5.23.2022

the 21mm f1.5 TTartisan lens is very, very nice. I'm keeping mine. Oh. And by the way --- we just hit the 29,000,000 page view mark.

 

 Don't know about you but I'm happy and impressed to find that we've had twenty nine million page views over the years. Those are counted by Google as visits directly to the site and does not include numbers from feeds, etc. I'll take it. "Sitting on the wall for a 50...."





5.22.2022

Sunday afternoon strolling through Austin with a Sigma fp and not trying too hard to not try too hard...


I mentioned Sigma fp cameras the other day and that got me thinking that it had been long time since I tossed a battery in my fp and took it out for a spin. I've always loved the sharpness and the colors in the fp files and thought a nice way to relax and be calm would be to put a 45mm f2.8 on it and spend some quality time meandering around the central axis of the city. 

It was one of those days when I felt like I might want some options in the middle of the walk so I did something I rarely do; I took the smallest Domke camera bag off the hook in the equipment closet and loaded it up with a couple extra batteries (the Sigma likes to chew on batteries....) the small Sigma 24mm f3.5, an ancient Canon 50mm f1.8 FD lens+L adapter, the Leica TL2 (which I am trying hard....but not too hard...to enjoy more) the TTartisan 23mm f1.4 for the TL2 and some extra batteries for that camera as well. Since I was going to carry the bag anyway I thought I may as well also toss in my phone. I usually leave it in the car but I thought the Apple Pay feature might come in handy for some contactless consumerism. 

Of course I had overpacked and only used the Sigma fp and the 45 for the entire afternoon. I broke no new ground but I did have fun composing on the rear screen of the camera and letting myself slip into "dirty baby diaper hold" without feeling much shame or guilt. It's so funny. The TL2 probably has the better interface but I immediately took to the Sigma fp when I started using it while getting comfortable with the TL2 has been harder than I would have imagined. It did serve to help weigh the camera bag down and prevent it from blowing around in the breeze...

One thing I notice when using the Sigma fp without the big loupe for the rear screen is that I feel like such a goofy amateur standing around staring at the back of the camera that I don't even try to be quick and cool with my shooting but stand there moving the camera around a couple feet in front of my face until such a time as I feel the composition is just right. Now, in the comfort of my office, it's embarrassing how quickly I switched from "pro mode" to gleeful hobbyist. But I do have to say that it's pretty much fun to not have to act the part. 

Two people with bigger cameras than mine stopped to chat and give me a few "pointers" about doing "street photography." They were very earnest. They also pointed out places in the area I could go to get good shots. I guess they presumed that anyone looking at a rear screen needed some extra help. I thanked them and continued on. 

The fp is a fascinating camera in that it is perfunctory to use but then surprises one with wonderful, rich and highly detailed files. I gave up shooting in the square and reverted to 3:2 with the idea that if one of the frames needed to be cropped or converted to black and white I could just suck it up and do that in post. 

All in all it was a fun time out on the streets today. This is UT's graduation weekend so there were lots of graduates and their families out socializing and celebrating this weekend. Odd to see formal wear in burnt orange.... On to the images and their captions.

I have to admit that I'm a sucker for saturated colors.

Angry looking giant rabbit in front of the candy shop on West 2nd St. 
He's been there for years. Today is the first day I really found him to be threatening. 
Maybe it was something about the 45mm lens.



A new clothing store for women opened this week on 2nd. I have high hopes for their 
window design/merchandizing. 




I was on Congress Ave. and I found a wall of posters. Several were for a Tony Hawk movie.
He's a very, very famous skateboarder. Just by chance, as I got ready to click the shutter
this young man came speeding by on his board.


Private parties galore at the rental space at 8th and Congress. 
We were there last week for a fund-raiser. It looked totally different. 

And much less tacky. 

Remember back in the film days when you had a camera and there was an unfinished roll of film in it but you had no idea what was on the film? Well, when I picked up the fp today there was stuff on the memory card and I found I liked a bunch of the frames so I didn't reformat the card. This image of my
friend James is from weeks ago at the CookBook Cafe. Yeah. He's a great guy even if he 
does shoot with Sony....




I used to own an Element. Funny to think that was four cars back.
My friend Ellis still owns one. I wonder what he'll decide on next. 
Loved mine until the road noise got to me.... perfect interior space for a photographer. 

A second attempt. Nice colors.


Does the fp do "wide dynamic range?" You bet your ass it does. 
These images showed black in the interior, through the open window. 
A little judicious nudge of the shadow slider in raw opened up the 
interior to the point that it looked lit. Amazing. 


Wonders never cease in Austin. This is an autonomous food delivery robot. 
It was waiting patiently at the crosswalk. I decided to leverage my inconsistent 
humanity and jaywalk just to see if I could goad the device into cheating....


Next light rail train due? In hours and hours and hours.
This is Texas. We're still not good at all when it comes to 
mass transport.... God made Texas big so we could keep building parking lots.



Artistic interpretation of concrete.

The "just out of camera" look of fp black and white is pretty nice. 





Last shot of the day. A visual comment on the human condition. 
We're alone most of the time. Even when we're surrounded by people.

 

5.21.2022

Discontinued cameras. My nemesis.

 

Sadly, the camera in this photograph just got discontinued. 
for most brands that might mean a drop in price. 
It's a Leica so it will first become scarce and then ramp up in price.
Sad...I wanted to buy a second one brand new. They're mostly gone.

News flash! I have always been a very anxious person. I think it's mostly hereditary but one never really knows. Sometimes my anxiety is almost completely under control for years at a time. Once in a while it surfaces at inconvenient times. One source of psychological discomfort is when "performance anxiety" bubbles up and interferes with my enjoyment of swim practice. This happens more than I'd like. If I swim in a very competitive lane my dysfunctional psychology places a great emphasis on the "vital importance" of maintaining a fast pace throughout. Of keeping up.  Put me at the head of a fast lane, having to keep track of intervals and setting the pace, and I can feel the ramp up of my anxiety symptoms almost instantly. My breathing gets more difficult, my heart races, my muscles get really tense, etc. It's the classic "fight or flight" response to self-imposed stress. And it's been this way, on and off, for as long as I can remember. It's an incredibly tiring way to swim...

The funny thing is that at swim practice no one is keeping score, no one is shaming slower swimmers, no one expects you to be at the top of your game every time you get in the water. But my brain isn't buying the safe space concept.

I talked to a psychiatrist about it at one point. He asked which workouts or types of competition were most stressful for me. For day-to-day stuff I could readily identify our typical Saturday workouts. Today, for instance, I was in the pool surrounded by an Olympian and four or five NCAA All Americans (in adjacent lanes, not mine). My lane was filled with younger swimmers who crave tough workouts. My goal at 66 is to get into the lane on time, keep up with the pace set by the lane leader, and try not to get lapped on longer distance repeats. I've always been a much better sprinter than a distance swimmer....  But the reality is that there would have been no judgement if I'd just parked myself in a less competitive lane. And enjoyed the workout a little more.

If we talk about maximum swim anxiety it would have to be in competitions when swimming on a relay and swimming the butterfly leg. I hate the idea of ever letting my teammates down.  Sometimes all of this seems insane to me. Why, at 66 years of age should I be comparing my performance in the water with people half my age and at least half a foot taller (larger wingspan is a great advantage...)? But, as Churchill is always quoted as having said, "Never Give Up."

My friendly (also a swimmer) psychiatrist suggested that I try, just as an experiment, taking a small dose of an anti-anxiety medication before the next really emotionally stressful workout; just to see the effect. OMG. I've rarely been more relaxed or faster in the water. But the idea of gulping down class five narcotics, which are highly, highly addictive, is so counterproductive to the idea of the healthy lifestyle that swimming symbolizes for me. It's not a solution. Not mine at any rate...

I found a video on a YouTube swim channel (Effortless Swimming) that basically answers my quest. The basic premise of the video is: You want to go faster, further, etc. without exhausting yourself? Then...don't try so hard. The video advised relaxing and enjoying the swims more. Forgetting about pace clocks for a while and any whiff of competition and just re-learn (or, for me, learn) how to relax and have more fun with the exercise. 

Today I slipped down into a slower lane for the last half of the practice, a territory which was less challenging in terms of performance. I opted to go third in the line up. I let the two people in front of me set the pace. Instead of focusing on times or speed I focused on just relaxing and not trying so hard. The result was a bit revelatory. I was nearly as fast but with much less physical effort. Controlling the emotion of the swim seems more important than even fine-tuning technique. And at the end of workout I left the pool with so much more energy than usual.

And then it dawned on me that the same mindset that I have brought to the pool spills over into my photography. I've been working as a corporate/commercial photographer for nearly 40 years straight and I can't remember a job I didn't worry about the night before. Methodical double-checking of lists. Planning out alternate routes to the shoot. Waking up in the way too early morning, before my alarm clock went off to make sure (again) I'd packed what I needed. Etc. And it seems that the stress of work never dissipates until the files have been uploaded and archive, the bill sent, etc. I probably doubled my perceived work load over my career just by dealing with the additional effects of stress. And for no good reason. 

One of my friends asked me a few weeks ago if I still got stressed or nervous before jobs. I answered honestly, "yes. not as much as before. but yes." He asked, rhetorically, "even after having done thousands and thousands of headshots? You must be able to do them in your sleep!" 

I stopped and thought about it for a second but I had to admit that even when anticipating an in-studio headshot, with lights I've used a thousand times before, I still get nervous on the day of the shoot. And unlike most of my photographer friends I find it uncomfortable to stop by somewhere for a beer on the way home from a shoot. I'm not happy or de-stressed until I see the images on the monitor and watch them being uploaded onto cloud storage and a hard drive. 

It seems logical to take the swim advice (don't try so hard) and see if I can overlay that onto my photography. It would certainly make life more comfortable. And the odd thing is that the underlying need to perform isn't about anything existential. I could screw up every business engagement from now until I drop dead and not worry about a fee or lost income. It's more about never wanting to screw up. Never wanted to do less than I think I am capable of. It's a tragic flaw. But I'm working on that....

Following along with the theme of aberrant psychology I have to bring up how distressing it is to me when my favorite cameras get discontinued. It's not very logical. But the discontinuation of the Leica CL is a case in point. I bought one a year ago. I've been using it more and more as I've become more comfortable with the operation and I also have a good idea of just what to expect from the camera when I shoot with it. It has a flaw or two. It could be a couple millimeters taller so my pinky fits better on the right hand side. Leica could have spec'd a beefier battery for the camera so it would work longer on a charge. But for the most part it's a great, small, agile camera that's capable of helping to make really nice images. 

I had the thought a few weeks ago that I might pick up a second body just for one of those times when I decide to travel somewhere with the expectation of taking street photographs; some place like Istanbul. I'd have two matched bodies so if one had issues I could seamlessly switch. But I waited too long. By the time I got serious about the second CL purchase Leica announced the camera's retirement and within days the prices shot up and then the cameras became as scarce baby formula. 

And in light of my recent interests in motivation and brain science and self-induced stress I think I've discovered that my need to have multiple copies of specific cameras is a direct result of the same anxiety I talked about before. While I know that in real life cameras and lenses don't make a big difference and, for the most part, are easily interchangeable, I am superstitious and irrational enough so that when I get a really great image from a camera I then allow myself to believe that the camera is "special" or "has a certain look that no other camera can really reproduce" and I feel like I want to assure that I'll always have continued access to that camera in order to perform at the top of my game. It's a totally irrational way of looking at cameras.... 

Of course the logic of hindsight should reveal to me that there have been many cameras in the past that I elevated to that special status only to later realize that progress moves onward and the cameras I thought were "the magic bullet" had been superseded by improved cameras and weren't nearly as irreplaceable as I'd painted them to be. While I do think the "feel" of a camera is important it's certainly not everything and even some of the most annoying cameras I've used have, in shining moments, returned great shots. 

I'm not going to chase over-priced used Leica CLs. I'm going to heed the advice I got about swimming and not try so hard to mythologize my tools to the point of becoming obsessed with guaranteeing endless access to them. And maybe, if I still find a desire to own a second copy I'll work on my other shortcoming; impatience, and try to wait a few years until they come flooding into the used market at much lower prices. My logical lobe tells me right now that something else will come along to take the CL's place before that happens. And I should listen to that logical side every once in a while. It might make my photography life more pleasant. Same with swimming. 


After reading this all over a few times I have to say that I sound a bit OCD (obsessive compulsive) in addition to my obvious anxiety. When I look back objectively I have to admit that choosing a challenging, unstructured, and ever changing profession such as freelance photography has to be one of the worst choices one could possible make if reducing overall stress in day to day life is a goal. I like to think I chose it because I was attracted to the constant challenge of the craft as a business. I sure got what I was looking for. 

current favorite "work" camera. The Panasonic S5. works well. no drama. good files. dirt cheap. 

To sum up I had come to believe that so much business success has to do with just endlessly producing and trying really hard never to mess up. But maybe the secret to real happiness is to stop worrying about the final outcome and learn how to not try too hard; especially when it's totally unnecessary. 

Stepping outside my comfort zone to write this. Don't be too harsh. 

5.19.2022

Lost in the Sea of Photography. No roadmap ahead. No legacy behind.

 

TTArtisan 21mm f1.5 lens on a Leica SL2 camera.

"The Butterfly Bridge"

When I was working hard at the business of photography I think my single biggest worry was whether I would ever have enough money to retire or whether I would turn into a charity case with an endless supply of stories about the "good old days." While I wasn't paying attention my partner/spouse/super-hero wife stepped in and took care of the financial stuff. In spite of my best efforts to spend money on an ever changing gaggle of new toys she figured out how to backstop me. But now I'm grappling with something different and in some respects more sinister. To wit: "What happens next." 

From 1979 to 2000 change in the photo world seemed fast but was glacial by comparison to the years from 2001 to 2022. There are similarities but the differences between the earlier days and the start of this century are almost overwhelming. Client still need images but what they want is profoundly different. Where they put the images is wildly different. Clients will still pay but figuring out how to charge for social media use versus national print campaigns is a total mystery to just about everyone. Gear kind of looks the same but we never had to deal with so much obsolescence. Gallery shows have vanished while NFTs are proliferating?

Today I am thinking about obsolescence and commercial photography. I landed on this as I was setting up the studio for a portrait shoot I'm doing tomorrow. My mind snapped to obsolescence as I looked at two floor to ceiling bookshelves filled with binders that are, in turn, filled with CD-roms and the DVDs. Digital images have always been ephemeral compared to film. Keep film cool, dry and in the dark and it has the potential to outlive the photographer by a factor of about 2 to 1. Our biggest problem with film storage was just getting a slide we used back into the right folder. 

Digital content lives a fragile existence. The images have to be stored somewhere but every potential residence for photographs made with digital cameras is subject to some peril or another. Store everything in the cloud and you run the risk of waking up one day to find that the "trusted" service provider has gone bankrupt and shut down without notice. The servers are gone. The images flushed into the virtual sewer. Rendered, in one stroke, non-existent. Those CD-Roms from Kodak and Verbatim? Maybe they'll decay over time and we'll find once again that moving a few bits off the trail renders the whole disk non-readable. Or maybe we'll just, over time, run out of disk players that will read whatever format you happened to write to back then. Or maybe we'll just get to the point when no one is still making the disk readers/appliances that read CD-Roms altogether. Already the drivers for older readers aren't being updated anymore....

The same goes for DVDs with acres and acres of images on them. What happens when those become unreadable? Of course, you could spend the rest of your working life iteratively transferring/migrating to whatever the newest media is but wouldn't you rather enjoy the fleeting promises of a happy life instead of laboring over files which, if you are like me, you barely remember taking and haven't had a reason to revisit in...maybe decades?

In the ancient times, before Wi-Fi, arrogant photographers believed that people would always hunger to re-use (and "re-pay-for") their glorious images. They called it, "stock photography." Those large format photographs of the Eiffel Tower or those poignant medium format pictures of chubby office workers looking purposefully into desktop cathode ray tube computer monitors. The photographers saved everything. Every image was going to be part of a legacy they would leave to their loved ones which would provide never-ending residual fees for an every brightening future. So....how's that working out?

Truthfully, the number of photographs being taken every day is now unimaginably huge. The number of photographs that need to be taken by trained professionals with super advanced gear for demanding media insertion is probably smaller as a percentage of images taken (per capita) than at any time since the introduction of flexible film.  Almost everything is headed to the web. Almost every shot can be taken with a phone. Almost every use can be satisfactorily fulfilled by the happily untrained person who just knows when the image on the phone screen looks good to them. And since most uses are fleeting and non-recurring the downside of a less than perfect photo is minimized.

I've written many times before that photography made the jump over the bridge between "precious object" to consumable commodity. Every image has an ever-shortening "use by" date now. Mostly measured in hours. Days are saved for really special work. So how do we navigate the "brave new world" profitably?

When my son's millennial friends call up and want to "pick my brain" about "how to become successful photographers?"  I am truly at a loss for what to tell them now. I wrote a book in 2010 called "Commercial Photography Handbook." It was published by Amherst Media. You can still get a brand new copy from Amazon.com. The book was very popular and we sold tens of thousands of copies. Many of which were used in college courses teaching commercial photography. A lot of the book's content was about marketing and usage rights. Some parts about pricing. And I tossed in what I learned about branding and strategies of specialization, mostly gleaned from working at a regional advertising agency for a number of years --- in a non-photographic capacity. 

Much of the general information in the book is still practical but only at the highest echelons of our industry do people still negotiate and get paid for usage licensing now. You can protest but you know that the great unwashed, new masses of "pros" and part timers have probably never heard of the concept of licensing their images.... They just accept a one time payday and hand over the images to a marcom person who then tosses them onto the social media tire fire and, perhaps, somewhere on a company's ever changing (consumable) website. Next to the free stock photography.

When the kid's friends call we meet for a while, I give them a copy of the book, I urge them to figure out what they need to make in order to live a good life and how to estimate all the numbers involved to gauge how much they need to be charging clients. If they are going to be "professional." We'll see how many make it. And these are smart kids who've gone to the best colleges or universities and have gotten degrees in something other than photography. I think it's just currently fashionable now, during the "great resignation" to try one's hand at something fun....like photography. And being smart, young people if they can get paid for it then so much the better. 

I keep getting calls inviting me to work. On one hand it's good for my ego and my self-esteem but on the other hand it gives me a front row seat to see how much photography, as a business, has changed and how so much of the challenge and fun of it --- from my perspective --- has been sucked dry by ever diminishing expectations on the part of clients (less time, less budget and less imagination) and ever more paper work from the spreadsheet mavens who seem to have taken over control of all creative businesses... to the everlasting detriment of the actual product. 

Last night I noticed that the price of a Sigma 40mm f1.4 Art lens has fallen from $1500 to about $799. Everyone who has ever used the lens praises it to the heavens as one of the sharpest "Art" series lenses ever made. Go see Gerald Undone's YouTube review of the lens if you aren't familiar with it. The price drop, coupled with the reputation of the lens triggered my gear infatuation cycle and got me excited about another acquisition. I checked the local camera store's website and saw that they listed the lens as "in stock." I started rationalizing the cost of yet another big, heavy but amazingly good lens. 

And then I stopped and reflected. What project could I possibly do better with that particular lens and that particular focal length? It's not my style of portrait lens. I have good lenses in focal lengths of 35mm and 45mm so what the heck would the new lens really allow me to do that I can't already do?

But underneath it all my pervasive thought was --- who will ever end up using images I might create with this lens in any medium that might even remotely challenge the sharpness and resolution of it? Would I ever realize its potential?

Could I instead justify buying it in order to walk around and do "Art"? I already have a tremendous surplus of heavy lenses all across the normal focal length range and experience tells me I might put a 3 pound lens on the front of a 3 pound camera and walk around in the Austin downtown heat exactly one time before I got horribly bored and exhausted by the adventure of it all. And on a high resolution camera, using everything handheld, would I ever be able to really discern the difference between a legendary Sigma 35mm f1.4 Art lens and the 40mm? I have decent eyes but I can pretty much guarantee that I won't. 

The only place a lens like this might really shine is if you are doing a comparison between two very elite lenses and you put both on tripods, anchor the tripods onto concrete, use a flash aimed at a static target and carefully compare the resulting files at 400% on a great monitor. And who has time for that? I can't imagine anything more boring. And yet people seem  to do that all the time.

And with that decided I came to the realization that I'd finally hit the wall. Starting next week I'm purging every non-personal CD-rom or DVD that is over five years old. Everything goes. Next we'll toss out the older stuff on film that hasn't already been squeezed out. And then, and then. And then they came for the lenses...

I love taking photographs and being an extrovert, or an extra-extrovert, the thing I like best about assignments is working with fun people, but the whole last century obsession with legacy stuff is so overblown and overdone. I think people in general and artists in particular need to be focused on "What's next?" And to stop looking in the rear view mirrors. 

If you worked hard and socialized well you can probably name drop all day long. But does it matter if it all happened a long time ago and anyone younger than 50 has never heard of the people whose names you are dropping? Should anyone give a damn about how we used to selenium tone our double weight prints? Does it matter that you still know how to trim the leader on Tri-X film so you can load it in a screw mount Leica? Does your Linhof camera still make you look cool?

Can you look me in the eye and tell me you really, really like most of the old black and white landscape photography from the second half of the 20th century? Are some of the popular photographers of that era really worthy of sainthood? Have we already forgotten Judy Dater and Jack Wellpot? 

I was so excited to buy the enormous book of Peter Lindbergh's life's work a while back. I always liked his black and white fashion photos. And there was a lot of good stuff in the book. Maybe 25% of the work was like the stuff I fondly remembered. But the other 75% was repetition of style and point of view, or just boring, or time dated, or on par with what the rest of us were capable of. And to be honest seeing the totality of his work made me understand his place in photo history a bit more rationally. 

It's funny to me that some work from a number of "famous" photographers from our shared past hasn't aged well at all. There are standouts like Avedon, Penn, Frank, HCB, and Koudelka. Their work seems to this day as timeless as ever. But there are legions of photographers from the last quarter of the 20th century who had their day in the sun, their spread in a magazine, their profile in Communication Arts or Graphis but looking back retrospectively and with a time-trained eye most of the work hasn't aged well at all. 

Some of it is down to the fact that great technical photos were much harder to pull off back then and so in no small part we respected the craft and the novelty of innovative work. But the innovation didn't guarantee timelessness. Anymore than watching Gilligan's Island or The Beverly Hillbillies in reruns raises the stature of the programs for audiences in 2022. The jokes are played out, incorporated into the fabric of popular culture. Who collects Ford Taurus automobiles? 

Save me from having to ever look at one of Herb Ritts's "portraits" ever again. And warn me, please, if I am about to walk into a gallery showing work by Scavullo. But I'd be thrilled to spend a couple hours looking at Albert Watson's work...

I have an acquaintance who made hundreds of millions of dollars in high tech in the 1990s. He bought an entire edition of Ansel Adams photos, printed and numbered by the artist, and had them hung proudly in his penthouse apartment. I'd seen a lot of Adam's work over the years but mostly on posters and in books and magazines. Never up close and in person. Framed and lit and proudly displayed. And achingly boring. As boring as an evening shopping excursion to a middle American mall. I smiled and nodded to my friend and congratulated him on buying art that he liked. Next up he was looking to buy some John Sexton work. I'll decline another invitation entirely if he starts collecting Paul Caponigro. Then again, my friend does have good taste in expensive wines...

I'm sure I've insulted the fans of a handful of photographers today. If I were to buy prints for a collection for my home they'd be by Elliott Erwitt or Duane Michals. I tried to buy an Avedon 20 years ago but the gallery sat on their hands until the prices doubled and at that point we had other priorities... (bastards). But there's no guarantee that the print's appeal would not fall flat with other people. Including other photographers. 

So much of the wish for legacy is a sublimated fear of mortality. And of lapsing into irrelevance. So much of our feeling that photography is becoming more diluted and less meaningful is a reflection of our own wish that things hadn't changed or the wish that even current change in our chosen field would slow down. Or the wish that someone would write a manual of how to negotiate life when the process that created your own cherished identity becomes different, changed and almost unrecognizable. Yeah. That's the next big thing to grapple with. And I don't have any clear answers here. 

If someone asks why I continue on doing what I do I can assure you that it's not to pay the bills, it's not that I think museums will hang my work years from now either. It's because it's what I really know how to do in the moment and that gives me comfort. I guess I'll get it figured out some day but for now I'm just glad I finally figured out that some new gear isn't going to move the game forward in any meaningful way. 

going forward is about greeting the future with enthusiasm and trying new things. That's the secret.

5.18.2022

A Renaissance of Micro Four Thirds Equipment? Yes, but with a different twist than before...

The APS-C, in between format...

 In fairly short order OM Systems (formerly Olympus) dropped the OM-1 on the market, Panasonic followed up last year's launch of the GH5ii with the exciting new video/still hybrid camera for all the rest of us with the GH6, and then Panasonic tossed in a comfortable sale price on one of their most beloved photography oriented cameras of all time, the G9. This week, almost as an afterthought, Panasonic/Leica also delivered a 9mm f1.7 lens that's destined to become the m4:3 standard wide angle lens for V-loggers who want desperately to act in and direct their own videos simultaneously. To cap it all off Panasonic has been doing lens refreshes to take advantage of dual image stabilization and better weather sealing. All of which makes this an exciting time to shop for new cameras --- if you haven't been pulled into the idea that you "need" a full frame system. 

It certainly combats the ever circulating claims that micro four thirds is dead.

I'm going to bet that many of you who come here to read the blog own some sort of m4:3 camera already. The value proposition over the years made it hard to resist. And if you've been interested in low cost/high performance video production for the last five to ten years you certainly know that the GH series from Panasonic has always been the high value proposition. (That being said I have to mention that my favorite video project to date is the one my friend James and I did for our mutual friends at the restaurant, Cantine, which we shot only on Olympus EM5-ii cameras because of their amazing image stabilization and great colors).

The smaller sensor camera sales are certainly picking up these days. Threads on several fora are full of people who've pre-ordered OM-1s and have been waiting patiently and impatiently for delivery. Rumor has it that pre-order demand came in at about 4X expectations! That's either amazing demand or amazingly bad pre-launch market research. We'll probably never know which. 

While many are using the O&P cameras and lenses for as their primary professional and advanced hobbyist choices I think there is something new going on here that I frankly love. I think people have given themselves permission to own multiple camera systems, each of which is "best" at doing one type of thing really, really well. I have several friends who've been tooling up for more work, now that the economy is red hot and recovering even in unexpected places, and they have bought Fuji medium format cameras for very high end work like architecture and studio still life/lifestyle. They still have full frame (35mm frame size) cameras which currently represent their "go to" tools for general work and things like commercial/corporate headshots but who are also picking up Panasonic's GH6s to more easily do video (well) and OM System OM-1s as quick shooting, bright light sports, travel, wildlife and even landscape specialty cameras. 

Birders love the long, sharp OM lenses which bring reach and sharpness in small packages. Videographers like the awe inspiring video capabilities of the GH cameras which have mature surrounding infrastructure of audio interfaces, appropriate lenses and integration features like the full sized HDMI sockets and reliable resistance to production-gutting camera shutdowns caused by internal heating. ( As seen across several major camera brands...).

But the point is that they aren't making severe, binary choices...rather they are assembling multiple systems to match their needs. The right collection of tools for the right jobs. Differently better.

I haven't succumbed to the siren song of the medium format cameras yet. I don't see the need for them in my business. But I know that high resolution full frame cameras have their place, especially for advertising agency clients who want files that can be blown up large,  get endlessly retouched and are stuffed with detail. The fact that out of focus backgrounds are now a twenty year trend and the full frame systems with new generations of less compromised fast lenses makes their use for trendy stuff like this easier makes the format even more popular. 

But at the same time the m4:3 cameras also check many boxes for me. I love the smaller, lighter lenses for those weeks where corporate events have me moving, shooting and moving from the first introductory speech over breakfast in the morning until late in the evenings. Cutting the lens-weight burden by half or two thirds is hugely beneficial. Ditto for traveling across country on small planes, in small rental cars and sometimes on foot.

And when it comes to shooting multi-camera video we've got, in the m4:3 cameras,  cost effective tools that can run for hours, never overheat, have super fast codecs (which effectively means impressive slow motion), less rolling shutter artifacts and brilliant audio interfaces which really work. 

I think many advanced non-pros are also taking advantage of the fact that a selection of different format cameras can be a perfect blend of resources. And having disparate systems at hand can allow one to switch back and forth which, I think, helps people keep from getting bored and losing interest in the craft. 

My preferred "bigger" cameras are the full frame Leica SLx series cameras but my favorite camera to use for just about everything that doesn't need to be big and perfect seems to be the Panasonic G9. It's just more fun. And it makes files that are "almost perfect." 

It's cool to have both systems. And it's a motivation enhancer. Always nice to have a personal system and a "work" system as well. 


5.17.2022

The Leica CL and the Leica TL2 Exit the Camera Arena. Retired. Nothing lasts forever.


I bought two eccentric Leica cameras last year. One was the CL and the other was the TL2. Both are L mount, APS-C cameras and both were getting a bit long in the tooth by the time I decided to buy them. I instantly fell in love with the CL and I'm still mostly ambivalent about the TL2. In fact, I sometimes have a dream in which one of the Kardashians sees me out with the TL2 and Just has to have it. Now! And the Kardashian slips me a cool $25 grand in cash and sashays off with her new toy. I of course take the $25,000 and ship it off directly to Leica to buy some other fun toys.

I learned about the fate of the CL + TL2 from VSL reader/commenter/advisor, Gordon Brown, who is also a Leica user. I suspect he thought I'd be a bit sad to read the news but I'm really not. I didn't see the products as particularly sustainable. Sure, I buy crazy stuff like this but not everyone is so illogical. In fact, I'm betting the entire market for these two cameras numbers in the low four digits.

I thought to take the TL2 out for a jaunt first but when I pulled it out of a drawer I realized that I had forgotten how to do the "punch in" magnification in the menu and after fucking around with it for too long I tossed it onto the camera pile and grabbed the CL instead. A much better choice and an actual, real, usable camera. 

For the last half a week I've been obsessed with smaller sensor cameras and short telephoto lenses. I've been putting a TTArtisan 50mm f1.2 lens on the Panasonic G9 and then switching out for zanier stuff like the old, Pen FT 60mm f1.5. For today's commemorative Leica CL walk I decided to get some use out of the Sigma Contemporary 56mm f1.4. It's a wonderful lens. So I clicked the lens onto the CL and headed downtown in a baggy pair of short pants and some sort of expensive REI t-shirt that's supposed to keep one cool and dry. It kinda worked. The temperature was in the high nineties and the humidity was becoming...intimate...but it wasn't crippling by any measure.

I'll probably end up keeping the CL until it falls apart in my hands. It's a really swell little camera that in some ways is as endearing as a family dog. It's small, light, has 24 megapixels, is tweaked up with the Leica "color science", works well with all sorts of L mount lenses and adapted lenses and takes an absolutely ubiquitous battery. It's final downfall will not be because I can't source a battery.... And, it's house trained.

The TL2 on  the other hand takes a pricey, Leica only battery which is destined to become as rare as hand made Ferrari 360 Spiders. Or interesting articles about punitive diet regimens. I need to go through its menu one more time, take notes and they produce a series of laminated guide cards so I can continue to use it long enough for it to become a Leica "collector's" item and then I'll sell it off as quick as I can. 

The one thing I'm reasonable certain about though is that the Sigma 56mm f1.4 is very much a keeper. Whichever brand of camera you use it on. Even if I exit the Leica APS-C cameras altogether I'll keep the Sigma Contemporary L mount lenses, mount them on an SL2 and use the camera in the crop mode. 

Here are some images from today; from the CL. Be sure to click on them so you can see them large enough to make it worth the journey.
















Giant Texas BBQ grill. My back yard.