Unintentional play…

2009, Photography

Unintentional playful moments. I never thought that a new firmware for a camera would give me some unintentional playful moments. Yes, the cross process and high contrast B&W modes for the Ricoh GR Digital 3 are actually scene modes. And yes, no RAW files can be saved. And I hear everyone saying that it is so permanent and that you loose all post processing flexibility, but so what. I like it to be intentional, even when I have unintentional playful moments, and I like it to be permanent.

All photographs by Wouter Brandsma

Post Christmas

2009, Photography

I haven’t been busy taking photographs after Christmas, but I did find some time and enthusiasm to actually continue on my book project. I really want to finish this book, but doing so is pretty difficult. First making a selection of photographs, the book lay-out and preparing the photographs for the book.

I decided to create my book with the Blurb services. The BookSmart software is pretty simple to use, but you can also use Photoshop or DTP apps like Quark or InDesign. And preparing the photographs for the book is something I find quite difficult. I found out that Blurb uses HP Indigo printers and there is a HP Indigo 5000 ICC profile available somewhere else to do the soft proofing.

I have had good experience with printing large formats at a Dutch printing facility and they cope B&W prints very well. But printing a large book is something different and it is funny how little control you have over the entire process. So I will first do a small square book to see how different versions of some photographs look like. Unfortunately it is a quite slow process with lots of uncertainties.

So, if people have some experience with Blurb, please let me know. I am in particular interested in the B&W printing and how people did their soft proofing.

The only proper chances of photography have been the last two days. Yesterday at an industrial park and today when the kids where playing tennis. After all the Ricoh GXR stuff it was good to be back to the Canon 10D with the older Tokina 28mm and the M42 Pentor 35mm lens.

And last night I stumbled upon an article by the (in)famous Rockwell, which strongly reminded me of one of my posts in January of this year. The wish for a simple camera and less choices to focus more on our photographs.

All photographs by Wouter Brandsma

Amsterdam revisited

2009, Photography

This Saturday I had a meet up with Björn Utpott and Cristian Sorega. First I had a walk with Björn through the Jordaan and the Vondelpark. And for lunch Cristian would catch up with us and I could hand over the Ricoh GXR to him.

After lunch we continued towards the Herengracht, the Amstel, and the little China Town in De Wallen.

Besides my last few hours with the Ricoh GXR, you can read about that here, I also had a chance to try the Panasonic GF1 with the 20mm f/1.7 lens. Now, just playing with this camera for little over an hour is too short to come up with something that really makes sense, but both Cristian and I really liked this camera. It is a fast and responsive, and the focal length (40mm equivalent) is just about perfect. Certainly a lovely camera for street photography. And even better since Panasonic will also come up with a 14mm  f/2.8 lens (28mm equivalent) in 2010.

The first six photographs are all with the Panasonic GF1. The two following indoor photographs, and the two last ones with my GRD1 and the rest with the Canon 10D.

All photographs by Wouter Brandsma

Making light.. My short walk around with the Ricoh GXR

2009, Photography

(Wouter: I decided to merge two posts together to keep this post a short, but ongoing impression of the Ricoh GXR.)

Tuesday, 15 December
Today a package from Slovakia (thank you Pavel Kudrys from the Ricoh Forum) arrived with the previously announced mystery camera. Ricoh Europe was so kind to provide three photographers, including me, a new Ricoh GXR with an A12 lens unit (50mm equivalent  f/2.5 macro lens with APS-C sized sensor). Now I like Ricoh cameras, but have no commercial connection to Ricoh. I will be able to try and write about this camera and it will continue it’s journey on Saturday in the hands of Cristian Sorega.

My first impression in general is very positive. The camera feels and works like every Ricoh camera. Great user interface and very intuitive handling. The electronic viewfinder is bright with very good resolution and is very usable in low light.

The A12 lens unit feels very comfortable and works well balanced with the GXR body. As expected, and also written about by other reviewers, is the auto focus not really fast. It is a macro lens and there is some considerable weight to be moved around. In low light my first impression is that it is not quite accurate and I preferred to use the manual focusing. Thankfully you can use the front lens ring for focusing. And in combination with pressing the OK button you get a magnified view that enables you to focus carefully.

Because it is a macro lens you need to twist the front ring a long way for focusing. A bit too long for my taste. And for zone focusing you need to use the LCD screen or the EVF, because there are no markings on the lens, unfortunately.

Overall I was quite impressed with the camera and the lens unit. Even though I would personally have preferred Ricoh to start this system with a fast 40mm lens. More will follow.

Wednesday, 16 December

While using the Ricoh GXR I realize how little time I have until the camera moves over to Cristian. Thankfully no mail posting, but an arranged exchange in Amsterdam upcoming Saturday so that will give me some extra time in the morning before he takes the camera back to Düsseldorf in Germany.

I am now mainly focused at shooting as much as possible. No brick walls, no ISO comparisons or what ever. I want to find out how I can use this camera for my photography. I tried some color yesterday, but since we have a kind of winter entry here the colors are all very mute. And since I mostly shoot B&W anyway I will continue with B&W through my entire test. And I really like the Ricoh B&W jpegs coming from the much larger sensor by the way. Unlike with the small sensor Ricohs, the A12 lens unit seems to capture quite a lot of mid tones and give a pleasing glow.

I mentioned the banding before at ISO 3200 and it seems that ISO 1600 is much more usable. I also updated the firmware tonight. Maybe I notice some differences between the previous version and the latest 1.06 version and hope to post about that tomorrow or Friday. I am still quite impressed by the rapid changes they are making with their firmware releases though.

The autofocus seems comparable to me with the Ricoh GRD3. Not blistering fast, but not Sigma slow either. Just good enough, even at night. With nearby subject (less then 2 meters) with little to medium contrast the autofocus doesn’t seem to keep up and in my case I found manual focusing to be much faster and more precisely. Even for more decisive moments I would personally prefer manual focusing.

Saturday I also hope to compare this camera to the Panasonic GF1 with the 20mm lens. And even though Ricoh doesn’t want to compare their new system to options like the MFT cameras from Panasonic and Olympus, it is still what everybody else does seem to matter.

See here for my first impressions of the Ricoh GXR with the A12 lens unit (or module) and check here for Pavel’s first testing last week.

Thursday, 17 December

It was all about snowfall today and the Ricoh GXR performed without any problems. Only for nearby subjects (with or without falling snow) the autofocus seems to need a lot of time. Even after I updated the firmware to version 1.06.

And speaking of the new firmware version. I haven’t seen or noticed any differences between the previous and newer version. The banding at ISO 3200 is still there. But workable you know. It is there in the blacks, but making the black darker solves this problem mostly.

I mentioned before that I personally really like the B&W jpegs with contrast set to 9 and sharpness at 5. When it comes to the processing the DNG’s I found both Lightroom 3 beta and Capture One 5 doing an excellent job. And thanks to the provided GXR profile from Paris based photographer Benjamin I could instantly get good looking colors in Capture One as a starter.

I don’t know under what circumstances Ricoh tested this camera, but I can tell you that the camera had no problems in the freezing cold and the snow today.

Saturday, 19 December

Here follows the final installment of my first and very short impression of the Ricoh GXR with the 50mm macro lens. This day I would give the camera to Cristian Sorega and we set up an appointment in Amsterdam together with my friend Björn Utpott.

Amsterdam means for me different kind of photography. More street and that also sets different requirements for the camera. Less shutter lag, fast autofocus or zone focusing.

And particular for street photography I found the GXR with the 50mm lens a completely different camera. When you anticipate a shot and prefocus with the autofocus it all works quite nicely. But I found zone focusing the A12 not as accurate. With an aperture of f/5.6 and prefocused on 2 or 3 meters I often noticed that the background was in perfect focus, but the zone I focused for was out of focus.

I also noticed a shutter lag, mostly the result of the not so fast autofocus I think. And the screen does freeze shortly will half pressing the shutter. That could and did result in missing some opportunities.

And with fast moving subjects or panning the camera there is a very definite notion of the CMOS related rolling shutter. This will probably also have an affect on HD video from this lens unit. So that is something the photographer/filmer should be aware off.

Despite the harsh light conditions in the morning the camera was metering very reliable. The one thing I could think of for a firmware update is the option to automatically magnify the screen when manual focusing. Just like Panasonic and Olympus do with their own lenses.

All photographs by Wouter Brandsma

Two years

2009, Photography

Quietly I passed my two years blogging yesterday. I wanted to keep it business as usual, but two years is quite long I think in the blogging world. So maybe, I thought it was worth it to make a quick round-up of some of the best and the worst.

On 22 December 2007 I posted two photographs from the early winter entry in the Netherlands and that post got a staggering 2 views. In 2008, February 10 as a matter of fact, I posted my first brick wall test.

In 2007 I posted two posts with rumors about a Leica M9 and a possible Nikon re-entry in the rangefinder world. Both articles caused a lot of traffic, but I later removed these rumors. Was not really happy with the mails I received and thought the two articles really didn’t belong on my blog.

I am still pretty happy with both my impressions of the Ricoh GX200 and GR Digital 3. I loved photographing with the Leica M8 this fall (see here, here and here some of the photographs). But some of my best moments were meeting some of my friends I made on the internet in the last two years.

And of course the photographs. Last winter for instance I made a series about my hometown, which actually is a never ended project. And in 2008 I wrote and documented my visit to photokina. And I have been really pleased with the response I got for my first autism project I made this September.

All photographs by Wouter Brandsma