Why ON1 Photo Raw may be for me.

In the list of photo management and editors, ON1 Photo Raw has been under my radar for a while. Although I disregarded it for years when it was still called Perfect photo suite because it lacked any kind of photo management (DAM) and raw processing, in 2017 the company released its first version of the Photo Raw software. There has been (and still is) a lot of publicity around the software, many reviewers criticised the bugs, the slow speed and the lack of features that left it clearly behind the industries standard editor which is Lightroom.

Fast forward a year and a half, I read that the Photo Raw 2018.5 was a usable piece of software so I gave it a try.

Testing these new programs has enabled me to think about was I need and expect from my photo editor. I have used Lightroom/Photoshop for years and have a nice workflow in place. I still can’t use photoshop very well, and to be honest I have very few ideas on what to do to transform my photos. I watch videos on youtube from time to time to learn and I see people take a drab landscape to a 500px winner in what seems to be a lot of time and a lot of steps… I couldn’t do that, I lack the imagination I think and anyway, all the landscapes on 500px look the same…

So what photography do I do and what do I need? I encourage you to think about this as well, it can help to simplify and streamline the processing and save time as well.

  •  I take street photography mainly but on my memory card I will also have some family photos and some other genres depending on my mood and the places I go to (architecture, macro, travel photography…). I want to import all my raw files and keep them together but export my family photos in a separate place from my personal photography.
  • My street photography is in black and white. The software I use needs to do that properly : I want to modify the colour response and contrast globally, manage the structure, dodge and burn locally, add a vignette and odd little things.
  • I need little for my family photos, some quick adjustments, straighten and crop.
  • I used the Nik Software/Google plugins from photoshop for a long period and that covered anything I needed for my landscapes, portraits and architecture : some precise contrast adjustments, adjusting colour contrast is fabulous etc… I never really learned how to do this in photoshop without plugins so I need to have some kind of equivalent if I want to replace photoshop/lightroom.
  • My street photos go on Flickr, Instagram and google+, I sometime publish to 500px as well.

That is it .
I don’t need much from my software then.
Lightroom/Photoshop with plugins cover my needs.
Photo raw 2018.5 is the first piece of software that can do this on its own.

Let’s edit a photo and I’ll make a few comments on my workflow, the things I like and the things that are missing in Photo Raw. All the images here are screenshots so the definition will not be that of the real files.

Screen Shot 2018-09-07 at 12.19.11

The importing is simple enough and I can do the same as in Lightroom : I put all my photos in subfolders classed by year/month/date. I rename the files starting by the name of the camera then the capture date and time. Lightroom uses a more flexible editor and I can get a name like : Sony-A7r3-2018-08-16-10h01min51s.arw
The same file in ON1 will look like Sony-A7R3-20180816-100151.arw
The extra hyphens, min, h, s are missing and I don’t see that I can add them in.

Once the photos are imported, you can get to work pretty fast. Here is the original file I’m working on. The raw conversion is very good. Highlight and shadow recovery work very well.

Screen Shot 2018-09-07 at 12.21.44

The picture was taken quickly as I was walking past, it is not straight. Lightroom will have an auto correct that works really well. In the develop module of Photo Raw, there is a transform module. I used the keystone feature.

Screen Shot 2018-09-07 at 12.24.44

I clicked apply and cropped the result a little.

Screen Shot 2018-09-07 at 12.30.02The result is pretty convincing. The niggle I have is on the crop tool. By default it is in “Freeform” but I like to keep a 3:2 ratio for 99% of my pictures. You have to select the “original” mode to keep the crop aspect.

In the develop panel there is lens correction module that recognises my FE 35mm f/2.8 lens (one of the first lenses ever created for the sony a7 line) but it does not have a profile to correct for the vignette, distortion and aberrations.

Screen Shot 2018-09-07 at 12.43.01

How bizarre… lets carry on then. I did very little in the develop module : a slight boost in exposure, a small adjustment in the white/black points and a bit of sharpening.
The adjustments in the black and white points in Lightroom are great. Stay pressed on the option/alt key and the screen goes black to let you adjust with precision. In Photo Raw, you press option/alt J to see the underexposed pixels in blue and the overexposed pixels in red. Not fancy but it works.

The magic happens in the Effects panel, which for me replaces the round trip to Photoshop and its plugins.

Screen Shot 2018-09-07 at 12.57.31

The black and white conversion tool is very good, you can control the colour response, add grain, control the overall exposure, shadows, highlights and contrast without going back to the develop module. You can also do split toning to change to sepia, cyanotype…

I added a vignette and a bit of contrast with the dynamic contrast tool.

There are local adjustments possible too like in Lightroom with very good masking tools and what they call a “perfect brush” which is the same as edge detection in LR. You can make gradients, ovals, and a luminosity mask.
In this photo, I just added a bit of exposure to the faces. It was quickly done.

The last thing to do is to export. I make a jpg copy of my edited pictures in the same folder as the raw files and a copy to another drive. There are lots of options for the export (file type,size, location, sharpening…) which you can save into a preset like LR.
I’d like to export quickly using the right mouse button but it doesn’t work.  Screen Shot 2018-09-07 at 13.05.40

I can export to Flickr from Photo Raw which is cool but there is nothing for google+, 500px or Instagram. I now use the ifttt.com website (If this then that) to publish from flickr to 500px and Googe photos but I need to upload to instagram manually.
LR manages the publishing better because you can see all the photos you have already uploaded and you can put them in the appropriate service but publish them later.

The effects panel has quite a few additions. I haven’t used them all yet. To each his own!

Screen Shot 2018-09-07 at 13.11.01

There is one last Panel I’d like to mention. There is a layers panel where you can add layers that have different processing and merge them with masks. You can also merge different photos (like sky replacement). If my understanding is correct though the process is done in a tiff or psd format and you lose the non-destructive workflow. I think I need to watch a few tutorials before I try.

Conclusion : likes and niggles.

I could use this software!

  • It is fast enough (comparable to editing in Lightroom).
  • It is being improved regularly so features are being added and niggles are being improved.
  • The image quality is very good.
  • Using a single application is very comfortable and the effects added to the photos are in the non-destructive workflow. This is a big improvement on using photoshop plugins. No more tiff files hanging around!
  • I’d like a better import module that gives more flexible file renaming.
  • I’d like a better export module that gives a one-click export using several recipes (like in Capture one) and that keeps track of what photo I have uploaded to what service… and I need more social media services.
  • The masking features are very good, and complex enough to make me want to learn more to use them better.
  • There are blending options like in Photoshop for each effect and local adjustment. I feel I can learn how to use this software whereas photoshop seems too complex.
  • I don’t understand the pricing. I have seen offers at 49.99€ up to 129.99€ for a pro plus plan with free updates. On the site, they say it is a non subscription program but it is only written “perpetual licence” on the the pro plus plan. Yearly updates seem to cost about 70€. Adobe LR/Photoshop costs 11.48€ per month that is 137.76€ per year.
  • I have had a few crashes, it is annoying. LR has not crashed on me for a very long time.
  • I don’t understand the advantage of cataloging a folder under photo raw. I used the browser to edit my first photos then I catalogued my raw files folder. I can’t see the difference. If I take a photo in b&w on the camera, the embedded jpg is b&w. It therefore appears in b&w in Photo Raw. When I open the develop module, it turns into colour because it is reading the raw file. This takes about 5-10s (quite long then). I’d like an option to render my raw files when catalogued for them to open faster in the develop module. I could launch this at night maybe if it need to take a long time.

The Covered Passages of Paris.

The covered passages of Paris are a early form of shopping centres. They were built in the early part of the 19th and at one point Paris boasted over 150 of these passages. The architecture generally consists of a steel and glass ceiling, beautiful geometric floor tiles and shops one either side. These passages were pierced through other buildings and connect the streets on either side of a block. It would have been possible in the 1850’s to cross a great part of the right bank of the Seine through these passages.
Nowadays few remain, some are in a state of disrepair, others have been taken over by cafés and tea rooms or antique shops. One of the passages, Passage Brady, has quite a few Indian, Pakistani and other wonderfully exotic shops.

The challenge for a street photographer is finding an interesting spot, a street scene and good light. I spent a day walking through all the covered galleries but unfortunately the sky was overcast. In most of the galleries however, the light is diffused at best or quite dark if the glass roof doesn’t cover all the passage. Some passages don’t have a glass roof and are lit by lamps.

Here are some of my better shots from that day, all taken with a sony a7r3 and the sony 35mm f/2.8 lens. Edited in Lightroom and Skylum Tonality.

 

In a café
A stationary shop
Le Gardien
The passage
Walking past.
Walking past.
Leaving
Leaving
Pigs and books
Pigs and books
Phone call
Phone call
Quick break
Quick break

 

 

 

From the Fuji X-T2 to the Sony A7r III

I have a quick story here to tell about the switch I recently made from Fuji to Sony. I had been using the Fuji mirrorless system (x-e1,x-T1, x100T and x-T2) since 2012. The camera bodies have slowly improved over time giving fast and precise autofocus, a joystick (on the x-T2) to change focus point, a great picture quality and most of all easy access to all the necessary controls : shutter speed, iso, aperture… I must also stress the quality of the lenses, the XF16mm1.4, XF35mmF1.4 and XF90mmF2 are stellar prime lenses and the XF50-140 is a great zoom, sharp at all apertures and all focal lengths.

So why  change ?

Well, the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence of course… I won’t try to convince anyone or try to justify myself (I’ve had so many cameras and lenses over the years, I gave up on that). I thought it might be interesting to show why the sony a7r III can help me move forwards in my photography and why I now think it is the ultimate (as of today) street camera.

But I like to think I am a little bit rational even if G.A.S is always a factor. First of all, image stabilisation is something that has creeped into a lot of systems and it is not a gimmick. I do a lot of street photography and I also use my macro lenses quite a bit. I own a Nikon 105 AF-D lens, which can be adapted on any mirrorless body, fuji or sony. There is no stabilisation in the lens so the in-body stabilisation is a great thing to have. The difference is huge between a stabilised and a non stabilised lens. I could have gone for the new fuji XF80mmF2.8 macro lens, but I really like my Nikon lens and I also have the laowa venus optics 60mm macro lens in Nikon mount which is really very good.

In street photography, my dream is to be able to walk around, shoot without stopping, getting anything I want in focus. I often pre-compose the picture before shooting, but I need to be lightning fast to put the focus point in the right place and shoot. This is where the Sony A7r III really shines, and where the A7r II does not work for me. The new joystick to place the focus point is a direct copy off fuji. It works well, but is often not fast enough in the street. The touch-screen allows me to place the focus point much quicker.

Sony a7r III +35mm f/2.8 @ 1/500s + F/2.8 + ISO 100

Now a bit of sony magic : when the screen is tilted out, the viewfinder detector is deactivated. Let me explain : on all the other camera bodies I have used, when the rear of the camera is too close to your body, or when you move a finger in front of the horizontal screen, the screen switches off… and you lose your shot. Not on this Sony camera. A simple thing to program maybe, but whereas I have been very critical of the ergonomics and haptics of the sony a7 series so far, I must admit this is brilliant.

Sony a7r III +35mm f/2.8 @ 1/800s + F/2.8 + ISO 100

The nail in the coffin for my Fujis is the way the sony can autofocus for my street shots. I have been a long time user of the af-s, flexible spot focusing for all my photography. Af-c has been for specific shoots : my dog, some cars and not much else because I don’t do a lot of wildlife or sport. The sony a7r III (and some other bodies before this one) have a flexible spot lock mode in af-c. Watch a video on you tube if you need to but I’ll explain briefly. When you press the shutter half way down, the small flexible spot focuses on the subject it is on and then stays locked on even if the subject moves around the viewfinder. Forget AF-S and use this! You see a subject in the street, put the focus point on it with the touchscreen, press half-way on the shutter and wait for the subject to get into the position you want, compose while you are doing this and them click! Photo done! Everything tack sharp, even if you are moving because that stabilised sensor really works. I use a shutter speed of 1/250s on my 35mm and it works fine. 1/500s if the subject is moving really close to you.

I have often said that the superiority of full-frame is over-rated, and I keep this opinion. It is an added bonus to have full frame because I can use my 50mm vintage lenses again at their intended focal length. The fall-off between the sharp in-focus areas and the out of focus parts in really smoother with full frame. I don’t give a damn about the number of pixels on the sensor, I really don’t. 16MP was enough, 24MP was great. 42MP is what it is at on the sony, so be it. The raw files by the way are slightly smaller than on the fuji X-T2 which is a bit strange and the rendering on Lightroom is noticeably faster.

Taken with the Nikon 105mm on the sony. I can see a beautiful transition from sharp to out of focus. Better than app-c here for me.

 

Where I stand to lose is on the size, weight and quality of the lenses. I now own the 35mm f2.8 and the 85mm f1.8 lenses. The 35mm is very compact and light. I bought it second-hand so it wasn’t too expensive. It lives on the camera body, it is a great lens, but if someone makes a compact. f1.8 or f2 lens, I’m on it straight away. Full frame is all about subject separation is it not ? The 85mm is sharp but has strange bokeh. In my mind the 56mm f/1.2 fuji lens is better quality. I think I could make a quick article on that later.

 

 

Weekly challenge: Waiting

I found out today that wordpress offers a weekly photo challenge here. This comes to me today as an idea for working on themes especially in street photography where inspiration comes sporadically.

These three photos come from my archives but I think I’ll try and give these challenges a go and try to publish at least one photo taken in the week.

Light and shadow
Fuji X100T @ 1/4000s + F/4 + ISO 200

This first photo was taken in London in the Canary Wharf area. I liked the contrast between the light of the sun and the shadows of the buildings around. I also liked the smiley bag. I took a first shot, the lady saw me so I went up to her to explain why I took the picture. She didn’t seem offended so I pushed my look and asked her if I could take another. I wasn’t sure the first one was framed properly because I took it so quickly. She accepted and you can see that she is smiling and relaxed.

Sitting around
X100T @ 1/640s + f/2.5 + ISO 200

This was taken in front of our local library. The dark box on the left hand side of the photo is a post box to return your books when the library is closed (which is most of the time in my opinion). I had the camera linked to my phone through the fuji app so this is a sneaky photo taken ninja style. The guy was looking peaceful and I thought the geometric lines would make a nice photo. When using the app, you have to stop to take the photo because there is quite a lag between pressing on the shutter in the app and the picture being taken. It is no good for moving subjects, they are out of the frame before the camera reacts… unless you can anticipate, which I’m trying to learn how to do.

Rest in the shade
Fuji XT-2 + XF90mmF2 @ 1/250s + f/2.8 + ISO 200

 

This third and last one is from Lumpini park in Bangkok (the one with the Komodo dragons). It was very hot that day and this lady was sitting in the shade. I love the shape on the table and benches with the lady making an asymmetrical composition.

The “waiting” theme is a great one for anybody starting out in street photography. Walk around any town, city or village and you will see plenty of people just hanging around. I often wonder what kind of life people I see in the streets live and that is what is great about street photography. When you go home and look and the photos you took, you can take the time to choose the best ones and erase the poor ones but when that is done, take the time to think about the people in the shots.

 

 

Willy Ronis : what I learned

Photo by Vercoquin on Flickr. (CC BY-NC 2.0)

I visited an exhibition featuring the work of Willy Ronis yesterday.  It is not the exhibition that is featured on the above but I didn’t’t anticipate needing photos for a blog post (I’ll do better next time!) Willy Ronis is a French photographer (1910-2009) whose main body of work was street and documentary photography in and around Paris but also in the south of France. He also did some nude photography. He joint the Rapho photography agency just before the second world war with Brassaï, Robert Doisneau and Ergy Landau. As a left wing sympathiser, he photographed the strikes in the Citroën factory and focused on everyday life for the working classes.

There are no reproductions of photos by Willy Ronis in this article because they are not free of rights. I took a couple of photos to give you an idea of what I saw.

Walking around the exhibition, there were several comments on the photos made by the artist concerning the manner the photo was taken or how it should be printed. These comments can give us some insight and inspiration for our own work. There were three commentaries I took notice of particularly. They were written in French so I’ll give you a quick translation.

“Rue laurence-savart Menilmontant, Paris. 1948”

Have a look at the largest photo.

“A glazier was walking slowly up Rue Laurence Savart , backlit in this winter afternoons sun. His voice had made me leave Rue du retrait where I was looking for a subject and I ran towards him. When a photographer has time in his hunt, he searches for the best place to wait for the unexpected. In the same way, it is necessary, when something appears suddenly to look around the environment quickly to integrate into the frame the  elements that will best enhance the subject. Here it was the reflection of the puddle on the pavement and the stream which balances with the sky and the glass our man was carrying. The print is relatively easy. Don’t over compensate the top to keep a dazzling effect”.

Can you imagine yourself changing pace when you spot a good subject to catch the light ?
Do you take the time to look around the edges of the viewfinder to incorporate or take away some elements of the scene. In some ways a traditional rangefinder has an advantage over the electronic viewfinder or reflex viewfinder because it allows the eye to see out of the frame. If the viewfinder is on the left hand side of the camera and not in the centre, you can take photos with your two eyes open. The fuji x-pro 2 enables this as do the x100 series and also the Leica cameras. On the other hand, the electronic viewfinder gives the exposure and an idea of the contrasts in the photo in real time.

An exercice for the next time I’m out: Use my eyes before using the viewfinder to include interesting elements.

“Place Vendôme, Paris. 1947”

“Place Vendôme, Paris, on a rainy day, probably in the first months of 1947. I was hanging around. Maybe I was coming home from Rapho, the offices were very close. I must have seen a lady striding over the puddle and noticed the reflection of the Colonne Vendôme. By luck it was lunch hour and a group of young girls were leaving their work in the sewing houses nearby. I took several photos of strides and this one is the best. It is a good example of a previsualised photo. For the print, it is useful to keep the upper parts of the street quite light and to darken the blacks of the clothes.”

There is a myth in street photography about the “decisive moment”, a term coined by the American editors of Henri Cartier-Bresson. The original term though is “Images à la sauvette” : “Images on the fly”.  Many people would think that the only way to make street photography is to be in the right place at the right time and press on the shutter in an instant. Obviously, many photographers have practiced this technique with great success.  Willy Ronis shows us that a “decisive moment” may not be unique. He saw the possibility of a photo when he saw the lady step over the puddle but did not walk away. Instead, he waited and found a way to turn the opportunity into a photo. Maybe he tried this method many times and he probably went home empty handed most of the time. His legacy shows what he achieved, not the failures.

An exercice for the next time I’m out:  Look out for the interactions between people and the environment. If something can happen once, it can happen again. Then I can take some time to find the best light and composition before waiting for something to happen.

“Le Béguinage à Bruges, 1951”

www.nwinspeare.com
Look at the photo on the left.
323277739_eb8b15531b_o
Copyright Vercoquin. Licence creative commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic.

“It was a grey morning and we were going to the Béguinage of Bruges (it is  house for members of a lay sisterhood). All of a sudden I heard a light and continuous crunching sound. I turned around and it was the sound of a company of Béguines going home after church. I ran. They weren’t far from their house and I wanted to keep some space in front of the group. I even had time to include a tree in the foreground on the left to balance the values and suggest different planes of depth. Needless to say this type of decision is made without thinking.”

Some photos taken with a 35mm or longer lens have a tendency to be flat. The subject appears but there is often little to give a sense of depth unless you are in an open space or looking down a street. The inclusion of an element in the foreground can help achieve this even if it is out of focus.

Parting comments.

Many of the photos I saw were not street photography per say. He took many photos on assignment for news magazines (Life, Regards…). He was also employed for commercial shoots. He also photographed his family in a documentary fashion. I have tried to highlight in this article some insights concerning the days Willy Ronis roamed the streets with his camera as many aspiring street photographers do. It seems important then to underline how many photos he must have taken on a daily basis.

Take-away point : Practice and train your eye. Take photos as often as possible. The cost is next to nothing with digital cameras nowadays but don’t shoot blind. Be aware of composition (The framing and the elements you choose to include or exclude), light and contrasts.

Willy Ronis started with a Rolleiflex (medium format) camera but changed for a rangefinder Foca. The reason he invokes in an interview I saw was that he didn’t want to change film every 12 frames. By the way, what we call “full frame”, the 24×36 sensor, Willy Ronis calls “small format”. (That is for the full frame snobs!). In 1980, he chose a Pentax reflex camera with a zoom. In his life he only used 3 cameras. How many photographers nowadays change camera regularly expecting their photography to improve.

Take-away point : Know your camera! Use the same camera and same lens as often as possible. In that way, the framing of a scene will become more automatic and you can change the necessary settings in the flash. The time you save knowing your camera will be time saved to use your eyes before pressing the shutter button.

Fuji vs Leica : a street photographers dream.

This is a short article to address the question of what camera to choose for street photography without taking cost into consideration. I own and have used fuji cameras for street photography (I currently have the x-pro 2) and I recently tried a couple of leica rangefinders : the M240 and the new M10.

Many would say the comparison is unfair or that these two cameras and completely different beasts in philosophy and in use. I now disagree with this since the salesman at the leica store in Paris gave me the same arguments to buy the leica as those I gave to myself to get the x-pro2. I’ll be going through these arguments.

Argument number 1: The Leica M10 is compact.

Yes, it is a feat of engineering to get some much into such a little package. Here is a view from the site camerasize.com . I have on the left the fujifilm x-pro2 with the 23mm f/2 lens attached. I bought this lens because of its comact size compared to the 23mm f/1.4. The package weighs 675g. On the right is the leica M10 with the summilux 35mm f/1.4 On this view it looks about the same size but in reality the leica looks smaller. It weighs more though at 980g. Compact but heavy! The is quite a lot of brass in the leica body whereas the fuji has an magnesium shell. The construction of the fuji is very good but the leica is like a brick.

compare_xpro2_m10

If you sacrifice the f/1.4 aperture to go for the summicron 35mm f/2, the size difference is greater still.

compare2_xpro2-m10

In conclusion for this part, for the same focal length and same maximum aperture, the leica is more compact. The explanation is twofold. First of all the leica lenses are manual focus so there are no motors or focusing mecanisms in leica lenses. This makes them thinner. Secondly, the sensor in the leica is deeply recessed into the body whereas it is closer to the lens in the fuji. This makes the lens designs shorter for the leicas. I’ll get into comparing the sensors later. Bear with me!

Argument number 2: You can change/check the settings without switching on the camera.

Here is the second reason I like fuji cameras. The lenses have aperture rings, there is a shutter speed dial and an iso dial. (This is new on the leica m10 compared to the previous digital models.) The fuji has a small advantage here with the exposure compensation dial being on top a verifiable. The leica has a wheel for the exposure compensation on the top right hand side of the back of the body, easily accessible with the thumb.

Argument number 3: The image quality is sensationnal.

Well I tested both cameras and I have to agree. The fuji images a great, I love the colours and the x-trans sensor gives very acceptable photos up to 12800 iso. The pictures that come out of the leica are better. Many would argue that the lenses are very special that there is some leica magic. I do not dispute this although I find it difficult to test. The fact of the matter is that leica puts a larger sensor in a smaller camera and with a lens that has a larger aperture, the difference can become huge. Just think of it : f/2 on the crop sensor x-pro2 gives more or less the same depth of field as f/3 on a full frame (that is just over 1 stop). With a summilux f/1.4 lens, that is another stop. Where it is difficult to get a good background blur on the fuji 23mm for a subject at 5-10 metres away, the leica can manage. Lets look!

Fujiflm x-pro 2 with 23mm f/2 at f/2 at 1/950s at ISO 200.

fuji-x-pro2-2017-02-24-13h06min46s

Leica M10 with summilux 35mm f/1.4 at f/1.4 and 1/500s. ISO 100

leica-m10-2017-01-21-18h37min21s-2

Notice the better subject separation in the second photo, what they call the 3D pop?

Question number 1 : What about focusing?

I have used a manual rangefinder camera twice in my life for a total of 30 minutes. I find it great fun but difficult to nail exact focus. The two previous photos were taken out of a shop window with people walking across the frame.

With the fuji, I frame first, place a focus square where I want the passer-by to be and then wait and shoot. The advantage is that the fuji x-pro2 focusing very fast and accurately. The difficulty is choosing the focus point correctly. Although the little joystick is fast and easy to use to move the focus point, in the heat of the action it is not fast enough. Here is a 100% crop:

fuji-crop100

With the leica, I focused on a spot of the pavement at a distance I estimated a person would walk through. Then I composed the photo and waited. The difficulty is choosing the right distance to focus. The advantage is that you can take to person wherever you like in the frame, the focus is already correct. Here is a 100% crop.

leica-crop100

The focus is not bad but not spot on. The photo was taken at 1/500s, plenty fast enough to freeze rhe action.

The question is : does precise focus matter? The more I take photos, the more I feel that focus and noise are not important. The main factors that make a photo are the composition and the subject. Depth of field comes into the composition, colours do too. How many photos from the masters of photography like Henri Cartier Bresson do not have the exacting focus digital cameras give us now? What do we get out of pixel peeping? I think that good focus is important, exact focus is not. But I’m not a professional photographer and I don’t do fashion.

Question number 2 : What else ?

The leica doesn’t do video, I don’t either. The lens frames in the viewfinder go from 28mm to 135mm. I like the 24mm lens for landscapes and I use the 50-140 f/2.8 zoom occasionally (for concerts and portraits for example).  The x-pro2 has extensive menus enabling Multi / Spot / Average / Center Weighted exposure control. It has an hybrid optical/electronic viewfinder, it has manual shutter up to 1/8000s and electronic shutter up to 1/32 000s which is great in bright light. It has dual SD slots, a very wide selection of focal lengths for the lenses you can mount with zoom lenses that leica does not provide. It is a complete package that works extremely well and provides the controls for a very varied number of situations. In street photography, I use a simple setup and few of these bells&whistles but I like keeping my options open.

The leica, although not a one-trick pony (you can mount a wide angle lens and use liveview), is an exercise in restrictions. But restrictions can be liberating can’t they? Is less more?

I tried out a summicron 50mm f/2 recently too and I’ll post a comparison with the fuji 35mm f/1.4. The results should be about the same shouldn’t they?

 

 

The Streets of London with the Fuji X100T.

The X100T is small lightweight camera with a fixed focal length of 23mm on an aps-c sized sensor. This is equivalent to the 35mm lens on a full frame camera. The same focal length Henri Cartier Bresson used… But he had a Leica and he was a better photographer…

This doesn’t stop me from trying so here are a few street photos. As usual, I use the electronic viewfinder most of the time and I set it in black and white. I prefer looking at a scene in black and white, I see the contrasts better.

Some indoor photos first. This is taken in the British museum. The camera goes to ISO 6400 with raw files so I’m pleased to now own the x-pro2 that goes to ISO 12800.

Lost in a museum
Fuji X100T @ 1/60s + f/2 + ISO 6400.

This one was taken inside the National Gallery. I enjoy having a small camera, it is discrete and nearly silent. No one gives me a second look, except for when I take a photo (sometimes).

Museum
Fuji X100T @ 1/125s + f/2 + ISO 5000.

A photo in a small pub south of the Thames. I focused on the lady who owns the place. You’d think we were 30 years ago. The place had cats everywhere.

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Fuji X100T @ 1/105s + f/2 + ISO 6400.

A French barber in Kingley Court off Carnaby street, London. Great guy!
http://www.hairgum.com/

Mr Ducktail
Fuji X100T @ 1/125s + f/2.8 + ISO 6400.

Now for some shots on the streets.
Who said telephone boxes were useless now?

Phone box
Fuji X100T @ 1/500s + f/2.8 + ISO 200.

This is Canary Wharf, I settled down in a corner, turned the exposure way down and waited for someone to appear.

Silhouettes
Fuji X100T @ 1/420s + f/5.6 + ISO 200.

Another example where I turned the exposure way down to get all the details in the highlights. The lady saw me the first time I took the photo so I went up to chat and she let me take a couple more. This is the last one I took. I like her smily bag.

Light and shadow
Fuji X100T @ 1/4000s + f/4 + ISO 200.

Still in Canary Wharf, it is lunch time and people are lining up at regular intervals along the pavement to eat, drink and phone.

Luch break
Fuji X100T @ 1/1600s + f/4 + ISO 200.
Important call.
Fuji X100T @ 1/850s + f/4 + ISO 200.

Phones are everywhere but times will change and one day these photos will look very dated.

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Fuji X100T @ 1/50s + f/8 + ISO 200.

The old shell game is still a popular scam on Tower Bridge. Photographers are not welcome. Discretion is a necessity to grab a photo.

Shell game
Fuji X100T @ 1/550s + f/4 + ISO 200.

All in all I really enjoyed using the X100T, but the x-pro2 with the 23mm f/2 lens is faster and more accurate to focus while remaining discrete and quiet.

 

Faces of … Rajasthan

I was lucky enough to visit Rajasthan in India last year for just under two weeks with my family. We toured the state of Rajastjan flying from Delhi to Jodphur, then visiting Ranakpur, Jaipur, Udaipur, Deogarh and Pushkar, then Fatehpur Sikri and Agra. I took my fuji x-t1 with the 23mm f/1.4, the 56mm f/1.2 and the 50-140 f/2.8 lenses. Along the way we met a great number of friendly people. Speaking English is a bonus in India as most of the population also speaks English and therefore it is pleasant to chat and learn about the local culture and customs. I took a series of portraits with the 56mm (equivalent to 85mm in full frame terms), all of which were taken with permission.

The first set of portraits is of nomads camping outside our hotel in Udaipur. They don’t speak English, having never been to school. The words they know are like “toothpaste”, “comb”, “razor” and so on, items that are complimentary in hotels. Needless to say, I raided all I could from the hotel and gave it to them. I exchanged these gifts for a portrait of the mother who was cooking breakfast. The children who were playing followed me around for a little afterwards and let me take their picture too.

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Fuji x-t1 with 56mm f/1.2 @ 1/60s + f/4 + iso 500
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Fuji x-t1 with 56mm f/1.2 @ 1/200s + f/4 + iso 400
Nomad boy.
Fuji x-t1 with 56mm f/1.2 @ 1/600s + f/1.2 + iso 200
Street portrait... kids at play.
Fuji x-t1 with 56mm f/1.2 @ 1/800s + f/1.2 + iso 400

This young man is a student dressed in uniform. We met the whole class as we were walking to a park. The light was good in the shaded alleyway and I could have taken photos of every student there, they were all so friendly.

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Fuji x-t1 with 56mm f/1.2 @ 1/450s + f/2.8 + iso 400

This photo was taken during a procession in the street. A young crowd was following a van carrying a statue of Ganesh and blaring out music and the people were following, dancing and enjoying themselves. They were covered with coloured powder. Our visit took place a week before Diwali at we saw a few of these processions during our stay. This is not the only photo I have taken in the procession but it is my favourite.

Celebrations
Fuji x-t1 with 56mm f/1.2 @ 1/125s + f/2.8 + iso 200

The next few portraits were taken at the Om Banna shrine near Jodphur. It is a temple dedicated to Om Singh Rathmore, a motorcycliste who was killed by the roadside in 1988. Apparently, the motorbike disappeared from the police station and was found back at the site of the accident several times. This was taken to be a miracle and a shrine to the deity of motorbikes was built. When we visited, it was busy and the people were friendly. The motorbike is still there in a glass cage and people offer incense, flowers and pray.

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Fuji x-t1 with 56mm f/1.2 @ 1/680s + f/2 + iso 400
Portrait from Rajasthan (IV)
Fuji x-t1 with 56mm f/1.2 @ 1/1250s + f/2 + iso 400
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Fuji x-t1 with 56mm f/1.2 @ 1/1000s + f/2.8 + iso 400
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Fuji x-t1 with 56mm f/1.2 @ 1/1000s + f/2 + iso 400
Portrait from Rajasthan (III)
Fuji x-t1 with 56mm f/1.2 @ 1/1700s + f/2 + iso 200

The next photo is a guard at the city palace in Udaipur. As I gather, his earring means he is of the cast of warriors, the Kshatriyas. Although I am not sure of this, he was friendly enough to let me take a portrait!

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Fuji x-t1 with 56mm f/1.2 @ 1/160s + f/2.2 + iso 320

This is a sikh, recognisable by the shape of his turban. He is called Lucky and was our driver during our trip. A lot of drivers for tourists are sikhs he told me. He was skillful anyway, negociating the Indian roads in a way I would never have been able to. Driving is chaotic in India!

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Fuji x-t1 with 56mm f/1.2 @ 1/600s + f/2 + iso 400

This is a guard at the Taj Mahal. We were there very early in the morning after a huge downpour. The place was quiet, there were few visitors and the light was magnificent.

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Fuji x-t1 with 56mm f/1.2 @ 1/1250s + f/2 + iso 400

This young lady is a guard at  Ambe fort in Jaipur. She was sitting in the corner of a huge (and I mean huge) courtyard, looking very bored. I went up to her and we chatted a bit. I found it easy in India to talk to all sorts of people, men and women alike. In some countries religious codes and pressires make it less easy to approach women. I’m not saying there a equal rights and that life for all women is easy but as a tourist, I felt there were no barriers.

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Fuji x-t1 with 56mm f/1.2 @ 1/1250s + f/1.2 + iso 200

This is a dromadary rider at Pushkar. He lives by selling rides to tourists on the outskirts of the town. We were there near sunset and had a lovely ride in the dunes and sands.

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Fuji x-t1 with 56mm f/1.2 @ 1/60s + f/2.8 + iso 400

Also in Pushkar, this is a worshipper of Vishnu. He is a Sadhu, having renounced earthly possessions to follow an ascetic life. The photo was taken without exchanging a word, just by an exchange of nods.

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Fuji x-t1 with 56mm f/1.2 @ 1/5800s + f/2 + iso 400

I am an adept of getting up early when I am travelling and going out the walk the streets. I met this young man, sitting on his motorbike. He was genuinly surprised and I think a bit flattered when I asked if I could take his photo. You can see the morning light on his face, an added bonus to the picture.

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Fuji x-t1 with 56mm f/1.2 @ 1/680s + f/1.2 + iso 400

Some thoughts about the lens i used :

  • Although it opens at f/1.2, this aperture is retrospectively too large for close up portraits like these. If there is no background to speak of then f/4 is the way to go. Otherwise, f/2.8 gives enough depth of field and gives a better chance for the eyes to be in focus.
  • Focusing is not very fast on the x-t1. For posed portraits it is plenty fast enough but don’t expect to snap off a portrait with a moving subject. From a further distance focus is less critical and it is possible to take moving subjects.
  • The colours the lens gives are great.
  • Sharpness when the focus is successful is fabulous.
  • I never used face detection, not reliable enough on the x-t1. I used a smallish focus point on the eye.

The x-t2 and x-pro 2 promise greater speed and precision with the focus. I may find out one day!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 35mm in street photography Part 2

The 35mm point of view is very good at capturing people in their environment. In this case I was quite close to the newspaper kiosk but still managed to get some of the magasines. This photo was taken in Madrid.

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Fuji X100T @ 1/125s + f/2.5 + ISO 1000

Light and shadow always make an interesting feature. The lady was holding her smiley bag and waiting for someone/something. I took a first photo and as she noticed me and looked at me, I went up to her and explained what I was doing. I told her I wanted to capture the light and showed her the photo on the back of my camera. She said it was nice so I asked her if I could take another shot with her looking at the camera. She accepted and this is the second shot. The photo was taken in London.

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Fuji X100T @ 1/4000s + f/4 + ISO 200

This is a picture of a metro station in Paris. I am the other side of the tracks from the bench. The station was empty and I took the time to kneel down and frame through the viewfinder. Sometimes when I’m in a hurry or when some people are looking at me, I have a tendancy to shoot from the hip looking down at the screen. Good framing is paramount and I remind myself to use the viewfinder as much as possible!

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Fuji X100T @ 1/30s + f/2.8 + ISO 1250

This is a scene from my home town, taken quite close up. In some situations I use the Fujifilm iphone app to connect to the camera. In this case I was holding my camera in my hand, loosely down at my waist while framing and shooting through the app… ninja style!

Taking the sun
Fuji X100T @ 1/210s + f/4 + iso 200

This is another photo taken in London. The man was oblivious to my presence so I took the time to kneel down and frame carefully. I think that shots taken at the right height are often so much better.

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Fuji X100T @ 1/240s + f/2.8 + ISO 200

This was a quick spontaneous shot taken while walking along a street in Canary Wharf (London). The alignment of office workers at lunchtime caught my attention. I was noticed but not questioned by the man in the foreground.

Luch break
Fuji X100T @ 1/1600s + f/4 + ISO 200

This is Canary Wharf again. The archways make a good place for light and shadows. As no-one was around, I knelt down and framed the arches waiting for someone to appear. This is the hunting style of street photography : find a place and wait for something to happen. I took several photos as people came through the scene. This one shows best the play between the light and the shadows.

Silhouettes
Fuji X100T @ 1/420s + f/5.5 + ISO 200

This lady is in the Picasso museum in Paris. The place was full of tourists and visitors. I chanced upon the scene with this lady checking her make-up. I took a photo straight away with other people in the shot and then stayed in the same place waiting. Luckily I caught a fraction of a second where no-one was visible and took this shot. It has happened so many times that the subject moves away while I am waiting. On this occasion, I was lucky.

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Fuji X100T @ 1/60s + f/2 + ISO 800

The 35mm in street photography.

The 35mm lens (23mm on apps-c and 17mm on micro four thirds) is the most used focal length for confirmed street photographers. The other popular lenses are the 50mm that has been used for decades and the 28mm. For information on the 50mm focal length, click here and here.

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Fuji X100T @ 1/210s + f/3.2 + ISO 200

After lauding the qualities of the 50mm focal length, why am I now saying that the 35mm is better? Well, I’m not saying it is better, nor that you should ditch your new 50mm! There are certain qualities to the 35mm lens that you should take into consideration.

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Fuji X100T @ 1/350s + f/2.8 + ISO 200

First off, 35mm are more difficult to make so they are more expensive. More often than not, a photographer will start out with a nifty fifty and I stand by the idea that it is a great lens whether you are a beginner or a confirmed photographer.

Elderly lady
Olympus omd-em5 + 17mm f/1.8 @ 1/320s + f/2.5 + ISO 200

The 35mm lens is wider than the 50mm so to capture the same scene, you need to get closer. Frank Capa famously said : “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.”. He is telling us to get closer, and that is intimidating to a lot of us. The fact of the matter is that if you a close to your subject, the photograph will have a more dynamic quality. The viewer will get the impression that he is in the scene. This focal length sucks us into the scene.

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Fuji X100T @ 1/125s + f/2.5 + ISO 1000

In in more crowded areas it is often difficult to get far enough away from a subject to capture it. I’m talking about crowded streets, buses, metros. You may find that a 50mm is too long and it is not always possible to move backwards. To remain discrete in the streets, your movements must be natural. Moving forwards is natural, stepping backwards is not and you will attract attention. If you notice someone you want a photo of, pick up some courage, take a few steps towards them, raise you camera and take the picture. You’ll be surprised how often the person won’t even notice or be bothered about it. If you are shy, don’t make eye contact and move away fast. If someone challenges you, say hello and explain what you are doing. If the person is offended then offer to erase the photo. Don’t get into an argument for a picture, it is not worth it and it is important to respect other people’s wishes.

Dancing in the rain
Fuji X100T @ 1/125s + f/4 + iso 400

The wider angle of a 35mm lens enables you to capture quite a lot of background. That means buildings and also other people. You’d be surprised how this enriches a photo it carries much more information.  I’m persuaded that this gives your photography a timeless quality. People will always be people but buildings and streets change over time. When looking at old street photos, I often look around at the background and wonder at how our urban environment has changed over the years. This is also true for clothes and style too.

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Fuji x100T @ 1/1000s + f/2.5 + iso 200

The wider angle gives a perspective distortion that you can use to good effect. A close up portrait with a 35mm might not always be flattering (with a bit of care you can still get a good portrait) but for pets it can be amusing.

Cute!
Olympus omd-em5 with 17mm f/1.8 @ 1/80s + f/2.8 + iso 200