The Limitations of sharing photographic images on the web.

Images from a workshop. Taken with an Olympus E-3 camera.

I recently got my hands on a Fuji 50Sii. It's a fun camera. The sensor is 70% bigger than the sensors in my full frame Leicas (how can that be, if the Leicas are "full frame" ??? Rhetorical, no answer needed). I took the new camera and the one lens I have for it outside to make a few photographs and see how the camera operates, and how I think I might use it in the future. 

The images I took were images of convenience but I shared them to give readers a general idea of how the photos look and to mate the illustrations with some operational observations about the camera. It was definitely a "first blush" run and while I am not a gear reviewer by trade I think my experience with cameras, translated into a series of blog posts, can be worthwhile for others who might be contemplating the same kinds of purchases. 

It's hot here in Austin. And on the day of my maiden voyage with the Fuji the heat index ended up reaching 110°. Needless to say I didn't have the energy, or even the safety margin, to spend a lot of time making nuanced and exciting images. But I did figure out how to expose with the camera, how to operate all the controls and how to effectively compose with the slightly wide lens I have to work with. 

Here's where it all gets tricky. When I get back to the office, make a ritual sacrifice to the Texas air conditioning gods, and change into less sticky clothes, I finally get around to transferring the raw images I've taken onto my computer. It's a fairly nice computer. It's a "fully loaded" Apple iMacPro and that means it can make short work of big, uncompressed files but more importantly it means I can see the files on a 27 inch Retina monitor. 

When I bring files into PhotoShop I can zoom in on the images to my heart's content. I can look at the corners of a frame at 200, 400 or even 800 % (though I have no idea why I should or even if I should). I can look at how the camera and lens, working together, have handled fine details and I can see if there is  or isn't a lot of reprehensible noise in the shadow areas ---- really. The inspection tools at my disposal are nearly endless. For example, if I want to see how an image looks printed I can output it at up to 13 x 19 inches here in the office. If I want to see it enormously large I can send a file to my local custom lab and see what it looks like at up to 4x6 feet.

But. But! At some point we have to take these high bit depth, 51 megapixel files and translate them in several ways. First, I have to resize them to 3200 pixels on the long end in order to be able to upload them to Blogger and not pay enormous storage fees to Google. I usually resize all the files that you see here to 3200 pixels and use a Jpeg setting of 92% when saving them. So, as you can see, I've already tossed away lots of information which affects both the color rendering of the images but also the definition and "nano-acuity." 

That progression of steps homogenizes the images somewhat with every other image shown on various share sites. It reduces the positive attributes that make good images from very good cameras look different --- by a lot. I get it. I see that myself. I can look at a Fuji MF file or a Leica SL2 file in a near perfect viewing situation in my studio where I also control the viewing conditions making sure that when I look at the calibrated screen its environment is consistent and I've done a good job eliminating surfaces around the monitor that might introduce color casts. 

But if I upload a beautiful image and then walk into the house, pick up an iPad and view it there I am always a bit disappointed. Something is always, inevitably lost.

If I'm sharing images with 92% of internet users I can expect them to be looking at the same images on a phone screen. If the viewer is lucky he or she is looking at them on a big, bright, Apple iPhone 14 Pro screen and at least seeing them in a color profiled version. Less so on a lesser phone. But now the images are much smaller still, and depending on the service provider are probably also crunched/compressed even further. No image seems to get out alive...

I write all this in order to explain why I go to the trouble to walk outside and point new cameras at known (to me) objects. I test the cameras because, in fact, I still make a living using them to make images for paying clients. And not all of the client's have moved exclusively to web-based advertising mediums. In fact, the more esoteric or "high end" the client the greater potential exists that they'll be using the images in very well produced, printed brochures as well as in trade show graphics that can be quite large; and most of which will be inspected from a close distance. Some very large prints also end up on the walls of corporate offices --- a demanding sub-specialty for sure!

Several commenters recently pointed out that for just walking around and shooting casual photographs that any camera would work. And they point to scenes I've shot on APS-C cameras, full frame cameras, and even m4:3 cameras. And frequently they will make the statement that they cannot see any worthwhile (or even perceptible) differences between any of the camera systems that were used to make any of the images. As though all of my intention is to produce work that will be shown solely on smaller screens. Compressed onto the web.

My photography yesterday had two objectives. First was to get out of the house, avoid "cabin fever" and secondly to familiarize myself with a new camera system and a different interface than the ones I've been using for the past several years. The outing was not intended to create a gallery show of amazing images. (but God knows I try....). I was basically inviting you along for the walk as I tried out the features of the new camera. 

Could I have made similar images with my iPhone? Even though it's a five year old XR? Sure. Why not? And as long as the only place I used the phone images was on Instagram or as reduced size images for the blog I'm sure the quality would have been fine. But I already know how to make photographs with my phone while I am just getting started with the big Fuji. 

Some people seem to be so busy saving me from myself. Helping me save my money. Helping me become content with the status quo of my cameras. Helping me stay the course and reject anything new. But that's more or less antithetical to everything I've written here since 2009. Right?

I really like using a variety of cameras and formats. I've shot with everything from 8x10 view cameras to 16mm Minox cameras --- and pretty much everything in between. The individual camera is part of a creative process and nearly every camera brings something new and different to the act of making photographs. I see it all over my own house and office. Formal, square, black and white images from old Hasselblads, 35mm style photographs of Ben running cross country or swimming in races taken with assortments of fast 35mm style cameras and long lenses. Travel shots with a Mamiya 6. Industrial shots with everything from 4x5 inch view cameras to the latest Leica SL cameras. Each has its own "personality" and its own strengths and I choose them depending on the look and feel I'd like to impart for a particular kind of image. Or to impart a look and feel that a clients commissions.

One thing that tipped me over into accepting my friend's kind offer regarding the highly discounted and very complete Fuji 50Sii kit was having looked around my home base and seeing just how many square, black and white images are on the walls. B. loves the format. I love the format and yet it somehow doesn't work as well for me when I just set a 24 by 36mm DSLR or mirrorless camera to a 1:1 aspect ratio. I want a bigger format, more surface area on the sensor instead of just more resolution. I'm experimenting with the Fuji because of both the 38 megapixel square file I can make in the camera but also because the bigger (size not res) of the sensor means that the 38 million pixels are bigger than the pixels on a full frame sensor cropped into a square. As I've said many times, I believe that bigger pixels are different...better. I wish someone would make a square format digital camera with a sensor as big as the 6x6 cm negatives that film cameras could make. But to add one to the mix it would have to be relatively affordable. Say $10K instead of >$60K. 

So the Fuji is, by that way of thinking, a compromise. But a very easy and affordable one to accept for me. 

I look forward to shooting many, many square images. Mostly portraits. Environmental and otherwise. But when I share them with you and you choose to look at them on a cellphone screen you won't see what I see and you won't see what my friends see when they drop by and look at the prints hanging, matted, in nice big frames, on our walls. You just won't. 

Does that mean I should stop posting images at all? Stop adding photo illustrations to what I write? I guess if enough of you think it's a waste of time I could stop. It would save me time and effort. But frankly, I think the images, even if they are variations on stuff you've already seen, add something to a package of writing here. 

But we're nothing if not flexible....

As to everyone trying to save me money...stop. I would not spend money on cameras and lenses if I did not have it. As one of my much wealthier friends remarked a few days ago when I asked her if I should buy yet another camera:

"will you enjoy it? Can you make art with it? If you buy it will your family have to start shopping at the Dollar Store?"

to which I responded: "What's a 'Dollar Store'?"

To sum up: I like working with a variety of cameras and enjoy the challenge of mastering new cameras. I'm sharing images because it seems like a good enough way to share my photo walks across thousands of miles and many different cultures. There are limitations in sharing and viewing work on the web. Everything, everything! gets compressed and changed. In that regard I'm doing the best I can to make sure stuff looks as good as I can make it under the circumstances. 

If you'd like me to stop sharing images please indicate so in the comments below. We'll see. 

Finally, fourteen years of writing and sharing about my relationship with photography should convince you that I'm incorrigible when it comes to buying, using and enjoying new cameras. That doesn't mean I don't enjoy the "pure activity and results of taking photographs" in the least. I love making images that resonate with me. You might not like them and that's okay. But don't equate what I buy with how passionate I am with the actual process. You should know better.

And if you slag me for spending some money on a cool lens and then I find out you have shitty camera gear but are driving a shiny, new Maserati --- we really need to talk.... you might have your priorities all screwed up. I might be able to help you...



Sometimes it takes curiosity and a new camera to get heat shocked Austin photographers outside in the Summer. A few thoughts about my first real immersion back into the Fuji world; via the GFX50S-2


The house and the studio/office were both nice and chilly this morning. I'd have stayed in bed and luxuriated in the cool embrace of interior paradise but for the siren call of our morning swim workout. I hauled myself out of bed, dressed in the almost obligatory summer wear (thin, floppy, long sleeve shirt with an SPF rating of 40; dress shorts, Teva sandals, and a Fjall Raven wide brimmed hat) and headed over to the pool. After a long workout I headed back home to grab some chow and to also grab today's object of curiosity and interest: the Fuji GFX 50Sii. Oh...and the 50mm f3.5 lens for that system. 

In the interest of a vaguely objective appraisal I opted to shoot in Fuji's raw file format and I set the camera for the way I like to shoot when there's no money on the table. That would be in Aperture mode, Auto-ISO (diligently overriding the EV control), white balance set to the little "sun" icon and the lens set to f5.6. Single point AF using S-AF and that's about it. As simple as I can make the process. 

Some observations. The camera is fairly heavy and feels dense. That's fine. It's in the same ballpark as the Leica SL2 and I'm used to carrying that around for hours with no discomfort. The native aspect ratio of the sensor is 4:3 which is more square than the typical 3:2 and that means when and if I crop the frame and shoot at 1:1 I don't lose as much overall resolution. At 1:1 you are still getting about 38 megapixels of data.

The 50mm f3.5 lens I got with the kit is bulky but not too heavy. It's a nice partner for the camera and keeps the whole package reasonably small. 

I have a simple adapter for Nikon F to Fuji GFX lens mounting. I have four Nikon F mount lenses to play around with. They are: Voigtlander 40mm Ultron, Carl Zeiss ZF 50mm f1.4 Planar, Nikon/Nikkor 50mm f1.4, and the Voigtlander 58mm f1.4 lens.  All are interesting and good in their own way. The Ziess lens and the Voigtlander 58mm are exceptionally good once you move past f2.0 ( using f2.8-f8.0 to get the good stuff). All four of the lenses vignette on the mini-medium format sensor in the GFX but not by much. The 58mm has the least vignetting. Since my plan is to use the camera in the square format I am happy to report that all of the lenses work at that aspect ratio with minimal to no vignetting and few optical issues. 

I would like something longer but I need to work with the camera for a while before I decide how to proceed. I may, just for a change, shy away from diving into endless legacy permutations and go directly to the GFX 100-200mm zoom. But that's still way off in the mists of the future.

One thing about the GFX50Sii that I have to say I really love is the top mounted display with the big wheels which show the aperture and the ISO, or the aperture and shutter speed setting (depending on how you have them set).  The display is a perfect for a quick glance and it's always on so you don't have to turn on the camera and wait in order to see your settings. 

I'm not sure the back panel is as well calibrated for relative exposures and I found that I kept using exposure compensation set at minus one stop in order to make the EVF or the rear screen expose the way I wanted. But, of course, when I got back to the computer my in the field compensation made for files that were actually darker by half to three quarters of a stop than what I was seeing by "eyeball measurements." Lesson learned? Trust the meter or experience over the previews.

None of the images I made today were a tough test for any modern camera or lens. I was working with bright sun and stationary objects. I was using the camera with a shutter speed that was usually up in the 1/2000th second area and a modern 50mm lens used at f5.6 should be just about bulletproof. 

I spent a couple hours just walking. From about 10:30 till about 12:30 pm and then it just started getting too hot. Really. Too hot. Also the battery, which had a charge reading of 76% when I left the house has dropped down to two bars --- or around 25%. It was time to call an end to today's joust with hostile weather. The earth has resources/weapons at its disposal that I'll never be able to beat. 

The files look great in Lightroom. Easy to work with and, I hope you can see for yourself in the samples, filled with incredible dynamic range. Easily one of the best DR performances I've personally experienced.... 

The lens is sharp, the camera is straightforward and fun to use, the hat was superb. Click through and see for yourself. These are all minimally processed in Lightroom, converted to Jpegs and pushed up to the web to enjoy the tender mercies of compression and other forms of partial destruction. But I think they still hold up fine. 

The camera and lens are keepers. Not sure I would have spent the list price on the package but happily part with cash at the price I did agree on. 

Stay cool. Have fun. Now that it's over 102° the logical thing to do is take a nap on the couch, under the ceiling fan, with an icy Pellegrino at hand. Ciao. 

Square black and white portraits coming up next....


An interesting detour from our usual Leica-centric programming. Taking care of a blind spot. Using "retail therapy" to combat the heat stress. Too good a deal to pass up? How do I order more lenses? Oh shit.


Fujifilm GFX 50S ii. For those times when you find yourself on an 
endless backorder status for the Fuji X100V... 

We're setting records left and right here in central Texas. But not in a good way. We're under the blisteringly hot thumb of a high pressure system ("heat dome") that just won't quit. The actual air temperature right now is 104° but the "heat index", because of the high humidity, is 110°. I've stopped going outside after ten in the morning. Except when I run out of coffee...it's just too hot.

But that sure leaves me with more time on my hands than I am used to. Or want to get used to. Sure, the pool is great and swimming from 7-9 in the morning is now the prime time, but after a while one longs for more than a daily swim and some time spent at Gold's Gym (thankfully, well air conditioned). So I work on my book project (number 8) and when that gets old I look at cool cameras online. 

I got a call from a close friend who, if you can believe this!!! buys and sells more gear in a year than I think I've owned in ten. He's super interested in cameras and lenses and buys stuff, tries it out and then moves it on. Anyway, he recently got a spectacular deal on a Fuji GFX 50Sii and a 50mm GFX lens.

He tested the camera, liked it okay and then moved on to something else. I asked him about the camera and he asked me if I wanted to try it out. Sure. He dropped by yesterday with the original boxes, extra batteries, an Arca Swiss plate, a Nikon lens adapter, and a dual battery charger (the camera comes only with a charging cable). All in new condition. I spent most of the latter part of the evening going through the menus and learning how to use the camera. Having owned a bunch of Fuji cameras (Xe30, XT3, X-Pro2, X100V, several SH1s, etc.) there was very little I didn't understand. But you never know and it's best to work through the details before you take a camera out on the street. Less futzing around. Fewer lost shots.

My friend offered the package to me for a song today. We just finalized the deal. I guess that makes me the owner of a new (to me) medium format digital camera. And now the fun begins...

Sadly, it was just too f$**ing hot to go out and test the camera in the streets today. I'll try to get up extra early tomorrow.... Do some pre-swim photos. 

Hope you are having a cooler Summer than I am. three words of advice: Wide.Brim.Hat.* 

*Even if you can do no better than a Tilley.

comments have returned. Be nice. It's too hot to put up with B.S. and snark.


For all those who dislike black and white..... Here are color shots from the walk on Monday. Same specs....Q2. Hot day. Heat Index in the .... uncomfortable zone. Click to see em larger.

the road less traveled.

I include this as the George W. Bush Commemorative guard rail. It was at this site many years ago that Gov. Bush was running along with his security detail when a garbage truck took the curve too fast and jumped the curb, barely missing the future president. If not for the quick reflexes of his security team we might never have had the war in Iraq... And what a loss that would have been for Halliburton...

Upside down growing vines.