Photography

I would like to produce images which inspire to help others see the world in new ways like Ansel Adams, Mary Ellen Mark, Sebastiao Salgado (Salgado@NYT), Steve McCurry. Peter Turnley, David Turnley and Galen Rowell. After many years I realized I am more of a “snapshot” taker. Why less aspirational, taking good snapshots is still valuable. I can capture images which trigger memories and/or invite people into a sight they missed. Typically snapshots aren’t planned, rather they pop up. Often you only get one chance of capturing them. This means that you want the camera with you always (small and light so I am willing to carry it most of the time), a fast and accurate focus, and good low light performance. Surprisingly, the modern cell phone works pretty well to capture these sorts of images thanks to improvements in sensors and the advent of computational photography.

This post was triggered by deciding I want to use a dedicated camera. I believe using a more traditional camera will help me stay in the moment, allow me to capture images that I was unable to capture with my phone, and be a tool / reminder for a more mindful perspective. I think I will also be more fun. I am writing down what I want to optimize for to clarify my thinking. This page also has an updated set of bookmarks I made between 2000-2016 and ends with a bit of my journey.

Seeking a Compact Low Light Camera

For several years the only camera I have used was the camera on my phone. It has produced respectable image quality which is conveniently geotagged which increases it power as a memory aid. While fairly effective, I still miss having a “real” camera. The failings of a camera phone are:

  • Wildlife and sports subjects where a fast, long telephoto lens is needed. I rarely am taking these sorts of pictures. When I plan to do this I just rent a camera and lens.
  • Challenging lighting situations like heavy backlighting. I have found the flash on the iPhone is often inadequate for “fill”, the native app doesn’t have decent controls, and third party apps are hard to use.
  • Taking pictures quickly, especially when I am in bright sunlight. A screen based user interface rather than knobs is slow and the screen is virtually unreadable which means I am often “shooting blind”.

It’s time to purchase a camera which is smallish and light but also versatile and effective. If you search the internet you will find countless queries such as what’s the best camera for a world trip. I identified the following as cameras that would make sense for me:

  • Fuji X100V: a beautiful camera with great ergonomics. Wonderful viewfinder. Built in flash Great image quality to ISO 3200, very good to 6400 and beyond. Good, Fixed 35/2 lens strength and limitation. Built in flash. Downside is no image stabilization.
  • Panasonic LX100 II: Controls much like a classic camera. Image stabilization. Built in flash. Smallest / lightest option. Zoom lens in compact body. 49 contrast focus zones. Downside is that the sensor is just ok, likely good to ISO 1600 and gets cropped.
  • Fuji X-E4 + prime lens: Wonderful low light performance. Good focus performance. Second lightest camera. Downside no flash or image stabilization. The Fuji X-T30 would be ok.
  • Panasonic GX9 + a small prime lens. Small but tiltable viewfinder. Built in flash. Image stabilization which can be combined with OIS lens. Clean at ISO 1600, decent at 3200 though dynamic range suffers. 49 contrast focus zones. The Olympus OM E-M10 Mk IV and E-M5 Mk III would be heavier/larger but more performant options.

The X100V, X-E4, and LX100 II are difficult to purchase new due to supply issues. When I get to Japan I will see which if I can get a good deal on.

Rejected

  • Sony RX100: Tiny. Super fast focus. Wide zoom range. Nice built in flash. Up to ISO 600 image quality (to my eyes) is in the same league as any camera, but above ISO 800 image quality starts to suffer. Honestly, the picture from my iPhone or a modern Android phone look better. The Canon G5 Mk II is cheaper, not quite as good option.]
  • Ricoh GR III: a classic “street shooter”. Very fast usage. The lack of a viewfinder, flash, and and noise above around ISO 1000 is a fail for my needs.
  • Leica D-Lux 7 an expensive sibling to the LX100 II, why pay the extra money.
  • Leica Q2 – crazy expensive, larger / heavier
  • Sony RX1R1 – fairly expensive, larger / heavier than alternatives

Skills, Learning, Communities

Photographers

Interesting Galleries

Equipment & Reviews

Stores

Post Processing (in process of cleaning up)

My Journey

I started taking pictures in the 1970s: b&w street, nature, and landscape photography using a Minota Hi-Matic E,  Leica M3 rangefinder, and sometimes was able to borrow a friend’s super cool new (in 1974) Olympus OM-1. I saw photography as a way to capture striking images that could speak truth or inspire people with the beauty of nature. I was inspired by the picture by Ansel Adams (@100), Mary Ellen Mark, Sebastiao Salgado (Salgado@NYT), and Steve McCurry. A bit later I discovered Peter Turnley, David Turnley and Galen Rowell.

Around the time I moved to California I made a real effort to improve as a photography. I really benefits from PhilG’s photo.net site. then the old Leica I was using was stolen. I picked up a Nikon SLR because I couldn’t bring myself to spend the money on a new Leica. After several years of using an SLR I found that I missed the rangefinder experience so I picked up a Minolta CL. In 2002 I switched to all digital when my favorite E6 lab closed. At that time I was delighted by Domke bags, Gitzo legs, Arca Swiss ballheads, and mount brackets from Really Right Stuff. I observed that using a tripod is likely to be one of the very best ways to improve image quality and allow you to take images in low light. I will admit I often didn’t follow my own advise. With the advent of image stabilization, tripods aren’t as necessary as they used to be.

Around 2005 I made some acquaintances who are really good photographers. We would be in the same place and they would captures images that amazed me, things that I completely missed. Their images helped me see the world in a new and different way. I aspire to see the world as they do, but so far I have not been able to cultivate that sort of vision.

Around 2010 I concluded that I could take a good snapshot which captures a moment, but not a picture which would change the way people see the world. As I had this realization I lost my willingness to lug my DSLR + pro lens everywhere and mostly carrying a “pocket camera”. The number of pictures I took started to drop off and I didn’t have pictures of things I wanted to remember. I realized that my “pocket camera” wasn’t really up to the task. I tried to find a camera which was good enough for available light photography which was light enough that I was willing to carry it. I tried use the first generation of the Micro Four Thirds which was ok and a Fuji X mirrorless line which I like quite a bit.

After I lost my wife my photography slowed down and I found that I wasn’t willing to even carry a Fuji X100. I gave my micro four third camera gear to a friend whose camera had been stolen and eventually ebayed my Fuji cameras. I downsided to a Sony RX100, and then with the improvements from computational photography to just using the camera on my iPhone 12 mini.

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