Jun 20

Underwater housing for Ricoh GR

Having used a Nikonos underwater camera for many years I, like many others, have been frustrated by the compromises that currently have to be made if you want a decent waterproof camera.

It’s either small sensored cameras (that often don’t shoot raw) or hideously priced housings for DSLR.

With a trip to the Bahamas coming up I was scratching around for a solution, and found this for my Ricoh GR – an Ewa-marine 2D-1L housing – in the UK it retails for c. £40.

It’s a well made, robust deformable plastic enclosure (aka a bag) with a high quality glass port. The camera slips inside, you tighten up the seal and operate the controls  through the plastic. In practice you can turn the camera on and off and press the shutter release – using the other buttons gets too fiddly.

This picture was taken with the Ricoh GR / Ewa combination – you can see a flare on the far right hand railings of the boat (due to the additional glass of the Ewa housing) but that’s about it.

I took it down about 10 feet with no problems whatsoever, so all in all I’m very pleased with this combination. Given the similar size for all Ricoh cameras in this series I suspect they will all fit into this housing.

Crucially (as you can see from the pictures) there is no vignetting of the lens against the glass port. This needs a small amount of fiddling to achieve but is not too tricky.

R0004970-2

 

R0005036-2R0005050-2

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Jun 18

Lego Scanner

I’m lucky enough to have a Nikon coolscan 9000, but rarely use it now.

Why ?

A Nikon d750, 60mm f2.8 macro and my lego scanner:

The parts in detail:

_1010977

Lego (of course). There is a lego store in Stratford, England, where you can buy individual pieces. I spent c. £10 on 3 large cups of assorted lego chunks.

_1010978

As you can see it was put together with no real thought, other than to raise the stand far enough above the negative so that the image on the  D750 sensor is as near to 1:1 as possible (so that your resulting “scan” is c. 25mp).

Next you need a light table (c.£30):

_1010976

You can use an ipad or iphone but at these magnifications the lcd matrix of the screen is visible behind the negative. So I splurged out on a lightbox.

Next, add camera, lens, lego and lightbox together:

_1010980Keep iso as low as possible, use c. 5.6 aperture and shutter release delay.

You can add a negative holder in the gap between the lego and lightbox if you need to flatten the negative

You then get a “negative” picture. A quick pull of curves and adjustment of levels in photoshop and you get this:

DSC_5358

DSC_5323

Colour works fine as well, but you need to fiddle with the curves a little in photoshop:

DSC_5283

I’ve yet to do any side by side comparisons with the coolscan 9000, but I may not bother. Certainly the above routine produces prints up to at least A4 that are perfectly adequate.

Also, the quality is certainly superior to the scanning service my local snappy snaps lab produces.

This set up is fearsomely quick – you can “scan” 6 negatives in 30 seconds.

Use a blower to clean off dust at start and end of strip. Dust does show up, but is far less intrusive than with scanners – I think it’s do do with the differing light sources.

I’m sure the above contraption can also be modified for stitching medium or even large format.

I now have an Olympus EM5 MK ii and suspect I may be able to use the 54mp  hi res stitching function for scanning negatives.

Stay tuned !

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Aug 12

Olympus at the Olympics

So, with a ticket for the final day of the atheletics at the Olympic stadium, I reasoned that the only camera that I could be used for trying to get pictures on the field was an OM-D and Panasonic 100-300 zoom.

All shooting was done in RAW.

As I was situated very high up, 10 rows from the back of the stand with night  falling this was a tough test for the setup.

This was a venue where of course it was impossible to alter your view – the stadium was packed so making the best of the situation was today’s exercise.

 150 metres to go while the high jumpers try and concentrate

Most of these are crops – iso range from 1000 to 6,400 (the last colour picture) and were mainly taken with manual priority to keep shutter at c 1/500.

The ecstasy

The continuous af on the OM-D struggled to the extent that I quickly turned to s-af. As the evening wore on and light levels dropped even s-af became a little unreliable.

Now everyone wants you

However while the continuous af of a D800 was sorley missed there would have been no way to bring in a 400mm+ plus nikon lens. Bear in mind these were all taken at the extreme end of the lens which equates to 600mm on a full frame camera

Waiting between rounds

 

These are all processed from Raw in LR4 including B&W conversions. Undoubtably Silver Efex Pro is better, but as a quick and ready conversion LR4 does the job

 

The adoration

The high speed frame mode and IBIS is very very impressive with this camera.

Standing for the national anthem

All in all, I was highly impressed with the speed and responses of the OM-D. The only achilles heel is the continuous auto focus – the rest of the package is almost perfect.

Sorry for defacing these with copyright logos but I know where these will end up !

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Jun 03

Using the Fuji X Pro 1 for street photography – Part I

This review is based on using the Fuji X pro with the 18mm, 35mm and 60mm (although admittedly the latter is not really a typical street shooter’s lens).

Part 2 of the review (to follow) will be with the Fuji X Pro and a variety of M lenses.

Unlike most other areas of photography (even sports) street photography requires a camera that is fast enough to shoot almost instantly.

Many times you will see an expression or a gesture which will vanish in a few tenths of a second. Few cameras can be brought to the eye and triggered in that time period. My D700 and can do this and autofocus as well. The GXR can do it if prefocused as can the Leica M’s.

Any lag in the camera will lose photographs – not necessarily every day, but lose them you will (and as luck would have it it will be the really great shot that will be lost).

This really is a very demanding role – if you don’t specifically shoot like this, cat like reflexes in a camera are not really necessary.

Zone focusing is one way round this and I’ll discuss how this works on the X Pro later.

For this assignment I am in Santorini, Greece. The most used lens is the 18mm – its rendering is very nice indeed. People may criticise the sharpness wide open but I feel it approaches the very best Nikons in terms of clarity. As always the picture quality with all lenses on this camera is just astounding.

The Fuji was set to its fastest operating parameters – no power saving at all, and fast wake up. The only concession for maximising battery life was auto power off after 30 seconds. The firmware was the most recent update (1.01)

A word about shot to shot speed. Get a decent SD card – the difference between a Sandisk Extreme 45 mb/s and a generic card that came with the camera was startling. A Sandisk extreme pro (90 mb/s) was slightly quicker still, but probably not worth the price premium.

In terms of startup and waking from sleep, the camera was just about ok for the purpose of shooting on the street. Not as good as the D700 or Ricoh GXR which are my current “gold standard”, but good none the less.

With autofocus enabled, you have a camera that is reasonably quick for most purposes but not quite good enough for serious street work (by which I mean raising a camera to catch that split second gesture which will be gone before you even consciously process it). The D700 and similar DSLR’s are without peer in this respect.

I previously discovered the trick of pressing the shutter bottom all the way to capture fast moving objects but this method still incurs a half second penalty – not a problem if you’re photographing eg racing cars coming towards you where you can anticipate their approach, but not so great if you’re trying to catch a fleeting moment.

If you are going to use manual zone focusing then there is less excuse for slow response. The Ricoh GXR (in manual focus or snap mode) and Leica M’s are excellent in their responsiveness with these techniques.

A huge let down (currently) with the X Pro 1 in manual focus mode is the shutter lag. Sometimes there is very little, but at other times there is a discernible pause. Using the EVF adds at best another fractional pause. At worst the EVF can take a second or so to adjust from sleeping state to a scene filled with very bright light.

There are techniques that help such as half pressing the shutter as you bring the camera to your eye. However, this has the downside of making the exposure calculation at the moment you half press. Sometimes it’s fine but sometimes you’ve exposed incorrectly.

A further significant problem is the mechanical lens focus mechanism. With a Leica lens you select eg 10 feet as your distance and can reasonably expect the lens to stay at that distance all day unless the focus ring is firmly nudged. Perfect for selecting f8 and shooting away knowing you have a deep field of focus.

The 18mm lens has a wretched mechanical bug in that after setting it manually to eg 8 ft, no matter how carefully you cosset the camera, after 2 or 3 minutes the lens will have changed focus distance often by several feet. I found street shooting with the X Pro using manual zone techniques virtually impossible because of this one serious flaw.

It also baffles me how the software on this cameras was ever let out in the wild. A cynical person may suggest this is purely a marketing strategy so that Fuji can announce every few months *new* features and improvements.

Fuji sorted out the auto iso on the X100. And then blew it completely on the X Pro. How on earth did they manage this ?

The depth of field indicator is laughably inaccurate. Can they not at least tweak the formulas they use to make this feature useable ?

These failings in the camera software are all the more saddening given that the camera body, lenses and sensor are just fantastic.

It may be that using manual Leica lenses on the X Pro will get around the lag issue (certainly they will remain at the selected focus distance) so I will ditch the optically wonderful 18mm for a few days and see what happens…..

In the meantime, as an overall package the Fuji X Pro 1 and associated lenses lies third, behind the Ricoh GXR and D700 in terms of what I need in a camera for street shooting. It is pointless having wonderful quality picture taken a few tenths of a second too late.

And that is currently the X Pro’s Achilles heel.

—————————————————–

Update:

1. I think part of the problem with the shifting focus ring is down to of all things, sunlight. I recall that the X100’s focus ring was also much more sensitive in bright sunlight.  Santorini has huge amounts of sunlight reflecting off white walls. Now I’m back in dull England, the focus seems much more stable. I’ll investigate this more over the next few days.

2. In any event, thanks to Mike Kobal there is a work around for the shifting focus ring http://www.mikekobal.com/blog/?p=5007. There is even a dedicated supplier of lens bands here !

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Apr 10

Fuji X-Pro 1 autofocus trick

The X-Pro 1 autofocus is surprisingly good at locking onto moving targets – humans, bicycles and cars can all be caught with relative ease. First, set the X-Pro on AF-S (NOT AF-C) and select any autofocus point in the OFV or EVF.

The trick is to depress the shutter in one go – the camera may take 1/4 of a second to sort out the focus, but there seems to be an algorithm that compensates for the movement of the subject + the 1/4 second delay and puts the plane of focus back into the right position.

If you’ve been brought up on DSLRs the overwhelming urge is to half press the shutter to get focus – do this on the X-Pro 1 and the autofocus will fail on fast moving objects. Mash the shutter (gently) in one go and it works really well, even at f.1.4 with taxis.

This technique works an amazingly high % of the time. I was testing this in the rain on cyclists with the 35mm wide open at 1.4.
10 out of 10 were sharp.

Got bored and went home.

Although I don’t have the X100 several people have reported that this technique works with that camera as well.

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Mar 29

Fuji Xpro-1 and Leica 50mm Summilux

After the brick shots (see below) I decided it was about time to try the 50mm Summilux out on some real world shots.

I find that these range finder lenses are quite easy to focus using the EVF even at f1.4 without having to zoom in – the image “pops” when in focus just like they used to with 35mm film cameras.

All pictures below were shot wide open (ie at f1.4).

In the brick testing, I was quite disappointed at the edge quality of all my rangefinder lenses wide open, but with real life 3 dimensional objects these shortcomings (assuming that my adapter isn’t in some way defective) are very difficult, if not impossible to see.

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Mar 24

Fuji X-Pro 1 grand test with Leica M Mount lenses

**Update** To rule out any mechanical faults with the Kipon adapter I plan on trying another adapter but may wait until the official Fuji one comes out. In the meantime, if you have tried an adapter with leica fit lenses wide open with any more success than I have had, please do drop me a line. Properly functioning Leica glass on this sensor would be fantastic.

 

**Update 2** For Geeks, the answer probably resides with the following:

1. Zeiss Lens document (Page 11 and 12)

2. Thickness of filter covering sensor:

  •      Leica M8 = 0.5mm
  •      Leica M9 = 0.8mm
  •      Fuji X-Pro 1 = 2.5mm

———————————————————————-

I really don’t like lens testing as it saps away what little creative energy I have and someone, somewhere is always unsatisfied with the testing methodology.
Also modern lenses are so good that any nitpicking under high resolution is, frankly, time you should be out shooting.
Nonetheless, I was so suprised at the results from my Leica fit lenses on my Fuji X-Pro (using the Kipon adapter) that I decided it was worth an hour of my life to delve further.
So here are all my Leica m-mount lenses (28 ASPH, 35 & 50 Summilux, Zeiss 21mm f2.8, Voigtlander 15mm and 35mm color-skopar) together with the Fuji 35mm 1.4 that came with the camera tested on a Fuji X-Pro 1, each at their maximum aperture and then f8. The Leica 28, 35 and 50 are the ASPH versions (the 35mm is not the most recent version)
Focus point for all was on the black pipe directly below the whiteish brick. Click through twice to get the full size picture.
The only aim of these tests was to examine edge resolution as this is often where these lenses fall down when used on digital non-Leica cameras. From experience, colour variation in the corners is not really an issue even with the 15mm wide lenses
All pictures were taken in a 20 minute timeframe, shot in RAW at c. 200 iso and converted in Silkypix with all defaults but with noise reduction turned off. I have no idea whether these results would be replicated with the official Fuji or other 3rd part adapters.
To rule out any difference between Raws and Jpegs I have included one Jpg from the Zeiss 21mm wide open – there appears to be no difference.
The M-mount adapter is a very tight fit with the lenses and if you’re regularly changing M Mount lenses I foresee you could damage the camera lens mount. Therefore, I’d suggest taking off the lens+adapter from the camera before separating the lens and adapter (which needs a very firm twist).
The Voigtlander 15mm is the first non-coupled rangefinder version and for some reason the Zeiss 21mm would not focus at infinity (irrelevant to these tests).
I’m finding that the faster lenses like the 50mm Summilux can be focused without zooming if used wide open as the shallow depth of field is replicated in the electronic viewfinder which allows the properly focused area to “pop”
There are a number of possible reasons for the performance of these high quality lenses as shown below:
1. The Fuji X-Pro 1 is just not a good optical match with M lenses.
2. My M lens adapter in some way is faulty.
3. Fuji know a trick or 2 for their own adapter which will increase the quality of results.
Unfortunately, at this time I have no real idea which of the above is the correct explanation for these results.
There is one simple way to rule out any errors in these tests – someone just needs to put an adapter on their X-Pro 1, shoot their Leica lens wide open and get sharp edges. I would be delighted !

Voigtlander 15mm wide open at f4.5

 

Voigtlander 15mm at f8.0

Carl Zeiss 21mm Biogon wide open at f2.8

Carl Zeiss 21mm Biogon at f8.0

Leica 28mm Summicron wide open at f2.0

Leica 28mm Summicron at f8

Leica 35mm Summilux wide open at f1.4

Leica 35mm Summilux at f8

Fuji 35mm wide open at f1.4

Fuji 35mm at f8.0

Voigtlander Color-Skoppar 35mm wide open at f2.5

Voigtlander Color-Skopar 35mm at f8

Leica 50mm Summilux wide open at f1.4

Leica 50mm Summilux at f8.0

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Mar 22

Fuji X-Pro 1 with Voigtlander 15mm f4.5

The Kipon M adapter arrived in London from Hong Kong in just 3 days. It’s well made and relatively cheap.

Today I’ve just used the 15mm Voigtlander f4.5 (old version). When I used this on the Leica M8 and M9 the lack of rangefinder coupling meant having to scale focus each shot.

On the X-Pro 1 you can of course still use the optical view finder and scale focus but now you also have the option of using the electronic view finder.

To use, first you dial in the focal length of the lens so the EVF is accurate (which will also make the OVF fairly precise)

When using the EVF you zoom in for fine focus by pressing the knurled switch by your thumb.  The camera zooms in to wherever you have placed the focus point, so joy of joys, you can select for example the far left or right of the frame and shoot without recomposing.

Once, focused press the switch again with your thumb. Or half press the shutter. Either will get you back to normal “unzoomed” view.

Shutter lag seems to be very low and on a par with my M9. The shutter is a nice low frequency delicate clunk very quiet and inaudiable on the street. Oh, and using these lenses means the ticking of the diaphragm when using the fuji lenses which annoys some people is completely absent.

The EVF is also quite easy to focus without having to zoom in with the knurled dial. I will experiment more with this, but preliminary playing suggests even the 1.4 summiluxes may be focusable without zooming.

In the morning when the light was good, I actually had some difficulty working out whether I was viewing via the OVF or EVF. In the evening the diffrences became more prononced. The EVF at dusk is grainer and lags when you pan.

After an hour or so of use like this the whole procedure for focusing becomes second nature.

Forgive the somewhat pedestrian nature of these pictures, but I know you want to see what the detail and edges look like. Other than a little global brightness changes, all the pictures below are untouched, processed in Silkypix from Raws. Click through twice to get the full sized picture.

 

Uncropped, f4.5 iso 320

 

Uncropped, f4.5, iso 200

Uncropped, f4.5 iso 200

Uncropped, f4.5 iso 1,000

Uncropped iso 1,000, f8

Uncropped iso 1,000, f8

 

By way of comparison I also include 3 shots with the exact same CV 15mm lens wide open on a Leica M8, M9 and Ricoh GXR with the M mount:

 

Voigtlander 15mm wide open at f4.5 on Leica M8

 

Voigtlander 15mm wide open at f4.5 on Leica M9

CV 15mm wide open f4.5 on Ricoh GXR A12 M-Mount

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Mar 21

Fuji X-Pro 1 Part II

Well, inserting a reputable SD card sorted out the locking problems experienced on the first day.

Although I’m a geek in many spheres, I’m ashamed to say I was unaware how much of a speed difference to clearing a camera buffer a decent SD card can make. A Sandisk extreme pro clears the camera buffer twice as fast as the old generic one.

Auto-iso is a little disappointing – Fuju should look to how Nikon / Ricoh impliment it – at the moment when selected, the camera uses lowest possible iso providing the camera speed is above 1/focal length of lens in use. Once the shutter speeds drop below this figure the camera keeps raising the iso to keep the minimum shutter speed.

Using the 35mm lens, this gives a minimum shutter speed of 1/52 which is no real use when shooting on the street – I usually have 1/160 upwards to eliminate blur.

There is, however, a simple workaround – choose auto iso and then just set the aperture and shutter speed manually. The camera then does its best to vary the iso to make the picture properly exposed. I do find, however, that it’s a little too easy to over expose this way. Oh for a straightforward system as implimented in the GXR !

The file quality is simply amazing. I’m shooting RAW and using Silkypix.

Silkypix sets  by default a pretty agressive noise reduction – turn it off even at high iso’s and the file quality is delicious.

The M-mount adapter arrived today, so over the next few sessions I’ll be using a selection of Leica, Zeiss lenses, and the 15mm Voigtlander.

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Mar 19

Initial thoughts on the Fuji X-Pro 1

Having used film and digital Leica cameras for many years on the street, I was delighted to get hold today of an Fuji X-Pro 1 and 35mm 1.4 lens.
I am of course fascinated to see how it compares to my current favorite street cameras, the Ricoh GXR and Nikon D700.
A few initial thoughts after a couple of hours shooting (Please bear in mind I only shoot raw and today just kept the camera on single autofocus):
Built quality is excellent. No where near as hefty as M9 but it reminds me if the old Mamiya 7’s in that it feels light but strong.
The controls (knobs, dials etc) are well made and the main control dial on the back surpasses the horrid plastic wheel on the back of the M8’s, 9’s and x1’s.

The iris does chatter rather a lot. It’s clearly audible in a quiet room, but can’t be heard on the street. If it’s likely to cause concern, the simplest advice would simply be to turn the camera off when you’re between shots. Between turning it on and raising it to your eye the X-Pro is ready to go- very quick indeed.
Autofocus (with no power saving) in reasonable light seems very good, and I’ve even had a lot of luck shooting people and cars coming towards me- even at f1.4 the shots are usually perfectly in focus.
However the odd picture still, for some reason, is massively rear focussed. I will explore this more.
While the writing of Raws is a little slow, the X pro seems to have a very large buffer and you can rattle off picture after picture with no delay. Please note, however, that I always leave the picture review off when shooting.
The 3 and 6 pics per second burst mode are very impressive. Overall the X-pro is much quicker on the street than the GXR.One software glitch is that you can shoot many pics in quick succession providing you don’t try and review any. When the camera is writing pictures to the sd card, if you press the green button the camera seems to lock up until the rest of the frames are written.

I did have some initial lockups with the camera – read/write errors and two total hangs but all were fully sorted in a few seconds by pulling out the battery. I have traced the problem down to a faulty SD card, so no blame on Fuji !

The few files I’ve looked at through Silkypix can be summed up in one word.

Sensational.

More later.

 

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