Equipment

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.

How Much Depth of Field

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Hale, Cornwall. Sony RX10, ISO80, f/5.6, 1/50".
Hale, Cornwall. Sony RX10, ISO80, f/5.6, 1/50″.

Last week I took a well-deserved break (at least in my eyes) and went on holiday to Cornwall. Whilst away I took this photo that I wanted to share with you. The reason for sharing is not that this is a great Landscape image (I have a much better one taken at sunset rather than on an overcast day, that I will share soon). No the reason for sharing this is that it illustrates just how much depth of field can be achieved with smaller sensor cameras.

This image was taken using a Sony RX10 which has a 1” sensor. This is slightly smaller than the micro 43 sensors but somehow Sony has managed to cram 20Mpixels onto it. If you were looking at the print of this scene you would say that the image was in focus from the foreground to the background. It’s only when you view the image at 100% magnification on the screen that you see the distant lighthouse is very slightly outside the depth of field but is still acceptably sharp. Also the flowers nearest to the camera (literally inches from the camera) are out of focus but again this isn’t objectionable. Interestingly you don’t notice either of these points on the print as the image appears very natural.

What really makes you stop and think though is that the Aperture used to achieve this is f/5.6. The trick to this if there is one, is where you place the point of focus. Here I was focussing on the hillside just beyond the foreground flowers (probably around 10 feet from the camera. Had I tried to get all the flowers in perfect focus I would have lost the distant lighthouse. This compromise appears to work very well.

I hope this gives you food for thought about depth of field and needing to use very small apertures.

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.

Back to Photography

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Canon G16 compact camera. It's great to have a quality pocket camera. You never know when opportunities present themselves.
Canon G16 compact camera. It’s great to have a quality pocket camera. You never know when opportunities present themselves.

Following the traumas of the weekend and my Lenscraft website crash, Monday saw me get back to photography. Well talking about photography at least. I was over at the South Manchester Photographic Society giving a presentation on Lightweight Photography and the benefits of using small cameras

The talk went well and seemed to generate a lot of interest from members. My usual test of picking out the Nikon D800 image from two A2 prints (the other was shot on an Olympus EM5) was as inconclusive as ever – no one has ever been able to pick the D800 with a valid reason. But what really stood out for me is the reviews of the prints after the talk. People were genuinely shocked at how good the image quality was from compact cameras when printed at A3, A3+ or even A2. People still don’t view high quality compact cameras as a serious camera with which to create high quality photography.

Providing the tools are good enough a craftsman can work with them. Once the tools achieve the right level, you can produce a masterpiece with them. Improving the tools doesn’t make the masterpiece any better, it just makes the tools easier to work with. Let’s not forget this.

If only it had been in focus

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Olympus EM5 converted to Infrared, Samyang 7.5mm Fisheye lens. Post processing in Nik Silver Efex and Analog Efex.
Olympus EM5 converted to Infrared, Samyang 7.5mm Fisheye lens. Post processing in Nik Silver Efex and Analog Efex.

Regular readers may know that I have a 7.5mm Fisheye Lens for my Micro 43 cameras. Whilst it doesn’t get used all that often, it’s a great lens, very well priced and is incredibly well made. If you haven’t seen one check out this link on Amazon (http://amzn.to/1QyJzUJ) and take a close look at the focus scale in the picture of the lens.

This lens is certainly one of the sharpest lenses I have and the depth of field is incredible which you can see from the depth of field scale. With the aperture wide open at f/3.5, I can easily achieve a depth of field from 12 inches to infinity. In fact the depth of field is so great that I tend to forget about it when shooting landscapes. I simply set the aperture to f/5.6, set the focus on infinity and shoot away without bothering to focus any further.

This is a useful approach as the lens is manual focus and you don’t need to worry about zooming in on the back of the camera to check the focus before shooting. And this was my downfall. You see I decided to use the lens on my Infrared camera. What I forgot is that infrared light focuses closer than infinity and this lens doesn’t have any IR focus markings to remind me. What made me feel even sillier is that I was also shooting IR film in my XPan at the same time and using the IR focus scale on that cameras lens.

By the time I realised my mistake most of my shots had been lost. In the end, the one you see here was manually focussed by setting the focus scale to (very spookily) what you see in the amazon picture. If you look at this, although I had been shooting at f/8, there is no way the image would have been in focus when I had the focus set to infinity.

So lesson learned. When shooting infrared using a manual focus lens, focus on the back of the camera and don’t rely on depth of field markings.

In case you’re wondering, the image here did start of in focus but has been deliberately blurred using Nik Analog Efex. You can’t do that when the image is out of focus.

Friday Image No.54

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Canon G16 - 4 image stitch in Lightroom 6.
Canon G16 – 4 image stitch in Lightroom 6. Processing in Nik Silver Efex.

For this week’s image I thought I would share a Panoramic. This was captured as four images using a Canon G16 compact camera. The resulting stitched image is approximately 21″ x 12″ at 300dpi. The stitching was done using the new Lightroom 6 (Creative Cloud 2015). All I can say is that I’m now addicted to panoramic photography. Lightroom makes it so easy to group and work with images and the resulting file is in DNG format giving lots of flexibility.

I’m very impressed.