Sunday, October 23, 2016

Huawei P9 monochrome camera - red filter

Having a "monochrome" camera, i.e. a camera that records luminosity only, rather than RGB colors, allows for the good old color filter tricks, without reducing image quality, just as in the days of B&W film. Personally, I would prefer to call the camera filterless, rather than monochrome.

There are a lot good articles what happens when using which filter on B&W film. Here is one of those, please have a look.

Now, what about the loss of quality I was indicating, which does not occur when using a filter-less imaging array?
A regular color image sensor has a filter array printed on it, letting pass red, green or blue light on a respective pixel. In a so called Bayer filter array, the distribution of filters is RGGB. Consequently, only every 4th pixel is sensitive to red light. When using a red filter, for high contrast B&W photography (see article above), the 12 Mpx color camera is turned in a camera having effectively 3Mpx only, since the green and blue pixels will contribute to noise only, potentially creating JPEG artefacts.
In the absence of the RGB filter array, every pixel will be sensitive to all wavelengths, therefore, using a red filter wont affect the resolution or noise levels of the image.

It happens to be the case, that I got some red (LEE Filters 164 Flame Red) gel for spots. Although not perfect, this is pretty good stuff for improvising filters. The filter cuts somewhere in yellow, so, it will result in a little less contrast than a pure red filter.
LEE Filters 164 Flame Red
Those gels are usually just cut to size. So, this is what happened to a small portion of my roll.
A small piece of Scotch tape and the filter gel sits in the P9's case. Mind you, the RGB camera should not be covered!
Small piece of filter gel attached to case

So, what can you expect?
As mentioned above, the filter is a low pass which cuts somewhere in the yellow wavelengths. So, the photographic effect to be expected is in the range between a red and a yellow filter.
To give you an idea, I shot the city hall building, once with the desaturated RGB camera and once with the red gelled filterless camera. As a reference, I added color images from the RGB camera.

Desaturated RGB camera
Red gelled  filterless camera
JPEG converted from RAW (DNG) file
A slightly different angle and one face the shopping mall in Rijswijk. Same test, the effect might be even more obvious here. I metered for the 'IN' sign.

RGB camera

Red gelled filterless camera

JPEG converted from RAW

For the time being, I will keep the Fire Red gel in my phone's case. Should I require all wavelengths, I can easily flip the filter gel away from the camera lens and still keep it inside the case.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Huawei P9 monochrome camera

Did some comparative photographs today, comparing the desaturated JPEGs from the regular camera and the JPEGs created by the monochrome camera.
The files can be found on this flickr album.
Note that files from the regular camera are indicated by "cof" while files from the monochrome camera are indicated by "mon".

The EXIF data confirms what was to be expected, the monochrome camera is by a bit over 1 f-stop more light sensitive. The monochrome mode could therefore be pretty interesting for low light street-photography. Maybe with image contrast maxed out and image brightness reduced.

Stay tuned for more Huawei P9 imaging experiments, tips and tricks.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Huawei P9 - MONOCHROME mode

Please, HUAWEI, please release a new firmware in which the B&W-camera's data can be written to a DNG-file!

Why oh why would I commence a blog post like this? The hope is that HUAWEI, through a supposedly simple firmware-update, could make this a premium B&W shooter.

Very simple experimentation, i.e. moving a finger in front of the camera modules, reveals, the "MONOCHROME" mode (yes, capitals are used in the menu) indeed uses the camera next to the phone's edge. In a way, that is indeed good news.

In order to judge the quality of the 2 different cameras, I took 2 shots from a photo published by (credits to Amy Davies) from my laptop's screen.

The first shot is taken with the regular "PRO" mode, desaturated JPEG + RAW(DNG). The second shot was taken with the "MONOCHROME" mode; and yes, I had correct for the parallax of the 2 cameras.

The following images are 100% crops of the same image portion, the pixelation reflects the pixels of my laptop's screen (no camera artefacts!). The DNG-file was opened in RawTherapee.

RAW (DNG) - desaturated JPEG


Clearly, the monochrome camera can pick up the black matrix of my laptop's screen a lot better than the Bayer filter camera, no surprise here.
Further, the dynamic range of the monochrome camera seems a lot better, just like expected.

HUAWEI, it is your hands to turn the P9 a superior camera by allowing to record RAW data from the monochrome sensor. Such a feature would turn that phone into my favourite camera ever easily.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Huawei P9 / all digital cameras (blue sky trick)

Since digital cameras and white balance settings, there is a trick to turn a dull grey sky into something blue, while keeping you talent (in a close portrait situation) with a very natural appearance.

The images I shot, testing the technique with the P9, I cannot share on the interwebs, sorry for that.
Anyway, here is the technique:

  1. put the camera into the pro mode
  2. select the incandescent (light bulb) white balance (that should turn everything daylight into blue)
  3. force flash (this will fire the flash, which is daylight equivalent)
Should you be confused now, this is what it is all about:
  • the camera "thinks" that white surfaces are illuminated by warm light
  • the camera flash fires at daylight color temperature (usually used for fill-flash)
  • parts of a scene outside the range of the flash will be taken as incandescent
  • parts of a scene within the range of the flash will be illuminated by a daylight spectrum 
Therefore, you will get 2 different color profiles within a single image. 

As indicated before, I tried the method, and it works with the P9, however, I am unable to share the results online.

I wish to point out that this is, next to using polarised filters, a method that cannot be replicated in post-processing.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Huawei P9 vs. Wiko Jerry

This might be a somewhat unfair comparison, the Wiko Jerry is a very decent Android phone, no doubt. It sports dual SIM, one of which is full size (adapters provided), in addition to the possibility to add an SD-card.
When it comes to the Huawei P9, the only option are nano-SIMs, while one can choose between a single SIM + SD-card or dual SIM.
Anyway, we are talking photography here. Very obviously, the winner is the Huawei P9.

Below shots a certainly not side-by-side, obviously taken on different days, under distinct conditions.
Anyway, both are in-phone JPEG renderings.
Wiko Jerry
Huawei P9
There is a clear winner. However, the winner is more than 5 times more expensive than the runner up. 

Anyway, what we are looking at is a decent smartphone with a camera, versus a decent prosumer camera with smartphone functions. For a prosumer camera, the Huawei P9 might not be the cheapest, but in the lower segment. Figure that, the Huawei P9 offers a camera with almost full control (no real control over aperture though). 
The Wiko Jerry is a good smartphone, with a 5Mpix shooter that resembles nothing to call home about, although decent enough to take the occasional shot to document something.
In contrast to that, the much more expensive Huawei P9 might actually be the camera you might want to use for artisan work. 
For my next journey, I seriously consider to choose the P9, rather than a real camera, in particular since I get RAW files when using the P9.

The question is, 2 smartphones in the pocket vs 1 smartphone and 1 camera. Certainly 2 smartphones are easier to carry...

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Huawei P9 (long exposures)

The camera of the P9 sports to modes for which a stable mount, such as a tripod, is required: Night Shot and Time-Lapse. Manual shutter settings allow up to 30s exposure in the pro-mode.

How to hold the camera

Of course there are some tripod options available for smartphones. However, those would form an additional piece of kit, which probably will stay home for the most of the time. Also, the ones that are a bit lightweight are also considerably flimsy and might vibrate a while when used with a bigger phone like the P9.

Here is my solution, use a wallet-type case:
Mine cost me €15.  The good thing is, the case will always be with the phone, and so will be the function as a stand. Of course one will need a conveniently shaped handrail, wall, table, window sill, etc., with view. Obviously, this arrangement favours landscape type photographs.
Pro: no extra part to loose... if you lost the case, I guess, you lost the phone.

How to trip the shutter

The next challenge, trigger the shutter w/o introducing vibrations. The built-in camera app offers some interesting alternatives to touching the display.
  • timer
  • audio control
  • volume bottom
Timer delayed shutter release is a technique often used in absence of a remote shutter release. There are some pros and cons with that method. For long exposures, the cons are essentially absent, in particular with a 10s delay. Pro: no extra part to loose.

Audio control, in my view, is only useful in the "above certain dB level"-mode.  With the P9 a finger snip works just fine. Certainly, this method requires a relatively quiet environment. Pro: no extra part to loose.

The volume bottom is mounted on the phone itself, so, what the point, you might ask. Well, I much prefer this as a shutter release over the touch-screen, during regular photography. For long exposure, however, you don't want to touch the phone, right? Well, firstly, think of the timer mentioned above.
But even better: use the headset provided with the P9. Not only do the earbuds sound great, the headset comes with a volume bottom. Guess what, when the camera app is set to releasing the shutter by the volume bottom, you got yourself a real cable shutter release. Con: don't loose the headset!


The autofocus can be confused, so, I do advise to use manual focus in the pro-mode, if possible.


The following photo is shot from my roof-deck. Wallet case as holding device. Audio controlled shutter, autofocus set to the streetlight in the center. Shooting mode: Night Short.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Huawei P9

The Huawei P9 created a lot of controversy in the photographic community.  Yes, indeed, this is a cell phone, one of those being known a smart. With my cheap cell phone causing problems once in a while, I decided to get myself a P9, install Lightroom mobile and Snapseed on it, to not only have a better phone, but also a portable photo studio.

There are many reviews out there, giving a lot of tips and tricks, I don't want to redo any of that. Just a quick-tip for black and white photographers who also want to keep RAW files.

One of the criticism I was reading, and I do fully agree, the present software seems not allow to extract the raw data from the B&W camera. Maybe some firmware update or hack could solve that in the future. It would actually be nice to have both raw files, the RGB and the B&W.

Anyway, for the time being, this is what I can recommend.

  • put the camera in pro-mode (otherwise no RAW file!)
  • swipe from the right side to access the settings menu
  • go to the last menu item "Image adjustments"
  • set saturation to -2 (that turns the JPEG file into a B&W)

The other two sliders could be used in a specific B&W-type way:
  • punchy contrasty low key: contrast +2 and brightness -1
  • soft high key: contrast -1 and brightness +2

You get the idea, I guess.

In the presence of JPEG files, the RAW (DNG) files are not shown directly. However, all you need to do is import the DNGs into Lightroom mobile or open them in Snapseed.

Below, 2 images, one out of camera JPEG, the other converted from the DNG. Both exported to the Lightroom gallery, scaled down to 2048px. Settings for the JPEG: contrast -1 and brightness +1.


Switching between the images, you will also notice the distortion correction, which is applied to the JPEG automatically.

I will certainly experiment with this camera a lot. Hopefully I will find the time to also share my experiences.


The above shown trick recording a B&W-JPEG next to the DNG does not work with flash. When flash is activated, strangely, the desaturation does not happen.
Not all is lost during night-time, the desaturation trick does work with the "Steady on" illumination.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Long exposure 2/2 day

Over the years I was asked what my tricks for long exposure where under certain circumstances.
It all depends on the circumstances!
First of all, the problem with long exposure is that there are neither cameras nor light meters made for this task.

In this post, I would like to cover the day-time aspect of long exposures.
The content of which I assign a new rule to, the 10-stop rule.

For day-time long exposure, many different filters could be used. Some cameras have got a 3-stop ND-filter builtin, but this post is not about 3 stops...
10 stop ND-filters are known by many names. Just make sure your's actually attenuates by 10 stops.
Here's the maths (equivalent exposures), constant ISO assumed:

  • 0: 1s/1000
  • 1: 1s/500
  • 2: 1s/250
  • 3: 1s/125
  • 4: 1s/ 60
  • 5: 1s/30
  • 6: 1s/15
  • 7: 1s/8
  • 8: 1s/4
  • 9: 1s/2
  • 10: 1s/1
OK, what does that mean when putting a 10-stop filter in front of a camera?
It means that when your light-meter indicates 1s/1000, you should set your camera to 1s, in order to get a regular exposure.

So, your scene would require a and exposure of 1s/1000, without any filter, the addition of a 10-stop filter, will get you to 1s for the same exposure.

So, if your exposure would call for a 1s/500, you obviously would like to expose for 2s.

Consequently, the exposure can be calculated as follows, with S being the shutter time of the light-meter reading:

Exposure time in seconds = 1000 * S

The meter calls for 1s/15 exposure, you would set the camera to 66s.

To smear out any sort of traffic, a minute should be plenty. Mind you, this kind of photography would usually ask for an aperture between f/8 and f/11.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Long exposure 1/2 night

Over the years I was asked what my tricks for long exposure where under certain circumstances.
It all depends on the circumstances!
First of all, the problem with long exposure is that there are neither cameras nor light meters made for this task.

In this post, I would like to cover the night-time aspect of long exposures. The content of which is also known as the 6-stop rule, converting second into minutes.

This technique involves at least a digital camera having ISO 6400.

Lets have a look at equivalent exposures shutter vs. ISO:

  • 0: 1s - 6400
  • 1: 2s - 3200
  • 2: 4s - 1600
  • 3: 8s - 800
  • 4: 15s - 400
  • 5: 30s - 200
  • 6: 60s - 100
The 6-stop rule converts seconds into minutes when using ISO100 rather than ISO6400. Why is that important? Many Astro-photographer are using ISO100 film. Therefore, a quick estimation can be made with an ISO6400 digital camera, before spending hours of waisting film.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Portable Dual Screen Setup

My latest twist on being mobile is neither novel, nor unexpected.
People who know me, know that I, years ago, bought an iPad mini. The proclaimed integration of iOS to OS-X "Mavericks" was the trigger. And guess what, I was totally disappointed! The iPad hence ended up being a YouTube watching device only.

Some months ago, I learned about the software Duet Display. Today, finally, I gave myself a push and purchased the iOS app.

Why could my post be any interesting to any photographer?
Lightroom can be set to show a live display on a second screen. Nothing new here either. That second screen could be an iPad, when using Duet Display.
And here comes the interesting bit. Assuming your main computer's screen is color calibrated and the iPad is not, the iPad could provide an impression how a photograph will look when viewed (online) with regular equipment, while the main screen will provide color of the image being printed.

My present dual screen setup is pretty portable: 11in MacBook Air + iPad mini. Probably the smallest available kit for the functionality.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Travelling (Ultra) Light

Travelling in not my thing! This statement needs to be taken as a preamble to the whole thing I am about to write now.

Neither the journey, nor the travel bothers me, its the luggage one hauls about, e.g. I hate waiting for a suitcase carried on a conveyor to come out the little hole in the wall... terrible!
Years ago, I reduced the stuff to travel with such that it would fit in a cabin case. Although this prevents me from standing at the conveyor, there is still this aggravating wait until one can reach the overhead compartments to collect the cabin case.

Just as an experiment, I decided to travel really light during my next 1 week trip.
Actually, I followed some tips from Eric Kim and this lady.

While Eric mentions, next to camera and bag choice, synthetic clothes. The lady explains in detail how to clean the synthetic fabric cloths and, in particular, how to dry those quickly.

As to Eric, there are 2 cameras which join me on my travel, either the Ricoh GR (as Eric mentions) or, more often, the Samsung NXmini. Both cameras have the advantage of being chargeable via USB. More and more hotels around the world offer USB wall sockets to charge mobile phones, perfect for such cameras! 
In this respect, the Fujifilm X70 and X100T come in mind too.

Eric keeps referring to a MacBook Air. Yep, that's what I choose too. However, there might be some room to improve. My MacBook Air got a 128GB SSD only, hence, in order to store data, I do need to carry an external HDD too (several thumb-drives might do the same job too). Despite the fact that this HDD is also used for TM-Backups, which is a good thing, it is still annoying to carry it about.

So, here we go with just another idea from another light traveller: Jens Lennartsson
Jens is certainly more the Social Media / Cloud kinda guy... but... what's wring with that?
His video was inspiring enough, so I ordered the folding keyboard (quite happy with it!). Concerning the devices I use it with, I am not sure if I would like to go as small as Jens. To my disposal is a Windows Phone (somewhat larger than an iPhone) and an iPad mini. While the Windows Phone is a very good device to have phone calls with, I am not so sure about the table function, size-wise. However, the iPad mini seems still too large to carry, despite being just half the size of the MacBook Air. 
Going small should be small but still usable. Not sure where this will get me yet.

Anyway, besides gadgets and all, there is this issue about doing laundry on the fly. Using a mild detergent, e.g. shampoo, was covered by Eric previously. However, the lady from "Howcast" got a very interesting hint here: use a towel and do a towel roll with the laundry inside. And of course, if one towel was not enough, take another one!
This seems trivial, however, I have not thought of it before.

My view on Fujifilm cameras, Apple devices and cameras of other makes.
Fujifilm, for whatever reason, decided to not allow to mount the camera's memory card as a drive. Importing into Photos and Lightroom works fine, even for RAW files. However, not being able to control what is going on with the memory card leaves me with an uneasy uncertainty.
At the end, what I might do is to carry a sufficient amount of memory cards, making the computer redundant.
In that scenario, not having a computer to write the images to, the question of decent back-up devices arose. Price-wise, WD was up to something, with the My Passport Wireless, however, the device is, according to reports on the internet, not ready for reliable backup yet.

Consequently, you might want to travel with synthetic fabric cloths, a camera that charges via USB and enough memory cards to cover your trip.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Fujifilm X70 - finally making sense

Yep, I have been shooting with a Fujifilm X100S for a while, I got the wide angle adapter (and the tele adapter too). Great camera, love it! But, there always has been this gap to the Ricoh GR, in terms of wide angle and being compact.

The Easter Bunny left me with a Fujifilm X70, which got the Fuji-qualities and the angle of view provided by the Ricoh GR. Despite the manual controls and the XTRANS-sensor, the X70 did not add that much...

Until lately!

First, have a look at a veteran street-photographer Harvey Stein:

Now I was committed to equip one of my street-cameras with 21mm equivalent optics.
There is an option for the Ricoh GR, however, it is dependent on a rather flimsy adapter, so, for  the time being, I wont consider the Ricoh GW-3.

In contrast to that, Fuji offers the WCL-X70. And you guessed it... I got mine already. The WCL-X70 is a screw on adapter, very sturdy and solid.
Together with the X70, the WCL-X70 provides a 21mm (35mm equivalent) field of view, as recited by Harvey Stein.

The X70 could just be the camera to enable the style of Mr Stein!

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Add Your Canon EF and EF-S Lenses to M43

Interesting twist on adding lenses to your micro-4/3 system, active electronic lens adapters.

Having had Canon (D)SLRs for a long time, the lenses I own collected dust for the better part of the last years.
Lately, I learned that some manufacturers created active EF/EF-S to M4/2 adapters, allowing to control the aperture and the autofocus of Canon compatible lenses.
So, finally, I bought a second hand specimen of such an adapter. With the adapter in house, it was time to test it with various combinations of lenses and cameras.

Here are my first experiences:

  1. Panasonic Lumix GF5
    • Canon 50mm f/1.8 II - autofocus problematic
    • Canon 18-55 EF-S kit lens - works perfectly
    • Canon 35-80 EF (film) kit lens - works perfectly
    • Sigma UC 70-210 EF (film) lens - total fail!
    • Sigma 70-300 macro EF - works perfectly
  2. Panasonic Lumix G3
    • Canon 50mm f/1.8 II - OK
    • Canon 18-55 EF-S kit lens - works perfectly
    • Canon 35-80 EF (film) kit lens - works perfectly
    • Sigma UC 70-210 EF (film) lens - sort of OK, focus might fail, but will grab in a second attempt
    • Sigma 70-300 macro EF - works perfectly
  3. Olympus OM-D EM5
    • Canon 50mm f/1.8 II - good
    • Canon 18-55 EF-S kit lens - works perfectly
    • Canon 35-80 EF (film) kit lens - not great, but works, aperture displays weird behaviour
    • Sigma UC 70-210 EF (film) lens - focuses only on the wide end, aperture weird
    • Sigma 70-300 macro EF - works perfectly
  4. Olympus E-PM2
    • Canon 50mm f/1.8 II - good
    • Canon 18-55 EF-S kit lens - works perfectly
    • Canon 35-80 EF (film) kit lens - OK-ish
    • Sigma UC 70-210 EF (film) lens - focuses on the wide end, aperture weird, shuts down during zooming
    • Sigma 70-300 macro EF - works perfectly


The old film EOS (EF) lenses are essentially unusable. Maybe the Canon could be used on the E-PM2. IBIS wont work properly, since the old lenses don't communicate the focal length correctly.

The Nifty-Fifty struggles with the older camera, with the newer ones, it seems to be doing OK and is a usable portrait lens with great bokeh!

The cheap 18-55 seems to be making a great all purpose walk about zoom. The focal length is communicated correctly, so Olympus' IBIS will work fine.

Similar to the Canon 18-55, the Sigma 70-300 macro will communicate the focal length correctly. Autofocus could be better, but, this is a special purpose lens on MFT, reflecting an all purpose wildlife lens in an affordable and portable package.

Would it be worth to buy such an adapter and buy those lenses? I don't think so. Focusing is just too slow. However, if the lenses are already in your possession, such an adapter might be very useful to you.

Thursday, April 14, 2016


Folks constantly asked me about any publicly available "work" of mine...
Yes, I do have a public flickr account:
If that represents "work", I am not too sure about...
Anyway... there it is.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Is MFT (m4/3) Dead?!

Lately, some folks posted videos declaring the death of the MFT (micro four thirds) system. Well, I do have a different opinion on that.

The usual arguments:
  • MFT got a smaller sensor than other camera systems
  • MFT has not developed any further
  • neither Olympus nor Panasonic provided a break-through lately
Guess, what, I do agree with the above statements. However, I don't care about those either. To understand what I am coming from, I do shoot with APS-C systems too: Samsung NX and Fuji X. Followers of my blog might already know that...

Here are some of my reasons why I believe MFT is just at the beginning, rather the end:
  • a smaller sensor means that lenses can be smaller too, not only in focal length, but also in dimensions
  • shorter focal lengths allow for wider apertures at equivalent focal lengths
  • focal length scales cubic for volume, i.e. bag space - MFT lenses are so much smaller, you average bag will hold a lot more fast primes that in any other system (despite the Pentax Q)
  • if it ain't broke, don't fix it! ISO400 in 16Mpix MFT is just fine, use ISO400 135 film will get you a granularity of about 4Mpix
  • does Mpix count really matter?
  • Olympus offers in-body stabilisation on all bodies, Panasonic on some, maybe Panasonic can improve here (thinking old glass)

Surely, the 2 other systems I favour have an edge beyond the MFT system.

The Samsung NX1, which is the best mirror-less camera out there presently, is just as big as any Canikon Pro DSLRs. With an APS-C BSI 28Mpix sensor, it actually (b)eats any Canikon system in its price range. The lenses a superior too, however, the price, weight and size are premium too. My NX1 with the standard S-zoom rarely moves beyond the wall of my house, due to the bulk and weight.

The Fujifilm X system is somewhat lighter and smaller. The X-system competes in the market of fast primes. However, there are only a few interesting lenses available, and due to the larger sensor, the lenses are bigger too. So, less will make it into a bag, for a higher price however.

Consequently, I do believe that many hobbyists will appreciate the form factor of the MFT system. There is no other system out there to provide that many possibilities (options) in a portable setup whilst maintaining as much quality.

Lenses in MFT are small, lightweight and relatively cheap. And that is the success factor of the MFT system over any other system presently available.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

High Contrast Cityscapes

When photographing in a city, often the photos looks somewhat dull. Often the culprit is a blueish haze. Such haze also lowers the contrast of a scene.

So, here are a few Lightroom settings, which can turn dull photographs into a picture having a little more punch. Please note that this settings (as a preset) are only a starting point. Depending in the photo, one will have to alter one or the other parameter.

  • Exposure +0,45
  • Contrast +37
  • Highlights +46
  • Shadows +35
  • Whites 0
  • Blacks -59
  • Clarity +36
  • Vibrance 0
  • Saturation -54
HSL (saturation):
  • Red +59
  • Orange +78
  • Yellow +18
  • Green -54
  • Aqua -74
  • Blue -74
  • Purple -46
  • Magenta 0

Color Photos

The following photo was shot with the Samsung NX mini (ISO800, f/8, 1s/125, 27mm).
original (RAW) exposure
above settings applied

B&W Photos

original RAW converted into B&W

settings applied before converted to B&W

Fingers crossed that blogger does not "correct" the differences away...

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Take the Photo When You Want

This must be a generation thing... I heard about "shutter lag" first only a few years ago. At that time, I had a hard time understanding what the actual problem was. Mind you, my photographic experience originates in a fully manual SLR-cameras, which always released the shutter when I pressed the release button.

Finally, it all was clear to me, the complaints about shutter lag was caused by fully automatic settings, in particular auto-focus, of "modern" generation automated photographic equipment.

Being used to manual focus, my habit was to set the cameras to all manual, in particular for focusing. I never trusted any camera to know what I wanted in focus.

Lately, some cameras had a real impact on me, cameras that could be told which distance to focus at and stay at that distance.

First to mention in that context is the Fujifilm X-Pro1 with adapted legacy glass. Some of my older M42 lenses are rather sticky in the focus department. Set the lenses' apertures to f/8 and adjust focus according to the distance scale. Done! The metering of the camera is fast enough to adjust the shutter speed in an instance. However, if one wants to be rally be assured of the fastest reaction of the camera: choose ISO and shutter speed (according to sunny 16) manually. Great to have a dial for shutter speed selection.
The camera should have lost all the shutter lag by now.

Second choice: Ricoh GR (version V) or GR-II. Ricoh understood that auto-focus causes the greatest delays in automated photography. So, Ricoh decided to add the "snap focus distance" feature to their GR camera. With the camera in AF mode, half-press the shutter release and AF will start. However, when focus is not yet achieved but the shutter release is fully pressed, the focus defaults to a predetermined distance. Brilliant! Again, depth of field by the aperture chosen helps to determine the preset zone.
The Ricoh GR is extremely compact and fits in pockets, however, operation is very much menu-based.

Next: Leica X2 (Leica X-E, same camera, different color scheme). The Leica allows for decent manual zone focusing. The focus distance can be locked in, so it can't accidentally knocked off. That is really great for zone focusing with a predetermined DoF. The Leica also offers manual aperture and shutter speed dials, which is great for fully manual exposure settings.

Only at my 4th place: Fujifilm's X100 series. I love those cameras, no doubt! The manual focus scale displayed in the OVF is magnificent. However, the focus ring is very loose, I knocked it off bu accident several times, which ruined the shots. I wished there was a feature to lock the manual focus.
The X100 series sports manual aperture and shutter speed dials, which is really great!

5th (1st) place, solely for the reason that the other cameras are doing so well when stabilisation is not required: Olympus MFT bodies. Those cameras employ in-body image stabilisation, which is great for low light situations. When in any low light environment, the Olympus OM-D E-M5 is my prime choice! With adapted legacy glass, the Olympus still stabilises the image by sensor motion.

The above ranking is certainly not carved in stone! The differences are pretty subtle.

The most important message I wanted to convey:
  1. shutter lag exists when shooting in AF
  2. shutter lag disappears almost completely when focusing manually
  3. setting exposure parameters manually cannot harm
Conclusion: Remove as much automation as you are comfortable with, you'll be rewarded with a more timely photography.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Battle of the Street Cameras - Part 1

Leica, the world leader in photo journalism, documentary photography and street-photography?

True of false? Not sure!

Here are some thoughts...

What's the deal with the hype about Leica cameras? Of course, the company Leitz Wetzlar changed the way of photography forever, in particular what mobility was concerned. But, how much of the legacy is still alive?
Lately, on Dutch broadcast: Eddy van Wessel, winner of Zilveren Camera 2015. Eddy van Wessel uses a Leica with 135 film.

Back to the digital world: one of the local retailers put on of the cameras on sale for a price worth spending, I did just that... and bought a Leica X-E (re-branded Leica X2).
What convinced me?
  1. small package
  2. the price of €699.- rather than €1499.-
  3. leaf shutter (quiet, 1s/2000 sync speed)
  4. I own an Olympus VF-2 which works with the camera
  5. all manual dials

Performance-wise, I will compare the Leica X-E to the Fujifilm X100S and the Ricoh GR. Said cameras were designed roughly around the same time. All sport a 16Mpix sensor (2 have a Bayer array, 1 an Xtrans array).
None of the camera's employs optical image stabilisation, while all are equipped with similar prime lenses and APS-C sized sensors. Also, the cameras employ leaf shutters.

With the lenses, we can observe the first difference. While the Fujifilm 23mm EBC got an f/2.0 aperture, the Leica Elmarit APSH 24mm opens to f/2.8 only and so does the Ricoh GR's 18.3mm lens.
To me, this difference in aperture is negligible, in particular since I usually use f/5.6 and slower for increased depth of field in street photography. Also, the X100S shot wide open tends to be a bit soft for my taste.

One of the criteria I mentioned above was sync speed. The X100S syncs with f/2 at 1s/1000, an aperture not available with the X-E. However, when using flash with 1s/2000 shutter speed, the X100S is usable with f/2.8 only, thereby being equal to the X-E. Despite having a leaf shutter, the Ricoh GR does not do fast sync.

Concerning manual focusing, the cameras have their pros and cons. While the X100S (even more so the X100T) provides great manual focusing aid, the X-E is relatively hard to focus manually.
However, when walking in the streets, the X100S is easily knocked out of focus, should one accidentally touch the focus ring. In contrast thereto, the manual focus of the X-E can be dialed and locked in, similar to the "snap focus" of the Ricoh GR.

In terms of flexibility, the X100S/T clearly wins. Fujifilm offers adapters, so that the field of view can be made either normal, or a wider.
I love the wide lens of the Ricoh GR. Despite the 28mm equivalent, Ricoh offers an attachment that gets the field of view up to 24mm in 135 film terms.
Leica does not offer any changes in the field of view for their X1, X2 or X-E cameras.

Viewfinders: obviously the field of Fujifilm, with their unique OVF/EVF combination. Leica's X2 and X-E offer the possibility to add an EVF to the hot-shoe (the Olympus VF-2 works just fine!), while Ricoh allows for an add-on OVF only. Then again, doing candid photography, how important is a view-finder anyway?

In a further part of the series, I will compare the image quality of the in-camera JPEGs of the X100S/T and the X-E (only), since those camera share the same field of view.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Mirror-less System Lenses

Friends of mine indicated that they have difficulties to understand why I favor fast wide primes for mirror-less systems and somewhat bash on "long" fast primes. Well, the question arises, what is long and what is fast....
In a previous post, I was drawing a comparison between the Oly 45mm f/1.8, which I is loved by so many, and the Cosina Cosinon 55mm f/1.4 (which very likely is the better lens, despite being fully manual). 

I wish to continue the discussion on "long" lenses for mirror-less systems vs. legacy glass of normal length. The Cosinon was just one example. More comes to mind, e.g. the classic 35mm f/2.8 wide angle, found in every camera bag 20 years ago. For APS-C bodies, this would be a decent normal, for MFT, such a focal length reflects a mild telephoto lens.
A 28mm was rather extreme in the days of 135 film. Those lenses are found less often in camera bags, however, those are still pretty cheaply available 2nd hand. While in MFT, 28mm transfer into a normal, in APS-C creates a field of view of a mild wide angle lens.
Here comes the advantage of adapting those old lenses to modern systems: being designed for 135 film, i.e. "full frame", those lenses produce very little distortion on crop size sensors. The prize of which being larger dimensions of the lens-barrel (and manual operations). 

Back to the initial remarks about my friend's comments. When buying lenses for my various systems, I do focus on wide angle lenses for those systems, since the stock of legacy glass I own covers normal to tele-photo already. So, why would I spent more money for getting the same for a higher price?! Does not make much sense, eh?!

Here I am, having a decent collection of manual legacy glass, which suites me perfectly for normal to tele-photo, while wide-angle for the mirror-less systems is simply not available from legacy stock.

Monday, January 18, 2016

How to Create the Weegee Look

Weegee? You might ask... well, this would refer to Arthur Fellig. Not sure who I am talking about? Have a look at wikipedia to find out.

Old days

Weegee's was best known for nighttime photography of crime scenes. His technique involved the use of flash bulbs, giving a very harsh look to the pictures. There is usually a hard shadow cast on the left side of the subject, which is a "dead" give-away that the flash used was on the right side of the camera; very common to large format press cameras.

Over the years, off-camera flash moved to the left side of the camera, in particular when flash brackets are used. Many point & shoot cameras of today have their flash mounted on the left side, the reasons of which is totally unclear to me. Anyway, the on-camera flash is too close to cast any meaningful shadow at regular photographing distance.

Modern age

So, here is what we need to do to create the typical look of the illumination typically used in Fellig's crime scene photograph:
  • mount a speedlight on a flash bracket
    • 1 foot to the right of the camera lens
    • 1 foot above the camera lens
    For the flash bracket, I got myself one that looks essentially like this one. Everything is adjustable with the bracket...
    Having the bracket on the right of the camera is a bit awkward, since cameras are designed for right hand use, with the shutter button on the right, which is, where the bracket is now. That of course means, that the camera now will be operated by the left hand.
    What the shutter release is concerned, there might be an option: a shutter release cable, with the button fixed to the flash bracket (I guess, I will build something alike in the near future).

    Digital solution

    Obviously, the above is all nice in theory, but, what about putting this into digital reality?
    Here is my setup:
    • Fujifilm X-M1
    • Fujifilm XC 16-50mm f/3.5-f/5.6
    • Fujifilm EF-20
    • flash bracket as mentioned above
    • flashgun cable for Canon by PIXEL Inc.

    Now to the technical settings, which are different from my usual way of configuring a camera:
    • AF illuminator ON
    • flash exposure compensation -1
    • exposure compensation -1
    • red eye removal off
    Here is why. With flash, there is not stealth photography, so, there is no reason to not use the AF illuminator. Flash bulbs were not that strong and weaker flash allows for a wider open aperture (see below). Further, lower flash power shortens cycle time of the speedlight. Also, we are still talking nighttime photography, despite the use of flash.

    And the "artistic" settings:
    • RAW+JPEG
    • film simulation B&W (obviously)
    • highlight tone +1
    • shadow tone +2
    • sharpness +1
    • noise reduction -1
    • auto ISO limit 6400
    • f=30mm
    • f/4.7 (i.e. as wide open as possible)
    This will need some more detailed explanation, I figure.
    Highlight tone +1 gives medium hard highlight details, resulting in slightly more contrast in the highlights.
    Shadow tone +2  results in very hard shadow details, enhancing the black feel of the JPEG image.
    Sharpness +1 in combination with N.R. -1 obviously adds some noise, similar to film grain. This effect could be further enhanced by forcing the ISO up.
    My present setup employs a kit zoom lens. 4x5 press cameras are usually equipped with a 135mm, slightly wider than normal primes. On an APS-C system, 30mm comes pretty close to the angle of view that a 135mm would produce in 4x5 LF. Using the XF 27mm f/2.8 (considered on of the best lenses in the Fujifilm system) could the solution.
    Finally, the aperture. Due to the long focal length of a large format "normal", the depth of field is pretty shallow. 

    In absence of any corpses in front of my house (thanks God!), I took two photographs of a bollard on my front yard. Both pictures are JPEG straight out of the camera. 

    Despite using the AF illuminator, the camera struggled to auto-focus. Anyway, I hope that the images prove that a Weegee-look is possible with the equipment listed above.

    When using an X100, X100S or X100T, obviously, one might want to use the TCL-X100 for the normal perspective, which would allow for f/2. The 23mm (35mm equivalent) would not be too far off, so any of the series would still be OK w/o the conversion lens.


    Weegee used a flash with a relatively large reflector. Although I feel that the initial results look pretty decent, I will experiment to add a soft component to the flash, as to mimic the large reflector.


    Shooting with flash requires re-thinking of your exposure parameters, I am aware of that. Exposure for the flash is usually done by the aperture. Distances of 2m to 4m would suggest relatively closed lens, even with lower ISO sensitivities. The creative choice of shooting wide open therefore seems counter-intuitive. Since this look is not affected by ambient light, shutter speed is entirely irrelevant, so the faster syncs speed found on the X100 models won't help. However, the X100 models have a built-in 3 stops N.D.-filter, which could help expose correctly with the lens wide open.

    Der Auto und Sein Kind

    I do admit, I am a victim of the latest lens ads myself. For one reason or another, I bought a 45mm f/1.8 MFT lens made by Olympus. Yes, it is a great lens, fast autofocus, nice bokeh, etc... Do I regret having bought it? NO! However, there are some afterthoughts at the end...
    45mm, lets say 50mm, that's what was known as a standard or normal in 135 terms. Yes, but it is f/1.8! I read you thinking... well ok... the very first lens I ever owned was a 50mm f/1.9, which was a poor man's standard (and a poor boy I was at the time!).
    Anyway, some time ago, I got myself a 55m f/1.4 M42 lens. We are talking €30 at that time! Sure, this lens is totally manual, no automation at all. However, what are we comparing here?
    Fujinon 45mm f/1.8 (MFT) vs. Cosinon 55mm f/1.4 (M42).
    One is sure, the Cosinon was designed for 135 film (aka full frame), thereby promising a very flat image across any smaller sensor than full frame.
    What we are comparing now is modern vs. legacy. If you are able to ignore automation, the legacy glass beats the modern stuff.
    There we go, the question is: do you need auto, or does manual do the trick for you?

    Tuesday, January 5, 2016

    Fujifilm X100T Improvements Nobody Talks About

    just lately, I got myself a Fujifilm X100T, to replace my trusty X100S. Having done research for many many months, I finally came to the conclusion that the X100T is indeed the better camera.

    Having played with it for some days, I now believe it too.

    The differences between the X100T over the X100S might be minute, but, depending on your situation and camera use, they could be huge!

    So, why is that?! Lens, sensor processor are all the same, so, why bother?!

    First, I would like to list some improvements, that most folks talk about, which just are not important enough for me.

    1. exposure compensation +/-3 over +/-2 (with manual exposure, who cares?)
    2. third stop increments on the aperture (how many legacy system actually sport that?)
    3. bigger LCD (just consumes battery, stop chimping!)
    4. wheel dial gone and replaced by a rotary dial (never had a problem with the old one, however, now there is one control less)
    5. styling of the buttons (they are looking better, but they are harder to feel)
    6. position of the buttons (that's just learning curve)
    7. classic chrome film simulation (I am not sure about this one, anyway, it can be simulated in Rawtherapee)
    8. WiFi (maybe)

    Now to the improvements I really like, most of which are not discussed a lot.
    1. 7 custom memories, just like the X-Pro1
    2. 3 configurable auto-ISO memories (although maximum shutter speed is 1s/125 only ... Fuji, please make it 1s/250!)
    3. the view-finder trick, that everyone is so excited about, is actually very usable (with the next improvement in the list)
    4. coloured focus peaking (I will come to this later in that post)
    5. mic/remote in (while I do not care too much about the microphone, remote could be great for triggered stuff!)
    6. electronic shutter (this is great! totally silent, with speeds up to 1s/32000 at f/2! - no flash though)
    7. framing lines adopt during manual focusing with the OVF
    8. configurability of the buttons (obviously)
    9. charging via USB (great for traveling light)

    There are more improvements, such as improved noise reduction at high ISO, which might help, but are not that important to me.

    Obviously, I like the fact, that I can configure the X100T exactly the same way as the X-Pro1, what custom memories is concerned. The X100S, having 3 custom memories only, felt a bit clumsy. Now that both my X-cameras got the same settings, shooting is a lot simplified.

    Now to the best part, 2 combined actually, the new hybrid viewfinder trick in combination with coloured focus peaking. This is really great! When in OVF, pushing the VF-lever towards the lens, this little rectangle occurs in the lower right corner of the viewfinder. With the film-simulation set to any black&white mode (we are shooting RAW, right?!) this area will show a B&W representation of the designated focusing area. Here comes the magic: manual focus was never as easy with focus peaking set to red. Just get as much red in the greyscale preview as possible. Still, you got your optical viewfinder image to see what going on outside the framing lines. How great is that?!

    To me, the 2 features I just described to you in detail, were reason enough to replace the X100S with the X100T.