7.07.2015

Kirk Tuck's Very Colorful, One Day Review of the Panasonic 42.5mm f1.7 Lens For Micro Four Thirds.

Painting team at the Graffiti Wall. Austin, Texas.

This will be a short and sweet review of the Panasonic 42.5mm f1.7 Lumix lens. Why? Because it's all good and no bad. I've owned the Olympus 45mm f1.8 lens twice. Each time I was enthralled with it at the outset and then gradually used it less and less. The barrel was too small to hang fingers on when shooting and when you really, really pushed the image size you could see that it was a little less than perfect wide open. I didn't really care because with the tiniest bit of post processing you could snap up the whole image pretty well and there were other lenses in the kit. If I wanted something right in that ballpark (especially since getting the EM-5.2...) I generally grabbed for the solid, little 40mm f1.4 Pen FT manual focus lens and used the focus peaking or I attached the 60mm Sigma lens and stepped back a bit. For whatever reason I used the Olympus lens less than any other M4:3 lens in the drawer except for the 17mm f1.8. But that wider one is an awkward focal length for me...

But like a guy who isn't really delighted with his girlfriend I kept my eyes open for a suitable (better) replacement. At one point a friend let me shoot with his Panasonic 42.5mm f1.2 Leica Supreme Platinum Deluxe Lens and it really caught my attention in two ways. First, the image in the finder was perfect and second, the price was insanely stratospheric for a user with multiple systems. Somewhere in the file cabinet just past the temporal lobe of my brain my subconscious filed the message: Panasonic Lens ---- Good. Revisit.

I had a bit of time on my hands one day so I played with the Panasonic Leice Supreme Platinum Deluxe lens's little brother; the lens under test, and came away thinking I liked the look, the feel, the finder image and (just in case I buy another Panasonic camera body) the in lens image stabilization. The lens had me at "finder image."

The Panasonic 42.5/1.7 is svelte and well constructed. It comes with a good lens hood. In the box. Included in the price. The lens focuses quickly and very accurately on the EM5.2 body. I like everything about it. I would talk about the color rendering and the sharpness, etc.; I might even prattle on about the micro-contrast or the mini-contrast or the third order harmonics of the system but I thought it would be more in keeping with a photographic tradition to just shoot with the damn thing and show you some photographs. Let you make up your own mind about what you might be seeing.

I bought my copy at Precision Camera. Same price as the one listed at Amazon and B&H.

Here are some images I took at the wall. Almost everything is shot at f4. It works well at all the other apertures too. ..






Yay! Action Figure poses.







This is Nikki. She sells spray paint, Red Bull and other necessities at the Graffiti Wall. 

Woman on Rock. Discovering America.




The climb to the top is steep and treacherous. Except for those with m4:3 cameras...


America's favorite post climb pass time. (love the rhyme).

Multi-planar sharpness test. 

The Panasonic lens handles the selfie subject matter with ease. 

Is it possible that the girl with the selfie stick is contemplating using said stick to prod her 
companion over the steep edge? Sinister selfie stick behavior afoot. And the perpetrator could simultaneously document her own crime....




The painter's emergency step ladder. Details below.



It's been a wet Spring in Austin. You can see the results in the foliage...






Jeremy Green, put up two really nice photographs at my local Starbucks.


I was having coffee yesterday with my friend, Frank, when I looked over his shoulder and saw these two pieces up on the wall of Starbucks. They are large, very well done images on a nice, matte paper stock. A little digging turned up the information that they were the works of Jeremy Green. Jeremy is a friend, a photographer and an instructor in the Austin Community College Art Dept. It's fun to walk into a regular haunt and see work that is head and shoulders above the usual stuff on the walls!

I was carrying a camera (duh!) and snapped a quick picture of the photos. The camera was an Olympus EM5.2 with a Panasonic 42.5mm lens.

Here again is the link to his website: http://www.jeremygreen.com/#!/index

Take a visit and see what he's all about. He adds nice energy to the Austin photographic art scene.

The results of yesterday's quiz....

I took the photo down from yesterday because there were so many embarrassing glitches and gotcha's in it. The rookie mistake I made was not having someone with expertise to supervise the whole set up and look for mistakes that I couldn't see because I lack that professional training...

Gloves, watches, flat lines on monitors, all added up to a photo that might work at a quick glance for an uneducated audience but not for most people and certainly not for the highly educated and trained audiences here at VSL.

My lesson? If you aren't an expert in the field then make sure you bring along someone who is. Otherwise, as soon as your clients see the shot you'll be back in re-shooting --0-- and that's never pleasant.

Thanks to all who chimed in. 

7.05.2015

We got asked to do so much more in the past. Now everyone seems to have short schedules, tiny budgets and diminished expectations of what is possible...


I shot this image back in the 1980's for a theater group. The photo shoot was not some afterthought engineered to fit into a couple of minutes after a dress rehearsal or during a rehearsal break. It was scheduled and the "look" of the shoot was well discussed before anything started. The play was set in a Texas town in the 1940s. We all decided that the look that most appealed to us as collaborative group was both a hand colored look and the look of portraits that were lit by tungsten spotlights. A look that was an amalgam of current, contrasty shadows and the kind of wonderful tonality inherent in images of the time.

We selected a film that would emulate the look of film from that time. It was called Ektapan and was ISO 100 or 125 panchromatic black and white. We carefully posed and photographed all six major actors in their costumes, paying attention to the fall of the light under hat brims and chins. Each subject lit from scratch to match the feel of their character.

Once the shoot was over I took the six rolls of 12 exposure film back to my studio. I'd shot an additional roll of film in a separate A12 Hasselblad film back; one or two frames of each person we photographed. This roll of film was my test roll. I would hand develop it in a single roll tank and evaluate it after the film dried. In this way I'd be able to see if certain frames were too thin (needed more development) or too thick (needed less development) and I could adjust. I ended up custom developing each roll to get exactly the density I thought would print best on one of the two grades of paper I had chosen for the project. The development took the better part of a day!

Once developed and dried I made contact sheets for each roll. One contact sheet for me and one for the marketing people at the theater. I didn't take chances with the people at the theater misreading the edge numbering so I wrote out the numbers with a red China marker. If we talked on the phone I wanted to make sure we were all discussing the same frame....

Once the frames were selected I went back into the dark room with two boxes of 11x14 inch black and white print paper. Not just any print paper but Kodak Ektalure G surface paper. It was the perfect choice for both a long range of tones and also a perfect surface on which to hand color. Why two boxes? One was grade two and the other grade three. The numbers related to their fixed contrasts. Two was softer, three contrastier.

I made three or four identical prints of each selected negative, selenium toned the prints for just the right look and then washed them archivally. I air dried the prints on screens, face down. The prints had to dry overnight before we could start working on them.

My next step was to carefully hand color each print with Marshall's Transparent Oil Paints. I won't bore you here with all the techniques and steps but it took about three hours per print. The extra prints were made so that I could start over on the painting if I messed up. Which I did. A lot. Figure at least 18 hours for print coloring...

Once painted the oils had to dry completely before I could spray the surface of the prints with a fixative to prevent abrasions.  After all these steps the images were delivered in a print box with neutral paper sheets in between each photograph.

The theater had to send them to a color separator to get the scans done for advertising and the programs but I also made a set of black and white prints for newspaper and magazine to use.

Once the color separators did their work each print was matted and framed and hung in the lobby of the theater for the run of the show. It added to the feel of the period piece for people to be able to see the prints in the lobby during intermissions.

Today no one seems to ask for anything harder than putting this better head of our CEO, Chipper, onto this better image of his body in Photoshop. I find it sad that the schedules dictate the creativity and that there is a self-reinforcing expectation among clients that no one is up to do something extraordinary so why even bother to ask? Is it any wonder we like to show prints from a different time?



Rome's Termini Station. Arrivals.


Camera: Mamiya 6 medium format, interchangeable lens rangefinder.

Lens: 75mm

Film: Kodak 400 CN (chromogenic black and white) ISO 400

Scanned from original print.





Hanging out at the Vatican, taking images of the non-tourists. The normal lens means you're close.


It was always interesting to shoot black and white film with a medium format rangefinder camera, out in the streets. Interesting because there was no way (other than the experience module in your brain and the depth of field scale on the lenses) to know how the image would look. The rangefinder window on the Mamiya 6 cameras showed an images that was as much in focus as your eyes could see. The center weighted meter got one onto the the target but you had to use your experience and observation skills to get exposure closer to the bullseye.

And if you got everything just right you still ended with a negative that had to be matched to graded papers and interpreted in just the right way to get the look that you had in your mind's eye in the first place. We digital users forget (or never experienced) the fact that the time elapsed from taking the photograph to actually seeing the first indications of what you actually got could be separated by days, weeks or even months. There was, for the most part, no immediate feedback loop to guide you in iterative steps to a better image --- in the moment.

It was a wet and rainy October day in Rome when I walked over from my hotel near the Via Veneto to the Vatican complex. It was the middle of the week and the kids were at school; their parents at work. When I got there the area in front of St. Peter's Cathedral was packed with senior citizens, gathered around their church banners, talking and debating. In my old pants and a vintage sport coat I mixed with the crowd and looked for images I wanted to take.

I pulled an old, incident light meter from my pocket and made a general reading for the area. The overcast light never changed. I ignored the camera meter and set my exposure controls based on the meter's indication. I kept the lens focused to around 10 feet which put me into a useful zone which could be quickly fine tuned when I put the camera up to my eye. I was working with a 75mm lens at f5.6 and there is surprisingly little depth of field there. The ISO of the film was the limit and really couldn't be changed half way through the roll without sacrificing what was already on the roll. You adapted by using a slower shutter speed and bracing yourself; paying attention to your handholding techniques. On sunny days, out in the streets, you could shoot at f8 or f11 and this allows you to pre-focus even a medium format camera and get good images. The benefit of pre-focusing is that when you see a scene you want to capture you need only lift the camera to compose and then shoot immediately. Most of use learned just about where twelve feet in front of the camera was, more or less. This yielded a photographer a certain invisibility that seems to have faded over the years.

I spent the better part of an afternoon wandering through an ever changing crowd just looking and absorbing the feeling and mood of the participants. Time well spent as I became, over time, a fixture to be overlooked. Perfect.



Too much color...


An artist at work on part of a wall that no one ever sees. 
Conceptual realism?



Selfies at the wall. Bringing portrait organization to visual chaos.


Photography of selfies in progress (and the above counts because of the included selfie stick) made with Nikon D810+24-120mm f4G lens. ISO 64. 






7.04.2015

After nearly two months of constant rain and cloudy skies I am overdoing it with post processing in an ill advised attempt to make up for lost time with dramatic renditions of SKY!!!


I know I am overdoing it. I know I should lay off the "dramatic" filter and the "structure" filter in Snapseed but I've lived through so many gray skies that I just want to make up for lost time and create my own version of giant, Texas skies. I'll get over it. I swear! 





I am so confused. I must be doing something wrong. All the lenses I buy, which have reputations for softness, are far too sharp and detailed for my liking. Example: Nikon 24-120mm f4 G.


It was a holiday here in my country so I decided to do something different today and go for a walk in our ever growing downtown. Astute readers will remember that I bought a Nikon 24-120mm f4G lens about a week and a half ago. I almost didn't buy it because even though the long range of focal lengths and the relatively fast, constant aperture made it look great, on paper, I read many reviews which would have left a saner man running in the opposite direction from this product.

The two biggest knocks against this lens are that it is a crazy basket of distortions and that it's just not very sharp in the corners or at the longer focal lengths. Of course I have two replies. The first one is a quick acknowledgement of the fact that the lens has geometric distortions across the frame at different focal lengths. It's most pronounced at the widest setting. Most of the lenses people shoot with these days have the same kinds of distortions to some degree but the relevant thing is that the distortions can be automatically corrected by the camera, if you are shooting Jpegs. If you are shooting raw files the correction is one mouse click away in Lightroom or PhotoShop. Problem solved. Moving on.

The sharpness thing has me baffled and it may be that I'm just not keen enough to see it or smart enough to know what I should be looking for. I used the lens this afternoon to shoot lots of pretty pictures and I came back to the studio to fix them up and play with them on my computer. No matter what focal length I used to shoot the images they all looked sharp to me. And by "sharp" I mean they resolved lots of detail and that the transition between tones has high enough edge acutance to show off the detail in a convincing (and satisfying) way. I was using the Nikon D810 at ISO 64 and I don't think that's cheating. The camera can only pull as much detail out as the lens puts in. Right?

Stop reading lens reviews and test the lenses you are interested in for yourself. You might be surprised to find that most modern lenses are pretty good and that there's more to a lens than extreme corner sharpness. I hate corner sharpness. I put clear filters on my lenses and rub vaseline into the edges so it softens my corners up nicely. That way a file with too much sharp detail won't harm my eye with over sharpness.  (kidding. Just kidding).

But seriously, if you are a Nikon user, try whatever lens might suit you for yourself and ignore the internet experts. They are aiming for something different than you and I and it probably isn't the happiness of making nice photographs.

Happy Fourth. Independence can even extend to lens evaluations. Fun/Fireworks.



Too much fun playing with filters in SnapSeed......