Thursday is museum day around here. Makes for a nice break from "who has the best cameras?"

Thursday was interesting. I was recovering from post-project depression. It's that malaise that strikes one when a challenging and fun project is over, delivered and billed, and there is a lull in the work because you left some time blocked out, just in case...

I filled my time in the morning (after mandatory swim practice) by throwing stuff out. The excess included old cameras (a Leica 3c that's been absolutely brutalized and an Alpa 10D that's had the skin scraped off and lacks a coherently working shutter. Lots of weird adapters for stuff I haven't owned in over a decade, many batteries to cameras long since traded away, old, dedicated flashes and lots of rubber bands. After a morning of equipment purging I grabbed a Trek 7000 bicycle off the back porch and donated it to Austin Yellow Bike. Having at least paid lip service to the battle against "the desire for physical manifestations" I chilled out and headed to our favorite Austin museum, the Blanton. 

There are two great, new shows on the first floor. The first is a work by Xu Bing, called, "Book from the Sky." A Chinese artist has spent much time hand carving blocks of characters (over 4,000 in all) that are used for printing his "book." You can read the Blanton Museum's explanation here. But I was captivated by the intricate detail on the blocks he carved.

Next door to "Book From the Sky" was an exhibit called, "Goya: Mad Reason" and it was amazing in a whole other way. Over 150 paintings and prints by Francisco de Goya, considered by many to be the first modern artist.  After looking at the Goya show for nearly two hours I headed to the galleries upstairs to see some of my old favorites. But I had to confront a sad change. The Battle Collection of Sculptures is now gone. They have rotated the Greek and Roman sculptures out in order to make room for new shows of paintings. I guess you won't be seeing the same Greek busts every time I test out a new lens or camera in the future. Ah well, life and art move on....

Just below is the start of the installation in the old sculpture room....

I spent my afternoon in the museum with what has quickly become my favorite, "go everywhere" play and shoot camera; the Sony A7ii with the 50mm f1.7 mounted on it. Such a nice blend of size, Herculean capability and dense, physical integrity. I love it. It's my "ultimate" hobbyist camera --- (my lawyers asked me to add the following): "ultimate" ...for the moment. Subject to change or modification at any time. The expressed enjoyment of the camera named above is not a binding agreement or legal or moral obligation to use that camera ad infinitum or exclusively. All superlative reviewing comments are solely the provenance of the writer who may or may not be influenced by hysteria, insanity or artistic and non-linear modalities of thought. Further, this should not be interpreted as an encouragement, enticement or sales pitch aimed at motivating any person or their chattel, living or surviving in some stasis, to also buy or otherwise obtain and use said aforementioned camera. The existence of this blog post does not imply or promise that your meager skills can or will be improved by acquiring and using said camera.  No bailment is being constructed or offered. If you are inclined to use the (non) word, "meh" in any discussion of the camera, or its use in connection with this missive, you should consider punishing yourself by eating too many jalapeƱos at one sitting, far, far from a functioning water closet. 

The camera seems like a perfect blend of resolution, color reproduction and handling; especially when paired to smaller, single focal length lenses. 

I admire the small images and the large matts. Definitely a move in the right direction..

There is no sense in going to a museum if you already know what you like and believe what you know. But for the rest of us the experience of experiencing something new and different is a real experience. 


Daniel Walker said...

Does this mean you have found your prime 50mm lens, did the Zeiss f1.8 55mm lens not ring work for you.? It doubles as a great portrait lens on the 6000/6300.

Anonymous said...

Love this too!
The first photo in the main body of the post is particularly wonderful,

TMJ said...

You are right, the A7II is the ultimate hobbyist camera. Of course a lot of hobbyists think they 'need' more pixels so it has to be an A7RII for them. However, I have just been spring cleaning my computer internal and external hard disks and although I use WD 5TB externals and WD internals, files from 24 Mb sensors are big enough for me and my A2 printer, thank you very much.

Oh and talking about the X1D I love the quote from KR on the LuLa website that it will be great for street photographers, except it uses contrast detection for AF and is a little indiscreet with a lens in place.

mikepeters said...

Love the Alice Neel painting in the foreground of the second to last image, she's one of my earlier and more powerful influences with regard to portraits. I had an opportunity to photograph her back in 1979 and had the good sense to use a 4x5 camera. She looks like one of her paintings. http://www.mikepeters-photography.com/Category/4x5-Portraits-1979-2000/i-JP89pDB/A

BTW, my job finally bought me gear. I've been using my own Panasonic m4/3 cameras and a wide variety of very good lenses that cover an impressive gamut of possibilities. My employer has a deal with Sony, so they got me a6300's with a variety of zoom lenses, 11-18, 16-70, 70-200, that are compact and slow at f4.0 for a max aperture, and three primes, 24/35/55 f1.8's. For what I do, it's merely adequate. The 70-200 f2.8 is still vaporware, and too heavy to carry on a regular basis, as is the 24-70 f2.8 to heavy. I spend a lot of time on my feet running around carrying my gear on my shoulders all day. Weight is an issue. No fast wides and no fast long primes. I photograph sports at night and/or indoors, along with theater and dance lit by lighting designers that equate sufficient light with bad form. Now instead of shooting at 3200 or 6400, I'm working the the stratospheric range of 12,800 and 25,000 and higher! The supposed advantage of APSC over Micro 4/3 disappears, and the files get pretty ugly.

After over a month of struggling with trying to get along with the AF to no avail, I've decided that manual focus is my friend, and the only reliable way I can get accurate focus. Moving the focus points by messing with directional buttons that also change the shutter speed at the same time is frustrating. After four years of Lumix cameras, working without a touch screen or using center focus and recompose so I can be sure what I want is in focus, is so 10 years ago and certain to help you miss the moment.

And what's with it cameras taking ten seconds to wake up? I've not yet mentioned, but will now, the fact that the cameras overheat while shooting stills at events outside on 85 degree days, and inside in air conditioned event spaces, telling me to shut them down lest they melt in my hands. But wait, there's more. The cameras also brick during heavy shooting events, no warning that they're too hot or are just out of breath, they just freeze up randomly. Buttons and on off switch do nothing. I have to remove the battery to get them back amongst the living. I won't get into the 4K video recording limits of 6-8 minutes, depending on ambient temperature, before they overheat yet again. Suffice to say, it's a major limitation.

I'm not really sure how you've managed to master the user interface of these cameras, but I'd love to know. Please, I have to use these things and I don't know if it's me or what. Tell me your secret.

Thanks Kirk, sorry to go on. And also, feel free to delete this if you find it in poor taste. I really do respect what you do and some of the gear choices you've made. But I just don't get the enthusiasm for Sony cameras from a functional standpoint. Maybe the A7 series is better, but the lack of lenses that I need is long, and the weight factor of the ones they have is huge.

Craig Lee said...

I did something similar this weekend. The museums at our county's cultural center are free on Sundays. We had not been in a while, so it decided to see what had changed. The galleries are small, but quite nice. Plus, they don't limit photography at all.

Since I usually take my EM5.1 with me these days, I decided to switch it up and take the D800 instead. Due it part to you, I paired it with my 50mm 1.8 D, the screw-drive model that preceded the current AFS version. Quite a nice combo. I'm pleased with the results, although at times I did wish it had the EM5's sensor stabilization. Also, I observed that the D800's shutter isn't exactly "museum friendly". Each shutter click seemed to echo and reverberate through the halls. Still, it was nice to do something different with the big camera. It is quite manageable with the small prime lens when compared to the zooms.

Penfan2010 said...

Kirk- I love the legal disclaimers!

You're clearly having fun with the A7ii and the Contax 50, and it shows. Knowing that you prefer longer focal length lenses, it's interesting how many of the museum photos look more like they were taken with a wide angle (which is one of the beauties of the focal length. It is so flexible). I personally like the images from your museum series more than the walkabout images from your downtown or the graffiti wall, but that's just me. Good stuff.