Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Industrial …

Posted: February 20, 2011 in Uncategorized

Industrial ...

Take one rainy day, an interesting structure (local stadium, in this case), and an Olympus E-P1, with the M.Zuiko 14-42mm lens.

I’ve been taken with some of the results I’ve seen from the new ‘Dramatic’ Art Filter in the new E-PL2, and thought I’d aim for a similar treatment in my post-processing software of choice – Nikon Capture NX. The same effect – which I’ve intentionally kept on the more subtle side in this image  – would be achievable in pretty well any photo pp software, with a hike in contrast, reduced saturation …and some of the shadow detail brought out.

As I always find, the E-P1’s jpeg output is easily good enough to work on in this way … I didn’t bother altering the RAW file on this occasion.

I’m looking forward to an occasional sunny day (!) that coincides with a free weekend, where some modelling would help lift things visually… although realistically, the image here was the kind of look I was going for anyway, and wouldn’t necessarily have been improved upon with a very much more expensive camera & glass.

Exposure

Posted: February 19, 2011 in Uncategorized

On The Road

Whichever camera you decide to use/happen to have with you, there’s one aspect – quite apart from focal range, colour/file output, sensor size or optical quality – that will be the make or break of the images you want to make.

Without the intended exposure – which of course happens thanks to the metering & quality of the internal processor – the photographer will struggle to make the image look as planned, whether that’s something that equates with what the eyes saw at the time, or perhaps an interpretation …maybe a sillhouette, or perhaps overexposure on a miserable (weather) day to give a high-key image.

In using my Olympus E-P1 much more in recent months, it’s noticeable that its exposure capabilities – especially on what Olympus call their ESP setting – are amongst the very best of any camera out there …regardless of class or price. Just another reason to appreciate the innate qualities of the E-P1 – officially discontinued, but still available at a bargain price.

And, guess what ? Although it’s been discontinued for quite some time now, it’s still capable of stunning output … one of the most capable cameras I’ve ever owned, whether for its colour output (great jpegs – hardly use RAWs), great awb, electronic levels, variable aspect ratios, inbuilt filters, size & usability … or its deadly accurate metering for the right (my intended!) EXPOSURE virtually every time.

HDR IMAGE FROM A P&S JPEG

Well, here’s an HDR-processed image from a camera that I’ve recently made a return to. The original was a jpeg – there’s no option, as this camera doesn’t support RAW files – and I’ve really enjoyed the convenience of not having to spend ages on a pc, processing RAW files from those cameras from manufacturers that seem to rely on their models’ RAW capability to get away with dreadful in-cam jpeg processing.

One notable exception is the Olympus E-P1 ….although RAW-capable, I seem to always be very pleased with its jpeg output, needing little in the way of post-processing to get the results I’m after. As you know, I’m taken with its colour output as well – exceptional is the word. Just not pocketable.

This camera I’ve recently returned to is also able to offer exceptional colour output – but it’s certainly not OOC (‘out-of-camera), and the files need a little work to achieve their potential.

And the camera – it’s the Fujifilm F200EXR.  

Why ? Simple.  Just great dynamic range capture that rivals that of some DSLRs, in a single exposure without any fuss. I thought I’d look elsewhere – mainly in seeking great colour output from a pocketable compact – and managed that with the Canon S90…no doubt, a great piece. But not-so-great DR is noticeable, and even the RAWs don’t enable quite the DR of the F200EXR with such clean images. That’s quite something, as we’re comparing in-cam jpegs with pc-processed RAW files. Hmmmm.

So, one should never assume that the latest, greatest RAW-enabled compact is gonna do it everytime. Progress with caution – because sometimes, it’s not necessarily ‘progress’.

E-P1 : MERCEDES UBER ALLES

Posted: July 17, 2010 in Uncategorized

MERCEDES-BENZ

Being well-and-truly a Mercedes aficianado, I’m just posting here an image here that I really liked …and happened to capture it with my trusty Olympus E-P1 one evening in golden light. The process for this one :

  • Jpeg into Nikon Capture NX …adjust levels,contrast,sharpening as required
  • Into PS for removal of some small encroaching & unwanted detail
  • Into DxO FilmPack for simulation of Polaroid Polachrome colour positive film (which intentionally calmed down the accurately deep ‘golden’ look to the flagpoles, which was too warm for the feel that I wanted to achieve)

So …very straightforward, didn’t even need to process a RAW file (often don’t with the E-P1’s stunning jpeg qualityand colour accuracy), and always assured of great output from the Olympus.

Incidentally, the E-P1 is currently on sale in the UK for around £369 (that’s including the great M.Zuiko 14-42 lens) …stunning value in anyone’s book, and only about £40 above the current Amazon price on an LX3 ! I gather there’s even a discount code at present for Curry’s, to take that down to £339.

As usual,. many more new E-P1 images at   http://nickbland.zenfolio.com, and much more E-P1 info at http://1001noisycameras.com

PANORAMA FROM M43 (E-P1) FILES

(Click for XXXXL version …19MB file …OK, compressed for web use)

I’ve already stated before that files from my E-P1, at its lowest ISO setting, are not a million miles away from those of my Nikon D3 – as was, now sold because of that very fact ! I still use a pair of D200s, which produce fine results for any DSLR- type shooting …weddings/sport … anything where very fast AF is essential for static or moving objects/subjects !

Shooting with my Olympus E-P1 yesterday, in very bright sunlight (yes, I could see what I was doing with that lowly 230k res screen, and from heights & angles I couldn’t easily have achieved with a DSLR), I took six individual shots for this example.

Stitched from these six images, this panoramic could be successfully produced as a huge high-resolution print, with great colour accuracy and sharp detail. Using the E-P1 in this way enables its already great 12.3 MP output to knock at the door of medium-format in terms of quality and image size …but there are caveats :

  • MF offers greater dynamic range, with less shadow noise … although multiple m43 files can get close with careful software usage
  • MF offers smoother output, from that relatively huge sensor …  combined m43 files can approach the look, again with careful setup
  • MF requires a very substantial investment : from c£12k to £25k, plus lenses from around £3k each …m43 is affordable for most
  • MF currently has a relatively low ISO capture range, typically topping-out at 1600
  • MF is hefty & unwieldy to cart around for long

Medium Format has so far been the choice of many high-end published architectural &  fashion photographers – where the commissions are often consistently & suitably lucrative to make the investment in MF worthwhile, and editors are extremely demanding relative to output quality and fine detail.

Continuing from my last post, the relevance here is that the next generation of cameras with a Four-Thirds sensor – the new Panasonics about to be formally announced, and the inevitable Olympus versions that will follow – will also enable very many keen photographers to attain a breathtaking standard of very large output quality … where of course the subject & lighting lend themselves to being photographed with multiple files, to then be stitched.

If you’ve not tried image stitching yet, with your own m43 setup, try three vertical shots – or three horizontals – allowing around 20-30% overlap on each image. These can be stitched in software : PS, Arcsoft (which I use myself), or one of many others out there. These days, this software has been developed to the point where little if any manual intervention is required, even without close attention to tripod use/nodal point etc at time of capture. A final crop is often all that’s needed to complete your own masterpiece.

PS : For optimal quality, whereas these were six very quick, hand-held shots, one should always use a tripod for ultimate quality (don’t forget to turn off the IS !). It’s also then preferable to work from TIFF files (these were o.o.c. jpegs), and to set your camera to manual, to choose optimal aperture & exposure settings. These do all count, none of which I did for the example here. The final large image has also been compressed for web use. But you get the idea ….

LOW-LIGHT LX3

On such a warm day – it’s been 31c here this afternoon – I just took a look through some old LX3 images languishing on one of my external drives, searching for one particular photograph I remember shooting one evening in winter, when it was considerably cooler & more comfortable. It’s an image I shot soon after I bought my LX3, that has been one of the ‘most-viewed’ on my zenfolio site (where there are tons of other LX3 images as well). For more, just go to http://nickbland.zenfolio.com

The feedback I got on this image reminded me of one of the reasons I was so excited at having an LX3 – its low-light capabilities were, and still are,  proof that this Panasonic really did change the perception – and the reality – of what could be expected of a compact camera : with a superb light-gathering Leica-designed lens, in combination with a sensitive imaging sensor and cutting-edge (at the time) processing circuitry, it was at its launch pretty well untouchable.

That it still holds up is testament to its innate quality, and begs the question : Just how much better will/can the LX5 be ?

But that’s not all. There’s further speculation as of this morning that there are in fact four new Panasonics being unveiled in Sweden this week – but only to a private/dealer audience. Further details for the rest of us later in the month …you may like to bookmark this page, and check back here for more details as soon as they’re available.

Of particular interest is that there’s the possibility – and it is only that – that Panasonic will introduce two new cameras this year that will be of particular interest to the LX3 brigade :

  • LX5 (no LX4 likely …4 being considered unlucky in Japanese culture)
  • ANOther model, with m43 sensor and fixed lens, along the lines of the Leica Digilux3/Panasonic L1 in size and style

Both exciting propositions, then – and also likely to see the light of day as Leica-branded versions. More soon.

RAW CONVERSION

Chatting to a friend yesterday, he mentioned to me how he’s still enjoying his LX3 – bought on my recommendation – and, knowing I’d sold mine “Do you miss it at all ?”   Made me think – sharp Leica wide aperture lens, 24-60mm range, selectable aspect ratios including 16:9, dynamic BW setting …stunning camera, no doubt.  What also came to mind immediately was how the white balance was still ‘out’ as at the last firmware update, bringing back the dreary memory of ages spent on clunky SilkyPix raw conversions, which seemed a long, S-L-O-W process – because it was. I know many aren’t as fussy about colour as I am…but it did drive me to distraction eventually.

I’ve since replaced my LX3 with another compact camera, that happens to be smaller this time, that also shoots RAW, and has brilliant colour rendition, as well as a superb – and really fast & intuitive – RAW converter bundled with the camera. Example above. This is my ‘everyday’ pocket camera, with a 28-105mm (equiv) focal range, no lens cap, fast startup, superb 3″ LCD, and razor-sharp lens (as has the LX3). It’s a Canon S90, capable of unbelievable results from such a tiny package.

With recent rumour (again!) of an LX3 replacement from Panasonic, and a publisher waiting on me getting my hands on it for a forthcoming book, I again wondered how useful an improved, LX3-style but up-specced Panasonic may be to me….Answer : hugely !

Looking back over some of my LX3 output of 2009, I do have a lot of fond memories, and realised that mine got very heavily used – not that you’d know it from its appearance. It was sold in ‘as new’ condition, because it literally did look ‘as new’, and the guy that bought it obviously felt that that was accurate. So, add great build quality to the LX3’s many attributes.

I do think we’ll learn more about the LX5 shortly, and I’ll be up for one, no doubt. There’s still that certain ‘something’ from the LX3 that makes its images special, and I could even be tempted to just get another anyway ….if I can find a supporting RAW converter that I can live with, and that’s fast.

Regardless, when the LX5 does appear, I share the hope of many on aspects such as reduced noise, wider focal length coverage (say 24-80) whilst maintaining quality, improved colour rendition for o.o.c. jpegs, and improved controls & handling. Immediate availability of a suitable case would also be appreciated.

Not long to wait now for an ‘official’ announcement from Panasonic – likely in the next couple of weeks – and I suspect that the camera will be available fairly soon afterwards. Why ? Because competition continues to intensify, and especially in this climate, every sale counts.