Land of giants

So this is the age of the full frames!

Nikon, Canon and shockingly Panasonic [!!!] have all announced or indictated they are joining Sony in the brave new world of full frame mirrorless cameras.

Has anything really changed?

I’m not sure.

These beasts are likely to be so expensive that they remain the preserve of wealthy enthusiasts and pro photographers.  Their lenses remain heavy and the mirrorless versions are sometimes larger to make up for the new mirrorless dimensions. Maybe then everything remains the same just without mirrors.

The approx £2000 price tag will price out many hobbyist photographers, so my main concern is how seriously panasonic will take micro four thirds now. Because if almost everything stays the same, just mirrorless, then the big issue is whether mft as a format will still receive investment.

Now if manufacturers were willing to bring the price of digital cameras down then that would be interesting. If full frame cameras were within reach of more people, and at a price point that recognised that they need replaced every four years, that really would be a thing!!

With all this talk of increased frame rates, megapixels and more and more K video, what I really really want, is an inxepensive, relatively low tech, minimalist full frame camera, that I could afford to replace every few years. And of course, a few decent primes!

I can dream…

Change of direction?

Today I am reduced to posting the kind of image that inspires within me self loathing; a hipsteresque image of coffee and my camera (the only thing I despise more is the horrible ice cream glass some chains insist on for lattes).

I lost my bottle. I tried to take an image of a guy on a BMX, lost confidence so asked, and was told to beat it (in more colourful language).

I should have carried on shooting elsewhere, but instead gave up for a while. The reality is there is very little conflict in street photography. Yet, when it happens, it makes me want to give up. I listen to John Free tell me that street photography is a noble endeavour. But sometimes it seems to be perceived as less than honourable.

It is a fairly mainstream activity. Today I listened to part of the fascinating story of Vanley Burke documenting the experience of the African-Caribbean community in England. This was a Radio 4 programme. Hardly an underground or especially edgy source. The story told the response of some of his subjects discovering his candid shots. In the main they sounded ok with it and some sounded pleased.

However, with some of the present anxiety over GDPR (which will hopefully turn out to be unwarranted) and the potential for conflict, I wonder if it’s time for a change of direction.  Or at least until I get my bottle back.

In these circumstances I enjoy doing something different. For example, occassionally I get the opportunity to photograph events. It gives me the chance to plug in the flash and take some non-candid shots and portraits. I find that mft cameras can generally deal well enough with the light conditions and my little Nissin i40 flash does a brilliant job with the problem situations.

Auto focus

So, it turns out that shooting analogue doesn’t cure GAS at all.

After a few weeks of using the Trip 35, which I really love, I’ve managed to get hold of a film camera with auto-focus. This lovely Rollei compact belongs to my brother. I don’t think he’s used it much in the last 20 years, and he kindly gave it to me.

This is the first 35mm camera I’ve had with autofocus and I notice a big difference. Far fewer shots are not sharp and shots seems much sharper than using zone focussing with the Trip 35.

In fact this camera seems to achieve focus very quickly, probably faster than my MFT cameras. Here’s an example of a snatched shot while crossing the street.

Sicily

We’ve recently been to Sicily. It was a family trip and I’ve learned that it’s not really possible to be a useful dad and focus on taking photos. So I simply used my phone and snatched the odd image before having to chase the kids through the streets of Syracuse.

Sicily was beautiful. And once we’d become accustomed to the slightly crazy driving ( eg I was undertaken at the first roundabout) we tucked in to the abundant seafood, gelato and archaeology.

A few thoughts arising from the photos above:

  • I love the square format again made popular by Instagram. I’m thinking of changing all my digital images to this format.
  • Mobile phones have pretty decent cameras now and the processing power is incredible. They are useful in most circumstances and the images are fine for online sharing.
  • I wonder if Apple will ever team up with a camera manufacturer produce a larger sensor offering?
  • I wish my digital cameras had Apple’s intuitive software.
  • But I’m still mourning the loss of Aperture. I wouldn’t want Apple to buy Olympus or Lumix and then reduce the pro options as some feel has happened eg with Aperture, iWork, Logic Pro and the MacBook Pro.

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;-)

Serendipity too

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 This image was not the best shot from a half hour photo dash yesterday. But as I reviewed the shots today I was delighted.

Ideally, this blog would showcase some incredible craftsmanship, but clearly there are technical issues with the shot; it’s blurred, his feet are cut off, etc. Instead, I like this shot because it highlights the funny, serendipitous and even surreal wold of street photography.

I took the shot because I liked the look; sunglasses with masked face.  But I couldn’t have anticipated that at the ‘decisive moment’ the bus would pass and create both a colourful background and more importantly a great subtext!  That’s what makes street photography such a humbling exercise. Some of the best shots work not due to great skill and composition but as a happy accident.