a camera lens’ two year journey

leicasafariedition

Imagine going on holiday to the US, visitng a national park, and finding a Leica lens sitting on a rock in the middle of the desert.

That’s what happened to Jorgen Loe Kvalberg from Norway. To his credit, he took the lens home and contacted Leica Norway about the find. Leica Norway contacted Leica HQ in Germany. From the serial number, they traced it to Leica USA and Samy’s Camera store in LA. The store manager checked records and found that the lens had been sold as part of a kit to someone named Arthur Galvao.

It turned out that Galvao had lost the lens in the national park two years earlier. One of the Samy’s Camera store rep was going to Germany for holiday, so he picked it up from Leica Germany and returned the lens to its owner in person.

So when we’re talking about a camera lens and it being sold as part of a kit, it’s not the bog standard 18-55mm that comes with an entry level Canon, we’re talking about a US$3,500 Leica lens that came with a $9,990 Leica M-P with 35mm f/2 Safari Edition camera.

All credit to Kvalberg, all the folks at Leica around the world, and the camera shop in California. What’s amazing is that the lens was still in perfect, if dusty, condition after sitting out in the desert for 2 years. I guess if it’d been sitting in damp conditions, it would have broken down after that time.

I also think it got found and safely returned to its owner because it’s a Leica lens. Not many people will bother checking for the owner of a 18-55mm Canon kit lens. If I found a Leica lens, I’ll know it’s valuable and will try to return it to an official office.

via petapixel

making the hasselblad x1d

hasselblad01

One lucky reporter at The Verge visited Hasselblad’s factory in Gothenburg and got a tour of how the X1D is made. Amazing series of pictures. Top image from Hasselblad, all other images © The Verge.

hasselblad02

The building is nothing fancy, and the company is small enough to feel personal. The parts may not be all manufactured in Sweden (eg the sensors are made by Sony), but everything is assembled, calibrated and tested in Sweden. Almost all the process is done either by hand, or closely monitored by a human being if done by a machine. Dust is the enemy of all cameras, and the factory is spotlessly clean. All workers and visitors wear lab coats, hairnets and gloves if necessary.

hasselblad03

As expected, quality control is of the highest standard. Parts are tested continuously and each body comes with a signed release by the person who inspected it. Testing is treated as part of the manufacturing process rather than something that needed to be done afterwards. Here the camera is being tested on how well it reproduces the blue of the test sphere.

hasselblad04

Even though the cameras are state of the art, the manual manufacturing process means not all the tools used are hi-tech. They’re still using Windows XP and old Dell and Sony computers. Cleaning is done by hand using tiny brushes. Each one comes with certificates of quality and exhaustive paperwork.

Just for reference, the price of this camera is over US$10,000 for the body alone, and is Hasselblad’s cheapest camera. It’s the first mirrorless medium format camers available. Medium format photography is so far above my skill level that I still think of the old Mamiyas with 120mm films rather than modern digital cameras.

The X1D looks nothing like those old Mamiyas, or indeed like the first image of Hasselblad that comes to mind. It’s simply…breathtaking. It’s been described as the Ferrari of cameras. Is it for everyone? The professional photographer at petapixel correctly says no. It’s way too expensive for amateurs, and not even professionals who work with high resolution images. For professionals whose work are likely to be printed in ginormous sizes, like artists, fashion or portrait photographers, this is ideal. He’s definitely keeping his:

While I can’t say with any finality whether this camera is worth it for anyone else, I can say that you’ll do better trying to wrench a soup bone out of a pit bull’s mouth than to wrest the X1D from my firmly clenched grip.

you don’t take a photograph; you ask quietly to borrow it

You don’t take a photograph. You ask quietly to borrow it — Unknown

A couple of photography related topics.

kurvdcover

First, this universal lens cap currently available on kickstarter. US$30 each, but one free if the campaign is shared on social media, making it $15 each. It’s a stretchable material that covers the entire lens and is supposed to be waterproof, dirtproof and shatterproof. It can completely cover a small lens which does give it more protection.

A generic 77m replacement lens cover is $4.99 on amazon, so does the kurvd cover justify being three times the price? I’m attracted to it being able to cover more of the lens than just the cover and the plastic material helps if the lens is dropped on a hard surface. The problem with these small accessories is they’re not too expensive and it’s easy to spend money on them.

As a distraction, here’s the most popular photo from flickr’s top 25 photos of 2017, say goodbye…” by Iwona Podlasinska. There are also various themed top photos like architecture, landscape, sports as well as top photos from countries like Canada and India.

say goodbye...

According to fastcompany, the photos were initially picked based on how often an image was viewed, shared or bookmarked but human editors had the final say. Although over 50% of photos uploaded on flickr were taken by an iPhone, all of the top 25 were taken using a conventional camera. What struck me about some of the photos that made the top 25 lists, is how artificial some of them are. Not to knock the photogrpher’s skill, but it seemed that Lightroom skills were more important than framing, lighting and composition.

lessons learnt from breaking $1600 lens

German photographer Marius Vieth described how accidentally breaking his $1600 EF 24mm lens gave him the idea for a

trippy & abstract photo set dipped in red about broken characters captured with a broken lens by a former broken soul

 

Broken: Hell's Angels

His photoset, Broken, was taken in the red light district of Amsterdam and is full of blurry, bokeh-like, atmospheric imagery. The lens doesn’t focus anymore, so it’s credit to the photographer’s skill to be able to get pictures that tell a story.

This is an interesting take on the phenomenon of autoposting blurry, poorly composed phone pics on fb without any sense of curation. Seriously, people, stop autoposting your 500 phone pics. Delete the duplicate or the poor quality ones. Upload them in proper order. Tell a story. Sigh.

 

film, digital, iphone cameras

icarexcamera02

I was cleaning my freezer and was reminded that I still have a stash of 35mm film in a ziploc bag. Film stored in a freezer can last 15 years and be defrosted and refrozen. I think mine are coming up to the 15 year mark. I don’t know if my film camera still works, or may be I should use my dad’s Zeiss camera, which is older than me. I don’t know if I have the skill to do the pictures justice though. Plus, not being able to preview and re-do, that’s pressure.

cameranowthen

I remember going on safari with mm before the days before I bought my first digital camera, and ending up with something like 30 rolls of film to be developed. Had to find a friendly shop that offered a discount. If we were to go on the same safari now, I’d still take my DSLR, but all I need to worry is having enough memory cards and backing up every day. How the landscape of photography has changed. This graphic, spotted via truthfacts / petapixel, is a perfect illustration. Well, I tend not to print pics but I do look at them. My iphone has only 200 pics because I delete ones that have been processed and uploaded to flickr. I’m probably not typical, mm has thousands of pics and screenshots on her iphone and I can say probably Sis and Mum too. My niece is more like me, her camera roll is organised, she’s the one who introduced me to tidy.


©Michal Koralewski IPPAwards 2015

Digital photography is come a long way. My iphone camera, at 8MP, has caught up to my big camera (EOS350D). One of these days, I’ll have an iphone that surpasses my small camera (s110) at 12.1MP. I used to carry my small camera in my backpack, more frequently nowadays I only have the iphone. This b/w picture by Michal Koralewski from Poland won first place at this year’s iphone photography awards aka IPPAwards. What a great picture. It’s not the camera, which is a mere tool; it’s the photographer. I have so much to learn.

camera ready

lenserror

The last day of our road trip, my small camera broke down all of a sudden. All I was doing was turning it on to take a picture. The lens extended part way, then there was some grinding noises of it trying some more, then a couple of beeps. The display said lens error and the camera shut down with the lens extended. I don’t know if it was the heat of the badlands or if a grain of sand had gotten inside or if I’d been turning it on and off too many times.

We had atrocious internet that night at the Ramada Inn Mitchell, I spent the little connection I had on the iphone in the lobby googling how to fix lens error. Methods included cleaning around the lens with the edge of a sheet of paper and tapping the side of the camera. Nothing worked. Fortunately a) it was the end of the road trip and b) I had my big camera. Worse case scenario, the iphone camera takes acceptable pics. Lesson learned: bring 2 cameras on a long trip, even though it’s a pain to lug the big camera.

The small camera is my day-to-day camera, so I have to get it repaired or replaced pronto. I bought it almost 2 years ago, so it’s out of warranty. Official repair quote was US$170. Gulp.

hkcamerarepair2014

A little more digging led me to a small local shop that quoted me US$50. I figured, this guy Raymond has good reviews online and it’s worth a gamble of $50. The tiny shop, more a glorified store room, is located on the 22/F of a dingy office building in the middle of the most crowded shopping district in town. The shop is stacked full of boxes and equipment and parts with a tiny space just inside the door for customers to stand. They’re professional though, taking care to mark down my camera’s serial number, not charging till it’s fixed and giving a 30 day warranty. Took them a few days to get the parts and fix the camera, I picked it up yesterday and it’s working fine. Raymond told me that the lens mechanisms on s100 and s110s last about 500-600 times, so obviously Canon doesn’t test like Ikea.

Since there were no other customers, I asked him for recommendations and tips. We agreed that the s90 and s95 are better and more reliable cameras than the newer models; the product cycle for modern electronics is too short for meaningful testing. Interestingly second hand s95 cameras are still costly, which reinforces our argument. I’m also half thinking of replacing my almost 10 year old EOS 350D. His response, ditch the dSLR and instead look into the G1X. It occupies an undefinable place in the market, with all the power of a dSLR (except detachable lens) and yet too large to be a real point-and-shoot. He showed me the quality achieved by the 4x digital zoom and it’s impressive.

Reviews are okay, there are some issues like slow auto focus (which I also find with the s110), macro needs filter (macro on s110 isn’t up to par with s90) and it’s neither here nor there in terms of size and weight. It’s more expensive than the s110, and the s110 was already at the top of my price tolerance.

I’ll always want a small camera that fits in my pocket so the question is whether the G1X is the right camera if I want to downsize from the big camera. I need to think about what I really use the big camera for: the last few years it’s been events like conference and weddings. Can a mid-range camera do the job? Should I get a second hand dSLR instead? The ideal set up will be s110, G1X and either 5D or 7D. That’s wishful thinking, I don’t do enough photography to justify the expense.

8MB CF card

cfcard8MB

I’m taking both cameras to gcls this year. Going through my kit for the big camera: check lenses, check flash, check battery, check memory cards. Found this CF card that came with my first digital camera, a EOS350D, which I bought in 2005. No, it’s not 8GB. It’s 8MB. At today’s image sizes, it can hold all of 4 jpgs.

CF cards are way more expensive than SDHC cards. I bought a new high speed 16GB card, even with shopping around it ended up costing almost $50. I simply couldn’t justify getting a 32GB card. May be I should go find an SD-CF adaptor.

canon s110

canons110dayone

I said I’d get it, so I did. I saw the ad on the subway last week, but only had time to go to the shop today. Around US$470, so no big difference in RRP. I did get some extras: spare battery, 16GB card, mini-tripod, screen protector, canon case and a pair of puma socks.

Battery is charged, haven’t played with the wifi yet, I need to log into the canon network, and I’m still thinking of whether to do that.

my next camera

canons110

I didn’t bring the big camera with me so all I have right now is the iphone camera. The next incarnation of my beloved lost s90 is the s110, which comes out late October. It’s only a small upgrade from the currently available s100, with added GPS and wifi. Truthfully, I don’t need either, and if the release date weren’t so near I probably would have gone out and bought the s100 instead.

holga photography

holga003apples

Legend has it that a couple of Austrian photogs discovered a factory full of intriguing plastic cameras in Russia and saved these cameras from being destroyed. In doing so, with its unique and quirky effects, a cult was created. I thought long and hard about getting the original LCA cameras, but chickened out and got a holga instead. And one that had been modified to take 35mm film to boot.

This is the first roll that I developed. Most were blurry, I got may be 5 out of the roll that were interesting enough to keep. Going back to film, i have to re-learn the art of taking just one pic per scene. The lens is also really basic, so I can’t expect it to perform in low light conditions, or to pick up any sort of detail. So, lots of light and distinct images only. Despite the lack of focus, I like the painting quality of the results. Now I can see the effects, the next roll should be more interesting.

homemade lightbox

lightbox02

Every macro photographer knows a light box is a must have. Normally they cost from $30 to over $100. But it’s really easy to build a basic one at home for less than $10.

I started off with a document box from work. Cut 2 vertical lines down one long side to expose the front. Then it was just a matter of cutting 2 windows either side of the box and an another one on the lid. Taped tissue paper over the openings for diffusion. The backdrop is a piece of white posterboard with its top taped to the top of the box and the rest allowed to drape over the inside of the box. Lighting is provided by 2 desk lamps I got at Target for $4.99 (for both) and the light from the top is my living room floor lamp.

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This is the result. With the proper white balance setting on the camera, no photoshopping is needed. This is actually my second lightbox, food photos in the past few months were taken using this setup.

canon s95

canons95

The s90 was probably my best gadget investment, I rank it higher than the ipad and even the ereader. I didn’t even consider taking the EOS to the air show, and that one has a longer lens.

Now canon is launching the s95, which adds HD video and a viewfinder (would have been useful at the air show). Almost drool-worthy. Except I don’t take many videos that need to be HD quality. (The camcorder being very low on the list of value gadget investments.) According to cnet for existing s90 owners there’s

not much of a reason to upgrade

Which is a relief of sorts, cos otherwise I would have had to find someone to give / sell the s90.

24-105mm coffee mug

cameralensmug

I know I’m trying to cut down on junk but seriously, I have to have this!! Aptly found in the awesomeness section is this coffee mug that looks exactly like a EF 24-105mm lens, which is what I use as the standard on my EOS. Just read the photojojo people gush about it:

It’s equipped with a lens-cap lid (omg), rubber-grip focus and zoom rings (o…m…g), and an auto-focus switch that actually switches

There’s also this canon dial decal for the mbp, and other cool stuff on that site. I love how they explain that they have canon and nikon dial decals:

because we know there are two types of people in this world: those that brake for Nikons and those that don’t let friends buy one

SNERK.

home leave day 4 | canon s90

Lunch with mm’s family at the usual restaurant, with the usual food. Always so predictable. I didn’t have a lot of time last week to shop for the kids (I knew about the lunch late) so I made do with Jewel chicago shopping bags. heehee.

Met up with Mum to go shopping for one of the main items on my shopping list, the drool-worthy canon s90. It’s not that much cheaper, I bought it anyway. I’m bummed that the mbp doesn’t have connectivity, so I wasn’t in a hurry to try it out by going crazy with taking pictures. First impressions:

  • sharp looking, fast shutter, clear screen
  • familiar P, TV, AV settings
  • low light, f2
  • good zoom
  • lots more function than the common point-and-shoot
  • I keep missing the zoom, hitting the notch underneath the wheel instead
  • didn’t come with a case

nikon D90

I wonder if Nikon, not Canon, had come up with the first good autofocus camera I would have gone with Nikon rather than Canon. hmm, the more I think about it, yes. As things go now, I suppose it’d be too late to jump ship, buying a Coolpix notwithstanding.

Why the musing? Because of the new Nikon D90, their new prosumer DSLR. Why the wanting? Because it takes videos. I know point-and-shoots have been still and video for a while, but this is the first SLR.

It’s manual focus and may be seen as limited. But guess what, it’s not a camcorder replacement. For real videos use real video equipment. What it is, is a device that enables you to take short videos when they are needed cos somethings when you’re on holiday it just may come in handy.

If I were in the market for a new DSLR, I’d give it serious thought. What is surprising is the comment from David Pogue:

It’s pretty funny that it comes from Nikon, a company with practically no experience in video cameras — and not, say, a camcorder/camera behemoth like Sony or Canon.

I’m sure the next EOS will come with video. But by then Canon is a follower not a leader, dammit.

ixnay on the ixus…ay

I’ve always had 2 cameras. The main SLR and a smaller one I carry around in my backpack or for business trips when I know I won’t need a full camera. The second camera has always been an ixus, an original 2.0 model. It’s gotten to the point when it’s not reliable, even with new batteries.

So in June I dragged mm to get a new one. I was so set on another ixus, I did research on the various models and it was just a matter of trying out to see which fit in my hand best.

The unthinkable happened.

The shop assistant said to me that I can get the same specs as the one I was looking at (850 or 90 I think) for 30% less. It’s not a second tier brand but a Nikon. Same specs! I asked why it’s cheaper and he said that Canon spends too much money on expensive advertising which bumps up the prices. Regardless of whether that’s true or not I can’t fault the big price difference. Yes there was a huge built-in resistance to Nikons, I wasn’t comfortable because, well, you’re either a Canon person or a Nikon person.

Money won at the end. Plus it’s a small point and shoot. What’s the harm?

I’ve been using it for 2 months now. Pretty much exclusively, for the last 2 Chicago trips. Now most people graduate to a DSLR from a small digital, not the other way round. Case in point, Dean Allen’s reaction on getting a Nikon D60:

It autofocuses in less time than it takes my eyes to imagine what a proper focus would be! You can take pictures in tungsten light without tacking a fucking white card to the wall and metering fifteen times! You push the button and it takes a fucking picture! I am in consumer ecstasy!

My take on it is that it’s a very solid camera. There is no viewfinder, the LCD screen is the source. It took me a while to get used to it. The macro function is excellent, which is important to me cos the major use of this camera is to photograph food. It has a smile mode, a number of nice features, and it’s small and light. The biggest complaint is if I have it on single shot mode it takes forever for it to display the picture and enable me to take the next shot. Sometimes I have to wait 2-3 seconds before I can click again and I’m so not used to this.

No way am I abandoning my trusted EOS, it’s just the occasions when I needed a camera lately have been more suited to a point and shoot. For quick snaps of hotel rooms and restaurant food the small camera is oh so convenient. There’s not such a big emphasis on resolution and picture quality.

I did a quick test of both cameras over the weekend. The sunrise shot was taken using both. There is a marked difference in colour rending.

Picture 1: Nikon Coolpix S550 | fully automatic.
Picture 2: Canon EOS350D | 28mm on EF24-105mm | ISO200 | P

sunrise007nikon 

sunrise006eos

Not photoshopped or altered in any way except resized and cropped. Does the S550 hold its own against the EOS? Well, no. The colours from the EOS have more depth, and captured the orange-red of the sunrise better. Exposure wise the S550 is brighter and sharper but the EOS picture is easier on the eyes.

I know, it’s unfair to compare. I’m not saying the S550 is not good, in fact for quick snaps it’s better. I’m just saying there is room for separate cameras in my life.

i never need another CF card

64gbcf
When I first switched to digital photography, I had a 128MB card, then a 512MB card. And I thought they were great.

When my card failed in NZ, I bought a 1GB card for megabucks.

Then I got a couple of 2GB, and recently a 4GB.

But today Microdia announced that they will begin shipping the 64GB XTRA ELITE CF card in June. No, that wasn’t a typo, CF cards are now 64GB.

I’m sure in 3 years’ time, when tetrabyte cards are the norm, I’d look back fondly at these GB cards.

new toy

Yeah, it’s not even 2 weeks into the new year and I have a new toy already. Well, in my defence this is my Christmas present, I actually asked for contributions towards this from my family. Naturally mm gave me a generous contribution too. 😀

Yeah, I bought a new lens — the EF24-105mm f/4 L IS USM. The most important part of that spec is that it’s an L-lens. Top of the range, flagship and all that good stuff.

Now I really have to go learn how to take pictures.

flickr cameras

One of the reasons I prefer flickr over photobucket isn’t just the snob factor, I do find it the better tool. Granted, photobucket is easier to use and more intuitive, but I can’t imagine uploading my pics without the tags and sets feature that flickr offer. For me, photobucket is the mass market product so the common and garden user can upload a pic and send the link to their chums; in other words, a windows user. Whereas flickr is the mac equivalent, for someone who wants a little more control.

Anyway, the reason I thought about flickr was the list of top 10 cameras on flickr:

  1. Canon EOS DIGITAL REBEL XT
  2. NIKON D50
  3. Canon EOS 350D DIGITAL
  4. Canon EOS 20D
  5. NIKON D70
  6. NIKON D70s
  7. Canon PowerShot S2 IS
  8. Canon EOS 30D
  9. Sony CYBERSHOT
  10. Canon EOS DIGITAL REBEL

See, that’s another cool feature of flickr. If your camera has that function, when you upload your pic it’ll record which camera.

It’s also telling that actually the Rebel XT and 350D are the same, and shouldn’t they lump the Nikon D70 and D70s?

new camera

I bought it. As if there was ever any doubt. Canon EOS350D, aka Rebel XT. Though the silver version is prettier, I went for the black body cos it matches my other cameras.

Comes with a 18-55mm lens, which I promptly changed to my normal 28-80mm. A lot of the reviews says the kit lens isn’t that good. I think it should be fine, but I’m just more used to my usual lens. Also came with 1GB memory card, a tripod and there was an extra gift — a Powerpuff girl coin holder, which I gave to mm. She deserves it!

I guess sticking with Canon has its advantages. The charger uses the same cables as my ixus; the 350D uses the same card as the ixus; the software is the same. Plus the biggest advantage is that it uses my EF lenses. So now my camera collection consists of:

  • EOS650 – first generation
  • EOS300 – still my favourite
  • EOS350D – it’ll grow on me I’m sure
  • Original ixus – yes it’s the 2.1MP version

Right now it’s charging away happily. The first picture I took was of mm in the shop, surprisingly it’s very good.

What else did we do today? We went shopping, ended up in a small shop that sells owl stuff and lots of fun souvenirs. We bought a bunch of presents there. I bought her a green silk scarf.