Revival

The web is full of excellent pages written by film geeks and people with far too much disposable income.

I had hoped that getting into film would help me stop obsessing over cameras and just get out and shoot. But now I’m pouring over retro camera blogs and second hand dealers, because it turns out, old film cameras are even more beautiful than digital cameras.

Yashica Ts, LEICA Cs Contax Gs, Olympi (plural?) and Konicas are all calling my name. The annoying thing is that most blogs speak of finding cameras like the oly mju ii for under £10. Then you check the date and find that today; a decade later, the same camera will cost you around £100.

This is the price inflation of the film revival – amazing that old analogue cameras are appreciating in a way digital probably never will.

Another factor is that charity shops have got smarter. Many now have expert led websites or eBay shops where cameras are properly valued. Gone are the days of finding a bargain because the shop assistants don’t really know the value of the device. Presumably the internet has also informed pricing. In the long run this is good news for the charities, just not for hard up collectors.

The return of Flickr?

In what seems to be good news for Flickr users, Smugmug are reported to have bought the venerable photo sharing platform.

A brief trawl through the internet reveals mixed fortunes in the story of this web institution. In recent years Flickr has been abandoned by some enthusiasts in favour of platforms like 500px or simply outshone by the rise of Instagram. But it’s still here and hopefully Flickr is about to see some new life.

I have used Flickr for a while but there have been seasons where I’ve focussed elsewhere. On a recent return to the iOS app, I found that finally the communities chat from groups is now easily viewed. The communities discussion is for me a top feature and previously was not viewable in the app. Another addition to the app is the ability to post an image in multiple groups simultaneously. I have no idea why this was not possible before.

Those user friendly changes were made while owned by Verizon and hopefully things will keep getting better. But what features would you want in a redeveloped Flickr?

Personally I’d prefer them not to continue to compete with Instagram. But that’s a huge challenge. How do you make a successful photo-sharing service without competing with other market leaders? I like Instagram but for me competing with them is a race to the bottom. A race to appeal by encouraging phone photography, filters, adverts and product placement.

The things I like about Flickr are also the most infuriating and least widely appealing. For example, I want to know about exif details; camera and settings etc. Flickr encourages such sharing. Instagram is not interested. They do not make such data public and may well remove them from the image.

This all probably makes Flickr more geeky and a little more elitist. Instagram, in contrast, has always been more encouraging, less critical and more vibrant. Yet, it is to Flickr not instagram I would turn for advice about photography. And it’s also usually Flickr I use to investigate a future holiday destination. Because on Flickr you’ll generally see fewer products and selfies and more actual landscapes.

I don’t envy Smugmug this challenge of making Flickr viable, appealing yet distinct and niche. But I do look forward to what they come up with.

Retro-spective

IMG_5530

This little camera was one of my first real cameras. I think it was a gift when I was around 11 or 12.

I was obsessed with photography, you can see this from the marks aside the lens. These are the remnants of velcro strips which I attached to fix on my home made filters – plastic and coloured acetate.

Having recently started shooting film again, I thought I’d bring this one back into service. I’m planning on making the film currently inside the first I develop myself at home. Perhaps some of the results will make it online.

This camera brings mixed feelings for me.  As well as being my first proper camera, it’s also the last camera I used between the my teens and my mid thirties.

I used it for a photography project at a youth organisation. Part of this meant receiving feedback on images I’d taken. I remember taking in my little book of prints to show the class. I was especially proud of a couple of shots and waited with great anticipation for the leader’s comments.  Unfortunately for me, these comments were not altogether positive. And constructive criticism was more than my 12 year old mind could handle.

I don’t think I lifted up a camera much again, for the next 20 years.

In my thirties, I began taking photos with a phone and reveived encouragement, especially from my wife, to start shooting again.  This has developed into a fulfiling hobby accompanied by a thicker skin to critics.

Sometimes I get to speak to groups of children about photography and I take the opportunity to encourage them to keep going despite knock backs.

A superior type of auto?

I recently became the proud owner of this lovely wee camera. I’ve spent hours pouring over similar specimens online and also incredible refurbished versions such as sold by Tripman. I finally purchased this from the veritable Aladdin’s cave of secondhand cameras that is Ffordes.

Here’s the thing. It’s a fully automatic camera which chooses the exposure for you, all you have to do is choose the correct zone focus setting. When using it I’m not the least concerned by this, in fact it’s quite freeing. But then creeps over me slight uneasiness at my feelings of pride and superiority when I lend a mft camera to a family member who always requests it set to intelligent auto mode.

Shame on me for this double standard, as if replacing a digital sensor with film suddenly makes auto mode more ‘technical’.

Is there a benefit to Micro Four Thirds Cameras in Street Photography?

Most weeks I do a little window shopping at our local camera shop. I seem drawn to opportunities to grow envious of gear that I don’t need and can’t afford. I suppose it’s the chipping away of residual satisfaction with my current camera, so that eventually I persuade myself that a new camera will improve my lacklustre images.

On a recent browse, I was surprised by a couple of new Nikon bodies in the window.  Both were entry level cameras and both were much smaller than I had imagined. In fact they they seemed almost the same size as the Panasonic G7 beside them. To confirm this I did a little research and found a really helpful site called camerasize.com. For example, if you follow the link you’ll see that there is very little difference in size between the Nikon D5500 and the Panasonic G7.

Which got me thinking about the increasing size of successive models of mirrorless camera and in particular the Panasonic Micro Four Thirds (MFT) range (e.g. compare the GH1-GH4, the GX1-GX8 or the G3-G7*). To me the increase in size seems to be counter productive, particularly in terms of Street Photography.

The greatest advantage of mirrorless cameras is their size. Of course you need to include lenses when considering overall system sizes. But since APS mirrorless bodies and DSLR bodies use similarly sized lenses, having bodies the same size clearly diminishes the mirrorless advantage. Even in the case of MFT bodies where lenses can be significantly smaller, a small DSLR body with a small prime may be almost the same size. And in terms of image quality an APS DSLR with a small fast lens might be preferable to a similarly sized MFT body. Clearly this is also an issue which MFT cameras face in relation to APS mirrorless bodies.

There remain clear advantages to using MFT systems in some genres of photography. For example if you are going to carry multiple lenses then MFT bodies will have a size and weight advantage. This might sway a travel or documentary photographer. Similarly film makers may prefer the overall system size when using a Lumix GH4 over a Canon 5D.

But in the case of street photographers who usually want small light cameras, when MFT bodies grow closer in size to APS DSLR and Mirrorless bodies their benefit is reduced. This issue is mainly notable at entry and enthusiast level. Once you move up to the pro cameras, mirrorless systems seem much smaller than their Full Frame DSLR equivalents. However at this end of the scale additional considerations of image quality and relative expense may be of equal importance to body size.

*the LUMIX G series has seen only a small increase in size and G3 was actually smaller than both the G1 and G2. 

March 2018 – I notice the new Lumix GX9 appears smaller than the GX8, perhaps Panasonic have been reading this blog;-)

Faster lenses are not always better 

Sigma have released a beautiful new lens. Or at least from my web research it looks beautiful. It’s a 30mm f1.4 micro four thirds mount. It’s fast, relatively inexpensive and has received positive reviews. Normally I’d be knee deep in gear acquisition syndrome. But I’m not entirely.  

Perhaps it’s a sign of maturity, but I’m clear in my mind that this is not a lens I ‘need’.  Firstly, I don’t need such a fast lens because I seldom shoot wide open. In fact,  I rarely shoot wider than f4 in the street.  Occasionally for an artsy look I may aim for a little bokeh, but generally I want the greatest a depth of field light will allow.  Because depth of field covers a multitude of sins; in particular increasing the chance of your subject being in focus.   

Secondly, as with many fast primes, this looks like a large, heavy lens.  It’s nearly twice as long, twice as heavy, and twice as expensive as the slower sigma 30mm f2.8 (I own an early version of this lens and I’m very happy with it).  

If you are shooting in low light or shooting portraits, or weddings etc then this lens is definitely worth considering. But for street photography the slower, smaller and cheaper lens seems a better choice.  One of my favourite things about street photography is the way it turns the norms of photography upside down. Normal I’d want big expensive gear but on the street smaller, cheaper, more inconspicuous gear is often preferable, even when this means slower lenses. 
   

Just shoot

Recently Olympus brought out the beautiful Pen F. It’s a lovely blend of extreme retro styling and advances in technology, for example it matches the Panasonic GX8’s 20MP sensor. Personally I’d prefer a bit of a front grip but I guess that might spoil the rangefinder aesthetics.

When new products arrive, I often find myself worrying that my gear might be inadequate. This usually develops into a mild obsession as I pour over articles and reviews, often that  I’ve already read, to prove to myself that I should stick with what I’ve got.

This time I took comfort in Thomas Leuthard’s various comments that he’s happy with the Olympus OMD EM10 despite having use of the EM1 and the mk11 versions of the EM10 and EM5. I read somewhere that Magnum photographer David Alan Harvey prefers cheaper, less complex digital cameras too.

After obsessing with camera bodies, I moved on to lenses. But again I eventually found solace in re-reading a post on m43photo blog (here) stating that the fastest glass is not necessary the best.  For street shooting especially I’m increasingly aware that I shoot mainly in the f4-f8 range which negates the need for lightening fast primes.

So, after wasting time with this technological naval gazing, I returned to actually taking pictures.

 

The thinker

band of brothers Paw

reflections Urban camouflage

Red Hat