1.10.2014

Sharing my first impressions of the Sony RX10 video. And a little twinge of hesitation.


No beating around the bush here. I wanted to know what the RX10 would do if pressed into service as a video camera. I had some time this afternoon, no models around, no ready subject matter and the ominous threat of rain so I pressed myself into service as on camera talent. That's probably why I'm showing you a still of the camera instead of some web compressed footage...

Just a fun picture of a friend and a Rolleiflex at coffee at Jo's.

Ah. The early days of this century. When we went back and forth between film and 
electronic photography without a care in the world...

A Rollei photographed with another Rollei. Fuji Reala film flowing through the backs. 80mm lenses all the way around. ISO 100 in the open shade. 

Just pausing to reminisce. 

1.09.2014

The first sniff test with the Sony RX10. Stills only right now.

VSL CEO gesticulating wildly at an advisory board meeting for the photography 
department at Austin Community College. Image taken by fellow board member during the "new camera pass around."

Claire knew that it was inevitable that I'd be buying an RX10 and deep down I knew it from the day of the first announcement. How could I not after having experienced nearly nine years of perfection from it's noble ancestor, the Sony R1? For those who've chosen to remain out of the new product loop I'll make a brief detour to flesh out what the camera is: Sony has taken the backlit 20 megabyte sensor from the RX100-2, put it in a body with a serious and uncompromising 24-200mm (equivalent) Carl Zeiss Sony with a constant f2.8 aperture (yes: all the way to 200...), designed in a very good EVF and added enough video feature sets to make most new school video artists very happy. 

They packaged all of this into a beautifully designed package with lots of button and dial controls, a snazzy and easy to navigate menu and the ultra cheap price of $1300. If it does everything it's supposed to do it will be a bargain. One video reviewer who was virtually salivating on his keyboard about the lens made the point that he would pay upwards of $2,000 if he could get just that lens alone for his preferred video system. My friend Eric summed the lens up yesterday by saying that if it performed as advertised it represented the "holy grail" of lenses for videographers...

I'll reserve judgement on the ultimate quality of both the lens and the files until I've had a bit more time with the camera. Today was my first day out with the new toy and of course it was a gray and rainy day (just what one of our UK commenters suggested I try only yesterday. 

So far I'm having glorious fun with the camera and I have not yet revved up the video half. The lens is a "power zoom" and it's "fly-by-wire" so it takes a little getting used to but it's well damped in it's action and doesn't exhibit any of the overshoot I used to get from the first version of Canon's 85mm 1.1:2 L series lens with its fly-by-wire manual focusing. 

The camera is light and agile and while you know you are using a contrast detect AF camera there's really very little focus hesitation or hunting, even in lower light situations. 

I set up the camera today by selecting Jpeg, extra fine, AWB, Auto ISO and I shot mostly in the aperture priority mode sticking to f-stops on the fast side of the dial. It's perfectly fine at f2.8 and I like the bountiful depth of field I can get at the 24mm equivalent when I stop down to f5.6.  I used the center focusing system in S-AF as I do with most cameras and didn't mess with stuff like HDR or fast frame rates. 

With all the talk of bokeh I decided to look at the bokeh of the Pentax 18-55mm DA II lens. It's not a big test as it was all done at f8.


I think the evaluation of bokeh works well when you focus on something close, put the background out of focus and then evaluate the transitions and lens artifacts that manifest themselves in the out of focus areas. In this set up I included (on the right hand edge of the frame) a green "A" clamp in order to have a hard edged object to evaluate. I chose to do my investigation at f8 because that's a sweet spot of overall performance for this lens and all similar lenses. I also chose that f8 stop to challenge the prevailing idea that bokeh is somehow always tied to a wide open lens aperture when in fact it's the description of the quality of the out of focus areas and not a description of lens speed!

What I see in the image is a very nice and even flow through the out of focus areas and calm, happy tonal intersections. In fact, I think the lens is an exemplary rendition of the classic "kit" lens that is so widely and undeservedly disparaged. 

1.08.2014

I really like the way the Pentax K-01 makes images of Sony RX10 cameras....



I was working in the studio today but every time I started to make progress on something my calendar program would chime in and remind me of something I needed to be doing somewhere else. I'd promised a friend that I would speak to his kid about what to expect of a career in the arts. The kid is in college and is focusing on what she wants to do in the real world. After our Starbucks consultation I headed over to meet my friend, Will, for lunch. Instead of heading off to yet another restaurant he invited me to his house and served an incredible clam chowder, some wonderful stinky cheese on freshly toasted sourdough bread, and a nice glass of chardonnay.

Over lunch I was reminded of how nice it is to have friends who are both great cooks and also much smarter than me. Will shared some of his newest assignment photographs with me and gently chided me for making the statement that 'photography has gotten too easy.' He is already a master of the art and he was quick to point out that there is always so much more to learn.

1.07.2014

Rationalizing the systems for the coming year. What stays? What's going? And why....


Every website we visit these days (for photography) is talking about giant transitions. For some it's the transition from big DLSRs with seismic blast mirrors to much smaller, mirror less cameras. In many cases it's a transition from cameras that do video well and the rationale is that many smaller cameras do a better job focusing in video but have very similar image quality to all the bigger cameras because everything ends  up getting sampled down to 2000 by 1000 pixels or less. A lot of people are talking about downsizing from big, traditional cameras to smaller cameras (and much smaller lenses) in order to take a strain off their shoulders, backs and carry-on luggage.

I used to buy the smaller, lighter argument until I realized that when we go on location for corporate and commercial clients the cameras (any kind of camera) are the least of our burdens. We are usually carrying four to six light stands, some flags to modify light, some sort of lighting instruments and their attendant modifiers as well as a big, heavy tripod and cases to put all the stuff in and keep it relatively safe. And speaking of safety those four twenty-five pound sandbags don't lighten the load much either.  Now when I look at cameras I start weighing cost, efficiency, quality and usability more than anything else.

We like to think that there are objective measures to quality and, surprise! there are. But there's a sliding scale of where the crossover points occur between reckless costs and necessary quality. Most people aiming at the pro market have some sort of calculus that they use to divine that point for themselves. But I've always been into new math so my break points differ from traditionalists.

1.06.2014

The Transparent Commercial Photography Blog.


By the lore of the web I have done everything wrong with this blog. The articles are too long. The articles are too personal and the articles don't have, as their raison d'ĂȘtre, the motive of constantly pushing product and making money. Sure, I put in ads for things at Amazon from time to time but I've long since given up really trying to push sales of my five books. And my attempts at "selling" are abysmal.  Besides, the blueprint for financial success from affiliate advertising calls for three "gushy" articles about brand new gear for every one article about the actual art, or existence within the art of photography. It's sad to think that my core readers might not come here if I did follow the formula but they'd be replaced with legions of boring, linear thinkers like those that argue, ad nauseum, about aperture equivalence or shutter shock

I think photography blogs have more or less run their course. For every blogger who really understands the gear, like Ming Thein or Michael Reichmann,  there are legions of hobbyists who take duffle bags full of crappy images, review every camera that comes down the pike and fall madly in love with each of them. Every single one. Ming and Michael are leveraging their experience while almost everyone else is flexing their marketing muscles.

I am also commercially inept (as a blogger) because I have a soft spot for mutts and eccentrics. I love weird cameras like the Pentax K-01 precisely because it is a very functional camera wrapped in weirdness. My friends throng to the Olympus OMD but I am increasingly intrigued by the Panasonic GH3, a truly eccentric entry in the camera race.

What's all this leading to? Just a New Year's resolution.  To wit: I'll continue to write about whatever interests me, on my own schedule and people are welcome along for the ride. If I want to show images of dusty road barriers and construction fences I probably have some reason for doing so that my therapists and I haven't quite figured out yet. Maybe we never will. 

1.04.2014

Portrait. In black and white. 2014.

Jenny. Austin, Texas 2014

Another image from my first portrait session of the year. Created with the Panasonic GH3 and an ancient Olympus 70mm f2.0 Pen FT lens (circa 1970). Photographed in RAW format, processed to Jpeg in Aperture and converted to black and white in DXO Filmpack 3.