Digital Photography

Thanks for the Ideas

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Boats at St Ives. Sony RX10, ISO80, f/4.0, 1/320"
Boats at St Ives. Sony RX10, ISO80, f/4.0, 1/320″

This is just a quick note to say thanks to everyone who has contacted me with ideas for future tutorials on Lenscraft. I will be working on these over the coming months as I seek to build out the materials available. There are some where my expertise doesn’t extend or where I don’t feel qualified to speak but overall there are some great ideas I will be able to deliver.

I would also like to apologise for not being in a position to respond individually to everyone who has made suggestions. I am now receiving a couple anywhere between 50 and 200 emails on a typical day which can take hours to answer. That’s even before I get to write the blog posts and tutorials. I sometimes need to put doing some photography ahead of writing about it.

I hope you understand.

Do You Want a Fisheye Lens

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Salt Flats, Bolivia. Olympus EM5 with Samyang 7.5mm Fisheye.
Salt Flats, Bolivia. Olympus EM5 with Samyang 7.5mm Fisheye.

I noticed the other day that Olympus has a new 8mm fisheye lens about to launch. Ordinarily I am a huge fan of Olympus equipment and especially there lenses. But this one, I’m not even interested in. The reason is the price. I’m sorry but £799 for a fisheye lens is way overpriced. It’s not as though this will be a main lens. It will have very limited application and could end up sat in your camera bag without ever being used.

If you use micro 43 cameras and are interested in buying a fisheye, take a look at the Samyang 7.5mm. This is a really well built lens for around a quarter of the price. It feels solid and is a joy to use. It’s almost the same focal length and gives 180 degree view just like the Olympus. The key difference (other than price) is that this is a manual focus lens but don’t let that stop you. At f/2.8 you will get depth of field from 30cm to infinity. Basically just stop down to f/5.0, focus on infinity and shoot away without focusing.

The other aspect of the Samyang that some might find unusual is that you don’t set the aperture using the camera. The camera will report the aperture as 0.0 as if there isn’t a lens attached. Instead you set the aperture on an aperture ring around the outside of the lens. Personally I really like this although I admit it might not be to everyone’s taste.

In short, this is a great lens and an excellent price. If you want a fisheye then I would recommend taking a look at the Samyang.

New Lenscraft Tutorials

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Wells Cathedral, Olympus EM5, ISO800, f/5.6, 1/20". Processed in Photoshop with Nik Silver Efex Pro. The window light is totally false.
Wells Cathedral, Olympus EM5, ISO800, f/5.6, 1/20″. Processed in Photoshop with Nik Silver Efex Pro. The window light is totally false.

I have been hard at work over the past month developing further tutorials for my Lenscraft website. All are free in the hope they will help photographers everywhere (as well as promote the Lenscraft website). If you find these helpful please pass on the link to others:

Simulate Film Grain Using Photoshop Layers

Simulate Film Grain Using Photoshop Camera Raw

Understanding HDR Photography

Photo Sharpening Tips You Need to Know

What is Depth of Field

Sharpening with the Photoshop Unsharp Mask

What is Creative Camera Control

Correcting Converging Verticals in Lightroom

Organizing Lightroom Presets

The Best ISO Setting

What is an F-Stop?

How to Install Lightroom Presets

Dodge and Burn in Photoshop

How to use Photoshop Actions

Add an Image Border in Lightroom

Preparing an Image for Flickr

You can find all these tutorials and more in the Resource Hub section of Lenscraft (www.lenscraft.co.uk).

I’m also really keen to provide tutorials about subjects that people want to read about so if you have any ideas or thoughts please email me at robin@lenscraft.co.uk.

Not Following my Own Advice

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Wells Cathedral, Olympus EM5, ISO800, f4.5, 1/10" handheld
Wells Cathedral, Olympus EM5, ISO800, f4.5, 1/10″ handheld

I recently wrote a short tutorial titled “The Best ISO Setting”. Whilst you can of course read it by following the link, it comes down to this, the best ISO to use is the one that lets you capture a sharp image. It’s much better to suffer a little ISO noise than have a shaky image. You can also correct a lot of the noise but camera shake is very difficult if not impossible to correct well.

Despite this sound advice, I still find myself trying to shoot at low ISO’s and achieving poor results. The other problem I sometimes have is that I want Pixels, lots of pixels and the ability to print large. I therefore tend to reach for my Olympus EM5 when I should really be picking up a compact camera such as the Panasonic LX7 or Canon G16. Typically I have made this mistake yet again quite recently.

A few years back I visited Wells Cathedral which is a super location for photographers. Yes you need to pay for a photographers pass but it’s not very much and it will allow you to walk around taking photos all day. At the time I was shooting with an LX5 and a Canon 5D MKII. The results from the Canon were pretty poor with many images being soft and noisy. I also had problems with depth of field as the Canon was full frame and I was typically needing to use the lenses wide open. The LX5 by contrast was also being used wide open but the images had much better depth of field thanks to the small sensor. The images were also nice and crisp if not a little noisy. I realised – much too late – that the LX5 was the better camera for the location.

Roll on to a couple of weeks back and I was driving back from Cornwall. I decided it was time for a detour and pulled off at Wells to visit the Cathedral again. This time I took the EM5 and made the mistake of leaving behind the G16. The results are good from the EM5 but I still struggled a little at times with depth of field. I found myself not being able to use the aperture that I wanted without slowing the shutter speed too far. I would probably have been better off with a compact camera but for some reason I just didn’t put one in my pocket.

The moral of this story is that you shouldn’t always follow popular wisdom but check what really is the best tool for the job.

Sony RX10 – Is now the time to buy

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The sea in Cornwall has a wonderul colour and the Sony RX10 captures this perfectly.
The sea in Cornwall has a wonderul colour and the Sony RX10 captures this perfectly.

I just received an email from WEX Photographic saying that I can pre-order the RX10 MKII. Whilst they don’t list the release date, it must be soon. The price is just short of £1,200 and browsing the spec, the thing that hits me is that it seems quite similar to the current RX10 model. Sure it shoots 4K video but I suspect the image quality is similar to the RX10 and that, as a landscape photographer is what I’m interested in.

I love the RX10 but I won’t be trading it for the MKII. In fact checking the prices on Amazon I can see that I can pick up the current model for just under £600 which is a 50% reduction on the new release. If all your interested in is still photography and you have been thinking about buying an RX10, now might be the time to keep an eye open for a great deal. I’m even tempted to buy a second one and convert it to Infrared.

Topaz DeNoise June Discount

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Topaz DeNoise
Topaz DeNoise

Topaz are running a $20 (25%) discount in June on their DeNoise software. If you haven’t tried it, it’s worth downloading the free trial. It can be a little strong (but very effective) so best to use with low settings unless you have a really noisy image.

Here is the link

www.topazlabs.com/DeNoise

and the discount code if you decide to purchase is JUNEDENOISE.

A Great Little Lens

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Rust - Panasonic GM1, 35-100mm lens. Processing in Lightroom with Nik Filters.
Rust – Panasonic GM1, 35-100mm lens. Processing in Lightroom with Nik Filters.

A few months back (in January I think) I purchased a new lens for my Panasonic GM1. For those of you who are not familiar with the GM1, it’s a very small Micro 43 camera. Actually to say that it’s very small is an understatement. The body of this camera is smaller than many compact cameras and Panasonic has managed to fit a 16Mpixel Micro 43 sensor into this somehow.

The camera comes with a 12-32mm lens which is equally small but other than that you need to use standard micro 43 lenses. The Panasonic released the 35-100mm lens engineered specifically for the GM1. This gives an effective focal range of 70mm to 200mm. Best of all this lens is very compact and balances perfectly with the GM1’s tiny body.

Well, this past weekend I managed to take this lens for its first real outing and I’m very impressed with the following:

  • The image quality from the lens is very good. The images appear sharp and very well focussed. The contrast levels are good and the image colour is excellent.
  • The lens performs well across the entire frame and is sharp into the corners. I didn’t notice any problems with fringing but haven’t done any formal tests and neither have I checked for Barrel or Pincushion distortion.
  • The lens is very light and compact. It’s also designed to collapse when not in use this makes it even smaller. In fact the lens was so small when not in use that the camera with lens attached could fit in my jacket pocket.
  • Despite being so small the lens has image stabilisation built in. I wasn’t expecting too much but it actually seems to work quite well. I don’t think I had any images that were suffering from camera shake despite some of the shutter speeds being quite slow in relation to the focal length of the lens.

Overall the only problem I found (and it’s not really much of a problem) was that the focus speed seemed a little slow at times. If you have a GM1 and want a longer lens than the standard 12-32, I would strongly recommend taking a look at the 35-100mm.