Fathers Club

Certain times of the year evolve to include aspects of introspective thought. Personally, I believe this transition occurs as individuals realize they likely have more years behind them than ahead. For most people this period of introspectiveness occurs on their birthday. However, every Father’s Day is my time to reflect on the past and decide if minor course corrections are required.

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First Thoughts – Nikon 1 V1

First things first – I don’t exactly do gear reviews.  There are obviously much better sources for reviews out there than this tiny, little blog.  Additionally, the cameras that generally interest me are rarely the high-end systems with serious drool factor that will pull in lots of page hits.  I don’t care to pixel peep, more often than not I do not want clinically sharp images corner to corner, and I do not shoot video with my SLR – that’s just me.

With that being said, bit on my camera philosophy is in order.  I prefer the right tool for the right job so consequentially I have a lot of tools, everything from compacts to geared view cameras.  A few years back a typical photo outing would require a serious Tenba backpack with all the goodies for very specific needs.  It wasn’t too long ago I abandoned the more gear philosophy – which is part of another article I’m writing on Gear Acquisition Syndrome – but in terms what works better for me, my kit is now ridiculously simple. When traveling I now carry a very compact kit comprised of a Leica M2 and a flexible compact digital.  For everyday use I have a small messenger bag which holds a compact camera and a few other day-to-day items.  My current compact, a G12, has grown a little old so I began looking for a replacement.

In a prior post I provided my thoughts on the Canon EOS-M announcement and expanded upon a few of my requirements.  I have been a loyal Canon guy for a number of years.  My previous compact was a G12 which traveled the world with me and took some amazing photos.  Amazing? Impossible is what many say.  Yet, the images did win judged awards and displayed in exhibitions for whatever that might be worth.  Around Thanksgiving Steve Huff enlightened me on a B&H Photo year-end sale on the Nikon 1 V1.  A kit that originally sold for ~ $900 USD could be picked up for ~$400 USD, even less depending on the kit selection.  The G15 replacement for my G12 would cost a bit more so I thought I would give it a shot knowing I could return the V1 and opt for the known & “safe bet” of the G15 if things did not work out.

I like things to have some heft.  My M2 is not light, nor is my 503CW.  Heck, I cannot stand ultra-light hockey sticks.  The Nikon 1 V1 is a chunk, roughly 1/2 a pound more than the G12 – which does not sound like much but you can tell the difference.  The kit I ordered came with the 10-30mm VR zoom and 10mm pancake lenses (2.7 crop factor).  Whereas the Sony RX100 only allows you to charge with through the camera, the Nikon came with (what should be in my mind) a standard external charger.  Added bonus is ability to swap out the AC adapter plug for a longer charging cable OR country-specific plugs.  This last part is a very nice to have for travellers.

A few points about camera operation before I wrap this up.  The Autofocus is fast, very fast.  Because I prefer small cameras that I can take anywhere, I had the Nikon 1 at a minor league hockey game.  The AF tracked players perfectly and the high FPS allowed for indoor action shoots I did not expect.  Not a fan of menu-based exposure compensation but the metering so far has been very accurate resulting in little need for compensation.  For concert venues the bag checking anti-camera security folk have, so far, just waved me right in.  This is my first camera with an electronic viewfinder, and was honestly my main concern (see EOS-M Opinion below).  I will say the operation is acceptable, in low light the refresh does not drop to a motion-sickness inducing crawl.  However, I have prescription polarized sunglasses and the viewfinder does not work well in that situation.  Depending on camera orientation the EVF is either blotchy or dark.  My M2’s viewfinder is rimmed with metal, and I’m used to kicking up my sunglasses to avoid scratches but this could be a problem for a lot of people.  Your mileage may vary.  Finally, the aspect ratio is 3:2 vs 4:3 typically seen on compacts.  Some people think this is a big deal (it is not) and a 4:3 image is automatically discounted as not a “serious image” regardless of compositional structure and subject merit.  So if you found yourself forcing 3:2 images out of a 4:3 native body at either a resolution or workflow penalty, rejoice.

I know this camera received some very harsh reviews from the experts, and that’s fine, but so far the Nikon 1 V1 is meeting my specific needs very, very well.  When compared to the blow-out price, which I think is still going, it’s an amazing deal.  After I wrap up my Gear Acquisition article I will post a bit more about image quality of this camera.

v1

OoF Structure (10mm pancake)

v1 dRangeBasic DR Test

Photo Piracy – Theft of My Food

Something has been bothering me for a while – it’s something that happened to me over the course of a few years – and I finally sat down to write about: Photo Theft.  Whenever Facebook, or Instagram, or [social media site] changes its online agreements the wrath of users are quick to follow.

However, most people who are quick to respond to changes do not seem to either a) know or b) care that, chances are, their photographs are being stolen and used by others for their own promotion.  I guess you can chalk this up to the “openness” of the Internet.  Ok, I’ll buy that with the random mom-turn-blogger discussing food and grabbing any number of food (aka “Look What I’m Eating”) pictures from social sites.

Having said that, creative people – the ones doing the stealing – KNOW right from wrong.  Photographers should not have to plaster fuggly Watermarks on our work, in locations that make it difficult to remove / crop and generally destroy the emotion, subject, or message of the image.  I sat down to pen a lengthy dissertation on how photographers can take steps to protect themselves when I discovered Peter Zack over at Enticing The Light already did a wonderful job of this.

Take notice – wedding photographers appear to be the hardest hit, probably because that’s where the money mostly resides.  Luckily I do not do weddings, do not need the hassle.  Yet, people will be surprised at what mundane or average work will be heisted for other purposes such as banners, advertising, etc.

My short story – I found a number of my images used by travel sites, restaurant promotions, and blogs.  Thankfully, I was informed of this common approach – An honest company was referred to my Flickr page for “source material”, and this company asked if they could use my work.  Now, I’m not saying my work is fantastic, that’s not the point – and actually the request was something I shot while just playing around with a new strobe – from my perspective the image had no commercial value and not something *I* would have thought sellable (I’ll save that thought for another entry).  After that correspondence, I began scouring the Internet and requesting removal of my images.  Starting with the company who informed others of my “source material”.

Subsequently, I pulled most of my work – for a while – and now only adding a few images back to social sites.  For clients I simply hosted the images on my own domain and removed once reviewed and approved.  But lets face it, that is no bueno.  I like for my work to be seen and critiqued if only by my circle of friends.

For an easily scrollable idea of how bad this is, please check out this Wall of Shame over at Tumblr.

Zeiss: Customer Service Excellence

From my days of using Hasselblads with various lenses, I am accustomed to Zeiss lenses having a bit of stiffness when focusing.  When I decided to dabble in Leica bodies I opted for a Zeiss Biogon T* 2/35 ZM lens.  The price would not break the bank, I like the image characteristics of Zeiss lenses, and from numerous reports the Zeiss lens was a fine lens on a Leica film body.

I studied photography in Italy a year or so ago and was really put off by the focusing ring’s stiffness.  If you are zone focusing, fine, but when you are working (quickly) with shallow depth of field the system was just not as responsive as I would prefer.  So, I wrote an email to Zeiss Co. in Germany inquiring into the expected behaviour.  I received a prompt reply requesting additional information and they subsequently explained the lens should not be stiff, but firm, and were unsure if I was being overly… picky… and suggested I contact the Zeiss U.S. office and was provided a phone number.

When I called the number, shockingly, a person answered.  Not only was it a person but the Lens Division Product Manager.  We had a good chat about the lens and I shipped them the lens + box.  Honestly, I could not figure out where I purchased the lens – normally I order from BH Photo, Adorama, etc.. but none of my online receipts listed the lens so I was out of luck on warranty.  Zeiss examined the lens and determined that it required service from the German office and shipped it out of country.

Zeiss determined via the serial number that the lens was more than likely beyond the warranty period but since I initiated my email to them quite some time ago, and the lens was in flawless condition they fixed the lens and shipped it back to me free of charge.

In this era and mindset of disposable equipment and customers, Zeiss was a refreshing surprise.  I generally do not make money off my photo work – it’s an advanced and expensive hobby.  I appreciate the attention paid to Zeiss’ customer base and am now looking to supplement my DSLR lens collection with Zeiss manual focus options.  If you are in the market for M mount lenses and unsure if Leica lenses will provide the additional cost / benefit, then I highly suggest renting & testing Zeiss lenses.

Thoughts – Canon EOS-M

Recently Canon announced their long awaited mirrorless / interchangeable lens camera.  Honestly, the announcement is something I awaited for a long time.  It was not too long ago that when I travelled I would carry an almost pro kit – DSLR, selection of L lenses and occasionally complimented with a medium format camera.  This resulted in a fairly packed Tenba shooter bag.  Lately I travel with a only Leica M2 and Canon G12.  Before anyone scoffs – the small kit resulted in numerous photographic awards and gallery entries.

I have a strong desire for a good, capable, and moderately portable digital camera.  My basic requirements are few but important to me: viewfinder, good manual controls, and good autofocus speed.  Good image quality should go without saying, and perhaps I am a little forgiving in this area as I do a good bit of B&W conversion.  While I expected a new lens mount when Canon finally decided to make this camera, I really hoped my needs might make it into the system.

Being used to the G12’s autofocus speed (not great, but manageable) I expect the M will be no worse.  The lack of viewfinder, and this is a me preference, is almost a deal breaker.  As an eyeglass wearer one would think I would be all for LCD panels for composition; not the case – at all but I will not get into that now.  Sadly, the deal breaker for me will be the touchscreen for a majority of controls.  I could write paragraphs about much I do not like touchscreen controls but here are basics: gloves, bright sun, hot / sweaty fingers (I live in Texas), and on and on.  I have little doubt the image quality will be on par.

Canon had plenty of time to sit on the sidelines and watch the competitors so I guess they know their market.  Yes, they offer an adapter for their large EOS lens lineup but if I have those lenses I have a body already.  Honestly, I cannot see that being a good selling point for people moving from a basic PnS.  To take full advantage of the M I would almost certainly require at least one lens, and if I have to invest in a new system I’m not sure it would be Canon.

Looks like I need to keep looking for a smaller digital that meets my needs.  Perhaps something from Fuji or talk myself into the Leica X2 with Olympus EVF.