Category Archives: Teaching point

Recent insight: M8 vs. M9 for B&W, and the negative “Efex” of Silver Efex Pro.

Conventional internet wisdom states that the Leica M8 is a better camera than the M9 for B&W file conversion — True or False?

The answer:  True… but barely.

My old B&W conversions with the M8 were more pleasing than the ones I subsequently obtained with my M9/M-E, but now I realize that the less pleasing M9/M-E conversions were mostly secondary to my use of Silver Efex Pro.  Lately I’ve been doing straight de-saturation of my M9/M-E files, and they look more natural and almost as good as my M8 files.  The M8 still wins because of its greater IR sensitivity — this allows for slightly better B&W output.

For all practical purposes, however, the M8 and M9 sensors behave almost identically (for both B&W and colour).  This shouldn’t be too surprising, given how the sensor in the latter evolved from the former.

Which makes me want to re-state something I’ve been saying for years:  the M8 was the most under-appreciated and underestimated digital camera ever.

If there’s anyone from the original Kodak KAF-10500 (APS-H 10.3-megapixel) CCD sensor development team reading this, I sincerely thank you for your fine work.

—Peter.

[Upcoming Insight:  Film vs. Digital].

Everybody has a story.

“We are afraid of losing what we have, whether it’s our life, or possessions and property. But this fear evaporates when we understand that our life stories and the history of the world were written by the same hand.”

― Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist.

Everybody has a story

The Crazy Bedtime Routine.

Yes, all Canadians use 3D glasses to hypnotize our children into submission.

All frames shot at 1/30 sec.

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving everyone!

—Peter.

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Crazy Bedtime Routine 1 Crazy Bedtime Routine 2 Crazy Bedtime Routine 3 Crazy Bedtime Routine 4 Crazy Bedtime Routine 5

Photography truths I’ve learned over the years.

  1. The 35mm format is the ideal format for recording Life’s Little Moments.
  2. Rangefinders are the ideal camera platform for recording Life’s Little Moments.
  3. Photography is the art of exclusion (painting is the art of inclusion).
  4. Newer generation lenses perform better optically than old classics.
  5. Buy the gear you really want.  Do that once.
  6. The bond between you and your camera is more important than what the spec sheet suggests.
  7. When it comes to cameras and lenses, less is more.
  8. Internet photography fora, beyond the first year of participation, are generally a waste of time.
  9. You only get better with practice.
  10. CCD rules; Film rules CCD…  both are dying.
  11. Use prime lenses.  They lead to better photographs.
  12. Robert Capa was correct: “If your photographs aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.
  13. To increase your chances of success, shoot in Manual mode.
  14. Focus with manual lenses.  This too will increase your chances of success.
  15. The Rule of Thirds is a pretty good rule.
  16. One good idea is better than 100 frames per second.
  17. Have a healthy respect for those making a living via photography.  It’s difficult to do.
  18. Record video of your loved ones as well… you’ll regret it if you don’t.
  19. Photography is the most democratic form of art… all of us are capable of creating a masterpiece.
  20. Never bet against Leica.

—Peter.

Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 Distagon T* ZM.

Zeiss 35mm f_1.4 ZM

It comes in black and silver, of course.

A very intriguing lens.

If the Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 Distagon T* ZM truly surpasses the performance of the Leica 35mm Summilux FLE, it will be impressive.  Even if the published Zeiss MTF graphs are misleading and this lens “only” comes close to the FLE, it will still be impressive, given it’s 50% the price of the Leica equivalent.

However, it’s larger than the FLE (but has less distortion).

Looking at the few sample images on the ‘net, it renders very similarly to my 50 Summilux ASPH and the Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 ZM (two lenses I love), at least with respect to the way it draws the (in-focus) subject.  Bokeh is not the same.

Did I mention I’m intrigued?

[EDIT October 13, 2014:  I re-purchased a Leica 35 Summilux FLE as I am pleased with its performance and small size.]

 

—Peter.

 

A night on the town, Part 2.

The reddish skin rendering may make you believe this was shot with a Leica M240, but she was in fact sitting in front of a large illuminated red sign.

So now I know how to achieve the M240 look, with respect to skin tones anyway.

However, I don’t know how to produce the muddy rendering of the CMOS-crippled Leica M240, as all I can get out of my Leica M9/M-E are those lovely CCD crisp files with superior tonality and colour reproduction, at base ISO.

For those of you who haven’t already done so, perhaps you may be interested in signing My Open Letter to Leica.

(over 280 signatures so far…)

—Peter.

A night on the town, Part 2

The Camera Store.

Chris Niccolls and the rest of the crew from The Camera Store in Calgary (Canada, eh?) always do a great job previewing new cameras, and I often look forward to their video segments.

For those of you who haven’t seen their Pentax 645Z “hands-on field test”, have a look here.

—Peter.

 

Come on Sony…

Please hurry up Sony and release a fixed-lens “medium format” digital camera.

Those of us who place a high value on image quality but prefer to be discreet with our cameras want an alternative to the current gargantuan digital MF offerings.

—Peter.

 

 

“Medium-format Quality” 35mm camera systems? Not really.

Not too long ago, 36MP digital sensors were introduced into 35mm cameras.  Not too long after that, many photographers (including some well respected ones) proclaimed that these pixel-rich 35mm cameras could produce “medium-format quality” images.

I don’t subscribe to this view, at least when it comes to portrait photography.

If you examine the images I’ve taken with the Mamiya RZ67 (6 x 7 medium format film), you will note that they look more “true to life” as compared to images from 35mm cameras (digital or film).   The tonal transitions are subtler, the separation of subject matter from the background is more natural, and the overall rendering is somehow “more grand” than 35mm camera images (like these ones from the Nikon D800E + Zeiss Otus - a supposed “medium-format-quality” producing combination).

Even the Pentax 645D, a camera that possesses a digital sensor that is only a little bit larger than the one in the D800E, somehow produces “grander” images (but not as “grand” or true-to-life as the larger 6 x 7 film “sensor” in the Mamiya RZ67).

As I’ve written before, sensor size matters:

 

Sensor Size Comparison - Photographs by Peter Prosophos

So, if you’re looking for a medium format look (at least with respect to portraiture), you will not get it from a Nikon D800E/D810, or Sony A7R, etc.

If you’re looking for medium format resolution, that’s another story…

—Peter.

Fujifilm FP-100C Professional Instant Color Film ISO 100.

Test shooting a cartridge of Fujifilm instant film.

Taken with the Mamiya RZ67 (using a Polaroid film back) and the Mamiya 110/2.8 lens.

The first shot has a yellow colour cast from the incandescent lighting.  The remainder of the images were photographed utilizing the Westcott Ice Light.

—Peter.

Fujifilm FP-100C Professional Instant Color Film ISO 100

The Subtle Photographer.

And the art of blending in.

The Subtle Photographer

The last hurrah for Summer.

The Log Ride at Centre Island, Toronto.  Taken yesterday.

It pains me to see summer slipping away.  But it pains me more to think that this may have been the last year the kids will want to go to this place.  They’re getting bigger, and the rides are looking smaller.

Time marches on.

—Peter.

The last hurrah for Summer

Half-Mask.

“A mask tells us more than a face.”

― Oscar Wilde.

“God has given you one face, and you make yourself another.”

― William Shakespeare.

“Masks beneath masks until suddenly the bare bloodless skull.”

― Salman Rushdie.

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Half-Mask

How I Post-Process My Images.

One of the more frequent questions I receive is:

How do you post-process your images?

My short answer is:

I don’t follow a recipe.

What follows is a more detailed response.  I’ve previously presented some of this information on this site, but this post will serve to amalgamate and edit the content.

—Peter.

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The Software I Use

I use the latest version of Adobe Lightroom (LR).  Within LR, I often use Nik plug-ins (Silver Efex Pro, Color Efex Pro, Viveza).

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The Concept of Pre-Processing

Almost all photographers post-process (i.e., make image-enhancing adjustments, after a photograph is taken).  What many novice photographers fail to recognize is the importance of pre-processing (my term).  Pre-processing involves identifying and harnessing — before an image is taken — naturally-occurring enhancing elements in a scene, such as good light, perspective, etc., that cannot be altered after the fact:

Boy

In the case of this image, Boy, the soft light that was present after the sun set was harnessed to achieve a rich palette of colours and tones.  This cannot be achieved in post-processing.  The perspective I’ve chosen to photograph this image from is from down low; this too cannot be achieved in post-processing.

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My Cameras and My Camera Settings

I tend to favour cameras with limited menu options, or no menu options (film cameras).  I prefer to adjust camera settings using external dials/controls.  I limit the variables with which I concern myself to only three: Aperture, Shutter Speed, and ISO.  Hence, I always shoot in Manual mode.  Modern camera “features” such as scene recognition, smile detection, etc., and even not-so-old features such as exposure compensation serve only to clutter my mind and sabotage my shots.

I don’t even use auto-focus (eliminating another variable), choosing instead to manually focus.

Generally speaking, I believe that camera features — even sophisticated ones — can never substitute for photographic vision.

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Post-Process, not Over-Process

Many images on the web today appear “over-cooked” to my eye.  Therefore, I always try to exercise restraint when post-processing.  In fact, as time has gone by, I’ve toned down my manipulation of images.

My goal is to make my post-processing invisible.

On a related note, shooting film helps keep me grounded with respect to what I am trying to achieve with my digital images.

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Finally, My Post-Processing “Process”

I photograph in RAW mode.

Each image is post-processed by eye.  Occasionally I spend many hours honing a single image.  Each photo is processed individually, depending on the subject matter, lighting, and mood.

The adjustments are small, and incrementally applied. My method now differs from what I was doing last year… this will also be true next year — in other words, my approach is constantly evolving.

It is a very personal process, dictated in good measure by artistic license; it is not open to “cookbook” interpretation.

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—Peter.

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Further Reading:

My Photography Workflow – 5 Items I Consider When Creating Images.

My Photography Workflow – Inspiration.

My Photography Workflow – Infusion of Self.

The world’s longest-running CCD “Open Letter to Leica” :) continues…

I’d to like see CCD sensors in future Leica M bodies.

Why?

Because I believe CCD is superior (in tonality, micro-contrast, general je ne sai quoi vibe) to CMOS with respect to image rendition at base ISO (you know, the kind of environment in which most of us photograph).

Most of you realize this to be true.  Even those of you who initially disagreed now see there is a difference, and it favours CCD.

Am I splitting hairs in citing such nuances in sensor rendition?

Not any more so than the frequent discussions that take place around lens rendition.

Come on, you know the superior qualities of CCD befit a company like Leica!

So, if you haven’t already, please consider signing my Open Letter to Leica.

(over 270 signatures so far… )

Prosophos Open Letter to Leica

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Related posts:

12 50 3.

I’ve owned twelve Leica 50mm Summilux ASPH lenses in my lifetime, and three of them have been perfect in build quality and astoundingly sharp at f/1.4.  The rest have been just short of exceptional.  Most people wouldn’t notice… because they’ve never been crazy enough to buy, use, and sell multiple examples of them.

And don’t even ask me how many new Leica lenses will arrive with loose aperture rings, or wobbly built-in hoods, or back-focusing, or front-focusing, or… etc.

The moral of the story: in the case of Leica lenses, it can be advantageous to buy used vs. new in a sealed box.  You not only save on price, you also have the opportunity to examine and photograph with the lens you’re interested in before purchasing.

—Peter.

The Peter | Prosophos Open Letter to Leica, revisited.

Ahhh, that Kodak (now Truesense) sensor in the M9/M-E/Monochrom… is it still the best sensor out there?

My answer:  Yes.

Is there another sensor that conjures up the same level of image quality?

Yes, the one in the M8!

So, I’d to like see CCD sensors in future Leica M bodies.

Would you?

Please consider signing my Open Letter to Leica.

(over 250 signatures so far… )

Prosophos Open Letter to Leica

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Related posts:

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