Monday, December 16, 2013

David Vestal: 1924 - 2013

 David Vestal, 2009, by Ellen Wallenstein

David Vestal, longtime photographer, educator, and writer, passed away on December 5, 2013 at his home in Bethlehem, Connecticut. For many years, Vestal wrote a column for PhotoTechniques magazine and I always tried to read those when I could. They were illuminating and pithy and often tried to push their way through the veils of pretense that hides much of the art of photography. He had a way of breaking things down and explaining them in understandable, commonsense terms. In many ways, he was a role model for me and my writing about photography. I never had the chance to meet him, but he was a powerful influence on my life and my photography.

New York City, 1958, by David Vestal

David Vestal wrote two photography books, The Craft of Photography and The Art of Black-and-White Enlarging. The latter book became the book I turned to in learning how to print and in how to be a photographer. When I learned photography in the late 1970s, I gravitated towards Ansel Adams’ Zone System for the exposure and development of black-and-white film. I used a 4x5 camera with a spot meter and tried to decipher how to use it all. Adams’ three book series at the time seemed kind of intimidating, so I picked up and read Minor White’s book on the Zone System. It may have been a small book, but the prose was dense and impenetrable, and practically impossible to apply in a useful way. It was more poetic allegory than technical instruction. So I bought Fred Picker’s Zone Workshop book. It was easier to understand, but turned out to be more of a sales tool for his business than anything else, however it did serve as a basic primer for the Zone System. Finally, I broke down and picked up Ansel Adams’ series of books and set about reading and learning his way of working. At the time I had access to a densitometer, which Adams required to determine correct exposure and development, and off I went. After a few years of working on this and getting the hang of it, I attended the Ansel Adams workshop in Carmel, California, only to have John Sexton, one of the last great Zone System photographers, say something like, “Well, I can see that you are doing everything by the book, but you need to expose more and cut back the contrast.” So that’s when I learned that following what Adams wrote down only gets you in the ballpark and really isn’t necessarily made for real life situations. 

Gallup, New Mexico, 1966, by David Vestal

And that was when I discovered David Vestal and his book, The Art of Black-and-White Enlarging. In his book, Vestal laid out a way of testing film exposure and development that was practical and sensible. I tried it, and after a few tweaks to accommodate my own working methods, it became how I tested every new film and developer combination, and it was responsible for a vast increase in the quality of my negatives, which became easier to print and produced better looking prints. Indeed, this book was filled with commonsense approaches to the practice of photography that made my life easier and my photography better, and David Vestal was the person who made that possible. His book was the mentor that I turned to when I needed to learn something and he made all the difference in the world to me. I kept his book close at hand and referred to it all the time. It became my standard reference work. Like I’ve already said, I never had the chance to meet him in person, but he was indeed my teacher and mentor, and I will never forget what he did for me. Thanks, David Vestal, and rest in peace.

New York City, 1959, by David Vestal

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Humans of New York vs. Creative Art

 photo by Brandon Stanton

I recently heard a news story/interview on The Humans of New York, which started out as a blog and has now become a New York Times bestselling book. The person behind the work, Brandon Stanton, takes portraits of people he encounters while walking around the city. He asks if he can photograph them and then interviews them and includes a bit of the interview with the photograph, which provides a bit of context to the portraits. Stanton makes a lot of these portraits. In the interview I heard, Stanton came across as humble and even a bit overwhelmed by the attention his work is gathering. He was charming enough that I was predisposed to like this work even before I saw it. You can see the work here.

Nick Vossbrink, a photographer working out of San Francisco, wrote an essay called "I'm Tired of 'White Guy' Photography Projects" that is marginally about the Humans of New York project and categorized the work as colonial photography which examines other cultures alien to the photographer’s point of view in an attempt to explain that culture to outsiders in a condescending manner. You can read his essay here. National Geographic is the primary example of this approach to photography, though they are far from the first to use this model of working. August Sanders seminal work of documenting the German people is another or Jacob Riis, whose work serve served to expose the dangers and destitution of New York ghettos of the late 1800s, are other earlier examples.

In fact, using photography to examine and understand other cultures and people and ways of life is as old as photography itself. It’s part of what photography is; a way of looking at the world and figuring out how everything works. But Vossbrink has an interesting point to make concerning photography.

Vossbrink said in his essay:
“To see the same approach taken towards non-white or non-mainstream cultures now feels old and stale. And with almost everyone having the tools to document and represent themselves now, it starts treading into self-serving, patronizing, white-guilt behavior too.

The colonial view doesn’t work for me anymore. At its best, I find it boring. At its worst, I find it racist. In almost all cases I’m tired of it.”

So does his point have merit? Perhaps. I do think we have moved past the idea of photographing indigenous peoples in far-away, exotic locales and have it be anything but insulting and patronizing to the people depicted. But is the idea finished completely as a mode of seeing? I find that hard to believe.

And that’s the thing with creative endeavors. It is up to the artists to come up with something new. If we rely on the tried and true, what has been done before, we face the prospects of creating art that is tired and stale. That is why certain kinds of photography really are kind of boring, when it comes right down to it. And photographs can be boring and beautiful at the same time, if the image has nothing new to say. Things like landscape photography and nudes are mostly just retreading old ground and repeating images styles that border on being tropes. New takes on these subjects are rare. And that’s what Vossbrink is reacting to in his essay. All too often Stanton gives us the same “Oh, look at the weirdo in the big city” kind of image that we’ve seen time and time again, from people like Diane Arbus and Weegee. For urbanites, these images are comforting and familiar. For rural folks, they are the evidence supporting all their preconceptions about the people in big cities.

So is Humans of New York patronizing and boring? Not really, though the skills of the photographer aren’t particularly strong. Stanton’s images are sometimes mediocre, bordering on student work, if I have to be honest, but it is the quotes and the stories that go along with the images that elevate them out of mediocrity. This work is about more than the images, which is usually the case with successful art; the meaning of a piece of art extends past the surface image of the artwork. It is the context of the art and its subject and its maker's intent that makes for good art. Is this great photography? No, but it is good photography that is worth looking at and that is something far from boring. And I suspect that Stanton is a photographer to watch and pay attention to.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Photographer Daniel Beltra Wins Prestigous Award!

Daniel Beltra was awarded second place in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition, which is jointly sponsored by the Natural History Museum in London, England, and the BBC Worldwide. Daniel won for his work for Greenpeace documenting the building of the Belo Monte Dam on the Xingu River in Brazil, which will displace up to 40,000 indigenous people and destroy untold amounts of rainforest and biodiversity. Daniel was born and raised in Spain and now calls Seattle, Washington, home. He has made this his life's work, being a witness to and exposing the damage and destruction that people have brought about in the world, even as he frequently puts his own life at risk. Congratulations, Daniel, and keep up the good work.

Monday, October 14, 2013

New Stuff From Sony and Sigma!

The rumors have been flying around the Web that Sony was going to introduce a mirrorless, interchangeable lens camera system, similar to their NEX cameras, and that's what they've done. Sony has just announced the A7 and the A7r. The A7 will have a 24 MP sensor and the A7r will sport a 36 MP sensor with no anti-aliasing filter for maximum sharpness. Both models will have a built-in OLED EVF finder. The cameras will feature a tiltable LED screen, focus peaking, and weather-sealing. The cameras will accept current NEX APS-C lenses, though some vignetting will occur, and Sony will also offer an adapter so you can use full frame lenses from their regular full-frame cameras. The A7 body will sell for $1698 and the A7r body will sell for $2198.

Sony will also introduce a handful of new lenses for the cameras: a Zeiss FE 24-70mm f/4 OSS, a Sony G 28-70mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS, a Zeiss FE 35mm f/2.8, a Zeiss FE 55mm f/1.8, and a Zeiss FE 70-200mm f/4 OSS. This promises to be an exciting new system for pro photographers. Full frame images with smaller cameras and lenses. What's not to love?

And finally, Sigma is introducing a new lens, the 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art lens. The Sigma Art lenses emphasize image quality and sharpness, so this will probably be a lens to check out. It will have a fairly large filter size of 82mm, which means that they will have more room to play with in refining the optics for maximum effect. The physically smaller the lens, the less room you have to correct for optical problems. This lens will compete directly with the Canon 24-105mm f/4 IS L lens and it will be interesting to see how they compare. No word yet on its price.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Zeiss Introduces a New Normal!

Something interesting has happened to lenses and cameras. It turns out that high-pixel-count digital sensors are a lot more demanding of their lenses than the needs of film ever were, and for most camera companies, their latest camera sensor's resolutions have blown past the ability of their lenses to resolve fine details. In other words, new lenses need to have much higher resolution to match the needs of the digital sensors in the current cameras, not to mention the sensors of the future. For instance, when Nikon introduced the D800 and D800E, they also published a short list of their lenses that would best work with these two cameras. Not all Nikon lenses have the resolving power to take advantage of this new 36 MP sensor.

So this means that lens manufacturers are going back to their drawing boards, or CAD programs, and inventing entirely new lens designs that are able to resolve image details like never before. And Zeiss is one of those companies. Zeiss has created a new lens called the Otus 55mm f/1.4. It's fairly big for a "normal" lens, weighing more than 2 pounds, but it does have 12 elements in 10 groups, so there is a lot of glass in there. Resolution has been optimized across the field of view, even at the open apertures and at any distance. The mechanical construction has been brought to its highest possible standards. Zeiss' goal with this lens was to create the highest quality lens in the world. Only time will tell if they succeeded.

The Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 lens will be available in Nikon and Canon mounts and will sell for just under $4000, which makes it one of the world's most expensive normal lenses. By the way, Otus is the Latin name for a type of owl that has excellent night vision.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Digital Bolex D16 Footage Has Been Seen

I have to admit that the news about this camera has seemed to pass me by, even though it's been talked about for almost 2 years. It's still not quite available, but Bolex has made some footage from the new camera available to view on their website. The low light capabilities are impressive.

This camera is supposed to sell for less than a new Canon 5D Mark III and it seems to fit a similar niche that the Blackmagic cinema cameras do. And it can mount a wider range of lenses and shoots RAW footage, so that is all good. But what is that crank on the side of the camera for? And I even like 1950s Space Age aesthetic to the design. Retro and Modern at the same time. Go to Bolex here to watch the sample videos and learn more about it.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Olympus Introduces Its New Flagship Camera

Olympus has introduced a new camera, the OM-D E-M1. Like the already existing E-M5, the E-M1 is a Micro Four-Thirds camera styled after DSLRs, but this one is intended to be their new top of the line model. It will have a 16 MP sensor and a host of features, like dust-, splash-, and freeze-proof construction, tilting touchscreen LCD, 2.36 MP EVF viewing, 5-axis image stabilization, PC sync terminal, full HD video, built-in WiFi, focus peaking, 10 fps shooting, and something new called Color Creator, which allows the user to adjust color from the top of the camera. Interesting. It seems like the added grip is a good idea for this camera. The original OM-D E-M5 has always felt a little small to me, so a bigger grip would help that.

The body alone will run around $1400 and for around $1950, you can get the E-M1 with the new M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO lens, which is weather sealed, features a constant aperture of f/2.8, and which is equivalent to a 24-80mm lens in full-frame terms. Olympus also has another PRO lens in the works, an M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO, which is equivalent to an 80-300mm lens. With these new offerings, Olympus is creating a pro-level system that will be a real competitor to full frame camera systems from Nikon and Canon, and competition is good for everyone, of course.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

International Street Photographers Day

 Photo by Henri Cartier-Bresson

Tomorrow, which is Thursday the 22nd of August, is International Street Photographers Day, so go out and do some street photography! It's also Henri Cartier-Bresson's birthday, so think of him while you are doing it!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Free Online Images from the Getty

Photo by Eugene Atget; digital image courtesy of the Getty's Open Content Program.

It sometimes seems like we, as a society, are leaning ever more towards a more creatively close-minded frame of thought. When companies are trying to patent naturally existing genes and organisms, that is going too far. And companies like Disney are pushing the boundaries of artistic copyright ever farther. As a creator myself, I feel kind of mixed about this, of course. When is it appropriate for anything to fall out of private or commercial ownership and into the public domain? It's a complex problem with a multitude of answers and viewpoints.
Photo by Lewis Hines; digital image courtesy of the Getty's Open Content Program.

Anyways, in a move that contradicts my previous statement, the Getty Museum and Trust are making a great many images in their collection available as free downloads through their Open Content Program. There are some restrictions for the commercial use of these images, but we now have access to a great many rather famous and significant  images from the beginnings of photography (mostly images from the first century of photography), not to mention a "few" paintings, sculpture, drawings, and more. There are close to 5000 total images. You can download 300 ppi JPEGs that are suitable for printing at home, so you can print off some classics for your own home or office, or use them as classroom examples, if you are a teacher.

Eugene Atget is well-represented in the offerings, as well as Walker Evans, Lewis Hines, and Nadar, an early superstar photographer. And in a small warning, a few of the photos in the program could be considered inappropriate and possibly objectionable. If you are a teacher and letting your students peruse the archives, please keep this in mind. There's even a nice painting of Irises by some Dutch guy, that some of you may like. You can read about the program here and browse through the images in the program here.

Painting by Vincent Van Gogh; digital image courtesy of the Getty's Open Content Program.

Monday, August 12, 2013

A World at War

U.S. Marine Gunnery Sgt. Carlos "OJ" Orjuela by Louie Palu

The Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. is hosting a photography exhibit that looks at 165 years of war called WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY: Images of Armed Conflict and Its Aftermath. If you're in the area, be sure to check out the comprehensive exhibit; it features more than 300 images. You can see the website for the exhibit here. The exhibit is up until September 29, 2013.

This morning, National Public Radio's Morning Edition did an excellent story on the exhibit that is worth listening to and you can do that here. They include segments of an interview with Louie Palu, a photojournalist who works in conflict zones. Both the exhibit and the story are vital reminders of the power and relevance of the still image.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Lomography Brings Back the Petzval!

It's kind of funny that as digital photography achieves ever higher resolution and lower noise (grain), photographers feel compelled to resist the inherent sharpness that digital offers. Lensbaby has done well for themselves by making lenses that offers generally poor optical quality. Now don't get me wrong, I own and use Lensbaby products myself and dearly love them, but they are not the pinnacle of lens sharpness and aberration-free designs. But maybe that's why we love them. It's their optical quirkiness that attracts us.

Anyway, in a similar vein, Lomography is introducing a "new" lens that is actually the resurrection of a quite ancient lens, the Petzval portrait lens, which was designed by Joseph Petzval in 1840 while he lived in Vienna, Austria. His lens was quite revolutionary for its time with a fast f/3.6 aperture (the only other rival lens had an aperture of f/15!) and more than adequate sharpness, especially in the center. One of the optical qualities that set it apart from modern lenses is that while modern lenses try to maximize sharpness from corner to corner and make the center of the image as sharp as the edges, Petzval's lens only achieved critical sharpness in the center. This is referred to as flatness of field, which the Petzval didn't have, but it did have a way of separating the center subject from the background that was not matched by any other lens.

So Lomography is working with the Russian optical company Zenit to make a new version of the Petzval  lens, while keeping the brass aesthetics of the original and offering them in current Nikon and Canon mounts. It will be an 85mm f/2.2 manual focus, of course, lens that uses fixed, slide-in Waterhouse stops for its apertures from f/2.2 to f/16, and they are saying that the results it will give are nearly impossible to duplicate by digital means. They are running a Kickstarter campaign to fund the manufacture of these lenses and you can read about their project here. Sounds kind of cool and the image examples they have are really beautiful. I'll follow this project with a great deal of interest.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

LightZone is Now Free!

LightZone, a non-destructive photo-editing program somewhat based on Ansel Adams's Zone System, debuted in 2005 and was created by Light Crafts, Inc. It offered a more visual-based approach to image and tone manipulation and was remarkably intuitive with a relatively easy learning curve, especially when compared to Photoshop. It remains unique in that you can remove, reverse or change any step of your processing at any time in any order even in different sessions. Try doing that in any other program! And it worked in 16-bit.

I tried out LightZone shortly after it came out in 2005 and I remember liking it a lot. It took a visual approach to image manipulation, rather than a numbers- or values-based interface. And I was able to get good looking results almost immediately that were surprisingly hard to match in Photoshop. Photoshop is easier to use in cut-and-paste operations, where you area changing the image a great deal, but for just optimizing an image to look its best, LightZone was really good and fast. It was particularly good for black-and-white. It was almost like photographers designed it for other photographers to use. Imagine that!

Well, Light Crafts, Inc. went out of business in 2011 and LightZone went away, except it didn't. Fans and former employees kept the interest going and in December 2012, Light Crafts released LightZone to open source. And now a group calling itself the LightZone Project has come out with a new and free downloadable version (V4.0) for Windows and Linux, with a Mac version on its way. Actually, if you want the Windows version, hold off a bit and keep checking back since the initial release has some bugs in it that they are in the process of fixing. When they fixed things with it, they expect it to include 64-bit compatibility.

LightZone was a great program that offered features and flexibility that no other program had and now that it's free, there's no reason not to give it a try. You can download it and learn more about it here.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Remembering Brett Weston

John Sexton, one of the greatest traditional landscape photographers working today, has posted the first part of a series of videos about Brett Weston on his website. The video features John with photographers Randy Efros and Kim Weston (grandson of Edward Weston, son of Cole Weston, and nephew of Brett Weston) sitting around reminiscing about Brett. You can view the video here and while you are there, you might as well look around and take a look at John's work. He's a very fine photographer.

Brett Weston was a monumentally influential photographer for me. His images were pure photography in a way that not many people have ever achieved. And by that, I mean that his images only really existed to be those black-and-white images. That was their only context for him. His photographs were examples of how he saw the world and what he responded to as he existed and worked in the world. For example, a picture of a leaf was not really a picture of a leaf to him, it was an image of lights and darks, shapes and textures. It was a pure abstraction of the world, breaking it down into its parts and then arranging those parts into an image that resonated for him. Even his nudes were treated in the same way; they were about tones and shapes and composition, not about sexuality or even sensuality, thought he was personally very interested in women. Photographically to him, a mountain was no more significant or beautiful than a piece of melted plastic lying in the street. They were both raw ingredients for his visual imagination.

Brett was also a dedicated photographer who lived to photograph. He printed nearly every day of his life, early in the morning before sunrise, and after breakfast, he would go out and photograph. Photography was his life and nothing ever got in the way of that, and he continued this way nearly up until he died. His dad, Edward, was one of the seminal photographers of the 20th Century and in some respects Brett always worked in his dad's shadow. But for many late 20th Century West Coast landscape photographers, his work was probably the greater influence. His beautifully clear and coolly analytical images guided many photographers' work. And with his penchant for Porsche sport cars and dark sunglasses, he was cool, too. If you are not familiar with Brett Weston's images, take the time and look them up. He's worth it.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Miroslav Tichy: Outsider Photographer

 Photo by Miroslav Tichy.

Almost from the beginning of photography, at least after the advent of Kodak cameras that put photography into to hands of the common person, photography has had something of an unsavory reputation. Photographers would lurk around the swimming holes of yesteryear hoping to spy upon and capture the images of naked or nearly naked young women. It actually became something of a public nuisance for a while. Currently, our distrust of photographers working in the public spaces is more related to issues of terrorism, but that is another story.

Miroslav Tichy and one of his cameras.

Anyway, the folks at Messy Nessy Chic have done an excellent story on a photographer that captures that quaint, old-fashioned air of "perv-i-ness" and also manages to serve as an example of the outsider (or folk or naive) artist that happens to use a "camera." Outsider photographers are kind of rare. His name was Miroslav Tichy and he lived and worked in the small town of Kyjov in the Czech Republic. One of the things that set him apart was that he built his own cameras out of spare parts and trash, including grinding and building his own lenses. His photographs are an interesting combination of crudeness and elegance and the article is worth checking out here. Thanks to Wayne Kraft for pointing this story out to me.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

A Closer Look at the Fuji X-M1

I mentioned this new camera, the Fuji X-M1, the other day, but I didn't really look at it all that carefully. Seemed at first glance to be just another boring camera, but maybe I was still reacting to Leica's X Vario/ Mini-M debut. So now after reading up on it a bit more, it turns out to be more interesting than it first appeared. The X-M1 continues the updated retro look of the other X-series cameras, like the X-Pro1, X-E1, and the X100S. While it is true that it doesn't feature an optical or LCD viewfinder or manual-oriented dials and switches, it manages to fit in with the rest of the X family quite nicely.

I like the new selection of colors it will be offered in and I really like the smaller size. That's a direct benefit of leaving off the viewfinder; you can cut down on the size of the body. People are now used to using the rear LCD screen for composing anyway. And I like that it uses the same 16 MP sensor as the two models above it in the line-up. So people can approach the X-M1 in at least two ways. You can see as the entry-level camera that it can be used like; its controls are intended for easy full-auto and point-and-shoot use. Or you can see it as a back-up body or stroll-around camera that will deliver images nearly identical to those produced by its higher-priced and bigger siblings. Plus, it has built-in WiFi for connecting and downloading images to your phone. And the prices is pretty good. The X-M1 body goes for $699 and the kit with the new 16-50mm zoom lens goes for $799. This is a smart, well-considered camera offered at an attractive price point. Fuji continues to follows its own lead in matters of camera design and execution, and I think they deserve a lot of praise for that. I wonder what they have planned for next?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

CamRanger now includes Android devices!

CamRanger has been successful with their device which allows you to remotely control your DSLR through your iPhone or iPad. Now they've extended that to include Android phones and tablets, and will soon add Windows 7/8 PCs to their compatibility list. There are about 30 Canon and Nikon cameras that will work with this system. The CamRanger is a device that plugs into your camera and then allows for WiFi connection to your phone or whatever, up to a 150 feet distance. You also need to download the app to your phone or device to make it work. The CamRanger device sells for $299.00. Sounds like a cool idea.

Friday, June 21, 2013

News From Around the Web

Sigma announced the price of the upcoming APS-C zoom, the 18-35mm f/1.8 HSM Art lens, and it's a bit of a surprise. It will sell for $799, which is something of a steal. I know that $800 is still $800, but considering that Canon's new 35mm f/2 IS USM lens goes for $850, the price of the Sigma zoom looks pretty good. Not much has been seen of this lens, but lens tests are starting to show up and reports are very positive. Sigma is becoming a lens company to watch, that is for sure.
Fuji will announce a new camera in its X-series, called the X-M1. It's a smaller, less expensive model, more of an entry level one, to fit in with their X-E1 and X-Pro1 cameras. This picture shows it with their new lens, a 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 OIS. It won't have a built-in viewfinder, instead, viewing is done through the LCD screen on the back, like other P&S's.

Finally, Samsung is really upsetting the old apple cart these days! Get it? Apple cart? Phones? Oh, well. Anyway, Samsung is announcing a couple of new products that illustrate the merging of medias and technologies. First, the have the Galaxy S4 Zoom, which combines a real 10x zoom lens 16 MP OIS camera with a smartphone. So instead of a smartphone with a built-in camera, you have a camera with a built-in smartphone. We can only hope it works well as a phone when you want to make a call. Still, it would be nice to always have a decent camera with you. I'll be checking this one out.

And then Samsung takes it further, in announcing the Galaxy NX, an interchangeable lens 20.3 MP sensor mirrorless camera with a 4.8-inch touch screen that uses the Android 4.2 Jelly Bean OS and has 3G and 4G WiFi connectivity. While it isn't a smartphone, you will use it like one. Post your pictures to Instagram. And you'll be able to stream and watch movies on your camera. And surf the Web. Wow.

"M" is for Meh!

Yes, I know this is late, but I just about couldn't work myself up to post about this when it became news. The new Mini-M camera from Leica turned out to be the X Vario, which as its name suggests, it is a zoom version of the fixed lens X2. So both of my guesses were dead wrong. But I think Leica's reasoning on calling it a Mini-M was misleading, to say the least. Companies should be careful about building up too many expectations about the products they are releasing. It's too easy to disappoint. And frankly who cares about another over-priced zoom compact from Leica? Meh.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

"M" is for Mystery!

Leica has released a new chart showing a new camera, called the Leica Mini M, that falls between the full-sized, interchangeable lens Leica M and the petite, fixed lens X2, which in the chart is also labeled the Micro M. And the D-LUX6 is called the Nano M in this chart. Nothing is really said about the new camera, other than its placement in the Leica scheme of things. So here is where I will speculate and I really don't know anything of substance, so this is strictly guessing on my part. The Mini M could be Leica's version of the Micro 4/3s cameras, a small, interchangeable lens system camera with its own new range of lenses, though if it was M 4/3s that would be cool. Another proprietary lens mount would not be cool. Or it could be an all-electronic version of an Leica M camera, along the lines of the Fuji X-E1, with an internal electronic viewfinder, that still takes regular Leica M-mount lenses and maybe still has a full-sized sensor. It could be smaller than the full-sized Leica M, but still take advantage of the Leica glass. This could be fun, too. But of course, what do I know? Only time will tell. Leica's formal announcement of the new camera will happen on June 11th.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Photo Topics From Around the Web

There are a few things being posted around the web that are of interest and here they are:

Instagram is one of those things that people seem to either love or hate, and I fall on the side of loving it, and PetaPixel has published a list of ten Instagram users that are worth following. The list includes a National Geographic photographer and even General Electric. You can see them here. By the way, PetaPixel is a great website and one that I regularly follow.

Lately, Adobe and Photoshop have been the subject of much gnashing of teeth and rending of clothes because of their decision to only offer future versions of Photoshop as downloads as part of their Creative Cloud. No CDs to buy from here on out. Since I signed up for Creative Cloud late last year, this wasn't all that big of a deal for me, but I can see how it might upset others. So, Digital Photography Review has put out an article called, "10 Photo Editing Programs (that aren't Photoshop)." They include programs like Lightroom 4 and Photoshop Elements 11, which is something of a cheat, since they are both Adobe products, but there you go. They also showcase programs like ACDSee Pro 6 and Photo Editor, Aperture 3, and DxO Optics Pro 8, and several programs that I'm not real familiar with. There are even some free programs like GIMP that are included in the article. For several years I've been using Lightroom for RAW image processing and Photoshop for image editing and printing, and don't feel a need to shake things up, at least for now. But you can read the article here.

And finally, if you run on Mac and use Canon DSLRs, Kuuvik Digital has a new program called Kuuvik Capture for tethered shooting. It has a lot of neat features and definitely looks more usable and flexible than Canon's own Utility program for tethered shooting. The price starts at $79.99 and that price is good through June 30, 2013. You can see and order Kuuvik Capture here.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Fotodiox Debuts New LED Light

Photographic lighting has undergone several changes over the years. The first lighting was based around tungsten bulbs. Then quartz lighting proved to be more stable with less color temperature fluctuations. Then electronic strobes took over most of still photography, especially in the studio, and that seemed to solve most of the problems that photographers faced when using artificial lighting. With flash, they had short exposure times with adequate depth of field at low ISO ratings. Seemed ideal, but a funny thing happened when photography started to include movie making with digital HD-SLRs. Now flashes didn't work at all and the search was on for better lighting sources for video and filmmaking. For a while, florescent lighting was used, and still is a little, but then LED lighting was tried and that proved to be a significant innovation.

With LED lighting, you could have fairly bright lights that could compete with quartz lighting in terms of output, but LEDs were radically cooler. And by this, I mean that the lights remained cool to the touch. The main handling problems with high wattage tungsten and quartz lighting is that the light housing could heat up so much that you couldn't safely touch them after you were finished using them. You had to wait several minutes before they were cool enough to touch without burning yourself. LED lights don't heat up like this.

Until now, most LED lighting consisted of flat panels of LED bulbs arranged in a tight grid. And petty much what you saw was what you got. There were little or no light modifications you could use with them. But now, Fotodiox has changed that with the introduction of their new LED light, the LED100WA. This is an LED light based around a strobe style housing and made to be compatible with standard Bowens flash accessories, like umbrellas, softboxes, barndoors, snoots and more. The LED100WA is rated at 600 watts and is available in either 5600K (daylight) or 3200K (tungsten) color temperatures. It will sell for $324.95, and it can be purchased directly from Fotodiox.

Monday, May 13, 2013

New Olympus Pen Cameras

Olympus, even with their financial woes, has been stepping up their game in the last few years. And now they're introducing a couple of new cameras. The first is a mid-range model, the E-PL6, but the real news is a new top of the line PEN camera, the E-P5. It will be available in three colors, Chrome, White, and Black, and it has the same 16 MP sensor that the popular OM-D EM-5 uses. In fact, the E-P5 seems to compete with the EM-5 in a lot of ways. Both have all metal construction and five-axis image stabilization, but the EM-5 is weather sealed and has a built-in electronic viewfinder. On the other hand, the E-P5 is the current champ in focusing speed and includes built-in Wi-Fi. The E-P5 is a bit smaller, but that difference diminishes when you put the accessory electronic viewfinder VF-4 on the camera. The styling of the new E-P5 is an obvious nod to the original PEN half-frame cameras, which is nice. Looks like Olympus is still on a roll and being a long-time Olympus user, I'm glad they're still going strong. The E-P5 is a classy looking camera.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Zeiss Launches New Lenses

Zeiss is launching a new line of lenses for Sony E-mount and Fuji X-mount cameras. Called the Touit series, named after a small Central American parrot, the first lenses are a 12mm f/2.8 and a 32mm f/1.8. Known for their image quality and their impeccable construction quality, Zeiss is making a smart move in making lenses for these two camera formats. Both Sony, with its NEX 7 and NEX 6, and Fuji, with its X-Pro 1 and EX-1, are making serious in-roads into professionals' camera arsenals, much to the chagrin of Canon and Nikon, so having top quality lenses for Zeiss for these cameras is just going to make them even more desirable. I'm sure they won't be cheap, but serious A-level equipment seldom is cheap.