5.07.2021

So....How well would a 46 or 47 year old, 50mm kit lens work on a more modern digital camera? How badly have we tricked ourselves about lens performance?


My first adult camera did not have interchangeable lenses. It was a Canonet rangefinder camera with a fixed 40mm f1.7 lens. It was (is) a great camera but after using it for my "baby-steps" initiation into photography and black and white printing I wanted to graduate to a real SLR; one that would accept different lenses. I bought a Canon TX (all manual, top shutter speed of 1/500th of a second but yes, it did have a built in light meters) SLR camera which came bundled with a 50mm f1.8 S.C. FD lens. That was the cheapest and most available lens in the Canon catalog at the time. I was thrilled, but at that point I was still a student at UT and absolutely broke. The constant choice was between buying more film and darkroom supplies or buying another lens. The film and printing paper won out every single time; for at least a couple of years. Which is probably for the best because I came to know that one lens forward and backwards and inside out.

I think lenses from that time period had certain assets that made them good performers. They were ruggedly built; event the least expensive in a line had a nice build to them. They were made in small enough quantities that perhaps more time and effort went into their assembly. And the 50mm lenses, being the entry into most systems back then probably motivated Canon, Nikon, etc. to put a really good effort into their design and production as a way to "market" buyers more deeply into the system. A user whose first experiences with a camera and lens combination is more likely to stick with "his or her" brand more tightly.

All devices in an interchangeable system are part of an entwined eco-system. A lens with magnificent resolution will only resolve to the limits of the film, processing and printing. I used a lot of Kodak Tri-X and while it is a beautiful film it's not a "high resolution" medium in the way that Pan-X or Ektar 25 were. 
There would have been limitations in the film's ability to express the system's holistic sharpness. And that would have been compounded by the focusing accuracy of the camera itself. The relationship of the focusing screen to the mirror and the film plane could and did shift over time, nearly always to the detriment of focusing accuracy. 

It's also important to remember that cameras and lenses in the 1970s did not have any kind of stabilization to assist with keeping the finder image stable during focusing or as compensation for any kind of user induced vibration. And, speaking of vibration the moving mirrors of these cameras was also a source of unsharpness. It's a wonder we got anything to look sharp back in the day, but then we rarely printed anywhere near as large as people do these days --- if they print at all. 

I often wondered how one of these older "kit" lenses from the 1970s would work on a much newer and much superior, digital camera body. Something maybe built in Germany and possessed of 24 unfiltered megapixels. A friend passed along to me a copy of the very same lens I started this whole, crazy career with; a Canon 50mm f1.8, S.C. (which stands for "super coated" but not "super spectra coated" which was a newer and better lens multicoating). It's an original FD with the old fashioned breech mount ring which secures the lens to the camera or to an adapter. Here's a couple of documentary images of it.


When it was certain that the lens was heading in my direction I went online a bought a suitable adapter. An FD to Leica L Fotasy brand adapter. It cost all of $18. And it works well. At least I'm pretty sure it does, the lens has yet to fall off and it seems sharp side to side....


The lens is exactly as I remember it. Smaller but no lighter than current lenses but unlike the new stuff it has increased functionality by dint of having a really good focusing ring with bright and clear distance markings as well as a full depth of field scale which, when your brain is calibrated to it, helps to no end with zone focusing. I was surprised when I mounted the lens and adapter to a Leica SL just how "right sized" the lens and adapter were for the camera. Almost as if they were made for each other. Which I find ironic since the camera originally retailed for over $7,000 while the lens, in very good condition, is currently offered online in various used sites at about $60. Is it a horrendous mismatch or have we been fooling ourselves about the galloping evolution of lens quality through the digital age? 

I had time yesterday so I put the package together, left all the distractions such as my phone and my usual pocket full of batteries and extra memory cards, and set out for a nice walk and an exercise of a lens that's worked hard for at least four and a half decades. 

The first thing I noticed was that the focusing ring was a tiny bit too smooth; not damped enough. But after ten minutes or so of use the feel or non-feel receded and didn't interfere with the focusing operation. Being attuned to the idea that many of our perceptions of lens sharpness in products from the old film days are leveraged on how we used them back then I was determined to give the lens a chance by using the "punch in" feature of the Leica SL to focus at an enormous magnification instead of depending on focus peaking or my ancient and increasingly unreliable vision. I will tell you right now that what we think is sharp when we look at an image without magnification is rarely even close!

Next I'll share a small sample of the images I took during my first two hours with the lens and I'll put in captions where I think they would be of interest. At the end I'll conclude with my own observations and a few ideas of just how badly we've swindled ourselves over time.
this was shot at ISO 50 and with the lens at f5.6. That, or f8 are probably the 
best performing apertures but that's no different really than most modern lenses. 








austin has just re-institured a camping ban for downtown areas and other areas across the city.
In protest a group of homeless people have surrounded the city council building with tents and are doing a camping incursion right up till the day (May 11?) that the ban will be enforced. 
Look at the perfect colors of the tents and the surroundings. Also at f5.6.


this photograph stunned me when I looked at it on the screen during post processing.
It was done indoors at the W Hotel and when I blow it up (which you can do as well by clicking on it) I can see sharp fabric from side to side and from both bottom corners. This was not accomplished by software in the camera since the lens doesn't communicate with the camera! You will also notice the almost complete absence of vignetting, dark corners, etc. which have not been corrected in post at all. When I blow this up to 100% it's possible to cleanly and clearly see all the fine weave of the fabric.
It was shot handheld at ISO 3200. The lens is at least equal to the 24 megapixel sensor. IMHO.

Absolutely straight out of camera. 

Industrial landscape in which the lens doesn't over saturate or make brittle contrast.
It's a very "rich" file. The way I think most people like photographs to look. 




Again. Sharpness easily out to the corner of the frame.
An evenness of performance across the frame.
The fine texture of the wall is obvious and sharp.


The dynamic range of the system and the richness of the colors in the file are, to me, 
obvious and very pleasing.



The lens is not a close focusing champ but I love the hokey-bokeh of the image.
And  the purity of the white petals.

What is obvious to me is that Canon et al knew how to make good, sharp, pleasing and inexpensive 50mm lenses as far back as the 1970s, at least. In a number of ways having to make a lens that CAN'T be fixed in post processing is a good way to push designers to make a better lens. 

We talk about color science mostly as it relates to the built in prejudices of the sensor but I think we ignore the influences of lens color science on both the integrity and overall tonality of images. 

When I look at the images I was able to get on a casual walk yesterday I am astounded at how good that 50mm f1.8 "kit" lens really is. It's performance was perhaps veiled by the short comings of the rest of the systems at the time but put it on a modern, high res, camera body and it is a really fine performer. 

I've been chasing too much "holy grail" when it comes to lenses and this was a slap in the face, an eye opener, a lesson in the addiction of desire. To come full circle to a lens used at the beginning of my career only to find that, of course, it was never about the gear. The gear was already as good as I needed it to be. But I guess I needed to take the whole journey to end up appreciating what I had at the inception.

Oh dear....I hope I haven't started another run on FD lenses! But, man, they were good. 

Lens makers seem to have learned how to cram buttons on the sides of new lenses, how to make the new lenses both cheaper to produce and more expensive to buy. But I'll be searching the catalogs for the old stuff for a while. Now, on to find the 85mm f1.8 FD that I cut more portrait teeth on.....



 

5.05.2021

Why am I getting a ton of viewers from Sweden today?

 Inquiring minds want to know....

Newly added: Still getting a ton of views from Sweden. Sure, I'm ready to move there. I have my vaccines all taken care of and I'm ready to travel. Can I bring my favorite cameras and retire there? Can I switch my U.S.A.  health insurance for the Swedish system? How's the real estate market? Is the coffee in Sweden good?

Can I get a government grant to do a big show? Does Hasselblad sponsor American Ex-Pats? 

I must have written something that translated very, very well into Swedish....

Just a few questions for my newest Swedish readers.

How well do you tolerate Texans?

Yes, yes, but how about liberal Texans?

Looking forward to visiting; is Winter a good time to come?

Thanks very much!

- Kirk


A question about size and weight versus optical quality.


After the launches of the newest versions of the Sigma ART series 35mm and 85mm lenses I started thinking about where our inflection points might lay between size and weight, and overall optical quality. 

When camera companies were trying to get somewhere north of 16 megapixels with their full frame sensors many "professional" photographers on various forae were adamant that their clients deserved the absolute best image quality that could be had and that falling behind in the megapixel wars was untenable. Of course these same imaging "heroes" conveniently ignored the existence of very expensive, but easily much better, medium format systems already on the market at the time.... Their contention was that we had some sort of ethical obligation to maximize technical image quality of images we created for clients wherever possible. 

So, when Sigma came out with their first generation of ART lenses it seems like the company did just that. They ignored size and weight considerations and had their designers aim for the highest optical quality they could build into the products; even if it meant that we dedicated optical performance junkies had to head back to the gym to pump more iron so we could pump better photons. And carry the gear around.

But in each of the new product introductions for the replacement lens models Sigma has indicated that some compromises were made. Gerald Undone pointed out one that irritated him. It was the diminished performance of the new 35mm f1.4 when used at its widest aperture and closest focusing distance. The newest 85mm was designed with more compromises affecting vignetting than its predecessor. Sure, we'll just correct it in software....

The trade-offs were obviously in the service of reducing the size and weight of the products. Nothing earth shattering happened in optical design in the years between the first and second product generations and new glass wasn't discovered in the interim either so we have to assume that they shifted around the priorities of the various design parameters, stepping back from the best optical quality possible and inhabiting a different space called, compromising between the bulk of the packaging and the optics, and hoping no one would look under the hood. 

My question is, "Do we care?" Do we still want the ultimate in performance or, as a group of consumers, have we decided to accept certain performance trade-offs in exchange for less wear and tear on the shoulders and less hassle dragging stuff around? Do we care? Do you care?

And here's a second question: "Did you ever really use all the performance you paid for enough to justify the cost and the size/weight?" Were you really out there every night shooting your 35mm or 85mm at f1.4 in the near dark to capture the last gasps of light in scene? Did that f1.4 aperture make all the difference in the world to you or could you have done just as well with an f1.8 or f2.0 or (gasp!) an f2.8 equivalent?

Do I feel stupid for buying a two pound, $2200 50mm f1.4 Panasonic lens? You bet. Have I used it to make photos I could never have made with a lesser 50mm lens? Gosh no. Could I have done just as well in my work with a f2.0 lens? You betcha. 

But I'm only a single data point and I'd love to hear some different points of view. Perfection or comfort? The bleeding edge or just a chaffed edge? An enormous blow to the wallet or a more gentle tap?

Do you really use lenses the way reviewers and lens makers think you use lenses? 

 

Lens improvements versus lens homogenization. Are old lenses that bad? Are new lenses that good?



There's a lot to like about brand new lenses that exist within a brand's overall system. They interface well with cameras, provide full exposure automation and are the most effective companion to the cameras when it comes to autofocus. In fact, if you demand AF and don't want to become a photographer who is okay with manually setting stuff then you can just ignore any further advice and get back to taking photographs. Especially so if you have an older camera that depends on image stabilization in the lens to offset your jittering hands. 

As a group photographers have a tendency to think that newer lenses are so powerfully blessed by cutting edge computer design of optics that there is no contest between their imaging power and that of older lenses and, especially better than lenses that were designed before digital. But there is a flip side to just about everything and that includes lenses. 

First off, you can find a wide range of lenses from a deep pool of lens makers in the used lens market which may deliver the same basic imaging performance as the newest lenses. You can pick up a decent condition 50mm f1.4 that was designed for a Contax Y/C camera for around $300 or a 50mm f1.4 Canon FD lens that was designed for their F-1 system for around $190. Current AF 50mm f1.4 lenses designed for various camera systems can range from $600 up to a nosebleedy $6,000 if you want a brand new lens that matches the camera body from your favorite maker. If you are a "found object" or "street photographer" you may actually find one of the older, manual focus, lenses almost as easy to use as one of the "cutting edge" lenses; especially when mated to a mirrorless camera that allows you to "punch in" or magnify your image in the finder or back screen to assist you in really homing in on the sharpest point of focus. 

There's no question that if you are looking for the highest possible optical performance you're probably going to find it in the premium lines of current lenses. But at the same time there will also be a certain sameness to those lenses as makers pursue the same kinds of complex optical designs to achieve both high sharpness and a flatness of field across the frame. While objective measurements may indicate that a high end, new lens "outperforms" an older lens the evaluations rarely take into account the "personality" of a lens. And most reviews don't take into account how an artist might want the final image to look. Not everyone prizes absolute sharpness and high resolution over all other characteristics. 

Here is something else to consider... many lens makers and, by extension, camera makers have discovered that they can aim to correct various parameters of a lens but can't correct everything. There are tradeoffs in every direction, including price, field curvature (a bane of fast wide angle lenses) and vignetting. As the designers struggle to get sharpness all the way to the corners of a new lens they sacrifice when it comes to the amount of vignetting which occurs as a result. There are other issues with incredibly complex designs that might also include zones of lower sharpness occurring in areas of a frame. Think in concentric circles from the center to the edges. A design might attempt to maximize center and corner sharpness but that design might have consequences for sharpness in one of the intermediate "circles." 

Contemporary lens makers assume that certain negative properties can be mitigated by writing some code that "corrects" for a lens fault that would be harder or more expensive to correct via pure optics. Vignetting is a good example. The current crush of reviewers is the "new" Sigma 35mm f1.4 DG DN Art lens. Without any in-camera correction it has monstrous vignetting. According to most folks pulling up over two stops of underexposure in the corners of the frame is nearly invisible but.....it's not. Especially with cameras that are using older sensors. I'm not talking about super old sensors but even just the sensors from a couple of years ago. An exposure increase of two stops brings with it increased noise and the possibility of banding interfaces which gets worse as the ISO performance of the sensor is worse. 

Another interesting difference between current lenses and much older legacy lenses is in the complexity of construction. A simple, manually focused lens basically has a stop down function for the aperture and a helicoid for focusing. That's it unless it also moves an element independantly as the lens is focused (floating element or, in Nikon-Speak: CRC). That's it. Not a lot to go wrong. 

Not so with newer lenses with AF motors and linkages, I.S. actuators and circuitry, and more complex lens designs which are sometimes held in place with....tape. 

But for me, the reasons to adapt older, manual focus lenses to newer, mirrorless cameras are: The older lenses are usually more compact which makes them more discreet and physically manageable. The older lenses are much, much easier to zone focus for quick work. The cost to performance ratio, optically, is tilted more toward the older lenses as most of them are very, very good when used where we use them the most: at middle distance and at middle apertures. 

I posted an image above that was taken with a 28mm f2.8 Contax Y/C lens made in the late 1980's or early 1990s. I was able to magnify the image by 8X or 12X in the finder of a Leica SL to ensure crisp focusing. The frame was shot at f8.0 which, on a sunny day, is a normal exposure setting for a wide angle lens like this. When the frame is enlarged to 100% it's obvious that it is critically sharp even into the corners and, unlike a new lens, doesn't require camera profiles to make it whole. 

Sure, there are arguments to be made to the contrary if you use your fast lenses mostly at their widest apertures or, if you need to work with wider angle lenses that may need more consideration for the telecentric requirements of modern sensors. Many older super wide lenses, designed solely for film cameras, have issues with coloration deviances across the frames. But, if you are looking for lenses in the normal focal length ranges and, especially, in the short telephoto range, these issues rarely intrude. 

The biggest argument though is one that is also made by many film and video makers who understand that every generation and line of lenses has its own "look" and having a differentiated approach to making photographs or movies is part of our core selection of choices as artists. 

My 90mm Leica Elmarit f2.8 lens has a completely different overall look than my much, much newer Sigma 85mm f1.4 Art lens. Not better or worse (unless all your measurements are scientifically objective) but different. It's all about having the look that resonates with a particular user. Using an older lens with good "faults" goes a long way to prevent a cookie cutter approach to being a photographer. 

Here's an image of the 28mm lens adapted to a Leica camera with a $20 adapter. It's my favorite wide angle set up. 

It's good to see different. It's good to shoot different. Otherwise? Robots....


 

5.04.2021

Switching gears and playing with a small, older camera that is new to me. And was free.


Everyone in Austin seems to be moving. The long time residents are making hay while the sun shines, selling their insanely price-inflated houses and moving to cheaper and less crowded cities. Or downsizing into smaller houses or condominiums in the area.  The Californians are rushing in and snapping up the million dollar and up, three bedroom, two bathroom, ranch style houses built in the 1960s and 1970s and convincing themselves that they just got a screaming bargain. The people who lived here, worked in normal jobs and didn't have houses to sell are packing up and moving to surrounding communities, driven by the need for lower rent. We're staying put. 

But no matter what the motivation for moving around or out, and no matter what form the housing market will take when the panic buying and selling resolves, the one thing everyone seems to have in common is a desire to get rid of stuff they don't use and don't need. They just don't want to move all their stuff around so much anymore. People are getting pickier about their inventory. 

People who are downsizing from bigger houses are calling to offer free dining room tables that seat eight or ten or twelve. People heading into condos are offering up their pool furniture. Etc., Etc. But I'm trying my best to maintain my own large object diet. 

One thing I can't resist is the offer of free cameras. I might end up passing them along to someone else in more desperate need of a camera but I can't bear the thought that little camera gems might end up in a landfill or tossed into a barrel at a thrift store and damaged beyond usability. 

One of my friends is cashing in on his Austin real estate, also selling his local business and moving to another state. We had lunch last week and he handed me two cameras. Nothing special but he made it clear that he and his partner were moving on to being "cellphone only" snapshooters. No extra gear needed. I get it. He's in the food service biz and doesn't have time to mess around with the mind-numbing routines of being a fully fledged photo hobbyist. 

The cameras are both what we would call "point and shoot" cameras or compact cameras. One is a Canon S-95. It's small and nondescript and I have charged up batteries for it but have not yet shot with it. The second camera was more interesting to me; it's Sony RX100. No letters after the 100. It's the first version of Sony's very popular one inch sensor compact camera line. It boasts a Zeiss designed lens and a tiny form factor. 

I've always been curious about this particular line of cameras but the stars never lined up for me and I've never shot one before. I bought two new batteries and a charger from Amazon.com for a whopping $18 and I've been waiting for the weather to get nice so I could go out and give it a try. 

I walked around on my favorite downtown route this afternoon and I gotta say I was a bit tired today having done a "double" on swim workouts today. 

I had the little camera set for aperture priority, auto ISO, f5.6 and AWB. I used both ends of the zoom range which is something like 28-100mm in full frame speak. The aperture starts at f1.8 at the wide end and ends up at f4.9 on the long end of the zoom range. The one inch sensor is chocked full of 20.2 megapixels of sensor goodness and the lens is image stabilized. 

The camera totally lacks an eye level viewfinder of any kind and there's no way to add an EVF to it, that I know of. The video capability is typical of a camera introduced in 2012, offering 1080p but all the way up to 60fps. There are a couple of built-in microphones and no headphone jack. This is NOT a camera I'd choose to make many videos with but it could be useful for some random content you might come across while out on a walk. The real selling point of this camera, now and at the time of its introduction, is the tiny size of the body, the relatively large size of the sensor (compared to compacts on the market at the time) and a really nice zoom lens with a good range of focal lengths. 

After owning a Sigma FP I've learned how to shoot while composing on a rear screen only. I guess I could get used to it and I will say that the screen on the back of the RX100 is pretty easy to work with in all but the brightest sunlight. 

But since I've only used it for a few hours today I'll cut to the chase and tell you what I know from my relatively slim experience: It makes very nice images in good light. The color is a bit forward but it's likable. The images have a high impression of sharpness and this is intensified by a much deeper depth of field that I've gotten used to when shooting with the full frame cameras. 

I shot a couple hundred frames, left the camera on as I walked around and when I came back to the office the battery indicator was still showing a full charge. All in all I can see why this RX100 line of cameras continues to be a great selling product for Sony. It really delivers nice files for a camera its size. 

In a few days I'll take the S-95 out for a spin. I wonder how much coolness that one has. Also coming soon. A friend shipped me a Canon 50mm f1.8 FD lens and a Canon FD to L mount lens adapter. You see, it was the very first interchangeable lens I ever owned. It came with my ancient Canon TX back when I bought it brand new from the University Co-op. I see them in good condition in the used market for around $60. I can hardly wait to see how this 1970's lens tech works on the front of a Leica SL2. I might just be in for a big surprise...
















 

OT: Swim Practice with an interesting "dry land" twist.

Since you are interested in Swimming you might want to 
join the United States Masters Swimming association so
you can get your free copy of "Swimmer" magazine.
It's riveting.

 Usually we spend the entire hour of our masters swim practice (USMS.ORG) in the pool, in the water. Today was different. We had a coach who doesn't usually attend the second morning workout and we got a taste of something different. 

Our coach was Olympic Gold Medalist, Ian Crocker, and his workout for us today was...different. 

We started with a conventional warm-up of 300 free, 300 pull, 200 I.M. and 100 yards kick but then things got more interesting. Ian devised a set that alternated 50 yards of breaststroke with 50 yards of freestyle in a set of five X 50's. After each 50 of breaststroke we climbed out onto the deck and did 10 regulation pushups. After each 50 of freestyle we hauled our butts back up on  deck to do ten squats. 

There's a break after each set of five in which we swam 100 yards of freestyle followed by 100 yards of kicking. Then we continued...

The next set alternated 50s of backstroke and freestyle with the same push-up and squat routine as in the first set. Then the restorative 100 swim and 100 kick. Followed by the set of 50s, alternating between butterfly and freestyle. 

So, over the course of this particular set, in addition to the swims, we got to revel in the glory of 90 pushups and 90 squats, on the deck, soaking wet. Certainly an interesting formula for getting one's heart rate soaring while also doing some strength and core training. 

Unfortunately, after this wild set we had to clear the pool because of approaching lightning and the bellowing of close by thunder. Now, a couple hours later, the sun is out and all the rain chances (and lightning and thunder) have vanished. Most of us who can are planning to head back to the pool for the noon workout so we can get in the yardage we were meteorologically denied earlier. 

Still, I knew you'd be interested in a swim workout that also combined "dry land" exercises. You may even want to incorporate the concept into your daily workout. 

Some people struggled with the pushups. Some could have done sets of pushups for the rest of the day. I fell somewhere in the middle. Just don't give in to the temptation to drop your hips --- keep your core straight and parallel to the deck. 

Many people who are interested in fitness and holding down the weight and girth changes that can come with aging (but which are not destiny!) are fixated on diet. But no diet can replace the extremely well documented rewards of daily exercise. Lots of daily exercise.

Swim enough yards and walk enough steps and you can eat as much as you want. You shouldn't eat trash but if you eat good, fresh, whole foods you probably won't need to keep track of calories taken in. An hour or two of good, hard exercise is a wonderful investment in overall health. And the less you spend on healthcare the more you have left over to spend on photo gear. 



5.03.2021

Not every image we take is all about making the "model" look sexy and fabulous. There's more to photography than flattery and surface beauty.

 

There seems to be an idea that any time a person is included in a photograph the photographer must be trying to create an image that showcases flawless skin, tight abs, perfect make-up and au courant fashion. But to my mind that's a very superficial use of the power of photographs to present messages that are more interesting than a glib cultural interpretation aimed solely as cataloging the current construct of beauty or desire. 

As a reference to content over gratuitous use of technique I'd point to the work of Robert Frank in both his collection as presented in the book, "The Americans" and also in his various movies. Flattery and a compliance with the preferred aesthetics of the day (George Hurrell?) were certainly not high up on his list of essential photographic properties and yet, some 60+ years later his work is still lauded as being part of an (r)evolutionary pivot to creating photography that mixes social commentary with pure art. 

In my street photography it's not a priority to make sure each "cute" person has flawless skin or a perfect BMI as much as it is to document public social practice and posturing. In the same way, most car fans love to look at stylish automobiles from the past in photographs but an image of big, dual cab pick-up trucks stopping to gas up at a roadside convenience store would be the antithesis of that aesthetic. At the same time it's much more compelling testimony about status, transportation, the down market reality of convenience stores in general, and the homogenous buying habits of a certain American demographic. While we might not be entranced by the beauty of shot like that we do understand that we're making a record of how we live now in some areas of the country and even though the beauty of this kind of consumption eludes me I certainly understand the interest in seeing how 4% of the world's population chooses to use their resources, and what constitutes a status vehicle and lifestyle among certain groups. 

In 25 years a headshot of a girl with PHOTOSHOP FLAWLESS skin won't stand out from hundreds of millions of daily shots that are more or less the same but the historic record of how the average Texan lived and rolled around their state might be endlessly interesting to a new society which may have conquered their addiction to fossil fuels and reckless consumption. (And yes, I understand the irony of writing this as I just took delivery of a new, fossil fuel powered, automobile in which I am generally the only person...Sorry, we actually don't have any public transportation in the city of Westlake Hills...). 

I personally like gritty and grainy black and white images and sometimes it's almost impossible to divorce the overall look of a style with the impact it may have on a subject's complexion or even overall detail. Consider the work of Daido Moriyama who is one of my favorite black and white photographers. The lack of smooth, long-toned detail and the lack of flattering technique enhances the visceral power of his work. And I like that. In a similar way I also like the black and white work of Peter Lindbergh but for different reasons. He was never afraid to let grain and contrast take equal stature with the celebrity of his subjects, and his dark (tone, not subject matter) treatment of images is inseparable from the momentum of his style over the decades in which he worked. 

Fuck beauty, let's make art. 

;
Self portrait. Too much grain and sharpness for a client but just enough to make the image more interesting to my core audience. Me.

37 to go...

5.02.2021

Leica SL and Original 35mm Sigma Art Lens.


Making Art at Art on Second St. 

Costume Change for the New Month.

Sundays have been weird over the past year. My father is gone and so is one of my routines. I visited him at his assisted living facility in San Antonio every Sunday. It gave Sunday's a special purpose. I'd get in the car early, grab a coffee and a copy of the New York Times (his favorite day for his favorite newspaper; the thick, Sunday edition...) and head down IH-35 so I could get there early enough to spend the better part of the day with him. Since his passing and then the shuttering of other Sunday activities like rehearsal photo sessions on the stages at Zach Theatre, I have been at loose ends.

I do some family errands. Today I installed a new mailbox. It's a cheap and simple copy of the one that sat on the post at the top of our driveway yesterday. I jazzed things up by choosing a light gray one instead of black. The previous mailbox was here when we bought the house 24 years ago, back when houses in Austin were cheap. The mailbox had a lot of rust and lately the door refused to latch shut. The last time I was working in the front yard and the mailman stopped by to deliver a handful of post he also delivered the stink eye, and then stared hard at the failing mailbox. I took it as a sign.

It's probably good timing as the previous mailbox had started falling off the pole. It was also about to rust through. It only took three trips to the hardware store to get everything squared away...

So, part of the new Sunday regime is the extended walk through downtown with whatever the camera and lens of the week might be. I had a hunch it might be the Fuji X100V today but I was mistaken. The Leica SL muscled its way to the front of the line dragging the ever loquacious Sigma Art lens with it. 

I used all the parts in their most manual modes today and had a great time doing so. It was like stepping back in time to a more pure era of photo making. One in which the active involvement of the photographer's brain was required. 

The original 35mm f1.4 Art lens from Sigma is delightful to use in a fully manual focusing mode. It has a well damped focusing ring with hard stops at both ends of the distance scale. The focus peaking in the SL works well with that particular lens and together they deliver sharp, contrasty, saturated colors; even in the much maligned Jpeg setting. All the images I took today were done in Jpeg and all the images had the white balance set to match the prevailing light conditions. All the parameters in the camera's Jpeg menu were set at null. No increase or decrease in sharpness, contrast or saturation. Just a bunch of neutral settings. And even so the camera delivered files which looked absolutely great to me. 

A couple more as examples.














I've read articles and reviews where people say they don't like the colors from the Leica SL Jpeg "engine." 
I don't get it. But to each their own.