Tuesday, April 30, 2013

I'm A Panasonic Early Adopter! This Means I Get My Hands On A DMC-TS5 Soon!

I recently applied for the Panasonic Early Adopter program through their Facebook page, and was selected! I get to test the new waterproof, shockproof, GPS and wifi-enabled DMC-TS5! I will write up a report for Panasonic and give feedback on the product - right up my alley!
Panasonic DMC-TS5
Image Source: www.amazon.com
I have an earlier version of this camera, the DMC-TS3, which I bought about a year ago. I've taken care of the camera, but never worried about getting it wet, even taking it underwater, out in the sand, etc. I've always been pleased with the images it produces.
(Click Here) to see a post of images from the TS3. If you search my blog for "DMC-TS3," you'll see more.
I have stated in the past that I'm not affiliated with or compensated by any camera company. While I'm really pleased to get my hands on the DMC-TS5, I'll refer directly to an excerpt from Panasonic's Terms and Conditions regarding my affiliation (or lack thereof) with the company:
"Panelists acknowledge that they will not be compensated or otherwise personally enriched, directly or indirectly, for submitting Content."
So, I promise that I'll remain objective about my comments on any product, Panasonic or otherwise.
I can't wait to try out some of the new features of the TS5, including an app to use my iPhone to remotely trigger the camera. Cool!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Skeletons From The Closet - Results From April's Camera - Agfa Solinette II

I've only shot one roll of film through the Solinette so far this month. I've gotten a little behind in my writing for this feature as well. But, I did get a few images worth sharing, and I'm hopeful that I'll get some more film through the Solinette before the end of April.
My wife and I went to Dayton, Ohio recently. Here are a couple of shots from that weekend.
Springtime Portrait, by Reed A. George
Agfa Solinette II with Solinar 50mm f3.5 Lens
While in Dayton, we visited a museum in the Carillon Park. I liked this mechanical detail of a generator at the museum.
Mechanical Detail, by Reed A. George
Agfa Solinette II with Solinar 50mm f3.5 Lens
I have a few more images to share, these taken around home. First, the old manor house at the modern biomedical facility where I work still has spring flowers come up each and every year. These must have first been planted many years ago when the manor house was occupied. I think it's interesting to see these remnants of the lives that people spent living in this beautiful old house.
Daffodils at the Manor House, by Reed A. George
Agfa Solinette II with Solinar 50mm f3.5 Lens
I grabbed this shot on the way to work one morning. I just had to pull over and catch this sunset.
Sunrise, by Reed A. George
Agfa Solinette II with Solinar 50mm f3.5 Lens
Finally, this scene of a tulip magnolia tree at work caught my eye. I always enjoy when this tree bursts into bloom, and usually photograph it a few times per year. This year, I liked how the shadows of the branches above connected with the fallen petals on the ground. It's a little different, at least. I'll include two examples.
Tulip Magnolia Petals, by Reed A. George
Agfa Solinette II with Solinar 50mm f3.5 Lens

I've enjoyed shooting the Solinette so far, even though guess focus is challenging for me. The little Solinar lens is pretty darned sharp in my opinion. The colors are a little muted, but I'm not sure if that's due to the lens or the cheap color print film I used. Either way, I think they look decent.

I've got a new 36 exposure roll of Fuji 100 print film loaded up and ready to go. I think I'll carry the Solinette around tomorrow and see what I can do with it.



Sunday, April 28, 2013

My Kindle Book on the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7 Helps People Set Up Their LX7 Right!

Only $2.99 or borrow for free with Amazon Prime membership!

Skeletons From The Closet - April's Camera - The Agfa Solinette II

Agfa Solinette II, April's Skeletons From The Closet Camera
April's camera is the Agfa Solinette II, a 35mm folding camera from the 1950s. I actually have two of these - the one pictured above with an Apotar 50mm f3.5 lens, and another with the higher end Solinar 50mm f3.5. I decided to shoot with the Solinar this month.
This is a guess focus camera, with no type of rangefinder for estimating distance. There's no battery or meter, either. The Solinette is a very basic, sturdy little camera. Both of mine look like brand new. I think I got both of them on eBay, for around $25 each.
Another month with a guess focus camera is challenging for me. Let's see what I can do.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Whole Lotta Leica - April's 50mm f2 Summicron Collapsible - in South Florida at the LHSA Spring Shoot!

I'm currently at the LHSA (International Leica Society) Spring Shoot in Fort Lauderdale, Florida - held April 18-20, 2013.
(Click Here) to read about LHSA. It's a wonderful group of real Leica experts, who also happen to be a lot of fun. Membership includes access to the excellent magazine Viewfinder, meetings in exciting places (Fort Lauderdale this spring, San Francisco in the fall), some amazing raffles for high end Leica equipment, and much more.
I'm operating with my iPad only on this trip, so the few pictures in this post are unedited jpegs, straight from the camera. They were all shot with the Summicron collapsible 50mm f2 lens that I selected for my Whole Lotta Leica series lens for April.
(Click Here) to read about this special lens.
Los Olas Cleaning Crew, by Reed A. George
Leica M9, 50mm f2 Summicron Collapsible
I shot this image on my way back to the hotel from Starbucks this morning. I knew that I liked the way the water pouring down looked, but didn't catch it the first time. I waited a few minutes while they soaped and scrubbed, and were finally ready for another water rinse. I also popped on my little Nikon SB30 flash to fill in the backlighting a little.
Bow Reflections on New River, by Reed A. George
Leica M9, Summicron Collapsible 50mm f2
What I like about this shot is how the ripples in the water surface are reflected in the bright metal bow plate of the boat.
Villa Vizcaya Gardens, by Reed A. George
Leica M9, Summicron Collapsible 50mm f2
Our outing today began at Villa Vizcaya, home to industrialist James Deering from 1916-1925. I need to work with this image, but what I like is the double framing of a beautiful girl in a blue gown at the gates at the far end. At this size, she looks tiny. I'm hoping it will look good enlarged.
We also visited the new Leica store in Miami, and received a nice presentation on the new Leica M camera. Quite impressive.
The meeting also offers "Leica on Loan," where Leica loans out cameras and lenses for us to test on our daily shoots. Today I got the Leica Summicron 28mm f2. I shot it on a film Leica, my M4-2, so we'll have to wait until the film is processed to see how that went. I just looked it up and discovered that's a $4,200 lens! I'd better lock that in the hotel safe tonight... If you want your own, please buy it at the link below :)... As if.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Am I the Only One Who Wants My Fixed Lens to be 50mm?

Nikon Coolpix A

Image Source:http://www.nikonusa.com/en/Nikon-Products/Product/Compact-Digital-Cameras/26423/COOLPIX-A.html

I like where the digital camera leaders are going - almost. I love the idea of a dedicated, fixed lens compact camera with a large sensor and great image quality. The good news is that many camera manufacturers are making them now. My favorites so far are the Leica X2 and Fujifilm X100S. Others include offerings from Sigma, Sony, and now Nikon and Ricoh.
When I think of these types of cameras, my thoughts go to the excellent Olympus, Canon, and Konica fixed lens rangefinders of the past. I would really love to see something equivalent to an Olympus SP, for example.
(Click Here) to see what the Olympus SP film rangefinder camera was like on Andrew Yue's site.
Now here's the rub, for me. All of the new fixed lens cameras have wide angle lenses, 35mm equivalent field of view, or wider. For me, the 42mm lens on the old Olympus SP was a bit wide, but actually a very good compromise between what I think of as a "standard" focal length of 50mm, and the admittedely popular 35mm lens. In fact, my 40mm Minolta Rokkor lens for Leica M mount cameras is one of my favorites.
If I'm going to buy a fixed lens camera, the lens really needs to serve most of my purposes. For me, and yes, it's personal preference, a 50mm lens would be best. I'm willing to be open-minded and take something as wide as 40mm, and actually would embrace that focal length.
When I saw the first announcement of the Nikon Coolpix A, I was excited. In my experience, Nikon does a great job of handling sensor noise (my Nikon D700 DSLR is the best low light camera I have), and I'm familiar with the menus. When I read that the A has an APS-C sensor and 28mm f2.8 lens, I got excited. I thought, hmm - 28mm X ~1.5 crop factor = 42mm equivalent. Great! Then I saw that it's actually an 18.5mm lens, and 28mm equivalent field of view. Really? I remember when 28mm was a rather extreme wide angle lens, one that was probably in your bag but sure didn't get the usage that a 35mm or especially 50mm lens did. This is way too wide to be a general purpose, fixed lens camera, at least for me.
Ricoh has also just come out with a new GR digital model - again 28mm equivalent field of view.
I think part of what's driving this trend is lens size. While the camera companies are trying to provide large sensors for their compacts (which is great news), they want to keep the lens size as small as is practical. I understand that. I also think this may be why some are stopping at a maximum aperture of f2.8, which I think is a little slow for a fixed lens camera. But, I still really want a litle longer lens, and fast, please.
I mean, let's face it, I never could really fit that Konica S1.6 with 45mm f1.6 lens (a 1970s fixed lens film rangefinder that produces incredible images) in my pocket.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Pinhole! 4x5 Pinhole Shots From Manassas Battlefield, US Civil War

I wrote recently that the announcement of new pinhole cameras from Ilfor inspired me to get out and shoot mine.
(Click Here) to read about the new Ilford Pinhole camera.
My pinhole camera looks very much like this one (Click Here), available from Freestyle. It uses standard 4x5 film backs, which is great (the new Ilford model does not). This means that I can carry multiple shots with me easily, without the need to reload in the field in a dark bag.
A couple of days ago, I took my out to Manassas Battlefield, here in Northern Virginia. I took six exposures, and will share five in this post (the sixth was an alternate exposure of one of the other scenes).
Let's start with Thornton House, as Sudley Ford, at the north end of the battlefield. This house was in the direct approach path of Union soldiers as they crossed the river at Sudley Ford to advance on rebel troops in Manassas. It was also the site of the Union's bloody, beaten defeat, and served as a field hospital where many limbs and lives met their end. Here's a view of it today:
Thornton House, by Reed A. George
4x5 Pinhole Camera, iso 100 Film
I found a shot of Thornton House at the time of the civil war online. (Click Here) to see how it used to look.
Here's a shot of an old barn that I encountered on my drive. I cropped it to get rid of ugly pure white sky.
Barn, by Reed A. George
4x5 Pinhole Camera, iso 100 Film
The remaining shots were taken at the river crossing at Sudley Ford. This is a somber place for me. When I'm standing there, I can imagine the excitement of the tens of thousands of soldiers as they pound across the river to go fight for their country. I can also imagine their fear, shock, and pain as they retreat back across, having witnessed some of the most brutal warfare humans have ever experienced. It's quiet there now. I prefer it that way.
Sudley Ford #1, by Reed A. George
4x5 Pinhole Camera, iso 100 Film

Sudley Ford #2, by Reed A. George
4x5 Pinhole Camera, iso 100 Film

Sudley Ford #3, by Reed A. George
4x5 Pinhole Camera, iso 100 Film
My pinhole camera has an equivalent f-stop of about 250 (256?). That means that in bright daylight, iso 100 film should be exposed for eight seconds. I usually find that I underexpose with this camera, so I pushed it further this time. I actually did overexpose some of these images, but was able to resurrect them during scanning. The first picture, of Thornton House, was quite overexposed at one minute, but it had a wide range of tones, from the shadows in the trees to the pure bright white of the house's exterior walls.
I took these on April 21, 2013. It turns out, Worldwide Pinhole Day is on Sunday, April 28. So, I'll treat this as a test run, and be sure to get back out this coming Sunday!
(Click Here) to read about Worldwide Pinhole Day.
Get out there and shoot some yourself! Share some of your results with me. Maybe I'll even post one or two of yours on DMC-365!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

I Guess I'm Just A Camera Romantic - How Does Lumix DMC-LX7 Compare to Medium Format?

Side by Side - Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7 on Left, Zeiss Ikonta Medium Format on Right
Camera comparisons are always dangerous. So, I'll start out by saying that I did this only for my own edification. I tried to take the same picture of the scene above using two cameras - the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7 (which I was using as an exposure meter) and my March Skeletons From The Closet camera, the Zeiss Ikonta 521/16.
(Click Here) to read about the Ikonta.
I've written several posts about the LX7 already, so you can just search my blog for the list of posts.
What I'm trying to figure out here is what it is that I like about my old cameras. I also find myself thinking about how capable the LX7 is, and where its limitations are.
I shot both images with the respective camera mounted on a tripod. I shot the LX7 shot at iso100, versus the Portra 160 film in the Ikonta.
I uploaded the LX7 raw file to Lightroom and edited it as you see above - converted to black and white, minor cropping of the already square format image from the LX7, sharpening, and a little noise reduction.
With the Ikonta shot, I mailed the film off to The Darkroom (thedarkroom.com), waited a week (which is very fast for excellent processing service), scanned it at an outrageous high resolution, down-rezzed to a reasonable size, and edited in similar fashion to the LX7 raw image.
Then, when I was happy with each image, I compared them directly side-by-side in Lightroom (as you can see above).
What was the result? First, the LX7 image is much sharper. I was surprised by this. The prime Tessar on the Ikonta should outresolve a zoom on the LX7, right? Well, maybe it was just a focusing issue on my part; the Ikonta is a guess-focus camera. Or, it could be loss of sharpness in the scanning process.
In tonality, the images are very similar. The Ikonta image does show the wood grain a little better. I didn't notice this until seeing them next to each other. Subjectively, I can't really say that there's much difference. I would not pick one over the other. Unless I zoomed in and saw the better sharpness in the LX7 picture, I probably couldn't identify which image came from which camera at approximately 8x8" on my display screen.
Would the medium format image hold up better to big enlargements? Given that it's not as sharp to begin with, I doubt it. I don't see much noise in either image at reasonable sizes.
Again, this is not to say that the LX7 is as good as a medium format camera. Not at all. But, I find it educational that the results look so close for my normal application, which is sharing images online, and making enlargements up to 13x19" on my Epson R2400 printer.
So, I wonder why I go through all of the hurdles of using a completely manual film camera, the extra security at the airport when I ask for film to be hand-checked, waiting for film to be processed, scanning, and all the rest? Because I love it, that's why.
This exercise did two things for me. First, it reaffirmed to me that I really do photography out of love more than reason (that's what love is, right? Doing irrational things for the love of it?). Second, it made me more confident in using the LX7, even for pictures that I really care about.
How would it have done if we were comparing at iso 400? Hmm. I don't know. Maybe I'll try that next.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Whole Lotta Leica - Shot From April's Lens, the Collapsible Summicron 5cm f2 - Coffee!

Coffee's Up, by Reed A. George
Leica M9, Leica Summicron 5cm f2 Collapsible
iso 640 f4.8, 1/125 sec
April's Whole Lotta Leica lens is the earliest version of Leica's legendary 5cm Summicron.
(Click Here) to read about the lens.
I usually don't shoot with filters on my lenses. Reading about the rarity of an early (radioactive) Summicron collapsible without cleaning marks on the front lens element, I decided I'd better put a filter on mine for protection. I happened to have a nice example of the original Leica filter that fits this lens. It looks to be in fine condition as well, so I put it on. I shot with the Summicron at two different events yesterday, and looking at the images now, I can see internal reflections in many, and loss of contrast in most. Lesson learned. I'll be removing that filter.
The shot above was made without a filter, while my wife and I were in Dayton, Ohio. This coffee shop, Press, is really great. Coffee is made one cup at a time, and is really, really good.
I like the leading line of the counter pointing to the real interest of the shot, the coffee pouring into the cup. I also like the shape formed by the barista's arm and torso.
I am just getting up to speed on my new Nik software suite. I used SilverEfex to do the black and white conversion, and selected the Kodak Tri-X asa 400 treatment. I love that! It really does resemble the results I get with Tri-X film.
So, I'll keep learning - no filters, use SilverEfex, and so on...

Monday, April 22, 2013

Skeletons From The Closet - A Few More Shots From Japan With March's Camera - Zeiss Ikonta 521/16

I want to share a few more pictures and experiences from shooting my Zeiss Ikonta 521/16 medium format folder in Japan. There is always a certain amount of risk of failure in shooting cameras thirty or more years old. In this case, it's more nearly sixty years old. The Tessar lens on my Ikonta is in great shape, and really performs well. In general, the rest of the camera is in nice shape as well, but using it wasn't completely without issues.
I noticed on my second roll that the film wasn't being tightly spooled onto the take-up spool. When I removed it from the camera, I could see the edge of the film where it extended past the spool - not good. I did have several frames ruined by light getting in through this edge exposure. The shot below is a fairly mild example of that, with the streak of light at the bottom, right of center.
Light Leakage From Loosely Wound Film, by Reed A. George
Zeiss Ikonta 521/16
Kyu-Yasuda Garden, Ryogoku, Tokyo, Japan, by Reed A. George
Zeiss Ikonta 521/16
The shot above, of the Kyu-Yasuda Garden in Ryogoku, has the same problem. That's why it's cropped to a rectangle here. You can see a hint of the light leak at the bottom right. While I like it with this crop, the composition was better in square format, with larger walking stones closer in the foreground.
Sakura Reflection, by Reed A. George
Zeiss Ikonta 521/16
I don't know what causes the film to be loosely wound onto the take-up spool, but it did happen on about half of my rolls. There are two spring steel tabs that apply pressure to the source and take-up spool, but that's about all I can see inside this simple camera that may affect tightness on the spool.
Luckily, it didn't affect all of my images, just those that were on the outside (later shots in the roll). But, until I figure out how to fix it, it requires unloading the camera in complete darkness, and re-rolling the film tightly onto the spool by hand in the dark. Not exactly convenient.
It was a blast shooting the old Ikonta in March. I'm still very impressed by the optical quality of the Tessar.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Time For Some Pinhole Shooting - ePHOTOzine's Peter Black Reviews the Ilford Obscura 4x5 Pinhole Camera

Image Source: http://www.filmsnotdead.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/20130311-094504-pm.jpg
I just read a review of a new product from Ilford - a 4x5 film pinhole camera called the Obscura.
(Click Here) to read the review on ePHOTOzine.
Here's what I learned from the review: 1) Ilford appears to be in the film game for the long haul, which I love, and 2) the Obscura requires film loading in a changing bag, as it doesn't use a normal 4x5 film holder. Wow. That doesn't seem very smart.
I have one that I bought used, but I'm pretty sure it's from, you guessed it, pinholecameras.com.
(Click Here) to see their website.
I'm quite happy with mine, but don't use it often enough. Do I hear inspiration coming on? Maybe.
I have also made a cardboard pinhole camera that uses 35mm film. This one is a kit. See the Amazon link below if you're interested in one of those. It's not exactly the same as mine, so I can't say how easy or hard it is to build. Mine was tougher than expected to get right, but it does work and was a fun project.
From My Cardboard 35mm Film Pinhole Camera
The result above is what you can expect from a 35mm format or smaller pinhole - funky, blurry, potentially fun.
I find that my 4x5 pinhole yields reasonably sharp images. Actually, it would be hard to tell a 4x5 pinhole image from one made with an old inexpensive lens. You can decide whether that's a plus or minus. Sometimes funky, blurry, is good.
I think I'll load mine up this weekend.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Skeletons From The Closet - March Results - Rokkaku-Do Temple in Kyoto Shot With Zeiss Ikonta 521/16

Every year when I visit Japan, I make it a goal to get out early in the mornings for some solitude, thought, and photography. This year, I achieved that on our last day in Kyoto, by visiting Rokkaku-Do, a Buddhist temple from the early Heian period. That means it was like constructed before the year 1000 (otherwise known as Y1K to the computer scientists of the time). Rokkaku-Do is in an urban part of Kyoto, and is immediately adjacent to the headquarters of Ikenobo, the association for Ikebana, Japanese flower arrangement. Apparently, Ikebana was started at Rokkaku-Do temple.
(Click Here) to read more about Rokkaku-Do temple.
I shot in an interesting way on this morning. I carried my Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7, a tripod, and my Skeletons From The Closet camera for March, the Zeiss Ikonta 521/16.
(Click Here) to read more about my Zeiss Ikonta 521/16.
I used the LX7 as my exposure meter and scene test camera. Setting it to the same iso as the film in the Zeiss Ikonta, and selecting square image format, I found the LX7 extremely useful in this way. I also have a nice set of LX7 images to compare to the film shots. I plan to do a post about that in the future.
I used my DIY paper card rangefinder to just distance for focusing. (Click Here) to read about that. Scroll down to the bottom of the post for a description and link to a very helpful website for making your own rangefinder card.
Here are some of the quiet scenes I experienced that morning, scanned and cropped, but otherwise unedited.
Dragon Fountain, by Reed A. George
Zeiss Ikonta 521/16 with Tessar f3.5 Lens
Swan Pond, by Reed A. George
Zeiss Ikonta 521/16 with Tessar f3.5 Lens

Wooden Stool, by Reed A. George

Zeiss Ikonta 521/16 with Tessar f3.5 Lens

I knew that I liked the shot above as soon as I took it.

Symmetry, by Reed A. George

Zeiss Ikonta 521/16 with Tessar f3.5 Lens

That is the hexagonal main hall roof reflected in the water above. Rokkaku means hexagon in Japanese, and is the source of the temple's popular name.
Traveling Monks and Fallen Blossoms, by Reed A. George
Zeiss Ikonta 521/16 with Tessar f3.5 Lens
The best part of my morning was when an elderly Japanese lady came by and said good morning to me. Surprised that I could answer in Japanese, she then began my education about Rokkaku-Do.
Kami-Sama, by Reed A. George

Zeiss Ikonta 521/16 with Tessar f3.5 Lens (cropped)

She spoke only Japanese, so I must admit that I missed a significant part of the lesson. However, I did understand that the stone gods (kami-sama) above were collected from an important path in the area, I believe a path that led between multiple temples. She also told me that old ladies like her knit the hats and aprons for the kami-sama, because they want to make sure they don't get cold out here.
If you notice the little white sculptures lined up in front, they are ceramic doves. When I asked her what they were for, she literally took me by the arm, and walked me up to them, telling me how young couples who are in love come here for a specific purpose. She walked with a spring in her step, like a young girl with her boyfriend. She explained to me that a prospective bride can write down the things she likes about her fiance' on a piece of paper, and also list the things she's not so crazy about, putting an X next to those. The paper is then rolled up and put into a special groove in the bottom of the pigeon statue. The gods will work to make the X'd features of her lover go away. I loved that I was able to understand this part, through a combination of halting language on my part, rapid-fire Japanese on hers, and some hand gestures.
She also took me inside one of the buildings to explain that Rokkaku-Do was one of 36 stops on the Kansai Kannon pilgramage, where people visit 36 different spots to worship the god Kannon.
(Click Here) to read more about the Kansai Kannon pilgrimage.
My only regret was that she was too shy to let me take her picture. She politely gave me a wave of the hand, shook her head "no," and quickly moved off. I have said that my goal is not to catch every possible good photograph, but to make sure the ones I do get are the best I can make them. She'll have to be one of the ones I missed.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Subway Snapshot - Japan

Subway Snapshot, by Reed A. George
I am struggling to get home tonight, returning from the International Leica Society (LHSA) Spring Shoot in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. I am also struggling to get a post written today. Working on my iPod, without my normal bluetooth keyboard (due to airplane mode turning off bluetooth), I decided to go through the images stored on my iPad and pick an image I like. Here you see it.
I can't even remember which camera I used for this shot. My guess is it's the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7, but it could have been my Leica M9. I edited it on the iPad, using the photo editing app Snapseed, adding the framing effect and adjusting white balance.
I do know I shot it in the Kyoto subway. I like how both people are using their cell phones, and how the woman at left is looking at me. I can even live with the tilted perspective.
Thanks for hanging in with me on a challenging day for producing my blog post.

Some People Just Don't Need Color - Bo Photography Report on Leica M Monochrom and M9-P

After initially thinking "Boy, that's a crazy idea. A Leica rangefinder that only shoots black and white?" I'm now beginning to be a little more open-minded.
While I am more than pleased with my Leica M9, which can shoot color but also produces lovely black and white conversions, in my own opinion, it appears that some people just don't need color at all. Bo Photography has a new post where Bo, after using a Monochrom for quite some time, borrowed an M9-P. Concerned about how/if to use color, his results show that even when it was there, his style of photography just doesn't need color. The shot above is mesmerizing to me. I really like it.
I have not played with any images from a Monochrom to see if I can find enough improvement over the M9 to be intrigued. I owe it to myself to NOT do that... I have seen some gorgeous images, including some very large prints at the Washington, DC Leica store. However, I'm not convinced that the M9 couldn't have come very close.
In any case, (Click Here) to read Bo's post and see several more great monochrome (shot with M9-P) images.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Cherry Blossoms From A Different Perspective - Leica M9 and Voigtlander 12mm f5.6 Ultra Wide Heliar

I live in the Northern Virginia, about an hour from Washington, DC. DC's cherry blossoms are really quite impressive, but as in other places, they don't last long. They are currently at their peak, but I just haven't been able to find the energy to get downtown on a weekday evening to shoot them. Maybe this weekend.
The good news is that I have some nice cherry trees in my neighborhood. Small, but nice.
On the way home from work today, I decided to try to capture them from a different perspective - up high, with an ultra wide angle lens. So, I mounted up my Voigtlander LTM 12mm f5.6 Ultra Wide Heliar lens on my Leica M9, and connected both to a monopod. Then I grabbed a step ladder and headed out. These three shots are the result of putting the camera right into the cherry blossoms with the monopod, and using the self-timer to trigger the shutter.
Sakura Up High #1, by Reed A. George
Leica M9, Voigtlander Ultra Wide Heliar 12mm f5.6 Lens
iso 640, f9.5, 1/60 sec.
Sakura Up High #2, by Reed A. George
Leica M9, Voigtlander Ultra Wide Heliar 12mm f5.6 Lens
iso 1250, f6.7, 1/180 sec.
Sakura Up High #3, by Reed A. George
Leica M9, Voigtlander Ultra Wide Heliar 12mm f5.6 Lens
iso 640, f4.8, 1/90 sec.
The Ultra Wide Heliar is a very specialized lens. Advertised as the widest rectilinear (non-fisheye) lens for full-frame 35mm cameras, it's not a lens that gets every day use. It's so wide that you nearly have to touch the subject with the lens for it to take up any significant portion of the image area. It is also pretty slow, with a maximum aperture of f5.6. But, it has basically infinite depth of field, so the fact that focusing is not accomplished through coupling to the Leica rangefinder is really not an issue. Just set the focus and forget it.
It also has pretty significant color shifting (magenta and blue at the extreme image edges) and some vignetting (darkening in the image corners). For both reasons, and because I like the composition this way, I decided to crop the images as squares. I set the lens code on the M9 for the Wide Angle Tri-Elmar (16-18-21mm) at 16mm, which is the widest angle lens setting in the camera.
I found a website that describes software ("Cornerfix") that elminates the color shifting. They also suggest selecting the 21mm f2.8 lens code in the M9 when using the Ultra Wide Heliar. I'll have to try that.
(Click Here) to read about Cornerfix. I have not tried it.
You can also see that I applied some negative vignetting to get the white corners. Again, just because I like it that way.
A nice diversion for shooting an hour or so after work in the evening. I hope you enjoy the view.
My Ultra Wide Heliar is the older Leica Thread Mount (LTM) version. Here's a link to the newer Leica M-mount version. Either is adaptable to Micro 4/3, yielding a nice but not crazy-wide 24mm equivalent field of view.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Dodge and Burn Presents Their Newest Camera T-Shirt - The Graflex Speed Graphic With Aero-Ektar Lens!

The Newest Dodge and Burn Shirt - Speed Graphic With Aero-Ektar!
Image Source: dodgeandburn.com
I've written about Dodge and Burn before. They make the coolest t-shirts with classic camera designs. (Click Here) to go to their home page and see all of their designs.
(Click Here) to read my previous post.
I want you to know that I'm not financially connected with them in any way; I simply love their products. In fact, I now have three - the Street Shooter, the Rangefinder Classic, and now, the MAPC (Modified Aerial Press Camera) shown above.
The Aero Ektar is a 178mm lens with fast f2.5 aperture. It was built for the US military to use for aerial photography.
The Graflex Speed Graphic needs little introduction. It was the most popular press camera (4x5 film) for many, many years.
A quick google search for either the camera or lens will yield more information than you can consume.
(Click Here) for a single page with lots of good information.
One more plug for Dodge and Burn - I had a minor flaw with one of my shirts. They took care of it immediately and efficiently. Their customer service is exactly as it should be - customer-focused. Thanks, Dodge and Burn!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Night Photography in Frederick Maryland - I Need to Get Up There Again.

I live pretty close to Frederick, Maryland. I went there a while back to hear some live music, and was impressed with the nightlife - lots of people on the street, etc.
I just read a nice post by "Slothead" on mu-43.com, who did some night photography of his own there with an Olympus OM-D.
(Click Here) to read Slothead's post and see his images.
Here are a couple of mine, shot with the Leica M8 and Canon 50mm f1.4 LTM lens.
Frederick at Night, by Reed A. George
Leica M8, Canon LTM 50mm f1.4

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Bombings in Boston Make Me Sad

Just had to say it.

Slowly Working Through Images From Japan - Another Nighttime HDR Shot From The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7

Fountain and Lanterns, by Reed A. George
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7, In-Camera HDR
I have been very busy since returning from Japan. I've finally made it through grading about 1,500 images, so that I've reduced it to a few hundred that I want to look at closer. I've also gotten my film back from The Darkroom - two rolls from my Skeletons From The Closet camera for April, the Zeiss Ikonta folder. So, I'm making progress.
I wrote a while back about the surprisingly good images that I got using the in-camera HDR feature of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7, handheld, basically in the dark.
(Click Here) to read my initial post about the LX7 and HDR in the dark.
The shot above is another example. In this scene, the fountain was really nearly in complete darkness. The original jpeg did have a weird color balance on the fountain; the lanterns were nicely white and didn't need adjustment. I was a little worried, working with just the jpeg file (no raw file is made with in-camera HDR), but was able to adjust the color and bring up the brightness of the fountain with no issues.
This image would have been nearly impossible to capture handheld with other cameras. Even with a tripod, the extra processing of multiple images at the computer would have been much less fun. I've got plenty of other images to process.
I am really enjoying the LX7. Now, I've got to get back to editing and presenting some more pictures. Maybe this weekend...
See my Kindle eBook on how I set up and use the DMC-LX7. Only $2.99, or free for Amazon Prime members:

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Google and Nik Software - Here's An Answer To The Naysayers!

Church on Kauai, by Reed A. George
Processed with Nik HDR Pro Software
Last October, I wrote an entry about the news that Nik Software had been purchased by Google.
(Click Here) to see that post.
Nik makes a suite of software products for digital photo processing - everything from black and white conversion to high dynamic range (HDR), and more. I only owned their HDR Pro product - until now. I have always been pleased with how HDR Pro works.
At the time the news of the Google purchase came out, there was a significant amount of speculation that this was bad news for serious photographers, that Google would focus only on Nik's low-end products for web use, etc. I wasn't so sure.
I'm happy to report a couple of things that show Google's really in this for the good of photographers as well as casual snapshooters.
First off - they've slashed the prices on the whole Nik Suite. I remember seeing it for ~$400 before the Google purchase. Now, it lists for $149!
(Click Here) for an article on the price cut on USA Today's website.
I think this is great news. You get the significant horsepower and development capabilities of Google at a MUCH lower price than when the company was independent. Hard to complain.
Next, I heard a rumor that if you owned any Nik software from the past, even a single package (like me), you could get a free download of the entire suite. Sounds too good to be true. So, I tried it. I went to the Nik homepage, found the contact page, and asked the question. I was completely honest, told them I only owned HDR Pro, and had heard a rumor. They replied very rapidly, asked for my HDR Pro product key, and affirmed that I can receive the entire suite! I haven't received it yet, but expect to very soon. Wow. That is customer service.
(Click Here) for Nik's contact page.
So, while they sometimes definitely are, big companies aren't always the evil empire. Thanks, Google!
One more thing - Nik's lower end product, Snapseed, is also very cool. Search my blog if you want to see a few examples.
My new Kindle eBook on the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7, how to set it up and use it, is available here:

Saturday, April 13, 2013

End of the Road - Tokaido Road - Shot With Lumix DMC-LX7

Shijo Ohashi (Bridge), Western Terminus of the Tokaido Road, by Reed A. George
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7
iso 200, f2.8, 1/320 sec
Japan was ruled for over two hundred years by the Tokugawa shogunate. The shogun, top leader of the samurai class, moved the capital to Tokyo in 1603. There were five roads established at the time, all leading to the new capital in Tokyo, where the shogun required regional warlords to report periodically to pay usurious fees and allow him to stay on top of recent developments and engineer conflict between the regions. The Tokaido road led from Kyoto (a former capital of Japan and still the home of the imperial court) to Tokyo. It was the most-used of the five roads.
The Shijo Ohashi in Kyoto represents the western end of the Tokaido. The Tokugawa shogun also maintained a residence in Kyoto, in Nijo Castle. You'll be seeing some pics from Nijo as I continue working through my images from my recent trip to Japan.
This shot was taken on a morning walk, which I typically take every day on my visits to Japan. I love to be out at sunrise, and the jet lag works in my favor in this case. My family is usually still asleep when I head out.
On this morning, I ended up at the Kamo River, which the Shijo Ohashi crosses. While it's now a city street, looking up from the river below, it's easy to imagine the samurai trudging across the river at the end of their journey to Kyoto, or starting out on the long trip to the capital.
I like images that are timeless, or impossible to place in time.
On this trip, uncharacteristically for the spring, the sun never shone while we were there. Typically, I hate pure white cloudy skies in my images. In this case, I embraced it. The profile of the bridge against the white background was nice; the pure black crow overhead finished the scene for me. I waited about ten minutes to catch a crow in a suitable position in the sky.
I tinted this monochrome image a rather cold tone of blue in Lightroom. I feel it suits the mood of that morning.
I hope you enjoy this little glimpse of Japanese history.
Check out my real world usage guide for the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7 on Amazon's Kindle:

Friday, April 12, 2013

How About A Modern 4x5 Film Camera For Travel? Kickstarter Campaign for the Wanderlust Travelwide 4x5.

The Wanderlust Travelwide 4X5 Camera,
I have participated in a Kickstarter campaign in the past, to help one of my favorite bands fund an album. Here's another cool campaign, this time by Wanderlust Cameras. They are trying to fund manufacturing of two different 4X5 film cameras, designed for easy use and lightweight travel. The Travelwide 90 includes a helical focus mechanism, and is designed to use a Schneider Angulon 90mm f6.8 lens. The Travelwide 65 is a single focus point design, and uses the Schneider Super Angulon 65mm f8 lens at hyperfocal setting. The lenses are generally not included with the cameras, but they've targeted around $100 price for the bodies.
Finding a good used large format lens is left up to the customer, which I think is a risk for the product. In fact, they offered Kickstarter deals that included used lenses, and those are already all taken. I think they need to pay attention to the fact that many people would prefer to pay a little more for one-stop shopping and buy the camera complete. The 90 also needs some type of rangefinder. Finders are simple metal frames, but I think many people will want to add an optical finder.
In any case, I really like this type of innovation.
(Click Here) to go to the Kickstarter campaign and get your own Travelwide 4x5 camera!
Wanderlust already has a wide pinhole product on the market, designed for Micro 4/3 digital format cameras.
(Click Here) to check out their homepage.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Final Days for Brick and Mortar Camera Stores? Are These Store Owners Crazy?

Unknown, by Reed A. George
I love walking into a camera store, a real one, with people in it, as much as anyone. But, I'm afraid they're about to go the way of bookstores here in the USA.
It seems the latest problem is "showrooming," which means that customers come in and handle and test cameras and lenses, only to leave and order theirs online for a lower price. In the US, that usually means no sales tax, either.
Even worse for store owners, they sometimes buy a product, use it for a weekend shoot, then return it. It is now no longer eligible for sale as "new," and the store owner eats the loss.
I read an article about an Australian camera store that is reacting to this by charging admission - what??? No, it's not April Fool's Day any more. They charge customers $5 to come in. The charge is applicable to a purchase, but if you don't buy anything, you forfeit the entry fee.
(Click Here) to read about it on steves-digicams.com
So, how else can a camera store react to these challenges? I say take the higher road - provide such great customer service that people are willing to pay a little more to keep your store open. Yes, I'm sure that's easier said than done. But, if you're going to stay in this business, you have to offer something of real value to the customer, something they can't get online.
I remember hanging out at the camera store, comparing notes, debating equipment choices, maybe even meeting for a photo walk or class. I remember trusting the guys behind the counter to really know something about photography.
My own local camera store is more like the one in Australia. Though they do have some real resident expertise, I've tried multiple times to engage them. They're more interested in a sale than a discussion. In fact, they've instituted a 20% (!) restocking fee for returned equipment, to respond to the weekend use-and-returners. That is insane, in my humble opinion.
I would be more than willing to pay at least the differential of the sales tax for a more engaging relationship. As it is, there's no freaking way I'm going to pay more, lose the free return opportunity (which I use when necessary, no more than that), and put up with attitude!
I'm sure the pressure to make sales in today's world is excruciating for these small business owners. However, if there aren't better ways to deal with it, I'm afraid their days are numbered. As it is today, I wouldn't use my local store even if they did offer free returns like the rest of the world. The attitude is simply a deal breaker for me.
Amazon has never given me attitude. Neither has B&H, Adorama, or KEH.
Rant over.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Kodak Instamatic Turned 50 in March

Image Source: http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2013/03/29/instamatic-camera-50-years/2034585/
I read this morning that the Kodak Instamatic camera was first introduced in March, 1963. That's about seventeen months before I was introduced to the market (being born in December, 1964). My first camera ever was a Kodak Instamatic, which hardly distinguishes me - Kodak sold 50 million of them!
There's an interesting post about the Instamatic, a camera designed to be easy to use at the cost of image size, lens quality, and just about everything else, on The Online Photographer blog. But, easy to use it was! The 126 cartridge film and flash cube were truly foolproof. You had to intentionally bust open a cartridge (or remove it mid-roll) to accidentally expose your film.
(Click Here) to read about the Instamatic and chief designer, Hubert Nerwin (a post-war transplant from Carl Zeiss in Germany) on The Online Photographer. In this article, the author Mike makes the case that the Instamatic gave Kodak the misplaced confidence to bring out other compromised products, including the Disc Camera and APS systems.
As I remember it, the APS was really kind of cool. Most APS cameras could rewind your film mid-roll, and remember where they were, automatically getting you back to the correct frame when reinserted in the camera. That was pretty advanced for the time. I would like that feature on my 35mm cameras.
I also think Mike left out the most compromising development in cheap cameras, the 110 film cartridge. Truly a miniscule negative, you were beat before you ever started if you wanted to take a quality image with 110. Yes, I know the Pentax Auto 110 was a cool little camera outfit. It was like if Panasonic produced a system camera based on a 640x640 pixel tiny sensor, rather than Micro 4/3.
And, amazingly, 110 film is back! At least it's in the right hands now, those of people who understand and even enjoy its limitations. Yes, I mean the Holga / Diana crowd, where medium format cameras with light leaks are welcomed, for example. I really like this crowd - as I often say, constraints (or limitations) can sometimes drive creativity, and I think the toy camera user groups are often creative.
Want to know more about 110 film, where to get it, and how to get it processed?
(Click Here) to read about it at the Film Photography Project (FPP). This article should get you started. They sell 110 film in the FPP store. Or, see my link below to buy it at Amazon.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Yayoi Okada - Leica D-Lux 6 (Lumix DMC-LX7) Pictures and Words on the Leica Camera Blog

Photographer Yayoi Okada shared a series of images, all monochrome, all shot with the Leica D-Lux 6 camera, on the Leica Camera Blog:
(Click Here) to see Yayoi's post
I still can't really believe just how good the Lumix DMC-LX7 is. The D-Lux 6 is Leica's version of the same camera.
Making Japanese Soba Noodles By Hand, by Reed A. George
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7
As I write this, I am still in Japan (will be home by the time this posts). Since I'm using my iPad on this trip, I'm merely backing up images, and not yet editing any of them. The shot above is a black and white jpeg from the LX7. This was shot in a relatively dark restaurant, where this master was making soba (buckwheat) noodles by hand. I'm looking forward to working with the raw file when I get home (I'm going to have a lot of raw files to deal with when I get home) to see just what I can do with this image.
I carried my LX7 and Leica M9 to Japan this time. I have enjoyed shooting the M9 here, but I am really wowed by the flexibilty and convenience of the LX7. Camera technology is really improving by leaps and bounds. The f1.4 lens on the LX7 is so useful.
I used my custom preset for street photography to get this shot, even though it was not a street image. I love having presets in the camera to get me as close as possible to what I need on short notice.
Read about how I set my camera up and use it in my eBook, now available on the Amazon Kindle store (purchase for just $2.99, or borrow it for free if you're an Amazon Prime member):

Monday, April 8, 2013

This Would Make a Great Skeletons From The Closet Camera - Crazy Fedya Shares Some Zeiss Ikon Tenax II Pics on Rangefinder Forum

When I read Crazy Fedya's post on Rangefinder Forum this morning, I was intrigued by a model of Zeiss Ikon camera that I had not seen before, the Tenax II.
(Click Here) to see the post on Rangefinder Forum. There's another nice shot there, too.
Since my Skeletons From The Closet camera for March was the Zeiss Ikon 120 folding camera with f3.5 Tessar, I thought the Tenax II may be comparable. Crazy Fedya's has a Tessar f2.8 lens, uncoated (made in 1939). By the way, if you haven't tried shooting with an old uncoated lens, you owe it to yourself to try. One of my all-time favorite lenses is a Leica Summitar 5cm f2 lens, which is uncoated. It's tough to explain the look, but I'll be happy to show you in upcoming Whole Lotta Leica posts - I'll definitely be featuring that lens soon.
I love square format images, and usually that's an immediate clue that the camera is a medium format camera, usually shooting 2 1/4" square images on 120 film.
Then, I did a quick search on the Tenax II and found Mike Elek's post about his:
(Click Here) to read Mike Elek's excellent post about the Zeiss Tenax II. You MUST click through the first page to see a great series of Mike's images with his Tenax II, which has a Sonnar f2 lens. Even nicer than the excellent Tessar!
But here's the surprise - for me, at least. The Tenax II shoots 35mm film! That's right, it makes 24x24 mm. images on 35mm film. How cool is that? Boy, I'd like to have one of these.
And more surprises - this was actually a system camera, with interchangeable lenses. A quick look online tells me they're somewhat uncommon, and can be quite expensive.
So, I'll keep the Tenax II in the back of my mind - if I ever find one for a reasonable price, I'll try out square format imaging on 35mm film.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

I Was Tempted By The Fuji X100S, Sony RX1, and Leica X2 - I Think I'll Pass For Now

Image Source: www.amazon.com

I have been traveling for the past week or so with my Leica M9, Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7 compact camera, and my Skeletons From The Closet camera for March, the Zeiss Ikonta folder.
I have been sorely tempted by the three fixed lens cameras mentioned in the title of my post. All three, the Fujifilm X100S, Sony RX1, and Leica X2 offer a lot of excellent features. However, I'm pretty convinced that if I were to buy a fixed lens camera, I would want a 50mm equivalent field of view, as opposed to the 35mm field of view of each of these cameras.
On this trip, I brought my Summilux 35mm f1.4 lens for the M9. That lens is my Whole Lotta Leica pick for March. While it's an amazing lens, I have felt throughout the trip that I'd have been happier overall with a 50mm lens. Of course, the M9 lets me change lenses, which I am not shy about doing. But, if I bought one of these new fixed lens cameras, I would not have that option. So, I am staying out of that market for now.
If I were going to go for it, it would be between the Fuji and Leica. I've now handled both, and they are extremely nice cameras. I've also handled the Sony, and like it. Just not to the tune of the price difference.
I wrote a couple of days ago about how I essentially traded in my year-old Lumix DMC-G3 kit for a new DMC-GX1 through Amazon (the GX1 is $275 brand new right now!). The new GX1 is waiting for me in its box until I get home. I'm thinking that the GX1 with the Lumix 20mm f1.7 pancake lens should give any of these cameras a run for their money, and for much less of it (money, that is). If I considered the combination of a flexible compact camera and a fixed lens higher image quality camera combination for travel, I would have thought about the Lumix DMC-LX7 (which I continue to explore and enjoy immensely) and either a Fuji X100S or Leica X2. Now, I'm thinking the GX1 with 20mm f1.7 will be the higher end choice. The GX1 is very compact, and yields great image quality. I know this from my experience with the DMC-G3, which shares the same sensor as the GX1. With the 20mm f1.7 lens, it's a very nice little package. And, I have the awesome 25mm Pana-Leica Summilux 25mm f1.4 if I really want the 50mm equivalent field of view.
Kirk Tuck recently wrote a post about comparing the high iso performance of the Fujifilm X100S with his Sony NEX, using the excellent comparison tool at dpreview.com. His conclusion is that the hysteria over the X100S may be warranted by the features of the camera, but not by high iso performance alone.
(Click Here) to read Kirk's post, entitled "New "Holy Grail" of Cameras Spanked by the Real Deal." How controversial that title sounds!
I decided to do the same comparison between the X100S and the GX1. Here's a screenshot of the raw images at iso 800:
DPreview iso 800 Raw Comparison of Fuji X100S, Fuji X100, Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX1,and Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7
Image Source: http://www.dpreview.com/previews/fujifilm-x100s/6
You can easily switch iso level for all of the cameras in the comparison using the dpreview tool. I decided that iso 800 is important for me, as I need that level fairly often on travel, especially in cloudy weather. However, the f1.7 lens on the GX1 will need it less often than the f2 on the Fuji or f2.8 on the Leica.
My conclusion from this comparison is that, as expected, the LX7 really lags the other, larger sensor cameras in performance at iso 800. But, surprisingly, I like the GX1 result more than the Fuji cameras. While the Fujis certainly have a smoother image rendition, it is at the cost of detail. When considering raw files (before noise reduction is applied), I prefer to retain as much detail as possible. So, I think my GX1 will perform very well in comparison to the X100S at iso 800. The same trend applies at iso 1600 and up. Plus, I can change lenses when I want.
How about those LX7 results? Well, it's a compromise. The LX7 has so many features, including a nice zoom range, in such a tiny package, I'm willing to keep the iso level low to preserve image quality.
So, if you've followed my musings thus far, I won't be buying one of the new fixed lens wonders from Fuji, Sony, or Leica any time soon. I'd be more inclined if any of them came with a 50mm equivalent lens.
Now, I will admit that I'm still very attracted to the Fujifilm X20 for the flexible end, as competition for my LX7. I handled an X20 in Tokyo, and it's very impressive. The optical viewfinder is very nice, and it feels like a real camera. But, for now, I'm sticking with Panasonic for both cameras.