A quick intro to the current state of digital cameras. For the most part, you've got point-and-shoots, and DSLRs. DSLRs have a mirror that flips up inside, allowing you to look through the lens itself when you use the viewfinder. DSLRs have a much larger sensor than point-and-shoots, allowing for much higher image quality as well. Recently, the new Micro Four-Thirds standard attempted to bridge the divide between point-and-shoots and DSLRs, by removing the mirror element and maintaining a larger sensor with a live image displayed on a screen. But the sensor in Micro Four-Thirds cameras is still much smaller than the (still cropped) APS-C sensor found in most DSLRs. This is where Sony comes into play.
What you see here is the new Sony NEX-5 camera, coming out this July. It features a full APS-C sensor in the smallest mirror-less interchangeable lens system to date. Retailing at $650 with a 16mm f2.8 pancake and $700 with an 18-55mm zoom lens, both crafted out of metal and not plastic like most modern lenses, the cost is a steal for the phenomenal image quality that samples have produced thus far. In many ways, it even surpasses my current Pentax body. For those looking for a cheaper option, Sony is also releasing the NEX-3 with plastic housing (as opposed to the metal casing of the NEX-5) and reduced video options, but with a $100 savings.
While nothing is set in stone, there's a very good chance that the NEX-5 (with the 18-55mm lens) will become my new secondary body. As of late, I've been taking my primary camera everywhere I go, which gets rather cumbersome and challenging depending on the circumstance. If I had a camera with identical image quality, better video capabilities and more casual features in an incredibly small form factor, I would definitely feel safer bringing that instead. Though it could never replace the pure power that having an optical viewfinder provides, mirror-less interchangeable lens cameras fill an interesting niche in the increasingly diverse camera market. And there's a very real chance I'll own a piece of this revolution come later this summer.
This photo was shot on Thanksgiving in a small canyon north of Pleasant Grove, Utah. Driving along the road heading up the canyon, we stopped every so often at little inlets to find some awesome photo opportunities. Aside from some tripod quirkiness and my batteries giving a false drained reading from the cold, I managed to capture quite a few interesting shots. The photo above is one such shot, incorporating the movement of water into the composition. This photograph was captured on a Pentax K-x with a Tamron 28-75mm f2.8 lens.
Thanksgiving week, I drove out to Utah from San Diego. And because I was with my family, we planned to spend the night in Las Vegas to split the long car ride in half. The photo above was shot from our room at the Paris hotel, looking down towards the heart of the lower strip. It was shot on my Blackbird, Fly 35mm TLR camera on cheap Kodak Gold film. Though I love the results that this camera gives, after spending 6+ hours scanning in a mere three rolls of film, I'm seriously considering selling it. Granted, I can get more than what I paid for it if I play my cards right. But it's just hard to give up such a quirky little camera.
For only having roughly a half hour on top of Hidden Peak in Snowbird, Utah, I managed to capture quite a few memorable shots. I've found myself slowly acquiring the skill to work under pressure, and in this setting, I often create my best work. The weather up at the top was somewhat cloudy, granting me some great opportunities to capture the gentle dance between the clouds and the rocky peaks across the way. The only quaff in this visually-pleasing weather occurred when it started to lightly snow. While my old camera had great weather sealing, the model I downgraded to (for a variety of reasons) lacks any sealing whatsoever. Fortunately, it survived.
The photograph above is a shot that, in all honesty, shouldn't have worked. It was captured with a long zoom, facing downwards on the mountain. The framing isn't special whatsoever, and in terms of a nature photograph, the composition itself isn't what one usually sees. But where this shot shines is the lighting. Though it's often hard to capture the light that one sees in person with a simple camera, stopping down the exposure in post-processing really brought out the beauty that I witnessed in person.
In other news, I have yet to get the rolls of film I took during this trip developed. I've been trying since I got back, but the local Wal-Mart (which is the only place nearby that offers negative-only C-41 developing at a decent price) is having difficulties with their processing equipment. I've spoken to a few people in the department, and apparently they're waiting on a part to arrive. Till then, it's just a waiting game. Luckily, my Epson V500 scanner was delivered today, and the (unrelated) negatives I've scanned in so far have turned out fantastic. I highly recommend it.
The photo above was taken with a 70-300mm lens that was picked up on eBay for $5. Though minor adjustments were made in Adobe Lightroom, it just goes to show that getting a great shot depends on having a good eye, and being in the right place at the right time. Having a plethora of various lenses and expensive equipment might be great for some circumstances, but often times, simplifying your photographic kit forces you to be more creative. And creativity is essential to getting the perfect shot.
Veronica Belmont wrote on her personal blog yesterday about a new application called Poladroid. The software, a simple program offered in French and English, is currently available in beta for Mac OS 10.4 or later on www.poladroid.net. So what does this little 10mb program do? One thing, and one thing only. Polaroid.
Polaroid Corporation, makers of the retro instant-developing photo products we all love[d], actually filed for bankruptcy in 2001. Since then, all products branded "Polaroid" have merely licensed the name, and were most likely cheaply made in China (read: avoid anything with the name "Polaroid" on it). With the advent of digital photography, Polaroid cameras and film slowly entered into obscurity. Their simple nature and slow shot-to-shot speed made them a staple of urban street photography and contemporary vintage art movements. With digital, though, consumers could take shot after shot without much thought (rhyme zing!). Poladroid's purpose is to take those shots and turn them into the much-loved Polaroid-esque images of the past.
So why not just use a Photoshop plugin or batch script? Well, Poladroid is free, simple and fun. In order to process an image, all you do is drag the jpeg onto the program. A few seconds later, the "undeveloped" Polaroid is spit out, and begins slowly developing. Then you wait. And wait. And even though there's absolutely no reason for you to wait, you wait some more. And this is what makes Poladroid so charming. It's just like using a Polaroid camera, in a sense. You can only process up to 10 images too, just like a Polaroid film cartridge. And if you ask me, the results look pretty cool.
You can check out some of the images I've processed below, or you can find more on the program's official Flickr group.
I came across this photograph by Flickr user Bernard Schul the other day, and felt the need to write about it. From what I can tell, this photo was taken during a reenactment of the attack on Bastogne, Belgium during World War II. The Siege of Bastogne lasted from mid-December 1944 to January 1945, and was a result of the German desire to control the crossroads where several main roads in the Ardennes met. Though this photograph was taken of a mere reenactment, it still captures the emotion of the moment in a fantastic manner. The depth of field and tonal range of this composition are also superb, and really reflect upon the dramatic undertones of the image. I'll be writing about more of my favorite photographs found on Flickr in upcoming posts.
In 1979, Olympus introduced a camera into the market that was years ahead of its time. The aperture-priority camera featured a 6 element F.Zuiko 35mm f/2.8-f/22 lens with true rangefinder focusing that was somehow squeezed into a body small enough to fit into one's pocket. This camera, a marvel of Japanese engineering, also featured a leaf shutter, meaning the slightest pressure on the shutter button triggered the camera. These factors are what made the Olympus XA such a revolutionary device, and are what causes it to still have a cult following in the modern digital world.
Most modern consumers don't appreciate the beauty of a good quality camera. These individuals only care about megapixels and pocketability. I would honestly say that no modern pocket camera could come close to what the Olympus XA is capable of. The image above was taken at night, hand held, at an LA intersection. Because the lens can open up to f2.8, the camera is great in low-light situations. The leaf-shutter is also a great feature, as camera shake isn't introduced by the press of a button. Though a photograph like this is easy to take with an SLR or DSLR, it would be impossible on the majority of pocket cameras on the market.
Because the unit is so small and quiet, it's naturally a fantastic street photography camera. Though the slightly blurry photograph above is of a bad example due to the fact that I was walking when I took it and couldn't stop without being noticed, the camera could easily go unnoticed in most situations. When you carry around a DSLR with a portrait grip and a backpack full of lenses, people notice you. When you innocently snap a photo with an outdated and seemingly simple film camera, no one cares. Having such a small yet advanced camera opens up a whole new world of opportunities.
Unfortunately, my Olympus XA was one of the first cameras to go when I started selling off my film equipment for the much needed cash. I also couldn't keep up with the work that went into developing my own film and scanning the photos in with my deathly slow film scanner. If Olympus decided to introduce a digital version of this camera, I would be one of the first buyers. I have an unnatural love for rangefinders, and due to its unusual form factor and former popularity, the Olympus XA is a great cheap starter-rangefinder.