Feb 072012
 

Nikon yesterday announced its replacement for the D700 and the rumours and speculation about the specifications of the D800 came to an end.

The new D800 features a massive 36.3 MP on a full frame sensor. Given the size of files such a huge amount of megapixels will create, I should imagine hard drive manufacturers are rubbing their hands with glee. I just hope they can start making hard drives readily available again and at the prices they were before the flooding in Thailand hit production. Something tells me the prices will be kept high in an attempt to recoup losses.

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

Nikon announced two versions of the camera — the D800 and the D800E. The latter strips away the anti-aliasing filter, a feature of the Leica M9 and Ricoh GXR A12 M-mount cameras — to increase resolution even further. Actually, the anti-aliasing filter is not physically removed from the D800E but its effects are cancelled. A potential buyer of the D800E will pay $300 more than the D800 for this option.  More details of the D800s can be found at Nikon USA.

B&H is taking pre-orders for the D800 and D800E, expected to be available in March and April respectively. Perhaps B&H might give me a hefty discount for that shameless plug.

But I am a Canon user and likely to remain one for the foreseeable future. It will be interesting to see how Canon responds to its arch-rival when it   releases details of the long-waited Canon 5D Mark III. Canon users keep waiting and waiting and waiting for details of this camera to be released. Perhaps the announcement of the Nikon D800 will spur Canon into a timely response.

The Canon 5D Mark II and Nikon D700 were always viewed as head-to-head rivals. When it came to megapixels, the 5D Mark II trounced the D700, offering 21 MP to the latter’s 12.1 MP but Nikon had the edge in terms of low-light ability.

Will Canon surrender to Nikon in the megapixel race or will it respond with an even higher megapixel count in the 5D Mark III to take the wind out of Nikon’s sails?

The greater amount of megapixels is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, 36.3 MP will provide greater detail in photographs and make cropping easier. On the other hand, it will test the resolving attributes of the lenses used and many lenses will fall short of delivering the goods.

One lens manufacturer likely to be able to take advantage of the increased number of megapixesl in the D800s is Zeiss. I would be interested to learn what provision the D800 makes to aid focusing for those photographers choosing to shoot with Zeiss MF lenses.

The D800 will no doubt have many photographers salivating at the prospect of adding it to their photographic gear. Me, I just wish camera manufacturers would get back to basics and provide the digital equivalent of the Nikon F2, Nikon FM, Canon AE-1, Minolta XD7, Olympus OM film cameras.

The video capabilities of the Nikon D800, as with the Canon 5D Mark II, are wasted on me. I am not a videographer and have no desire to use a DSLR as a video camera. It would be most unlikely that the producers of the TV series House would ask me to film an episode with a DSLR, if indeed I had one that boasted video capability.

To me a photograph packs far more impact, and a lasting impact, than any moving video footage. The image of the naked girl running down a road in Vietnam after a napalm attack still lingers in my cerebral cortex, whereas the various graphic newsreels of that war no longer register and have disappeared without trace from my memory.

Perhaps that is where Leica with its uncomplicated M9 camera scores so highly with photographers — it keeps things simple. It is just a pity about the exorbitant price.

Since originally writing this piece, a rumour has surfaced that the replacement for the Canon 5D Mark II will be announced on February 28 and it will be known as the Canon EOS-5D X. Speculation has it that the camera will be available in April in order to deflect attention and potential purchasers from the Nikon D800.

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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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Sep 012011
 

I seldom get the chance to photograph people. On Saturday afternoon, I was out with my camera and stopped to take a shot of a building with a slogan painted on the walls.

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

Within a minute, the owner of the building was out, asking what I was doing. After explaining my business, we got talking and boy could he talk. I listened to a 40-minutes diatribe on the subject of corruption among Jacksonville’s police, city government, the FBI and the federal government.

I nodded politely at such assertions that the FBI was withholding a vaccine against AIDS and dealing in drugs. He seemed to know all the inside knowledge on a recent corruption trial regarding the director of Jacksonville Port Authority.

The guy’s name was Stefan. He was originally from Romania but spent some time in Italy before coming to the United States. He was convinced that the spirit of the Lord would protect him from those who wished to do him harm.

Having allowed him to spout forth for such a length of time, I was determined to get something for my trouble. So as I made to get him to wind up his monologue, I asked if I could take his photograph. Stefan agreed.

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

Although the focus is not tack sharp – an aperture of f/2 was always going to be a stiff challenge to my manual focusing skills – I am quite pleased with the image. And I think you can well understand why I asked to photograph Stefan.

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Aug 232011
 

I set myself an exercise last week and carried it on through Saturday’s shoots. The exercise was to shoot wide open with the Zeiss Planar T* ZE 1,4/50 lens. A lot of people with the Leica M9 shoot wide open, with lenses costing $3,500 or more and, as you may expect, the results are pleasing.

The 50mm  Zeiss Planar T* ZE lens however disappoints wide open at f/1.4. It is not as sharp as it could be and people who test lenses in the lab, such as SLRGear.com and Photozone, give the detailed analysis behind that assertion. But at f/2, the sharpness kicks in.

Another downside to shooting at f/1,4 is that the bokeh can be a little harsh, with bokeh fringing, and the lens also suffers from Longitudonal Chromatic Abberattions (LoCa). At f/2 these effects disappear. Bearing those shortcomings in mind, f/2 was as wide open as I intended to shoot with this lens.

With a such a wide aperture, the depth of field is incredibly narrow and focusing has to be spot on. The Canon 40D like a great many DSLRS is devoid of any focusing aids in the viewfinder, so manual focusing can present a challenge at the best of times, let alone at f/2.

The general advice for focusing manual lenses is to bracket the focus. I will bring the object into focus, or as in focus as the 40D’s viewfinder shows, and then gently adjust the focus in small increments and firing off another shot with each focus adjustment. I usually end up with between four and six shots of the same subject and then select the best one in Adobe Bridge, making use of the magnifying loupe.

It is time consuming but the results achieved by a Zeiss lens make it all worthwhile. Zeiss glass has its own signature and one that I prefer to almost any other brand of lens. Those with more technical knowledge than me suggest that the micro-contrast of  Zeiss lenses is what gives the subsequent images their distinctive look. I just know that I like and prefer Zeiss lenses.

I shot at two locations on Saturday — Jacksonville Farmers Market and St Marys, Georgia. Yes, it was time for the cigarette run again.

Farmers markets afford great photographic opportunities in terms of the people who visit and those who work on the stalls. The fresh fruit and vegetables on sale also make good subjects.

Here are two shots at f/2.

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

 

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

At St Marys, I headed for a boat ramp on the North River. I had seen the signpost pointing to it on several previous visits but never got round to checking it out. The road to the boat ramp runs past the site of the Durango paper mill, formerly the Gillman Mill, which went bankrupt in 2002 and was demolished in 2007. The old industrial site also made a good subject.

Here are two more shots at f/2.

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

 

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

 

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Jul 282011
 

The past few weeks have seen me glued to the PBS channel watching a rerun of Ken Burns The Civil War to mark the 150th anniversary of the start of the conflict. I remember first watching the documentary back in Britain.

Burns made full use of contemporary photographs to illustrate the carnage of war and of how life was lived in America from 1861 to 1865. And apparently during the conflict, photographers and photography businesses made a good living. However, when the war ended, the bottom dropped out of the market.

Thousands of the glass negatives were never printed but sold off to become the glass panels in conservatories and greenhouses, the images eventually fading from the glass due to the continued exposure to sunlight.

I have had my own problems preserving images this week. On Monday, I was working on processing images shot on a visit to St Marys, Georgia, on Saturday. I had just finished a B&W conversion and hit Save. A dialog box sprang out informing me that the image could not be saved because there was insufficient space on the hard drive.

Sure enough, the drive devoted to photographs was showing just 45MB of free space.

Since then I have been working through my folders in Adobe Bridge culling those images that have never been processed, for obvious reasons, or those that do not quite come up to standard.

Of late, I have gotten into the habit of deleting all superfluous images at the end of processing. It is a great pity I didn’t start that practice back in 2009. It is a chore and imagine many of know exactly what I mean.

Work has ceased on processing the images from St Marys, which featured the town’s Oak Grove Cemetery, which dates from 1778. I have managed to process a few.

Canon 40D. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

In keeping with my interest in The Civil War, I happened across the grave of a Confederate soldier who had served with the 4th Georgia Volunteer Cavalry.

Canon 40D. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

James Wilson was in D Company, also known as the Camden Chasseurs. St Marys is located in Camden County.

A fascinating account of the history of the 4th Georgia Volunteer Cavalry, also known as Clinch’s Regiment and The Wiregrass Fourth, can be found at Amy Hedrick’s Web site GlynnGen.com.

Oak Grove Cemetery also contains the graves of a number of Acadians. Forced to flee in 1755 from their native provinces of Novia Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island in Canada by the British, the French eventually found them a new home on the island of Saint Domingue. But they were forced to flee the island in 1790 when the native Haitians rebelled against the French.

Canon 40D. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Many Acadians found a new home in Lousiana but a few made their way to Georgia and St Marys, which became their final resting place.

More information on the Acadians in St Marys can be found at a Web site called The Crypt, set up Camden County.

Please feel free to comment.

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