review

against amnesia (2018)

as usual a little retrospective will conclude the year here on .documenting.the.obvious. thanks a lot to all visitors new and especially all the regular ones! without you it would be only half (at most) the fun :-)

have a good 2019!

because of the huge success (*cough*) of my “best of the year spotify playlist” last year, i’ll continue with this new tradition as if nothing happened. i know spotify might not be the ideal medium for this but i think at the moment it’s the best one available. but i’m open for suggestions of course!

enjoy!

this blog will have resumed normal operations most probably by the end of next week.

 

welcome to retrograd

as the tradition of this blog has it here are some of my favourite pictures from 2017.

this time they come from a variety of places like zürich, paris, den haag, cologne, texel, munich, venice, kassel, duisburg and last and definitely not least hong kong. but most of them are of course from good old berlin. i hope you like what you see! (cont’d below)

a happy new year to all of you friendly followers, following friends and likable likers. it was a pleasure having you!

to a good 2018!

ps: i pondered adding a new twist to this retrospective and i thought i’d share some of my favourite songs that i’ve discovered during the last year with you. i reckoned a spotify playlist might reach at least some of the readers here. it should even work without a spotify account but then you have to endure some advertising between the songs.

have fun!

 

fight of the fifties – a prime for a prime

i’ve made a quick (i.e. completely unscientific and unrepeatable) shoot-out between the three 50mm lenses i own and use on my sony a7.

in the left corner the brandnew sony fe 50mm f1.8 autofocus lens (a.k.a. sel50f18f), weighing about 300 euros at the moment here in germany.

in the right corner two contenders, older of course but with a strong legacy: the olympus om zuiko 50mm f1.8 and the om zuiko 50mm f1.4. the zuiko f1.8 weighing about a moderate 30-50 euros on ebay and the f1.4 somewhere between 80 and 140 euros at the same place.

let’s start with some animated gifs showing the transition from wide open to about f5.6

sony50mm

sony fe 50mm f1.8 (on sony a7)

 

om zuiko 50mm 1.8

olympus om zuiko 50mm f1.8 (on sony a7)

 

om zuiko 50mm 1.4

olympus om zuiko 50mm f1.4 (on sony a7)

what can you get from the gifs? uhm, probably at least that my tripod is not the sturdiest one around and that a kitchen is not a studio…

just bear with me for a moment – the full resolution pictures follow below of course for all your pixel-peeping pleasure.

to mount the zuikos on the a7 i’m using a no-name adapter and this adapter adds considerably to the (real) weight of the combo (about 100g).

the sony lens comes in with around very light 190g, the zuiko f1.8 including the adapter is about 280g and not surprisingly the heaviest combination is the zuiko f1.4 with adapter at about 320g. since i prefer light(er) lenses, the sony wins hands down here. probably there are lighter adapters out there, but i don’t have one.

regarding the picture quality i am very much inclined to say the sony gives the best (in terms of sharpness) results wide open. at f2.8 i can’t see relevant differences between the three lenses. of course the f1.4 has the wider aperture but i find it quite unusable at f1.4. it’s just too soft for me. your mileage may vary of course. at f2 things start to look better. if you don’t mind manual focussing and you know you shouldn’t because it’s a breeze (for static subjects) on the sony, i’d be hard pressed to say that the sony is really better than the zuiko f1.8. but you get five possbible f-stops up to f2.8 with the sony (f1.8, f2, f2.2, f2.5, f2.8) whereas the zuiko has exactly two:  f1.8 (a tad too soft) and f2.8 (a tad too closed already). the f1.4 has three stops: f1.4 (too soft), f2 (quite okay) and f2.8 (a tad too closed…), but for my typical usage it has only two ‘usable’* stops, too. advantage: sony.

*side note: of course all stops of all lenses are perfectly usable, but of course not for everything. as always it depends on what you are trying to say/achieve obviously. and rest assured i definitely use the larger f-stops, too.

i haven’t yet compared corner to corner sharpness because i’m usually not too worried about it. my intuition whispers that there won’t be much difference between the three lenses at smaller apertures, though.

so, am i happy with the sony fe 50mm f1.8? was i happy with the zuikos? why do i bother with the sony and didn’t get the mythical zeiss 55mm?

the answers are yes, yes and unfortunately money does not grow on trees…

let me elaborate: the sony is lighter, a bit sharper and aperture-wise more controllable than the zuikos. it has autofocus! the autofocus does work but it really is on the slower side (too say the least). i think, anyone coming from a dslr with a decent 50mm will hate the autofocus of the sony. coming from a manual focus solution with a tad too many missed shots already, the autofocus is great welcome. if used together with activated face recognition it delivered consistently more hits than i ever got with manual focussing. this is of course a non issue with static subjects and usually more pronounced with wider apertures. but then again, wider apertures and thus more potential to separate your subject from the background, were at least one reason for me to shoot full frame in the first place.

the zuiko f1.8 is a gem! it’s tiny, its weight (including the adapter) is ok, well balanced on the a7, the image quality is great if you nail the focus even at f1.8 and it is very affordable. i can’t say all this about the zuiko f1.4 that lives in the shadows of the humble f1.8 at least in my cabinet.

the zeiss…oh yes, i’d love to shoot with it. i have thought long about getting one and i bet it is better than the sony by a considerable margin. sharper, better microcontrast, faster autofocus and not too heavy. but at almost three times the price of the sony, the sony was again very welcome…

so in short: if you’re interested in an autofocus 50mm prime for your full frame e-mount system – go for the sony fe 50mm f1.8. it’s most probably good value for money (if you’re in the US it is even a lot less expensive than here in europe).

just for fun i’ll throw in the cruiserweight champion from the micro four thirds federation – the panasonic leica 25mm f1.4 on my trusty olympus e-p5. you probably know that because of the smaller sensor size of the micro four thirds cameras, the 25mm panaleica gives you the same field of view as a 50mm lens on a full frame sensor, so the comparison is indeed reasonable.

panaleica25mm

panasonic leica 25mm f1.4 (on olympus e-p5)

i have to say i’m still pretty amazed what mft delivers. apart from some purple fringing the performance is really really good. but then again the panaleica 25mm is the most expensive of the four lenses in the competition here so it better be good.

fun fact: the e-p5 including the panaleica 25mm f1.4 weighs almost exactly the same as the a7 with the sony 50mm f1.8 mounted – about 610g.

i hope you’ve enjoyed this little shoot-out at least as much as i enjoyed making it. if you have any questions or suggestions don’t hesitate to leave a comment.

below are the single photographs from which i made animated gifs. if you click on them you get the gallery and there you can get the full resolution picture. keep in mind that these files are quite big, so it might take a while.

in case you wonder – i tried to focus on the “E” of “EXA I A”

sony fe 50mm f1.8:

 

olympus om zuiko 50mm  f1.8:

olympus om zuiko 50mm f1.4:

panasonic leica 25mm f1.4 on olympus e-p5:

oh lord won’t you buy me a mercedes benz

…because then i could sell it and probably get a leica m and a lens for the returns… but on the other hand, do i really want to own one? the following post will try to clarify.

the leica m

as promised in that post i’ll try to do a report on my experiences with a leica m (typ 240) that i got my (then very clean) hands on two weeks ago. i took part in a promotional campaign – still running until the end of october – called ‘you and leica m’ that granted free access to a leica m body and one lens (of choice) for two days to test it out. of course there was some  contract work necessary and unfortunately there was no insurance included in the campaign so some sweaty hands (on my part) were involved in the handing over of the camera-lens-combination. the reasoning behind the missing insurance (‘because it is for free there is no insurance included’) was a mystery to me but i tempted fate nevertheless.

after a careful scrutinization of the camera by me and  the very friendly and appropriately austere clerk and the written acknowledgement of a very  tiny mark on the lower plate on the camera body  i left the very stylish leica shop with a black leica m body and a 75mm f2.5 summarit lens and quite a heavy heart. additionally there was of course a battery and a charger included and luckily the whole package was contained in a quite nice brown leather bag that made the carry home a breeze. this package now was worth about 7500 euro and that had me a bit worried.

when at home i carefully took the leica out of the bag and tried to get acquainted with its controls. after a few minutes my at first fearful respect changed into a quite relaxed respect for the craftsmanship and the nice user interface. then i took the leica for what it is – a tool. a very expensive tool, though.

the only other rangefinder experience i had until using the leica m was with my father’s old olympus 35rc film camera. so i hadn’t learned enough about the parallax problem, yet. this is the problem of not seeing through the lens but through the viewfinder that is roughly (probably as good as possible) aligned with what the lens sees but then not quite. so the framing with a rangefinder works a bit different than with digital cameras or with (d)slrs where the viewfinder shows what the lens sees. you have to get adjusted to the parallax shift of the viewfinder to find the correct framing. this takes time. it is of course facilitated by the fact that the leica is a digital camera and you can see the outcome of a framing immediately. i guess two days is too short for getting used to this completely but i guess it is only a matter of time. what can easily happen is to forget the lens cap. everything just works fine only you get a black picture on the display later… it took me three black shots to find out what the problem was. of course the leica m also supports live view on the display but i don’t rent a leica to use it like a run of the mill point&shoot ;-)

the handling of the camera is quite straightforward actually. what i found a bit unusual is that you have to use both hands to make any adjustments in the settings when using the menu. you have to keep the selected menu button on the left side of the camera back pressed and then use the other hand to press the actual ‘set’ button on the right of the camera back. that was shown to me at the shop already. i guess i wouldn’t have found that out by myself because i usually consult the manual only as ultima ratio…

the leica is quite big and quite heavy at least compared with my usual camera of choice the olympus e-p5 (which is no slouch weightwise itself in the m43 line-up at least). that’s probably the full frame toll that has to be paid. the lens on the other hand is comparably tiny which i attribute to the missing autofocus machinery. yes – there is no autofocus on leica rangefinder lenses nor cameras. i bet if you read until here you already knew that but i always think it is worthwhile pointing it out. no autofocus!

this leads to my only issue with the leica (besides of course price, size and weight): technically sharp images are quite hard to get and i guess you need a lot of practice. this might sound like a lame excuse for the pictures shown here but it was a real challenge for me. my glasses might have made the issue even worse but i really think it’s a matter of experience using the rangefinder. i definitely have less problems focusing manually on my e-p5.

what is really cool (and probably part of the focusing issue)  is of course the leica’s full frame sensor with its shallow depth of field capabilities and the superb out of focus rendering of the summarit lens. always big fun to be able to use this effect. it’s definitely not for every picture and it might get gimmicky after a while but having it at my disposal was really nice. after the weekend with the leica i actually consider trying out the voigtländer 42.5 f0.95 lens for micro four thirds now which enables the m43 format to get similar possibilities without changing the whole system (and without breaking the complete bank if i can get my hands on a used one).

don't try this at home with your m43 system

don’t try this at home with your m43 system (leica m, 75mm f2.5 summarit)

almost all shots have been taken in berlin friedrichshain. some of them in pankow. on a more technical note: these pictures are not straight out of camera instead i used my usual development flow in lightroom with the huge leica dng raw files. i guess aside from possible aesthetical issues all problems in the technical quality of the pictures are thus mine, too.

leica m and gm-1

for comparison a picture of the leica m and it’s very remote cousin the panasonic gm-1.

so as a kind of conclusion: if somebody would be willing to give me a leica m and a nice lens as a present i would happily accept and definitely keep it. otherwise there is no way that i ever will have one in my hands again except when i win the lottery :)

it was nevertheless a fun experience and i can really recommend trying out a leica m at your local leica store (remember: the campaign is still running for one week)

 

 

 

 

the pen is mightier than the old pen (a kind of review)

e-p5

the successor shot with the predecessor

after three years of using the olympus pen e-pl1 and being very happy with it (it was my first interchangeable lens camera and a real eye opener) i thought it would be nice to upgrade a bit.

why would i think that, what’s wrong with me the e-pl1? isn’t the image quality great? yup, it is. it really is. i have to admit that for my style of shooting the e-pl1 probably is good enough. then again, i thought maybe i have my style of shooting because of the e-pl1? preference of bright static subjects? hmmm.

when i tested the sony a99 this spring and discovered its really fast autofocus and the two control dials for changing exposure very conveniently  i quickly ventured into new territory of street photography with more people in it. scenes where i wouldn’t even had raised the e-pl1 because i knew the camera would be too slow to focus accurately or it would have been too dark already, or both… so with the exception of its sheer size (and price of course) the a99 triggered a bit of g.a.s. ;)

since i’m a real fan of the m43 format because of the size advantage i naturally started looking there. i used to skip the panasonics because of the lack of in-body image stabilization, a feature that panasonic obviously now incorporates into the very soon to be announced  lumix gx-7.

of course there was the om-d. a beautiful 70s design with a new sensor, built-in viewfinder, two dials for changing exposure, and a really fast autofocus. after trying the om-d several times i nevertheless decided it was not for me really. i didn’t like the form factor that much (it did not fit into my bag properly ;)), the dials are placed a bit awkward, it had no built-in flash, what would i do with my vf-2 (the external viewfinder i sometimes use and enjoy)?

and the om-d’s price was steep… regarding the last issue, the e-p5 has made no progress or rather it has even “progressed” in the wrong direction unfortunately.

then there was the e-pl5. actually a winner in many regards. i think if olympus would have sold a body-only version i had bought the e-pl5 and lived happily ever after. but that’s not how the story goes. the e-pl5 is a nice camera for sure but it lacked a bit of sex appeal imho. i did not find it particularly good looking (with the exception of some full frontal shots where the e-pl5 really looks great). the design of the display looks like an afterthought, a design feature i did not like on the e-pl3 already. it has no built-in flash. furthermore the user interface was not so much different from the e-pl1 and that was something where the a-99, the om-d and finally the e-p5 really deliver.

so i was quite excited when the feature set of the e-p5 was announced and quite equally shocked when the price tag leaked. long story short:  i really won a sony rx100 from a photo magazine, i sold it for around 500 euros and that helped tremendously with my decision to go for the e-p5 despite the price.

well, good for me, but how does the e-p5 perform compared with the e-pl1?

as hoped and expected it trumps the e-pl1 in almost every respect: it is a lot faster in several regards. the ergonomics of the two very correctly placed control dials allows for speedy operation of the camera itself. the autofocus is a lot faster (albeit not really as fast as the a99). the shutter release via touch screen is a great addition to the tool box and speeds up the workflow when it matters.

it has 1/8000th as minimum shutter speed. that means essentially i can leave my nd filter at home (i won’t but i could ;))

it has a much better higher iso image quality. from iso 800 upwards the e-p5 wins hands down, no competition and at lower iso one can lift the shadows even in jpg that would not have been remotely possible with the e-pl1.

it has an auto focus illuminator which is a bit awkward to use in the face of people but nevertheless remarkably effective…

it has the mythical 5-axis image stabilization that really seems to work. at least there is the hissing sound that also the om-d emits. jokes aside, i am under the impression that the stabilization really works quite well but only for the first picture in a series? maybe someone can enlighten me here. if i am in sequential l-mode (which is my default mode) the first shot of the series is typically sharp but the second and third not so. maybe i missed a setting here?** the live stabilization on the display is amazing. i have tried the zuiko 100mm  and it was really impressive how steady the image on the display was.

it has a much better display. bigger, much higher resolution, tiltable, and very touchy. i think it has a very slight greenish colour cast but maybe that’s just me (or mine?).

it has wi-fi and can be remotely controlled via app on my android mobile but not for whatever reason with my i.onik tablet for which the app is not available.

it looks like a young god (even the hotshoe is black ;))

heck, it’s even a little bit smaller in height than the e-pl1.

and yes, it finally has focus peaking!  focus peaking is really helpful with manual focussing when implemented correctly. i really liked it on the sony a99 and the rx100. on the e-p5 it feel a bit gimmicky because it seems implemented as an art filter that considerably slows down the screen refresh rate or at least it seems to do that. it worked reasonably though, but i haven’t tried it a lot yet.

the only thing that concerns me a bit is that i am not as happy yet with the pictures at base iso as i was with e-pl1. unfortunately i cannot really describe it. i miss something but i don’t know exactly what. maybe the additional megapixels don’t give enough room for the other pixels to breathe or something. now, at the latest, you know why i called this ‘a kind of review’ because i cannot really substantiate my impression. i’m quite confident though, that there is a ‘right’ parameter setting in the e-p5 and i will find it.

another reason for being just ‘a kind of review’ is the lack of test shots or – even better – comparison shots between the same scenes once taken with the e-pl1 and once with the e-p5. i have to admit that i’d love to do such a comparison but i did not have the time yet. maybe i’ll update this post in the next few weeks.

but i do already have a preliminary conclusion: i’m quite happy with the e-p5 and i think the upgrade was definitely worth it.

stay tuned for more pictures made with the e-p5 in the future. here is another one:

e-pl1

the predecessor shot with the successor

**update 8.8.2013: yup, i missed something here. in the Gear C menu there is an option called “<sequential icon> + IS Off”. this has to be set to ‘off’. then the IS is ‘on’ during sequential shooting. unfortunately this does not seem to be the default. i found that hint in this very helpful user guide about the om-d so this seems to be a known issue.

above us only sky

above usand the occasional cloud, of course.

shot with my new e-p5 (yup…) and the lumix 20mm. a kind of review will probably follow. but i can already say that the e-p5 trumps the e-pl1 in every regard. the only exception (and this is kind of a bummer of course) seems to be image quality at base iso. i’m still working out the parameters but i don’t have the same warm feeling yet when going through the e-p5 images that i have when flipping through the e-pl1 pictures. i hope to find the sweet spot soon.  the display of the e-p5 while super dooper resolution-wise and touchy as it gets sports a kind of unhealthy greenish tint but i hope i can get used to it (it’s not too bad). other than that the e-p5 is a very good looking, very responsive and tremendously usable piece of gear. after a week of owning it and enjoying the two dials on the e-p5 i bareley remember how to change aperture or exposure on the e-pl1.

into the great wide open

UPDATE: of course i’ve taken some more shots with the gwc-1. you can find them here: https://dothob.wordpress.com/tag/gwc-1/

========= original post starts here >>>>

as i promised here are some more pictures taken with the panasonic gwc-1 wide angle conversion lens attached to the very nice panasonic lumix 14mm pancake. that combination amounts to a ff-equivalent focal length of 22mm and that’s pretty wide.

the pictures have been shot in prenzlauer berg and friedrichshain, berlin. some of the pictures are cross-processed but otherwise unchanged so you who might be interested in achievable shallowness of  depth of field, corner sharpness and – oh yes – barrel distortion should get an impression of the capabilities of the converter by simply clicking on the pictures…

i failed at capturing the same scene with and without the gwc-1 attached, though. but if i get a request to do so, i will seriously consider doing it…

the gwc-1 is quite (and to me surprisingly) small and very light so it does only  add neglectable bulk to the equipment. of course if you’re used to travel only with the 14mm pancake the gwc-1 will most likely double your load. but that’s about it.

corner sharpness?

some vignetting

shallow dof (quite close admittedly)

quite close (obviously)

barrel distortion? oh yesssss!

so these pictures should be enough for a first impression of the merits of the gwc-1. i think corner sharpness is acceptable though not great, vignetting is ok, achievable shallowness of dof is great (@f2.5 and reasonably close), barrel distortion is absolutely unacceptable for critical subjects but absolutely tolerable in most of (my) shooting circumstances.

but now for some more pictures…

beware!

harmonium

the twins (cropped, of course)

double decker chair

second hand portrait (flea market boxhagener platz)

empty fridge

bottom line: if you are looking for a moderately expensive wide angle solution for your micro four thirds camera, get a de-kitted 14mm pancake on ebay and try to get the gwc-1 somewhere. i think you won’t regret it. i definitely don’t.

thanks for reading! the nexts posts will be less technical again… but i thought i’d share my experience since there wasn’t much to find on the gwc-1.

but just in case you don’t trust me, trust john:

http://johntodaro.wordpress.com/2012/06/06/view-from-the-haerter-bridge-panasonic-wide-converter-dmw-gwc1/

 

45mm

about a week ago i’ve finally received the olympus m.zuiko 45mm f1.8 lens from amazon germany. i want to show some test shots here to demonstrate what this lens is (at least) capable of. i’m using it on the already venerable olympus e-pl1. i guess the autofocus performance will be better on the newer (e-p(l)3 and e-pm1) models.  after some trials to shoot portraits wide open i think that a better autofocus performance and probably the possibility to program focusing on the eyes or even on the closer eye would help tremendously if it’s not a formal portrait session. this is due to the really thin depth of field the 90mm equivalent deliver at f1.8.  i think i will find out about the benefits of a faster autofocus probably next year ;)

as always there are no people here, so if you are looking for genuine portrait examples  i cannot help you here. but i still hope that you enjoy what i have. if you click on the images you will find a bigger version (though not original size) if you are interested in a little pixel peeping. i don’t see any flaws with the image quality of the lens by the way. it’s tack sharp, there is no vignetting or at least a lot less than on the lumix 20mm, the amount of chromatic aberration is neglectable, it has good contrast and the bokeh is very nice in most situations. but i think a lens hood might prove helpful in bright light but that’s practically true of all lenses.

bar (f2.2)

lampion (f1.8)

2 mannequins (f1.8)

2 mannequins 2 (f1.8)

lonely guitar (f1.8)

bruschetta semplice (f1.8)

window frames (f2.5)

continental (f1.8)

nails (f1.8)

the lab (f1.8)

the disappointed tree (f1.8)

more fun with the toy lens

i took some shots today and yesterday with the slr magic toy lens (26mm, f1.4) and i want to show them here. the baseline is, that if you like vignetting, swirly bokeh and a sweet spot that’s off center you should definitely consider the toy lens (or probably any other cctv lens with that specification).

i think it might be useful for portraits but then on the other hand you might consider a classic om 28mm or 35mm lens instead. surely you would loose on vignetting and swirlyness with these, though.

i’d say the toy lens is not really usable wide open at least outside because of a lot of flare, super low contrast and heavy chromatic aberrations, BUT that all goes away or at least looses impact if you stop down a little. btw. there are no real stops on the lens to stop down but you can smoothly set the aperture to any value you like between wide open and indeed fully closed. you can’t be sure of the exact aperture value but i think i kept it almost always under f2.8.

regarding the low contrast i’ve done some contrast enhancement on some of the pictures with picasa’s auto-contrast feature. i really like the combination of the e-pl1’s grainy film mode with this lens as you might have noticed already.

babes with toy lens (sorry, no babes)

today the slr magic “toy lens” (26mm f1.4) arrived and i have to say that i am quite happy with it.  i haven’t had much opportunity for shooting but it feels quite nice. unfortunately it is plain ugly on the e-pl1 (see below) but i will try to learn to live with that… the build quality is not overwhelming either but i liked the packaging very much and the idea to include those rubberbands that are supposed to give this lens an even more toyish look. i have not used them though…

here are some pics i took today.  i just sing: happy vignetting and a swirly bokeeeeeh!

the box

swirly snow

the red thingy

as i said, plain ugly…