Eric G. Rose – Where It's At

Camera Review

Pixel Peeping is a WASTE of time!

by on Mar.12, 2014, under Camera Review, Cameras, Digital, Location, Photographers, Travel

COSMOS-FOX

A scene from the Fox show Cosmos, copyright Fox

Your always humble struggling artist/photographer/blogger has had an epiphany!  Indeed the cosmos aligned even without the help of Seth MacFarlane and his new Cosmos series.  What pray tell has ripped the blinders away from my clouded eyes?

Pixel peeping is a waste of time.  There it is, I said it.

What do most of us do when we test out a new camera or lens?  We take a shot and then zoom into 100 percent magnification to see if it is sharp enough.  I’ve done my fair share of pixel peeping myself.

Nikon Nikkormat FTN - Eric G. Rose Photography - BlogLet’s back up a bit and look at history and how things have changed.  In the old days if you shot Kodachrome 25 with a Nikkormat FTN or an F5 using the same lens, the image will look identical.  The only thing different between the cameras was their feature set.  The same could be said in broader terms between a Nikon F2 and a Canon F1 using their respective 50mm f2 prime lenses.  Again feature sets and “religion” were the only differences, not image quality.  What little differences they did exhibit could be fixed today in PS.

For the most part all of the major manufacturers made very high quality lenses with very minor optical differences.  Most system choices were made due to features and system depth if that was important to you.  Any pro worth his salt could make a decent living using Nikon, Canon, and  Pentax.  The choices were more limited in medium format, but again each of the major players made very good cameras and lenses.  Features, reliability and system depth were the main deciding factors.

4 bit Convertor - Eric G. Rose Photography - BlogWhen did all this pixel peeping or bit crawling start.  I suggest it started with the advent of CD’s.  The first CD players used very crude codecs.  Those that considered themselves audiophiles cried and bemoaned the butchering of their favorite  LP’s.  All that “air” and spatial quality was missing not to mention how sharp and peaky the sound became when played through the leading CD players of the time.  A crop of “digital” speakers were flogged to the masses.  Sound familiar?  A new lexicon had to be added to the audiophiles repertoire; bit encoding.  How many samplings were made per second.  The higher the bit rate the more accurate the reproduction, or so it would seem.  The study of and the acquisition of the best analog to digital, back to analog, converters was now necessary.

We had been sensitized to the axiom that more bits are better.    That philosophy was embraced by the camera manufacturers to ensure consumers would be set on a pixel treadmill.  So now pixels counted the most with camera features becoming secondary.

Kodak DC290 - Eric Rose Photography - BlogMy first digital camera was a Kodak DC290.  This camera boasted 2.9 mega pixels.  This yielded an image 31 inches by 20 inches approximately (according to the Kodak data sheet).  I made plenty of 8×10’s from the DC290 and was pleased with the results.  The prints from the DC290 were not as good as an optical print from a good 35mm negative, but acceptable.  Numerous images were also used in corporate websites.   Next I blew through several Nikon and Canon P&S’s.  Digital cameras to me were still toys.  The real work had to be done with my film cameras.

Pixel count was ever increasing but the features were still limited.  My first semi-pro DSLR was the Nikon D70s (6 mega pixels).  I have made 11×14 inch prints from this cameras that are stunning and equal anything I could do with my 35mm negatives.  I have never tried to do 16×20’s from the D70s only due to a lack of demand.  The feature set was more to my liking than comparable pixel count P&S’s.  The ability to use my legacy Nikkor lenses sealed the deal.  I was now firmly in the digital camp.  The Kreonite went into the trash bin.  The size of the sensor now became important.  A 6 mega pixel APS-C sensor will out perform a 6 mega pixel finger nail sized sensor in a P&S.

Nikon D700 - Eric G. Rose Photography - BlogI would still be using the D70s if it were not for a row of dead pixels.  They don’t always disappear, but for my professional work it just was not acceptable.  Yes I could fix it in PS but the time overhead was too costly.  I replaced the D70s with a D700.  Wonderful camera, does everything I want it to and it replaced my Hasselblad.  I could now make prints up to 20×30 if I needed to.  Actually bigger if I really needed to but that’s not my market.

I recently bought a Panasonic GX1 from Frank Petronio.  It’s 16 mega pixels which is 4 more than my D700.  They tell me the technology has improved since the D700 was introduced and I should not see a huge difference between the two cameras under ideal conditions.  Micro 4/3rd’s is the new holy grail.

Well you can guess what was the first thing I did once I got the GX1.  I shot side by side images, GX1-vs-D700 and pixel peeped.  I tried all kinds of things, using the ultra sharp Panasonic 20mm f1.7 lens compared to the Nikkor H-C 50mm f2, putting the Nikkor H-C 50mm lens on the Panasonic etc etc.  In all cases the D700 won.  Not a big surprise as far as I was concerned.  Size does matter when it comes to sensors.

Panasonic GX1 - Eric G. Rose Photography - BlogThen I had a thought.  One of those hit your forehead in the middle of the night kind of thoughts.  Really the only thing that matters is what a print looks like.  I scaled the images to be identical looking and then sized them for 11×14 prints.  Guess what?  Both prints looked outstanding.  Only the kind of people who pick things apart to an absurd level on photograph forums could tell the difference in the prints.  The GX1 doesn’t have the DR (dynamic range) the D700 has but this can be fixed in PS for 95% of what I will be shooting.  Check out George Barr’s excellent blog posting on dealing with high key situations.

Another thing the micro 4/3rd’s cameras don’t have is durability.  I fell off a cliff last weekend and my D700 hit a rock ledge pretty hard.  If suffered a few dents but beyond that the camera and lens functioned perfectly.  If the same thing happened to my GX1 I am sure I would have been picking up pieces.  Same goes for the new Sony A7R.  Again if I were doing something rough the minute difference in image quality between the D700 and the new full frame Sony A7R would not influence my decision.  The tougher D700 would get packed.  If I were going on a cruise, the Sony A7R would get packed.

I am going on a trip to Germany and Santorini in a few months.  I almost left the GX1 at home due to pixel peeping.  Glad I re-evaluated what really mattered, the final output, the print.

I feel we have come full circle.  Camera choices today should primarily be made based on features (important to you), system depth and durability.  For the most part you will not be able to tell the difference in prints made from micro 4/3rd’s, full frame and APS-C type sensors if printed by a skilled craftsman up to 20×30 inches.  The responsibility of proper exposure rests upon the photographer as it always has.  Digital sensors are just as fussy to over/under exposure as were transparency films of bygone days.

We can now spend more time putting the craft back into photography and less time pixel peeping.  Sensors have matured to a level where we should not waste a lot of time comparing one against the other.  At the end of the day whatever difference you “think” you perceive does not amount to a hill of beans once you print your image.  Check out the blog posting by Ctein on The Online Photographer.  Ctein is a master printer and has made prints from non-FX sensor cameras that would blow your mind.  It can be done.  There is no hiding sloppy craftsmanship behind sensor size anymore.  The one thing that cripples your FX camera is not using a tripod.  It does make a difference, even at higher shutter speeds.  That and cheap filters.  Don’t get me going!!

Will I take the GX1 on pro jobs?  You bet I will.  Will it do everything, no, but neither will the D700.  The trick is to use the right tool for the job.  Measure twice, cut once.  Put the craft back into photography!

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Balance

by on Jun.20, 2013, under Camera Review, Cameras, Digital, Family, Life is Good, Location

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This is a shot of my grandson doing what I did and probably any youth has done at his age, “walk the line”.  Growing up I lived very close to railroad tracks.  The “gang” and I would spend endless hours walking what we thought was miles on railroad tracks.  Shades of “Stand by Me”, a great movie.  Unfortunately we never found a body.  Or rather fortunately we never found a body.

About the most exciting thing that ever happened was a flasher jumping out wiggling his wiggler.  The two gals I was with, Val and Donna noticed him before I did.  Their fits of laughter alerted me to this pathetic guy.  Naturally we had to whip this up into a near death experience by the time we got home.

The gang was a close knit bunch of guys who all grew up together on our block.  Neil, Ian, Tim, Keith, Andy, Gord and myself made up this highly trained cadre of cowboys, army grunts, super heroes, explorers and whatever else it was we were pretending to be at the time.  Once we hit Grade 7, Junior High in this neck of the woods, we discovered girls.  So much for the close knit buddies, it was ever man for himself.

The day I took this photograph (yes TOOK it, not MADE it) I had ready to go my Nikon D700, Leica M3 and M5 and  a Panasonic LX-5.  The Panasonic won out.  I am totally amazed at the image quality this camera outputs.  The Leica optics are razor sharp and contrasty.  Dynamic range is tremendous giving me the ability to convert some images to Black and White.  I’m not all that fussy about colour imagery beyond accurate colour reproduction.  I am use to Kodachrome and it’s limited applications however when it comes to Black and White it better be good or it hits the for sale sites.

P1010622_crop_blog

It’s hard to show you the detail and excellent tonal range in this image.  It seems whatever algorithm WordPress uses really messes things up.  In the original image you can see every single eyelash and the background which was at least 7 stops darker than the foreground has plenty of rich luminous detail.

If you are looking for a very pocketable P&S I highly recommend the Panasonic LX-5.  I hear the LX-7 is even better.  I got my LX-5 new for $250 just before the LX-7 came out.  Frankly I was quite prepared to hate this camera.  I had already burned through Nikon, Canon, and Olympus P&S’s.  Image quality was dismal and most exhibited large amounts of chromatic nastiness.  My wife’s Canon G11 is a decent camera but way to heavy to carry in your pocket.  Check out what dpreview had to say about the LX-5 when it first was announced by clicking here.

So when I next decide to “walk the line” I will have my trusty Panasonic LX-5 in my pocket and adventure in my heart.

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Mother and Child

by on Dec.27, 2012, under Camera Review, Cameras, Darkroom, Film, Location, Scanning, Travel, website

coos_bay002_web

Mother and Child

This Christmas I gave my wife a 40 x 24 print of the above photograph.  I made this image probably six years ago at Coos Bay, Oregon.  As soon as I saw these two geologic manifestations it looked to me like a mother and baby wrapped up papoose style.  It also symbolized to me the rock solid connection a mother has with her child.  Sometimes those children do not survive, or vice versa.  In any event this mother-child bond is “cemented” in all time.  Once both are returned to our maker reunions can be made.

geronar

Rodenstock Geronar 210mm

At the time my favorite large format colour negative film was Kodak’s Portra 160.  It was as close to the venerable Kodak VPS as I could find.  The tonal range of Portra 160 and even 400 is outstanding.  Colours are very neutral and images crystal sharp, but don’t take my word for it, check out the great review at Shutterfinger.  The above image was made using a Linhof Tecknika IV (see pic below) and a Rodenstock Geronar 210mm lens.  As is always the case a lenshade was used even though it was an overcast day.

The Geronar lens has unfortunately suffered a bad rap from the lens queens.  I love the image signature of the Geronars.  While not technically a Tessar design they exhibit a lot of the same 3D characteristics when used wide open.  Colour rendition is accurate and they don’t suffer from flare.  Another bonus is that they are small and light weight, great for backpacking and travelling.  I have used the 150, 210 and 300mm versions of the Geronar lineup. Quite frankly I cannot pick out prints made from these as opposed to my more expensive large format lenses, especially once the lens is stopped down to f11 or greater.  Currently I only have the 300mm version of the Geronar but am on the lookout for a good 210mm.

What many people don’t understand when it comes to print sharpness is that a sturdy, heavy tripod is essential to reduce vibration.  I cannot count the number of times I have seen people spend huge amounts of money on lenses for their large format cameras only to cheap out on the tripod.  When they produce slightly fuzzy photographs they lament they must have gotten a mis-aligned lens.

Not having the ability to produce 40 inch colour prints in my darkroom I was forced to scan my negative.  Having recently purchased an Epson 750 Pro from George Barr I scanned my negative at 3200 dpi, processed in PhotoShop, upsized and saved as a jpg – 300 dpi.  A very small amount of sharpening was applied in PhotoShop.  The file was ftp’d to a local professional printing service for output.  So far I have scanned both medium and large format negatives with the Epson.  Results have been stellar!   My Nikon 35mm scanner recently packed it in so I am hoping the Epson will do a good job on those negatives as well.  I will keep you posted.

I hope to get back to Coos Bay again having been there three times already.  It’s one of those magical places.  Please check out my website for more Coos Bay photographs.  I have images in both the colour and black/white galleries of Coos Bay and area.  Most of the colour images were taken with a digital camera.

600px-Linhof_img_1876 photo by Rama

The venerable Linhof Technika IV. Mine is not as pretty as this one.

 

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Camera Review – Olympus 35RD

by on Feb.28, 2012, under Camera Review, Cameras, Film, Scanning

Yesterday I saw an announcement for Nokia’s latest cellphone.  What makes this important to me was the claim it sported a 41 megapixel camera.  Should be interesting to see just what the image quality will be.  Being the contrarian that I am, I have decided to do an in depth review of a 64 megapixel pocketable point and shoot camera, sans phone.  This little modern wonder is the Olympus 35RD, produced in the 1970’s.  To get 64 megapixels requires one further step, you must scan the 35mm film it uses.  I found this little beauty in an antique store here in Calgary.  It was just sitting there looking very lonely and forlorn so I just had to buy it and take it home. Cost me all of $10.  Yes my parents had problems with me bringing home puppies and kittens too.

Front view Olympus 35RC - Reviewed by Eric Rose Fine Art PhotographyOnce home I fished out a roll of 35mm Fuji color negative film from the refrigerator and loaded this baby up.  The meter proved to be operational but the battery was leaking so I replaced it.  The shutter sounded good, no oil on the aperture blades and the foam seal around the back door looked soft and light tight.  Time to put it through it’s paces.

I am use to rangefinders as I have both a Leica M3 and M5 so focusing this camera was not a problem.  The patch could have been a little brighter but it sure beats the focusing patch in my Olympus XA.  The XA seems to have a cult following but it certainly does not have anything over this camera.

The features I immediately recognized as nifty were the flash settings.  On the main aperture rotating ring there is a green thunderbolt.  If you are using a fully manual flash set the camera to this setting.  Then look under the lens and you will see a little tab where you can set the Guide Number (GN) of your flash.  From then on just focus and the camera will set the proper aperture (f-stop).  Heck we had to wait until the mid 2000’s to get this kind of functionality on digital SLR’s!  Another feature I appreciate is the ability to meter through filters that are added to the taking lens.  Many small rangefinders have the light sensor on the body rather than in the lenses light path.  If this is the case in my opinion it renders the camera useless.  For those of us that love to take manual control of a camera this little baby allows us that freedom as well.   Just move the aperture ring off of A for automatic, set your shutter speed and the camera’s meter will suggest the f-stop you should use.  Makes it easy to bias your exposures plus or minus for tricky lighting conditions.

The lens on the Olympus 35RD is a razor sharp 42mm f1.7.  Something or a rarity these days.  Fast lenses are not being produced by point and shootTop view Olympus 35RC - Reviewed by Eric Rose Fine Art Photography manufacturers due to cost and the new digital sensors being able to shoot in low light with ever better performance.  However I like the ability to use fast lenses for their wide open shallow depth of field look.  Something that is impossible to get with the newer cameras unless you spend mega bucks.  Many have said that the only way you can tell the difference between images taken with this lens and a Leica 35mm f 1.4 ASPH Summilux-M is through a microscope.

The proof is in the pudding so to speak.  My usual method of testing any camera or lens is to take a bunch of real world photographs that will highlight any strengths or weaknesses of the test equipment.  I am not really all that interested in laboratory measurements and voodoo speak.  My main test criteria is for a camera and lens to be able to handle low contrast, high contrast, straight lines, edge to edge sharpness, focus accuracy and exposure accuracy.  Ergonomics, sound and just general vibe are also important.  One thing I must say is that this camera is so quiet sometimes I couldn’t tell if it actually took the picture.  If this is something that is important to you then definitely seek out one of these little gems.

On the downside I found it hard to focus with my glasses on.  It was possible, but worked better if I took my glasses off.  I didn’t have to worry about scratching my $1200 pair of specks as the viewfinder has a plastic guard around it.  Hey Leica, learn something.  Maybe the later Leica’s have plastic guards now but my M3 and M5 sure don’t.

The following photographs are scans of drug store 4×6 prints.  No Photoshop wizardry  has been added beyond making them look like the original prints.  You can see for yourself that this camera performs very well.  The detail in the shadows was exceptional while not blowing out the bright areas.  The glint on the bright silver tubing on the chairs was well controlled with nice little stars.  The camera’s meter handled complex meter situations well too.   You can also see in the shot of the fence that there is no perceivable distortion or fuzziness at the edges.  Most shots were taken between f8 and f16.

This camera really has a “vibe” factor of 4 out of  5.  The Olympus XA has a full house 5 but it harder to use and the image fall off in the corners is bothersome unless that is the look you are going for.  This little camera will find a place in my computer bag for daily film shooting.  Those poor Leica’s are going to whine and moan I know it.

Sharpness test Olympus 35RC - Reviewed by Eric Rose Fine Art Photography

close focus test Olympus 35RC - Reviewed by Eric Rose Fine Art Photography

bright highlights test Olympus 35RC - Reviewed by Eric Rose Fine Art Photography

extreme exposure range test Olympus 35RC - Reviewed by Eric Rose Fine Art Photography

low contrast test Olympus 35RC - Reviewed by Eric Rose Fine Art Photography

 

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