Friday, February 28, 2014

Dreaming in Monochrom(e). I'm Starting to Like This Look for Live Music

I've been using my Leica M4-2 film camera with Tmax 400 film, pushing it to iso 1600 (+2 stops) for shooting live music lately. I'm really starting to like the high constrast black and white look I'm getting.
Here are some shots I took recently at the Bright Box, a wonderful venue in Winchester, Virginia.
(Click Here) to learn more about Bright Box.
This show happened to be opened by one of my favorites, you may recognize Melissa Wright, now in a band called Mink.
Mink, by Reed A. George
The headliner band this particular evening was River Whyless, who I can add to my list of must-see-again bands.
River Whyless, by Reed A. George
The third shot is my favorite from the evening. I love how each band member comes across quite individually, yet makes up a part of the whole. I'm pleased with it.
I shot three lenses with my M4-2 on this evening: Leica 35mm f1.4 pre-aspheric Summilux, Zeiss 50mm f1.5 Sonnar-C, and Leica 90mm f2.8 Elmarit. I'm really beginning to like the combination of this very light, easily maneuverable kit and the look of pushed black and white film. Of course, it wouldn't work for everything, but in already harshly-lit stage settings, I think it does just fine.
Continuing on the path of learning how I may like the new digital Monochrom rangefinder, I do wonder how it would be to shoot at iso 1600 or even higher and get the wonderful low contrast, high dynamic images that camera is capable of. Maybe I'll have to borrow a Monochrom and see!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

New Micro 4/3 Lenses from Kowa

Image Source:

It looks like Kowa, a Japanese camera maker we haven't heard from in many years in the USA, is going to produce three new lenses for Micro 4/3. The will include an 8.5mm f2.8 ultrawide angle, 12mm f1.8 wide, and 25mm f1.8 normal lens. I don't know anything about them, but they appear to be manual focus, and also appear to have aperture rings, something you can't necessarily expect these days.

You can see them on the company's Japanese site if you (Click Here).

Welcome to Micro 4/3, Kowa!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

So What Do You Think of the Retro Styled Cameras? Canon Says No.

Photo of the Nikon Df and legacy non-AI NIKKOR lenses
The Nikon Df
Image Source:
Personally, I really like the styling of some of today's cameras, specifically some of those that harken back to cameras I knew or used when I was younger. No, I don't carry a pocket watch or hand-drawn maps. But I do still carry a Nikon F2 pretty often. So, the Df definitely appeals.
My new Lumix DMC-GX7 makes me wish it was more "retro" styled, something like the Olympus OM-D. Fuji's designs are distinctly retro and cool.
Apparently, Canon will not pursue this line of design, according to a post on the SLR Lounge.
(Click Here) to see the quote from a Canon representative.
Now this doesn't bother me much, as the only Canon gear I own really is retro. I have a Canon 50mm f1.4 Leica Thread Mount (LTM) lens that truly lives up to its nickname, the Japanese Summilux. I also have a Canon 135mm f3.5 LTM lens that is amazingly sharp and nice. Oh yeah, I also have a fixed lens 35mm rangefinder, the Canon QL17, with f1.7 lens. I haven't had that out in a while. Hmm. Maybe that's how I'll enjoy some retro Canon. I wouldn't be likely to buy a new Canon anyway, even if it was retro styled.
Now the Nikon Df is another story. Still attracted to that one.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Ashwin Rao on a Year With the Real (Digital) Leica Monochrom

Image Source:
As you know, I'm playing around a lot with black and white these days, specifically in my Leica M4-2, which I'm using to emulate the modern Leica digital Monochrom rangefinder.
Ashwin Rao, frequent contributor to Steve Huff's excellent photography blog, has written up his thoughts after shooting a lot with the new Monochrom. He made over 15,000 exposures with it last year.
(Click Here) to read Ashwin's full report on Steve Huff Photo. He includes many, many excellent images.
Ashwin writes how constraining himself to monochrome imaging, thinking only in black and white, was at first a major challenge. He says he realized what he had given up by using a camera incapable of rendering color. But then, this challenged turned to "inspiration and motivation."
Ashwin prefers to use older rangefinder lenses with his Monochrom. Sound familiar? I happen to love old Leica and rangefinder lenses, so this only bring the Monochrom closer to my heart. Ashwin feels that modern lenses tend to give a surreal look, and that modern aspherical lenses suffer from loss of shadow detail. He feels that maybe the coating of older lenses, which were developed in a monochrome era, are better optimized for black and white. Clearly, color was not the main consideration fifty years ago. Or maybe, he admits, he is drawn to images made with older lenses because he learned to love the look of images he knew from the past.
Ashwin reports that the Monochrom is pretty much infallible at up to iso 3200, and 5000 in good light.
He also reports that there is so much dynamic range that images can have an overall gray look. This invites lots of post-processing, and leaves plenty of opportunity to fine tune the images to get exactly what he wants.
So, after a year, the Monochrom is still his favorite camera. Ashwin commits to continuing to explore this special camera, and share more results as he goes. Onward, Ashwin, and thanks!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Blast From the Past - Sometimes I Really Miss California

Mount Diablo Landscape, by Reed A. George
Nikon D70, Nikkor 300mm Lens, f8, 1/60 sec.
I decided to go back and look at the earliest images I uploaded to flickr. Here's one that I shot in 2005. It was taken during a workshop at Mount Diablo, some 20 minutes from my home in Pleasant Hill, California. Man, what a magical place.
I can't remember if this was shot with my 70-300mm f4-5.6 ED zoom, or 300mm f4. I also can't seem to find the iso setting in the EXIF info.
But, the old D70 (my first DSLR) really did a pretty nice job, didn't it? I love the way the path zig zags over the hills to the tree.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

How Often Do You See This? A Customer Asks For More of an Older Approach

Margot MacDonald, by Reed A. George
Leica M9, 50mm f1.4
iso 800, f1.4, 1/125 sec
No, this isn't a plea for Nikon to make a digital SLR like the great old film SLRs of the past (ala Df). It's an open letter, started on the blog "Photographs By Peter," to convince Leica to continue making new rangefinder cameras with CCD sensors.
(Click Here) to read the post on Photographs By Peter. The author makes the statement that image quality from Leica's latest rangefinder, the M240 (with the first CMOS sensor in the M line of rangefinders) is inferior to the CCD sensor-equipped M9.
I won't enter that argument directly. However, I will say that I'm quite pleased with my M9 (which came out before the M240), and I'm not looking to upgrade at this point. There's a lot more than image quality considered in that statement, however. I can't go around making multi-thousand dollar camera investments every year or so. And, I am not in need of some of the really strong features of the M240, including live view and the ability to adapt many different lenses, including the now mostly-orphaned Leica R lenses.
So, for now, the M9 remains my most expensive camera, and one of my favorites.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Surviving Buildings at Manassas National Battlefield - A Mini-Project in Micro 4/3

It's mid-winter doldrums here in Northern Virginia, and I decided not to give in to the bad weather today.
The heavy snow has passed, but flurries continued today, adding a nice light coat to the base laid down over the past few days. So, I set out to photograph the few remaining buildings that I thought were survivors from Civil War times at nearby Manassas National Battlefield. I had five buildings on my list.
It turns out that only three of the five are original buildings. However, the other two retain some interest, so I'll share them as well.
Let's start with Henry House. By the way, the picture I took of the Henry House on the 150th anniversary of the First Battle of Manassas won Second Place in a Civil War Trust / History Channel / Google competition, in the division dedicated to celebrating the 150th anniversary of battles in 1861. The image was displayed on the webpage of winning images, and was published in the journal "Hallowed Ground," and featured in the trust's 2012 calendar.
Henry House, by Reed A. George
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1, 3 Shot HDR
The rest of the images in this post were shot today in the snow with my DMC-GX7 and the new Lumix Series II 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 zoom lens.
Henry House, by Reed A. George
The Henry House figured prominently in the First Battle of Manassas (or "First Bull Run"). Poor old Mrs. Henry was too sick to leave her home when the battle moved from Mathews Hill to Henry Hill, where she lived. She was killed by stray fire from the battle, becoming the first civilian to die in the Civil War. She's buried in the front yard of Henry House.
Next up is the Brawner Farm, which was the site of the first real action of Second Manassas (1862), barely a year after First Manassas (1861). The Brawner Farm was restored in 2007. I think it's poorly-done, looking like a tract house out in the middle of the historic battlefield with its air conditioning unit being the first thing you see from the trail, and get this, what appears to be vinyl siding! What a shame.
In the second shot, you can see the winter fields reflected in the window glass.
Brawner Farm, by Reed A. George
Third on my list was the Dogan House. Lucinda Dogan, a widow and mother of eight children, lived in this house during both battles. Mrs. Dogan lived to be 93 years old, and is buried in nearby Groveton Confederate Cemetery.
The Dogan House is quite difficult to photograph, surrounded as it is by modern roads, telephone wires (bane of the outdoor photographer's existence), and houses.
I can just imagine old Mrs. Dogan's hands reaching to put the key in that keyhole.
Dogan House, by Reed A. George
Next up, the Stone House. This building is probably the most well-known on the battlefield, and was in the hot zone of both battles, but especially First Manassas. Serving as a field hospital to both union and confederate troops, the building took a lot of fire during the battle.
Stone House, by Reed A. George
And finally, a pretty well-kept secret of the National Battlefield, Thornberry House. Located at Sudley Springs Ford, the site where Union General Irvin McDowell took more than a third of his 35,000 troops across Bull Run Creek in the first battle to attack the Confederate left flank, after failiing at their right. They marched right by the Thornberry house. Late that afternoon, after suffering a crushing defeat on Henry Hill and further, some of those troops retreated by this same route, while others made a crazed, confused dash straight back toward Washington, DC. As with many houses near the battlefield, the Thornberry house also served as a field hospital.
Sudley Springs was also active in Second Manassas, as Stonewall Jackson's stronghold in the unfinished railroad grade had its eastern end within easy sight of the Thornberry House.
Thornberry House, by Reed A. George
So, which three of these five buildings are true survivors from the actual days of the battle? The Dogan House, Stone House, and Thornberry House. I was surprised to learn that the Henry House had been entirely rebuilt in about 1870. I was not so surprised to find that the Brawner House was not the original, although it was of correct era construction before the renovation. Apparently an old house was moved onto the site sometime after the Civil War, and after the original farmhouse was gone.
So, I did spend the whole day with my Lumix DMC-GX7. I only changed lenses a couple of times, to shoot with my new Bower fisheye lens (more on that later). The majority of the time I used the Series II 14-42mm kit zoom, which I find to be quite impressive. Since it was a pretty bright day, I was able to shoot at iso 200 the whole day.
I'm still not completely comfortable with all of the controls of the GX7, and did inadvertently hit buttons on the camera's back more than once. This is probably something I can train myself out of, just by spending more time with the camera. I enjoyed using it today, and am very pleased with the results.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Reminder That Micro 4/3 is Capable of Low Light Excellence

Acoustic Burgoo, by Reed A. George
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G3, Lumix 100-300 f4-5.6 OIS at 100mm
iso 6400, f4, 1/100 sec.
Lately, I've been shooting live music with cameras other than Micro 4/3. Mostly my Nikon D700, but also with Leica, and even with film.
I read an interesting post by Kevin Paris, where he shares a lot of live music photography from Belgium, all shot with Micro 4/3 cameras.
(Click Here) to read Kevin's post and click on the flickr link to see his images. He's included a lot of black and white images. I really like some of his results.
Anyway, this got me looking back on images I'd made with Micro 4/3. The shot above was made with several generations of Lumix sensor back - the DMC-G3. It's amazingly good for iso 6400. I can only imagine what my DMC-GX7 would do in this situation. I can only imagine because I haven't tried it. That's inexcusable, and I'll remedy that situation soon.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Quick Report on Leica Store Event and Regional LHSA Meetup

I have been pretty active in the LHSA (International Leica Society) over the past year or so. One of the most rewarding things I've done is to schedule local meetups for LHSA members, roughly quarterly. These get a small yet dedicated attendance, and are always interesting.
(Click Here) to learn about and join LHSA.
For the most recent meeting, I decided to coordinate with the Washington DC Leica Store's photowalk event at DC's Chinese New Year celebration in Chinatown. A large group of Leica users met for the Chinese New Year parade, a mix of LHSA members and non-members.
(Click Here) to go to the DC Leica Store's home page. They have a beautiful store, and regularly host interesting events for Leica users.
We borrowed someone's camera and grabbed a nice Leica user group shot:
Since my M9 was in for service, I decided to shoot all film for this event. I brought my lovely M3 double stroke with 50mm Summicron f2 version 3 lens attached, and, stretching the Leica definition, my Zeiss SW body and Zeiss Biogon 25mm f2.8 lens.
I had a first-ever experience during this event. My M3's film advance mechanism jammed on me, preventing me from using it after about 15 exposures. I'd never experienced a mechanical problem with a Leica camera. Not to worry, it's already back from Youxin Ye, who quickly serviced it at no cost, since I had bought the camera from him last year.
Need Leica film camera service? Get in touch with Youxin. He does a great job and has my full recommendation.
(Click Here) to go to Youxin's home page.
Since we were meeting the very next week to share results at the Leica Store, I make the mistake of taking my film to one of the only local drugstores who still process film. Their processor must have needed service; the color came out just ridiculously bad, and in an unpredictable way. It seems that some frames were okay, others were almost completely devoid of red tones (you don't want to lose your reds in a Chinese New Year image), with a cyan tone. So, I had to work pretty hard in Lightroom to come up with a few images worth sharing.
NOTE: None of this would have been a problem if I'd used my regular processing solution, The Darkroom. I've used their mail-in service many, many times, and never had a single issue.
(Click Here) to look into The Darkroom's first-rate film processing service.
So, after overcoming a few challenges, here are the images I decided to share at the DC Leica Store:
We had our regional LHSA meetup at the National Portrait Gallery, just down the street from the Leica Store, before heading there to share images.
It was actually a lot of fun shooting the Zeiss SW and Biogon 25mm wide angle lens. It required getting very close, but I like the feel of the images.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Leica USA Service on my M9 - How Did It Go? Details, Dates, Prices

Image Source:

After using my Leica M9 reasonably heavily last year, most significantly for my Whole Lotta Leica series, I decided it was time to send it off for a nice cleaning and checkout at Leica Service USA. I don't believe in cleaning my own sensors, though I know many people do it with no problem.

(Click Here) to see all of my Whole Lotta Leica posts from last year.

(Click Here) to get to Leica's service page.

I know that I was curious before shipping my beloved camera off. How long will it be gone? How much will the service cost? What else should I expect? So, in an effort to help anyone else with these questions, I'll describe my experience in some detail.

First, am I satisfied with my experience? In brief, yes. I got everything I expected, basically in the manner that I expected. I now feel that my M9 is as good as new, in fact certified so.

Here's a brief timeline of what transpired:

December 26, 2013 - I packed the M9 up in its original packaging, and shipped it off to Allendale, New Jersey, via Fedex Ground (I live in Virginia, so it's a relatively short distance).

December 30, 2013 - delivery exception. I didn't anticipate it, but Leica Service was closed the entire week between Christmas and New Years.

January 2, 2014 - the M9 is delivered to Leica Service USA.

January 13, 2014 - having not heard anything, I send an email query to get the status of my estimate.

January 14, 2014 - I receive a prompt, very polite response and estimate ($475). This is probably a minimum, as my camera was working just fine and only needs routine service and cleaning.

January 15, 2014 - I call Leica Service USA to give them my credit card number and authorize service. I am informed that service would take 3-4 weeks from this point.

February 7, 2014 - Leica ships the M9 back to me via UPS.

February 11, 2014 - I receive the camera back, in great condition.

A few questions I had during the process:
  1. If I hadn't inquired on January 13, how long would it have been before I received an estimate? No way to tell.
  2. Would they automatically process my 15% service discount for being a member of LHSA (International Leica Society)? Answer: Since this is a relatively new program, they didn't seem to know right away what I was talking about. However, the discount was applied correctly. Note that this is a major benefit of being an LHSA member, and even with a minimal service order price, the discount compensated for my LHSA membership for a full year.
(Click Here) to explore and join LHSA.

Other things to note?

I was informed that the covering on my M9 would be replaced with a different material, as the original is no longer available. I was a little concerned about this, especially since I use the accessory M9 grip, whose covering matched the original camera covering. Not to worry, the new covering is better in my opinion, and looks just fine with the original grip covering.

I feel quite comfortable with the experience overall, and will not hesitate to use Leica Service USA in the future. My camera is clean, certified in 100% good operating order, and ready to go!

Thanks, Leica Service USA!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

New Panasonic Micro 4/3 Hybrid Camera - the DMC-GH4

Image Source:

Well, you've probably see my recent written meanderings about my own connection to and future with the Micro 4/3 system. The way I feel at the moment is that I have yet to really bond with my relatively new Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX7 body, but have not really given it a chance yet. I'm not thrilled with the form factor, with the built-in EVF way over at the end of the camera body, and buttons that seem to get in my way. The few image results I have so far are quite impressive, however. So, I'm wondering if I'd be happier with one of the faux SLR-type bodies.
Until now, the DMC-GH3 was the latest in this style of camera, and has a lot of shared features with the GX7. Now, the GH4 has been announced. So, what's to like about it?
The biggest feature being emphasized at this point is "4k" video capability. If you know me, you know that video is not really my gig. I don't even know what 4k is or means. But, it's to be expected that video capability leads the features of a GH series camera; they have always been Panasonic's hybrid still/video line. It's a little difficult to tell from the specs if this camera really has any noise / high iso performance advantage over the GH3. However, that said, the sample gallery of still images is very impressive.
(Click Here) to see work by Bence Mate, Daniel Berehulak, and Takehito Miyatake (all still photos) and video by Bryan Harvey. For me, Bence Mate's bird images are quite impressive.
Honestly, though, I have not explored my GX7 and 100-300mm f4-5.6 OIS lens together. My guess is I can make some similarly impressive images with that. If I can get over the form factor, that is.
So, I'm resolved to doing a trip with only Micro 4/3 gear, relying on my GX7 (and GX1 as a second body) to do its best to impress me. I'd really like to fall in love with that camera. If it doesn't happen, I may have to trade the GX7 for a different Micro 4/3 body. It's not a question of image quality, it's more about useability and comfort with controls.
We'll see how it goes.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Some Leica M6 and LHSA Love

A few days ago, I admitted (to myself and the world) that at some level, I've become a camera collector. I only have a few cameras that I choose not to use, because any damage to them would be catastrophic to their value. In each of those cases (until now), I've purchased the camera with the intent of using it, and changed my mind once it got to me. Now, I've officially purchased a camera that I do not plan to use, one that is truly a rare collector's item.
Here it is (photo courtesy of David at Camera West):
LHSA 20th Anniversary Leica M6
First, how rare is this? Well, it's really a stock Leica M6 Classic from 1988. What makes it special is the LHSA 20th Anniversary engraving, which was offered to LHSA (International Leica Society) members at the time. A total of 43 cameras seem to have been produced with this engraving, number 20-01 to 20-43. Mine is number 20-38. I had read that all of them were silver, which makes a black one even more attractive. In my opinion, a nearly thirty year old camera that's one of a total of 43 (who knows how many black ones, but far less?) can be considered rare.
(Click Here) to check out and join the LHSA. This is the organization for Leica fans. Offering a great quarterly magazine ("Viewfinder"), a lively Google+ online community, specific discounts with some photographic-related vendors, and national meetings, LHSA's membership includes many of the world's experts on Leica cameras, both historical and current.
Interestingly, this camera was not all that expensive, even in mint condition. Less than the year 2000 black paint LHSA M6, for example, which was produced in the hundreds of units. But, the 20th Anniversary doesn't have that lovely black paint. I've never seen one, and have only ever seen one for sale, a silver one, at much higher price.
Now, I do like to use the M6 camera. I have another, less valuable, M6 that I use a lot. I can't say it's my favorite Leica (that's a spot not really held by a single camera, anyway), but it's a convenient one. The built-in meter is really helpful. That said, the M6 finder has some problems for me, not infreqently going "white out" on me, which makes focusing impossible. I understand that changing the location and alignment of the camera to my eye fixes it, but it's still a bit of a pain. That said, the M6 is a great companion to the digital M9.
A local photographic authority, Frank Van Riper, wrote a nice piece for the Washington Post about the M6.
(Click Here) to read Mr. Van Riper's story on Leica and the M6.
My new 20th Anniversary M6 should arrive today or tomorrow. I'm really looking forward to seeing it. But, I remain largely focused on cameras that I can and will use.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Some Questions Are Forever - Like the Best "Walkaround" Lens

Nikko, Japan, by Reed A. George
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1, Lumix 14-140mm f4-5.8 Lens at 140mm
iso 400, f5.8, 1/400 sec.
I read an interesting entry on The Online Darkroom blog, whose motto is "Keeping alive the black arts of analogue photography." The post is about how younger photographers coming up in the digital age but now exploring film photography probably don't have access to the "Frame of Reference" that we older folk picked up from the photography magazines of the past.
(Click Here) to read the post.
The blog's approach, which I like, is to post scans of some vintage articles dealing with photographic questions and practices from back in the day. The article included in this particular post deals with the question of what is the best single lens solution for an SLR shooter. I think you'll find the author's response oddly similar to what you'd hear today. It all depends.
I have fallen for the all-in-one lens lore more than once in my past. Actually, that's a little negative. That experience has exposed me to a couple of good (perhaps not great) lenses, like the 18-200mm Nikkor lens (only useful on DX cameras) and the 14-140mm Lumix lens for Micro 4/3. Both of these are capable lenses, but really only in great light. And neither is the sharpest around, either.
So, in general, I carry prime lenses with me, even though that means having to change lenses and carry more weight. On rare occasions when I really want to avoid lens changes or heavy bags (such as shooting my daughter's paintball battles), I still use one of the wide-range zooms.
(Click Here) to see some paintball pics made with the Lumix 14-140.
But, my real point is how some of the interesting questions around photography will likely go on forever. And never have a definitive answer.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Still on the Edge with Micro 4/3 and Lumix DMC-GX7

Ice, by Reed A. George
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX7, 14-42mm Series II Kit Lens at 32mm
iso 200, f5.4, 1/400 sec.
I have been buying a few cameras lately. Also, I currently have four cameras out for service or cleaning: my Leica M9 (which deserved it after a year of Whole Lotta Leica), my beloved Leica M3 double stroke (which locked up and went to Youxin for a minor adjustment), a IIIC wartime camera (these just keep popping up for good prices, and usually need a CLA), and my M6 Titan (which started making a squealing sound at 1/15 sec and went for what I hope is a simple lubrication).
If you read my blog much, you probably also know that I've been going through somewhat of a renaissance with film and film cameras, falling back in love with old Nikon SLRs like the F2 and my very first Leica, the M4-2.
Well, all of this has me wondering where Micro 4/3 fits in my photography. It was my strong focus for the first year of DMC-365. Currently, I have a DMC-GX7 and DMC-GX1 as a backup. I also have an amazing set of Lumix, Olympus, and Pana-Leica lenses. Yesterday, I was tallying up all of my Micro 4/3 gear, with a mind to selling and reducing my camera gear by one format. Simplifying can be good. However, as soon as I was done listing, I started thinking about what I'd be giving up - first to mind was the 100-300mm zoom with OIS - this is simply the most amazing handheld birding lens I've ever seen.
Barred Owl (Strix varia), by Reed A. George
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G3, Lumix 100-300mm f4-5.6 OIS Lens
iso 400, f6.3, 1/800 sec

And there are many others. The Summilux 25mm f1.4 is a gorgeous lens. The Lumix 20mm f1.7 is a true miniature wonder. The Olympus 75mm f1.8 is simply amazing. So, I just have not yet reached the point of giving up on the format.

One thing's for sure - before I sell off my Micro 4/3 kit, I need to make sure I'm out for good. Getting into and out of formats can be very expensive. New bodies (like the GH4) keep coming, and Micro 4/3 will only improve from here.
I did read a post by David Taylor Hughes, another GX7 owner, who's sort of in the same frame of mind as me.
(Click Here) to read David's post on SoundImagePlus.
Maybe this is just me doing some hand-wringing with the funds I've been spending on Leica gear lately.
I simply have not fallen for the GX7 yet. Maybe it's the form factor, as I do prefer the feel of the G3 (SLR-emulating) body to that of the GX7. The GX7 makes me feel like I'm shooting a pocket camera - all plastic and electronics. So, I think my current issues may be more related to form than function.

So, here's what I'm going to do. I have a trip to New Mexico coming up next month. It will be my concentrated effort to fall in love with the GX7, and Micro 4/3 again. I will not take any other gear with me, and will treat my Micro 4/3 kit as I intended when I started it - as a travel kit. Hopefully, I'll come back once again in love with Micro 4/3. If not, I may have to trade the GX7 for something else, like a GH3, or get out of Micro 4/3 altogether.

One telling fact, though. I have another trip planned in May, a pure photography trip to New Orleans. I am already 95% sure that will be a Leica trip, and not Micro 4/3. I think that may say where my true love lies.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Is 40mm (or Equivalent) the Most Natural Field of View?

I have always liked the 40mm field of view on a 35mm camera. It's a nice middle point between 35mm (which I'm learning to love, but initially felt a little too wide) and 50mm (which has always been my standard focal length, but can be a little tight).
I first discovered the 40mm focal length with my Leica CL and Rokkor 40mm f2 lens that was designed for it. A world-class lens, the Rokkor (or otherwise branded 40mm Leica Summicron) is about as good a lens as I could hope for.
I rediscovered the focal length with the Lumix 20mm f1.7 on my Panasonic Micro 4/3 cameras (giving the same field of view as a 40mm on 35mm format). Here's an example shot with the 20mm f1.7:
Perfect Field of View?, by Reed A. George
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1, Lumix 20mm f1.7 Lens
iso 100, f8, 1/80 sec.
(Click Here) to read a great post on to see what other people think. Be sure to click on the link to read a related piece by Mike Johnston.
Not being a real wide angle shooter most of the time, I find the Leica CL's standard 40mm and 90mm focal lengths to be an excellent choice for a two prime lens travel kit. If I pick either 35mm or 50mm as my standard lens, I feel that I need to carry three lenses (35, 50, 90). The biggest issue I have with the 40/90 two lens kit is that my CL is the only rangefinder camera I own with 40mm framelines. Of course, the Micro 4/3 format fixes that with the electronic viewfinder (EVF).

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Oh, No! I'm Becoming a Collector as Well as a User!

I have always had a problem with Gear Acquisition Syndrome (GAS), only made worse by my association with Leica cameras.
I used to say that I only bought cameras that I could use. What that meant in the past was that they had to be functional, and I had to be able to get film for them, etc. Or at least be able to convert them to film that's still available. I didn't buy cameras for collection purposes.
Well, I've broken that now. I have the beautiful black paint M6 LHSA special edition camera shown in the image above. I could use it, but it's in completely mint condition, and a scratch or mark of any kind would significantly reduce its value. So, I haven't used it yet. I could think of it as an investment, but to tell the truth, I didn't get it at a great price. Not bad, but not investment price, for sure.
I have some other Leicas that are not necessarily collectible, but are interesting for one reason or another. Probably the best examples are my wartime Leica IIIC cameras. These are all user cameras (up to three of them now), and I'm not afraid to get them out for regular shooting. These cameras are not expensive, each of mine coming at less than $200. I figure they can't be a bad investment at that price.
Now, I'm being tempted by a true rarity - another M6 LHSA camera, but this time the 20th anniversary model from 1988. There were only 43 of these made, period. I know where to get one, for a very good price this time. I'm going to sleep on it, but think I may have to go for it. It's not every day you'll see one of these available for sale, especially at such a reasonable price.
My enjoyment of being a member of the LHSA (International Leica Society) drives much of my interest in these special edition cameras. If you're interested in the LHSA, come check out the website and join:
The LHSA offers lots of benefits, including a great quarterly magazine ("Viewfinder"), local and national events, and even a 15% discount on camera service at Leica Camera USA. I just took advantage of the discount, which saved me more than the cost of membership for the whole year!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Medium Format Film - What Are We Chasing With New Cameras?

Shot With ca. 1948-1953 Zeiss Ikonta 521/16 Medium Format Film Camera
I read an impassioned post by Peter at "Photographs by Peter," sharing his delight with his first results on black and white medium format film in his Mamiya RZ67.
(Click Here) to read his post and see a very nice image he produced.
Peter's right, of course. These old cameras and film can produce absolutely wonderful images.
However, I'm not so negative about where we're headed now. I simply enjoy both, all of the above, etc.
That said, I don't have a digital camera that I'm sure could produce an image like the one above. Not yet. Maybe the M9 could come close.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

David Munchow on Spontaneity

From the Shadows, by Reed A. George
Super Ricohflex, TMax 400 Film
I was reading a blog post by David Munchow today, about spontaneity.
(Click Here) to read David's full post.
He talks about starting in landscape and nature photography, where he could be slow and deliberate, thinking through every element of every photo. Now he says he was "thinking too hard," and while many of the pictures were very well done, they weren't exciting.
Now, he shoots in a more documentary style, and challenges himself to "let go of my rational self." I can identify with that.
I think that you can do the same with nature photography, especially wildlife. But I do get David's point.
Perhaps the most interesting statement is one that David attributes to Henri Cartier-Bresson:
"Thinking should be done beforehand and afterwards - never while actually taking a photograph."
Sounds right to me.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Rolleicord / Rolleikin Portraits - Buddhist Monk

I've written about the Rolleikin attachment for my Rolleicord TLR, which allows me to shoot 35mm film in it. With the 75mm f3.5 Tessar and 35mm film in portrait orientation, the camera is quite useful for shooting portraits.
(Click Here) to read a little about the Rolleicord and Rolleikin.
I've started a new project, with a focus on contemplation and meditation. For some time now, I've been attending meditation class at our local Buddhist temple, led by Achaan Edward. He has just moved to a new temple, and I'm exploring both the inward concepts of meditation and the external setting of his new location, in the beautiful Virginia hills.
For one session, I decided to photograph Achaan Edward meditating, with the Rolleicord. Here are my favorite results, all shot on Kodak TMax 400 film:
For the shot above, I used a reflector on the floor to help even out the glow from sunlight coming in the side window.
Achaan Edward, by Reed A. George
As far as using the Rolleicord goes, I have some things to improve. Many of my images from this roll were not so sharp. Based on the fact that nothing in the affected images was sharp, I'm tending to think it was motion blur. I was shooting at ~1/50 of a second, handheld. A tripod was in order. Also, the shutter release mechanism on the Rolleicord is different from my Rolleiflexes. Instead of a simple button, the Rolleicord uses a lever to both load and release the shutter. I think I probably tend to move the camera when using this unfamiliar mechanism. So, a remote release may be useful, even when I'm shooting handheld.
The ground glass on the Rolleicord is a little dim. With my aging eyes, it's also a little hard to find the right focus point. But, I think most of my problems were associated with camera motion.
All that said, I'm quite pleased with these particular images. I believe they'll be up on the temple's new webpage quite soon.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

VSCO Film - Emulate Film or Just Use It?

Discussing the "Elephant in the Room," Smithsonian Natural History Museum
by Reed A. George
Super Ricohflex TLR, Kodak TMax 400 Film
I am interested in this concept of emulating the look of film in the digital world. Purists will dismiss it immediately. Others will wonder why you'd want to emulate an old (inferior?) technology. I won't take either stance.
I have the full set of NIK software tools (now owned by Google), which allows me to emulate different film looks. I have only really used it to get a Kodak Tri-X look, which I must admit is pretty darned good. But, I find that I rarely use it, even for that.
Now there's VSCO Film, another package that seems to go further in emulating specific film emulsions of the past and present.
(Click Here) to read a very nice review of the software with lots of examples on the Aperture Priority blog.
So, what exactly are my thoughts on this? First, it needs more investigation. I suppose it's possible that sometime during my lifetime film will no longer be available, or will be prohibitively expensive. I hope that doesn't happen, but if it does, this type of software may be more interesting to me.
One thing that the blog post above mentions is that while the look is in some cases very representative of the target films, it isn't really film. You don't get that same anticipation of waiting to see what you get back from the processor. For me, that is a factor. I love opening up my envelope and seeing the negatives, then magically turning them into real pictures on my scanner.
But, there's another thing. It's the cameras. My film cameras are simply more enjoyable to use than their digital counterparts. That gap is starting to close, though. My Leica M9 could suffice if film were to go away altogether. The new Nikon Df seems like it has similar potential for me. I have yet to see a Micro 4/3 camera that even approaches the feel of a great film camera. My latest, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX7 isn't even close in this category.
But, I'm not dismissing the concept of shooting digital and emulating film. I'm quite happy to continue to shoot film, but can certainly understand how not everyone feels this way. First off, it's becoming expensive. Next, film and processing are getting harder to find. I'm very pleased with using The Darkroom ( for my processing, so it's not an issue for now. But, I'm not prescribing shooting film for anyone else.
For now, I'm happy to use film, rather than emulating it.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

So, Now That It's Over, What Did I Learn From SFTC?

For the entire year of 2013, I selected a different old camera from my collection and shot it for a month, sharing the results and my thoughts here on DMC-365. So, what did I learn? Well, I learned that I still have a lot to learn, for one thing.
A natural outcome of revisiting so many cameras that have been in my camera closet for a long time would be to identify a favorite, or maybe more than one. That happened in some cases. In other cases, more exploration is needed.
For example, while I did shoot a few different SLRs (Pentax K1000, Nikomat Ftn, Nikon F2), I have yet to identifiy a favorite. The F2 is certainly up there. But, the K1000 was the camera I learned with, and I still love the Pentax line, including an ME and Spotmatic, which I didn't even include in the SFTC series. And then there's the Nikon FM2. So, no conclusion is possible there, not yet.
For twin lens reflexes (TLRs), the same is true. The Minolta Autocord was a wonderful, pleasant surprise.
The Autocord Rocks
The Autocord is pure pleasure to look through. But, is it better than my Rolleiflex T? Probably not. I'm still on a quest for the perfect TLR. At this point, I own a few (2 Rolleiflexes, a Rolleicord, the Minolta Autocord, and two Ricohs). They're all f3.5 cameras. I'm thinking that a Rolleiflex with Zeiss Planar f2.8 lens may be the ultimate for me. In the meantime, I'm enjoying my Rolleicord with Rolleikin 35mm insert, and can have lots of fun with my existing TLRs.
So, did I learn anything conclusive at all? Yes. In the class of fixed lens 35mm rangefinder cameras, I now have a clear favorite. The Konica S1.6. Absolutely amazing lens. I will never hesitate to grab this camera.
The Konica S1.6 is sublime.
And, in the medium format (120) folding camera class, the Agfa Record III is the clear winner. Now this is interesting, as the Agfa wins more on features than by standing out from the others in image quality. My Zeiss folders are real optical performers, especially the one with a Tessar lens. The Record III has the gorgeous Solinar lens, which I think matches the Zeiss offerings. But, more importantly, it has a built-in (if uncoupled) rangefinder, and an accessory shoe that I can use to mount an exposure meter. This makes it really easy to use compared to most of my other folders.
The Agfa Record III - Most Useable Medium Format Folder
So, in addition to having a hell of a lot of fun shooting old cameras, I did learn a few things.
I hope my readers picked up an interesting point or two, as well.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Nikon Df Real User Experience - Wayne Goodman on GetDPI

Image Source:
The new, retro-styled, D4 sensor-equipped Nikon Df is extremely attractive to me. Wayne Goodman has posted his pictures and experience in shooting his new Df in Andalusia, Spain.
(Click Here) to read his post on GetDPI forums.
Wayne comments on the fact that while others find the array of knobs on the Df a little challenging, the iso knob is the only one he finds inconvenient. One of the great techniques on a camera that has really, really good high iso performance is to set it on Auto-ISO and stop worrying about it. Then, you can go into Manual exposure mode, for example, and simply pick the f-stop and shutter speed you want, letting the camera adjust iso to get the exposure right. Wayne did this, and was very happy with the results. Even on the couple of occasions where the camera had to go to iso 12,800 (!), he was mostly satisfied with the result.
He also finds that he really prefers the optical finder to the now-common electronic viewfinders (EVFs) of today. He comments that the "quiet" shutter mode is pretty effective. While the focus system on the Df is not Nikon's highest technology, he found no fault in it.
The shots he shares in the post and in his flickr page were made with the Nikon 24-85 zoom. Wayne and I share the same opinion about this lens. Extraordinarily convenient when you don't want to change lenses, the image quality simply doesn't match great Nikkor primes. Oh well, you can't have everything in just one lens.
I continue to be interested in the Df from afar. If my D700 were to die (unlikely), that would be my replacement. For now, I'm holding and watching (and drooling just a little).