Duck in the sun

From this morning, behind the office building in which I work:

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Duck in the sun

Thanks for viewing.

One of the very few…

Man oh man, time surely flies. And it’s one week since my last blog post, and to be honest, I also didn’t take many photos during the last week. Why? See my last article – we’re all enjoying a new set of speakers I bought (and thanks again for the suggestion, bro!), and since then I was reading tests, forae, and emails about buying a new receiver or amplifier as well. And in the evenings I sometimes just sat and listened – to music, and later to TV as well.

Here’s one of the very few photos I took during the week. I had put in a Santana CD for Mitchie, and after having a shower, Zuleikha joined us and was reading the lyrics of the song which was just playing. Changed it to black & white, and also cropped it square:

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Zuleikha, listening to a CD after her shower

Now we have pretty much decided on what to get, and on Saturday we’ll see if we can find the device somewhere so we can listen to it a bit.

Thanks for reading.

Not there yet…

I’m not writing that much at the moment. And the reason is that I’m listening to the best CDs I have – since I followed my brother’s advice and got a new set of speakers.

Now I know how bad the rest of our system is 😉 So it’s a question of time until we also need a new amp or receiver. Meanwhile, I was listening to this:

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I’m Lester the nightfly… with a new set of speakers

So give me a little time. There will be more photographs.

Thanks for visiting and for reading.

Two with the ZD 40-150mm

My brother asked about longer focal lengths, and so I decided to use mine today again. Mitchie and me both have the original Four Thirds Zuiko Digital 40-150mm zoom lenses, and both are very nice. Not the fastest ones to zoom when used with the contrast detection autofocus of the “Pen” cameras, but still.

Here are two of the photos I took today, the first on our veranda, the second one during a Sunday walk:

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Cat in the sun. Cropped 5:4 during post processing. 150mm wide open at f/5.6.

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Which way should we go? 102mm wide open at f/5.1.

No sharpening for both, in fact – as almost always – nothing much “post processed” anyway.

Thanks for viewing.

May. One image a day.

Well, the weather still is nothing much to write home about, except that it’s single digit Celsius while I write this. And so most of the activities are indoors. I also didn’t take too many photos since the beginning of May, but here is one from each of its first three days:

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Zuleikha on her Mama’s computer, May 2014

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Ducks at a koi pond

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A small and old surround receiver

The first one is just one of the many portraits I take of Zuleikha growing up. She was sitting on her chair at the dining table, and using Mitchie’s notebook. E-PL5 camera with the 45mm lens almost fully open at f/2.2.

I took the second one yesterday during my lunch break, shooting “from the hip” with tapping on the upwards angled display of the camera. Same camera, lens, and even aperture as in the first one I think, except that this is ISO 200, and the first one indoors was ISO 800. Cropped this one to a 16:9 format.

The third one from today shows our small and old surround receiver, which I reactivated today. We don’t use it for surround since we’ve moved into this flat, and I’m planning to get a pair of better speakers for stereo at least. In fact I prefer stereo to surround because the latter takes away the room you live in, while the stereo mode actually makes use of it. Let’s see how that turns out, and if that smallish receiver has enough power for better speakers. The sound quality can only win.

Ok, now I’m off to listen to a recorded TV series from yesterday over the old speakers on that receiver. In case you’re wondering what I’ll watch: it’s “Luther“, with Idris Elba, whom I liked a lot in “The Wire“.

Thanks for reading.

Profiling the E-PL5 for “bad” weather

It’s the first of May, and the weather is still what we call “April weather” sometimes – rainy, overcast, and a bit too cold. Perfect “portrait weather”, as Michael Johnston wrote lately, and looking outside I thought that until now I’ve never made a camera profile for this kind of weather.

I’m a raw shooter. I find that raw images give me more latitude and some kind of a “safety net” for later manipulations, in case I got the white balance or some other parameters not like I intended, or like I saw the original scenes. But basically, Olympus colours and jpgs are very nice, and I like and use them a lot. I’ve set my camera to a custom profile – based on the camera’s “natural” one, but with both saturation and contrast set to “-2”. Set that way, I can later decide how to deal with the picture, and by default it gives me the widest possible dynamic range plus colours which aren’t overly saturated. That’s my starting point, and taking a photo of my ColorChecker Passport test target with these settings (and with an exposure correction of -0.7EV (2/3 stops) to avoid blown highlights), a typical out of camera picture would look like this:

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Like I said, a starting point for making a profile, not much more.

My usual “workflow” (if you would call an amateur’s efforts “work”) would be like this: since I like and like to keep these famous Olympus colours, I use the Olympus Viewer 3 software (on a small virtualized Windows7 image on my Linux machine) to make a 16 bit .tif file from the original .orf. Here I apply basic exposure and/or white balance corrections, or sometimes I even decide that “-2” was too much for (or too little) saturation or contrast. Then I shut down my small Windows image again and continue using the free and open source RawTherapee raw converter to add some image descriptions, and to do the final corrections (it shows you blown channels like no other, and should the image benefit from some additional sharpening – which I rarely do these days – it also has tools far superior to these in other raw converters). With RawTherapee I make the final .jpg, ready for export to Flickr or to send for printing.

An image made with this usual workflow (which is faster than it reads here) then looks more like this:

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Olympus E-PL5 and 45mm/1.8 profiling shot, out of camera .orw to .tif to .jpg (my normal workflow)

Nice enough for 99% of what I do. But like pros like Ming Thein once said: Olympus colours are nice, but not very accurate, so there might be that 1% chance that you need something profiled, even if you don’t regularly work in advertising like he does. So using some other tools, I’ve made a profile for this combination of camera, lens, and light.

To do that with the ColorChecker Passport and the software provided with it, you first have to convert your proprietary .orf raw image to the .dng format – this ColorChecker wouldn’t accept anything else. You can download a free DNG Converter from Adobe if you need to do that – and some other cameras (like the ones from Pentax and Leica if I’m informed correctly) save in that free format anyway.

Now, with the .dng file, you can make your profile – the target is usually detected automatically, but you should avoid to overblow the whites in it when shooting – or you’d have to shoot again.

That profile is then stored in a .dcp format, but RawTherapee and many other raw converters need an .icc file instead. Luckily, there’s also another converter for this.

After storing that .icc profile where all others also are (on a Linux machine, that would typically be something like /usr/share/color/icc), you can use it and make a one-click input profile like “epl5 45mm rainy overcast” or whatever you’d want to name it. And if you apply all this on the .dng image you’ve just made, you’ll get something more like this:

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Olympus E-PL5 and 45mm/1.8: profiling shot “rainy, overcast” (from DNG)

Of course, converting every image to a .dng file first would be a bit cumbersome, so you can as well take the out-of-camera .orf and use that one:

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Olympus E-PL5 and 45mm/1.8 profiling shot, rainy and overcast, from .orf

There are still tiny differences between these two, which might come from RawTherapee’s interpretation of white balance mostly. Where both the Olympus Viewer 3 as well as the Adobe and ColorChecker tools agree that this image (shot with automatic white balance with the option keep warm colors = “off”) had a setting of 6457K (Adobe and ColorChecker made this 6500K), and even RawTherapee thought so when using the .dng file, with the original .orf loaded into RawTherapee that software displayed some 2000K more. I don’t know which one’s correct – I’m not an expert on colour that much to understand what’s going on behind the scenes, but as you can see, both are very usable as a starting point again.

I don’t know if there’s any interest in the profiles I made, or how many of you (I don’t) expect Vogue or GQ to knock at your doors and ask you for their next cover magazine shot. If there’s any interest or demand, then let me know – I could upload that .icc or even .dcp profile for light of around 6500K here or to something like Dropbox to make it available.

Update: just uploaded the original .orf and .dng image and the profile in .dcp and .icc combined as a .zip file to my Dropbox. So if you want these, you can find them there.

Anyway: like always, thanks for reading.

A 135mm equivalent angle of view

Today I was in the mood for something a bit longer than usual. When I started with analog film photography, I had lenses with 28, 50, and 135mm, and I wanted to see and to get a feeling for the latter again.

On Four Thirds and Micro Four Thirds cameras, you have sensors with roughly a quarter of the area of film, which means they have a so-called “crop factor” of two. So as a substitute for my 135mm film-aera lens, I had to use something around 67.5mm to get an almost similar angle of view (beside the differences in formats; (Micro) Four Thirds has a 4:3 format, while 24x36mm film was of course 3:2).

The only lens I have in that focal range is my Zuiko Digital 40-150mm zoom lens, so I decided to use that one today, first on the Olympus E-520 DSLR, and later with a cheap Viltrox autofocus adapter on my E-PL5 “Pen”-type camera. So here are some photos I took with that lens today:

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Toys on Arno’s monitor. E-520 with the lens at 64mm.

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Through the roof of Arno’s car. E-520 with the lens at 64mm.

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Soup. E-520 with the lens at 67mm.

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Corpse. E-PL5 with the lens at 70mm.

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Zuleikha. E-PL5 with the lens at 67mm.

Differences? Well yes. First, the lens was made for the phase detection autofocus of the DSLR. Which means it’s lots faster on it, but not as precise as on the Pen which uses a contrast-based autofocus technique. Second, it’s sharper on the “Pen”, not only because that one has more megapixels (16 instead of 10), but also because it has a much thinner or almost non-existent anti-aliasing filter in front of its sensor. And another part of the reason for the higher sharpness is the contrast-based autofocus – I said already that it’s more precise than fast.

As part of my DSLR double zoom kit, this lens was and still is an absolute bargain, and as such an easy recommendation. If you have – or plan to get – a Micro Four Thirds camera, there’s also an M.Zuiko version of it today, and some dealers offer these as a rip-off from double zoom kits from around 150€ or so, which is still a very nice proposition.

If – like me – you have a Micro Four Thirds camera and like faster lenses or even fixed focal length lenses, you have several other options in that focal range:

– the Panasonic 35-100mm/2.8 zoom is one of them. Costly, but very very good. And Olympus is planning to release something similar, even with a tripod collar if I remember correctly
– the cheapest fixed focal “prime” lens option with autofocus would be the Sigma 60mm/2.8 “Art” lens, of which I keep reading only the best comments. Very nice portrait lens or general short tele for not too much money (around 200€ or so)
– then there is the probably most versatile one: the Olympus 60mm/2.8 Macro. Maybe three times the price of that Sigma, but if you want or need a macro lens, it’s worth every penny of it. Comparable with my Zuiko 50mm/2 macro, which says a lot.
– and last not least one of the kings or poster childs of Micro Four Thirds: the awesome Olympus M.Zuiko 75mm/1.8 – probably the best lens of the whole system so far. Costs about as much as the Panasonic (or Olympus) zoom, but if you really want to “melt” away the background of portraits with Micro Four Thirds, you don’t really have any better option. For even shallower depth of field, you would need one of the old, heavy, and super expensive Zuiko Pro Grade lenses with aperture 2, which are still available bust cost north of 2000€. Or you’d need a real 135mm/2 on a “full frame” camera. The cheapest of these would be a Canon 135mm/2 which is offered starting slightly under 1000€ (like the 75/1.8 from Olympus). See this or this photo from Elena – or more from her impressive collection – to get the idea.

Thanks for reading.

Black and white conversion

Took the same photo on film and digital today. Here’s the digital one:

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Bird feeder

The one on film will be developed later, as usual. And here I made the black and white conversion for a change, not the camera. Tried to emulate a film look a bit, without the grain.

Thanks for viewing.

Just a flower on our table

Cropped to a 5:4 format, which leaves a bit less than 15MP:

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A flower on our table (Phalaenopsis). LED reading light, ca. 5W. Manually focused (tho I didn’t have to, the AF worked just fine). Minimal post processing like always.

Thanks for viewing.

A universal digital back?

I’ve read an almost similar quote in the past already, and in fact it was partly the reason for me to get into the mirrorless µ43rds system. But it’s even more true for the Sony A7 family with their “full frame” sensors which almost have the exact same size like 135 film used to have. To quote Giles about it:

“So , if you are familiar with mirrorless cameras, they aspired to become a universal digital back, because their short distance to flange allowed them to accommodate any FF35 lens, with no need to correct the crop factor which other systems have (as high as 2x, in the case of m4/3) with a focal reducer.”

(from his article in “Sony A7, or the Lego FF System“)

Right. The price, body-only of the basic A7 (24MP) model here in Germany is 1230€ (at Amazon and others, partly with free shipping). And I would have a really good Olympus OM 50mm/1.4 which would be very nice to have on such a camera.

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Those 50mm lenses on the “Pens” (I used the OM Zuiko 50mm/1.8 at f/5.6 here, hand-held at 1/8 of a second at ISO 800, which wouldn’t have been possible on these Sony cameras, since they don’t have image stabilization built in. So using these I would have had to use an even higher ISO setting, or a tripod. Cropped to 3:2 format during post to get a feeling for that other format again.)

My brother Willi has a Canon FD 50mm/1.8, a Canon FD 24mm/2.8, and a Sigma Zoom with Canon FD mount which would also be very nice when used with such a non-crop digital sensor. Both the resolution and also the dynamic range couldn’t be met with smaller systems like APS-C or µ43rds, which makes that thought a very tempting one indeed. That new Sony system doesn’t have all the native lens options that Canon or Nikon have for their DSLRs, but as a mirrorless system with a built-in electronic viewfinder at an even lower price than these older DSLRs, the Sony would be superior at least when used with these “legacy” lenses anyway.

Thinking about it since a while already…