Thursday, September 23, 2010

Another photokina Comes Around

It seems like an off year for photokina, the every-other-year exposition in Cologne, Germany, for photographic products. Not much was offered that peaked anyone's interests, except for a few products. So here they are.

The Fuji X100 appears to be the darling of the show. It seems to be everything that photographers have wanted in a compact, serious digital camera. Old-fashioned, simple controls and supposedly excellent images quality in a small, nearly pocketable size. It will be slightly expensive at around $1000 with a non-interchangeable 35mm-E, f/2 lens. I have to admit that my heart did a little skip when I first saw it online. I'm looking forward to at least taking a closer look at this one.

Pentax has been working on this camera, the Pentax 645D, for several years, but it's finally in production and so far it's selling like hotcakes in Japan. Later this year (December) or early next year, it will be available in a kit with a 55mm lens for around $10,000. Gulp. Well, it has a 40 MP sensor and the reports from Japan indicate it has first-rate image quality and is very popular with wedding and portrait photogs. I expect landscape photogs will like it, too. All things considered, the Pentax 645D is a bargain in the world of medium-format digital cameras, as we'll see in the next new product.

Now for the big guns. Leaf introduces the world's largest and highest resolution digital back, the Aptus-II 12. It has an 80 MP sensor and will produce TIFF images around 480 MB in size. To paraphrase Sheriff Brody in Jaws, "I think we're gonna need a bigger harddrive." And a bigger bank account it seems, as the back will run around $32,000 without the camera in front of it. Which adds another $10,000 plus to it. Oh, who needs a new car anyway?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Last Roll of Kodachrome

National Geographic photographer Steve McCurry was given the very last roll of Kodachrome to be manufactured. This marks the end of a very long era in photography. 35mm Kodachrome film was introduced by Kodak in 1936. McCurry used Kodachrome for 35 years and he shot this roll of film in India and New York City.

This film was the standard against which all slide films were measured and few could match its color palette and image quality. In my experience, Kodachrome 25 was the best of the Kodachrome films and it especially did well with reproducing warmer colors. The film made its way into popular culture when musician Paul Simon wrote and recorded a hit called "Kodachrome" in 1973.

National Geographic plans to air a TV special next year on McCurry and this last roll of Kodachrome.

You can read about McCurry and Kodachrome here.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Print Offer at The Online Photographer

Now through this coming Friday, you have the opportunity to purchase a real platinum print for not much money. The photographer is Carl Weese, a talented large format photographer. The website is the excellent blog, The Online Photographer, which is edited by Mike Johnston. If you haven't run across his blog, you should do so right now.

You have a choice of three images shot on 8x10 negatives, I'm partial to the drive-in theater picture, as either platinum prints or as digital inkjet prints. The platinum prints cost $180 and the digital prints cost $80. If you want a compare and contrast set, you can buy the same images in both mediums, and you get the digital print for a mere $40.

Carl Weese is a wonderful photographer and you will never find another offer like this. Go here to read about the images and the purchase information. Remember, this sale is a limited time offer. As mentioned, offer ends this Friday, April 30th.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Is Photography Over?

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) is hosting a two day symposium on April 22 and 23 called, “Is Photography Over?” Several participants in the discussion include such photographic luminaries as Peter Galassi (the curator of photography at MOMA in New York City), Geoff Dyer (the author of the excellent book about photography, The Ongoing Moment), and Philip-Lorca diCorcia (acclaimed artist/photographer). There is an announcement about the symposium on the SFMOMA site here and more interesting there are the written responses to the question, “Is Photography Over?”, here. The answers make for long reading, but they are fascinating food for thought.

This question prompts me to think about the topic as well. Is photography at a crossroads? Yet again? Well, more than most artforms, photography has been on a steady course of ever-changing technology that has changed the way photography has been accomplished. I mean, very little has changed in painting for several hundred years. If you include the cave paintings of ancient Cro-Magnon people, we’ve been painting, even making air-brushed paintings, for tens of thousands of years. The same could said of music and singing, even with computers and improved recording technologies, live music performance hasn’t really changed all that much. But photography has changed a lot.

In the course of its not quite 200 year existence, we’ve gone from hand-made paper negatives to colloidal glass negatives to plastic-backed negatives to now, no negatives at all in digital capture. And that’s just talking about the recording medium. Cameras started out as large wooden direct-view devices and then went to complicated mechanical boxes that could focus the light into an image to now, miniature computers. The evolution of cameras has been one of miniaturization, for the most part. Cameras keep getting smaller as the image quality keeps getting better. Today, the sales of consumer point-and-shoot digital cameras will probably disappear and be replaced by the cameras that are in our cell phones. If this hasn’t already happened.

What does this mean for photography? I have no doubt that photography will continue to change its form like the shapeshifter it has always been. If it stops, that will mean that it truly has died. For the average person, they may soon no longer have separate dedicated cameras, but they will continue to document their everyday lives the way we all have since photography was invented. The role of and need for photography is one that will not go away.

The biggest challenge to the new era of digital photography is the question of Truth. Photography, whether it was ever absolutely true or not, has always been perceived as a documentary tool. Photographers capture the events and subjects in front of their cameras with absolute fidelity as they happen. They capture the Truth. Now with Photoshop, especially the frightful implications of CS5, you can no longer assume any photograph is the Truth. Every photograph can be undetectably manipulated. Of course, the act of manipulating images has been with us from the beginning of photography, but never has it been so easy to do. This is a serious challenge for photography and photographers. Though in another light, perhaps it now places photography in the same context as painting, which has never had the same restrictions to depicting truth and reality. Perhaps, perhaps.

Anyway, does all this mean the end of photography? I don’t think so. Photography and photographers are good at adapting. How we deal with the issue of Truth is an important issue, but not an insurmountable one. Photography will continue to change in ways we can’t imagine at this time, but the reason for its existence will remain with us as long as we exist—to record and remember our lives, our world, and our dreams.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Sony Steps up

Sony just announced at the NAB show in Las Vegas that they will debut their 35mm Alpha mount Camcorder next year. It doesn't have a name yet, but you can see the prototype above. Like I mentioned in the posting about the new Panasonic Micro 4/3s camcorder, this is the camera I thought Canon would bring out. Full-frame 35mm sensor that uses Sony's Alpha lenses. This will be the next generation in digital film making.

Oh, Canon! You're now officially third place in this horse race, unless you can manage to pull a rabbit out of your hat and make a Hail, Mary pass to win the game, to thoroughly mix my metaphors.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Canon 5D mark II Hits Primetime!

Greg Yaitanes, director of the season finale episode of House, M.D., has announced that the entire episode was "filmed" with a Canon 5D mark II camera with the EF 24-70mm L and 70-200mm F2.8 L lenses. This will be the first time a digital HD SLR has been used like this for TV. The things that attracted Yaitanes to the Canon camera was the shallow depth of field and the richness of the images. The episode airs on May 17th.

Monday, April 12, 2010

New Panasonic Video Camera

A couple of months ago, I had this thought. Last year, I picked up a new Canon 5D mark II and have used it for one video project. It worked really well, for what it is, and I was more than happy with the image quality. But being an SLR, it isn't really suited to hand-holding and shooting video. It's too hard to hold steady. Given the popularity of this camera with indie filmakers, I had this insight: Canon will make a dedicated video camera with a full-frame or APS-sized sensor that uses Canon's own EF lenses from their EOS line of D-SLR cameras. Well, I got it somewhat right.

Panasonic has announced that they will debut the AG-AF100 by the end of the year. It uses their 16:9 Micro Four/Thirds sensor that is used in their GF-1 still camera and will use that camera's interchangeable lenses. This will be a full 1080p HD camcorder with 24 fps and a host of other features. The above picture is obviously an illustration, but that is the general configuration for the new camera. This is good news and I'm sure indie filmakers will line up to buy this one. In fact, it's everything I imagined Canon would do, but I forgot about Panasonic. Kudoes to them. Canon, get cracking before Sony beats you to it and you're left to come in third place in this race.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

It's That Time of Year Again!

Hey, it's time for Solo Photo Book Month (SoFoBoMo), or at least it will be before you know it. This year it will happen during the months of June and July. You need to shoot, edit, and "publish" a book of your images on any subject of your choice. All you need to do is start at any time in June or the beginning of July and then you have 31 consecutive days to finish it and post it to the SoFoBoMo website. There are no prizes, but you will have a very nice portfolio of your images ready to send out or link to. I did it last year and have pledged to do it again this year. This is a really good idea. Why don't you all consider joining me in this?

Go to SoFoBoMo to learn all about it and register.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Shape of Things to Come

PMA is going on right now and some products have been announced. Nothing earth-shattering, but Sony is showing a non-functioning prototype of a compact, non-SLR, interchangeable lens camera in the vein of Panasonic's GF1. More interesting to me is the CompactFlash Association, who knew there was one, has announced that the newest Compact Flash Cards will have the astounding capacity of 144 petabytes. For those like me who never heard of such a thing, a petabyte is a thousand terabytes, which is a thousand gigabytes, which is a thousand megabytes, etc. To go along with this, DALSA, which makes imaging sensors for high-end medium format digital backs and other more scientifically intended equipment, has debuted a 196-megapixel imaging sensor. For now, this will only be used in aerial photography cameras, but still, you know that sooner or later those sensors will show up in medium format backs and that will push Canon, Nikon, and Sony to even higher levels of performance which will mean bigger and bigger hard drives and faster and faster processors for our computing needs. Fasten your seat belts, the ride is going to get bumpy.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Interesting Reading on Photographic Composition

George Barr has written a concise and easy-to-digest article on photographic composition for Michael Reichmann's website The Luminous Landscape. Barr breaks down the entire idea of what goes into the making of a great picture and explains everything in words and pictures. He has identified several common elements and themes that can be found in successful photographs. Some of his ideas are obvious, though they are worth repeating, while others are head-slappingly, simply brilliant. Highly recommended reading. And while you're there, check out Michael's site. It's one of the best. Go here to read the article.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

World's Oldest Camera to be Auctioned!

One of the world’s oldest photographic cameras will be auctioned off in Vienna, Austria, this coming May. The camera is a Giroux Daguerreotype and was made in Paris around 1839, which is when Louis Daguerre published his photographic technique known as the Daguerreotype. The camera was made by Alphones Giroux, Daguerre’s brother-in-law from plans drawn up by Daguerre. Considering its age, 170 years old, the camera is in beautiful shape and in its original condition. It’s a pretty look at the beginnings of photography. The camera is expected to bring somewhere around $750,000.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

What is Criticism Good For?

Criticism is a loaded proposition. All the various forums, blogs posts, tweets, and more have made the present generation of consumers instant critics. Unfortunately, many of the critiques take the form of a “love it” or “hate it” mentality. All too often, no analysis or reasoning is offered, just a blunt pronouncement. When it comes to art, more is needed. Especially when the artist receiving such criticism is expected to do something about it or learn from it. After all, shouldn’t that be the real goal of criticism? It’s hard to learn anything from, “That stinks!” And when the next person says, “I love it!”, the artist hearing it is even more confused.

Which opinion do you listen to? What are you supposed to learn from it? How are you supposed to improve you artwork from those comments? The first one, "That stinks!", offers no hint on what to change, while the second, "I love it!", doesn't tell you what you did right, so you can repeat it, if you choose to. Both extremes are kind of dead ends. They don't take you anywhere else.

David Ward, a British fine art photographer, wrote an essay called The Art of Criticism. You can read it here on the website PhotographyBlog. Ward’s views on criticism and what makes for good criticism are spot on and are worth reading.