Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX800 – shooting review of the new miniature Lumix G body

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX800

The principle attraction of the micro four thirds system, and compact system cameras in general, is that its products are small, light and highly portable – and none come smaller, lighter or more portable than the new Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX800. While the Lumix DMC-GH5 is getting all the limelight in some most circles I’ve been paying attention to this little pocket dweller as its inconspicuous size makes it an ideal street photography camera and a perfect travel companion.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX800 with GX8 and GM5

The Lumix DMC-GX800 (centre) compared with the GM5 (left) and the GX8 (right)

I’ve been a fan of the GM series since the DMC-GM1 came out in 2013, and was pleased to see the DMC-GM5 bring much better handling and a viewfinder to the same form factor just a year or so later.  While this new model doesn’t continue the family name, as it now conforms to a more simple model ranging structure, it is in fact very much out the same womb as the GM models and the company’s more recent GF7.

I have been using an early sample of the DMC-GX800 for a few weeks and am able to make some general comments on what users should expect when the final models go in sale. The body I was using is not a full production version and the firmware isn’t final, so I can’t determine how good final image quality or performance will be when sales start. I can go over the feature set though and discuss my experience of using the camera, but pictures are only shown at a very reduced size to comply with Panasonic’s conditions.

Specification

Like most micro four thirds cameras the Lumix DMC-GX800 has a 16-million-pixel sensor and, as is now the modern way, it uses it without a detail-hindering low pass filter. When Panasonic launched the DMC-G80 it claimed not using one of these filters increases resolution by 10% – something I found no reason to dispute at the time, and again in this case. By and large the DMC-GX800 has standard specification for a Lumix camera and offers most of the settings and features you’d expect from a mid-range body, with only a few exceptions.

The camera offers the same electronic first curtain shutter option that was introduced in the DMC-G80 (and the Nikon D810 before that) but as the DMC-GX800 only has a single curtain shutter it can’t offer full mechanical shutter. The presence of a mechanical second curtain is all that’s required to prevent rolling shutter banding when shooting under fluorescent lighting, and the top shutter speed of 1/500sec will tackle most fast moving subjects traveling across the screen without distortion. The electronic shutter can manage exposures of up to 1/16,000sec, while the mechanical end deals with those longer than 1 second – all the way to a timed 60 seconds.

A T setting allows the shutter to remain open for up at 120 seconds with a press-to-start/press-to stop action of the shutter release or the button in the smartphone app. The lack of a full mechanical shutter means the maximum flash sync speed is 1/50sec. Flash isn’t a big feature of the camera though, as it isn’t part of the company’s wireless system and the pop-up built-in unit has a guide number of 4m @ ISO 100 (8m @ the camera’s base of ISO 200).

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX800 review in Thailand by Damien

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX800 with the Leica 12mm f/1.4. 1/16,000sec @ f/1.4 and ISO 200

The absence of a viewfinder isn’t something that bothered me even when using the camera on bright days in Thailand but I know not being able to look through one will put some people off. I rarely use a viewfinder as composing on a rear screen is so much more effective.

Although this model does seem positioned for the entry market we still have 4K Photo and 4K video at 30/25/24p. Full HD video is available at 60p, though the lack of mic and headphone sockets will prevent serious movie makers from getting too excited.

A pretty surprising feature is the 10fps maximum drive setting (electronic shutter mode and AF-S/M), which I really wasn’t expecting.  The handbook doesn’t specify the burst depth, but I found that three seconds of raw files are possible and about eight seconds when JPEG-only is set.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX800 review in Thailand by Damien Demolder

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX800 with the Leica 12mm f/1.4. 1/200sec @ f/5.6 and ISO 200

This is also the first time Panasonic has introduced a Lumix G camera that takes micro SD cards. I wasn’t such a fan of this particular aspect of the camera at first, but in use it has made no difference at all and I was able to buy a 128GB card that kept me in business for the whole time I had the camera.

The USB charging was also not especially welcome at first, but I found the battery is the same as that used by the GM models and the GF7 so a physical charger is available. Also when away from home I was able to use the RavPower lithium ion portable charger that I use for my phone, which in fact proved a massive benefit and added more flexibility to the way I could ensure the camera was powered.

Handing

As well as adopting the GX name the DMC-GX800 has also taken on enough of the GX styling for it to be obviously part of a system that includes the DMC-GX8 and the DMC-GX80. The step-down top plate delivers a sense of rangefinder styling borrowed from screw-fit Leicas, which makes the camera quite smart looking. The top plate is reasonably clear, showing only a mode dial and a pair of function buttons that are dedicated by default to 4K Photo features.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX800 review in Thailand by Damien Demolder

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX800 with the Leica 12mm f/1.4. 1/1600sec @ f/1.4 and ISO 1600

I was a bit disappointed to see the old GM1 rear control wheel reinstated instead of the ring of four buttons used on the GM5, as the wheel was just too difficult to turn without pressing it. Fortunately though, Panasonic has come up with a much better design with greater resistance, so the wheel turns when you want it to turn and presses only when a press is needed. It actually works very well and allows selection and adjustment from the same place without the need for a further control wheel or dial – so in fact is a faster solution than that offered by the GM5.

The rear of the camera is remarkably empty of buttons, with only a Quick Menu button, the display button and the video red button. I rather miss a direct ISO button and spent some time using the tabbed function menu on the touch screen. Opening the tab and selecting the ISO icon though is frankly a bit fiddly so instead I re-assigned the top plate button (Fn3) that comes loaded with Post Focus to be my ISO control as I was certain I’d want to alter sensitivity more often than I’d need Post Focus or Focus stacking.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX800 review in Thailand by Damien Demolder

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX800 with the Leica 12mm f/1.4. 1/8sec @ f/11 and ISO 200

The camera features a good rear screen that is clean and detailed. It has a single hinge so that it can flip upwards so it can be seen from the front of the camera when a selfie is required. I generally prefer a vari-angle screen and one that can flip so the glass surface can safely face the body for storage, but this one is fun to use and flipping it all the way up automatically activates some selfie modes – such as the self-timer and face detection. I’m not a big selfie fan, but did find the flip-up screen and count-down features useful for taking pictures of me and my wife while we were away on holiday.

Although the control buttons and dial on the camera are small they aren’t fiddly, and even real men with big hands will be able to access all that they require. There are enough external buttons, when you customise, for everyday use, and the touch screen Quick Menu isn’t so small that it can’t be used reasonably quickly.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX800 review in Thailand by Damien Demolder

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX800 with the Leica 12mm f/1.4. 1/2500sec @ f/5.6 and ISO 200

My only issues with the design came when trying to mount the camera on a large tripod plate that clashed with the wider diameter barrel of the fast aperture Lumix lenses. Also the rear screen needs to be lifted a little to prevent it becoming stuck in position should the tripod plate protrude beyond the back of the camera.

Some small cameras have such tiny controls that they become very difficult to use to the point where the functionality of the camera is hindered. I’m pleased to say that isn’t the case with this particular model, and that the camera is perfectly useable and all the features you’ll need to access on a regular basis can be got to with ease.

Performance and image quality

I can’t go into very much detail here as the firmware in the camera I was using was clearly not finished. Some of the post-processing features didn’t work, so I wasn’t able to use the in-camera raw processing to work my images – so these are all JPEGs shot simultaneously.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX800 review in Thailand by Damien Demolder

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX800 with the Leica 42.5mm f/1.2. 1/3200sec @ f/1.2 and ISO 200

Generally I found that the AF system is pretty quick. It isn’t as fast as the DMC-GH5 but the adoption of Panasonic’s DFD focusing system makes it a good deal better than the DMC-GM5. It works well in low light when your exposure is good and I found it able to track moving subjects with some success. Metering and colour rendition are much as we’d expect them to be in the Lumix G camera, and I was very happy with both.

I’m not sure which sensor Panasonic is using in this model, but the image quality seems very similar to that from the DMC-G80. The naked sensor benefits from not having a low-pass filter and only on a few occasions did I notice any moiré in distant detail. Noise performance is OK, and about on a par with what we expect from Micro Four Thirds cameras, though Panasonic appears to have done some work on to remove colour noise from the highest ISO settings, while JPEGs are quite smoothed beyond ISO 6400. We shall have to wait for Abobe to update Camera Raw to see what we can do with the raw files, but even without the benefit of shadow and highlight controls in the in-camera raw processing I can see that dynamic range is characteristically good.

Conclusion

I was pretty disappointed when I heard that the GM series was discontinued in most regions as I love the portability those models offer while they at the same time still provide the same sensors as the larger cameras and access the same lens range. The GM cameras though represent the last generation of Lumix in that they lack the DFD focusing and 4K Photo features that for many people define the attraction of the latest crop of bodies. This new model addresses those issues nicely and brings the miniature G bodies right up to date with specification, sensors and features. From my experience so far the camera is great and its size presents no need for compromise in any quarter. The top mechanical shutter speed of just 1/500sec meant I had to be more aware of which mode I was in though, and once I’d reassigned a function button to give me direct access to ISO I was really very happy.

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Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX800 with the Leica 12mm f/1.4. 1/250sec @ f/2 and ISO 3200

It is common practice for small DSLRs and CSCs to be presented as beginner cameras purely because of their size, and to enable a price suitable for new photographers some features are skimped on or left out. I’d be happy to pay more for a camera with this body form but with a 20MP sensor, in-body stabilisation, a wireless flash system and a full mechanical shutter. In many ways you create your own customer base for any particular product when you decide what that product will be able to do. The Lumix DMC-GX800 performs well enough and offers enough to keep most people very happy, but it a high spec model with a metal body and luxury features that have the ability to surprise and delight would be even better. I can’t think of any logic connection between small cameras and low price or entry-level photographers. Small cameras are for people who like small cameras because they suit their chosen photographic subjects, and for the most part this one suits my favourite subjects really rather well – street, travel and portraiture.

To see all the pictures from this shooting experience please see my Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX800 gallery and for more information see the Panasonic’s own Lumix DMC-GX800 web page.

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Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX800 with the Leica 25mm f/1.4. 1/1600sec @ f/4 and ISO 200

Panasonic shifts to 20-million-pixel sensor for Lumix DMC-GX8

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8Panasonic has introduced a new 20-million-pixel sensor in its latest GX series camera that makes it the highest resolution micro four thirds camera to date. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8 is much the same style as the previous GX7, but comes in a slightly larger body form with more exaggerated physical features. The company has increased the size of the right hand grip in line with that of the G7 and implemented the Leica-esque dual-level top plate of the LX100. We now have more dial controls, with the addition of an exposure compensation dial beneath the main mode dial, and the recessed thumb wheel of the GX7 now becomes a full-blown circular top plate accessory.

The articulated EVF of the GX7 remains, but in a larger housing and with a larger screen, and the rear LCD gets a vari-angle hinge that allows the panel to be viewed from a multitude of angles. We lose the pop-up flash of the GX7, keep the hotshoe, and gain 4K video and 4K Photo modes.
The camera will retail at £1069 body-only when it goes on sale on 10th August, and will be available in various kit forms, as well as with a silver or black top plate.

The Main Changes

Resolution:
While the GX7 used the standard 4592×3448 16-million-pixel senor the GX8 uses a 20-million-pixel sensor with 5184×3888 pixels.

In-body + lens stabilisation:
The GX7 was the first Panasonic Lumix G camera to use in-body image stabilisation, but when it met a lens that had mega IOS it would defer to the lens system. The GX8 has in-body stabilisation too, but it combines its strength with that of the lens when the two come together for a more powerful effect.

4K video and Photo modes:
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8 allows users to shoot 3840×2160 4K video at 30/24fps at up to 100Mbps, and includes the Cinelike gamma setting of the GH4. In Europe video clips are limited to 29 minutes and 59 seconds – for tax reasons – but other territories can enjoy unlimited shooting.

Panasonic also introduces the 4K Photo modes of the DMC-G7 which provide the means to extract 8-million-pixel still images from especially tailored 4K video footage. The camera has a mode that records the second before and the second after the shutter release is pressed and modes that record continuously on the press/release of the shutter button. 30 frames are recorded per second, and users can scroll through the footage in-camera to select frames that get saved to the card as individual stills.

Panasonic has included a stereo microphone, and has gone back to the smaller 2.5mm microphone socket of the GX7/GH3 instead of including the more universal socket as used on the GH4.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8 EVF

Electronic viewfinder:
While the resolution of the flip-up electronic viewfinder has decreased slightly from the GX7, the GX8 uses a different type of screen that provides a much bigger view. The whole EVF housing is much bigger too, which makes it more comfortable to use and allows glasses wearers a better view. The 2.36-million-dot panel in the GX8 is an OLED and features a 1.54x magnification, so everything is clearer and using the EVF is a much more pleasant experience.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8 rear screen

 

Rear screen:
The rear screen has also switched to OLED, but it features the same 1.04-million-dot resolution as the GX7. What is more important though is that it now comes on a vari-angle hinge that allows viewing from all directions – including from the front.

 

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8 top plate

Control layout:
Panasonic has redesigned the top plate of the camera to make more use of large physical dials, introducing a system that is similar to that on the G7. The twin control dials on the right hand side proved fast and convenient on the G7, and now we have a rather cosmetic exposure compensation dial that offers +/-3EV of movement in 1/3 stops. All other Lumix G cameras offer +/-5EV, and I have been assured this model will too, via the Quick Menu and the touch screen – though the pre-production unit I have at the moment does not even show +/-5EV in the display or allow exposure compensation to be altered in the Quick Menu.

 

 

Button lock and customisation:
If pressing rear body buttons accidently is the bane of your life, you will be pleased to know that the whole sequence of buttons on the right of the camera’s rear, that might fall under your gripping hand, can be locked to prevent changes that you didn’t want to take place.
There is a massive amount of button customisation available, that allows users to assign each of the 13 function buttons to operation one of 52 functions. The functions of the main dials can also be switched to suit the way you work.

Size:
While the GX7 could still be classed as a small camera, the GX8 is getting into Leica M territory and is a good deal larger than its predecessor. It feels very comfortable in the hand though, and the space on the body makes handling and operation very convenient, but it is sized more like a four thirds camera rather than a micro four thirds camera. It is still smaller than a DSLR and very much lighter than most, and the added size may well suit many former DSLR users.

Here are some shots I’ve taken on a pre-production sample.

 

Stills from normal shooting modes

 

Grabs from 4K Photo mode

 

A digital camera with no LCD screen??

Leica M Edition 60Making a digital camera with no rear screen is a pretty dumb idea. Isn’t it?

The Leica M Edition 60 declares bells-and-whistles-free zone for those who can easily afford bells and whistles

Most devices have some element or other about them that is critical for the way they work or indeed for making them work at all. An engine in a car is an obvious example, as is perhaps a flame for a barbeque, ink for a printer and a door on a refrigerator. If we were to remove that critical element, the function of the device may become so undermined that it would become ineffective at performing the tasks we might reasonably expect of it.

Unpredictably unpredictable, Leica Camera has just launched, albeit on a limited, collectable production run of 600 units, a digital camera that does not have something we might all think essential in a digital camera: a rear screen for viewing menus or images captured. The Leica M Edition 60 comes with a Summilux-M 35mm f/1.4 ASPH lens, and comes to us as some sort of Lenten celebration of the 60th birthday of the Leica rangefinder system, at which hair-shirts are compulsory attire. I can’t wait to see what they do for the 100th anniversary in 2054 – no imaging sensor perhaps.
A forward step backwards

Of course this isn’t the first LCD-free camera, but those that existed before have been left on the hillside to die, as technology has progressed and consumer acceptance of dysfunctional digital products has diminished dramatically. To read the rest of this article head to Techradar’s camera channel

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

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

 

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

 

Shooting digital infrared – avoiding the obvious

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Infrared picture of a tree in a churchyard

Infrared photography used to be a firm favourite of the darkroom user in a days of film supremacy, but with the advent of digital photography the popularity of infrared capture died away somewhat. It didn’t disappear completely, as it didn’t take IR junkies long to realise that many digital cameras are also sensitive to IR light, and with an IR, or a deep red, filter in place a decent enough image could be captured. The number of digital cameras now that have sensitivity significantly extended into the IR wavelengths are few, as it actually has a detrimental impact on normal daylight photography, but some do still have enough ability to record IR light that an image can be made.

What is infrared?

Infrared is the name given to a group of light wavelengths that extend beyond visible red. The word ‘infrared’ means ‘below red’ in Latin – referring to the fact the wavelengths are longer than those of red. For creative photographic purposes the wavelengths we are interested in run between about 700 nanometres and 1000, but some forms of scientific applications use even longer wavelengths.
In IR photography we capture the infrared portion of the spectrum that is reflected from objects in the scene. In general terms live objects, such as grasses and leaves reflect most IR, and these objects appear very bright in IR images. It is commonly believed that IR photography captures differences in temperatures, or that certain objects emit IR light. Neither of these are true.

Fujifilm IS Pro

For this picture I used a fully infrared compatible camera – the Fujifilm IS Pro. This is a camera built into the body of the company’s S5 Pro DSLR, but with the infrared blocking filter removed, and with menu controls specific to shooting in IR. Originally designed for scientific work, it soon grabbed the attention of creative photographers as an extremely convenient way of recreating what they used to do with a tricky and complicated film process. The camera can shoot in colour as well as black and white, and with a ‘hot filter’ (which cuts out IR) over the lens it acts as a normal camera.

Is your camera IR sensitive?

An easy way to find out if your camera has sensitivity to light in the IR part of the spectrum is to cover the lens with an IR filter and then shine in IR light at it. Infrared filters are not cheap, but sources of IR light are common. A TV remote will work, and aimed in low light at your camera with the IR filter over the lens will record as a bright dot on the rear LCD screen when a button is pressed.
You can have your DSLR converted to shoot IR by having the IR blocking filter removed. Companies such as ACS will perform the surgery for you. Don’t try it yourself.

 

An infrared picture of Tower 42 with white clouds and a black sky

Avoiding the obvious

There is enough IR photography about for the effect to be easily recognisable, and most IR photographers do much the same thing. On a sunny day a blue sky records as a deep black, while clouds reflect large amounts of IR and appear bright and dramatic. Most photographers will try to use these characteristics to create a dramatic and impactful image. There is nothing wrong with that either, but I prefer to use the effects in a less obvious way that still creates an interesting picture, but one that does not scream ‘I’ve been shot in IR’.


IR film used to be very grainy, and could be used to create a coarse textured image that was very appealing. Here I’ve chosen a subject that suits that kind of treatment – an old building – and used the IR effect to have a mildly surreal impact on the grass and leaves to make the picture standout as being a bit different. The effect is very soft and almost dreamlike, without being obviously manipulated or part of a special process. I don’t want the first reaction to the picture to concern how it was done, but what it looks like.


There is no easy way to measure IR light with a normal exposure meter, so we end up having to guess. With film that could be a drama itself, but obviously with a digital IR camera life is much more straightforward – you can view the success of the exposure immediately. Generally small apertures are needed to ensure focus (IR light does not focus in the same plane as the light our cameras and lenses are designed for), and lengthy shutter speeds are needed to compensate.

See more of Damien Demolder’s recent photographic posts here

To see more of my pictures visit my galleries at www.damiendemolder.com

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Fujifilm IS Pro f/11 @ 1/40sec – camera rated at ISO 100.

 

Infrared picture of a tree in a churchyard

Grass and leaves reflect IR and appear lighter in IR images

 

An infrared picture of Tower 42 with white clouds and a black sky

A blue sky turns black in IR photography, and clouds stand out with drama