Friday, May 23, 2014

Leica ~ from BBC Magazine

Leica cameras were unique, strong, and very capable photographic tools.

Years before the Flapping Mirror of SLR became the industry standard (ie: Nikon, Contax, Zeiss, Canon), Oskar's cameras came with a rangefinder to focus lenses and a nearly silent shutter.  The shutter was so good that the cameras could be used in US courts of law where nothing else was allowed.  Who needed ultra-wide or super-long lenses when "real" reporters/photographers entered the fray and became part of the action?

I owned two M3 with a 5cm f/1.5 and a 35mm f/3.5.  I got some great photos with those old hockey pucks and only recently sent some of the old negatives to be recycled.  They were fun cameras.

With the advent of digital, Leica has struggled to recreate it's former Film Days Dominant Differentiation from the strongest players (Canon, Nikon, Sony, Fuji, Sigma, etc).  Image quality is no longer Leica's strongest suit.  Product pricing is, it seems to me.  They can charge whatever they want and Leica cultists willingly shell it out.  This, even as image makers costing a fraction of a Leica are demonstrably better.

Price.  Such is the lasting power of "brand."  The brand is, yes, rather Long in the Tooth, now.  We've Turned a Corner and it's fun to see retrospectives and historical essays on the topic old camera gear.  It's easy to wax nostalgic, me-thinks.

BBC Magazine is running a visual article on their site just now, wherein you can see how it enabled very creative photographic expressions.  Leica cameras remain one of the strongest icons of the Film Age.  Here in Paris Henri Cartier-Bresson posters are plastered about and he's holding a IIIf (or somesuch).

I wonder if BBC Magazine will run a similar article on Rolleiflex twin-lens cameras?  There too was a unique, strong, and very capable image making tool.  How hard it would be to demand equal time for other creative imaging tools?

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Summer 2014 ~ Things to Do in and around Paris

Have a camera?  In or around Paris this summer?  Here is a short list of fun things to do:

7 to 8 June -
14 to 15 June -
2 to 6 July -
  • Japan Expo 2014 ~ Anime, Manga, Cosplay, Lolita.  It's how France's youth "puts on the dog."
4 to 6 July -
3 August -
Year round -

la traversee de Paris ~ hivernale ~ 2014

...and from the first half of the year...

Couldn't attend as we were headed back to the States to clear out Plan B, our storage unit - 30 March -
  • Carnival of Women ~ Men and women dressed up as royalty, queens, and other femininity.
Couldn't attend as we were deep into a Mook project with M.Morgan - 2 March -
  • Retromobile ~ Old cars, motorcycles, and motor memorabilia at la porte de Versailles.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Considering macro work...

I recently stumbled on a few seriously beautiful images by

The way the background and foreground elements are thrown out of focus, as well as the lighting and of course the sharpness of the central subject all attracted my attention.  He seems to have used a Sigma 150mm f/2.8 macro shot at f/2.8 (if the EXIF info is accurate).

This made me wonder what was in my own kit that might do something similar should I ever find the right combination of bugs and light.  So I threw a couple New Yorker Magazines on the table, set up the tripod, hauled out the Canon 7D, opened it up in Live-View to v.carefully focus the bunch of lenses I had on hand.  Here's what I took a look at -
  • Pentax Takumar-Macro 50mm f/4
  • Nikon Nikkor Micro 55mm f/3.5
  • Nikon Nikkor-H 85mm f/1.8 with cheap Chinese extension tubes
  • Canon 24-105mm L f/4 at 105mm
  • Nikon Nikkor-Q 135mm f/2.8 with cheap Chinese extension tubes
  • Canon 70-200mm L f/4
Be sure to enlarge the attached image to 100 percent and scroll around the screen to see comparisons at different apertures.

A couple things to note -

  • Cheap Chinese extension tubes do NOT hold EOS mount lenses securely.  The lens tilts from it's own weight.  I'm thinking of throwing mine into the recycle and buying something more properly made.
  • Lenses not designed for macro work seem just as sharp as those made for the task.  Look at everything at f/4 and f/5.6.  There's nothing _not_ brilliant in the bunch.  At f/2.8 the 85mm and 135mm Nikkors are very nice optics indeed.
  • The Honeywell Pentax Takumar Macro racks out to 1:1 _without_ the need for extension tubes.  The Nikon Micro 55mm only goes to 1:2.  Yes, all the non-Canon optics are old manual focus and require an EOS adapter and careful work to get decent results.
  • Short lenses need closer working distances to a subject.  In this case I was around 12 inches from the subject when using the short lenses.  I can see why folks who photograph bugs like the longer macro optics.  They'd give the photographer work to work with.
  • The Canon L-lenses are great and focus rather closely.  I'll have to see when I get into the field, but at first blush, these are sufficient for the task.  If not, the Takumar or Micro Nikkor are very light and small and won't be any problem carrying with me "just in case."
  • If you don't have the dosh for a new-wowy-zowy AF macro, old manual focus lenses can be rather inexpensive.  Things start selling around 25USD for early f/4 50/55mm lenses to 300USD for the "high end" multi-coated 100mm f/2.8 stuff.  I see that Olympus' 90mm f/2 Macro from the old OM series still fetches north of 500USD.  Which means either it's a brilliant optic or it contains just the right amount of "un-obtainium" to keep the prices higher than even new AF macros.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Mook Release! - working with writers in France...

In the month leading up to our short return to the US we were very busy.  With the help of my wife, Judith,  I worked to create a series of images for a mook (magazine/book) called Fiction - la revue qui defie la gravite.  French writers Étienne Barillier and Arthur Morgan provided the story-lines. 

We worked with a crowd of models that M.Morgan organized.  Images were made around the streets of Paris and in the studio.  It was quite the mix of serious "strobist" situations.

Here is Fiction's blog.

M.Morgan has scheduled an apero for later this month where we get to see the finished product.  I can't wait to see how it all came out.

Ninja ~ out of the Age of Steam

Sunday, May 11, 2014


This is just in from Sony Rumors.  It's a piece about how Hasselblad might be folding.  As in: Closing it's doors.

If true, all I can say is Wow!

I owned a 500CM/80Planar/150Sonnar kit for a short time.  It took nice images.  But it kept breaking on me.  The springs in the rear light trap doors kept bending for no good reason.  The light traps in the film backs kept the light out for a year or two before needing to be replaced.  The in-lens shutters started to slow, even after recent CLA's by the factory.

That was years ago when I preferred my Rollei TLRs and Mamiya 7 systems.

Still, as far back as I can remember, Hasselblad was a seriously Class Act.  Saint Ansel used one.  Many fashion and wedding photographers used them.  Some of the best photos of several generations were made using Hasselblads.

When I worked in a Black and White photo lab on Sunset Blvd, we could always tell a 120 negative print from a 35mm print.  It didn't matter the film nor the subject nor the final print size.  The medium format advantage was always clear.

When digital came to town, Hasselblad offered backs that worked on their old 500-series cameras, and entered into an agreement with Fuji to sell the H-system.  Like whomever owned the Rollei name, Hasselblad continued to offer film cameras too, perhaps for those Luddites who weren't ready to Jump Ship.

The world had changed out from under these great marques.  Rollei stopped making cameras and Hasselblad tried to expand their market by offering small-ish rather odd Lunar and Stellar cameras.

The days when Rollei, Hasselblad, and Leica could show clear advantage over other image making systems are long gone. For me, the first nail in Hasselblad's coffin came when a rather famous photographer held two large prints up and asked a working pro-photographer audience which camera had made which print.  One print came from a Canon 5D MkII.  The other from a medium format digital camera with more pixels. 

Any advantage medium format had during film days had been lost in the digital era.  The proof was in the print.  A 35mm full frame digital camera could turn out an image every bit as technically brilliant as the larger "medium format" sensored, much steeper priced Hasselblad/Mamiya/PhaseOne systems.

I doubt Hasselblad is really finished.  Not yet, at least.  They recently announced an H-series camera that will now carry a new CMOS sensor.  If Hasselblad is able to sell these in sufficient volume I'm sure they'll keep their doors open for business, even if it continues to be Fuji building the cameras and now Sony (not Kodak) providing the sensors. 

Stiff competitive "head winds" continue to arrive with the announcement of Pentax's lower priced cameras that carry the very same Sony "medium format" sensor.  To add gas to the Hasselblad funeral pyre, Sony is rumored to be working on their own MF camera system that may look and feel a lot like that old lovely Mamiya 7.

The Hasselblad brand, at least, still may mean something to some people.  For how much longer?  It's difficult to tell.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

... so many words... [2]

I found this over on Canon Rumors in the Forum section.  Check out what he says around the 3 minute mark and see if it doesn't strike a nerve or a cord or say a truth of some kind or other.

I'm glad folks are thinking seriously about their "needs" as compared with their "desires."

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

... so many words...

I try to write about the contrast between marketing and equipment fan-boy perceptions, the reality of photographic equipment and it's capabilities, and the art of photographic expression.  It's far too easy for me to get wrapped up in the minutiae of trivialities.

Every now and then I come across something that helps Clarify Things.

Today, Bill Gekas posted a link to an article through his Facebook page that really caught my attention.

If you are passionate about photography as an avenue of creative self-expression, take a moment and read DEDPXL Dispatch::CUBA.

Oregon Rail Heritage ~ the new shed