A Non-Linear wrap-up of the last three days. And what I bought myself for an end of the year present.

Belinda creating table decor with free rosemary. 

On Thursday, early afternoon, Ben and I drove out to Dripping Springs, Texas to Emmett and Lisa's Christmas Eve open house. Lots of people who I swim with were there with their families and friends. Ben got into a long conversation with an old friend who makes his living as a child psychiatrist while I took photos of Emmett (famous chef and restauranteur) using a saber to pop the tops off fancy Italian sparkling wine. Emmett and Lisa are the owners (totally hands-on) of Asti Trattoria which is my absolute favorite restaurant in all of central Texas. 

I knew Emmett was going to do something like use a saber to decapitate wine bottles so I brought along a camera and appropriate lens. It was a Lumix S1 and the 24-105mm kit lens. The perfect choice for a sunny afternoon out in the Hill Country.

Ben survived his interrogation conversation unscathed in time for us to head back home and help Belinda get ready for our Christmas Eve Celebration with a family of close friends. We made a standing rib roast which I think was a tactical error. Oh, it was delicious and everything but if you have a nicely marbled hunk of beef you'll be shocked at the sheer amount of grease that ends up on the bottom of the pan, on the cutting board, etc. As designated cleaner I now have an appreciation of just how labor intensive kitchen work can be. 

A good selection of red wines and Champagnes was a nice antidote to the very thought of my impending role as head dishwasher....

I photographed Belinda putting together sprigs of Rosemary with the Lumix S1 and the Zeiss 50mm f1.7 Y/C lens, wide open. (it was such a "wide open" sort of day). 

We ate and talked and laughed and sang until late in the evening and then, after our friends headed home, all settled down for a long winter's nap. 

A blue Santa in the window at Toy Joy.

On the 23rd I took a bit of time to go walk downtown to see if any pretty baubles caught my eye and would make nice gifts. I came home almost empty handed but did manage to take one photograph that I liked. It's the one just above of a plastic Santa in a blue costume. I love all the lights and colors in the background and captured this image with the Lumix S1 and the Sigma 45mm f2.8 (shot at f4.0).

As we say in Texas: "This here is Emmett, fixing to whack the top off a bottle of wiiiiiine."

I've been carrying the big Lumix S1 cameras and the even bigger lenses around for a couple of months now and they've done a great job but they left me desiring a small and discreet kit to carry around with me on long walks and in social situations in which five or six pounds of big, black camera gear seems to be a little out of place.

You probably read my musings about the possibility of adding a Lumix LX100 ii to the herd but I swerved after conferring with my retail camera consiglieri and carefully comparing the LX100xx and its sister camera, the Lumix GX85. For $900 I could buy the little fixed lens marvel but, with a current Panasonic end of year sale I could get the GX85 and two Lumix lenses for.....get this.....$449. 

I spent an hour at the store today, going back and forth and walking around shooting stupid stuff with each camera. The GX85 was the definite choice. Don't get me wrong, I loved most of the ethos of the LX100xx but the GX85 stepped up when I reminded myself that I had saved my complete collection of Olympus Pen FT half frame lenses from the chopping block during my last studio equipment purge. 

The GX85 can use those lenses (easily) since the mount (with lens adapter) is perfect for them. So, for less than $500 I end up with a body, a 45-150mm G Vario zoom and a 12-32mm G Vario zoom lens. I came right home and put the 40mm f1.4 Pen FT lens on the camera and I've been walking around, happy, ever since. 

Guess what? The GX85 menus are so similar to the S1 menus that I had the camera set up and ready to go in about 10 minutes. Bonus. 

I have time for a few more blog posts in 2019 so stay tuned. Or not. Your choice, but I won't be changing editorial content to please you.....


Love. Actually. Is so much cooler than cameras. I can't believe I just wrote that....

What's on my wish list for Santa? What are my chances?

From "Christmas Carol" at Zach Theatre.

So, here we are, the day before Christmas Eve. I'm having six or eight people over for dinner tomorrow evening and we decided to buy an eight foot collapsible table to handle the overflow. Belinda found one at Walmart.com and ordered it online for at store pickup. I haven't shopped at Walmart....ever. But I had a huge load of prejudices against the chain of stores: They've ruined small town retail, they have a huge employee base and many of them are on Medicaide because they aren't paid enough to buy health insurance, the majority of their inventory is cheap crap from China, they are a shopping nexus for all the people with MAGA hats, and so much more. But here's the deal, the store nearest us was clean, modern and well appointed. The waiting area for online pickups had nice chairs and pleasant employees. Everyone was helpful. The service was prompt. Someone even offered to carry the table out to my car. I left with a much modified impression of my most local Walmart... Go figure. Not going to be a regular stop on my shopping agenda....but....

We went to our local grocery store to pick up our grass fed, organic, standing prime rib roast for tomorrow's dinner and I found myself thinking I could have bought a new lens for the same price. Odd; food and lenses priced in the same range. Of course, it would not be a pricy lens, nor would it be organic but still... Might not be wise to shop often at a store where one fights for a parking space with Bentley and Maserati owners.....

I got stuff done today that had nothing to do with photography. I bought a few last minute presents for family. I cleaned the main bathroom (and I mean I cleaned!!! Scrubbed the floor, scrubbed the toilet, scrubbed the sink, made the bathtub look brand new. I also washed the kitchen floor (Saltillo tile) and did a couple loads of laundry. I hit the wine shop and impoverished myself rounding up something for everyone on our dinner list. 

But the most important thing I did was to ignore all the other things on my "to-do" list and hightail it over to the Deep Eddy pool for a frosty, refreshing, noon swim with my friends, Emmett and Julie. The water was a brisk 72 degrees but it was made more manageable by an air temperature around 70 degrees and a beautiful, sunny sky. I was in a hurry so I got in my 3200 yards and got back to (domestic) work.  (Our regular pool is closed---much to our chagrin---from now until Friday!!!! Grrrr.). 

As I was swimming along, trying to keep some feeling in my freezing toes, I started to think about what I might want for Christmas.... if there is a Santa Claus.

I made a list just in case someone out there has been torturing themself trying to figure out what to get me for being such an adorable and entertaining human. Let's go through the list. It's short. Call me if you need the shipping address. Okay?

I've been thinking of getting a new compact camera and I've narrowed my choices down to the Lumix LX 100ii or the Lumix LX 100ii. Either will do fine. My rationale? A good lens range, a small, nearly pocketable overall package, and a menu that's similar enough to the S1s that it won't cause my headaches. Reviews tell me that the 4K video is actually decent (no mic or headphone jacks) and that the color is a good match for the S1s and G9 in the Panasonic family. It's not ruinously expensive like a Leica and it's kind of on sale for about $100 off. If you decide that this is what you'd like to send along, Santa, then can I also request a second battery? I love back-up batteries.... 

I don't know why but after using some of these enormous lenses I've purchased for my Lumix S1 and S1R cameras I'm desiring one more big and over-engineered lens. The one I'm looking at right now...two days before Christmas.... is the Sigma 40mm f1.4 Art lens for the L mount. Sure, I have the 35mm Art lens and the breathtaking 50mm Lumix S Pro lens (which they sell by the pound...) but for some reason my avaricious brain is trying to convince me that it would be great to have something somewhere in the middle. You know, when your camera bag just isn't heavy enough and you're paralyzed trying to decide between the 50 and the 35. 

The 40mm Sigma Art lens is supposed to be made to cinema lens standards (whatever that means) and according to those guys over at LensRentals.com it's wicked sharp and has an MTF curve that would pop the pennies off a dead man's eyes. Gotta have it. It will go well with the featherweight Sigma 45mm f2.8 and will allow me to select middling primes in 5 mm increments. What could be more artistic? (Tuck as never heard of cropping!!!?).

For all those times that I want to travel without the massive density of the assorted primes I thought I might also like the new Panasonic 24-70mm f2.8 S Pro lens. I handled one recently and it's less than half the weight of the 50mm f1.4 and is right snappy when it comes to focusing and handling. Yeah, I know it seems a bit over the top. Especially since I already have the 24-105mm f4.0 kit lens and have found it to be really, really good. But what are you going to do? The Think Tank rolling case knows what it wants to coddle....

If you had a banner year and you're just splashing cash all over the place you could impress the hell out of me with the gift of a Leica SL 90mm Apo Summicron. Really, for as good as that lens is the folks at Leica are basically just giving them away. Sharp and imbued with enormous character it could be the "break through" lens I've been searching for (in vain) for all these many decades. It might help me unleash my (until now) hidden talent as a photographer. If that doesn't work it will still look good when I saunter into those ASMP meetings or dangle it over my shoulder at a Photo Expo. 
I'll probably leave the price tag on it just so people who don't know the brand will understand just how cool it is.....

Oh heck. If we're looking at getting me 90mm Summicrons from Leica we might as well just pull the Band-Aid right off and go for the sweet pairing of the Leica SL2 and the 50mm Apo Summicron. No. No, it is not possible to have too many 50mm lenses. Let it go. It's my fantasy. Maybe I'll sell some under-performing lens in the inventory to make room ---- but probably not.

I realize that $10K is a bit much to ask for but I'm sure a couple of you might want to pitch in together and make it happen. Just don't ask Belinda to contribute to the fund; I've already made that mistake...

So, Then reality kicks in and I tell you what I'm really looking for at Christmas: A new, winter swim cap. That's really about it. All I can handle right now. 

Anybody out there getting something great (camera or lens-wise) for the Holidays? It's the perfect time to rationalize raiding the retirement account... No. Really!


Following the black and white film image is a color one from a Leaf Afi 7 medium format camera.


This photograph was made as part of my second book project, the one on studio lighting. I did it in my small studio with a Leaf 40 megapixel medium format camera and a Schneider 180mm f2.8 MF lens. It was a beast of a camera to shoot since it was manual focus (and hard to nail focus) and ate through batteries like crazy. But when I went back to examine the original files in detail the color and resolution were really, really great. Which made post processing flesh tones much easier when compared to the 35mm type digital cameras of the day (2009). Now, while the resolution of the sensor has been eclipsed, I find that I still like the look of the files from this camera since they were a legit 16 bit raw image with lots and lots of latitude. The image is still competitive with current camera output. And the lens.....let's just say few, if any, makers have come out with anything better.

Interesting to think that this combination cost somewhere north of $40,000 at the time and now you can buy into a more capable 100 MP camera for around $10,000. That seems like progress to me....

Just posting a favorite, old photo from the Hasselblad film days. No, it's not a fake frame edge....

B. Reading in the sunlight.

Hasselblad film camera
80mm Lens.

One of the things I was thankful for this year was my dog. I call her "Studio Dog" to preserve her anonymity but she really has a different name. She's pretty amazing.

I think the nice thing about dogs is their chipper attitude and their ability to be affectionate and positive no matter how grumpy or overwhelmed I might be feeling. She turned 11 years old this year and I hope she goes on barking and chasing squirrels for years to come.

I asked her what she wanted for Christmas this year and she licked my hand. She's already given me my Christmas present; she was there for me every day this past year, bringing a big smile to my face and adding a very happy presence that made our home a cheerier place.

All I want for Christmas is what I've already got. A Happy Family. 

The second most incredible lens I have ever used.

Many years ago I saved up some cash and bought a Zeiss Planar 110mm f2.0 lens for my focal plane shooting Hasselblad, a 203FE. I loved that lens but never quite figured out how to really leverage the advantage of f2.0 on a 6x6 cm frame. But the lens had character. Lots and lots of character. And when you stopped down to f2.8, or even better, f4.0, it was monster sharp. And it was the fastest lens made for that entire system. It might sound funny but at the time I owned the lens I think I still had a lot to learn about the subtleties of photography/portraiture and I probably didn't appreciate the lens enough.

For many years it held a place in my brain as the sharpest and finest lens I'd ever owned.

About a month ago I took a chance and bought another lens that was a little outside my comfort zone. I don't necessarily mean that in a financial sense (although the price tag did give me pause) but rather I thought I might once again be buying a lens for which I hadn't quite developed the chops to exploit well at my current level of photographic comprehension.

I wanted a great lens to use with my new Lumix S1R bodies. Something that would show off the quality and resolution of the 47.5 megapixel sensor. Since I seem to shoot a lot of photographs around the 50mm focal length I hemmed and hawed between buying the Sigma 50mm f1.4 Art lens and the much more expensive Panasonic Lumix 50mm f1.4 Pro S lens. The Sigma has consistently gotten rave reviews from technicians and artists alike so I wondered if the difference in cost between these two lenses was unmoored from any correspondence to quality differences. In the end I decided to take the gamble and go with the largely enigmatic Panasonic.

I've shot with it out in the street and also at rehearsals for various plays and musicals but until yesterday I'd never shot it in a more controlled way; with flash, a tripod and a non-moving subject. But that's what was on the menu for yesterday's shoot. I was commissioned to photograph the lead partner in a Downtown accounting firm. We'd be mixing the light pouring in from floor to ceiling windows with directional light from flash and I'd spend the entire afternoon moving from one interesting interior space  to another, finally capturing 12 different scenarios, multiplied by dozens of gestures, expressions and poses.

The Sigma 85mm f1.4 Art lens got a good workout, as did the 35mm Art lens but I tried to lean most often on the 50mm since it was tight enough for a good environmental portrait but loose enough to give me a lot of atmosphere and ambiance. I'd discussed a style with the art director and agency art buyer and it consisted of shooting between f2.0 and f2.8 to get the most dissolved background possible. The effect was perfect with the 85mm and I'll admit that I pushed the boundaries occasionally by using the 50mm S Pro all the way open at f1.4, in addition to f2.0 and f2.8.

I could tell we were getting good stuff by chimping a bit, and punching in on the review images to see how my focus was hitting, but nothing really prepared me for my post processing session today. I went through something like 500+ raw image files from a 24 megapixel S1 and the two longer lenses just floored me. But as sharp as the 85mm was the 50mm is in a whole different class.

It's literally the first lens I've shot with that, when the focus is exactly on the money, even at f1.4 the Adobe Lightroom image from raw is too sharp. The default is set to an amount of 40 with a radius of 1 and I needed to bring the amount slider down to 15 in order not to have the image be so sharp that the detail of my subject's skin, pores and hair was outright distracting. Again, this was at f1.4!

At f2.0 and 2.8, when I punched into 100% in Lightroom the images were so analytic and revealing that I wasn't quite sure how to handle them. I did play around with negative settings on the clarity slider as well as adding noise reduction to the files to take the edge off.

It was an amazing effect. I can't recall having a lens that was so sharp I might need to reduce the contrast of my typical lighting and develop a Lightroom preset to match.

Don't get me wrong: the files weren't overly sharpened by the camera and the final results weren't harsh..., it was more the effect someone would get from needing eyeglasses for years but not having them and then finally getting proper glasses and seeing the world with clarity for the first time. It would be a bit jarring. A bit revealing.

So, these attributes of the new lens are interesting to me. I don't see the difference as profoundly when I've handheld the lens, even in good light, but with the flash and a tripod in play I think I may have actually over-optimized my "shot discipline." The lens is pretty darn miraculous and I can hardly wait to do more and more with it.

The Sigma 85mm is a pretty good match as well. I guess 2020 is the year I go ultimately sharp. Some of my portrait subjects might not like that but isn't a situation like this just crying out for a makeover in Portrait Professional software?

I am still pretty amazed. I just went out to the office to take one more look to make sure I wasn't inadvertently shifting over into hyperbole, but no. The files are amazing and endlessly detailed. A very 3D look. I am very impressed. I guess Panasonic gave me some good value for the price.


Which five cameras would I recommend to seriously serious photographers. And why.

On a boat in Venice. Minox or Leica M. 

As a grizzled and weathered survivor in the field of photography I often get asked by young, aspiring professional photographers which camera (or camera system) they should buy. I spew all the usual, commonplace drivel about choosing the correct camera for their interest/style/niche of photography. But it's actually a pretty easy thing to make the case that there are multiple systems, each with their own tradeoffs and compromises, that will do the job, interchangeably, for the vast majority of jobs photographers come across in day-to-day work. And there is a strong case to be made for renting highly specialized cameras when the need arises for something outside the usual boundary lines of performance.

For example, most of a photographer's work might be the creation of portraits for the web. Occasionally they might be asked to do a campaign in which the images will be used very, very large, and will be printed in four color across an enormous span. I won't use the example of a "billboard" because if by "billboard" you mean the ones along the side of highways, sitting 50 feet in the air which we all drive by at 55 MPH (or 90 in Texas....) you could easily use an iPhone photograph and have resolution to spare. I mean something that might be printed 8x10 feet tall and presented in a convention center where viewer could walk up and ostensibly put a loupe on the print and look for detail. Or at least put a nose on it.

In a scenario like this it would make sense to rent something like a Phase One 150 megapixel camera or a Fuji 100 megapixel camera to do the job exactly right. But those may be cameras that don't make economic sense to buy for a business that can effectively use the output of a 24 megapixel sensor most of the time without breaking a sweat.

If you are going to do good work and also work within a reasonable budget then there are about five cameras that make pretty good business sense for rank and file photographers. The more affluent among them might want to choose more elegant and expensive cameras but at a certain point this will just reflect personal taste more than anything else.

So, what do I recommend to people and why? It all depends on my mood but there are certain cameras that deliver more than enough performance to get the jobs done and they aren't always the most obvious ones on the dealer's shelves.

You might expect me to suggest that one only look to the full frame cameras to satisfy the rigors of professional work but that's not the case. The first two cameras I'll suggest are exactly counter to the common assumption that bigger is always better. And I'm melding the first two cameras together to serve as one because, if you are making choices within this format I'll assume that you'll go for one or the other.

My first choice (not necessarily in order of preference!) would be either the Olympus EM-1 mk 2 or the Panasonic G9. My experiences are mostly with the G9 but since the cameras share the same basic sensor and deliver nearly equivalent results it really doesn't matter which one you finally choose. What you'll end up with is a state of the art micro 4:3 camera that can free range across both maker's lens lines, picking and choosing the optics that work best for you. Contrary to popular belief the abilities of the smaller format are, within the envelope of most commercial jobs, not nearly as far apart in imaging quality as we are generally led to believe.

Both cameras have absolutely killer image stabilizations systems and most of the pro series lenses in each line up are superb. I routinely matched the Olympus 12-100mm f4.0 Pro lens with the Panasonic G9 camera body for images that were breathtaking. I've used  the G9s, and before that, GH5s for landscapes, portraits and live theater documentation with nearly perfect results. In fact, a quick hop through my "absolute favorites" folder showed me that a huge proportion of images I've shot and liked in the last four years were done with cameras like these. Yes, you'll need to use faster and sharper lenses to get the same kind of limited depth of field that you could get with less expensive lens options in bigger formats. But the trade off is.....not much. You'll spend more on Olympus's fast, Pro lenses but not nearly as much as I just dropped  on one 50mm f1.4 for the Lumix FF cameras!

The G9 is weather sealed, robust, has a great EVF and, as I wrote above, basically defines the top of the  charts for image stabilization. A very recent firmware update greatly enhances its already great 4K video chops and even battery life is near the top of the heap for mirrorless cameras. You can piece together a great two lens starter system with zooms from either maker and you'll save both space and money doing so compared with any of the full frame selections.

My second choice would be the Fuji X-T3. The sensor in the X-T3 is great and a close competitor to full frame but the thing that drives the Fuji system is the great selection of both zoom and prime lenses. The body is priced more like an entry level camera but the still and video features are on par with the very best of the larger sensor competitors. I'd get mine with a battery grip to add some handling surface and also to supplement the smaller than comfortable battery capacity. The finder is superb but the one caveat is that you'll only get image stabilization via a handful of Fuji lenses. If you are a long zoom lens fan you'll be well accommodated with the superb (and well stabilized) 50-140mm f2.8 lens. While the unstablized 16-55mm f2.8 is wonderful you might also look at the 16-80 f4.0 which has the most current and effective stabilization in the system. Once you have the wide to standard and medium to long zoom lenses sorted you can galavant through the lens catalog and backfill with wonderful, small prime lenses to your heart's content. You will love the Fuji color. And the Fuji 4K video. Both are as advertised: super good.

A secondary benefit of the X-T3 is the smaller form factor and lower weight compared to full frame systems. It might be the best travel system for people who are on and off planes too much....

My third suggestion to many people is the Nikon Z6. I happen to think that 24 megapixels is the sweet spot for so many uses. While the Z7 offers nearly 50 megapixels of resolution it isn't as good a video camera as the Z6 and I'd wager that the Z6 is also the better low light camera. But what you get with either camera is a great still imaging tool in a small and facile body that gets raves for handling and ergonomics. Nikon knows how to do neutral color correctly and judging from the lenses I've played with for their Z system they will soon have a decent selection of dedicated lenses that out perform their previous lenses and take advantage of the new, bigger lens mount.

Since the system is perceived as lagging in terms of lenses and accessories you'll find good deals on kits through the rest of the year. There's no one feature that stands out for either camera; I think the system's strength is that they get an "A" or "A-" for all aspects of their new cameras and the balance of features, handling and on sensor performance create a strong argument for the system's adaptation by beginners or transition from the venerable F system by long term loyalists. With nice lenses (so far), a very nice EVF and wonderful haptics I think the system will do well and provide a great foundation for anyone working for money in the field of photography.

A new firmware upgrade brings bunch of new capabilities for video shooters too. Don't just reflexively buy a Sony as a result of peer pressure and online sales manipulation by large review sites. The Nikon Z is, in my mind, the equal of the Sony A7x system in everything except lenses....And Nikon might fix that situation more quickly than we expect.

My fourth suggestion is the "easy way out/ nobody ever got fired for recommending IBM computers" route. Just tell the person who asks for your advice to go ahead and buy the Sony A7III. As I've said above, the sensors across most camera lines, at 24 megapixel, are all better than most people will need and totally up to the task of making professional images across a wide range of disciplines. I'd skip the 60 megapixel version (the A7R4) because I think they went a step too far and it suffers from higher noise at high and low ISOs, and a measureable drop in dynamic range versus their lower resolution (42-47.5) competitors.

The bigger pixel wells of the A7III will make more attractive images and provide better high ISO performance. Lately, Sony is playing like Ford Motors in 1966. General Motors is the sales leader and analogous to what Canon is in the camera world. Canon pumps out a lot of "Chevy Novas" and "Chevy Biscaynes" and every once in a while they try their luck with a (1DXx) huge Suburban. Sony is busy pumping out Mustangs and Thunderbirds along with a fleet of APS-C Mavericks and pre-Fiestas.

All of Sony's product line drives well on the spec sheets which leads millions to buy their products because, with the demise of bricks and mortar retailers where you could test drive the handling of the cameras, all most consumers have left is the spec sheet and the mail order venue. In my opinion this lack of pre-sale/hands-on trial is what keeps Sony's engine running. If you could handle one right next to a Nikon Z7 or a (big-boned Lumix S1) fewer people would be sporting ugly Sony camera straps attached to so many cameras that are so physically uncomfortable to use...and handle. Too many sharp edges. Too little bulk to hold comfortably. Lackluster control surfaces and poor menus. But there it is...

But the reason I would recommend them to my friends who are heavy into left-brained thinking is precisely the fact that these cameras tic so many boxes on the old, linear thinking check list. These are the guys who want to know: how much horsepower??! etc. etc. and the Sony's deliver the numbers.

Of the full frame Sony line the A7III is the most civilized. The sensor delivers at least as well as virtually the same sensor in the Nikon Z6. The battery has been vastly improved over previous models. The raw files are finally 14 bit (fine print applies) and the video is still 8 bit but decent. The Sony line has some really good lenses but you'll want to be sure to test yours out before the return period expires since the folks who test them at Lensrentals.com say that some of the Sony lenses they've tested have some bigger variances in image quality/performances from one product to the next....

Nowadays it makes just as much sense for really serious photographers to just default to buying Sigma Art lenses for the E Sonys. They are more solidly built and seem to outperform many of the Sonys.

Sony has buzz right now. It's hard to go wrong with a recommendation. But just remember that since this person has asked (and received ) your recommendation they'll be circling back to you in a panic, trying to decipher the menus. Bone up on the manual, just in case.

Finally, I'm going off the reservation with a quirky recommendation for the Canon 5Dmk3/4 as my fifth entry. This is the defacto recommendation for anyone in your sphere who is a traditionalist, or female wedding photographer/children's portrait photographer. Don't know why but if you polled all the retail (portraits, weddings, bar mitzvahs, engagements) photographers from coast to coast you would most likely find that the vast majority are shooting their work with Canon 5 series DSLRs and once they learn how to operate that one system, it's the camera habitat that becomes their safety blanket and security zone for a long time.

And, for lots of logical reasons this makes sense. The camera and the form factor are time tested. There is no real associated risk to using a type of camera that comes with a long history of success and reliability. It works well with flash. The sensor isn't the world leader for high ISO but it's not bad and the colors in the files are well loved by customer and shooter.

Looking in the bags of many wedding and portrait photographers shows me that once you adapt this system you enter into a cult in which there is a not-so-secret required kit that consists of: One camera body. One 24-105mm L series zoom, and one 70-200mm L series zoom. There is also an ancient technology 50mm f1.4 lens which is routinely used at its widest aperture to deliver images in which there is one tiny and thin slice of sharpness surrounded by oceans of "bokeh" (by which they mean "stuff that is out of focus.").

It's the ultimate safe choice. It's the most ubiquitous toolset in the retail end of the profession and one that delivers, weekend after weekend. The biggest plus beyond its tenure? Pretty much the same amazing battery life found in most DSLRs.

The curious will seek out the cameras I've listed above this one. The incurious and fearful (or obsessively practical) are all in for the Canon 5D series and just the exact lenses that they've previously seen on someone's video "tutorial." Sorry, no substitutions.

So why am I not recommending the Lumix S1 or S1R? I think it's too hard to convey exactly what the value proposition is to all but a small handful of users. And so many people are so price sensitive that they'll gladly sacrifice some aspect of the S1 series I think is brilliant just in order to save the one time cost of a couple hundred bucks. Convincing most people otherwise is just hard work. And since I don't sell cameras for Panasonic I just don't have the bandwidth.....

This was written as a counterpoint to my earlier column on using iPhones as cameras. 

More later. Happy Holidays.


I was comparing some different images from different cameras this afternoon and came across one I really liked from a camera I've long since abandoned. I hate it when that happens.


Camera: Sony A7rii.
Lens: Rokinon 85mm f1.4

Sometimes stuff just works...

A fun photo. Playing around at the edge of the shooting envelope...

Jen. The choreographer for Zach's production of "Christmas Carol." 

Lighting? Crappy. All available, top lit, florescent fixtures from the 1970's positioned three stories up in the black ceiling.  Exposure? Super-crappy. I needed f1.4 at 1/250th with ISO 4000 to get a useable image (faster shutter speed needed for moving parts!). Color? Ultimately bad. Jangly greenish florescent color in older fixtures with loud ballasts that caused random but frequent banding and exposure swings from frame to frame. 

With all the things lined up against this shot why did I want to shoot it and why am I happy to show it here? I wanted to shoot it to get a different documentation of an early rehearsal in the short life of a big musical production. I wanted to see just how much I could squeeze out of a Fuji X-H1 with a 56mm f`1.2 mounted on it. And I wanted to see how close I could get the color to something pleasing from a grand soup of stinky color. 

Why am I happy to show it here? Because I love Jen's gesture. I love humorous effect of the bodies flying out of frame in the top two corners. I love the bedding textures and I love the objects sliding off into focus oblivion on the far, back wall. So, I'm just sharing an image from what Ming Thein would call, "The Edge of the Envelope."