Sunset at the Zabriskie Point Badlands. Captured on a GX1 with 14-45mm lens and post processed using Nik Viveza
I’m now back from a trip to the US and thought I would restart blogging with some images from the trip.
The first area I visited was Death Valley and the photograph shown above was taken at Zabriskie Point in the valley. It’s a bit of an odd place to visit in terms of Landscape Photography as the clear sky tends to limit when and how you shoot. My own preferrence when shooting landscapes at sunset is to have plenty of broken cloud which will colour up with the low sun. Here however the sky is clear much of the time so you don’t get the colourful sky. You can however achieve rather dramatic side lighting as shown on the hills here. In case you are wondering, these hills are just mud and gravel but they are rock solid and painful if you happen to slip on them.
The image was captured using my Panasonic GX1 and 14-45mm lens which was tripod mounted. There was plenty of light around so it wasn’t necessary to tripod mount the camera but I didn’t want to take any chances. I also think tripod mounting works well in any light and ensures very sharp images.
More photographs will follow once I have had the opportunity to download and sort them.
Captured on a GF1 with 14-45 lens. Colour and saturation adjustment in Nik Viveza followed by B&W conversion in Nik Silver Efex Pro.
Yesterday, for some reason I was looking back at some images I shot a year ago in Norway, including the one shown above. At the time my lightweight travel camera was a Panasonic GF1 which soon after I upgraded to a GX1. At the time I was very happy with this camera and the quality of images I could capture but as soon as I had upgraded to the GX1 I literally forgot about my GF1 and image back catalogue. It’s almost as though I had written off the images despite having captured some great shots.
Comparing the quality of the GX1 with the GF1, the GX1 images are larger by about 4Mpixels and have lower noise at all ISO levels. Other than this there is nothing at all wrong with the GF1 images and they look really nice printed large. Is this really the basis for an upgrade? I am now asking myself why did I “write off” this camera – I think it must have been some subliminal mind trick from my daughter who was the beneficiary of the GF1.
Interestingly, I recently purchased a Sony RX100 as my pocket camera. This has around twice the pixel count when compared with my LX5 that it was intended to replace and has great low light and noise performance. Bearing in mind the GF1 to GX1 upgrade, I am now asking myself if this was a good move. Sure the RX100 is a great camera but then the LX5 is incredible and large detailed prints are also easily achievable. Further, I love using the LX5 in a way that is hard for the RX100 (actually any camera) to compete with. I suspect this is why I have hung on to the LX5 and am unlikely to sell it.
Now given all my waffling above, the question I want to answer is how long should we been keeping a camera? At what point should we look to upgrade? Does anyone have a view?
After my previous post, I am no longer feeling sorry for myself and am well on the road to recovery. In fact I am feeling quite satisfied as I have finally completed my book “The Panasonic LX5: How to Achieve Exceptional Image Quality” which has been on the go since November last year.
As the title suggests then book is about how to create exceptional image quality with the LX5. It is supported by a worked example turning a standard LX5 image into a highly detailed 30” print. If you are a member of my Lenscraft web site you can download the full resolution 30” image for a closer look. The only rule is that you can’t sell it, change it or pass it off as your own work.
If you want to find out more about the book you can find the details here.
Not a lengthy discussion this time as I have such a backlog of work and more importantly things I want to experiment with. I thought however that I would share the above image with you. This is Dunstanburgh Castle in Northumberland.
I took the shot on the GX1 I had converted to Infrared and used an Olympus 9-18 lens. I processed the image into the familiar black and white from RAW, using SilkyPix (more on that in a future blog). Initially however it looked to be lacking something. I couldn’t put my finger on the problem but the image just didn’t have appeal.
It was then I realised a problem with digital IR. It doesn’t have either the grain or the glow of the traditional infrared films which is in fact for me a large part of the appeal from IR images. My solution was to add a new layer to the image in Photoshop and then add a glow to this with a filter. A mask was then used to restrict the glow to the lightest parts of the image.
For long exposures in strong winds a sturdy tripod is essential. The size of the camera also matters.
This last weekend was an interesting one as I was back in Northumberland photographing. I didn’t sleep much the night before which is often the case when making an early morning start, however this time it wasn’t the early start causing this; it was the howling wind. All night long the wind continued and well into the next day.
In the morning we sat in the car just before daybreak watching the huge wave’s role in, creating huge plumes of spray from the top of each wave. It was at this point that I realised my lightweight tripod just wasn’t going to support my Canon 5D with filters; at least not without showing signs of vibration. In the end I decided I had to use my old Manfrotto 055 tripod which is much heavier and was in the car as a backup.
Most of the results from the dawn shoot using the Manfrotto were vibration free and very crisp. Later in the day I switched back to my lightweight Velbon tripod which although still windy, t performed very well given I had a large DSLR mounted on it.
The following morning was pretty much a repeat of the day before except the winds were even stronger. So strong in fact that I struggled to use the Manfrotto tripod with the 5D and ended up trying to shield the camera whilst holding down the tripod. I did manage a few wide angle shots with the smallest of my lenses but I wanted to use a long lens and in the strong wind I couldn’t.
My solution was to switch the 5D for a Panasonic GX1 with 45-200mm lens. This gave the equivalent of a 90-400mm lens on the 5D. Interestingly the smaller profile and weight of the camera allowed it to sit solidly on the Manfrotto tripod. So, although the Lightweight Velbon tripod suffered in the strong winds, so did the 5D and best of all, the lightweight GX1 solved the problem.
A little while back I reported that I was struggling to get my Infrared images from my GX1 to meet my expectations. I was experiencing difficulties with depth of field, focus and my images seemed grainy and soft. And whilst I did achieve some improvements to the quality I wasn’t entirely satisfied the results. The real problem however is that I have nothing to compare my results against so it might be that all Infrared images are soft and grainy. Well, I have had something of a revelation over the weekend and have achieved some very high quality images with which I am delighted.
The source of my problem was identified after a friend sent his Nikon camera for conversion. When returned the lens had the UV filter removed and this had been carefully packaged with a note saying “DON’T USE WITH INFRARED”. When he spoke to the company they said they had encountered a number of problems in the past when these filters are used on converted cameras. Whilst all filters are not the same, there is no way of telling which cause a problem so he was recommended to buy a clear glass lens protector instead.
As soon as I heard this I searched the internet but couldn’t find anything about this problem. I decided to do some quick tests by simply removing my UV filters (expensive B&W ones) and the results were amazing. The areas that had been very soft were now much sharper. The graininess that had been apparent in images had now cleared. The images were now significantly sharper with fine details appearing crisp. And the distortion appearing towards the edge of the frame (especially in the corners) was reduced significantly, down to levels expected with these lenses.
Now you might recall that I mentioned my 45-200 lens didn’t display such strong problems as my 9-18 lens and that my 18-45 lens was worse than the others. Well checking the filters, the one attached to the 45-200 was a cheap 7 Day Shop UV filter which appears to have much less effect than the B&W filters. When I checked the B&W filters I found one of them caused more problems than the other.
I am now on the lookout for clear glass 52mm filters that do no filtering at all. Until I find them I will be shooting with the front lens element exposed.
The LX5 is a great camera and will render fine detail in the landscape despite its “limited” resolution. Click the image to view larger.
Following my blog posting to say that I am upgrading my LX5 to a Sony RX100 someone asked the perhaps obvious question why I had picked the Sony. There are so many high quality compacts now coming onto the market, why this one. In answering the question, I couldn’t provide one overriding reason so thought it best to respond fully in this post.
The first and probably most important thing that I want to highlight is that not everyone has the same demands of a camera or places the same value on its functions and specification. If we did all think the same we would all be buying the same camera.
In deciding to switch to the RX100 as my compact camera I had a number of criteria that I weighed up. These included:
Size of the camera. It needs to fit in my pocket easily. This wasn’t something I could do with the LX5 once the filter adapter tube was attached. Surprisingly the RX100 is smaller than the LX5 and is much easier “carry anywhere”.
The camera must be able to shoot RAW and the RAW files work with my converters. With some of new cameras I would need to wait until support is added to my converters or use the manufacturers’ software. Manufacturers’ software usually falls well short of the likes of Lightroom.
It must be possible to attach a filter adapter so I can use P sized filters. As I shoot mainly Landscapes this is essential. The LX5 used a bulky adapter tube but for the RX100 I have ordered a rather small neat solution from Lensmate which attaches to the front of the camera and isn’t bulky. I also noticed that some cameras just don’t have the ability to accept filters and there are no third party solutions.
Resolution was important to me. Whilst I thought the LX5 was (and is) an amazing camera, I wanted more resolution, ideally a minimum of 14Mpixels. This was very important to me as I want the option of producing very large and detailed prints. I know I can resize the LX5 to 24 inches and perhaps 30 inches with some images but I don’t always want to be resizing images. The RX100 produces +18 inch prints at 300dpi out of the camera.
Low light capability. The RX100 is superb in this respect. Probably due to its 1” sensor that isn’t too much smaller than the Micro 43 sensors.
Image quality and detail. For this I simply downloaded sample RAW files from the internet. I was impressed by some cameras in terms of colour and lens sharpness but the Sony just blew me away.
Ability to throw the background out of focus. This is better than the LX5 and many other cameras due to the larger sensor.
Macro capability. The RX100 isn’t that great hear but it’s much better than the Canon G1X which was another camera I considered. I also have the option of fitting a close up lens (52mm screw in) which I already own from years ago.
My suggestion if you are thinking of changing your camera is to work out the features that are essential to you and place them in order of priority. You can then rank the various cameras against these.
There were some aspects of the RX100 that I wasn’t happy with and perhaps I will have to learn to tolerate:
Because of its small size and shape it isn’t as easy to grip with 1 hand as the LX5. I think however that a leather half case will resolve this if I can manage to take out a second mortgage to pay the inflated price of the Sony case (but it’s really nice).
The wide angle 28mm is limiting. I would have liked the zoon range to be 24mm – 120mm.
And if you are wondering, no I’m not selling the LX5, at least not for a while yet as it’s still a great camera and there is just something about it that I can’t put my finger on.
This image has nothing to do with my upgraded camera other than its the type of image I will be shooting. The weather has been so poor that I just haven’t been able to shoot much. Very frustrating.
I have mentioned here before that this will be the year that I finally upgrade my beloved LX5. Not because it doesn’t perform but because it’s being surpassed by new technology that has a lot more to offer me. My intention however was to earn the cost of the upgrade by selling Microstock, something I had promised to blog about in the future.
Well I have been signing up for Microstock and starting to submit images but I will talk about this in the future. What I want to share today is that I have already taken the plunge and purchased a new compact camera. The funding came from an unexpected source; I had sold some camera equipment on eBay last October but I was so busy at the time I had forgotten to withdraw the funds. What a great surprise, especially as it has enabled me to purchase a new Sony RX100.
The new camera arrived on Saturday so I haven’t been able to shoot any useful material (certainly nothing I would be happy to publish) so you will have to make do with a completely unrelated image. Hopefully I will be able to capture some example images this coming weekend if the weather allows.
Initial impressions of the RX100 are very good although I think I will need to adjust my shooting approach from the LX5. The camera is well built with the exception of the battery door cover which feels quite flimsy. Quite surprisingly the camera is smaller than my LX5 and fits in my pocket much more easily. Perhaps it’s even a little too small which is making it tricky to shoot using only one hand.
Whilst it’s a little early to say, the image quality appears to be very good. I do need to remember to stop down a little further than f/3.5 I am used to using with the LX5 however as the depth of field isn’t as great. The RX100 has quite a large sensor that’s not much smaller than a Micro 43 sensors. I still find it hard to believe however that Sony has managed to squeeze this into such a small body and give it 20Mpixel.
At the moment the RX100 is looking like an impressive package although I need some time to really put it through its paces. I will report back in the future, but to me this is the future of Lightweight Photography.
Simple scenes can take on a new drama with Infrared
Over the weekend I spent some time experimenting with my newly converted infrared GX1. My conclusion is that digital infrared is totally addictive.
The light was not very good for traditional photography and the sky lacked any real detail. Seen on the infrared LCD however this drab scene took on a completely different appearance. I also found the Panasonic Lumix GX1 is very easy to carry as a second body; it’s easy to slip it into my bag or pocket. In the end though I was walking around with two cameras around my neck because they are so light; the unconverted GX1 with a 14-45mm lens and the Infrared version with a 9-18mm lens.
Following up on my previous posts I have also made some useful discoveries about shooting infrared with the GX1:
I reported previously that the focussing seemed to be off and indeed it was. I have now switched to using the pinpoint focus rather than the movable area and the problem has corrected itself. I have since switched back to the moveable area focus and that now appears to be working also. I don’t know what caused the problem but I will monitor it carefully.
I found an article on IR photography on the internet that said setting the white balance is very important and that the AWB seldom gives good results. I had pretty much ignored the AWB setting as I shoot in RAW reasoning that I could set it later. I would never have thought however about making the adjustment that was recommended, taking the Colour temperature to the minimum (2,700K). When I came to update my camera I found that the company who performed the conversion had already registered 2 custom colour settings in the camera and they work very well.
I had previously thought the images produced were a little grainy so I performed a Pixel Refresh from the menu and the problem seems to have been corrected. This might however be as a result of the new white balance settings that I am using as a starting point for my conversion to Black and White.
Whilst the weather wasn’t great at the weekend I am starting to realise some of the potential of my converted camera and am actually quite pleased with some of the images. More will appear on these pages in the future.
Early shot testing out my newly converted Infrared GX1
Firstly, let me say Happy New Year to everyone. I hope it’s a great year for you.
Now, if you have been following this blog for a little while you might be aware that I recently purchased a second Panasonic Lumix GX1 body so I could send my old camera for conversion to Infrared. Over the festive season I received the converted camera. Unfortunately it’s been a frustrating period due the weather here being terrible. Most of the UK has been suffering severe flooding and even where it hasn’t flooded, the rain has continued relentlessly.
Last Sunday there was a short break in the rain (although the clouds didn’t really part for more than a few minutes) and I found myself out in the Peak District with my new camera. The weather really wasn’t conducive to shooting infrared but I gave it a go because I was desperate to try out the camera. The results were quite interesting and I noticed a few things that I hadn’t previously been aware of:
When shooting Infrared the dynamic range of the camera seems huge. I could shoot without using any ND Graduated filters. The same shot with my unconverted GX1 needed at least a 0.6 ND Grad to balance the exposure with the sky. I did try using a ND Graduated filter with the Infrared camera but it made absolutely no difference to the exposure or histogram. This sort of makes sense but I haven’t quite got my head around it.
The autofocus worked to some degree. To be honest I had expected it not to work at all so that was a nice surprise. The focus wasn’t however as accurate as I want so I will need to switch to manual focus. If you are old enough to remember film cameras you might be aware of an Infrared mark on your lenses which shows the infinity point of focus when using Infrared film. This is because IR light has a different point of focus and I haven’t yet worked out how I’m going to address this.
The depth of field appears less with the Infrared camera. Again I can’t get my head around why but my usual trick of shooting at f/7.1 and focussing on the near foreground just didn’t cut it. I will need to experiment more.
I was shooting with the camera set to RAW and JPG in Mono. The Mono JPG’s looked OK but I think a true conversion from RAW will be best. Looking at the RAW images they display the usual Red shift with most of the data being in the red channel and little in the blue and green. I need to work out the best approach to converting RAW files to produce the typical infrared look I am after.
Relying on the cameras auto exposure resulted in an underexposed histogram during shooting. It was possible to push this by 1-2 stops without the histogram becoming clipped and this produced quite nice in camera JPG’s. I’m not however sure this technique produced good RAW files for conversion so more experimentation is required.
My 14-45mm lens appeared to suffer from quite a bit of barrel distortion on the infrared camera that wasn’t previously present or is present on my other GX1. My 45-200 lens doesn’t seem to suffer and the 9-18 Olympus lens only shows limited distortion at the widest end. I need to work out the best approach for dealing with this
So, in summary, I have a lot more experimentation to achieve the results I was hoping for but the early indications are good. I now need the weather to improve so that I can use the camera properly.