Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Now for the really difficult test...

I have to laugh to myself every time I read somewhere on the 'net (like over on DPReview, or MF Forums, or Fred Mirdanda's forums) that anyone can tell the difference between images made using Zeiss lenses and those made with something else. To some folks it appears that the magic is obvious. The Leica crowd sometimes behaves the same way. "This is the best lens there is and you can see the quality in your final print" they seem to be saying.

I have been testing lenses and cameras systems for over 15 years and have learned a thing or two about how commercially available optical systems behave. People who tell you they can see the difference between lenses, between manufacturers, or between focal lengths are just blowing smoke.


Want to try something that should be easy for kinds of folk who "know" their Zeiss or Leica lenses are visibly superior to all other makes? Click here and take a very close look at these results.

I used a Canon 7D camera. It was the highest density sensor of any DSLR currently made at the time I performed this test. The sensor can resolve 116 line pair per mm. You can calculate this from the number of image nodes in your file divided by the size of the sensor in mm's. To get line pairs per mm, divide the result by two. You will confirm that the Canon 7D is capable of resolving 116 lppmm. To me this says that if there are differences between lens resolution and/or recorded image contrast you should be able to see them quicker with the 7D than with other cameras, regardless of the number of pixels those cameras have. It's about the size of each sensor site, not the total number.

There are 9 lenses. The focal lengths go from 50mm's through to over 100mm's. There is a mix of Zeiss (oh ya, bring it on!, say's I), Nikon, Pentax, and Canon glass. Some of the lenses are very old indeed. Some are brand new. I guess I should say that there are three Nikkors, two Pentax, two Zeiss, and maybe a Leica lens or two, balanced out by Canon.

It will be impossible for folks to know, but did I start at f/1.2? f/1.4? or f/2? Did I end up at f/5.6 or f/8? Did I include zoom lenses or are these all primes? I did my best to achieve correct focus in all cases.

Each 300x300 pixel image is a 100 percent crop. I shot raw and used DPP to convert the result to jpg. To see differences between lenses I set the sharpness at 3 on the RAW tab of the Tools window in DPP. If I didn't do this, you would have an even harder time telling the differences between these lenses.

So... which lenses are which? Where are those Zeiss lenses? Did I throw in a Leica optic or two just to mix things up a bit? Did I really include a couple "ringers", including two or three or four lenses that cost less than $20 each?

You decide. And if you get it right, I'll buy you a beer.

I doubt anyone will come close, so let me take this opportunity to stress, once again, that it's better to have a lens than not, and that the sharpest lens in my kit is a tripod.

Said another way, I really do not believe that it matters what lens you use. If you are creative, then you are capable of making wonderful images, regardless of what equipment you own.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Testing the Sigmonster

This Fall while visiting my favorite Ducking Hole to see if my favored Buffleheads were back from their Summer breeding ground, I spied a gent with a rather nice lens. He had a Canon 40D mounted on a Canon 500mm f/4L IS. He may have had a 1.4x teleconverter on it too, though I can't recall with certainty. He seemed to be having a very good time.

I looked down at my Canon 7D mounted on a lovely Canon 100-400 f/4.5-5.6L and was instantly overcome with lens envy. The gent with the 500mm lens was able to reach out a lot farther than I was able. And, there were birds out there that I really wanted to photograph. Of course. This is how addition works, right?

After selling off a stack of unused glass, I was able to find a nice Sigma 300-800mm EX HSM f/5.6 lens. It arrived in good shape and I wanted to test it.

So here is a wee test. I used images taken with a Canon 24-105L and Nikon 55mm f/3.5 Micro as control lenses. These are as sharp as sharp can be. I also shot the Canon 100-400L to see how good the Sigmonster stood up against my favorite bird lens.

By clicking here, you can see the full sized results. These are 100% crops from a Canon 7D. Since the 18mpixel sensor has such a strong anti-aliasing filter, I added 3 sharpen in the RAW tab in to DPP Tool menu. 3 seemed to be a nice balance between the very soft straight out of the camera thru DPP converted JPGs and obvious over-sharpening.

The Sigmonster is a very fine lens. However, focusing the Sigmonster at 800mm's was a real bear! I'm not convinced I have the test target in focus. Look at how the Nikon 55mm f/3.5 performed at f/5.6 with the same two dollar bill details. The Nikkor was MUCH easier to focus than the Sigmonster. Still, one lesson may be to stop the Sigma down at least one stop when shooting at 800mm. It might be unacceptably soft wide open at that focal length.

The Sigmonster appears to out-perform the Canon 100-400L at 300mm and 400mm, but just barely. The 100-400 is a nice lens and holds it's own against the Canon 24-105L and Nikon Micro Nikkor. Though the shorter Canon zoom and the Nikon prime appear ever so slightly sharper to me, it's nothing that a little sharping with DPP can't clean up.

Bottom line, for me the combination of the Canon 100-400L and Sigma 300-800mm EX HSM will be wonderful to chase birds with. Both are sharp. Both focus nice and quick. Both respond well to the 7D's speed of handling and the DPP conversions to jpg.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

From the Age of Steam

I would very much like to connect with folks in the Portland, Oregon, Seattle, Washington, or San Fransisco, California cities who are this deep into the scene. I want to make more images based on the theme of Noir Victorian Gothic, Steampunk, and Tribal Fusion and am looking for folks willing to model in their regalia of their genre.

Monday, December 07, 2009


I received a very nice email from Marthyna. She publishes a belly-dance magazine called Papyrus. Marthyna asked if she could publish one of two images in an upcoming issue. I had to say "yes", "please", and "merci beaucoup!"

It is an honor and a pleasure to have my images show up in print like this. One of the following images should be published shortly.

Oregon Country Fair 2008 - Rachel Brice

Oregon Country Fair 2008 - Rachel Brice

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

All Hallows Eve

Alternative History - Age of Dystopia

I love Fall. It's my favorite time of the year. The colors of the leaves can be intense. The weather is crisp with just a biting hint at the Winter to come. There is time to work on images made the previous Summer.

I have had it in mind to migrate into the boarder regions of the art with a new for me style. I wanted to create my own images, using people's work like Miss Aniela and Brooke Shaden as my inspiration. The base images would be a continuation of variations on a theme of Steampunk.

Using the Open Source Photoshop equivalent called the Gimp, I needed to learn how to hide and reveal, clip, crop, size, and skew small bits of images. I wanted to take this new knowledge and blend it with the approaches I'd taken in using texture layers to see where the art would lead me.

Alternative History - Hunter

It didn't take long for me to get way in over my head and to begin to see the possibilities for a whole new approach to image making. In this new context, I really mean image making. With the stress on the word making.

Now that I see what is possible, I feel the pull to try and create a new body of work based on noir Victorian gothic, Tribal Fusion, and Steampunk themes. So stay tuned. The image found here may be just a stop-off point along my Muse's Path.

Alternative History - Age of Hunter

Friday, September 25, 2009

Twin Paradox Cafe' - show through October 2009

My Alternative History - Images from the Age of Steam show hangs at Twin Paradox Cafe, 8609 SE 17th Ave, Portland, OR through October 2009.

Artist statement:

Philosophies et Images

de l’autre cote’
du Multiverse
Capture Photonique des Age
de Victoria,
de Vapeur,
de Tribal,

de Shamanism,
de Punk

I have stumbled upon something improbable, something astounding, something of incredible rarity and beauty which I would now like to share. Images from across a “Seam” that has suddenly opened between various Ages have, quite unexpectedly, become available to this our current Age. These photonic creations have withstood the incredible stresses of alternative reality Multiverse time sharing to be revealed here for perhaps the first time in this, the post-Modern Age.

To the contemporary mind, the best explanation of what can take place in parallel Ages of alternative reality goes something like this: Think about what might have happened if Victorian Age steam power was never supplanted by oil. Think of how a Victorian Age Steam culture might have evolved as new technologies and applications were made upon culture and society. Ponder a moment on how a Shamanic or Tribal Age might have grown as tribes and peoples lived and learned and applied their crafts and talents. Or consider the impact of a continuing vibrant and fully functional Noir Gothic society.

The tear in the fabric of the Multi-verse, the “Seam” between Ages which have allowed these photonic creations to pass this way appears to have weaved itself once again closed. As time passes, the portraits from other Ages have become ever more tattered and torn. A significant amount of information has been lost.
These are amongst the last alternative reality photonic portraits to pass this way. However, if anything further comes my way, I will be quite joyed to share them.

Your Humble Servant – Christopher Mark Perez
~ Original Photographic Prints ~

$200 – matted, framed

Care has been taken to ensure the highest and most long lasting qualities in the preparation of photographic images and related materials. Prints are prepared using 200 year archival pigment on acid free cotton fiber papers.




Sunday, September 06, 2009

ProPhoto Supply - Gallery Show

A portion of my In the Railyard is showing through the month of September, 2009 at ProPhoto Supply in downtown Portland.

So as you head down to order your new Canon 7D, take a moment and have a look in the entry way gallery before you talk to Dave Cleary about your new toy.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Great Oregon Steamup 2009

As I work with the 1080p video capability of the Canon 5D MkII, I begin to see some interesting possibilities. The image quality is quite outstanding. A friend says that standard definition video (640x480) gives you a sense of how something is shaped. He says that 1080p gives you the texture of the thing. I couldn't agree more.

I have been editing videos using Sony's Movie Studio Platinum Plus. It's a nice application that allows me to create 1440x1080 digital cinema materials. The capabilities of the software suite is pretty good. The only thing I would like (without having to pay more for it, of course) would be additional blend options for merging video track 2 onto video track 1.

Each year in Brooks, Oregon a group of steam powered farmers haul out their great collections of equipment to share with the public. These events are held over two weekends; the last weekend in July and the first weekend in August.

This year I spent time with the steampowered tractors. They are awesome good fun. Next year I should spend a little time in the steampowered sawmill sheds. That thing is definitely not something a person should try to recreate at home. LOL!!!

Anyways, until then, here is a short video of one of the earlier tractor designed engines.

Friday, August 14, 2009


Portland Photographers' Forum


This Month's Meeting: Wednesday, August 19, 7:00 p.m.
Guest Speaker: Christopher Perez
Alternative Histories
alt histories "Ideas for my large multi-year photographic image projects arrive when least expected," Chris Perez says."As I read various novels by Jules Verne, Tom Robbins, Ian Banks, Terry Pratchett, and Susanna Clark I could almost see what images from Alternative Histories might look like. In similar time, I worked with Tribal Fusion bellydancers to see where I might be able to take a related idea. Talking with NagaSita (one of my models) I learned that there are active communities of people engaged in the pursuit of Alternative History ideas of Tribal Fusion, Noir Victorian Gothic, and Steampunk. These styles are based on the idea that we live not in a uni-verse, but rather, in a vast multi-verse of time coincident Alternative Realities, just like the novels I was reading."

"My photographic project swiftly incorporated these ideas and extended them to include the thought of how image might look as they pass through a "seam" between the various multi-verses. There would be hints familiar to us, such as graphic design elements from 1880 Paris, France. Images would be stressed and somewhat distorted due to the pressures placed on them as they passed through a "seam". Clothing styles could be emblematic, in the case of Steampunk, of what might happen if oil never replaced steam."

"This is how my overly active, geeky, complex mind works. This is how my Steampunk, Tribal Fusion, and Noir Victorian Gothic series of images came into being."

Bogville - Malachi

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


Someone provided a very nice calculation of the number of potential photographic art collectors about a decade before I ran a similar calculation. The difference between my calculation and this author is that I assumed all art and came up with a figure of a most 300,000 potential buyers in the USA. The author's calculation of 10,000 collectors of photographic art seems about right.

Without going into details, I feel the collector market for photography is indeed rather small. With a large number of artists vying for print sales, it puts pressure on photographers who work in the area of collectible photography.

No matter how you view it or what you believe, its important to understand the forces in play.

Monday, August 10, 2009


There is a rather unique way of finding images on Flickr. It is provided by FivePrime and is called Hive Mind.

I have started to use this as a means of finding the very best examples of a subject, style, or tool.

Here are links to semi-random subjects. Each page is sorted by Flickr's "Interstingness" property.

qtpfsgui - an Open Source HDR application

texture layers - a technique of image manipulation that I particularly like

Canon 5D MkII - a look at "interestingness" from the point of view of specific camera equipment

This is a brilliant way of swiftly reviewing the very best work to be found across the Flickr universe. If you ever wonder what the state of the art is, just take a look using this image filtering tool. You might be utterly and pleasantly shocked, just as I am.

Friday, July 31, 2009


I received the following email and am very excited by the opportunity.

Dear Christopher, Thank you for your interest in Photo Life. We would like to publish one of your images in our "Spotlight" column... Thanks Christopher... Kind regards, Xavier

Friday, July 17, 2009


My work through the Center for Fine Art Photography has been posted.

The Juror did not select me for any additional rewards. I feel inclusion of my work along side fourteen other artists is reward enough.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009


Here's a quick way to find one's own Flickr Images that made it to Explore.

It turns out that one of my images made it to #29!!! I'm amazed and, of course, quite happy.

Victorian Age of Steam

Friday, June 26, 2009

Ideas and how my images tend to evolve...

As I advance in years my photographic images are tending toward complexity. I used to feel that zen-like images of simplicity and austerity were a style I could explore for a very long time. Alas, after many trips to south India, I find that I love color, texture, line as well as detail. While not the only source of change, India has had a huge influence on me.

After reading a rather fun series of books about alternative histories, I thought it might be worth a photographic exploration of the topic. I started with Tribalism as expressed by bellydancers. Then I tried my hand at Steampunk. This video is of an image created out of one such photo-session.

The model is NagaSita. She is a local dancer and theatrical arts talent. The processing was performed in the PhotoShop Open Source equivalent called the Gimp. The evolution of the image clearly expresses the changes in how I felt as I worked the image to completion.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009


Such inspiration - if ever there was a body of work that I wanted to create, it would look like this


Stunning use of a Canon 5D MkII and 1080p digital cinema

Wasteland from Bombay Flying Club on Vimeo.

Monday, May 18, 2009


The Center for Fine Art Photography
400 North College Avenue
Fort Collins, CO 80524

May 18, 2009
Dear Christopher,

Congratulations! Your portfolio has been accepted for the Portfolio ShowCase Volume 3: Book and Online Exhibition at The Center for Fine Art Photography. Juror, Stella Kramer had the difficult task of selecting just 15 photographers from nearly 250 artists for this unique exhibition.

To view the portfolios that were selected, please visit the Center's website at www.c4fap.org. You will find the selected images and the information form under Jury Results in the bottom left corner of the Center's home page. Please complete and return the form provided.

Once again, congratulations on being selected for this exhibition.


Azarie Furlong
Exhibitions Manager

Hamidah Glasgow
Executive Director

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


News Flash! My Steampunk work will be shown thru the month of October at Paradox Cafe in Sellwood. Yea!!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Open Source Tools

Its quite strange, actually. I have a new high end HP laptop computer. It runs Vista64 with 4gig of RAM and am loading my favorite open source tools onto it.

When it came to the Gimp, I found v2.6 and v2.4 crash on a regular basis.

Gimp v2.2.17 is rock solid.

Oh well. So much for "eye candy". If the old version works? I shouldn't complain. There must be something in one of the libraries that isn't configured correctly for the systems I've tried to run v2.4 and v2.6 on.

Thursday, March 12, 2009


I have been exploring a whole new set of tools for going on two years now. The move from film to digital capture was the prime mover for me to learn about current tools capabilities.

My explorations included a deep look into multiple exposure high dynamic range with tone mapping. The results of that learning led to the LensWork publication of a 35 image portfolio title In The Rail Yard. I continue to be thrilled by the results.

Another exploration has been to capture waterfowl in flight. The latest tools offer capabilities I only dreamed of back when I shot film. So image capture has been much easier. This has freed me to work on lighting and location. Much of that work has been posted on my Flickr pages and continues to receive positive feedback from around the world.

Just below this posting you can see yet another exploration. I am now learning about digital cinema. The process of thinking through scenes and scripts and staging and lighting brings back experiences I had thirty years ago when I worked as a still photographer on a small number of AFI projects down in Los Angeles.

Imagine my surprise when I came upon an image that nearly knocked my eyeballs out of their sockets. I haven't dealt in straight image capture for years and yet here was something completely unexpected; a beautiful image coming very nearly straight out of the camera.

My daily life usually sees me carrying a small Canon G10 point and shoot camera. I use it to "sketch" ideas and to try and capture fleeting moments where a DSLR or film camera might be cumbersome. Recently my wife and I were walking up the street after buying a few loaves of bread. I happened to look down and spied a rather nice grouping of ivy leaves. Out came the camera and within seconds I had four or five images to work from.


Much later (like two weeks later) I browsed my image files to see if there might be something worth processing. I rendered a few images in color and then switched to applying a quad-tone tint. As I de-saturated the image my mouth dropped open. The effect impressed me beyond my imagination.

I watch the video linked to from this blog about James Ravilious. He liked uncoated pre-war optics for the way they opened the shadow areas and gave the highlight regions a beautiful creamy effect. That's one of the things about coming from 40+ years of tradition film photography. I'm able to take a moment and think about what actually happens when something like an un-coated optic is used to make an image. I can then attempt to re-create the effect using my current digital tools.

In the case of this image, I knew the shadow areas would've been open and quite details if shot with an uncoated Leica M39 lens. I also knew that the highlight areas would've either been "blown out" or rendered just on the edge of detail. Working the curves to achieve that effect on the file I was working with was quick, easy, and straight-forward.

There was a nice print in here just waiting for me to press the button.

Out came Hanemuhle's latest photo rag smooth (from their new factory in France).

Down came the special feed tray on the HP B9180 printer.

Press went the print button on the computer.

Out came what may very well be one of the finest prints I have ever made.

The highlights are perfectly placed. The shadow areas are gorgeous. The edges of the leaves returned an incredible micro-contrast in the way they overlay each other. The edges of the frame gave the effect that this was shot with an old Leica III-series film camera. The entire effect is one of incredible luminosity and brilliance.

This one is a "keeper".


News FLASH! - My In the Railyard work will be shown at ProPhoto Supply's entryway gallery during the month of September 2009.



Exploring the edges and limits of my new tools I continue to learn the craft of digital cinema.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Thursday, March 05, 2009


This gives such inspiration, direction, ideas, and hope. Wow. This was shot in Seville.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009


Another video effort. This was shot in 2 hours. In some ways, I wish I had a different setting. But I think it works in spite of the tight quarters.

With all the poor comments over on DPReview and various forums and groups about the Canon 5D MkII's lack of video controls, I was expecting production to be a challenge. Its not. The 5D MkII is a brilliant tool for creative expression.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A New Beginning...

An illustration of where I'm headed next? Only time will tell. Be sure to watch this in high quality too. I'm not sure how you get that without going to YouTube to see it thru their web engines.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

How I did this...

Alternative History - Age of Dystopic Victoria

The last time I spoke with my father we talked a bit about the current state of photography and art.

My father is a traditionalist. He learned the basics of photography from his father. He still uses film for his more serious work and enjoyed tinkering with different ideas and styles as the mood hits him.

Alternative History - Age of Witches

I sent along a DVD of my LensWork published work and interview. My father must've given it a listen and it might have left him somewhat bewildered.

In less than two years I have transitioned from large and medium format film systems and silver and palladium printing methods. Nowadays I use the latest generation digital tools and techniques. I have worked hard to leverage my knowledge of computer science to learn as much as I can about digital tools and techniques for image making. Until I spoke with my father I had no idea just how far and fast the movement has been.

Alternative History - Age of Tribal Steam

I had to laugh when he started talking about Richard Feinman. My father heard a story about Richard and his father. It went something like this: In the early days, Richard and his dad would talk about science and physics. Richard obviously enjoyed the subject. After years of research, Richard tried to talk with his dad about his latest findings and his dad had to tell him he couldn't understand a word he'd said.

Now I'm no Richard Feinman, so I had to laugh when my father shared this story with me and then told me he'd not understood a word I'd said in the interview. After I stopped laughing at the ludicrous comparison I had to think a moment to realize what my father was saying. It wasn't that I was some genius. I'm not. But rather that I have applied myself to a new set of tools and techniques that my father has little to no knowledge of, let alone how to manipulate and use them.

Steampunk Age

Is this an example of the growing gulf between the new and old ways of image making?

Monday, January 05, 2009


My new Super Toy arrived and what a 'beaut it is. Amazing how good a full frame DSLR can be and Canon has hit the target spot on with its new 5D MkII. This, in my NSHO.

I wanted to see what various lenses would resolve at on this big sensor'd camera. So I put a Canon 28mm f/2.8 EF, a 35mm f/2 EF, a Nikkor 28mm f/2.8 PC (perspective control), a Sigma 20mm f/1.8 EX and a Sigma 24mm f/1.8 EX before the torture chart and took a look at how the system of lenses and camera did, in USAF terms. I will post the results first and then provide a bit of commentary.

Canon 5D MkII + Canon 28mm f/2.8, measured in line pairs per mm (center/edge/f-stop)
missing data - f/2.8
68 34 - f/4
68 43 - f/5.6
68 54 - f/8

Canon 5D MkII + Canon 35mm f/2, measured in line pairs per mm (center/edge/f-stop)
62 20 - f/2
69 22 - f/2.8
69 30 - f/4
69 38 - f/5.6
69 55 - f/8

Canon 5D MkII + Nikkor 28mm f/3.5 PC, measured in line pairs per mm (center/edge/f-stop)
60 33 - f/3.5
67 38 - f/4
67 47 - f/5.6
67 47 - f/8

Canon 5D MkII + Sigma 20mm f/1.8, measured in line pairs per mm (center/edge/f-stop)
73 33 - f/1.8
73 33 - f/2
73 37 - f/2.8
73 46 - f/4
73 52 - f/5.6
73 57 - f/8

Canon 5D MkII + Sigma 24mm f/1.8, measured in line pairs per mm (center/edge/f-stop)
70 39 - f/1.8
70 39 - f/2
78 39 - f/2.8
78 44 - f/4
78 48 - f/5.6
78 57 - f/8

I found these results to be very interesting. First, the Canon and Nikon lenses are very fine. Every image I have ever shot with them have been sharp and contrasty. I was pleased with the Nikkor results as that lens provides enormous coverage that allows a full 11mm offset/rise/fall/shift. However, the real shock is the Sigma findings.

If you read DPReview and other forum sites devoted to slandering, slamming, and flaming everything and anything, one might be led to believe that Sigma could not build a fine lens to save their lives. Alas, nothing could be further from the truth.

Doing a little math, I found that the Canon 5D MkII's sensor is capable of giving 156 lines of information per millimeter. Switching the calculation around to line pairs per millimeter, the math says the sensor should give 78 line pair per millimeter. And that's just what the Sigma optics resolved at!!!

What's even more fun is that the 24mm Sig set me back less than 270USD as a demo unit picked up from Adorama. Better yet? The 20mm Sig set me back less than 260USD in LN condition from KEH. In short: SHOCKINGLY incredible optics for bargain prices!