Friday, December 28, 2012

Where Children Sleep

Lewis by James Mollison

Mother Jones published a portfolio of images by James Mollison. They are from a series he made of children around the world and their bedrooms. I've seen several projects like this over the years showing people, usually young people, in their bedrooms or homes. Mollison uses a different approach in this case. He doesn't try to photograph the person in their environment, but photographs each separately and then afterwards pairs them together. This makes sense because he can take his time with each image and then can try out different images to see how they work with each other. I'm only guessing about his working methods, but like I said, it does make sense. Anyway, a great portfolio and definitely worth checking out. You can see it here.

Top 10 Photoshop Disasters for 2012

Photoshop Disasters has published their top ten list of the worst, or best, disasters for 2012, depending on how you look at it. If you aren't familiar with this website, it's a fun one to check out. It's kind of mind-boggling that these kinds of mistakes make it into print, but as long as people are doing the work, mistakes will be made. It's human nature. See their picks here. Though why this particular image made it in this year is a bit of a mystery, since the image itself is dated 2008. Perhaps it is part of a series of photos showing Oprah's weight at various points in her life. That would make sense, I suppose.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

New Photo Backpack

There is a new camera backpack for outdoor photography that actually looks new and is even exciting. It's being made by the new company, MindShift Gear, and will be called the Rotation 180 Photo Backpack. This backpack and company is a collaboration between Mike Sturm and Doug Murdoch, who were designers for Think Tank camera bags, and conservation photographer, Daniel Beltra. I wrote a profile of Daniel for PhotoMedia Magazine in 2010.

The Rotation 180 Photo Backpack is actually more of a system than just a backpack, with several well thought out innovations. The main feature is a separate belt pack that can be rotated out of the backpack and around to the front while wearing the backpack! Backpacks are really handy for carrying heavy loads for extended periods of time, but they are not really convenient to use. This product solves that problem rather neatly. This new backpack will be of interest to anyone who carries their equipment for hours at a time, whether you are a nature photographer or a photojournalist. There will also be a number of worthwhile accessories that will make it even more versatile, including rain covers and tripod slings.

This company and product is actually a Kickstarter project for the moment and will go into production very soon. They've already met their goal for Kickstarter, but they have some rewards packages left, if you want to get in on the action. As of today, they have 20 days left to go.

You can see their Kickstarter project here and you can read more about the Rotation 180 Photo Backpack here.

Monday, November 5, 2012

New Canon Lens Spotted!

Making its rounds on the web is an image of a new Canon lens, the EF 35mm f/2 IS USM. Starting near the beginning of all Canon EOS film cameras, the older EF 35mm f/2 lens has been around. Fixed focal length lenses aren't nearly so popular since zoom lenses have gotten so good, so an update to this older lens has been long overdue and most people suspected, including me, that Canon would probably never give this lens the overhaul it deserved. But we were wrong and here is the proof.

The new lens is Image Stabilized and features Canon's Ultrasonic Focusing Motors, and has 10 elements in 8 groups with one glass-molded aspherical element. The original version used the older noisier focusing motors and you were on your own as far as reducing the shake in your pictures. So these are all good and needed improvements. But it will be bigger, the filter size goes up from 52mm to 67mm in the new version, though it will still be a smallish lens compared to most pro zoom lenses.

I have a special fondness for this lens. Of all the lenses I have owned, the older version is my favorite. The 35mm f/2 is small and light, and its resolution is simply breathtaking. I like to use it for catalog work in shooting textiles because it resolves down to the threads of the fabric. No other lens I have ever used, including Nikon, does as good. And the quality of its out of focus characteristics is nearly perfect, so you can shoot at f/2 and still have an out of focus background that hangs together and gives the illusion of greater depth of field and detail than is really there. To be fair, given sample variations in manufacturing, I realize that my particular lens may be better than other examples of the same lens. That is definitely possible, but still, my 35mm f/2 is great.

But to be honest, its not perfect. It doesn't like back-lighting and will flare and drop contrast like a rock when it encounters it. But for most other situations, it's nearly always perfect. There's nothing better than this for a walk-around lens. So I'm glad that Canon is updating this great lens. I just hope they haven't changed it too much or that they have only changed it for the better. And the other lens that is being updated to IS is the popular EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L IS, which I suppose was overdue as well. Thanks, Canon.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

New Cameras from Lomography

 Lomography has announced an interesting camera, the Belair X 6-12. As you can see, it's a folding camera with some cool features. It uses medium format 120 film and can shoot in 3 different formats: 6x6 cm, 6x9 cm, and 6x12 cm. It has interchangeable lenses with 2 initial offerings, a 90mm normal lens and a 58mm wide-angle lens. They are say they are developing more lenses for this camera. It also uses aperture priority automatic exposure with ISO settings from 50 to 1600.

It will have zone focusing and combined with the f-stops of the lenses, your images should be sharp. For instance, the both lenses have maximum apertures of f/8 and then will stop down to f/16. When you choose the distance of your subject from these 4 choices: 1 meter, 1.5 meters, 3 meters, and infinity; you should have adequate depth of field.

There are 3 models to choose from, the Globetrotter, the Jetsetter, and the Cityslicker. Pictured above is the Globetrotter, which will run around $400 with both lenses. That's a pretty good deal, but they are only making 300 of this particular camera model with the "brown snake-style" leather trim. And if you order from Lomography now, you can get a 30% discount on this special model. I'd like to take a closer look at these cameras. You can read more about them here.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Poking Fun at Hasselblad

Speaking of the "new" Hasselblad Lunar, here is another person's not so subtle, satirical take on that camera, the Habbelsad Looney! in Cordova, Tennessee, posted this on their blog. Funny doesn't even begin to describe this. You can read their post here.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

"New" Hasselblad and More!

It seems like Hasselblad finally noticed that Leica was lending their name to Panasonic-made cameras and people were actually willing to buy them. So, Hasselblad has teamed up with Sony, put a new "skin" on the Sony NEX-7 and is calling it the Hasselblad Lunar. You can even get it with carved wooden grips! And gold plating! And the cost? Only a bit under $6000! Of course, you can get the Sony version, the NEX-7, for $1100, but it won't say Hasselblad on it, will it? So there! As Dr. Sheldon Cooper would say, "Bazinga!"

On a sort of serious note, I can't decide if the design of the Lunar is really cool or really ugly. It kind of reminds me of some of Konica's cameras from the 1990s, like the Aiborg here. I couldn't decide then what I felt about this camera either! Ugly or cool? I was strangely attracted to this one and still regret not picking one up just for the sake of its oddity. And what does that say about me?

And on the Leica front, 2 new M-cameras have been announced, the M and the M-E. The M-E is the stripped-down economy version of the M9 and will sell for around $4500 for the body. The M is intended to replace the M9 and will have a new 24 MP sensor with live view, focus peaking, an optional EVF viewfinder, and will sell for a bit over $6000 for the body. It's hard to understand the logic behind Leica's new naming scheme. I mean, I get the M-E, since "E" stands for Economy, but going with just the M leaves me somewhat mystified. Why isn't it the M10? Are they intending that this is the last "M" model? What about other models down the road? Will all of them be called the "M"? How will we tell them apart? So many questions!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Battle of the Full-Frame Titans

Well, it's Photokina time again, as I mentioned the other day, and the titans of DSLRs, Nikon and Canon, are duking it out one more time. This time it's for an "entry" level full-frame DSLR. For Nikon, they have introduced the D600, and for Canon, they are introducing the D6. As said, both have full-frame sensors with the D600 at 24 MP and the 6D at 20 MP. Both have top shutter speeds of 1/4000 of a second. And both will sell around $2100 without a lens. Both cameras are fairly comparable to one another and will provide a needed alternative to higher priced models from Nikon and Canon.

As for how they differ, there are a few differences. The Nikon D600 has a built-in flash, 100% viewing, AF Assist Light, dual axis electronic levels, 39 AF points with 9 cross-type sensors, and an ISO range of 50 to 25,600. The Canon 6D will have no flash, 97% viewing, and 11 AF sensors with only 1 Cross type sensor. However the 6D will have an ISO range of 50 to 102.400, built-in WiFi and GPS, and will meter down to -3EV (the D600 will only measure down to -1EV). And the Canon 6D is about 100 grams lighter than the Nikon D600.

It's good to have options, so both cameras are very welcome.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Color Pioneer Charles Cushman

"Hobos" by Charles Cushman

National Public Radio has done a story on early color photographer Charles Cushman, who began documenting his life and the world around him with slide film in 1938 and then continued for 30 more years. His story is an interesting one that captures the rise of color photography for the amateur photographer. NPR created a multimedia presentation on Cushman that you can see and hear here. Check it out. It's worth your time.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

New Sony Cameras Announced, plus a couple of other cameras!

Just before Photokina, the world's largest photographic trade-show, opens, Sony has announced several new cameras. The most interesting of the bunch is the RX-1, a full-frame (35mm sensor) compact camera with a fixed 35mm f/2 Carl Zeiss Sonnar T lens. It views through the LCD screen on the back, but there will be optional optical finders and clip-on LCD monitors that you'll be able to attach to it. It has a 24 MP sensor and the ISO can be set anywhere from 50 to 102,400 and will be able to shoot at 5 frames per second. Like the Fuji X-100, this camera is aimed at the Henri Cartier-Bresson crowd or at least those photographers who tend toward street shooting and spontaneous snapshooting. And I don't mean to denigrate that term. I imagine RX-1 will be small, discrete, and produce very fine images, though the asking price around $2800 will put this camera out of the reach of a lot of photographers. Seems kind of high for basically a point-and-shoot pocket digicam, but I'm looking forward to checking it out. It is beautiful.

The next camera from Sony shares the same 24 MP full-frame sensor and that is the SLT-A99. Like the recent SLR offerings from Sony, this will not have an optical viewfinder, but will use an internal, electronic, high-resolution XGA OLED Tru-Finder with 100% coverage. Most folks are highly satisfied with the new Sony viewing systems. It will also use the Translucent Mirror System, where the mirror stays locked in the down position and you shoot through the semi-transparent mirror when photographing. The SLT-A99 will sell around $2700 for the body by itself.

Up next is the NEX-6, which is placed in the NEX line of cameras between the top of the line NEX-7 and the amateur-oriented NEX-5R. So it has an built-in EVF viewfinder in addition to the rear-screen LCD and uses a 16 MP sensor, and it will be priced somewhere between the two cameras, as well. It should sell for less than a $1000 for the body and the basic 16-50mm zoom lens.

And last, but not least, is the NEX-VG900 interchangeable lens video camera with a 24 MP full-frame 35mm CMOS APS-C sensor. It will use the standard Sony A-mount lenses from its SLR line and the body will sell for around $3,300. I think this is the first dedicated video camera with this large a sensor, though I could be wrong about that. This should be of interest to filmmakers. They are also announcing another video camera, the NEX-VG30, which uses the smaller APS-C 16 MP sensor and their E-mount lenses. The VG30 body will sell for about $1800.

And wrapping up the good news today, Hasselblad has a new camera to announce, the H5D. You'll be able to get it in 40, 50, and 60 MP single-shot versions, or even up to a 200 MP multi-shot version. And the price will be too high. Also Fuji is announcing the X-E1, another interchangeable lens camera which uses the same lenses as the X-Pro1, but only has the internal electronic viewfinder and not the hybrid optical/electronic viewfinder of the X-Pro1. But the X-E1 is sleek and beautiful and should be a picture-taking machine for around $1000 for the body and $1400 with the new 18-55mm f/2.8 lens. Fuji is definitely on a roll these days.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Photojournalists Embrace Instagram

A Mound of Sugar in Brazil by Ed Kashi

The British Journal of Photography has published an interesting article written by Olivier Laurent called, "The New Economics of Photojournalism: The rise of Instagram." You can and should read it here.

With around 80 million users around the world, Instagram for iPhone and Android is one of the biggest and most successful venues for sharing photographs with other people. So it's no surprise that even working photojournalists are now using it as a social media tool to reach new viewers and maintain connection to their existing audiences as a way of reinforcing themselves as a brand. And for breaking news, it's also one of the fastest ways to get your images out to the world in real time as the events happen. This is why it's become important to photojournalism.

Even though Instagram has been criticized by a lot of people, supposedly because the built-in instant effects cheapen photography as a whole, I guess I would say to those critics, "Lighten up." The effects give the images a certain recognizable look, but I find them to be kind of nice. Of course, not every effect works with every image, but that's the benefit of using apps like this. It takes no time at all to try out all the different effects on your image, to see how they look, and then upload them to Facebook or Twitter or whatever. It's all fast and easy. Nearly instant to the point that it almost seems like the logical conclusion to the idea behind Polaroid cameras and films. Instant photographic gratification. And that sounds perfectly fine to me.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

GIMP Magazine Debuts!

Sometimes it seems as if Photoshop is the only game in town, when it comes to photo/image manipulation software, but that never has been true. GIMP is an alternative to Photoshop that has garnered quite a few loyal fans. However, there is one major difference. Whereas you have to spend several hundred dollars to pick up a copy of Photoshop, GIMP is free to download. You see, GIMP is open source software and in the true spirit of the open source mindset, it doesn't cost anything. And it offers much of the same functionality that Photoshop is known for. Mind you, Photoshop offers a lot more options for doing everything, but most folks who use GIMP are more than happy with it.

Now there is going to be a GIMP users magazine and like the software itself, it will be free to download in PDF form. The first issue will be available September 5th and you can find it here. Starting with the second issue, they plan to offer a print version as well.

If you are interested in trying out GIMP software, check it out here. This is also a good place to learn more about it.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

A New Paradigm for Photography?

So Nikon has announced a new point-and-shoot digicam, the Coolpix S800c. What sets it apart and why it possibly signals a significant change in photography is the fact that is the first, at least as far as I know, Android-powered camera. Android, as in the mobile phone operating system. So the S800c will have Wi-Fi, GPS, full HD-video, a 16 MP sensor, and a 10X optical zoom (25-250mm equivalent) and you will be able to upload instantly all your stills and videos to the social media platform of your choice. I  would assume, though I could be wrong, that you can also run Instagram and other similar apps on this camera, too. It will be priced around $350.00.

Through most of the history of still photography, the end product has always been physical prints on paper. With the rise of social media, more people are interested in posting their images online and never seeing prints of their photos. This camera addresses this change and I expect more cameras will follow suit. For myself, most of my casual, everyday photos are done with my Droid phone through Instagram and posted on Instagram (Hermonator), Facebook, and Twitter (Hermonator56). Sharing photos through social media is where the medium is going and Nikon is smart to give us a camera that will handle it. Good job, Nikon.

UPDATE: Samsung is rumored to be working on a Galaxy-based camera, which uses the Android OS. Since Photokina is this year, there's a chance it might debut at the show. I'm sure we'll see more of these cameras.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Skin Smoothing Photoshop Tutorial

Photoshop Roadmap has published a video tutorial from photographer Lee Varis. You can watch the video here. It follows an unusual, but straightforward technique for smoothing skin tones. As these types of techniques go, this one is simpler than some, but maybe not as useful for handling extremely rough complexions. Varis recommends it for portraits that need only a subtle smoothing of the skin tones. It's worth checking out.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Canon News

Item 1: The big news is that Canon has finally jumped into the mirrorless, interchangeable lens camera market with the EOS M. The EOS M features an 18 MP APS-C sensor with full HD video capabilities and will ship in a kit in October with the EOS M 22mm f/2 STM lens for around $799.95. If you remember from an earlier post, Canon's new STM lenses offer full-time, noiseless autofocus even during video recording. The EOS M will be offered in four colors: black, white, silver, and red. It's not clear exactly how big or small the camera is, but if the lens mount is any clue, it should be around the size of comparable cameras like the Panasonic GX-1, or maybe just a touch smaller. The new lens mount is significantly smaller than the standard Canon EF and EF-S lens mounts and Canon will start out with 2 lenses for the EOS M: the 22mm f/2 (which is equivelent to a 35mm lens) and an 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM. Canon will also have a lens mount adapter so you can use their regular line of EF and EF-S lenses.

I think the price is right and if the size is right, this could be an excellent camera for a lot of photographers. It could definitely function as a back-up to a bigger system, or as a pocket-sized alternative to a bigger system. Canon is kind of late to the party with this camera, so it's hard to predict how people will respond to it. I know that I am looking forward to seeing it in person and seeing how it shoots. Color me interested.

Update: After looking at a few promo videos of the new EOS M, it looks like it is being aimed at the casual or amateur photographer. It has a touch screen that is used for most operations on the camera. There are very few physical buttons and controls on the camera. While this will appeal to a lot of potential buyers, and there is nothing wrong with this, it will be a definite turn-off for most serious photographers. Having to go through touch-screen menus to choose an aperture will limit the use and appeal of this one for pros. Plus, at least for now, there is no option for an in-camera viewfinder. I wish Canon had debuted a model with more pro-features than this one. Kind of a bone-headed move, if you ask me. Color me not so interested, now.

Shot with the EOS M with the 22mm f/2 STM lens.

Item 2: Ilford and Canon are teaming up to offer folks a chance to have one of their images printed on Ilford Galerie Prestige papers (Smooth Gloss 310 gsm and Smooth Pearl 310 gsm) using 3 different Canon printers: the Pixma PRO-1, the Pixma Pro9500 Mark II, and the Pixma Pro9000 Mark II. If you are interested in seeing how Canon printers perform, this is a great opportunity. For myself, I am currently using the Canon Pixma Pro9500 Mark II and am quite happy with it. I know Epson has the majority of the inkjet market locked up, but you won't lose anything by printing with a Canon printer, that's for sure. To read the details and take advantage of the offer (it's good till September 30th), go to

Item 3: This is more in the realm of rumor, but Canon is supposed to announce in the near future a new full-frame, entry-level camera. From what I've heard, it will be more like a full-frame Rebel than a 5D Mark III. It will be smaller, lighter, and use more plastic in the construction. The interesting part of the camera is that it is supposed to sell for around $2000. And suddenly the higher than expected price of the 5D Mark III starts to make sense. When the Mark III came out at $3500, people were surprised and dismayed. It seemed like too much of a jump in price from the Mark II for too little gain. But with the new camera coming out, having a full-frame camera that is nearly $1500 less than the Mark III almost guarantees that people will snatch these up in a heart beat. Having a smaller and lighter camera with the new 40mm pancake lens might be the perfect combo for street shooting and photojournalism. At this point, I'm not really sure how I feel about this. Of course, as I said, this is more of a rumor for now. We'll see what happens later.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Schneider Jumps into the Micro 4/3 Market

Jos. Schneider Optische Werke GmbH, based in Bad Kreuznach, Germany, has announced they will now be building lenses for the Micro 4/3 platform. The first one to come to market will be a Super Angulon 14mm f/2 wide angle lens. It will feature autofocus and auto aperture control, and will sell in the US for around $2000.00. Schneider Kreuznach is one of photography's oldest and most respected optical manufacturers and the fact that are building lenses to fit Panasonic and Olympus cameras is really interesting and encouraging for the format. That price puts it out of reach for most photographers, but I think it's a positive development overall. Interesting times, indeed.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Pacific Grove, part 2

Here are some black-and-white images from my trip to Pacific Grove, California.

photo by Hermon Joyner

photo by Hermon Joyner

photo by Hermon Joyner

photo by Hermon Joyner

photo by Hermon Joyner

Monday, June 11, 2012

Photos from Pacific Grove, part 1

A few weeks ago, my wife and I traveled to the LA area to see our daughter graduate from CalArts. On the way back, we stopped in Pacific Grove, which is on the Monterey Peninsula just south of the city of Monterey. The city and the coastline there are beautiful. I don't think I've ever been to a prettier place. So here are a few pics I made there. These are more snapshots than anything else. Today, I post the color images and tomorrow I'll put up some black-and-white images. Enjoy.

 photo by Hermon Joyner

 photo by Hermon Joyner

 photo by Hermon Joyner

 photo by Hermon Joyner

 photo by Hermon Joyner

Friday, June 8, 2012

New Tasty Canon Lens!

Canon has done something unexpected and announced a new lens. It's not that they don't bring out new lenses, they do that all the time, but this lens is something they've never done before; a pancake lens. The EF 40mm f/2.8 STM lens is very small--less than an inch long--and is designed for maximum portability. Perfect for street shooting, photojournalism, and casual snapshots. The "STM" designation refers to new Stepper Motors used for autofocus which allow for continuous and silent autofocus, even during video capture.

The EF 40mm f/2.8 STM has six elements in a modified classic planar formula of six elements/four groups and will focus down to 0.3 meters or around one foot, which is pretty close. It also includes one aspherical element. It will work on both full-frame cameras and APS-C models. Pancake lenses are called that because of their flat profile. I'm hoping that the introduction of this lens signals Canon intentions for stepping up their game. Right now, they are the biggest camera manufacturer in the world, but they are lagging behind companies like Sony and Panasonic in terms of innovative products. Maybe this is when they change their approach.

Also, Canon announced a new Rebel, the 4Ti, with features an 18 MP sensor, continuous AF during video shooting mode, and touch screen control.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Odds and Ends

 photo by Herb Ritts

I just spent ten days in and around LA, my daughter was graduating from CalArts, and I had the chance to check out the Herb Ritts: L.A. Style exhibition at the Getty Museum. Ritts was mostly known as a fashion and celebrity photographer that worked in LA from the 1970s until his death in 2002 from complications of AIDS. The Getty exhibit focuses on the three main areas of his photography, fashion, celebrities, and nudes. It's a fascinating overview of his career and features most of his well-known images. Seeing Ritts's work in person gave me a greater appreciation for his photography. These are wonderful black-and-white prints. His nudes covered much of the same ground as Robert Mapplethorpe did, but avoids the more extreme aspects of Mapplethorpe. But Ritts's photographs of women are truly beautiful and even transcendent. If you find yourself in LA, be sure to check it out. It's well worth it, especially if you haven't been to the Getty, which is one of the most beautiful museums in the country. It goes until August 26.

photo by Herb Ritts

Scarab Labs has introduced Scarab Darkrooms, a RAW converter for Windows-based computers. For now, this converter is free to download and you can do that here. If you are on a budget, this is a great deal. Many new cameras are included like the Canon 5D Mark III and the Sony NEX-7, but the Olympus OM-D EM-5 isn't supported for now. I'm sure this will be covered sooner or later. I downloaded the converter and messed around on it and it seems to work well. The fill function works well without adding halos, but it doesn't allow for black-and-white conversions, which I use a lot in Lightroom. Maybe this will change. I hope so.

A new website has been announced: The Most Talented People in the World. It features interviews with photographers, cinematographers, and writers, and actually interviews with a wide range of professionals. This website and blog looks at what it takes to succeed in life, school, art, and business, and acknowledges that knowing the history and tradition in any given field of study is just as important as knowing the latest tech involved in that area. The people featured on the site have interesting stories to tell. Check them out.

In the next week or two, I will post some of the photos I took down in LA. Stay tuned.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

New Leica Camera

Well, actually there are a few new cameras that have been announced from Leica. There is the V-Lux40, a 20x compact digicam. The X2 with a 16 MP sensor and a 36mm equivalent f/2.8 lens that will sell for around $2000. The limited edition, deluxe M9-P Hermes, which is the regular M9-P, but with silver chrome finish and ocre-colored calfskin trim. It will come with matching 50mm lens and a matching calfskin strap for $25,000. There's also a three lens kit with a Hermes camera bag for $50,000, if you want to go all the way.

The "big" news is the M-Monochrom, a variant of the M9-P. As its name implies, the M-Monochrom will be a black-and-white only digital camera. Its 18 MP sensor will not capture any color info and because of that, it will have extended ISO settings up to 10,000 ISO, the regular M9-P only goes up to 2,500, and it will be capable of capturing substantially higher resolution. The M-Monochrom body will sell for a bit less than $8000.

So is this the ultimate black-and-white shooting machine? Maybe. Purists will likely applaud this move as it allows photographers to shoot as if they were using B&W film and use color filters like they used to do. But it's definitely a niche camera with limited appeal among most photographers. But then you could say that about most Leica cameras. And the price will keep it out of the hands of most photographers, as it is for most Leica products. As a long time B&W photographer, I've come to appreciate the flexibility of digital when it comes to creating B&W images, like being able to individually adjust the tonal response of colors within a scene, similar to how colored filters change tonal relationships in B&W film, but being able to manipulate several different colors at once. You could never do that with film and I like that ability. Anyway, kudos to Leica for going their own way and not being afraid to try something different, even if it is a bit old fashioned.

Odds and Ends

There are a few things of note are happening in photography today, so here they are.

Keith Richards by Albert Watson

First, the latest issue of PhotoMedia is out with my profile/article on NYC photographer Albert Watson. He's a powerhouse of a photographer that has few peers at this point in time. The photographers that came closest were Richard Avedon and Irving Penn, who are both deceased. He was a fun and intense interview subject and was vastly more cooperative with the interview process than most busy photographers can allow themselves to be. Extremely accomplished and gracious, too. Just like you want your heroes to be. Watson is not your average high-end photographer. His interests are too varied to settle into one kind of specialty and he insists on having a hand in every image that leaves his studio. He does the final image manipulations in Photoshop and he personally makes every black & white print in his darkroom. His integrity and commitment is inspiring. So, pick up a copy of PhotoMedia today.

Pastry Cooks by Irving Penn

Speaking of Irving Penn, The Art Institute of Chicago (AIC) has announced the creation of the Irving Penn Archives. Penn was one of the greatest 20th Century photographers and one of my personal favorites. When he passed away, he willed his archives to the AIC and now it is online and ready for visitors. If you don't know his work, allow yourself the opportunity and the time to experience it. He is worth it. You can find the archive here.

Marvel's The Avengers

If you were one of the millions who saw Marvel's The Avengers this past weekend, you were also seeing film footage shot with Canon DSLRs.In addition to film and digital movie cameras, the cinematographer used 5D Mark II and 7D cameras for POV action shots and for unusual angles that would be difficult to get with regular movie cameras. The footage shot with these cameras blended seamlessly with the regular movie cameras. Pretty cool, huh?

Thursday, May 3, 2012

What Do We Call Micro 4/3 Cameras?

Yesterday, a friend of mine, Kim, pointed out an infuriating and bone-headed mistake he caught in a recent B&H catalog. I think this mistake is a good illustration of why the problem of creating a new class and format of camera, and then not having a good name for it, is a real challenge. Lots of mistakes and misinformation can result. In a short essay explaining the differences between DSLRs, like the Nikon D800, and the newer Micro 4/3s cameras like the Olympus E-P3 or the Panasonic GX1, they labelled the new cameras as "Mirrorless DSLRs." It's almost like they don't know what "SLR" stands for, which is a profound bit of nonsense that can only confuse people. It is about the same as calling digital cameras, "filmless film cameras." It just really doesn't make sense.

In the 20th Century, several camera formats came into being. View cameras meant that you view straight through the camera, seeing the direct image projected by the camera lens. TLR, or Twin Lens Reflex, meant that there were 2 lenses on the camera, one for taking pictures and one for viewing. The "Reflex" part of the name referred to the mirror that reflected the image from the viewing lens upwards into a ground glass screen so that the photographer looked straight down into the camera as they used it. Rangefinder cameras referred to the rangefinder mechanism linked to the lens focusing which superimposed two images, so that when an object's two images lined up, that meant the focus for that object and distance was achieved. And finally, there were SLRs, which stood for Single Lens Reflex. These cameras were the mainstay of most photographers and combined the aspects of the other focusing methods into one usable and flexible style. In an SLR, the photographer looked through the taking lens, the image from that lens was reflected by a mirror into a ground glass screen and then channeled through a glass pentaprism and other glass elements to the photographer's eye. The term "Reflex" referred to the mirror used to reflect the image into a ground glass screen. In cameras, "Reflex" always refers to a mirror, and that is why calling a camera a Mirrorless DSLR is so ridiculous.

Since the advent of digital cameras, the "D" was added in front of SLR to mean a Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) camera and that is fine. But we don't have an easy and simple designation for the new format of cameras, even though many companies are making them. Sometimes they are called "mirrorless cameras," which is okay but kind of vague. None of the digital point-and-shoots have mirrors, either, but they aren't really the same kind or level of camera, so that could be confusing. Some people have even suggested calling this new format, EVIL, which stands for Electronic Viewfinder Interchangeable Lens. While clever, it seems like a marketing nightmare guaranteed to alienate certain folks. Who wants an EVIL camera? I guess I'd suggest a variation of SLR, which would be SLM, or Single Lens Mirrorless. It's simple and fits the nature of the cameras in question. From now on, that's what I'll be calling them. And B&H? Come on, you can do better than that!

Friday, April 27, 2012

First Impressions: Fuji X-Pro1

Last night I had the opportunity to see and handle the new Fuji X-Pro1 camera with its 3 lenses. When this camera was first announced, it seemed to have the answers for most of what ails digital cameras these days. Well, after taking a closer look at it, that was probably an overly optimistic view of this camera. Honestly, I don't think any camera, whether film or digital, can be the perfect answer for any and all situations. Some just are better fits for some specific problems, not all of them. So let's break down what I saw and experienced. Bear in mind that I didn't get a chance to shoot any images. I was looking at images taken and supplied by Fuji, so these can be assumed to be best-case examples of what the camera can do. What it actually does may be quite different in the real world.

The X-Pro1 is a bit of a mixed bag. My first impression on looking at it is that it's kind of big for what it is. I'm talking about the camera body itself. Keeping in mind that it uses an APS-C size sensor, it's nearly the same size as a Leica M9 and not that far from a full-sized DSLR, minus the penta-prism hump, of course. I was surprised. When I picked it up, though, it was surprisingly light. Almost suspiciously light. I know the body is made of mostly magnesium, but it felt very light as if it was made of plastic. The larger-than-expected size coupled with the feather-like weight created a strange disconnect for me. I'm used to pro-oriented cameras having a certain amount of heft, a substantial quality to them and the X-Pro1 doesn't have this. Of course, who am I to complain about a light weight camera? Anyway, moving on.

On the other hand, the lenses are surprisingly substantial and well-made. Aside from Leica and Zeiss lenses, I haven't picked up a lens like these in years. Even the focusing is smooth and well-damped like a well-made manual focus lens. But, that's where the similarities end. The operation of manual focusing these lenses is frustrating and unresponsive. Seems like you turn the focusing ring forever without getting anywhere. I was told they were an improvement over the focusing in the earlier model, the X100. If this is so, wow. Really?

So enough complaining, what was good about the camera and lenses? Well, the images for sure. The 35mm f/1.4 was clearly the best of the three lenses, with the 60mm f/2.4 coming close to it. These two lenses have the ideal combination of fine detail and sharp images with creamy, smooth out of focus characteristics that manage to provide enough hints of detail for the out of focus areas to hang together and not fall apart. The out of focus backgrounds and foregrounds don't turn to mush or have weird, distracting highlights, they still have a lot of character. Not every lens can do this. Images from the 35mm lens were especially three-dimensional. However, the images from the 18mm f/2 lens seemed kind of flat in comparison. It wasn't nearly as sharp.

A lot of the image quality probably is due to two things, the X-Pro1's sensor and processor. I leafed through a large stack of images printed to 8x12 and most had enough similarities to draw some conclusions. Overall, I'd say the images from the X-Pro1 were more immediately film-like than most digital cameras produce. There was a smoothness in the tonal gradations without losing sharpness in the detail that I used to associate with medium and large format color images. The image quality is first-rate, as good or better than anything out there.

The operation of the camera is simple, direct, and refreshingly old school with a shutter speed dial on top of the camera and each lens having their own aperture rings. Both have "A" or automatic settings, too. Add the exposure compensation dial next to the shutter speed dial and the shutter release and you have all you need to control the shooting. The hybrid viewfinder is pretty nice, too. A bit of visual drag with the LCD option, but it's not bad at all. Very livable. Using the camera proved to be intuitive and fast.

Despite my concerns and complaints, I enjoyed the X-Pro1 quite a bit. Before seeing and handling the X-Pro1, I was even toying  with the idea of selling my Canon equipment and just jumping into the Fuji X-system, but now that I have seen it up close and got a chance to see how it works, I'm probably going to stay put. But I will keep my eyes open to see where Fuji takes this new camera system. I have the feeling that the X-Pro2 will be something really special.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

New Camera Blues

Canon has posted a new firmware 1.1.2 update for the 5D Mark III which addresses several problems and issues. You can download it here. Canon has also stopped shipments of the new camera until they can fix an exposure problem. It seems that if you are shooting in extremely low light conditions and use the top LCD illumination feature, which most people tend to do in that situation, this will throw off your exposure, probably in the direction of under-exposure. Canon has also issued a product advisory to 5D Mark III owners about this glitch and starting in mid-May will inspect owner's cameras free of charge to see if this is happening to their cameras. Whether this means they will also repair or adjust the cameras for free is unclear at this time. Most new cameras have a few glitches to work out after introductions, but I have the feeling that this won't help sell the 5D Mark III.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Blackmagic Cinema Camera

Blackmagic Design has announced their first camera, the Blackmagic Cinema Camera. This will be a very interesting camera for people who are into movie-making. Blackmagic Design has up to now been more involved in the post-production side of things, making hardware and software for editing and such.

The Cinema Camera will be a 2.5K camera in terms of resolution, regular HD has basically 1K resolution, with a dynamic range of 13 stops, which approaches the dynamic range of film stock. The major goal for the camera is to produce the best possible footage in terms of image quality, which is a high goal indeed. It also uses the Canon EF lens mount, which is bound to of interest to filmmakers using Canon DSLR's like the 5d Mark II, and now the 5D Mark III, and the upcoming EOS-1D C, which is specifically geared towards filmmaking. And on the back of the camera is a 5-inch touchscreen for viewing, which dedicated controls for recording and playback. It will record onto interchangeable SSD hardrives or you can use a Thunderbolt cable and record straight to your computer. To sweeten the pot, so to speak, its price will come in around $3000, which puts it $500 less than a new 5D Mark III body, and it should be available in July.

As you can tell from its design, this camera is not trying to be anything other than a movie camera. It's not trying to be both a still camera and a movie camera. It's for making movies. I have the feeling that these will be very popular when they are available. You can find out more about the Blackmagic Cinema Camera here.