLRS. What’s new for me is that I don’t (yet) know how best to use the lightness and space of the X1D images. At least I know I don’t know. The images from the X1D are not as sharp, and they seem to need a little extra contrast. But most of all, at least right now for me, they need more time for me to work with the process of taking images with this camera. Focus has to be done (and checked) very deliberately. What I call in focus-stacking “short stacks” (a few layers only in a stacked image) seem to lend themselves very naturally to the X1D. Larger and longer stacks do not. My whole approach with the X1D has to be more like a movie set, where infinite pains are made to arrange an impression before we make the impression by actually taking a photo. It reminds me of the old view cameras and, of course, it is all about process. Process in using the X1D is as much a part of the result as any resulting images could be. And attention to such process, very careful attention, results in the kind of images I didn’t even know I was looking for. Yet, I like them. So the Hasselblad X1D speeds up my process in photography by further slowing me down with that very same process, so that the resulting images improve as the process improves through more painstaking. I am sure other photographers will push other envelopes, although this really is not a sports or event camera, but more a still-life camera, at least for me. In other words, this may well be what I have been looking for, but it is not what I expected. Expectations cannot define, and you can’t expect to find what you expect. I get that now and that is the future.
  8. Some more comments after using the Hassleblad X1D for a while: I did a series of test shots using my D810 and the Otus 85mm lens as compared to using the X1d with the 90mm lens. While there is no question in my mind that the D810/Otus is better (and the X1D is less sharp, etc.), the difference with the X1D is not enough to make me “dislike” the performance of the X1D. It is good enough for what I do, which (to me) is saying something. There is a quality to shooting with the X1D that (I guess) I like. It is quite different than using the D810/Otus and I am working on getting used to that difference. Operationally, I am used to (and like) the D810 and I find trying to return to LiveView after taking a photo with the X1D not a fun experience. I would rather have a dedicated button (or the ability to assign one) so that I have a 100% positive press, rather that pussyfooting around to make sure I don’t take a photo when I only want to have LiveView again. I have gotten used to using the 2 sec. timer instead of a hard-wired remote, so that is not a problem. I don’t like the focus-by-wire method of the X1D lenses, but I do like the results of X1D Focusing, which are clear and positive, so I can live with that. I am still trying to decide whether I like the overall look of the IQ with the X1D. It is “bright” and a bit transparent compared to the more “viscous” look of the Nikon D810. As Obama said to Hilary Clinton “You’re liable enough, Hilary.” I am leaning in that direction with the “look” of the X1D. I can learn to use it for what I need and that is a form of “liking it,” IMO. The form factor and haptics are perfect, and the magnesium body is really a chunk. The lenses are not too big, although I am preparing myself for the shock of the much larger 120mm macro, after having owned a Hasselblad HC 120mm. The macro lens is what I miss right now with the X1D, because I need to get a little closer. I find myself liking the X1d and seem to be preparing a kit to take this little camera on the road. However, I have learned to like my D810 even more than I used to after my experience with the Pentax K1, the Fuji GFX, and now the X1D.
  9. I have long wondered whether the big sister to one of my favorite lenses, the El Nikkor APO 105mm f/5.6 has anything about it that makes it better. It is heavy as a brick (550 g, 19.4 oz.) and large. I finally found one and mounted it on the Cambo Actus, with a substituted 300 mm rail and bellows for the standard ones. This is a stacked, wide open, image using the Nikon D810, of some Iris past their prime. But I believe it clearly shows that this is a terrific lens for detail. I have been comparing it to the 210mm version of the AM-ED Nikkor, and it is definitely better overall, as is the smaller version. I see little interest in this, but someone must have wondered as I have about the quality of this large lens. And I am certainly shooting right through the middle of the lens at the best corrected part of the glass.
  10. I have the 90mm and 45mm, with the 30mm on order and paid for, plus I'm getting the macro 120mm when it comes out.
  11. Actually no. This is ACR, using a special sensor profile developed by Ming Thein, who really knows Hasselblad color. This is the camera I have been looking for. It's like a marriage. It is better if you start out loving the camera, so that you are willing to put up with it's faults for the love of the images. This is that camera for me, at least so far.
  12. Long story. I will post as I work through the use of this camera. But for starters, better color, less color cast, huge amount of room (roll-off) on the highlight end of things for a gentle reduction. D810 has better blacks at ISO 64, but the X1D has good blacks. Gentle color. More, but later. Also different cameras. I will still use the D810 for technical camera stuff, Otus lenses, industrial lenses, etc. Both great cameras, but the X1D is better for...that is what I am finding out.
  13. Yeah, black velvet, wrinkled. Not meant to be a finished photo, but just to show what the X1D can do.
  14. Hasselblad X1D, 90mm
  15. I get ideas, same as all of us, and some of them are a little extreme or hard to realize, yet they stick in my head and keep prompting me to consider them. One of these has to do with large-format lenses, and among those, the really oversize lenses as they might be used on a DSLR like the Nikon D810. And, of course, among those oversize lenses there are only a couple of Nikons that are true APO (apochromatic) lenses. And here I am talking about the Nikon AM-ED 210 mm f/5.6 and the El Nikkor APO 210mm f/5.6. Now, how to mount them? I like my Cambo Actus very much and recently I added a 300mm focus-rail and accompanying 300mm bellows to the system, so that I could check out some of the exotic Nikkor and others lenses. And of course there are these two rather lenses that I particularly want to see what I can do with: Nikon AM-ED APO 210 mm f/5.6. El Nikkor APO 210mm f/5.6 I have copies of both these lenses in both 210mm and the more common smaller variety, 120mm for the AM-ED APO and 105mm in the El Nikkor APO. The 210mm versions are large, very heavy lenses, but they fit easily on the Cambo Actus, although I do try to use brass adapters. The idea is the look through the center (where they are sharpest) of these large lenses with an FF camera like the D810 and perhaps have more of the center of the lens used and less of the corners of each of these lenses. These images are with the 210mm AM-ED APO lens. Soon I will hopefully also show you what the 210mm El Nikkor APO images look like. Of the two lenses, the El Nikkor APO is the better corrected lens, with great style, but the AM-ED APO is also very nice.