Friday, July 29, 2011

A Blooming Morning Glory

This is one of my favorite flower pics. I love how the light catches the inside of the flower, making it glow in the shadow.

From fō-tō-gră-fē Photographs

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Some Tips For Practicing Photographers

I'm not a great photographer, if you couldn't tell from my photos. I've been learning, off and on, for the past few years. I started with an EOS 20D way back in 2004 to take product photos for a computer company that I was trying to start and haven't stopped since.

I've picked up a few nuggets of wisdom that generally fly in the face of most photographers. First, the big one, lens sharpness matters. Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying. Because if it doesn't matter, why do they all spend thousands upon thousands of dollars on sharp lenses? Because sharpness matters.

Not for the image, per se, but for the flexibility of that image. If you have a sharp lens, you can take a photo and then cut, chop, and otherwise mutilate the image without a significant reduction in final quality. A sharp picture on an 8MP camera is more flexible than a blurry picture taken on a 20MP camera.

My second bit of wisdom that I've learned is that anyone who tells you that it's not the camera, it's the photographer is lying. Yes, the photog matters a lot. A shitty photog will take shitty photos with a Leica just as well as with a Lomo. But think of it this way, a crappy hunter will kill nothing with a pea shooter or with a bazooka. But a great hunter still won't kill anything with the pea shooter.

I've taken some great photos with my cell phone, but not many, and only in very particular circumstances. Likewise for my point-&-shoot and any other recording device. What the tool is good at is critical to the final photo. And in most cases, to get the shot that makes people stop and go "wow" requires a beefy camera.

Not insanely beefy, mind you. But you do need a camera that's north of $500 bucks, and you'll need multiple lenses in the same area. The camera matters a lot for flexibility and being able to get ANY shot that comes your way.

A Garden Statue

From fō-tō-gră-fē Photographs

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Real Future Of Cameras: Up For Grabs!

I discussed in my previous post why I don't think that modular cameras will make it big in any market except for the top-pro market, where it is already succeeding, so why bother discussing it.

There is one avenue that manufacturers seem to be avoiding that certainly is the future: openess.

As we go into the future, the old models are becoming increasingly restrictive. You buy a camera and, frequently, can only really buy lenses from that manufacturer. You can only buy accessories from that manufacturer. And if that manufacturer totally borked something in the interface to their camera (Helloooo Fuji X100), you're stuck with it.

But imagine cameras that are widely intercompatible. Imagine lenses that work well on a variety of bodies. Imagine software over which YOU have control. This is the future.

To see that this is a viable and valid future, one only need look to the iPhone. How the hell does something with a crappy, little sensor become the most popular camera on Flickr, when there are NO other cell phones anywhere near the top 10? Simple. Openness.

The iPhone became a photographic tool because application developers were given access to the sensor architecture. They were allowed to expand the camera. It became more than a camera; it became a platform for photographic development and experimentation. We can compare the success of the iPhone to the failure of Nokia, who have always produced the best phone cameras. Nokia tried to produce things by themselves. They didn't foster a platform on which others could develop. They tried to maintain complete control. And we all know how well that is turning out for them.

That's why I like m4/3 and 4/3 so much. There are some limitations to the sensor, certainly, but the entire thing is much more open than Canon, Nikon, or Sony. I can mix and match Olympus and Panasonic, with a smattering of Voigtlander, and their products compete based on their merits, not on whether I'm locked into one system or another. Competition based on value and quality? What a novel idea!

The first camera company to make a camera with an API and a marketplace owns the future. It's that simple.

Favorite Photo: Vitesse

The earliest photography was basically all portraiture. No one wanted photos of THINGS. They wanted photos of themselves, in much the same way that the wealthy kept getting portraits painted. Don't laugh! We have the MySpace shot, afterall, so I'd argue that we're worse.

But by the early 1900's, the increased portability of cameras and film started to foster a sense of artistic possibility, and photos of things, scenes, and places started to emerge. But early on, before the likes of Ansel Adams, photographers thought that their goal should be a movement away from the high-resolution, realistic photos that were being used for portrait shots.

Instead, aspiring artists needed to try to imitate painting with the camera. Photos should appear unrealistic, and instead appear impressionistic. It is in this vein that one of my absolute phavorite photos was taken. It is actually a photo, though it barely appears that way. I generally find myself drawn to this era of photography, I think, because the influence of those like the F/64 Group has been so total, that even if an image is bizarre and unrealistic, it strives for verisimilitude in itself. Focus is always sharp, exposure is always level. Really throwing these rules to the wind and trying to take photos that don't look like photos is thrilling, and especially difficult with modern equipment.

Robert Demachy: Vitesse (1903)

Yellow Wildflower

From fō-tō-gră-fē Photographs

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Dream Of Modular Cameras

Will Sony release an adapter for the NEX cameras that includes a mirror and prism? Perhaps, but I doubt it. If they do, it will be a stop-gap to a future of completely mirrorless designs. I also doubt that they are planning a modular design. Let me explain.

The market for modular cameras is very small, even in the pro community. Sure, lots of people think that they want one, but they don't. There would be, necessarily, extra cost and size associated with a modular design. It's one of the many reasons why RED ditched their Scarlet idea after so much already invested.

Small size will always be a virtue for cameras. Basically, if they can get smaller, they do. Would a modular Nikon D3x be unbelievably amazing? Probably, yes. But the D3x is already huge. Modularity is the dream of those who haven't lugged around a mega-SLR with telephone lens for five hours. It hurts.

Modularity will succeed in professional video... because it already has. It's been succeeding for eighty years. And again, there, it succeeds best with top pros. The smaller the budget and requirements, the further toward unibody designs the market shifts.

Even though I am a huge advocate of mirrorless cameras, I do not see a future without mirror's and prisms in the best still cameras. I've used all of the best-focusing mirrorless cameras, and also a Canon 5D Mark II and 20D. I like macro photography of bugs, which requires lots of high-speed focusing and refocusing. The mirrorless cameras, be they Panasonic or Olympus, can not even BEGIN to keep up.

Because of that reality, I doubt that Sony will ever go fully mirrorless. Sony has had a great deal of success in the point-&-shoot market, and smaller success in the enthusiast market. It's in the pro and semi-pro market where their sales have been terrible. That's really funny because Sony manufacturers the sensors for both Pentax and Nikon.

Sony wants pros, and that means top-end-unibody cameras with mirrors.

White Orchids

From fō-tō-gră-fē Photographs

Monday, July 18, 2011

A Rusty Wheel

From fō-tō-gră-fē Photographs

Olympus E-P3 Raw Comparison

DPReview has posted RAW photos from the new E-P3 for comparison to Panasonic's m4/3 cameras and Olympus' earlier models. Regardless of what some internet commenters have said, the results from DPReview positively support DXOMark's result of the E-P3 having the EXACT SAME SENSOR as previous Olympus cameras. There is no discernible difference between the E-PL2 and the new E-P3.

While Panasonic's GF2/GF1 is the lord of noiseland, the new G3 and the GH2 both widely outperform the E-P3 in noise levels. There is a large difference at ISO-1600, and an enormous difference at ISO-3200. Teh internetz r not amuzed.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Rusty Farm Thing

From fō-tō-gră-fē

Olympus E-P3 Sensor Analyzed

DXOMark has fully analyzed the new E-P3's sensor (which is also the sensor in the E-PL3 and E-PM1) and, here's a shock, it's the same fucking sensor that they've been using for over two years. No doubt about it.

It does worse than the E-P2 in DXOMark's measurements, although I don't think that the differences really constitute significance. For all intents and purposes, it does identically to its technological cousins in the GF2 and E-P2.

It does significantly worse than the new Panasonic G3, managing 131 fewer ISO points in the low-light test. That is big. It does even worse in comparison to the GH1 and GH2, to which it is very close in price. It confirms everything that we've been able to glean from the images posted thus far: all of the benefits are coming from processing trickery in the camera.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Full Review of Panasonic G3 Finally Posted.

I don't consider a camera actually reviewed until DPReview posts their twenty-page mega-review that is, in my mind, the defining statement on the quality of a camera. They're still not very critical, giving cameras that I considered absolute shite acceptable ratings, but they provide so much raw material that one can easily draw conclusions.

This is in contrast to other review sites which seem highly averse to letting you have the raw materials of their reviews. is the fucking worst. Talk about useless reviews.

But back to the Panasonic. It looks very good. I'm disappointed that Panasonic, in some attempt to figure out what the fuck it's doing, moved the features of the G3 downmarket from the G2. Everything is still an upgrade, simply by virtue of newer technologies, but the philosophy is inferior. Certain features are missing simply to differentiate the camera from its big brother, the GH2. That practice really, really pisses me off. As a manufacturer, your mandate is to make the best product possible for a price. Don't remove features simply because you've out-done another, more expensive product that you make. It's dishonest, bad business, and just sketchy.

And I know that I keep harping on it, but it bears repeating; PANASONIC'S MARKET DIRECTION IS WRONG. You'd think that the success of the Fuji X100 would have convinced them of this, but no. They continue to think that these cameras are being purchased by people stepping up from point-&-shoots. They are not. They are being purchased by people coming down from traditional DSLR cameras who want the reduced size, primarily of the lenses. We're (I say we because I'm certainly in that demographic) willing to pay a fair chunk of change. If Olympus and Panasonic don't realize this, they'll lose us to Sony or whatever Fuji has up its sleeve and the bottom will positively fall out.

But back to the camera. The noise levels are much lower than the old 12Mp sensor that has been on duty for the past two years. But we already knew that the sensor, although new to Panasonic, was at least a generation behind the newest Sony sensors currently in the Nikon D7000 and Pentax K5. This fact shows in the dynamic range and color depth numbers, where the new G3 gets absolutely trounced1 by the K5, D7000, Alpha A580, and... well, you get the idea.

The new G3 is an upgrade, but it's also a downgrade in some ways. It's not quite enough to pull someone away from traditional DSLR cameras, and it's not nearly enough to make someone who's already invested in the system spend the money on the camera when better cameras are likely on the horizon. Cameras that, I dunno', use a current sensor.

1: You can find these data at

Shipping Crates Set Against a Cloudy Sky

From fō-tō-gră-fē

Olympus 12mm F2.0 Gets First Review

A Spanish website is the first group to get its mitts on the new Olympus 12mm F2.0, and while I'm having a hard time really understanding their methodology in comparison to other, more complete review sites, I fear that I am going to be disappointed by this lens.

It is certainly much sharper than either the Panasonic 7-14mm or the Olympus 9-18mm. It's also significantly faster. But, and this is where I find the most room to complain, it appears to be only on par with the Olympus 12-60mm F2.8. Yes, it is much smaller, but who cares?! Give us zooms first if you're going to be so damned slow in releasing good glass. This 12mm will be Olympus' first good lens. I'd rather have had their first lens be a more versatile tool.

Olympus' upcoming PEN Pro better work wonderfully with Zuiko lenses, or I'm gonna' be pissed.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

A Tractor Seat

From fō-tō-gră-fē

E-P3 RAW JPEG Comparison

Photography blog has a post comparing JPEG and RAW photos out of the new Olympus E-P3. As I suspected from the first photos posted on various websites, every benefit from the new sensor's output is in the image processing. The RAW images reveal that the noise levels from the E-P3 are identical to the E-P2.

I also entirely disagree with the author's assertion that there is little to be gained from processing the RAW files. He argues that little detail is gained, but I didn't get that at all. ALL of the critical detail is missing from the JPEG images. When I refer to critical detail, I mean the fine texture that really makes a picture pop.

The desperate attempts of the camera to hide all of the noise smear out all of the high-frequency detail. Be it in hair, plants, or a watch on a man's hand, the camera's efforts rob all of the super-sharpness that the high-density sensor is capable of producing.

This criticism only applies to the low-ISO shots, where the sensor is scooping up as much detail as the lens can provide. Moving up the ISO scale does provide some legitimate reasons for using Olympus's obviously noise-hating JPEG engine.

Unfortunately, the high-ISO photos only drive home how noisy the sensor is. Olympus has been hawking the same sensor for nearly three years by this point, and it shows. The noise levels from this $800 camera aren't even in the same league as the noise from other $800 cameras from Nikon and Canon.

Moreover, while the JPEG engine does an excellent job in controlling noise, there's just so much of it that you can only do so much. The fine control provided by an out-of-camera RAW converter will still be the absolute best choice for fine-tuning photos.

Maybe it's the cantankerous artist in me, but I'm just miffed. I'm miffed that, instead of upgrading the software on previous cameras to deal with major functional issues, Olympus just keeps releasing new cameras. Thus, if you bought their camera six months ago, you're suddenly obviated, with no hope of updates.

Canon released their EOS 1Ds Mark III over three years ago and will just this year be releasing an upgrade. Along the way, they fully supported the camera and released a dozen new or updated lenses. They update their enthusiast line every two years, and when they do, the cameras provide large, functional changes. Fair dinkum, their entry-level line gets iterated every year, but even then we see big functional differences between the years and price levels. Put simply, I feel that Olympus is trying to rip us off.