Sep 242013
 

I threw caution to the winds and bought a Ricoh GR. I figured that after all I have been through, I deserved a treat and the only person who is going to treat me these days is me!

I have had the camera nearly two months, sufficient time to put it through its paces. All I can say is that it is a gem of a camera and not difficult to understand why they are so hard to get hold of.

The scarcity of the Ricoh GR is another reason why I decided to take the plunge and buy one. It seems as soon as retailer takes delivery of a new order, the cameras are gone within a matter of days and that happens on both sides of the Atlantic.

I took to the Ricoh GR instantly but I was lucky enough to be familiar with the Ricoh user interface through my work with the GRD III. Someone coming to Ricoh cameras for the first time may be a little overawed initially but Ricoh’s interface is highly intuitive and they will quickly be up and running.

Ricoh GR. ©Calvin Palmer 2013. All Rights Reserved.

Ricoh GR. ©Calvin Palmer 2013. All Rights Reserved.

With Ricoh cameras, one always gets the feeling that the people who design them are themselves keen photographers as well as camera or electronics engineers. Everything is to hand, so much so that it is possible to operate the Ricoh GR with one hand, useful for when taking candid street photography shots.

The absence of an anti-aliasing filter combined with the incredibly sharp 28mm equivalent f/2.8 lens provides stunning high-resolution images. The removal of the anti-aliasing filter can cause problems with moiré. I experienced that for first time on Saturday when photographing some oil storage tanks at the docks in Bootle, Merseyside. I have yet to process the DNG file and am hopeful that Photoshop CS6 will be up to the task.

When the Ricoh GR first hit the streets, some people – probably owners of Sony NEX or Fujifilm XP-1 cameras – suggested it had problems handling reds. Whether that is a problem with the internal processing of JPEGs I don’t know because I shoot exclusively in RAW. I would be happy for the naysayers to tell me just exactly how the Ricoh GR isn’t handling reds correctly in the shot below.

Gate with Chevrons and No Entry sign at Langton Dock, Bootle

Ricoh GR. ©Calvin Palmer 2013. All Rights Reserved.

Where the Ricoh GR has come into its own for me is in stealth street photography. The Snap Mode on the Ricoh GRD III helped in this area but the Snap Mode on Ricoh GR seems so much quicker and precise than the GRD III. It could just be my imagination but I had a greater ratio of keepers using the Snap Mode function on the GR than I did on the GRD III.

Ricoh GR. ©Calvin Palmer 2013. All Rights Reserved.

Ricoh GR. ©Calvin Palmer 2013. All Rights Reserved.

Ricoh GR. ©Calvin Palmer 2013. All Rights Reserved.

Ricoh GR. ©Calvin Palmer 2013. All Rights Reserved.

My only criticism of the Ricoh GR concerns the holster-style case. Quite simply I don’t like it. The case is too open for my comfort, allowing easy access for dust. The case will not accommodate the Ricoh GR with an optical viewfinder attached. The case for the GRD III did.

Fortunately, the GRD III case will take the Ricoh GR with viewfinder attached. It will not close completely but at least I don’t have to carry the viewfinder separately and attach it and remove it every time I use the camera.

I have to admit that I rarely use the optical viewfinder but I like to have it in place for those occasions when bright sunlight can make viewing the LCD screen difficult. The optical viewfinder was always attached to my GRD III and I am a creature of habit.

On a couple of occasions with back-lit scenes, the multi metering has resulted in darker than usual images. In those kinds of situations, it is probably best to switch to center-weighted metering. By and large, the metering has been spot on. In the normal course of my photography I do not use the EV compensation function as I do with the GRD III and my Canon 40D. I would say the greater dynamic range is down to the state-of-the-art APS-C sensor of the GR.

On a trip to Liverpool, my photographic stroll was unexpectedly cut short when the battery became exhausted. It was the spare battery I carried with me and it could be that it was not as fully charged as I thought. I have since activated more of the power-saving settings on the GR to place less strain on the battery. My advice, not only for the Ricoh GR but also any compact mirrorless camera, is to always carry a spare battery.

As yet I have not pushed the GR above ISO 800 but the results I have obtained at that setting suggest that ISO 1600 and even ISO 3200 should provide images that can be worked with, especially in B&W where any noise will be reflected as grain. I am not sure I would go as far as ISO 25600 in the ordinary course of my photography but if it was a question of being in a situation where a photograph of the scene before me would go viral and earn me a six-figure sum. it is comforting to know that capability exists.

Ricoh GR at ISO 800. ©Calvin Palmer 2013. All Rights Reserved.

Ricoh GR at ISO 800. ©Calvin Palmer 2013. All Rights Reserved.

The Ricoh GR has become my camera of choice. It is unobtrusive on the streets, making street photography just that little bit easier. It is certainly a lot lighter to carry than a DSLR and my urban strolls tend to cover upwards of three miles on any given occasion. Best of all is the quality of the images it produces. It is small wonder that it is a camera in such high demand and is already being hailed as a classic.

Ricoh is once again to be applauded for designing and producing such a superb photographic tool. I have no regrets about my purchase, only a smile of satisfaction at the great results the Ricoh GR provides.

Ricoh GR. ©Calvin Palmer 2013. All Rights Reserved.

Ricoh GR. ©Calvin Palmer 2013. All Rights Reserved.

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.

Please help support this site by clicking on the Amazon link on this page if you are shopping for an item.

May 042012
 

Adobe has announced an update to its Camera Raw and DNG Converter plug-ins.

ACR 6.7 will be the last update of Camera Raw for Photoshop CS5. Fortunately, most of the cameras that have appeared on my radar in recent months as possible purchases are supported, namely Canon 1DX, Canon 5D Mark III and Olympus E-M5 OM-D. The one notable exception is Fujifilm’s X-Pro1.

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

The absence of RAW support effectively brings the curtain down on my interest. Sure, the X-Pro1  comes with Silky Pix to handle RAW images. I would love to meet the marketing executive who came up with the name Silky Pix. It would be better named Silky Pants because its performance is regarded by many photographers as being just that — pants!

What version of ACR will eventually support the X-Pro1 is anyone’s guess. It does mean, however, that for someone like myself, if I were to buy the X-Pro1, I would also have to factor in an extra $199 to upgrade my version of Photoshop.

As much as I genuinely admire the image quality the X-Pro1 produces, I still cannot get past this cameras quirks and foibles.

The absence of the X-Pro1 from ACR 6.7 also coincided with an assessment by British photographer David Taylor-Hughes as to its usefulness as a camera for street photography.

Now if you idea of street photography is a photograph of random strangers doing nothing particular out of the ordinary or the photograph of a homeless person asleep in a doorway then the X-Pro1 will do just fine. But if street photography means capturing a decisive moment or a fleeting expression then, according to Taylor-Hughes, the Fujifilm X-Pro1 isn’t up to the task.

On his blog SoundImagePlus, he concludes:

So, I can’t say that I recommend the Fuji X-Pro 1 for fast reaction photography in a crowded constantly changing environment. Try as I might, I couldn’t get it to do what I wanted, and I tried virtually everything to see if I could get it quicker, but failed.

He commends the image quality of the X-Pro1, as most photographers do, but what use is fabulous image quality if the camera cannot deliver the shot the photographer had in mind?

No doubt photographers will be quick to point out that my assertion is wrong or that Taylor-Hughes needs to hone his skills and it is not the camera’s fault. Whatever!

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

I am grateful to a photographer like Taylor-Hughes for giving an honest assessment and one based on personal experience.

Don’t get me wrong you will see street photography shots taken with the X-Pro1 and they really do come alive because of the image quality, particularly at a high ISO. But look at them a little more closely and many of them are capturing a static subject. And for those who do manage to capture a shot with motion, the photographer will rarely disclose how many attempts he had to make before getting the shot.

As Taylor-Hughes states, he did get some successes but also missed out on a lot of shots that other cameras would have taken in their stride and delivered the goods. And it is the inconsistency of the X-Pro1 that may lead to frustration and missed photo opportunities.

Talking of missed opportunites leads me to the M-mount adapter for the Fujifilm X-Pro1. It was the announcement that the X-Pro1 would be compatible with M-mount lenses that really fired my interest in the camera.

But where is it?

Third party manufacturers have got M-mount adapters in the marketplace. Now unless the Fujifilm adaptor offers something above and beyond what the third-party manufactures can offer, they may well have missed the boat. If Fujifilm’s M-mount adapter is only comparable to those of third-party adapters, people are unlikely to ditch the third party-adapters for the Fujifilm version, are they? Although a great many people who buy cameras seem to have more money than sense, so maybe Fujifilm does know what it is doing.

Time will tell.

May 182011
 

A strange kind of inertia has set in this week, hence no posts until today. I don’t know whether it is some kind of fall-out from all the excitement leading up to the FA Cup Final last weekend and then the disappointment of not only Stoke City losing but also the manner in which they lost.

The truth is that I have found it hard to get motivated this week.

The creative muse did descend in the early hours of Tuesday morning whilst having a cigarette out on the back deck. I noticed a clump of pecan tree leaves lit by one of the spotlights that illuminates the deck. I think it was something about the light that had me racing into the house for the Ricoh GRD III.

Even with the bright tungsten light of the spotlight, I still had to ramp up the ISO to ISO 800 but the Ricoh’s sensor could cope. Photoshop allows the presence of noise to be reduced in images and their is also proprietary software out there that also cleans up noisy images. I am thinking of Topaz DeNoise™. But with this image, I processed it as I would a shot taken in daylight.

©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

You don’t always have to be in exotic and glamorous locations to find good images; sometimes they can be right under your nose in the back yard.

I have also been revisiting shots I took on a trip to Savannah, one of the few city’s close at hand where people walk the streets and provide good subjects for street photography. Savannah is a vibrant place that puts the much larger city of Jacksonville to shame. Of course, the city does benefit from a heritage that Jacksonville sadly lacks, which attracts tourists in large numbers, and it also has the Savannah College of Art & Design, which means plenty of students milling around the place and living in the historic downtown area. In fact, it is hard not to fall over some art student sketching something.

©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved

And people also walk their dogs along Savannah’s historic streets.

©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

These two street shots were captured with the Zeiss Planar T* ZE 1,4/50 and Canon 40D. B&W conversion in Silver Efex Pro.

That’s all folks!