Jun 022014
 

I recently upgraded my Mac OSX to the 10.9 Mavericks version. About time, I hear you say but my guiding principle tends to be: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

I still vividly remember an update to Mac OSX Panther that crashed my system and that of many other Mac users worldwide. My days of being an early adopter ceased from that time on. I now prefer to wait a few months to let the initial bugs get ironed out.

Keith Cooper, who runs the Northlight Images website — a valuable source of photography information and excellent reviews – happened to mention he had experienced a problem with the Google Nik Collection after he had upgraded to Mavericks. I checked out the Google Nik Collection website to see if Keith’s problem was widespread. I discovered it wasn’t and also became aware of the existence of Analog Efex Pro 2.

The original Analog Efex Pro had appeared as an icon in the folder when I downloaded the Google Nik Collection in March 2013 but the actual plug-in failed to materialize. Bearing in mind that Google at that time had offered me the entire collection as a free download, I wasn’t about to look a gift horse in the mouth and let the absence of Analog Efex Pro ride.

Analog Efex Pro 2 was a different matter. I now felt like I was missing out on something and so duly downloaded the Nik Collection again and the plug-in arrived in full working order.

I watched the Analog Efex Pro 2 tutorials and put the software to work. The software offers an array of filters to recreate vintage cameras, classic cameras, black & white, toy lenses to name but a few. Within those filters it is possible to control parameters such as bokeh, vignetting, dirt and scratches, and light leaks. And, of course, Nik Software’s control points are available to fine tune the effects.

I find a certain irony in this age of digital photography that we now wish to recreate photographic technology from as far back as the late 19th century, with the Wet Plate option, but such is the human condition. In the age of digital sound — CDs and mp3s – some people still prefer the sound obtained from vinyl. It is not hard to see the origins of the English expression: There’s nowt so queer as folk!

Here is my first attempt using Analog Efex Pro 2 with a vintage camera filter on a color shot.

HSC Mananna heads for Liverpool past Crosby Beach, Merseyside.

Canon 40D and Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L. ©Calvin Palmer 2014. All Rights Reserved.

The same shot with my usual color workflow of Viveza 2 and Color Efex Pro 4.

HSC Mananna heads for Liverpool past Crosby Beach, Merseyside, England.

Canon 40D and Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L. ©Calvin Palmer 2014. All Rights Reserved.

I enjoyed playing about with Analog Efex Pro 2 and without a doubt it does tend to provide a dramatic impact to color photographs. I must confess to mixed feelings, as part of me cannot help preferring the greater integrity of my usual color workflow using Viveza 2 and Color Efex Pro 4. I use “integrity” in a loose sense since any image is manipulated if subjected to Viveza 2 and Color Efex Pro 4.

I found my “integrity” was not so compromised using the Wet Plate option to convert a color shot to B&W.

Couple on Crosby Beach, Merseyside, England.

My usual processing (left) using Viveza 2 and Silver Efex Pro 2, with the Analog Efex Pro 2 version (right). Canon 40D and Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L. ©Calvin Palmer 2014. All Rights Reserved.

It may be that I overstepped the mark a little with my attempts on color images. Subtlety is often the key when it comes to applying effects to images. Sadly, I am not renowned for my subtlety.

I would be interested to hear which versions of these shots readers prefer.

Here is a final shot I processed straight from the RAW dng file in Analog Efex Pro 2, completely bypassing my normal workflow just to see how it fares as a standalone.

New Brighton Beach and Perch Rock Lighthouse, New Brighton, Merseyside, England.

Ricoh GR ©Calvin Palmer 2014. All Rights Reserved.

I am undecided whether Analog Efex Pro 2 will become a regular feature of my workflow. The jury is still out at the moment. I think it is more likely to be applied to certain shots when the mood takes me. Your feedback could well change my mind.

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Jul 192012
 

My photographic productivity tends to ebb when the temperature soars above 90 degrees (32 degrees C) in Northeast Florida, as it has done for the past three weeks. Extreme heat has the same effect on me as extreme cold – I want to stay indoors.

In the absence of any indoor photographic projects or a studio setup, I eventually have to get out and brave the hot and humid conditions. I usually wait until after 4:00 pm and limit myself to an hour, 90 minutes at most, shooting time.

I recently went across the St Johns River and explored the South Riverwalk of Jacksonville. One of the main attractions on the south side of the river is the renovated Friendship Fountain.

Canon 40D and Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro. ©Calvin Palmer 2012. All Rights Reserved.

As an indication of how hot I get, when it came to having a cigarette before heading home, my cigarette packet, which is carried in my shirt pocket, was damp to the touch. Luckily, the cigarettes remained dry.

Nik Software’s Viveza 2 has become the latest addition to my photographic software and it brings to my colour photographs the same degree of control and enhancement achieved by Silver Efex Pro 2 in my B&W shots. It doesn’t have quite all the bells and whistles of Silver Efex Pro 2 and I would imagine Viveza 3 is in the pipeline.

Canon 40D and Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro. ©Calvin Palmer 2012. All Rights Reserved.

I have been extremely pleased with Viveza 2 and have no hesitation in recommending it. I know the Photoshop purists will say similar results can be achieved in Photoshop but not with the same kind of ease and convenience.

Canon 40D and Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro. ©Calvin Palmer 2012. All Rights Reserved.

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May 292012
 

Memorial Day weekend should have been a time to get out and about with my camera, especially as it coincided with the Jacksonville Jazz Festival. Alas, Tropical Storm Beryl partly put paid to my plans. Sunday’s events at the festival were cancelled and I had to content myself with one day of shooting on Saturday.

The Jazz Festival is the one weekend in the year when downtown Jacksonville takes on the appearance of a bustling and vibrant city. For a Jacksonville photographer, it allows the opportunity to do some street photography, an impossibility during the rest of the year when the downtown area looks as though it has been hit by a neutron bomb.

This year, the festival also coincided with a friendly soccer/football match between the USA and Scotland at the Everbank Stadium on Saturday night. The presence of the Tartan Army and USA soccer fans added to the mix of people and choice of subjects.

Canon 40D and Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro. ©Calvin Palmer 2012. All Rights Reserved.

Canon 40D and Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro. ©Calvin Palmer 2012. All Rights Reserved.

On Sunday, I spent an hour watching a Nik Software webinar given by photographer Derrick Story and featuring shots from his B&W Vegas project. Derrick described his workflow in Silver Efex Pro 2 and also talked a little bit about cameras. His “stealth” camera for candid street photography is the Olympus EP-2, soon to be replaced by the Olympus EM-5 OM-D.

I have to agree that a smaller camera is less conspicuous out on the streets and also less threatening for those people being photographed. But it doesn’t automatically follow that larger DSLR cameras are not up to the task.

I think it is safe to say that a DSLR will guarantee you a shot every time and that is the reason why DSLRs are the camera choice of mainstream press photographers.

I don’t think it is the bulk of DSLRs that people find intimidating but the lens that is attached to the camera.

On Saturday, I shot exclusively with my 100mm f/2.8L IS USM lens. It is a recent acquisition and after shooting for more than 30 years with manual focus lenses, I am enjoying the benefits of an autofocus lens.

Canon 40D and Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro. ©Calvin Palmer 2012. All Rights Reserved.

The 100mm f/2.8L lens is not large in comparison to say the 70-200m f/2.8L zoom lens but it is still large in the eyes of the public. Several times I was asked if I was taking photographs for The Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville’s daily newspaper. That question has never been posed while shooting with my Zeiss Planar T* 1,4/50 lens.

Canon 40D and Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro. ©Calvin Palmer 2012. All Rights Reserved.

A DSLR camera, preferably full-frame, fitted with a prime lens — 24mm, 28mm or 35mm — is still capable of performing as a street photographer’s camera. With those prime lenses, a DSLR camera is certainly far less intimidating. But the best camera of all is the one you have with you.

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Apr 062012
 

With the new Canon 5D Mark III in the hands of early adopters, some indications of this camera’s ability are beginning to emerge. Since Canon announced that it would not be possible to change the focusing screen on the 5D Mark III that brought into question its compatibility with the Zeiss ZE manual lenses.

Quite a few hearts fell when camera enthusiast and former software engineer Lloyd Chambers pronounced that the focusing screen on the 5D Mark III made it impossible to achieve accurate focus, although he did concede that the green dot focus assist worked well for chipped lenses, such as the Zeiss ZE lenses.

Canon 40D and Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro. ©Calvin Palmer 2012. All Rights Reserved.

The difficulty I have with people like Chambers is their lack of credentials. He is simply a self-appointed expert answerable to no-one. The sheeple flock to his site and hang on his every utterance as if he were some kind of a technology shaman.

I do not for one minute doubt the technical competence and knowledge of Chambers but he is simply expressing his opinion as a camera enthusiast, a more knowledgeable hobbyist, if you will, than most hobbyists who frequent the Internet.

But it took a hobbyist on the Alternative Gear & Lenses forum at Fredmiranda.com to reveal that the Canon 5D Mark III is perfectly suited to the manual Zeiss ZE lenses.

Philippe, based in France, who posts under the name of Philber wrote:

I do not find that the standard VF screen makes it any harder to focus than my 5DII’s Eg-S. BUT the much improved AF is a game changer for MF! Now I haven’t had the time to micro-adjust my lenses, or to select the best AF configuration for my needs (essentially landscape). I just turned noise reduction off, and started shooting JPEGs to see if I could focus my MF lenses. And the result blew me away, because of the MF assist. The AF will focus even in an almost dark room. It will lead the camera in P mode to go for f:1.4, 1/80s and ISO 12.800 with my ZE 85, and the focus is spot on every time, something that was simply not possible on the 5D II.

Bob Israel went even further and posted some photographs taken with the Zeiss ZE 2/100 Makro shot wide open.

Tongue-in-cheek, Bob wrote:

According to some recent writings, I must have been one lucky SOB to nail the (manual) focus!

With Bob’s photographs, the proof of the pudding is there for all to see. And it seems that the fears many Canon 5D Mark II shooters had about the 5D Mark III have proved to be unfounded.

Canon has at long last rectified the poor AF system associated with the 5D Mark II. The 5D Mark III borrows the AF system of Canon’s flagship model , the soon to be released Canon 1DX, and it appears to deliver the goods.

Canon 40D and Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro. ©Calvin Palmer 2012. All Rights Reserved.

In a comparison between the Canon 5D Mk III and Nikon D800, Calgary-based fashion and portrait photographer Nathan Elson said that AF focus on the Canon was faster and more precise than the Nikon. For the record, Nathan shoots with Nikon cameras.

And, as a working photographer, Nathan considers both the Canon 5D Mk III and Nikon D800 to be fine cameras. One can almost hear the cries of “Sacrilege!” emanating from the respective forums of DPReview.

Happy Easter!

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Mar 302012
 

I took delivery of a Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM lens last Thursday, my first autofocus lens. I had planned to shoot with it quite a bit this week but unfortunately I was laid low with a viral infection that can best be described as 48-hour flu. I am over the worst of it but its effects are lingering on in the form of feeling listless and lethargic. I did manage to get out and about at the weekend and was mightily pleased with the results.

Canon 40D and Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro. ©Calvin Palmer 2012. All Rights Reserved.

Using an AF lens has involved a learning curve for me, albeit not a steep one. I am using back button focus, a method I read about a while back and considered by many to be preferable to half pressing the shutter to achieve focus. My thumb has quickly learned the position of the AE Lock button and I must say I enjoy this method of shooting. It did involve making a couple of adjustments to the Custom Functions of the Canon 40D and I have also set one of the camera settings C1 to shooting with AF.

When I go back to my trusty manual focus Zeiss Planar T*, I will simply switch back to Av mode.

Canon 40D and Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro. ©Calvin Palmer 2012. All Rights Reserved.

A few weeks ago on this blog I was lamenting the way that camera manufacturers do not seem to cater to the wishes of photographers like me by producing the digital equivalent of the Nikon F2, Nikon FM, Canon AE-1, Minolta XD7 or Pentax K1000.

My photographic friend Bob, in England, echoed my thoughts when we were corresponding about the specifications of the new Canon 5D Mark III.

Bob wrote:

It all seems so far removed from my type of photography (and I use the latter word to describe the whole exercise/experience in the field). The phrase “great quality sound” just about sums it up. How have we managed to get to the point where these three words apply to a Single Lens Reflex camera!!! If this were an old-fashioned letter, this would be the point at which my pencil broke on the page.

I wonder if anyone will ever take something like a Pentax Spotmatic F as a model, simply put a sensor where the film plane used to be, bung some elementary digital electronic gubbins and a battery where the film/cannister was and market it as the “Jurassodigimatic”. Race you to the front of the queue.

Bob is a down-to-earth Lancastrian who has been photographing for more than 40 years. He specializes in landscape photography, industrial photography and railway photography, particularly steam locomotives. His work has been published in British steam railway enthusiast magazines. His approach to photography often involves meticulous planning and the use of a tripod and is diametrically opposed to my journalist on-the-fly hand-held approach.

Imagine my surprise this morning when I read an interview with one of my favourite contemporary photographers, David Burnett, on The Online Photographer Web site. I admire Burnett’s reportage work immensely and he also comes across as a genuinely nice guy.

While the kindergarten classes on DPReview are arguing the merits of the Canon 5D Mk III versus the Nikon D800, Burnett is still shooting with a pair of the original Canon 5D cameras. To Burnett, and any self-respecting professional photographer, cameras are simply tools. It is how those tools are used that separates the men from the boys.

Canon 40D and Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro. ©Calvin Palmer 2012. All Rights Reserved.

Burnett admitted that he does not own a digital camera capable of shooting at 100,000 ISO but did say that he had recently acquired a Leica M9 and went on to extol the virtues of rangefinder photography.

Burnett said:

I have been quite amazed, actually, that neither Canon nor Nikon has come out with their own re-creation of one of their classic rangefinder cameras. In all the advances in photo technology, it just surprises me that none of the traditional makers other than Leica (the preeminent) has seen fit to create a camera (please, no harping about the Epson) which recreates all those great 1950s cameras.

The interview garnered plenty of comments, many from young photographers admiring Burnett’s work. As befitting the man, he added a comment to the interview, acknowledging those kind comments.

He went on to say:

My issue with the RFDR cameras is take a Nikon D700/Canon5D chip (proven, capable, cheap) put it in a new SPdigi, CanonP/7 digi body, put a screen on the back as good as any $400 point/shoot (there are plenty), and PUT A FRICKEN RANGEFINDER with an M mount on the body. It’s not rocket science though perhaps it’s being seen that way. God bless all the x100/X-Pro1, Sony 5NEX, etc., etc., etc. cameras. Let them all fight for the wannabe crowd but make a $1500 RFDR body, (no need for video, let it just be a PHOTO camera) and you will be a) Camera of the Year; b) unable to keep up with demand; and c) loved by a very loveable group of shooters.

On reading that, I immediately thought of Bob’s e-mail and my own wish for a digital version of the great SLRs of the 1960s and 1970s.

Of course, it begs the question as to why major camera manufacturers will not produce such a camera but continue to produce the behemoths that full-frame DSLR cameras have become and why a generation of photographers, those of us 45 years and plus, is being ignored by the camera giants.

Over to you Canon, Nikon, et al!

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Feb 242012
 

I seem to be going through something of a stressful period at the moment and one thing I have learned in life is that too much stress and worry curbs creativity, at least when it comes to writing. It also makes you forgetful.

Two days ago, I suddenly thought back to my last trip to St Marys, Georgia, on February 4, and wondered why I hadn’t posted any of the photographs. Simple answer — I had never gotten round to processing them.

Canon 40D and Zeiss Planar T* ZE 1,4/50. ©Calvin Palmer 2012. All Rights Reserved.

On the camera front, the Canon 5D Mark III or 5DX will be announced in four days time if the rumours are to be believed. I think it is fairly clear Canon does have a replacement for its 5D Mark II in the pipeline but I will only believe it when I see it or details of it. Fingers crossed that it is next Tuesday.

Olympus has answered the plea I made in my last post by announcing the OM-D EM-5 camera and it has been well received by digital photography pundits and photographers. Based on the film camera classic, the OM-4 SLR, it is naturally small and compact but like its predecessor has a system of lenses built around it. That system is also destined to grow in the future. And of course, it can avail itself of the lenses produced by Panasonic for its Micro Four Thirds cameras.

I could easily be tempted by the M.Zuiko ED 12mm f/2,  M.Zuiko ED 45mm f/1.8 and Leica DG Summilux 25mm f/1.4 ASPH Micro Four Thirds lenses, which would give a kit comprising the equivalent of 24mm, 50mm and 90mm focal lengths in 35mm format.

A lot of people have been waxing lyrical about the Olympus OM-D, saying it is the future of photography and people will be abandoning their DSLR cameras in droves. However, with a lot of those camera sages, it seems to be a question of do as I say and not do as I do. For some strange and inexplicable reason, they all hang on to their full-frame DSLRs. I wonder why?

Canon 40D and Zeiss Planar T* ZE 1,4/50. ©Calvin Palmer 2012. All Rights Reserved.

Tempted as I am by the size, capability and lenses of the OM-D, I am afraid I have reservations about the Micro Four Thirds format and size of sensor. I know the sensors of the latest cameras are head and shoulders above those of the early variants of this system but I am old school and firmly believe that sensor size does matter. Yes, APS-C sensors of today can match the full-frame sensors of a camera introduced three years ago in terms of picture quality, at least that is the boast of the Sony NEX.

But isn’t it logical that the latest incarnation of the older camera — the Canon 5D Mark III or Canon 5DX — is likely to show similar improvements in image quality and raise the bar again?

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Jan 302012
 

In the days of film photography, I was always more circumspect when it came to deciding when to press the shutter and capture an image.  With the film and developing costing money, I was always strived to try and get value for my money. I didn’t always succeed.

With the advent of digital photography, once a memory card has been bought, whether you shoot 10 frames or 1,000, the operating cost is the same. I am not factoring in the cost of a camera, computer and the software needed to process the images. On a day-to-day basis of shooting photographs, digital photography is essentially free.

The downside to that situation is the tendency to shoot a lot more images, followed by a much longer process of deciding which are keepers and which can be deleted.

Canon 40D and Zeiss Planar T* ZE 1,4/50. ©Calvin Palmer 2012. All Rights Reserved.

Nikon guru and photography sage Thom Hogan, what Thom doesn’t know about Nikon cameras isn’t worth knowing, advocates limiting the number of images shot in an attempt to reduce the processing workflow.

In article about dealing with lots of digital images, Thom even harks back to the days of film and advises photographers to wrap each memory card in a 20-dollar bill to remind themselves that images cost money. He recommends “chimping”, looking at the images just after they have been shot and deleting the failures.

On the computer, Thom advises classifying the images into three categories — winners; keepers; and delete. He then further classifies the first two categories into winners, stock and keepers. Thom rates the winners with five stars; stock images with three stars; and keepers with one star. The three rankings correspond to Galen Rowell’s ABC system of classification: A for winners; B for stock; C for keepers.

Winners — five-stars or A —  are few and far between. Thom writes:

You don’t have very many. Ansel Adams once said that if you shoot a dozen great images a year, you’re doing well. If your A category gets much higher than a 100 images over a few years of shooting, you’re probably not being critical enough.

Three-star or B images are those sold for stock. Thom defines images in this category as “a very publishable and it’s an image that I’m proud to have my name associated with”.

One-star or C images are basically reference photographs. Thom defines them as “images that someone would find publishable, but you wouldn’t care if your name was or wasn’t associated with them.”

Renowned Danish photographer Thorsten Overgaard, a man whose photographs regularly grace some of the most presitigious publications in the world, takes a  somewhat different approach. Thorsten advises never to delete anything and certainly not on the basis of reviewing the image on the camera’s LCD screen. For Thorsten time is more costly than hard drive space.

At the computer, Thorsten recommends reviewing a shoot backwards when trying to determine the merits of the various images shot. By the end of a shoot the creative process is likely in full flow and better images will result than at the beginning. In Thorsten’s words you are “warmed up”. He adopts a binary system of classification. Either an image is one worthy of saving or it is not and even the latter are not deleted, they just become images that he does not spend time on.

Thorsten writes:

Hence you only have yes and no images. You don’t rate images with 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5 stars. You either select it as an image or disregard it. You harvest images.

He marks his yes images with three stars. Those are the images he works on and eventually exports as high resolution JPEGs. His “harvest” will consist of “two, five, 10 or 14 images that are in fact professional”.

Thorsten concludes:

You may show your two, five, ten or fourteen images to people. And they will recognize that you have talent, because they have never met anyone who could make ten pictures that were all that perfect!

The emphasis must always be on quality when it comes to selecting images. I know at times that my quality control regarding what I post on various blog sites is not all that it should be. I kind of made a rod for my own back by starting a blog site called Tägliches Foto, which requires me to post a photograph every single day.

My method of sorting and selecting images consists of several stages. When shooting with the Canon 40D and the manual focus Zeiss lens, my initial selection is based on the image with the sharpest focus. This step involves using the loupe in Adobe Bridge and comparing several images of the same subject.  The image with the sharpest focus is marked with one star.

I then review all the one-star images and more in keeping with Thorsten’s approach make a selection on yes and no. The former are marked with two stars and these are the images I will spend time working on. During the course of processing the RAW images in Photoshop CS5 and Silver Efex Pro 2, I usually come to the conclusion that some of the two-star images are not really worth spending time on. They remain as two-star images while the processed ones become three-star JPEGs.

With the Ricoh GRD III, I mark all the RAW files with one star. I do wish Ricoh would facilitate the ability to just shoot in RAW rather than providing RAW plus a JPEG image. I then choose those that are worth working on and mark them with two-stars. As with the Canon, the two-star list is not definitive at this stage and some two-star images fail to make it as three-star JPEGs.

When it comes to deleting. When I have processed all the images from a shoot with the Canon, I delete those RAW files that were not quite in focus but i retain all the rest. With the Ricoh GRD III, I eventually delete the in-camera JPEG images.

When it comes to deciding which photographs will eventually appear on Calvin Palmer Photography, the choice is made from the three-star JPEGs and those selected are designated with four-stars.

The important thing to remember is succintly put by Thorsten: “No photographer has a hit rate of 100 per cent.”

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Jan 132012
 

Canon 40D and Zeiss Planar T* ZE 1,4/50. ©Calvin Palmer 2012. All Rights Reserved.

Over the holiday period I seemed to accumulate a lot of images that are still awaiting processing. The backlog is partly explained by the acquisition of new software — Photoshop CS5 and Silver Efex Pro 2 — and the learning curve associated with them.

On Wednesday, I happened to notice this American Sycamore leaf on the back deck and it struck a chord. I think it was a mixture of the angle of the leaf against the legs of a wooden table and the muted brown colour from Nature’s wonderful palette. I went back inside to fetch the Canon 40D and so record my first image of 2012.

I posted a B&W version on another of my Web sites — Tägliches Foto.

I am still wrestling with the issue of where I move next with regard to upgrading my photographic gear. At the moment I am sticking with the Canon 40D and hoping for an announcement in March regarding the Canon 5D Mk III. I remember being in the same position this time last year when those “in the know” — don’t make me laugh — were predicting an announcement in March 2011. Well, it didn’t happen and I am not holding my breath on the Canon 5D Mark III.

As the saying goes — All things come to he who waits.

I like the idea of the Ricoh GXR and an assortment of M-mount lenses. In fact, I tracked down two secondhand lenses — an M-Rokkor Minolta 28mm f/2.8 and Leica Summicron 40mm f/2 — at a fraction of the cost ZM lenses would cost, if you could get hold of them. But I still have my doubts about working with an EVF and one that is attached to the camera rather than being an integral part of the camera body. Besides, like Zeiss ZM lenses, the GXR A12 M-mount is also hard to come by. Ah the joys of supply and demand.

Checking out the specifications of hoped for photographic acquisitions is all very well — it would be foolish to embark on expenditure of a couple of thousand dollars without doing research — but photography is not about lens availability and camera specifications. It is about photographs and too many people seem to forget this fundamental fact.

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Jan 062012
 

“Mirror, mirror on the wall, which is the fairest camera of them all?”

If the various photography fora and photography pundits are to be believed then it is the mirrorless Sony NEX camera, either the NEX-5 or NEX-7 versions.

But wait, Fujifilm is believed to be about to announce a follow up to its retro-styled X100 with the X1 Pro that features interchangeable lenses to give the 35 mm equivalent of 28mm, 52.5mm and 90mm. Already it is being compared to the Contax G2 film rangefinder but without Zeiss lenses.

One thing is clear even after just a few days into the New Year, 2012 seems likely to be an interesting year in terms of new cameras.

Canon 40D and Zeiss Planar T* ZE 1,4/50. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

The year 2012 may also mark a sea change. I know of two photography enthusiasts who are contemplating ditching their high-end Nikon and Canon DSLRs for the Sony NEX. I too have been giving serious thought to making the Ricoh GXR with the A12 M-mount my main camera.

The main sticking point for me is the electronic viewfinder (EVF). They may well be the viewfinder of choice in cameras to come but I am an optical viewfinder (OVF) person. To me a camera isn’t really a camera unless it has an OVF. I know I am living in the past and fearful of embracing the brave new world of EVF mirrorless cameras.

If EVFs are the way of the future, why have Canon and Nikon announced new flagship cameras, the 1DX and D4 respectively, featuring OVFs? Do professional photographers have different demands than those of photography enthusiasts?

I tend to regard the equipment used by press photographers as a yardstick for the kind of camera I would want to use. I worked in newspaper journalism for 14 years, including a spell as a sports/news photographer, and that probably influences my judgment with regard to cameras and lenses.

Back in November, Reuters posted its 100 top pictures of 2011. Each picture was accompanied by a statement by the photographer including the camera and lens used for the shot, as well as the exposure.

Earlier this week, I went through all 100 photographs, noting down the camera and lens used. The list I compiled contained quite a surprise.

Back in my journalism days, the press photographer’s camera of choice was always a Nikon – F3, F4 and F5. Imagine my surprise when Nikon cameras accounted for only eight of the Reuters Top 100 photographs.

Canon DSLR cameras accounted for 84 of the photographs, with the Canon 5D Mk II used in 38 of the shots; the Canon 1D Mk IV accounting for another 16 and the Canon 1D Mk III a further nine, the same number as the Canon 5D. So these four Canon cameras accounted for 72 of the photographs.

For all the talk of the advantages of Micro Four-Thirds and Mirrorless cameras, these types of cameras did not feature, save for the one shot taken with a Leica M9.

I think the camera market is likely to divide into three distinct sectors – professionals, enthusiasts and consumers. The former will continue with the high-end DSLRS, as will many of the enthusiasts but the consumer may well give up on DSLRS in favour of the more compact and convenient mirrorless cameras.

The DSLR has a tremendous hold over me and I will likely wait and see what Canon offers in the shape of its replacement for the Canon 5D Mark II. Rumour has it that the Canon 5D Mark III will be announced in March. However, I recall a similar forecast being made this time last year and nothing materialized.

If I am considered a technological dinosaur then so be it. For me photography is all about lining up a shot by gazing through an OVF. It is what I have been used to for more than 30 years and I am reaching the age where I like my comfort zone.

But at the end of the day, the type of camera matters little in the great scheme of photography. It is what lies behind the camera that is the most important factor in creating photographs of merit and impact.

I can never understand why some people get terribly upset when their camera of choice is criticized – Leica users are notorious for going on the defensive in this regard. And the battle of supremacy between Canon and Nikon will rage for eternity among some of their respective users just as long as photographic fora exist on the Internet. What would these people do if Canon and Nikon ever merged as companies or one took over the other? Methinks lots of tears before bedtime.

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Dec 302011
 

I have spent quite a bit of this week researching lenses for possible use with the Ricoh A12 M-mount. With my penchant for Zeiss lenses, and the qualities they bring to photographic images, those were an obvious target.

With the A12 M-mount one has to remember that there is a 1.5 crop factor, which means a really wide-angle lens is needed to achieve the 35mm equivalent of a moderate 28mm wide-angle lense.

With Zeiss, the choice is the Distagon T* 18mm f/4, not the fastest of lenses but its rendition is quite wonderful and it would certainly enhance any landscape shots. The only drawback is that it is somewhat pricey.

I also looked at the Biogon T* 35mm f/2, a lens famed for its sharpness at the corners. While looking at the 35mm focal length I came across the Voigtlander Nokton Aspherical 35mm f/1.2. A second version of this lens is due in the stores in January. It is slightly lighter than the original version, which is highly sought after in the second-hand market for the qualities so eloquently admired by a Canadian photographer, known to the world only as Peter, who posts under the nom de plume of Prosophos and has a web site of the same name.

Peter aka Prosophos is a talented photographer. His people shots are something quite special. He has the knack of capturing the perfect expression in his subjects.

His field report on the original version of the Voigtlander Nokton Aspherical 35mm f/1.2  is well worth checking out.

A third focal length I have been looking at is 50mm, which would translate into a 35mm equivalent of 75mm on the GXR A12 M-mount and ideally suited to portraits. Zeiss offers two 50mm ZM lenses – the C Sonnar T* 50mm f/1.5, the ‘C’ denotes compact and classic, and the Planar T* 50mm f/2 .

The C Sonnar T* does have issues with focus shift, which Zeiss acknowledges, and involves a little more care and attention when focusing but the results can be quite sublime, as Mikael Törnwall attests on Luminous Landscape.

Törnwall reports that Zeiss recommends the C Sonnar T* is best used for “emotional, artistic, narrative images, portraits or atmospheric landscapes. For documentation or technical subjects, Zeiss recommends to stop down the lens at least to f/5.6 or to use the Planar T* 2/50 ZM lens”.

Those three focal lengths – 15mm; 35mm and 50mm – would make for an ideal three-lens outfit for the GXR A12 Mount. If I were to add one more it would be the Biogon T* 28mm f/2.8 to give me the 35mm equivalent of a 40mm lens. Remember the classic Minolta CLE film camera had a three-lens kit comprising 28mm, 40mm and 90mm lenses. The Biogon T* 28mm would help fit in with that tradition.

In doing my research, I was thankful that I am not in a position to buy at the moment. Why? None of the above mentioned lenses are in stock anywhere. They seemingly cannot be had for love nor money. The same goes for Leica M-mount lenses. With the advent of the Sony NEX cameras and the A12 M-mount is it a case of the demand for these lenses has grown to where it outstrips supply? Previously the only market for these lenses was people owning Leica, Zeiss or Voigtlander rangefinder cameras and out of those three brands, only Leica offers a digital version.

As much as the Ricoh GXR camera with the A12 M-mount holds considerable appeal in terms of size and weight — the three Zeiss lenses in my proposed three-lens kit have a combined weight just 18g heavier than my Canon 40D body – I still have reservations about using an electronic viewfinder.

I am old school and for me a camera is all about lining up a shot staring through an optical viewfinder. It is what I have been used to for more than 30 years and old habits die hard.

It may be that I am worrying unnecessarily about the EVF. If people would like to share their experiences of using a camera that relies on an EVF, I would be most grateful.

It just remains for me to wish everyone a Happy New Year and all the best for 2012.

Happy trails!

Canon 40D and Zeiss Planar T* ZE 1,4/50. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

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