Yo ISO, how low can you go?

ISO 25Why do camera manufacturers insist on taking ISO settings upwards instead of down?

It was by a series of great achievements that by the end of the 1800s photographic ’emulsion’ was sensitive enough to light that portrait photographers no longer had to use head clamps to ensure their subjects stayed still for the duration of the exposure.

Progress in the science of light-sensitive materials had discovered compounds and ways of creating larger crystals that reduced the time required to make a decent photograph.

By the end of film’s heyday, perhaps sometime in the 1990s, photographers had access to emulsions that had reached the heady heights of ISO 3200. That’s quite some dramatic progression from the ISO 1/4, and lower, equivalent ratings of the early days of our craft.

Efforts in the wrong places

Film users today can still enjoy loading emulsions that can be conveniently used at ISO ratings of 25 and others at ISO 6400 with excellent results, but in the new and improved world of digital photography most of us face life without any full-toned settings below ISO 100.

Don’t get me wrong – it is wonderful to have ISO 6400 settings that produce relatively noise-free and useable images, and some models go even higher before they break up, but it seems to me that 98% of the efforts put into the research of ISO settings have been with the aim of creating cleaner high settings rather than nice low ones. To read the rest of this article head to the Techradar site.

Panasonic Leica 42.5mm lens test

Panasonic Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm-f1.2A lens that carries all the glamour of the 85mm f/1.2, but with the ease of construction of the 50mm standard is an exciting prospect. Damien Demolder tests Panasonic’s Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 Asph Power OIS

This is an extract from a test I wrote for the Amateur Photographer website

The difference between a myth and a legend is less than entirely clear-cut. In common usage, a ‘myth’ is a story that is wholly fabricated, while a legend is at least based on a degree of truth – however historic and altered that truth might be. This minutiae of linguistics occurred to me as I brought to mind the glitzy reputations of the wide-aperture 85mm portrait lenses used by professionals down the generations. I suppose it is the look and style of this focal length, with the possibility of extremely shallow depth of field, that has made the 85mm f/1.2 a legendary lens for those hoping to make a difference in the field of people pictures. That these lenses have been of exceptional quality, though, is the bit that is completely mythical.

The fact is that all those lenses I have ever used have performed very much like a toy lens when used wide open. The centres might be sharp, but image quality falls away as we progress down that diagonal line from the centre of the frame to the corner, and we get to enjoy vignetting, dropped focus and occasionally the swirling madness of coma distortions – not to mention the break up of contrasty edges into a neon cocktail of green/cyan chromatic fringing.

Technically, these lenses have been poor, requiring the expensive iris to be closed to f/4 or f/5.6 before a respectable performance can be achieved – although, of course, it is easy to forget that this is their charm. For a centrally placed subject and a desire to draw a focused eye from the page in glorious 3D effect, these characteristics are heaven-sent.

With the benefit of a smaller imaging area, the micro four thirds system has the opportunity to create the classic shallow depth-of-field effect with a focal length that is much easier to make well. And when we double the focal length of this new 42.5mm lens according to the 2x magnification of the four thirds system, we find we have the same view as that achieved by the legendary 85mm.

However, making a super-fast 42.5mm lens involves many fewer compromises than the design and construction of the longer focal length demands. Read the rest of this review on the Amateur Photographer website

How many pixels is enough??

Pixels twoHow many pixels is enough?

I guess that many of us have programmed ourselves to want more of a good thing, and perhaps also to not know when we have enough.

There’s security in having more than we need, in the stored hoard, in the squirrel’s stash, for when the expected unexpected comes to pass: we crave reassurance that we’ll get by and be equipped to take any situation in our stride. 
There’s a glut of reality TV shows at the moment that deal with those who fill their house with collections of junk and precious belongings.

Do we act in a similarly illogical, paranoid and pathological manner when deciding how many pixels we need in a camera?

In reality, we only actually NEED around 6-millon pixels to take decent picture. Indeed, some of us remember a time not so long ago when we were grateful to aspire to owning so many. The sensor-population we need to accomplish what our style of photography requires or, more accurately, what the means we use to display our pictures demands, is a different matter.

There is no factual figure that determines when we have enough, as we all use our pictures in different ways, but if we are honest with ourselves and look with open eyes at what we do, we will easily see at least how many we don’t need. To read the rest of this article follow this link to the Techradar website

Best cameras for street photography

What’s the best camera for street photography?

L1000440 HD copy2When we consider what might be the best kind of camera for street photography we should think less about ultimate image quality and more about a camera that is small, discreet and quick to operate. The best camera for this kind of work will be one that doesn’t make you stand out, doesn’t draw attention to you and which allows quick access to the key settings you will need to find when out in the thick of the action.

There are a number of basic choices to be made and different camera types to consider.

Are DSLRs good for street photography?

Most people who have been taking pictures for some time will already have a digital single lens reflex (DSLR), as this is the most popular type of camera among enthusiasts and professionals. A DSLR has what is called an optical viewfinder, which is the window on the back of the camera that allows us to see through the lens, and each model has a range of lenses that can be fitted and exchanged.

The benefits of a DSLR for street photography

The benefits of DSLRs for street photography centre mainly around their speed and the range of accessories and lenses that each model will be compatible with.

EOS 70D TOP w EF-S 18-55mm IS STMAt the moment all DSLR focusing systems are faster in real-life use than other camera types. They track moving subjects more easily and find subjects in low light more quickly. Other camera types are catching up, but for now at least they are still behind especially when it comes to subjects that don’t keep still. On-sensor contrast detection systems, as used in compact and compact system cameras, are more accurate, and can be faster, when shooting still subjects but they can’t compete when the subject is moving or light levels are low.

As DSLRs have been around for longer than other types of interchangeable lens cameras, there is a greater choice of lenses in the range of each of the manufacturers, as well as a host of excellent quality lenses from independent makers – such as Sigma, Tamron and Tokina.

All DSLRs have an optical viewfinder, which offers a clear view of what you are photographing. In bright conditions a viewfinder is easier to use than the rear screen of a camera, as these can overpowered by reflections.

The reasons you mightn’t use a DSLR for street photographyPentax-K-3-product-shot-10

The main reason you might choose not to use a DSLR for street photography is that these cameras are generally more noticeable than types that are smaller and less ‘professional’ looking. When you wave a DSLR at a stranger he or she will be more inclined to see you and assume you are a professional than if you were holding a small camera. This doesn’t have to be a problem, but DSLR users will be more conspicuous on the street purely because of the way the camera looks. DSLRs become more conspicuous when they have large zoom lenses fitted, but with a reasonably small body (they do exist – EOS 100D for example) and a small lens the DSLR user can blend in effectively too.

Going back to viewfinders – although an optical viewfinder makes it easier to compose an image in bright conditions than a rear screen does, they don’t offer nearly as much information as a rear screen. They don’t allow exposure preview, demonstrate the effect of white balance settings, or display menu options for scrolling and changing.

Are DSLRs good for street photography? Summary

While there are positive and negative points concerning using a DSLR for street photography, they are rather negated by the fact that most enthusiasts already own one, and only the particularly keen photographer will buy a separate camera system specifically for street work. If you are a DSLR user you can make fantastic street images, just you will stand out a little bit more than those with smaller cameras.

Continues on next page…

Book a street photography workshop with me here.

Nikon D810: Small Changes, Big Deal

Nikon D810This is an exert from an opinion piece I’ve written for DP Review on the Nikon D810

There is a rule in the cruise ship business that you never go on a vessel’s first voyage. The ship is just out of builder’s yard, the crew is new and unfamiliar with the layout of the decks, and the toilets and/or air conditioning are almost guaranteed to fail the moment you are too far from land to turn back. It makes sense to allow others to experience all the problems, to do all the pointing out and complaining, and to give the cruise line time to complete the fixes that will make the ship the way it was originally intended. Then you can actually enjoy the trip.

The same principle applies to new technology – we all appreciate the cost of being one of those people the electronics industry flatters as ‘progressive’ and ‘advanced’ by labeling them ‘early adopter’. Unkind people might say that ‘early adopter’ is a polite way of saying ‘guinea-pig’.

It is usually easy enough to avoid becoming an early adopter by simply not buying anything when it first comes out. But sometimes the presence of new technology, new ideas or new concepts is well enough concealed below a layer of trust and excitement that we can become early adopters without realizing. The pixel-count of the Nikon D800/E was ground breaking when the cameras were launched in early 2012. Now, with all the benefits that hindsight brings, perhaps we can all see that fact alone should have alerted us to wait a while. To wait for a better view of what the issues were going to be.

Wait for the Compromising to be Over

For me it was enough that there were two versions of the D800 launched at the same time. I’ve never been a fan of this-one-or-that-one products, as history has proved that when a company produces twins it is because it can’t get something right or can’t make up its mind. It annoyed me when Nikon used to produce H and S versions of its pro-end bodies, offering either resolution or speed. I knew that what we all wanted, and would eventually get, was both. Tandem models will always amalgamate, then into X cameras, and now into the D810.

To read the rest of this article please go to www.dpreview.com

 

The great Adobe Photoshop rip-Off

hand-holding-pistol copyDoes Adobe have a gun to your head? No, thought not.
No one HAS to sign up for the Photoshop subscription package,

I’ve been looking at buying a car recently, and have been slightly alarmed at how much what I would like to buy costs. My ten-year-old Peugeot is worth almost nothing now as a trade-in, so the reality is that I’m starting from scratch, just as I did when I was 20.

I’d quite like a new car for once, but as the value of new vehicles plummets the moment they leave the forecourt I’ve been investigating lease agreements. That too seems alarming at first, but it may be better than being robbed by a finance company – and when the time is up I can just give the car back and get another new one. It seems a neat way to avoid ever owning an old car that costs a fortune to service and which has no value other than its fading function.

For £2500 a year, in today’s money, I can drive a nice up-to-date, comfortable and reliable family car every day until it is my children’s turn to drive me to parties all over the country.

Ctrl C, Ctrl V

Is this the business model that Adobe is presenting us with in its subscription-based services? We always get to drive the latest photo software, but instead of shelling out a fortune to buy it as a one-off purchase, we lease it?

Doesn’t that sound good? Well, yes, in theory, but of course in practice we don’t always need the latest version of any software package, as we only need the version that works with the camera that we own. Photoshop gets updated to a new version every 18-24 months, but most enthusiasts update their camera only once every four years, and professionals once in every two.

To continue reading this article I wrote for Techradar head to the website

hand-holding-pistol copy

 

Why we still need optical filters

Tiffen ND filterArticle about optical filters I wrote for TechRadar:

The idea of filtering light before it enters the camera has been around for almost as long as photography itself. In the beginning there was no need for diffusers or soft-focus filters, as the lenses of the day were quite soft enough thank you. Things changed when black and white emulsions were developed that were sensitive to blue and green light, instead of just blue, and suddenly there were creative benefits to interrupting the light path with a sheet of coloured glass to control the recorded effect.

As we developed colour films and emulsions the desire to filter really took off, and as colour film reached the general population, and photography as a hobby came to the masses, filters became a major part of the required kit. However, they multiplied in number at a rampant pace, like bacteria in a warm, moist petri dish, and we saw the production of both quite useful and quite useless filters.

Read the rest of this article here on the TechRadar website

 

Raw vs JPEG: You Decide

raw verses jpegEver wonder whether you should you be shooting in Raw or JPEG? Damien Demolder explains the pros and cons of each to help you decide

Shooting in Raw format will allow you to get the very best from your camera’s sensor, but the benefits have to be weighed against the extra time spent processing and how involved you want to get with working in software. There is a lot of mystery about Raw files and what they are, but there really doesn’t need to be. It’s true that shooting in Raw means more work for the photographer, and that it gives those prepared to do that work in software more options and greater potential for better quality images, but that doesn’t mean this way of working is the sole preserve of the professional photographer. It also doesn’t mean that you have to shoot in Raw format to get good quality images, as with a modern camera set to save files in best quality JPEG mode, excellent pictures are more than possible.

Read more of Raw vs JPEG: which should you be using? here on the Wex Blog

 

Timing in street photography

IPad man Decisive moments: timing in street photography

We have all heard of the ‘decisive moment’, and we know it relates to the split second in that which the multitude of disparate elements within our view come together to form a single harmonised image in which all those individual entities suddenly somehow relate to each other.

When many of us think about this concept we visualise the world moving and the photographer passively standing by waiting to catch what happens next. To some extent this is true, but the part of the successful photographer is of the active fortune teller who analyses the lines on the palm of the situation to guess what MIGHT come to pass in the seconds and minutes that follow. When we spend the time to see and to predict we can try to ensure we are in the right place with the right settings on our camera, and prepared to capture that future in a way that communicates the essence of the moment.

I liked this man’s hair and the way the light and dark streaks emphasised his style and shape in the pale overcast evening light, and I hovered around behind him waiting to get a shot. I wanted him taking a picture down the river, with The Shard softly setting the scene in the background, but I needed to wait for those elements to come together in a single cohesive moment.

He decided to create a sweep panorama with his iPad Mini, and I could see he was going to swing from left to right as he captured the view, so I quickly composed my own view so that I would be ready for the moment his iPad was in the right place. As I have a building in the shot we need to activate our mental architecture mode, making it essential to keep the camera upright and straight so the viewer doesn’t have to face the distractions of London falling over. Guessing where the iPad would be I set my AF point for that spot using the Touch AF feature of the camera I was using. This allows the photographer to position the focus anywhere in the scene by touching that place on the rear screen. I set a wide aperture of f/1.2 to create a tiny depth of field that would blur the background behind the iPad and even the man’s hair in front of it.

And as he swung the iPad in to position I was ready and just had to trigger the shutter at precisely that moment.

 

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH3 with Leica DG Noctilux 42.5mm f/1.2

 

If you would like to learn how to take pictures like this, and become a confident and creative street photographer, sign up for one of my one-day street photography classes.

9990172-silky-HD-copy.jpg

 

 

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