2010-12-31

100 Portraits - FlakPhoto.com


History's Shadow GM1, 2008-2010 - Photo: David Maisel

This has been featured lots of places lately. I've looked through the entire thing four or five times, and will probably go through it again. 100 portraits by 100 photographers, curated from the FlakPhoto.com archive. Definitely worth a look.

Seen at A Photo Editor.

2010-12-30

Fujica G690BL vs Foldex 20


julia_13038, originally uploaded by infrar3d.

I tried a lot of medium format cameras in the '90s.

I was getting some things out of storage recently and found another box of old prints and negatives, mostly medium format stuff. Some I can only guess which camera I was using, but I remember these two.

The first pic was shot on Fuji NPS 160 and scanned from a 4x6 machine print. That's right, in the '90s you could get medium format film processed and have dusty proof prints made in an hour at the corner drug store.

The Fuji G690BL was a pretty nice camera. It was rugged, it had a good rangefinder and a great lens. It made big, beautiful 6x9 negatives. But it was also huge and heavy. The 100mm f/3.5 lens was shockingly large for a standard lens. The whole kit weighed around 5 pounds. At about that same time I did some work with a Koni-Omega Rapid M, which is a beast in it's own right, and it seemed positively svelte next to the big Fuji. I didn't keep it very long.

The Foldex 20 was also a 6x9 camera, but was much more fun. It's a folding bellows camera, as the name implies, so it can slip into a large jacket pocket. You don't have to think about anything with the Foldex. It has an 86mm Octvar fixed-focus lens, and exactly two shutter speeds - 1/50 and bulb. However, the meniscus lens is nowhere near the same league as the Fujinon, the only exposure adjustment you really have is changing what ISO film you're using, and it has an odd shutter release. But it was well built and fast handling. I think it's also probably one of the very few cameras ever made that can shoot both 120 and 620 formats.

The second shot was made with the Foldex on T-Max 100. Simple bellows cameras like the Foldex are really happiest on a steady diet of 400 ISO film like Tri-X, or better yet Ilford XP2 with it's very wide exposure latitude. But, in those days I mostly shot with whatever I could get at the local camera store. That's right, in the '90s you could buy film locally, at these places called camera stores. Scanned from the contact sheet.

2010-12-29

Holgablog Interviews Michael Kenna


Three Trees, Canossa, Emilia Romagna, Italy, 2008 - Photo: Michael Kenna

Another great little web gallery, I saw this a couple of weeks ago on Holgablog. They have a very short interview with Michael Kenna. They've also got several of his fantastic Holga shots.

Wire Photographer of the Year: Mauricio Lima


Photo: MAURICIO LIMA/AFP/Getty Images

TIME Magazine has named AFP's Mauricio Lima Wire Photographer of the Year. They have a nice gallery of his work from Afghanistan. Really great stuff.

Seen at PDN Pulse.

Beginner dSLR and Mirrorless Recommendations


001_6373, originally uploaded by infrar3d.

This is the second email, where I try to make some recommendations for more advanced cameras. The criteria here were mostly the same, just with one additional point.

  • Ease of use
  • Good image quality
  • Macro capability
  • Less than $600
  • Shallow depth of field

Obviously, a few of these recommendations break the $600 mark, but it can be done. I think probably a Nikon D40x and a 35mm f/1.8G would be the best and most economical choice. And macro capability is just that - capability. You'd have to add another lens, or get diopters.

Here's the text of the second email.

You asked me the other day how to get a "3d effect" in your photos. That comes from having a shallow depth of field, as in the photo above.

Any camera can get that look when you're shooting macro, like the photo I linked earlier. But if you want to get that look at normal shooting distances you need a camera with a larger sensor and a fast lens. That means either a dSLR, or a "mirrorless" camera. Both types of cameras have interchangeable lenses, so you can get something fast. The speed of a lens refers to the aperture, and the smaller the number the faster it is. You'll want something f/2.8 or faster.

There are a lot of choices. Most of the manufacturers make something decent. Let's do the mirrorless cameras first. They're smaller than DSLRs, but won't quite fit in your pocket.

Panasonic GF1 or GF2 with a 20mm f/1.7 lens.
Olympus E-PL1 or E-P2 with a 17mm f/2.8 lens.

And here are a couple of dSLRs.

Pentax K-x or K-r with a 35mm f/2.4 lens.
Nikon D40, D40x, D3000, D3100 or D5000 with a 35mm f/1.8 lens.

There are a lot more dSLRs to choose from, but these are the brands I'm familiar with.

Pocket Camera Recommendations


004_1172404, originally uploaded by infrar3d.

Over the holidays my sister-in-law and a friend asked me for new camera recommendations, and I answered them over the course of a couple of emails. I try to be as specific as possible when making gear recommendations to people that aren't gearheads. And they were specific with me as well, here's what they were looking for in a camera:

  • Ease of use
  • Good image quality
  • Macro capability
  • Less than $600

In addition, my sister-in-law wanted to know how to take portraits with separation between the subject and background, which I got into in the second email.

Here's the first email.

I put cameras in two categories; the kind that will fit in my pants pocket, and the kind that won't. Let's tackle the small ones first, they're easier.

If you want a pocketable camera with a single focal length (that means no zoom, but slightly higher optical quality) I think there's one best choice; the Ricoh GR Digital III. I just got the older version of this camera, the GR Digital II, and I carry it with me everywhere. It has great image quality and takes excellent macro shots. Most small-sensor cameras tend to excel at macro shots. Here one I took of a figurine in mom's window - it's about two and a half inches total length.

The GR Digital III retails for a little over $500.

If you want a zoom lens there are a few more choices, here are three I like.

  1. Canon S90 or S95. The S95 is slightly newer, but they're nearly identical. $400 - $500.
  2. Panasonic LX3 or LX5. Again, the LX5 is slightly newer. $300 - $400.
  3. Ricoh GX200. You can probably only find these used these days. They should go for about $250 on ebay.

Any of those would be great. Good places to buy new camera gear are B&H Photo and Adorama. Another great place that has both new and used gear is popflash.com.

2010-12-20

Ricoh GR Digital II Preliminary Review


004_1172138, originally uploaded by infrar3d.

My lovely wife gave me an early xmas gift, a lightly used Ricoh GR Digital II. I've only had it a few days, but so far it's great. I've had my eye on the Ricoh digitals for a while. I've wanted something decent that would still fit in the pocket of my jeans. I would've rather had the GR Digital III, but this came with the GV-2 mini viewfinder, and both the GW-1 21mm wide angle lens attachment and the GT-1 40mm telephoto lens attachment. So I'm not complaining.

I'm still getting used to it, and haven't quite finished looking at the rather thick owners manual. One thing I wasn't aware of from just reading online reviews, is how good the macro mode is. It's quite useful, even with the 40mm attachment, and likely the only time you'll ever see any bokeh from the lens. Shooting macro with live view on the LCD actually seems easier than using an SLR.

So far I've been shooting mostly in raw, and that's another nice thing about the Ricohs - they shoot raw in Adobe DNG format. The camera also saves a JPG even in raw mode, I'm not sure how to feel about that yet. The raw files seem fairly robust up to about 400 ISO, above that you've really got to watch your light. For example, I took some ISO 800 shots with auto white balance under tungsten light, and was unable to fully correct the yellow cast in Adobe Camera Raw. So far I usually keep the ISO set to Auto-Hi with a cap of 800. The write times aren't blazing fast, and there's only a 1 frame raw buffer, so I'll probably pick up a faster SD card soon. According the the Ricoh Forum, the card to get is a Panasonic 4GB SDHC gold label.

I've been shooting mostly in 3:2 crop format, just because I like it. It also saves a bit of room on the card at 9 megapixels instead of 10. The camera will also shoot in 1:1 square, and it's native 4:3.

It's also very quiet. Combined with it's small size and point-and-shoot demeanor that makes it a very discreet camera.

There will be some challenges getting comfortable with a camera like this versus something with an APS-C or larger sensor. For example the extremely long depth-of-field (which could also be a positive in some cases.) The camera has a 28mm equivalent lens, which is a little shorter than I'm used to. There's also the fact that the files can be a bit harsh, you can easily clip the highlights. Overall though, it seems to be capable of producing interesting images, and I don't think you can currently find anything much better that will fit in a pants pocket.

2010-12-11

Free Lexar Image Rescue


Third Annual Mississippi Bowl, originally uploaded by infrar3d.

The other day, while shooting for work, my ancient D1x got the dreaded CHA error. Luckily I already had enough shots to stitch my panorama together. I had a couple of extra CompactFlash cards, but one of them had problems of it's own, and the other was an equally ancient 128mb card that only holds 15 NEFs from the D1x.

I managed to get some of the most recent images off the card, but there was an another folder with several more images in it that my Mac wouldn't recognize. I could browse them with the camera though. While doing a little research into the CHA error, I ran across this thread at SportsShooter.com that mentioned Lexar Image Rescue.  Then I found a two year old post on Fat Wallet for a free download of Lexar Image Rescue 3 for both Mac and PC, and the link still worked! It took more than half an hour, but it did the trick. Here's hoping it's just a bad card.

2010-12-02

A New Polaroid Film Camera?


Could this be a new Polaroid integral film camera?

Engadget has received an interesting teaser image from Polaroid about an announcement they'll be making at CES 2011 on January 6. There's not really any information, but Engadget overcooked the image enough to guess that there's a film slot on the bottom. Here's hoping.

Seen at Photo Rumors.

2010-11-30

Pat Sansone on the Polaroid SX-70


Pat Sansone with an awesome Polaroid SLR 680 SE (blue button), photo courtesy of The Impossible Project.

Pat Sansone, from one of my favorite bands - The Autumn Defense, and some other band called Wilco, has written an article at Aquarium Drunkard about Dr. Land's masterpiece, the Polaroid SX-70. He talks about discovering the SX-70 camera, and falling in love with the colors. He also bemoans the death of SX-70 film in 2008, and how it forced him to grow as a photographer.

It's a nice read. I'm about the same age as Mr. Sansone, so I understand what he means about being from an "in-between generation," technology-wise.

He also just closed an exhibition at The Impossible Project space for his recently published book, 100 Polaroids. Here's a nice set of pics from the opening party by Joshua J. Sarner.

Vampire Weekend Cover Photo Controversy Continues


Ann Kirsten Kennis, by ????

I can't resist a Polaroid-related news story.

PDN Pulse is reporting that things are looking worse for Tod Brody, the photographer that licensed the above image to Vampire Weekend for the cover of their Contra album. In case you've missed it, former model Ann Kirsten Kennis (pictured) sued Vampire Weekend, who in turn sued Brody, who in turn is hiding from Process Servers. Long ways to go still.

The more important question to me is, SX-70 or Type 88? I'm leaning towards SX-70 even though the bottom of the frame is cut off, just look at those colors.

Polaroid Model 250 Reissue


Polaroid 250 Limited Edition Reissue.

This was in my Impossible Project spam a few days ago, and it looks like they're already sold out? The Limited Edition Polaroid 250. These are actually from LandCameras.com. They've been converted to rechargeable batteries and standard shoe-mount flash (included) by Cory Verellen.

Is it as cool as the Limited Edition Polaroid 185 from Polaroid Japan? No. But still pretty cool.