Saturday, 11 February 2012

Stepping Up

L1000212L (Leica X1)

Not long ago I sold my old Minolta Dynax/ Maxxum 5 which was claimed to be the lightest electronic SLR ever built. Before selling it, I tested it a bit to be sure and was thrilled to find how the AF was as fast as accurate. Once at the price range of intermediate cameras which was about the asking price for a higher end P&Ss these days, the Dynax 5 exceeds, as far as my experience goes, the 600D in handling and is on a par of the A77 in AF speed. It has only one wheel but with the toggle button nicely placed to the left of the lens mount position, the shift between aperture and shutter speed controls is speedy. That this design is not seen in the present-day DSLRs is probably more because of the internal construction than a matter of inattention. But the package overall is now seen only at the higher-end models. Of course, the DSLR can be said to be more a black box. 

While technology has been stepped up greatly, the preponderance of technology over traditional wisdom may have as well caused us to throw away the baby with the water.

Friday, 10 February 2012

In Deep Thoughts

L1000211L (Leica X1)

After almost a month with the Leica D-lux 5, it is high time for me to retreat and write some user's impressions about it. I worked with the LX3 before but didn't really spend the same length of time with that one.  While the key layouts and menu factors have not changed much, using the 5 for this longer period gives me a new dimension about how well the implementation is. For that matter, I just compared them last night and still believed that after the last few years, the GX200 still trumps the LX/ D-lux series. But the 5 is such an endearing little camera, and with the enticing magical red logo, I am very inclined to keep it. 

Will this overlap my GX200? Yes and no. Yes because I have two GX200 -- one in "original flavour" and the other always fitted with the wide/ long-range converter. I brought both on a few overseas trips which proved to work well to not miss a shot, unless when the lighting situations were no good for the GX200 due to its less favourable high ISO performance.

The 5 is not a new camera.  But the price has dropped a bit.  It is still not cheap. BUT compared to when I got my GX200, it is not exceptionally expensive either if one factor in the inclusion of the LR3. And, honestly or just being silly, there is the red dot. So, in case you are contemplating a second-hand 5 or even a LX5, stay tuned. Anyway, time to find some time to write the impressions. 

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Thickness of Experience

L1000196DL (Leica X1)

The Lecia X1 feels a bit detached from the present world in that it is not fast in AF, has no video function or quick function keys or playful modes. It doesn't sound right that one can use it just for purely photography in colour or black and white –well, it offers some margin of appreciation in tuning the contrast, sharpness and saturation levels.

Or is it us that don't sound right in believing that a camera should not be used just for photography; full stop, that is it?

Leica is Leica not for no reason. The thickness of experience the camera maker has gained in the trade bestows on it a philosophy in simplicity. Okay, some would say that Leica has too much simplicity and too little functionality. That's right. In terms of software engineering, Leica is set to lose. There is nothing much one can do other than taking photos with the X1. Tuning and tweaking are only related to the exposure, thanks also going to the fixed lens. And for that reason, framing and composition require a physical zooming mechanism – your legs. There is no need for the user to think about whether the scene should be captured in film grain mode, retro mode or high tone mode.  None of these options is available.

But with the X1, in a way the Ricoh cameras are to a lesser degree in comparison, the user will know the difference between a camera maker working with programmers and the other one alongside a photographer. It is a camera which the photographer will feel just right. See a scene, concentrate on forming the image and fully press the shutter release. Full stop, that is it.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

?

L1000133L (Leica D-lux 5)

I bumped into a camera review webpage and read the following:

"Looking at the high ISO image samples between these two models, it is clear that the X100 trumps the X1 at ISO 3,200. The Fujifilm's picture has less noise while the Leica displayed digital artifacts around the shot."

This is not on just any usual blogger’s site but the CNET website. A big question mark here.

It is common sense that noise in a 100% crop is just one of the factors to make a conclusion on the IQ.  Surely the reviewer was aware of this. Then why the conclusion? Actually the cropped image shows that the X1's image has more "substance" (3-dimensional-ish in character), which is a more endearing image quality if you asked me. The bottom line is that not all noise is equally off-putting to the eye.
 
His conclusion on the IQ may make one wonder how well-versed, or otherwise, the reviewer is on the other parts of the review. How long did he spend with the camera outside of the lab to justify the conclusions? Fact is, moreover, as far as my experience goes, reviewers are seldom given the user’s instructions with the camera for review. So, a lab test of a camera is only as good as it gets on  the technicality of a camera. A prospective buyers will wish to make reference to some field tests or verdicts of trusted photographers.  Better still, get a hand on the real thing in a shop. Also prepare your memory card for storing your test shots to be evaluated at home.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Backing Up

L1000100L (Leica D-lux5)

You can visit any photography forum (or camera forum, to be exact), randomly pick a post and have a high chance of running into one which evaluates and investigates the best possible back-up camera. That our mind is strewed with ideas and information of such cameras could be a ramification of the short cycle of digital cameras.

Recently, I have been in contact with young shooters selling their gear – their “back-up” cameras. To me, the proposition of such tyros having a back-up camera doesn’t quite parse.  In the film era, even experienced amateur photographers would rather spend on an extra lens than a so-called back-up camera.  Surely, whether in the film or digital age, a majority of professional photographers carry a back-up camera with them. The most obvious practical reason is to play safe as consequences will be too dire for them to go on an assignment with just one camera, which may malfunction or get broken in some unforeseen situations. For the rest of us, the need is not in at least 99% of our shooting.

What are the points of carrying around a X100 fitted with a 35mm equivalent fixed lens or a GXR M-mount with numerous vintage lenses as a back-up camera to our very responsive DSLR fitted with a 24-140mm equivalent zoom lens? We don’t do this.  A sane person will simply leave either one at home. The corollary is to sell those cameras one has less chance to use.

So, what we amateurs require is not a back-up camera but a second camera. A second camera should compliment but not overlap your first camera in various areas like the focal length, image characters, form factors, the mindset behind its design and production and so on. One may factor in all these elements or just some of them when grapping a second camera. But the focal length factor should probably be given major consideration. Take one of the sellers I met for example. He has a Leica X1 and a Fujifilm X100, and has put up both on sale.  His unspoken plan is to sell the one which meets a suitor sooner.  Why? While the two cameras are very different in all the factors listed above, the same 35mm focal length gives the owner no chance to use them on the same occasion.  There is simply no point to keep both.

As for me, lots of people who know me have asked about the reasons for keeping more than one cameras. The answer is simple: each camera is catered for what it is good at.  The A55 is primarily for night shots, sports and indoor events; the GX200 mainly for street shots which need an unassuming camera capable of covering an extensive DOF; the Leica X1 is kept for the Leica image characters and me to learn capturing the world in 35mm only. Usually, as a street photographer, when I bring along the A55, the GX200 is in a handy place in my bag because I don't wish to be busy changing lenses or backing up to a less prominent shooting position just to find that the scene was missed. I don’t consider the GX200 a back-up; it is a second camera for a reason. The logic is different and so is the purpose, which has an important bearing on the choice for one’s arsenal of cameras.


Monday, 6 February 2012

Nude Shot

L1000119L (Leica D-lux 5)

If you are googling something else in a hope of cheering yourself up for the workweek to come and end up here, sorry, wrong place.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Reminders

R9353564L (Ricoh GX200)

Reminders from a middle-grader.

This is Sunday, get philosophical.