My free week is half over…

I have a week off of work, but since we don’t visit anybody and the weather isn’t that nice, I spend most of it at home.

So since our last Sunday walk, most of the photos I took so far were also from our home. At least I used all of my cameras, several different lenses, and even the polarizer filter which you still can’t emulate after taking your pictures. Here are some taken since Sunday, just for the reference:

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You are next… (E-PL5 with the 14mm/2.5 lens)

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While photographing a plant, I was watched… (E-M10 with the 25mm/1.4 lens and a polarizer)

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Tuna the cat, looking out (E-M10 with the 25mm/1.4 lens and a polarizer)

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Pegs (Clothespins) – “shooting” the DSLR (E-520 with the 40-150mm/4-5.6 lens at 150mm, 1/40th of a second, hand-held)

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Occupation: box tester (E-M10 with the 25mm/1.4 lens)

I also filled the remaining few photos on an ISO200 colour negative film; a cheap one from the grocery, and I brought away that film for development already. With this I used my OM Zuiko 50mm/1.4 lens wide open for these last shots – I wanted to see its quality again. But as always when using film, that has to wait a bit. After I have these photos back, I’ll decide what to do with the three black & white Kodak 400TX (Tri-X) films which are still waiting to be used.

Anyway, thanks for reading/viewing, as always.

“Selfies”

This week I’ve got my first “smart” mobile phone ever. I’m still not sure if I need such a device (who would?), but since I have it, I could as well try to take some advantage of it.

The newer one of my two cameras has WLAN and can act as an access point for such a phone or tablet device, so you can share photos vie these mobile gadgets or use them the other way ’round to act as a remote control for the camera. Which is exactly what I did yesterday, first in the office:

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and later at home:

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These look a bit different than your usual “selfie”, because you don’t grab the imaging device itself, only the remote. Plus you can of course use all the controls of such a better camera, and like in the second photo, even studio strobes (camera-external flashes).

Such an “external viewfinder” – in my case with a 5″ screen diagonale – is fun, and much better than the infrared remote which I have for my DSLR. Like on the touchscreen of the camera itself, you just poke yourself in the eye (or tip onto any other point you want to have sharp) to select both the autofocus point, and to trigger the camera (and flash and whatever). This could also be used for shy animals, who would possibly approach a camera, but only if there’s no human behind it.

Real fun.

Thanks for reading.

E-M10 vs. D810 (vs. film)

In the middle of March, there was the Luminale (German Wikipedia page here; an English one doesn’t exist (yet)) festival in Frankfurt, which is some kind of light festival set up each 2 years. My colleague Basti (Bastian) wanted to see it and take some photos, so he did something here very rarely does: he brought his Nikon D810 camera, along with some lenses.

I wanted to compare it to my Micro Four Thirds camera since a while, so when Basti asked me which lens I’d like to have on it, I said: “the fifty?”, because that’s what I have as well – my Panasonic Leica DG Summilux 25mm/1.4 has about the same angle of view like his Nikkor 50mm/1.4G lens.

So I took his and my cameras (I also had my OM-2n film camera with its OM Zuiko 50mm/1.4 with me, loaded with Agfa Precisa CT100 colour slide film), and within a few minutes only I did what I normally do, which is take pictures of people – him in this case. Yesterday I finally asked him whether I could use and show these pictures for writing about my short experience with all of these cameras, and he kindly allowed it. Thanks again Basti, both for letting me handle your camera, and for showing your photos here.

Since I don’t have Lightroom or Photoshop which he is normally using, I took the raw files from his and my cameras and converted them using the free and open source RawTherapee raw converter on my Linux machine. I switched the results to black & white and simply pressed the “Auto” button in that program to get about the same exposure levels on both. The cameras were set to aperture priority and f/4, since I wanted to give both lenses a bit of a stop-down quality for better results. His camera chose ISO800 with 1/50th of a second (no image stabilization with that lens), mine used ISO1250 for 1/80th of a second (in-camera image stabilization (IBIS) with every lens attached). I also cropped the image out of my camera to the 3:2 format which his (and my film camera) would produce.

The expected outcome? Well his should have less depth of field with using f/4 on both a 50mm vs. a 25mm lens, but the rest? I was very exited to see these results, so without any further ado, here they are:

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Basti, with my Olympus OM-D E-M10

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Basti, with his Nikon D810

And, for comparison, the one of my film camera (1/8th of a second hand-held with ASA100 film and no stabilization), also converted to black & white for comparison:

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Basti at work, film, Frankfurt 2016

Looking at the digital cameras, what do I see? Well my first reaction was something like: “Wow, very similar” (with the exception of the difference in depth of field of course, should have taken one more with my camera set to f/2 to get closer to what his camera produced). Second thought was that I drink too much coffee – none of the photos are “critically sharp” as some bloggers would say after looking at them at 100 or more percent. The IBIS in my camera helped a bit with that.

But the real differences show up as soon as you start to manipulate some of the settings in a raw converter (like the “sliders” in Lightroom) – his camera has lots more reserves for that of course, and the “noise floor” of his camera is also better than the one of mine, which was to be expected as well.

The handling of that Nikon (“full frame” as they say these days) together with the “nifty fifty” 50mm/1.4G is wonderful. You have some real camera in your hand, which is just what my brother Willi would want – these Micro Four Thirds “Pens” and OM-D cameras he finds “fiddly”, and his argument has something to consider – you have to be careful not to press any buttons when handling mine, which isn’t that much of a problem with Basti’s Nikon.

And tho his camera still has one of these flipping mirrors like my OM-2n, the shutter sound of that Nikon is also fantastic – very muted but reassuring, a bit less noise than my OM-D and lots less noise then the film camera makes.

Viewfinders? Hm. Some love optical through-the-lens viewfinders, others prefer electronic ones nowadays, because they show equally big pictures like those “full framers”, but with more information if you want/need it. I’d say that all of them are very good, and if I had to choose I’d probably take one like the Olympus VF-4 (which Mitchie has, it’s the same bigger picture viewfinder which is also used in all newer Olympus cameras (E-M1, E-M5 Mk2, E-M10 Mk2)) in favour of an analog one like the very good ones in my OM-2n or in Bastis D810. But like I wrote already, that is a matter of personal choice, experience, and opinions, and I won’t get into any religious wars about these. Some even love rangefinders…

Talking about those pictures a bit more, I love the result out of Basti’s camera, not only because it’s the better one where he is smiling (he was really working while I played around). The quality is wonderful, as is his 50mm lens, so I’d love to have one of these.

Both pictures are not like film, not even like colour slide film converted to black & white after “scanning”. I’d love to also see a direct comparison between some real silver halide films like Kodak Tri-X, Ilford HP5, and Fuji Neopan Acros 100 (or even Delta 3200) against digital cameras like Basti’s, mine, or even a Leica Monochrom, a Fuji X-Pro2, or the new Olympus Pen-F, all of which try to emulate the look of film digitally.

But I’m no camera tester, so other people who run blogs for mainly that purpose will have to help with these. Just read a good camera review of the Fuji X-Pro2 mentioned above from Jordan Steele, where he says that for digital, these ones come probably closest to a film look, especially in black & white. So if you love the look of film as much as I do, but want the way bigger convenience of digital output directly into your computers, you should probably have a look at those cameras (they’re all of different sizes and price segments, with the mentioned Leica costing more than double or almost triple of a D810, lenses not even considered).

So, for me – is that camera of Basti’s worth the triple amount of cash compared to mine? Well if I had the money, in an instant – like I’d also love to have a Leica with at least the 50mm Summilux if I could ever spend that much.

Realistically, one would have to look for alternatives if it’s the “full frame look” one is after. A Nikon D610, a Canon 6D, or a Sony A7 are alternatives which start at even under 1000€ now (for the older and original Sony A7). Spending about 1500€ for a camera and lens would get you one of these, so recommending anything smaller for about the same amount (like the mentioned Fuji or Olympus) would mean that you’re more a specialist who wants exactly what these offer.

For me, and for the time being, I am more than happy with what I have. I’ve even ordered some prints for both Basti and myself, and from what I see the result of his camera is fantastic in 30x45cm – but so is the output of mine in 30x40cm for its original 4:3 format.

So, just a quick & dirty comparison of two very good digital cameras, with some film thrown in just for the fun of it.

As always, thanks for reading. And also thanks again to my colleague Basti.

More shades of grey, and three portraits in one

I’m currently re-reading EGOR’s blog, which I can only recommend to each and every photographer out there. And doing so chronologically, I’m at the moment reading his three-part post about the Leica Monochrom, starting here.

Like Mike Johnston, he suggested something like a monochrome digital camera even before it was invented. And like both of them, I support the idea of it, but I’m with Mike in that the resulting real camera is about 20 times too expensive for me, regardless of what its current happy owners might say.

And because at the moment even a shiny new Olympus Pen-F or a surely very nice Fuji X-100T (which aren’t monochrome but which have nice emulations) are also way out of my budget (hey, we just bought some tickets to Malaysia a couple of days ago, and it was about time!), I’ll have to do with what I have. And sometimes, I really like the results, like in this collague:

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Perceptions (or: how we mostly see each other)

The two pictures on the left were taken with the camera you see in the other one, so it’s both my E-M10 and my E-PL5 which share the same sensors anyway. If you want to see how these cameras translate colours into shades of grey, here’s a photo of my ColorChecker which I took yesterday:

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And I took that one short before noon under a very overcast sky:

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As always, minimal to none post processing on these, tho I always use Olympus Viewer 3 and RawTherapee to make jpgs out of the raw orf files – OV3 does pretty much the same what you can do in-camera as well. And RT sometimes adds only some Exif data like a title, and some tags…

It’s the photographer, not the camera(s), so get out and take some photos.

Thanks for reading.

Zuleikha, with old and new lenses

When I got up this morning, Zuleikha and Mitchie were making an apple cake. And I started documenting the procedure with the 14mm lens on my E-PL5 and the 25mm lens on my E-M10 cameras.

Later I told them that I could have taken most of the photos with the Olympus 12-40mm zoom lens (for about 1k€), and some even with the “kit” lenses we have, because I used apertures like f/5.6 with that 14mm lens. But this one wouldn’t have been possible with any other lens, since I’ve used my 25mm wide open at f/1.4:

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Waiting for the cake

Later I read about old lenses on new cameras, and thought about what I have, like the OM G.Zuiko 50mm/1.4 manual focus lens from my OM-2N film camera. And since I was trying to get some kind of film look lately, I decided to try it again on my digital camera (we still have some film, but that’s not fast enough for low light):

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Zuleikha

I cropped that image to a square format, which in my opinion added to some kind of film impression (medium format was also very popular during that time, and many of these produced square negatives).

That image is certainly softer than the one from the modern lens, which was to be expected. But soft isn’t too bad for portraits; I remember one of Yousuf Karsh‘s (famous) clients asking him to have mercy on her. So for portraitists, a lens like this wouldn’t be a bad choice at all – you save lots of (artificial) brush strokes in post processing if you’re more merciful from the get-go. Not that our 11-year-old girl would need it, but for adults this could be an advantage… 😉

Technical info about the last one: this was with the lens on aperture f/4, and with 1/8th of a second at ISO 1600. The main light was a halogen flood light against the ceiling but across the room, full power at 250W. And to Zuleikha’s right (picture left), you have our 5 Watt LED reading light. Camera on tripod, of course manually focused. Added a bit contrast with the Olympus Viewer 3 using an S-curve (Highlights +2, Shadows -3), and blacks, Exif and ITPC data with RawTherapee.

Oh, and the apple cake is delicious. We’ll have the rest of it tomorrow.

Thanks for reading.

Got a grip

One of my birthday presents this year – and one I didn’t expect, so I was surprised about it – was an ECG-1 camera grip for my Olympus OM-D E-M10 camera. This is how it looks, photographed with my E-PL5 at 17mm (and you see part of Mitchie’s E-PL5 with her VF-4 viewfinder in the background):

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Got a grip

I had removed that from my wish list since a while, but now I’m glad that I have it (as long as you still get these, I think the newer E-M10 Mk2 has a slightly different one).

Thanks for viewing.

50mm vs. 35mm

An old discussion, I know, but I just (re-) found some good articles and a HCB interview, so here they are:

1. Why Henri Cartier-Bresson used a 50mm lens.
2. Why I switched from 50mm to 35mm as a primary lens for street photography.
3. HCB interview in the NYT (part 1 and part 2)

Enjoy reading.

Oh, and if you have zoom lenses only, or never used your fixed lens much, do it: set your zoom to 50mm (equivalent if it’s a “crop” camera with an APS-C or (µ)43rds sensor), or to 35mm (equivalent), and keep it there. Mike Johnston says “for a year”, but if you take your camera with you often enough and take lots of photos, then maybe you’ll learn a bit faster.

I do. I mean I’m still learning. At 59…

A simulated film look

Yes, I sometimes use film in my Olympus OM-2N camera. And so does Zuleikha in her Olympus OM-1. But how do you get close to the look of film when using digital cameras? Easy, you say: buy Silver Effects, bind it into Photoshop or Lightroom, done.

Not so fast, young lad…

Last week, Olympus came out with their digital reincarnation of the Pen-F camera they once had (and which used film, but made two exposures on each 24x36mm frame in portrait mode). This new Pen-F has both colour and black & white film emulation modes, like some other cameras (Fuji for instance) had it before. And then there’s the Leica Monochrom of course, and people love all these. Film look out of the camera; perfect.

So does that mean that you have to spend money on a new Pen-F, any of the Fujis or even that Leica? Or spend money for Photoshop, Lightroom plus 3rd party plugin software?

Not really. Since a while we have that in open source land as well – Pat David and some others created a very nice “film pack” for both Gimp and also RawTherapee – see his website for all the possible emulations.

I have that in RawTherapee since a while as well, so let’s have some Kodak Tri-X look on two of yesterday’s photos:

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Both taken with my Olympus OM-D E-M10 camera and the Zuiko Digital 50mm/2 macro lens at f/2.8. “In-camera” black and white conversion simulating an orange filter, which you can also apply afterwards in Olympus Viewer 3 (I’ve got the brand new 2.0 version today, for free). Film simulation with RawTherapee, and the “film pack” described above.

No, it’s not film. But it comes close.

Oh, and Zuleikha took my photo – danke Schätzchen!

P.S.: here’s another one which I took some minutes ago. Same processing, same Tri-X emulation:

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Thanks for viewing.