7.19.2021

Revisiting the Sigma FP camera. The original, not the newer model currently being savaged by reviewers everywhere.....


Back in time, about seven months ago, I got the itch to finally re-up my membership in the Leica fanboy club by impulsively going to the local dealer (Yes. We have an actual, authorized dealer right here in Austin) and picking out a brand new SL2 camera body. At the time I still was operating under the conceit of trying to pay at least part of the cost of the new camera by trading in some gear I didn't think I would want or need anymore. In that small box of trade-ins was the cute, pristine and barely used Sigma FP. The camera that makes online reviewers scratch their heads and squint. They never seem to have figured out who it was designed for or why they should like it. I thought it would be the first and the last of its kind until Sigma launched the even more baffling 60 megapixel FP-L this Spring. 

On the other hand I always liked my little Sigma, despite its eccentricities. Or, perhaps because of them. There are two images I've shown here previously that I did with the original FP that seem so different from images generated by other brands of cameras that, the moment I saw them, the camera endeared itself.

But I was determined to make a "rational" purchase of the Leica and anxious to defray some of the cost so the Sigma FP was sacrificed. Irrationally, I always vaguely regretted the state of not having it around. Of being somehow deprived of its potential. A friend brought to my attention that the local camera shop had a lightly used FP in the used inventory...

After my lunch with the fun, creative director and client in charge of the fun wine project I've been working on, I stopped for a latte at the Subaru dealership around the corner from Precision Camera. I'm trying to recoup some of the purchase price of the car by dropping by for free coffees when I'm in the neighborhood. The Subaru dealer, closing the latest sale, had invited me back to visit "whenever" and have coffee. I took him at his word. 

While sipping an absolutely delicious and free latte I took a few minutes to see what I might be missing out on the world wide web. I chanced across theonlinephotographer.com and read Michael's short blog post for today about his recurring and anguish inspiring search for "just the right camera" for him. He thought it might be something Fuji but lately the Fujifilm glow has worn off for him and he's been...searching. And talking about the search. And that prompted me to ruminate about why I missed the Sigma FP.

So,  I drove around the corner to Precision Camera (no affiliation with my business other than they are constantly attempting to bankrupt me by luring me into ever more insane camera purchases.....) just to browse. And maybe to re-take the measure of that clever little brick of a camera. 


And there it was. There on the shelf sat the very camera body I'd traded in months ago. Someone had purchased it, never learned to use it correctly or just didn't like it, and, after much deliberation brought it back and traded it for something else. The camera was still pristine. Almost unused. And the sale price included the big "chimney" finder I'd gotten after waiting nearly six months for them to ship. And the big and small grips. And the accessories. 

As is my want I negotiated hard and with a certain cavalier disregard for the logic of American pricing. I walked out of the store about 15 minutes later with the whole bundle in my hands having paid a little over a thousand dollars for the entire kit. I had little hesitation because as soon as I saw the camera my memory was jarred and I remembered the images I'd been able to make with it previously. 

I'd like to thank Mike for reminding me that hesitation leads to regret in some cases and that life is too brief not to have what you can afford and would enjoy. Hence Mike's pool table/pool clubhouse and my ever fluctuating camera "collection." 

But what is it that I like, in particular, about the FP? In a nutshell I like it because the files have a different look to them than files from the other cameras I use. While it's not the most accurate of cameras, color-wise, it's the most intriguing. I like the fact that it's small and light while still boasting full frame, 24 megapixel sensor, and I like the idea that this camera actually forces me to pay attention and work for the frames I get from it. That "artist meets friction" thing I've written about before. In fact, that's probably the issue I have when comparing the Leica SL2 with the original Leica SL camera; the SL2 is too easy. Exposure is too accurate right out of the gate. The files are gorgeous without my intervention. The SL camera is capable of making gorgeous files; especially of people, but it requires more supervision, more hands-on control, more interpretation. And I'm thankful for the way cameras like that engage me and bring me into the process with a higher degree of intention and attention. Sure, "work" cameras should make life easy. But "art" cameras should bring a stick and a carrot. The stick being that you have to expend time and energy to learn the ways of a less than perfect camera. You have to dig into it to realize its potential. The carrot is that your resulting files will look different, and maybe more pleasing, than those coming from a more "fool proof" camera. 

The FP is all that in spades. The big chimney finder for the rear LCD (needed to block light from the screen in bright environments) is a pain in the ass to mount on the camera and use. I'd love to pick up the new EVF finder which, with the updated firmware (3.0) now works with the original FP, but I think it will be months till it's actually available... and it's $700. Not sure I need to be go there since I was able to make satisfying images without that, before. 

The FP loves to chew up batteries and goad its user with a bit of "range anxiety" a la electric cars. Will I make it to the Capitol and back on one small battery? 

And then there's the lack of a mechanical shutter. Sure, wheels on fast moving cars and bikes won't be perfectly round but that's never been a concern of mine before --- besides, I've got lots of other cameras that can make wheels as geometrically perfect as you could want. But the lack of the mech. shutter also means, for all intents and purposes, that there's really no flash capability with this camera either. 

So, what does that all make this camera? Ah, yes. The perfect eccentric's walking around "Art" with a capital "A" camera. 

One thing is certain though. As long as I'm still working for clients it will never replace the Leicas and the wonderful catalog of lenses I've put together for them. This is more of an adjunct. 

And a reminder that agonizing over purchases is a waste of time and energy. I could have a more expensive hobby. I have one friend who collects and restores classic Porches. That's never cheap. I have another friend who opened a restaurant. Enough said about that. But cameras? Not so scary. 

Anyway, it's nice to see the FP again. Who can say how long it will stay this time? Move over Panasonics. You've got company. 

A Fun and Happy Visit With my Cardiologist. A Weekend of Casual Camera-ism. More Reckless Thoughts about Camera/Len Acquisitions

non-photo photo.

The new table on the patio is perfect. We love sitting out in the Spring and Fall to have dinners with friends. On nice mornings I take my coffee and breakfast out onto the patio to enjoy the bird songs and the clouds scooting along through the sky. Two big skylights flood the porch with light most of the day. I'd never thought to photograph the new table but I've spent so much time there lately it just seemed like a location that needed documenting. I had an early morning cup of coffee there today.

Grateful for good health.

This morning was my bi-yearly visit with my cardiologist. Since I have some family history of heart disease (on my father's side) my G.P. thought that establishing baselines and checking in with a pro every once in a while was a good idea. We did the 12 lead EKG, looked at lab results, looked at my AppleWatch EKGs and other information, and generally had a congenial and straightforward visit. I give my doctor high marks for: Being patient and answering my every question. Not making me wait in the "waiting room" for more than two minutes. For being thorough. For taking his time. For explaining the results of lab work. And for being....fun. And always encouraging.

Looking at my records of resting pulse rates (52), blood pressure (115/60), and LDL cholesterol (80) and looking at my calcium scores he suggested that I, "Continue to do exactly whatever it is I've been doing up to this point." I did ask him about the safety of swimming harder. His only suggestion was to try and keep my maximum heart rate under 160 or 165. That's advice I can use. 

To celebrate I'm meeting up with an advertising agency friend to have burgers for lunch at our favorite burger place. I can hardly wait. A once a month treat.
 
Photo stuff.
Leica SL + Sigma 24-70mm

I took two long walks this weekend; each with a different camera and lens combination. But almost eerily the same. The first photo adventure was with the Leica SL and the recently acquired Carl Zeiss 35mm f2.0 ZF lens (with adapter). This was a totally manual exposure and focusing adventure, and while it can be a slower way of working it encourages me to pay attention to exactly where I set the plane of focus and also prods me to think more attentively about selecting an aperture. 

The second walk, and photo fandango, was with the Fuji X100V which is a camera that is much more competent than I ever remember it to be. When I don't have one in my hands I tend to have a sort of confirmation bias that leads me to think of it as just a spend-y, fixed lens, point-and-shoot camera. In reality it's a powerful system for serious street photography and my own vague pursuit of fine art images. 

I say they are "eerily similar" in that both have lenses which deliver the same angle of view. One camera delivers a full 35mm size file while the other works in an APS-C file; but other than having more or less depth of field at a particular f-stop they are remarkably the same in the way they draw images. 

I tend to use the Leica+Zeiss almost like an older medium format camera in that I'm always aware that this system (SL and adapted MF lens) has no image stabilization so I work in a zone that let's me mostly stay near 1/250th of second. I favor f2.8 and f4.0 so I let the Auto-ISO drive the bus. The camera, after a firmware update, now auto switches from a mechanical shutter to an electronic shutter and delivers a top shutter speed of 1/16,000th of a second. Enough to accommodate an exposure of ISO 100 and whatever aperture feels right. With the SL's really good viewfinder I tend to take more time getting composition exactly right. 

On the Fuji camera I have no assurance that the framing is particularly accurate (using the optical finder) so with that camera I find myself being a bit more carefree and just "winging it." I went wild yesterday and set the focusing to AF anywhere in the frame (full field?) but with the face detection feature enabled. I also opted to use the camera in the program mode so I was basically just spraying exposures at whatever scene caught my attention with little regard for fine control. It's a nice exercise in "letting go" and while it generates less technical quality "keepers" the images that do survive the process are interesting and imbued with more kinetic activity in the frames. 

Using the two cameras in two very different ways is a good exercise in either loosening up your technique and allowing more opportunity for good accidents, or a way of tightening up your control and pushing you to fine tune to a greater degree. The one thing that using two ways of photographing does guarantee is that your practice won't get stale. 


Two future cameras are on my radar right now. One make sense while the other one is just a reckless side pursuit. Funny that I recognize my impending folly but have very little desire to avoid the "inevitable." 

The amazingly dumb impulse right now is my consideration of the Leica CL mini-system. It's a smaller, lighter camera but uses the same mount at the L mount, full frame cameras. The CL is made in a rangefinder format but uses an EVF and not an optical window. It's a 24 megapixel APS-C format camera and it's beautifully designed to be small, discreet but have great "hand feel." I'm interested in getting one with a fast 35mm Leica APS-C lens to make the system something like my usual set up. A fast shooting camera and a normal angle of view lens. I don't think the sensor in it would be any better (probably less so) than the sensor in the Fuji X100V the idea of using a lens that's closer to the "standard" "normal" appeals to me. But....yet another battery model, yet another can of worms vis-a-vis too many choices. 

I put this one in the "we'll see" pile. Next to a Leica M10 and the 50mm Summicron. 

The new camera I will almost certainly buy as soon as it becomes available will be the Apple iPhone 13 (or whatever designator they choose....). My XR iPhone is great but limited by having one focal length which I think is already too wide. I want to be able to choose a longer focal length for my work and I think this model will certainly have that; along with super fast processing which is a boon to computational photography and video. I have a little jar on the desk. Every time I get a royalty check from book sales I toss it into the jar (metaphorically) and in this way I save up for the inevitable. When it comes to B-roll video I may not need a professional camera in the future. Especially for scenes in good light. Audio is a whole different thing though. 

I continue my endless exploration of Austin's downtown and look 
forward to the near future when it seems the area will once again be 
thriving and filled with interesting people.

I had lunch at midday today with the creative director on the Texas Wine project. 
We're heading into the next phase in a couple of weeks. I'll be heading out into 
the wine country west of Austin to photograph the harvest of grapes, the juicing process
and more and more people touring and enjoying the wines. 

The first round of images and videos was very, very well accepted!!!


Lately the X100V has been getting more and more love.
As central Texas temperatures start to climb toward more normal Summertime  
highs the lower bulk and weight of the smaller Fujis works to the advantage 
of ambulatory street photographers. And the chrome version is a good
defense against one's camera becoming a full on heat sink...

With the 65mm Sigma lens and a tighter mastery of 
black and white from the Leica SL series cameras they are moving 
to the forefront of my choice matrix for portrait studio work and fine art work.

I expect that two SLs will be my choice of cameras for out of town adventures. 

The SL is still outpolling the newer SL2 for popularity.

But the polling is flawed because of a very small sampling method.

So far they (SLs) win by 100% but so far there is also only one datapoint.

That would be mine. 


Clearly, someone in our sample group is having a hard time deciding....