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Alun J. Carr
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Mike, Get yourself a secondhand Sony RX10 (Mk I) for a low few hundred of dollars, or an RX10iii new for maybe $1000 (price has dropped since the introduction of the RX10iv). These are do-it-all cameras with state-of-the-art Sony 1" sensors. The Zeiss optics are superb, and I defy you to find photographic situations that cannot be addressed by the RX10 Mk I, II with their f/2.8 24-200 mm-e lenses or the RX10 Mk III, IV with their f/2.4-f/4 24-600 mm-e. I'd normally go out of my way to avoid mentioning Ken Rockwell, but you might find his review of the RX10iii informative: I know that it may seem painful to you not being able to change lenses, but Sony are able to position the optical elements of the fixed zoom with an order of magnitude's more accuracy than an interchangeable zoom in E-mount. The question to ask yourself is what Cartier Bresson or Ansel Adams would have said if given one of the RX10 models? Adams would have operated off a tripod, with the ISO set to a minimum, with image quality comparable not only to larger sensors, but also his sheet film. And they include a cut-down version of Capture One for free, and the full version for a little bit more. Think about it. Best regards, Alun
Oh, for heaven's sake! I have a Pentax K-5 and a bunch of lenses (including three Limited primes), and a couple of years ago I bought a secondhand Sony RX10 (mk I); the Pentax (a beautiful camera) hasn't seen any use since. The purchase was under the malign influence of reading Kirk Tuck's blog: Recently, I sold the RX10 to a friend and bought an RX10iii at a substantial discount (due to the launch of the RX10iv), and it's pretty much a universal camera. Raw files at ISO 3200 render perfectly in Capture One Pro (not the Sony version). In the days of B&W film, 3200 ASA was pretty much impossible (I could push Tri-X and HP4 to 1250 ASA, with grain like golfballs). My friend is disposing of his Nikon DSLR gear and is delighted with the RX10: superb optics, great image stabilization, the 1" sensor will cope with any lighting condition he's yet to experience, and no dust blobs on the sensor from when you've changed a lens. So, Mike, perhaps you should just go and buy an RX10ii (that model because of the constant-aperture zoom).
Toggle Commented Dec 7, 2017 on Dammit (GAS Again) at The Online Photographer
First, I want to confess that I never used LR: I was an Aperture user, though I also had DxO Optics Pro and (please don't scream) SilkyPix, plus of course Photoshop CS3 (and then CS5). DxO Optics Pro was too limited as a photo editor (although it was an excellent raw developer), so when Apple stopped updating Aperture (but some time before they announced that they were sending it to the land of bit-rot), I bought Capture One Pro. Once you're used to its workflow (which makes perfect sense when you understand it), it produces absolutely superb results. It's limited in various ways (like having very few lens profiles for Pentaxes, for example), and there's no plugin mechanism like Photoshop (so no hope of the Nik plugins ever working with it). If Phase One, rather than DxO, had bought NiK from Google, Capture One could have become the ultimate image editor with the addition of the U-Point technology. I've bought DxO PhotoLab, and the way that U-Point etc. are implemented is crap. Basically, it's the DxO Optics Pro raw developer with a half-hearted photo editor bolted on top. As for SilkyPix, it's rescued raw files taken in a witches' brew of lighting types, with the common-or-garden editors struggling and then producing garbage. SilkyPix is actually a superb raw developer, handicapped by a UI designed by a photographer-hating programmer in the throes of an acid flashback (at least it seems that way).
Just get yourself a Sony RX10ii, or if you want to play with extreme telephotos, the RX10iii (at the expense of bokeh at portrait focal lengths). Enjoy it. My 'big rig' is a Pentax K-5 with a K10D as backup, and I have a variety of lenses, including some DA* and Limited models, plus some manual-focus Pentax-A lenses, but since buying a mk I Sony RX10 secondhand on eBay for about $600, I haven't really touched the Pentax system, even though I know that in theory it will provide superior image quality. The Sony fits in a Billingham L2 bag with ample space for filters, batteries, etc., and the populated L2 fits in my carry-on backpack for air travel leaving over 50% of the volume free. Images from the RX10 at ISO 3200 in B&W conversion are perfect, with no visible grain (at least in Capture One); what's not to like? Perhaps you should do as I did and buy a secondhand RX10 before springing for a mk II or III at full price?
ThankYouThankYouThankYou!!! At last, a reference to Bill Brandt! I urge people to seek out his images. If you can afford it, even buy a secondhand copy of Shadow of Light (the first edition contains his experiments with colour film, because he considered the colours to be so unnatural; these photos were removed in the second edition).
A slightly cheaper option is to use a Leica tabletop tripod and large (tall) ballhead as a chestpod: It really is quite remarkable how much shake reduction you get. If you don't want to spring for new Leica items, you can find secondhand tripods and ball heads on eBay, usually old enough to be branded as Leitz.
If you're using micro-4/3 (MFT) cameras, and want the true King of Bokeh for portraits (with a wonderful glow to the highlights), buy a used Soviet Jupiter-3 1.5/50 lens in LTM plus an adaptor to MFT. The Jupiter-3 is a Soviet-manufactured 1940s Zeiss Sonnar (they dismantled the equipment in Germany and shipped it, together with press-ganged technicians, to the USSR), with its characteristic rendering wide open (stop it down, and it becomes very-sharp). On MFT, it becomes 100 mm-e and in terms of theoretical DOF, f/3. That makes it a near-perfect portrait lens, wide open. The focus-shift problem with stopping down classic Sonnars isn't an issue with manual focusing at taking aperture in MFT. Of course, Zeiss make a modern version of the lens in Leica M-mount (C Sonnar T* 1,5/50 ZM), and with the T* coating will undoubtedly have superior contrast to the Jupiter-3, but the Jupiter-3 is a cheap way to experiment with the Sonnar design. NOTE: don't buy one in Kiev/Contax bayonet mount. Also, Lomography have started producing the Soviet version again, but at a price that will have you running for the genuine, modern, Zeiss item. To see what the Jupiter-3 can do have a look at: Alun
Try Phase One's CaptureOne Pro software (free trial available, I think): it has adjustments for Moiré. In fact, you may find that it replaces all of your other software. As a raw developer, I find that it's a toss-up between CaptureOne and DxO Optics Pro at getting the best from your files, leaving everything else lying bleeding in the gutter.
Although snooker is played on it, it's actually a billiard table: the 'proper' game is billiards (which in the hands of gifted professionals makes watching paint dry seem like a Six Nations rugby match [Note to Mike: the contest starts on 6 Feb: ; note that local time means just that: Britain and Ireland are an hour out of sync with the rest of Western Europe]); snooker is regarded as déclassé, at least by those who think that Downton Abbey is reality TV.
Toggle Commented Jan 14, 2015 on Open Mike: Snooker! (OT) at The Online Photographer
I know that I periodically mention the great Bill Brandt when I post comments here, but he took contrast to another level (I read somewhere, many moons ago, that he printed on the near-mythical Agfa Brovira grade 6 paper, also that he switched to ultra-high contrast when the proofs of the 1st edn of Shadow of Light were over-inked and he liked the effect). And Ansel Adams had the highest regard for him, although stylistically they were very different (zone system be damned!). Look at: (A damned sight cheaper than Cindy Sherman, and a damned sight better, in my opinion.) Alun
Toggle Commented Dec 10, 2014 on In Praise of Low Contrast at The Online Photographer
What about Bill Brandt's portrait of Magritte? I can't understand why Brandt is so ignored on the western side of the pond these days, when Ansel Adams thought incredibly highly of him.
Toggle Commented Nov 2, 2014 on Electric Pumpkin at The Online Photographer
Mike, Wasn't the son's photo in your recent father-and-son print sale taken using an iPhone and processed with Snapseed on the phone? If an iPhone is good enough for a print sale image, surely it's good enough for you? Get yourself a holster for your iPhone that fits on your belt (you can get decent, cheap ones on eBay, but make sure that the belt clip also has a leather strip that comes up behind it and fixes with a press-stud, so that no-one can swipe it off your belt): that way your iPhone is always ready for single-handed photography, and is incredibly well protected unless you have a tendency to blunder against sharp, hard objects at hip-height. My old iPhone 3GS was pristine after four years of use, apart from a couple of light scratches on the glass, and my one-year-old iPhone 5s has yet to show any signs of wear and tear. It must be said that I rarely use my iPhone for photos these days, because I also have a Canon PowerShot S110 in a pouch on my belt (which also contains a spare battery, spare SD card, and magnetically-attached polarising filter). Best regards, Alun
Toggle Commented Oct 20, 2014 on Open Mike: Hidebound at The Online Photographer
Mike, Have you considered cropping off about the top sixth of the image, just about the point the clouds shade off into an average level of grey? Suddenly, the buildings assume more importance, and the composition feels more balanced (in my opinion, which is probably garbage). Of course, I'm doing this cropping on-screen on an iPad Mini, sliding a piece of card down over the photo, so I'm probably oblivious to detail, and can only see overall impact. Best regards, Alun
Mike, I'm both heartened and saddened by your commitment to TOP. If this was a Western, the cowboy would be selling his horse to buy a gun with which to save the town. By the way, from what I understand, the most fun you can have with a car is behind the wheel of one the versions of the Caterham 7 ( This was originally the Lotus 7, but Caterham have continuously developed it down the decades. It has been described as 'the closest thing to a F1 car on the road': blistering acceleration, and your backside is only a few inches above the road surface. Even the entry-level model (which uses a turbocharged 660 cc three-cylinder Suzuki engine) will leave most cars for dead accelerating from the traffic lights (the minimalist fibreglass body weighs next to nothing, but the aerodynamics are lousy: it accelerates like crazy, but drag means it hits a brick wall above 90 mph -- mot that that's a problem in most countries; the entry-level 160 does 0-60 mph in 6.5 seconds and the top-end CSR does 0-60 mph in 3.1 seconds). Oh, and a full windscreen (windshield) and folding roof are optional extras on all models. And If you don't know what a Lotus 7 looks like, it's the car that Patrick McGoohan (No. 6) drives in the opening credits of The Prisoner ( KAR 120C was actually his own car, built by himself from a kit (some Caterhams are still available in kit form). Alun [Hi Alun, Heh--I think the cowboy selling his horse metaphor might be a little overdramatic. But I know what you mean. A Lotus Super Seven basically "set" my preferences in cars. I got to drive one as a teenager, near to the time when I got to drive *in* a Maserati Bora, a supercar of the day you no doubt remember. I wasn't behind the wheel. But on a local road with a 35-mph speed limit that had some curves which were rather thrilling (and challenging) in my mother's Volvo station wagon at 50 mph, well, the Bora just loafed through them at 70 mph with minimal drama. Then there was the Lotus. In THAT car, I could lay my hand flat on the pavement from the driving position, the wind whipped everything around, the crazy vibration at 35 mph made the rear view mirror almost unreadable, and 40 mph felt like you were falling through space--maybe not crazy fast, but plenty exciting. That was it for me...never really liked or wanted a supercar. I always liked and wanted small, light, go-karty cars that made driving at real-world speeds seem entertaining. You know the old saying--it's better to drive a slow car fast than a fast car slowly. --Mike]
Toggle Commented Apr 2, 2014 on Miata for Sale (OT) at The Online Photographer
One cheap left-field suggestion is to use a Soviet Helios-44 58 mm f/2 lens (available in M42 mount as the many variants of the Helios-44M, or Pentax K-mount as the Helios-44K). On APS-C this is pretty-much a 90 mm-e lens with an f/2 maximum aperture. The design is antique -- it's a 1939 Zeiss Biotar double-Gauss -- and has certain quirks: for example, whilst the lens is f/2, the front element isn't large enough to prevent vignetting of bokeh, so off-axis an OOF disc is clipped into an oval shape; this may be used to effect to give 'swirl' in the OOF background. Some examples of this lens are single coated, some multi-coated, but all are cheap. Note that the lens is over-corrected for spherical aberration (only now-deceased Zeiss engineers would know why), so rear bokeh can exhibit a bright line around OOF discs. At the price, it's worth investigating. Note that the Helios-44-2 (single-coated) is a preset diaphragm design: you set your aperture with one ring (but the lens remains wide open), focus, then spin the ring behind it to stop down to taking aperture; I cut my teeth on a Soviet Zenit-E SLR with this lens. Post-WWII West German Zeiss Planars were based on this design, as were the East German Zeiss Pancolars. You might want to look at the appropriate websites to see what the various designations for the Helios-44 mean. Oh, if you're feeling adventurous, you can unscrew the block of the rear three elements to get a 116 mm f/4 telephoto with horribly uncorrected spherical aberration. I used to do this to my Helios-44-2 on my Zenit, and use extension tubes to obtain focus. The results wide-open were wonderfully etherial soft focus images. Unfortunately, that lens modification is a bit long for portraiture with APS-C, at 174 mm-e.
Why is the photography of the late Bill Brandt largely ignored on your side of the pond?
Toggle Commented Feb 19, 2014 on Ask Mike at The Online Photographer
Pentax K-3 for its switchable anti-aliasing?
Toggle Commented Dec 13, 2013 on Camera of the Year 2013 at The Online Photographer
Rotring Tikky Graphic. It's a disposable fibre-tip that uses pigment ink (not dye, so it's more resistant to fading). Available in a range of nib sizes: I'd go for 0.3 or 0.4, maybe 0.5 for signing. The pens are obviously designed as a modern replacement for the classic Rotring Isograph and Rapidograph pens -- I wouldn't want to do a lot of signing with those old pens, having done enough drawing with them in the past.
Toggle Commented Oct 31, 2013 on Need Your Help at The Online Photographer
I don't dispute that there are many scenes of beauty, but it's hardly a beautiful world. See Devo's 'Beautiful World': Think of Syria, Somalia, the cannibalism in North Korea, the repression by the West's 'allies' in the Arab states. Sorry to be a wet blanket, but the world as a whole is awful, although there is much that is beautiful. Alun
I've had a couple of Crumplers: passed on to friends when they didn't suit my needs but might suit theirs. I currently have three working bags: Billingham L2 'Alice' with SP15 shoulder pad: perfect for my Pentax K-5 with 15 mm, 35 mm Macro, and 70 mm Limiteds plus odds and sods (I also have two AVEA 05 pockets on it which contain filters and more odds and sods). They're not 'nicely made': they're beautifully made, and will probably last for several generations. Leica users talk about them because Billingham make the bags for Leica (the L2 is, as the model code implies, derived from their Leica bag; hence, also, the 'Alice' designation). Originally bought for my Canon PowerShot G9 rig with Canon tele- and wide-converters plus flashgun. National Geographic Large Explorer Shoulder Bag: I've added a Billingham SP50 shoulder pad because the canvas shoulder pad has no grip. This carries my K-5 and zoom rig (12-24, 16-50, 60-250). These bags are supposed to be from Manfrotto, for what that's worth. Not terribly well-made, but good enough (if the Billingham's a Rolls-Royce, this is a Ford). Lowepro AW300 SlingShot: carries even more than the Nat. Geo. bag (some of both sets of lenses plus macro bellows and the Minolta 75 mm enlarger lens I use on them, and X-Y focusing racks. The nice thing about the sling compared to a full backpack is that you don't have to take it off to access the contents. Construction is a step up from the Nat. Geo. bag (let's call it an Audi).
I guess the problem is that the US only has one 'national' newspaper: USA Today (if that counts as a newspaper). By comparison, the UK (pop. about 60 million) supports nine, covering a broad political spectrum (though biased towards the 'swivel-eyed loony' right wing): the Daily Telegraph, the Times, the Guardian, the Independent, the Daily Mail, the Daily Express, and at the sleazy end of the market, the Daily Mirror, the Sun, the and the Daily Star. There are also major regional newspapers such as the Herald (Glasgow), the Scotsman (Edinburgh), the Daily Record (basically a Scots version of the Mirror), the Western Mail (Wales), the Belfast Telegraph (for Northern Ireland Protestants), the Irish News (for Northern Ireland Catholics), plus far more local papers like the Newcastle Journal and Evening Chronicle (for example). The Republic of Ireland, where I currently live, with a population of about 4.5 million, has three national papers: the Irish Times, the Irish Independent (no relation to the British paper), and the Examiner. If the US had half-a-dozen national papers with headquarters in a major city and regional offices in other major cities, and stringers in less-populous cities, US journalism would be far healthier. Let's say we have the NY Times, the Chicago Sun-Times, the LA Times or the SF Chronicle, the Washington Post and one or two others, with printing and ditribution across the whole of the US (easy to do with electronic publishing: the NY Times could be printed on the presses of the Tennessean, for example). People would still buy the regional papers for the local stories that don't merit national interest (as in the case of the two Newcastle papers I mentioned in the UK), but they'd also buy one of the nationals for the the big news, and also for a political outlook that suited them.
Mike, It's a pity that you got rid of your Pentax K-5: I have two rigs based on it: 1. Lightweight: K-5 plus 15 mm f/4 Limited, 35 mm f/2.8 Macro Limited, 70 mm f/2.4 Limited (the best lens of the bunch, and you're already on record as describing the 35 mm as an 'optical paragon'). This most closely resembles my old OM-1n kit (24 mm f/2.8 Hoya, 50 mm f/1.8 Zuiko, 105 mm f/2.5 Tamron ). This lightweight rig fits neatly in a Billingham L2 (Alice) bag, with extra AVEA pouches for filters, etc. Think of it as a time-warp system: a compact, high-quality camera, with some beautiful primes, all in a bag that wouldn't have felt out of place decades earlier (and the canvas and leather just *feel* nicer than modern polymers). Oh, and from the OM-1 system I can add the manual focus Tamron 105 mm (160 mm-e) to the bag using the Adaptall K-mount (thank you eBay). Why aren't Tamron producing Adaptall lenses any more? 2. Heavy and versatile: K-5 plus 12-24 mm f/4 DA, 16-50 mm f/2.8 DA*, and 60-250 mm f/4 DA*. This goes into a Lowepro 300 AW 'slingshot' bag, and I can stuff in things like manual Fotodiox bellows and an old enlarger lens if I want to go to high magnifications. To either of these I can add my back-up body, a Pentax K-01 which I picked up for a knock-down price after its discontinuation; same sensor as the K-5, and it takes the same lenses, but it loses the pentaprism and mirror. As you can tell, I've nailed my colours firmly to the Pentax mast. I just hope they survive, otherwise I'm in the position of a Bronica or Rollei 6008 user. Best regards, Alun
Toggle Commented May 4, 2013 on Which Lenses? at The Online Photographer
Mike, I'm in Ireland, and when I clicked on the link the page had a banner suggesting that I use their UK site: Could you set up your affiliate deal to work with that as well? Alun
Toggle Commented May 26, 2011 on International Book Sales at The Online Photographer
I second the suggestions of 'Snow Crash', though 'The Diamond Age' is more sophisticated, and 'Cryptonomicon' is more of a page-turner. Avoid anything written after the latter like the plague. Stephenson needs a good editor. Urgently!
Toggle Commented Jun 20, 2010 on Sunday Open Mike at The Online Photographer
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Jun 20, 2010