One small, one not so small, and a few thoughts

Two great reviews about gear small and big:

1. Laurence Kim about the new Sony RX100 III, and
2. Ming Thein about the Ricoh/Pentax 645Z

So, two interesting cameras without any doubt, the first would probably be something for one of my nephews who likes small cameras and Sony, the other one is of course of interest to anyone. But it leaves some questions, and the first one comes directly from Laurence:

“How good is good enough?”

– and for that Sony camera, he answers that for himself with:

“I’d say it’s more than good enough to use not just as my secondary camera, but as my primary camera for just about all my non-professional use.”

The second question, and about the second camera of course, is the one about price. How much are you going to or willing to spend, and how much to you have to spend for a camera? Ming writes about that Pentax MF camera:

“Granted, as relatively ‘cheap’ as the 645Z is, it is still going to be far too expensive – and too much weight – for most photographers to consider; it’s a niche product and overkill for pretty much everybody but a very small group.”

Right. With a price for the camera body being about the same as the one we paid for our used Toyota, we’re talking serious money here, and even a colleague who has a Nikon D800 (the normal, cheaper one, not the -E) told me today that as an amateur, he’s probably at the uppermost border of “investment”, and spending anything more wouldn’t make much sense – to justify that, he should make much more use of it than he actually does.

So what do you need, and how much do you have to spend for a camera, and possibly some decent lenses for it? That depends of course – a lawyer or a dentist would probably get a Leica while those of us who have a more modest income would think (or dream) about that for long.

For me? The amount I would probably spend on a camera body is maybe somewhere around €1,500 – for that, you’d get a professional µ43rds or APS-C mirrorless camera like the Olympus E-M1 or the Fuji X-T1, or you’d probably even get an entry-level “full frame” camera like the Sony A7, the Canon 6D, or the Nikon D610. Anything higher I’d consider overkill.

But is it necessary to spend even that much? Not really. An Olympus E-M10 or a Sony A-6000 or any consumer-level DSLR have almost the same image quality than their bigger and more expensive brethren, in fact the sensor of my (and Mitchie’s) E-PL5 and the OM-D E-M5 are the same. And that E-M5 was considered a game changer in µ43rds, and DPReview wrote that if you want and/or need more, you’d have to look at “full frame”, not at APS-C.

So, about €600 will get you a nice mirrorless Olympus or Sony (or Panasonic or Fuji) camera, and it would also get you some middle-of-the-road “consumer” DSLR which could be better for moving stuff (while mirrorless has other advantages).

But when lowest weight and form factor – maybe for traveling – are your thing, or if you simply demand the highest possible quality you can get today, have a look at these tests to which I linked above.

Thanks for reading.

That standard lens on my “Pen”

Both Kirk Tuck (on his blog) and my friend Thorsten Wieszniewski (with email) lately reminded me of my standard lens, which is a Panasonic Leica DG Summilux 25mm/1.4 on my Olympus E-PL5 “Pen”-type camera. And to both I replied that yes, it’s gorgeous, and one of the best we have. My blog header photo shows me using it, and take this quick snapshot for instance:

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Small purple bucket. Mixed light: daylight in the foreground, flash in the background.

Noticed the bokeh from the small standby light on our TV set? Here it is at 100% for all of us (you) pixel-peepers:

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Perfectly round at f/2 which I used here, isn’t it?

It’s my go-to lens, and because I have the 50mm macro on my DSLR, this 25mm rarely leaves my mirror-free smaller camera. It’s just that good.

Thanks for reading.

Nasim’s site

Do you know the Mansurovs? Well, as a Nikon photographer you may have heard of them, others probably not. But Nasim writes maybe the best camera reviews I’ve read so far, probably together with Gordon Laing and with Imaging Resource. And like Ming Thein for instance, he’s also photographer enough to show the potential of the gear he reviews.

Today he published his review of the Fuji X-T1, a camera which I handled too briefly to write anything meaningful about it. And as always, looking at the photos in his review, it’s much more than the “nice camera” I called it. See Gordon’s and Imaging Resources takes on the X-T1 as well if you’re really interested in that camera, or in cool review sites.

Nasim mostly writes about Nikon gear, because that’s what he and his wife are using. But he also has reviews about some other stuff, like the Olympus E-M5 and E-M1, some Canon or Sony, and even a Mamiya RZ67. Plus they also have useful articles and tutorials, so they’re well worth a visit. They? Yes, several people are writing there, see them on his “About Us” page.

So, Nasim’s site is called “Photography Life“, and well worth a visit (or as in my case, even a RSS bookmark).

My old and trusty

Today I took some photos with the DSLR again. And I even took off the 50mm macro lens which is normally mounted, and used the weakest one I have, at the weakest focal length and aperture. 10 Megapixels, and “only” about 10 stops of dynamic range when used at the lowest ISO setting. Did it matter? Not at all…

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Lavandula angustifolia

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“nubi”

Thanks for viewing.

Nice camera

Just came back home from a meeting of the IBM photo club, where a colleague brought his new Fujifilm X-T1 camera. He let me try it for a while, even with my own SD card in it, so I could take some photos home. Very nice, tho my raw converter doesn’t know the camera yet, and doesn’t demosaic its raw files which are not in the typical Bayer pattern. So I’ll show you some non-people shots, first of and then from the camera (from jpg in this case):

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Fujifilm X-T1 (shot with Olympus E-PL5)

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Olympus E-PL5 (from a jpg image out of the Fuji X-T1)

Nice camera. Oh, and it’s true what they say about its built-in electronic viewfinder – it’s gorgeous. As are the 23mm and the 56mm lenses (didn’t try others yet).

But even much more interesting were Alexander’s big prints which he also brought in a huge map. Like this one for instance:

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One of Alexander’s photos (most probably taken with a Nikon camera, not this new Fuji)

Next time I’ll ask him if he has some of them online, so I can link to them.

Thanks for reading.

Just a few quick snaps, with one of our favourite lenses

Today I mounted the Micro Zuiko 45mm/1.8 lens onto my camera. It’s my go-to lens for portraits, and it’s Mitchie’s go-to lens for about everything. And since I was thinking about that “everything” part, and the angle of view which you get with a lens which compares to 90mm on an older film camera, I pretty much knew what I would get. Here are a few shots I took:

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Flowers

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Clothespins

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Clothespins

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Cup

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Flower

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Speaker terminal

All of these were taken with an aperture of f/4, and all except the last one hand-held, so yes, from a composition or separation point of view, you could get almost the same results with a kit lens. Maybe just a tad less nice and acute than with this one (your typical kit lens would be at f/5.6 when zoomed fully out to 42mm, but to get sharp photos you’d probably have to step it down to f/8).

Still, as one who loves to take portraits, this would be the first lens I’d buy after a kit lens, even before getting a fixed focal “normal” lens, which would have around 25mm length for the (Micro) Four Thirds sensor.

You see, we both love this lens, and consider it essential. But as a “normal” kind of person, how should you decide which perspective and focal length you should get when buying your first prime after a zoom lens? Simple: leave your kit lens at 42mm for a week, and photograph everything with this focal length. Then, after a week or so, leave it at 25mm for another week (or even at 20 or 17mm). You’ll learn pretty fast what kind of perspective you prefer. And then go for it, you won’t be disappointed.

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.

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…