It’s Wednesday

2009, Photography

This time of the year it is often hard to find adequate time for some photography. The amount of available daylight is getting shorter and shorter. The weather is often unpredictable with mostly gray overcast. And even though I am thinking on some new projects I feel the inspiration slowly goes into a deep wintersleep too.

Since it is mostly dark now all I do is shoot wide open. I try to find the last bits of light around. As a result I haven’t used my Ricoh GX200 since October 10, but I also hardly have used the DP1. Both cameras just don’t have the fast lenses I personally want. Of course, you can push the DP1 up to 3 stops, but I still prefer the option of having the faster lens. And the GX200 is just nowhere near the performance of the GRD III for instance.

So I am actually thinking about selling my GX200 and that means that I am looking around for other cameras on the market (new or old). The thought about selling the Ricoh hurts me and although I am no real gear guy it is unfortunately something you have to do once in a while….. Sigh.

My post last week about the new Ricoh GXR received a lot of comments. Thank you all for that. Even though people might like or dislike this new camera system. It certainly brought a lot of stir among photographers. To me it brought a lot of mixed feelings. At first I was impressed by the solution provided, but also impressed with the prices! Then I felt this system might certainly have some potential which all depends on Ricoh’s commitment to produce interesting and demanded lens units. And at that point I also have my strong concerns.

Is it really smart to replace the GX200 with the GXR and the S10 lens unit? Some of the samples at higher ISO’s seem to provide much better performance than the GX200. Definitely more in line with the Ricoh GRD III, Panasonic LX3, Canon G11, and the S90. But I had also hoped for a faster lens and that didn’t happen. So the new lens unit with the new sensor and the unchanged lens design makes this in my opinion a very expensive follow-up of the GX200. And since the GRD remains the number one camera in their line I expect that Ricoh won’t produce a 28mm lens unit either.

What they did mention is that they will produce a 28-200mm zoom lens (like the one you’ll find with the CX2), but I just don’t want to spent so much money on a system that will at first only provide small sensor zoom lens units. Of course they will also produce the A12 50mm macro lens unit with an APS-C sized sensor. And although the lens and sensor looks promising I personally don’t understand why they opted for a 50mm macro lens. I would have preferred a 35 or 40mm lens, certainly faster than the 50, and more pancake design too. I don’t mind it that Ricoh tags that camera with the GR signature, but many do now that they also produced really good 21 and 28mm L-mount lenses in the Nineties. Both these lenses are based on the concept of the GR lenses which were developed for the GR1 and the GR21.

I hope to be proven wrong, and the first results and impressions will likely be in favor of this camera. But I do expect that it will mostly be the result of the always great Ricoh user interface, camera handling and their expertise with optics. I sure have no doubts about that. The only reason I see to be proven wrong is a small glimpse into the future with a likely roadmap for their lens units. But Ricoh always seem to follow the Apple course with only serious news leaks in the last few days before the actual announcements. Therefore I see very little chance that I might eventually own a GXR.

Now this brings me to the alternatives. The most serious alternative is the micro four third (MFT) system adopted by Olympus and Panasonic. There are already five models available and more will follow in 2010. And rumors mention that Fuji might even come up with a MFT camera. The lens options from Panasonic and Olympus are still limited and some lenses are really hard to get too, like the 7-14mm wide angle zoom lens. On the other hand, there are a lot of options available to use legacy lenses on these MFT cameras like M or L-mount lenses, c-mount, FD, K, F, and OM-mount just to mention some (and I likely miss many others). There has been a lot of experimentation going on and some lenses gained prices on ebay just because of this experimentation.

I am not really sure if I should consider the Leica X1. Certainly not from a price point of view. And although I would have preferred to see a slightly faster lens I kind of like the camera too, because it has that simple, I mean essential, interface I want to see in a camera for so long. No scene modes, just the necessary dials to set the shutter speed and the aperture. So, if there is a manufacturer who feels they should produce such a camera too without a red badge, please don’t hesitate.

And of course there are still the small sensor cameras. The LX3 and the D-Lux 4 with their fast lenses, although I don’t prefer their user interface. The strange choices from Canon like the S90 with the fast lens, but simpler interface, and no option to attach a viewfinder (unless you glue it on the top of the body). And the G11 with the more professional appealing body, but the much slower lens. And there is the option of my favorite camera, the Ricoh GR Digital III. Very fast lens and adjustable snap mode. And what all these cameras share is some of the best low light performance of any small sensor cameras.

I still kind of prefer the GRDIII though, even though I am kind of interested in the MFT’s. First, it is Ricoh. Secondly, it has in my opinion the best camera handling and it comes with the fastest lens around for a small sensor camera. So this fall and winter I will give myself some good head banging  and I will go through every option to make up my mind. And of course, force myself to leave the Canon 10D at home and use my GX200 more often again. To see if I can find the magic with that camera again.

All photographs by Wouter Brandsma


28 thoughts on “It’s Wednesday

  1. Really beautiful photos Wouter, I love each one.

    I’m debating in my head whether to sell my GRDigital (1) and Pentax Super 100D to put some money together for the body of a GRX. It’s alot of money and now also I am thinking about the Panasonic and Olympus offerings as they are no longer crazy prices to me if I’m considering the GRX.

    I may just trade in my GRD for a CX2 for now and wait to see if the GRX prices come down to a point were I feel I can afford it.

    I really hope Ricoh lends you the use of a GRX so I can see what it can really do rather than all the stupid close up pixel peeping shots that are currently doing the rounds!

    Once again, beautiful photos 🙂

  2. As usual, interesting photographs 🙂

    I’ve been at the same point as you, just recently finally sold my Canon DSLR equipment (the 35/1.4 is a fantastic lense, but it’s a monster!). I opted to go fully MFT – now with two bodies (GH1 and GF1) and the 20/1.7 pancake as my prime. Despite all rationalizing, the GF1 body with the pancake makes it feel much more compact than the same lense on the GH1, even if it is just very little difference – and my jacket pockets happily accomodate the GF1. I still have – and will allways keep I guess – my GRD II as my allways-with-me snapper. The only cam that could make me change it would be the GRD III for the little more light that it’s chip will get.

    There was an interesting article over on luminous landscape about the X1 recently (his field report) and especially comparison in handling and IQ with the GF1. His conclusion (and he’s not a real pixel peeper and much more cares about “will there be visible differences in print”) is that up to 800 ISO you don’t need to care about the differences in IQ, only if you regularily shoot with higher ISO settings will you see them in prints. So I’d say a GF1 with the 20 pancake might be a much better investment than the X1, and a much cheaper, too.

    One of the other reasons for MFT for me was the adaptability – so I can continue to use my Contax gear (I have a lot of the macro stuff and some nice lenses like the 180/2.8 and 100/2.0). And maybe might even get the adapter for my M lenses (allthough that would be pure nostalgia, since only the 90/4.0 would be useable on the GF1, so maybe I am better off with selling the M6 stuff).

    Prices and availability on the MFT stuff from Panasonic is a bit on the hard side, but it allowed me to revamp my setup to have one where both bodies behave mostly the same, especially with regard to handling and menus. I am eyeing the 7-14 and the 45 macro, but am quite happy with the current setup allready.

    And I am back from neck-braking gear like my RTS III or later the 10D to some stuff I actually am willing to schlepp around. Which is allways a good thing, because cameras back home in the cupboard don’t make pictures 😉

    1. I think a MFT camera is certainly an interesting option and I have seen great results with c-mount lenses which is still a very affordable option. Although the 20 is fast I don’t know if I really want to modern look of nowadays cameras. I guess I really like the look of my legacy lenses on the 10D.

      I have been using a SLR again since 1996 and it serves me really well. I mostly have one lens in use and instead of breaking my neck I hold the camera in my hand with the neckstrap wrapped around my wrist.

  3. that said, for this time of year (and the direction you’re going with the beautiful images above), i believe that the 10D is the best camera you can use right now for available light.

    this isn’t a bad thing. it gives you more time to wait and hopefully try the other options…

    1. I am surprised how well the 10D performs at available light and I will likely be using this for a long while. Now I just really need to order that OM adaptor for the Zuiko lens. Will do it this week.

  4. Some great low-light stuff you’ve got here.

    Reading some of your previous posts and your review, I actually thought you would undoubtedly go for the GRD3. But it’s always good to give it some extra thought.

    As you know, I’m very happy with my LX3. I actually like the interface, but maybe it’s because I used several Leica/Panasonic cameras in a row and I’m quite used to it now.
    After my unfortunate fling with the E-P1 I’ll probably stay away from MFT – at least for the coming years. And for me the GXR system [let alone the X1] is no option because of its price, especially when compared to basic dSLRs or even used high-quality dSLRs. I personally feel the prices of non-dSLRs are getting a bit out of hand, to be honest.

  5. I love that series of photos. The colors work so well together, and it seems to be a great representation of what happens with a lack of natural light and increased use of artifical light. I feel the same way when winter starts to come around due to the lack of sun. Last semester, I had class from 2:40-4:00 Monday, Wed, and Fri, and until March the sun would be going down when I was leaving class. Good luck with your winter photography.

  6. Thanks Wouter. I needed some beautiful artwork today and you filled the bill.

    Just get the GRD3 for now and be happy with that. You like it and you like Ricoh. It is compact like the GF200. The GRX is too much of an unknown. Beyond these, I would move on from small sensors. Personally, I mostly use the GRD3 and Olympus EP1 these days.

  7. Hey! Color photographs by Wouter! Beautiful and haunting… these pictures show the two sides of winter and the color really helps in the expression. But it’s once again so unique. Great to see!
    As for camera talk, I’m really out for now. No money, and not enough pictures taken these months. Anyway, all I’m interested in is an M9. 😉

  8. Thank you all for your comments. With regard to the color work. I really wanted to try something differently and as Maggie described, the little available and artificial light really inspired me. And, although I will of course continue with my B&W work as I feel strongly connected to that, I will do more low light color work too.

    When it comes to gear I think that Cam sums it up quite well. I kind of really like what I am doing with the 10D. And while I love to have a good compact camera with me, I think I can live with using the larger camera now for a while. So many options are already available and more will likely come. Someday the camera that comes closest to my wishes will be there. Just like the moment when I bought my GX100.

  9. Wouter, I don’t care what camera you buy. Hell, make a home-made pinhole camera for what it’s worth.

    As long as you keep creating gorgeous images like the ones in this post I’ll keep coming back.

  10. Since I am in the same ‘timezone’ I suffer from this lack of light also… Your post started a bit depressed, dark, like the wether we were encountering these days. But at the end you realized that there is more ‘light’ out there! You even found colour.

    I try to get through winter trying to give files a new look. There was a time that saturated, contrasty ” leica like’ images were hip (see advertising on TV!). Now I try to do more with my dp1 files and try less sharpening (zero which is -0.8 in SPP), less contrast. I like that and it will bring joy after daylight, after work.

    I like the fact that you are able to give that 10D and your lenses a new life! And ca you not trade the GX200 for a GX100 somewhere in NL?

    1. Love to see your work Ronald. Maybe starting to blog again? Or something again where we can share work with others?

      I give that whole thing of another camera some rest. The 10D is perfectly fine now and not at all large (as long as don’t hang the camera around the neck).

      Take care!

  11. Wouter, what’s gotten you? What’s this gear talk? You can take pictures with a shoe box with a pinhole in one end, for all I know. Just keep on shooting.
    Wonderful images as usual. With all these mundane portraits and flowers with blurry backgrounds that one finds on the net, I thought small sensors were sent from heaven but you are making me rethink again. The bokeh obsession usually yields to kitschy and corny stuff, so your recent images are very refreshing and made me appreciate fast lenses once again.
    For me the only attractive option for the new Ricoh system would be prime APSC offerings, and none in the horizon other than this strange choice of 50mm, and therefore I am disappointed with Ricoh: GX200 and CX2 on steroids won’t cut it for me.

    1. I am sorry Roni. I never had that real love with the GX200. That is also why Ronald (above) suggests to trade the GX200 for a GX100. Still the much better zoomed Ricoh camera in my opinion.

      So this winter I will mostly use the 10D. Really missed the option of getting bokeh (my bokeh obsession which I really missed with small sensor cameras). Maybe I try to find a cheap wide angle lens soon and I am fine.

      We both discussed our thoughts about the GXR and both share similar thoughts. This system will make all the difference with large sensor lens units. So come on Ricoh, make up your mind, take the opportunity and make it a dream camera.


  12. Wouter:

    “And there is the option of my favorite camera, the Ricoh GR Digital III… still kind of prefer the GRDIII…”

    The more I shoot with the GRD3, the more i like it: I now think that it’s a much bigger step forward from the GRD and GRD2 in terms of RAW files than I indicated in my review on the Rangefinder forum, where I wrote that it was about one stop better in image quality from the GRD2, which, in turn was a about a stop better than the GRD. Last night I finally shot the GRD3 at ISO 1600 — before this I had tried only a handful of shots at this speed in dull, flat shopping center fluorescent light — and really like the results from the files I just processed, of which I’ll be posting about a dozen on my flickr site in the next few days. The results are so much better than with the GRD2 and the GX100 that there’s no comparison really: in the high contrast one finds on the street at night, with the GRD3, I can get much less “grain” and maintain beautiful mid-tones.

    Reportedly. the GRX/S10 has still better ISO 1600 — I wonder whether it really does? — and has ISO 3200 as well. I wonder whether the latter facility of the S10 could be applied to the GRD3 through a firmware change?


    1. I totally agree Mitch. I really miss that camera. The GRDIII is really good. I am glad you’re really found good usage for the GRDIII. And with the S10 you loose the advantage of the fast lens. And is ISO 3200 really ISO 3200 or ISO 1600 with an -1 EV compensation? We might get a better clue when Sean Reid or any serious tester tried the GXR with the S10 unit.

      1. Good point. In his review of the GRD3 Sean found that the ISO was about 60% more than indicated, which mens that the ISO shown as 1600 is actually about 2500.


  13. Hi Wouter,
    It is funny and a bit shocking (in a good way) to see color shots on your blog. I think you do a fantastic job of capturing the available light and managing the color. Use what you have right 😉 – I do not use the neck strap on my Pentax either. The only reason I keep it on my camera is in case I might drop it I figure the strap will give me those few extra seconds and few additional inches of material to grab onto in order to prevent tragedy 😉
    Have fun with your 10D and the weekend is upon us – I hope yours is fantastic.

    1. LOL, but don’t expect color to take over the blog 😀

      Hope your weekend will be good too. The kids will have a visit of Saint Nicholas here, getting a present if they were nice this year.

  14. Hi Wouter,
    I really like your photos … thank you for sharing all of them … and I really appreciate your mix of technique and actual photography thoughts!

    Since it has come to color now and I’m looking for a new compact camera I would like to ask for your (and other readers) rating of the color tones and mixture of different models or manufacturers. I couldn’t find much on this topic, but from my point of view they’re all looking very different. Regarding DSLRs I prefer the Nikon to the Canon colours; and it seems to me that the Ricoh (GDR3) colours look more balanced or warmer than the Canon (S90) ones. But it might depend on the settings as well!? For me, nice colours (especially of green woods) are far more important than pixels, ISO, viewfinder, and so on. So what is your experience? Can you geht the same tones using a S90?

    A second question (may sound silly, but I’m used to film and manual focused lenses): do you often use manual focus? And how convenient is it using a GDR3/S90?


    1. I hope others might be able to answer your question about color Michael. I am not too familiar with colors. I think you can get great looking colors with any camera, but for with some you have to really work hard.

      I personally thought my older Ricoh GX100 did a good job with nicer and warmer colors. The GX200 gives me much cooler colors. In the end I basically gave up doing any color work with my GX200. I thought the GRD3 did a pretty good job again. When you want good looking greens you might want to check the Sigma DP cameras. Their sensor is in my opinion so much better than any bayer sensor for color photography. More film like I think. You can get there with bayer images, but you need to tweak settings and do more post processing.

  15. Wouter, I too am toying with the idea of getting a new Ricoh or a big sensor compact camera. I think the year of 2010 will be quite interesting as we’ll get to know how Nikon, Sony, Samsung, and possibly Fuji want to respond to the need for compact yet big sensor cameras. Canon will probably have an offering as well. Olympus and Panasonic will surely announce successors of the current models.

    I have been thinking about the aesthetics of photographs with a small sensor camera versus bigger sensor camera. It seems to me that an interesting quality of a camera like the GRD III is that even with wide open aperture at f1.9, you can get a fairly decent depth of field and possibly use a higher shutter speed to freeze action, or stay with lower ISO for optimum quality. However, with a bigger sensor, you can generally use higher ISO speeds without a significant penalty in image quality thus allowing you to use a smaller aperture or higher shutter speed.

    I too like cameras with logical and intuitive interface, and without unnecessary modes that I never use. I’d however, like to have just one Intelligent program mode like Panasonic has been putting lately in their cameras which is quite remarkable in figuring out the ideal settings (including ISO) based on subject movement. I have been using a Sigma DP1 for some time now and I am quite happy with the results, even though the camera itself leaves me somewhat dissatisfied. I was really looking forward to the release of a GX300. Since that doesn’t seem to be coming, I have been thinking about getting a used GX100 to supplement my DP1 but I often shoot at ISO 400 and 800 with the DP1 and not sure if I will like the results from GX100. I may eventually get another small camera (hopefully a Ricoh) but I cannot convince myself to get the GXR in its current form.

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