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If You’ve Ever Asked Me To Review Your Photos, Here’s A Chance — Photo Contest + Camera Bag Giveaway

Photo by Erik Hecht.

[UPDATE: Just returned from a job in Belize and damn...you guys have been busy! 2,000 comments/entries in a week! I've been checking out the work -there is some great stuff. TODAY IS THE LAST DAY TO SUBMIT AN ENTRY (April 24). Any entries after today (at midnight) will miss the deadline and not be considered. Standby for the judging - it's going to take me a while to get through all these! Thanks for paying attention!]

Hey photo friends, a few weeks ago my staff video guru Erik and I shared a glimpse into an ideal everyday walk-around camera kit. It’s a kit that Erik uses everyday and one that I beg/borrow/steal when not on assignment. Well the good folks over at ThinkTank took note of the love we showed for their Retrospective line of camera bags and sent the studio three of them to do with them whatever we choose. Just so happens we have plenty of camera bags already (2 of the exact models they sent us…), so we want to give these badass bags away to you. So here’s what we’re gonna do:

We wanna see your street photography. Your best everyday photos from being out in the world, covering the earth and actively pursuing the unexpected. Post links to your photos in the comments section of this blog post and we’ll pick 3 favorites and send the winners one of these slick camera bags. A few basic ground rules:

  • You must own the rights to the photos you’re sharing (this should be obvious).
  • You must be cool with us posting your photo (should you win) on a follow-up post announcing the 3 winning photographs.
  • Submit as many images as you want, but please only post direct links to single images, NOT galleries. Don’t make us sort through your portfolio to figure out what photo you’re submitting.
  • This should force you to use a little of your editing / curatorial skills too. Send us links to what you want us to review.

    We’ll leave the contest open for submissions for a week from today and then announce the winners in a follow-up blog post within 10 days of end of contest. Photos will be selected by composition, style, and overall merit as determined by us.

    Happy shooting. If you want to learn more about the bags you’re competing for, check out Erik’s blog post for his detailed thoughts on them, or take a look at ThinkTank’s website for the full specs. Here’s a peak at what we’re giving away. Rugged, stylish, downright awesome (valued at $157.60 each):

    ______
    Official Contest Rules

    Repurposed Vintage Cameras — Keep the Lights On + Other Unconventional Uses

    ChaseJarvis_VintageCameras_andriux-uk_AmyRollo

    © Andriux-Uk

    An invention doesn’t truly achieve obsolescence until it gets turned into a night light. Or a meat grinder. Such it is for these retro film cameras, repurposed for some good fun, inspiration, and to invoke a sense of nostalgia for the days of dark rooms. Somewhere a hipster just gasped “the horror” and a grandfather went looking for his Dualflex III. Before you freak (or hate on the hacking of old cameras in gags like this)…Maker of these beauties, Jason Hull says…

    “I’m not modifying cameras if they are in pristine condition or if they’re rare, I’d rather they stay usable as cameras in those cases. The ones I’ve chosen are lightweight plastic, produced in huge numbers and easily found for sale at flea markets/ garage sales/ ebay.” [and i'll add that, in my experience, they're often inoperable too...]

    While I don’t think the Spartus neon-blue wall light would necessarily mesh with my pad’s decor, I say better lighting the way to the bathroom at midnight than rotting in a junk heap. Happy friday.

    [have you hacked a camera into something cool? show me with a link]

    (link to Jason in one of my fav art rags, Juxtapoz, here)

    ChaseJarvis_VintageCameras_jasonhull_AmyRollo

    © Jason Hull

    ChaseJarvis_VintageCameras_jasonhull_AmyRollo

    © Jason Hull

    ChaseJarvis_VintageCameras_JasonHull-uk_AmyRollo-03

    © Jason Hull

    ChaseJarvis_VintageCameras_JasonHull-uk_AmyRollo-04

    © Jason Hull

    ChaseJarvis_VintageCameras_jasonhull_AmyRollo

    © Jason Hull

    4 Great Ways to Get the Look of Film in Your Digital Darkroom

    Photo by Rachel A. K.

    A lot of us still shoot film for love and for fun. I’m often dragging around my Polaroid 600, my Hassie 500cm, some Lomo stuff (or these other film cameras)… but it’s next to impossible to have clients get fired up to shoot film in a professionals setting. They wanna see their picture NOW. Well, if you’ve ever been in a pickle over how to get the speed of digital with the look of film, join the crowd. In my studio we use a lot of digital tools to get this look and it seems there ar always new software toys emerging for this very job… But since I’m out on assignment now, I can’t think of a better guy to walk you through a handful of the very best options than my pal Sohail. And no doubt you all will have some other tricks not covered here to add…

    Thanks Chase. As the man said, the “look” of film isn’t something we are willing to part with….(and we’re not talking the vintage filters on your iphone or droid..) Some of this comes from an old-school love of grain; some of it has to do with the fact that we just love the way film renders tonality and color. We can all love digital photography just as much, however, so finding a happy medium is the task of this post. I’ll run you through the faves and you can decide for yourself what might suit you well…

    For the past year or so, I’ve cycled various plugins and applications through my workflow, trying to find the right add-ons that bring the response curves and grain of old film back into digital images. I found four options that do just that.

    The ground rule

    I decided that I wanted the look and feel of “real” emulsions like Ilford HP5 or Kodak Portra. Although I’ve liked the look and feel of “vintage” filters that mimic (but not truly reproduce or emulate) old films, I made the conscious decision to seek apps and add-ons that seek to reproduce the look of black-and-white, color negative, slide, and instant film emulsions produced currently and in the past. There are a number of apps today that can apply that vintage look, but that, to me, is not the same as truly emulating film.

    The apps

    With that simple ground rule in place, I settled on four apps to look over. These aren’t by ANY MEANS all the apps out there that allow you to emulate film, but they are the four that do offer both color and B&W film emulation. They are:

    Nik Collection by Google

    "Somewhere in Utah" Processed in Nik Silver Efex Pro 2. © Sohail Mamdani

    "Somewhere in Utah" Processed in Nik Silver Efex Pro 2. © Sohail Mamdani

    Until recently, the two plugins from Nik Software, Color Efex Pro 4 and Silver Efex Pro 2, were both available as individual downloads for about $99 each. Following Google’s purchase of the company, the entire suite is now available for $149, which makes this collection one of the best in the “bang for your buck” category. FWIW, this is the one Chase makes primary use of in his studio.

    Color Efex Pro 4 has a number of film effects, ranging from the aforementioned “vintage” effects that don’t appear to be based on any specific film stock, to effects based on a very nice list of modern color films.

    Nik Color Efex Pro 4 Interface

    Nik Color Efex Pro 4 Interface

    From slide films like Velvia to modern negative stock like Portra, Color Efex Pro 4 is a first-rate one-stop-shop for the most popular emulsions out there.

    Silver Efex brings a similar range of choices for B&W images. Some of my favorite films are represented here; Ilford Delta 100 and 400, Fuji Acros 100, and Kodak Tri-X. The interface is somewhat similar to that of Color Efex Pro, and is pretty simple to use.

    Nik Silver Efex Pro 2 Interface

    Nik Silver Efex Pro 2 Interface

    Silver and Color Efex also include Nik’s unique Control Point technology, which lets you make some pretty sophisticated selective adjustments without having to deal with masks and selections in photoshop. Additionally, Silver Efex Pro also gives you a range of color filters you can use to adjust tonality in your B&W images. The Red filter, for example, can darken blue skies, while the Green filter lightens greens, helping to separate a flower from a background of bushes.

    The Nik Collection (which includes Silver and Color Efex) is available now for $149.

    Alien Skin Exposure

    "Colorado Road" Treated with Fuji Velvia 50 in Exposure 4. © Sohail Mamdani

    "Colorado Road" Treated with Fuji Velvia 50 in Exposure 4. © Sohail Mamdani

    Alien Skin’s Exposure plugin for Lightroom isn’t just a film effects plugin; it also places a number of powerful exposure controls at your disposal. It gives you very specific control over elements like film grain, aging, and vignetting, in addition to letting you adjust the tone curve of your images.

    The interface is pretty straightforward and functional. Very little consideration seems to have gone into making it “pretty”; rather, it uses the most simple possible interface elements. Most of the research into this app seems to have gone into the “under the hood” area rather than window chrome.

    The Alien Skin Exposure Interface

    The Alien Skin Exposure Interface

    This is a good thing. The app is reasonably fast, applying effects and saving files very quickly. That last item might seem like a small thing, but when you’re saving 100MB+ .tiff files, the extra few seconds is kinda nice.

    For those who aren’t looking to emulate film, Exposure also offers many other presets and effects out of the box as well. One major ding against them, however: they don’t make an Aperture version of their plugin. Aperture users will have to round-trip their images through Photoshop to take advantage of Exposure.

    Alien Skin Exposure is available now for $199.

    DxO Filmpack

    Image treated with DxO Filmpack, Kodachrome 64 setting. © Sohail Mamdani

    Image treated with DxO Filmpack, Kodachrome 64 setting. © Sohail Mamdani

    DxO’s Filmpack is available as both, a standalone plugin or as part of DxO Optics Pro, which is a collection of various image tools, from perspective correction to sharpening and denoising.

    There’a decent number of films represented here, from slide films like Velvia to black-and-white emulsions like Ilford Pan F 50. They also pack in refinement tools to adjust elements like HSL (Hue, Saturation, Luminance), noise, and film grain.

    The DxO FilmPack Interface

    The DxO FilmPack Interface

    The interface is pretty straightforward and well-designed. You pick your film, make your deeper adjustments, then close it out. DxO installs two versions of the plugin, a 32-bit one and a 64-bit version, so if you’re on an older version of Lightroom, you can still go back and use the 32-bit version.

    Filmpack itself also has two tiers, “Essential” and “Expert.” They’re priced at $49 and $99, respectively, and the “Expert” version, in addition to having certain emulsions that the “Essential” version doesn’t, also has a few features like batch processing and noise reduction.

    DxO Filmpack is available for $49 (“Essential”) and $99 (“Expert”).

    VSCO Film

    "Freighter and Alcatraz." Treated in VSCO with Fuji Superia 1600. © Sohail Mamdani

    "Freighter and Alcatraz." Treated in VSCO with Fuji Superia 1600. © Sohail Mamdani

    VSCO is perhaps the most unique of the plugins I worked with. Available for Lightroom, Camera RAW or Aperture (I tested the Lightroom version), the plugin is implemented in Lightroom as a collection of presets and camera profiles, all of which can be accessed without ever leaving Lightroom.

    VSCO Presets and Camera Profiles in Lightroom

    VSCO Presets and Camera Profiles in Lightroom

    There are currently three collections available; 01, 02, and 03. Each adds a number of specific films to the roster of available emulsions, building on the previous version. Every film is made available in four presets. There is a normal version that is, according to VSCO, the most faithful representation of what that particular film would look like for the image you’re working on, a “-“ version that tones the effect down somewhat, a “+” version that ratchets the effect up, and a “++” version that pushes it even further.

    Each of the three packs is sold separately, and is priced at $119, making VSCO’s collection the most expensive of the lot here. VSCO does offer a loyalty discount, so if you buy one of the packs, the others are available for a discount, bringing the price for all three packs under $300.

    It should be noted that the real strength of VSCO is, in my opinion, their combination of both camera profiles and presets. They currently have Canon and Nikon camera profiles for all three packs, and in something of a first, they also have Fuji presets for 01 and 03. A Fuji preset for 02 is apparently in the works.

    You can certainly apply the generic “Standard” presets to images shot on other cameras, and they still do a neat job, but the effect won’t be as faithful to the original film you’re looking to emulate. In my quick tests, RAW images taken with a Sony A99 still looked pretty darn good though.

    Aperture users, take note that the camera profiles feature in VSCO Film isn’t available to you. Aperture doesn’t support that feature, so that isn’t VSCO’s fault, and the plugin for Aperture is priced at $79 to reflect that loss in functionality.

    VSCO Film is available now for $119 per pack.

    The results

    I worked on several images over the last few months, from portraits to landscapes, and came away with some pretty clear ideas and opinions on the strengths and weakness of each plugin. The thing to remember is that these are just that — ideas and opinions. I’m applying my subjective judgement to these images, and that should be taken into account when you make your own choices.

    That said, let’s have a look at what I found.

    Initially, I thought of judging them based on criteria such as ease of use, speed, features, and final product.

    Ease of use

    After using all four apps over a few weeks, the first criteria almost fell by the wayside, since all four are pretty straightforward to use. A few factors did arise, however, that are worth mentioning.

    The Nik Collection was perhaps the only one that had a bit of a learning curve. That’s directly due to its Control Point technology, which you don’t have to use unless you want to adjust specific parts of your image — and if you do, the learning curve is absolutely worth it.

    VSCO was the other one that has a learning curve, but again, only for a specific reason. If you do things like retouching skin in Photoshop, there is a workaround you’ll need to use to avoid smearing the grain pattern and messing with the other settings for your images.

    Speed

    Hands-down, VSCO was the fastest of the lot. Since you never leave Lightroom, there’s no round-tripping of images through an external program. Even better is the fact that the presets render lightning fast, and you can reset them with just a click.

    Alien Skin’s Exposure was the other app that did a pretty decent job of round-tripping images from and to Lightroom. While it’s not orders of magnitude faster than its competitors, as I mentioned, the few extra seconds you eke out while working with 100MB+ .tiff files is kind of nice.

    Features

    If you’re looking for a plugin that does some pretty advanced film effects and has a good selection of emulsions to chose from, you can’t go wrong with the Nik Collection from Google.

    Control Points in Nik Silver Efex

    Control Points in Nik Silver Efex

    Between the truly awesome Control Point technology and the collection of popular films like Velvia and my personal favorites like Acros, the Nik Collection knocks it out of the park in the “packed with a bunch of features” category. At $149 for the whole dang thing, it’s also the clear winner in the “bang for your buck” section.

    Lest you think it’s the clear overall winner in this criteria, however, let me throw a twist at you. VSCO has what I believe to be two truly killer features: its edits are non-destructive, and it actually takes your specific camera model’s output into consideration when applying its edits (as long as you shoot Canon, Nikon, or Fuji).

    All the other apps output TIFF files. This is just fine; Photoshop does the same when you roundtrip files from Lightroom to it and back. What you lose there is the ability to fine-tune the changes after the plugin is done exporting the finished file back to Lightroom.

    Since you never leave Lightroom, and are working on the original RAW file, VSCO’s edits are easy to roll back the edits – just select the “RESET VSCO FILM” preset in Lightroom and you’re back to your starting point. You can also adjust the preset’s effects at any time simply by moving the sliders in Lightroom or Camera RAW around to get your final look.

    So, to me, this criteria has a two-way tie between Nik and VSCO.

    Final Product

    Here’s the meat of the review. The long story is below, but the short story is this: for my use, it’s a two-way tie for first place between VSCO Film and Nik Collection.

    Let’s dive in a bit more.

    In the images below, I’ve used the film preset in each app/plugin, with no additional adjustments in the plugins themselves. Any adjustments were made beforehand in Lightroom. Global adjustments were restricted to white balance and exposure, and there are some localized adjustments like dodging, burning, and skin smoothing. The original image in each case is shown as well.

    In each of the image comparisons below, the original starting image is shown in the top-left. Clockwise from there, we have the adjusted images from VSCO Film, Nik Collection, Alien Skin Exposure, and DxO Filmpack.

    Let’s start with B&W. I chose a film that all four apps had in common, Ilford HP5. The subject is the wetlands in the Alviso area of the Don Edwards Wildlife Refuge.

    Comparison Between All Apps for B&w Film

    Comparison Between All Apps for B&w Film

    Clockwise from top-left, we have the original DNG with basic Lightroom edits for exposure and white balance, followed by VSCO Film, Nik Collection, Alien Skin Exposure, and DxO Filmpack.

    What struck me here was how similar Nik and VSCO’s output was. VSCO laid the grain down a bit more evenly, while Nik Silver Efex was more selective about it. Silver Efex, on the other hand, crushed a little of the detail in some midtones and highlights.

    VSCO Film on the Left, Nik Silver Efex on the Right, 100% crop

    VSCO Film on the Left, Nik Silver Efex on the Right, 100% crop

    Alien Skin’s Exposure, on the other hand, tended to underexpose the sky, and lay down far less grain than either VSCO or Silver Efex for this film emulsion. It did, however, do a great job of holding detail throughout the frame.

    The real surprise here was DxO Filmpack. The output is nothing like that of the other three apps; in fact, I re-ran the original file through Filmpack again just to be sure, and the results were replicated exactly. DxO’s output looks almost washed out in comparison, with far less contrast than I remember seeing in images taken with actual HP5 film. The grain pattern is weak as well, which is odd considering that HP5 usually has some pretty good contrast with decent grain.

    The color images showed a similar disparity in final results as well. I chose a portrait for the this round of images, and picked an image I’d made of my friend Alexandria (an awesome photographer in her own right). The image had gone through a bit of retouching in Lightroom, but Alex has pretty flawless skin, so I didn’t need to round-trip it through Photoshop.

    The film I chose was Kodak Portra NC. Portra was originally available in two flavors, NC and VC, but the two lines were combined into one single Portra emulsion a while back. Portra NC is also one of the films that all four apps had in common, so I went with it over the standard version.

    Once again, clockwise from top left, we have the pre-film-effect Lightroom version, followed by VSCO, Nik Color Efex, Alien Skin Exposure, and DxO Filmpack.

    Here, Nik Color Efex and Alien Skin’s seem to be the two closest, but both look somewhat washed out. I almost like that effect, but VSCO’s render looks more natural to my eye. Color Efex and Exposure really reduced detail in the highlight areas, while VSCO managed to retain them nicely.

    VSCO Film on the Left, Nik Color Efex on the Right, 100% crop

    VSCO Film on the Left, Nik Color Efex on the Right, 100% crop

    DxO managed to disappoint me here again. Their render is, I think, over-saturated with a strong bias towards red. In fact, if you look towards the base of Alex’s neck, it almost looks like she’s blushing. DxO also reduced contrast in some areas and laid down a heavier grain pattern than any of the other apps.

    So who’s the clear winner for the “Final Product” criteria? I’d say it’s a tie between VSCO and the Nik Collection.

    Conclusion

    As I mentioned earlier, this test ended in a two-way tie for first place between VSCO Film and the Nik Collection by Google. but thing is that there is no real way to quantify a choice when it comes to applications like these.

    The final product and featureset are the two most important things to me, and in both those categories, I came up with a tie between VSCO and the Nik Collection. I do wish VSCO had some slide films in their packs; this is a glaring omission, but then so is the lack of “real” instant film emulsions from Color Efex. The Nik Collection has that awesome Control Point technology, but you can apply VSCO’s effects to video in Lightroom.

    In an ideal world, I’d tell you all to go buy both, but that’d run you upwards of $450. Instead, I’d say this – you can’t truly go wrong with either. Look at the samples here and elsewhere on the interwebs, and decide for yourself.

    MoVI Camera Stabilizer from FreeFly Cinema Looking Good To Revolutionize Camera Stabilization

    Last week we checked out the Supraflux Video Camera Stabilizer, a small stabilizer that has been lighting up kick-starter, already making over double their goal with almost a month left. Today we’ve got the other side of the spectrum with the MoVi from my very good friends Tabb and Hugh at Firefly Systems. I’ve used these guy for several years now as go-to help for aerial RC choppers and other fun toys… but in the past week they’ve dropped a much more hi-tech entry that’s already built a lot of worthy buzz as the next big thing in camera stabilization. I got the early tip, but was swamped so Tabb & co went way down stream (j/k Vincent ;) to work w my dear friend Vincent and take the MōVI for a test drive. Vince gave it his seal of approval, especially praising its short learning curve + ability to quickly make both simple and complex shots. My favorite part is the separation of the camera carrying from the camera pointing function. Don’t know what I mean? Check out their video… one guy handles the camera, the other guy steers the tilt / pan (ie what the camera sees). Genius! The video below will give you a solid idea of just how smooth the MōVI is, and might make you look at handhelds with a new respect.

    Using a 3 axis gyroscope to stabilize the camera, the MōVI system is portable and lightweight (3.5 pounds), making Scorsese-like shots a breeze. You can also manipulate the camera motion remotely by a second operator via joystick. Unfortunately the only real negative so far might be a deal-breaker; it’s currently priced at $15,000. Rumors have a $7,500 option coming soon, which is a little more manageable. The good news is, with technology like this breaking, you can bet a more consumer friendly option is on its way. Even more below for more of the MōVI in action.

    Win $15,000 From Burn Magazine. Emerging Photographers Apply By May 5th.

    chasejarvis_burnmagazine

    Photo: Matt Lutton/ Pristina, Kosovo


    Need a little more change in the pocket (or a lot)? If you’re doing top-notch work, you may be in luck because Burn magazine is giving away $15,000 in grants for three photographers. Called the “Emerging Photographer Fund”, the grants will be awarded in three allotments; one photographer will win $10,000, and two others will get $2,500 a piece.

    Initiated by legendary photographer David Alan Harvey in 2008 and awarded by the Magnum Foundation, the site describes the grants as “Designed to support continuation of a photographer’s personal project…[whose]…body of work may be of either a journalistic mission or purely personal artistic imperative. We just want to support committed authored photography of any ilk.”

    A maximum of 25 photos may be submitted for a non-refundable submission fee of $25.

    Entry deadline is May 5, 2013 at 6pm (EST), and winners will be announced in June 2013. Get on it.

    Check out the exact rules and contest description HERE
    Or to apply directly for the EPF grant for 2013, click HERE.

    Photo Kickstarter o’ the Week — The Supraflux Video Camera Stabilizer with Brake

    I’m loving the photo related projects that are popping up on kickstarter these days. I get 4-5 emails per week from people pimping their projects. Some of them suck. Some are fun. Others are downright dope. So, as we usher in a new era of DIY gadgetry and attempt to discover a future slew of products that might help us photogs + directors, I’m going to try to regularly recommend some kickstarters that have a little swagger. This week, I present, the Supraflux Video Camera Stabilizer with Brake.

    You might have the eye of an auteur, but without smooth and stable footage your film is going to reek of amateurism.

    The folks at Supraflux brought video stabilization to the masses with the geeky-but-effective Picosteady, a hand-held camera stabilizer. Back by customer demand for a heavier-duty stabilizer to accommodate larger cameras, Supraflux’s new Kickstarter campaign, introduces said larger stabilizer with a cool feature that they call the Brake.

    The Brake is an electronic locking device that locks one axis of the stabilizer with the touch of the button, allowing for 2 free-floating axes and eliminating the need to touch the stabilizer with the free hand in order to turn the camera. (a problem we’ve noted on the expensive but pretty good Merlin Steadicam that we’ve owned for years.) So this is Supraflux’s solution. Haven’t tried the prototype myself, but they could be onto something.

    Check it out here on Kickstarter campaign and donate!

    We scored an interview with Nadim Elgarhy (one of the inventors):

    CJ: What inspired the SupraFlux? Did you wake up at 3am out of a dream or was it a more iterated process?

    Nadim: A few years ago I developed an interest for filmmaking. I quickly realized that it wasn’t that easy to get nice, smooth footage. So, I started exploring stabilization options: tripods with fluid heads, sliders, jibs, and of course, handheld stabilizers. The stabilizer got my interest the most because it doesn’t have the same limitations as the other devices do: it’s not limited to only one type of motion, it’s not limited in range, and it’s quite compact. The only problem is that it is much harder to operate and it’s not as easy to get decent footage with it as it is with other devices.

    Last year my brother Karim, and I created a very small stabilizer (The Picosteady) that only works with small cameras, and that is very easy to setup and use. But it has it’s limitations, mainly that it can’t stabilize heavier cameras, like, for example, the very popular Canon 5D2. So, we started working on a bigger stabilizer. One day, while testing one of our prototypes and using our hands to control the direction of the camera, Karim just came up with the idea to have some sort of mechanism to lock the main shaft on-demand. We went through a couple of iterations before settling on the current design.

    CJ: What makes the SupraFlux so innovative?
    Nadim: The first stabilizer was invented in the 70′s and hasn’t seen any innovation since then. In more than 30 years it has always remained the same concept, and has always been operated with the same technique: using your fingers directly on the post to control the camera’s movement. The problem with that is that it requires a lot of experience to get a good results. What makes the Supraflux Stabilizer so innovative is that you no longer need to touch the post to control the direction. This removes the human-factor error, and it tremendously reduce the experience and skills required to get good footage from the Stabilizer.

    CJ: You’ve already eclipsed your goal on Kickstarter – how many units are you hoping to make and when will you ship?
    Nadim: We’re very grateful to all the backers so far! People are awesome! We’re hoping to reach 200 backers by the end of the campaign. We’re going to announce some stretch goals (bonuses and extra options that will be made available if we reach certain goals) very soon. We’re planning on having all Supraflux Stabilizers shipped by the end of August 2013.

    CJ: Any other ideas up your sleeve you can give us a peek at?
    Nadim: We’re working on a few things right now, mainly sliders and jibs. But we don’t want to come up with just another slider, or just another jib. We’re always looking to innovate, making things easier to operate and handle, making things more practical for the end-user, without ever compromising on quality. When we announce our next product, it will be something really cool!

    Photo Geek Alert — The Camera Sensor as Emulsion + Why Your Digital Camera is More Like Film Stock Than You Realize

    Geek alert. Although the mentality stems from the last century, the megapixel wars are not over. It is, however, safe to say that those of us familiar with our cameras have started to realize that they are much more than megapixels + dynamic range. There are other factors that we have come to admit are important to consider – case in point, the sensor. Some are noisy, some are big, some are juicy, others are…well… you get my point. These apparent truths prompted a conversation with my friend Sohail and led him to this in-depth post about the comparison of digital sensors and processing systems that go into today’s cameras — all with the emulsion (the photo sensitive side of film) discussion that used to kick around in the era of film. It’s all coming full circle now… Take it away Sohail. -Chase

    A few months ago, I made a switch in camera platforms. Comparing images taken with a 5D Mark III and a Nikon D800, I found that there was something about the Nikon image that I really liked, something that went beyond the standard things that can be quantified, like its 36MP resolution, or its 12 stops of dynamic range.

    D800 shot on the left, 5D Mark III on the right. Fog-shrouded Bay Area, treated in Color Efex Pro 4. © Sohail Mamdani

    D800 shot on the left, 5D Mark III on the right. Fog-shrouded Bay Area, treated in Color Efex Pro 4. © Sohail Mamdani

    The atmospheric conditions for the two shots were different, but even accounting for that, the 5D Mark III image was uncomfortably crunchy, with some pretty serious color noise and banding in the shadows. The D800 shot, on the other hand, had amazing tonality, and the noise was mostly luminance noise, smoothly rendered, almost organic, like film grain.

    Shadow Comparison. D800 On Left.

    Shadow Comparison. D800 On Left.

    I’d love to tell you that this was a moment of epiphany. It would be great if I could say something like, “And at that moment, it was as though the heavens themselves had opened up and poured the sweet song of angels down upon my ears and I realized I had found the camera I’d been waiting for all my life.”

    Yeah, that didn’t happen. Though I did end up switching to Nikon, for a number of reasons. (Let no debate rage at this point…please).

    An idea is born

    Comparing the two images — especially the comparison of the Nikon’s luminance noise to film grain — did serve to make me aware of something that I think has been happening for some time now. Though the megapixel wars aren’t over by any means, we have started to look at our DSLRs as more than the sum of their megapixels.

    Two of my current favorites when I shoot film.

    Two of my current favorites when I shoot film.

    I’m old enough to remember the halcyon days of film. Back then, we had vigorous discussions about tabular versus classic grain, T-Max vs Tri-X, why no one should shoot caucasian skin with Ektar 100 and why only masochists shot with color slide film (Chase tells me this was his primary mode). The old darkroom hands swapped developer recipes back and forth, or kept them close to the vest, like preciously guarded state secrets, while the young hands spent hours in the darkroom with pieces of cardboard punched with holes for dodging and burning under the enlarger.

    It was with much amusement that I realized the parallels in our comparison of digital sensors and processing systems that go into cameras with the old film hands’ discussions about various emulsions.

    Really? What parallels?

    Let me break it down for you.

    In the old days, every film could be said to have a purpose. Fuji Velvia was the landscape film, with awesome, popping greens. Kodak Tri-X was the photojournalist’s film, a 400 ASA film that you could push to three stops and shoot at ISO 3200. Kodak Portra was, as the name suggests, for portrait films.

    We left a lot of that specialization behind when we went to digital – and thank goodness for it. Unlike real emulsions, however, digital emulsions can’t be switched out — unless you’re shooting medium-format or with a Ricoh GXR system — so it made sense to have a more “generalist” chip doing the job. Instead, we resorted to post-processing to recreate the look and feel we wanted, and this is an approach that still yeilds dividends today. The cityscape above was finished in Nik Color Efex Pro 4, for example, and I applied the Kodak Portra 160 effect to it to make it look the way I wanted.

    Fog-shrouded Bay Area, treated in Color Efex Pro 4. © Sohail Mamdani

    Fog-shrouded Bay Area, treated in Color Efex Pro 4. © Sohail Mamdani

    But look around you. In the last couple of years, specialty sensors are, in fact, making an appearance. The Sigma SD–1, with its Foveon sensor, which purports to deliver a file that claims to rival medium-format images, for example. Or the proprietary X-Trans sensor in Fuji’s X-Pro1, with its EXR processor and built-in film effects, which does away with the standard optical low-pass filter and the traditional Bayer array of pixels, with fantastic results. Or the aforementioned D800E, with its ridiculous resolution and dynamic range. Or the most blatant of all specialty sensors – the Leica Monochrom-M with its black-and-white-only sensor.

    That piece of silicon in your computer that sits on the film plane is starting to look a lot more like film, isn’t it?

    Okay. But why does any of this matter?

    Simple. It matters because when you reach for your wallet to buy or rent your next camera, accepting that there are differences in sensors beyond megapixels is going to go at least some way towards helping you pick your next camera.

    Let me give you an example. If you’re the kind of shooter who likes HDR photography, then knowing that the D800E has incredibly dynamic range might help you chose that over, say, a Canon 5D Mark III. Or, if you’re nuts about great, popping, luscious colors, you might chose an X-Pro1. Black-and-white enthusiast? That Leica Monochrom might have your name on it.

    The realization that the sensors going into digital cameras have their own unique characteristcs, just like the film emulsions of yesteryear, can actually direct your choice of cameras. I’ll happily put up with the X-Pro1’s foibles, for example, to get that awesomely luscious color out of it.

    JPEG straight out of the Fuji X-Pro1. © Sohail Mamdani

    JPEG straight out of the Fuji X-Pro1. © Sohail Mamdani

    Wait a second. I can do that Velvia film look and get those colors in post, can’t I?

    In many cases, sure. There are some great programs out there now that can help pull color out of RAW images like never before. And if you have the time, energy, and funds, you should invest in them.

    You are, however, going to have a much better starting point if the sensor in your camera gets you that much closer to the look you want to begin with. To go back to images at the beginning of this article, I’m sure that with enough massaging, I could work that color noise out of the Canon image, deal with the banding to a large extent, then apply the film grain of my choice. I tried that, in fact, and like my experience, your results may not meet your expectations. After an hour of work on it, the image from the 5D was still murky in the shadows, and didn’t have the look I wanted.

    The Nikon image, on the other hand, took less than ten minutes to get it to where I wanted it.

    Conclusion

    Unlike the days of film, you don’t need to delve into the minutae of the differences between film grains, the response curve of Portra 160 vs 400, or the tonality of Neopan Acros 100. But if you understand that — and accept — that modern sensors do, like their film analogues, have quirks and capabilities beyond those listed on the camera’s spec sheet, then you’ll be able to make a more informed decision about where you spend your money.

    In the end, you’re going to make the image, not your camera. But it helps to have a great starting point.

     

    Gear provided by BorrowLenses.com - where still photographers and videographers can rent virtually everything.

    The Secrets of Surf Photography —- Chris Burkard Shares His Craft

    ChaseJarvis_ChrisBurkard_Surf_AmyRollo-01

    At 26 years old, Chris Burkard is living the dream of traveling around the world to shoot surfers in exotic places.  He’s been recognized for his work with some prestigious awards including a first place spot in the Red Bull Illume competition.  His images are a complementary mix of being right in the action and being removed from it.  At times the subject is a tiny speck in the grander landscape.  Other times the camera is enveloped in a wave.  I caught up with Chris to get some insight to what he’s doing and how he got there.

    Could you describe your process? How do you end up with the striking images we see here?

    CB: I guess my process has a lot to do with luck and preparation. I like to research and prepare as much as possible so when those unique unexpected moments happen, I’m ready. I also like to keep in perspective the work and the passion. To never let the assignment become more important than my photographic voice. My process seems to always involve a little bit of introspection. Am I just taking pictures to take pictures?  Or are these actually moments that mean something?
    ChaseJarvis_ChrisBurkard_Surf_AmyRollo-01

    How did you get your start in photography? How did you get to where you are now?

    CB: I started taking photographs around the age of 19. I did a lot of art in high school and it seemed like a natural departure from painting, pen or ink. Photography for me was the perfect medium for expression. It was ideal for how I wanted to experience and document because I could take my art into any situation. The mountains, the ocean, social settings.

    When I started getting serious about photography, I would shoot surfing locally, just friends. But my passion was for landscapes.  I would spend summers exploring the desert southwest and looking for a chance to expand my photographic eye. I sought out internships and shadowing opportunities and from there. Things just evolved and I’d like to think even though I have a distinct style now, that I’m still seeking to change and grow in my art.

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    Do you have other influences outside of surfing and action sports? Whose work inspires you?

    CB: So much of my work is based in action sports and outdoor lifestyle, but in fact the majority of my inspiration comes from landscape photographers and portrait work. I’m really drawn toward the work of William Albert Allard, Henri Cartier Bresson, and Edward S Curtis. I have such a strong admiration for people that really connected with there subject, whether a landscape or a culture. I have always aimed to have the same kind of connection with my subject. In the surf world and action sports realm I also have a lot of influences. Ron Stoner, Craig Peterson, Jimmy Chin, Ted Grambeau.

    Ultimately I think I am the most inlfluenced by nature and the outdoors.

    chasejarvis_chrisBurkard

    You clearly have influences outside of the action sport world. Do you also work outside of the surf world?

    CB: Yes.  I shoot a lot of outdoor lifestyle, music, wine, automobile. I love to branch out and shoot everything, and I love the challenge of new assignments. I’m usually pretty specific and only work with brands or companies that I feel are going to help promote my personal aesthetic or natural light and editorial style photography.

    People always want to know about the gear we use – so I gotta ask – what’s in the bag?

    CB: Nowadays mostly using Nikon, and occasionally some sony nex mirrorless cams.

    70-200 and 16-35mm are in my usual lens kit. Also a 50mm and 400mm telephoto. And always a fisheye for work in the water.

    ChaseJarvis_ChrisBurkard_Surf_AmyRollo-01

    Where do you like to haul all that gear? What’s your favorite location?

    CB: I love Iceland. I have been 7 times and already planning my 8th trip. Can’t wait. The place has a really unique type of light. It’s almost tangible. Like surreal beauty that seems to fill you. For me it’s the type of place I could move to someday.

    Where do you want to go that you haven’t been?
    CB: I would love to spend some time in Alaska. Really excited to explore some of the islands off the coast, especially Kodiak. For me, the more remote, the better. That’s where the adventure lies.

    ChaseJarvis_ChrisBurkard_Surf_AmyRollo-01

    Advice for aspiring surf photogs?

    CB: My advice would be always aim to create a style that is recognizable. Something the viewer will know is your image without seeing the photo credit. I think it’s so important these days, especially with how many people are out shooting surf and action sports images to create work that is meant to last. Dont be so focused on logos or how good the action is, but more on the emotion in the image.

    Anything else?

    CB: “Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.”  - Ralph Waldo Emerson

    Check out more of Chris’s work here.

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    Wireless Cameras Are The Future — What’s in it for You?

    The Samsung Galaxy Camera includes Wi-Fi, 3G and GPS and can run Android apps

    I’ve been banging on the doors, windows, and faces of camera manufacturers for years about this one having long found value in the idea, “What good is a picture if you can’t share it?” It’s a simple concept that lots of us helped ignite in our culture via mobile devices. Instantly being able to share is assumed now. But… that our friends in the “real” camera world have been a little slow in adopting this concept is a massive understatement. So what is the state of that state really? What planet are they from? It’s worth taking a look at. As such, I’ve enlisted my pal Ben Pitt (who has authored some popular posts on the Nikon D600 and Canon 6D in recent weeks) to give us the technical breakdown on the latest and greatest. But even as you read this post that dives deep on which widget does what and how fast, remember, dont forget I’m still backing the idea that the best camera is the one that’s with you. Take it away Ben! -Chase

    12 months ago, Wi-Fi was built into about half a dozen digital cameras. This year it’s everywhere – not just in high-concept cameras such as the Samsung Galaxy Camera but also in half the compact cameras announced at the Consumer Electronics Show in January. It’s built into the Canon EOS 6D and Panasonic Lumix GH3, and is available as an optional upgrade for Nikon’s latest generation of SLRs (D3200, D5200, D7100, D600, D800, D4) and the Canon 5D Mark III and 1D X.

    So is Wi-Fi going to change our photographic lives, or is it just another over-hyped innovation to help camera manufacturers shift more units? Let’s take a look at what’s on offer.

    Remote control

    Wi-Fi allows remote control of the camera from an Android or iOS app – most of these cameras have accompanying apps for both platforms. The camera creates a wireless network for the smartphone or tablet to join. In some cases this can be cumbersome to manage, but it needn’t be after the first time they’ve been paired.

    The EOS Remote Android app for the Canon 6D includes touchscreen spot focus and a VGA live preview.

    The app can then show a live preview feed and provide a remote shutter button and some control over photographic settings. In many cases this includes a touchscreen spot focus function. The quality of the live preview tends to be pretty good. Most run at 640×480 pixels, which is equivalent to a 921,000-dot LCD screen, but with the added benefit of a larger screen size. There’s a certain amount of latency in the live view feed, and also in the response of the shutter release, but in my experience it’s usually well under a second.

    These remote shooting functions are impressive but, personally, I doubt I’d use them much. They’re perfect for group portraits when you want to include yourself in the photo – something I do perhaps once or twice a year. Knowing my luck it’s bound to stop working at exactly that moment, giving my assembled friends and family yet another chance to revel in my humiliating defeat at the hands of technology.

    The Lumix Link app for the GH3 running on an iPad

    I’d hoped that remote shooting would be useful for photographing birds and other wildlife in my garden. It turns out that birds are just as nervous of a tripod as they are of a person (the shot on the right was with a long lens through the window). I guess that birds would get used to the tripod if it was left in place for a few weeks, but would they be scared off by the appearance of a camera on the tripod? If anyone has experience of this, please share your thoughts in the comments below.

    Remote shooting has other uses, such as when the camera is positioned in hard-to-reach places. This is probably more useful for video than photography, though. So far I haven’t seen or heard of a camera that can stream video wirelessly while recording it – unless you count the Parrot AR Drone app-controlled aerial drones.

    Using a high-resolution tablet as a wireless video monitor would be extremely useful for video production, regardless of the camera position. 802.11n should be fast enough for compressed 1080p video. I’m hopeful that this will appear before too long in mirrorless and SLR cameras.

    The Canon EOS 6D also supports wireless PC tethering, with a live view feed and comprehensive control in the accompanying PC software. This might be a killer feature for people currently struggling with (or put off by) tethered shooting over short USB cables. Performance and latency seemed to be pretty good in my tests with the 6D.

    Wireless transfers

    Transfers are technically simpler than remote control, but probably more useful. In most cases, the same Android and iOS apps used for remote shooting can also browse the camera’s card contents and request photos and videos for transfer. In some cases, photos can be selected for transfer on the camera too.

    Picking a photo to upload from the Panasonic SZ9 compact camera.

    The remote shooting modes usually incorporate automatic transfers as soon as the picture is taken. However, the ability to shoot with the camera’s controls and transfer photos automatically is surprisingly rare. This is something that Eye-Fi cards have been able to do for years.

    I can see two potential uses for wireless transfers to an app. One is for instant online sharing. Mobile phones have changed the way casual snaps are shared – people want to be able to upload within seconds to taking a photo. With a Wi-Fi camera, you’re not limited to using your phone’s built-in camera.

    For serious photographers, the ability to review a photo on a high-resolution tablet within seconds of taking it is a big draw. It’s useful for checking focus, and for spotting subtle problems with the scene that would be hard to see on a camera’s 3in screen. The Canon EOS 6D’s app also lets you rate photos, with the data synced back to the camera’s SD card.

    I’m looking forward to seeing cameras that allow photos to be transferred to an app at the touch of a button on the camera, directly after taking a photo. I don’t necessarily want to transfer every photo, but when I do, it should be a quick operation that doesn’t distract me from the creative process.

    Most Wi-Fi cameras can also transfer photos and videos directly to online sharing services – Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and so on. I’m not sure how useful this is, though. It’ll only work when you’re in range of a home network or public hotspot, and entering social network passwords using camera controls is pretty fiddly. It seems easier to send the photo or video to a smartphone first.

    Wireless transfers to a computer or network storage hold more appeal. Large transfers are slow, but it’s great to be able to simply switch the camera on and press a couple of buttons to start copying.

    Other tricks

    Syncing GPS data to the Canon PowerShot S110 from the CameraWindow app.

    GPS is increasingly common on digital cameras, but a few models (Canon S110, Fujijilm F800EXR, the latest Panasonic compacts, among others) provide GPS by proxy via the Wi-Fi link. This uses a smartphone app to keep a log of the location over a given period. Later, this log is cross-referenced against the capture time of photos in the camera to add GPS coordinates to their EXIF data. It’s not as neat as integrated GPS but it’s cheaper to implement. It’s certainly better than no GPS at all.

    The Sony NEX-6 and NEX-5R can be expanded with downloadable apps. This lets you add functions such as time-lapse photography and advanced bracketing modes, and cost a few dollars each. However, I can’t help feeling that this is less about getting more features and more about Sony looking for new revenue streams. Sony has always lead the way for innovative shooting modes, but they used to be included as standard rather than optional extras.

    The potential for third-party app development is interesting, but I can’t see many developers choosing to spend their time coding for a closed system such as NEX at the expense of Android and iOS platforms. The natural home for third-party camera apps is on Android cameras such as the Samsung Galaxy Camera.

    Looking forward

    So that’s where we’re at so far. These Wi-Fi functions are still in their infancy, and I’m yet to test a Wi-Fi camera where everything has worked smoothly. Some implementations are a little cumbersome, particularly when it comes to configuring network settings. Pretty much every camera I’ve tested has had one or two features that I’ve not been able to get working as advertised. Hopefully these kinks will be ironed out.

    For me, the most useful functions – wireless monitoring while recording video, and one-touch, on-demand photo transfers – have yet to materialise. Even so, Wi-Fi cameras show lots of promise, not just for casual users but also for enthusiasts and professionals. They won’t revolutionise digital photography, but if they help to keep dedicated cameras relevant in this age of instant sharing, that’s no bad thing.

    But that’s enough about what I think. Are you tempted by any of the features described above? Are you already using them? Is there’s anything else on your wireless wish list that no one’s thought of yet? Let us know below.

    Canon EOS 6D Hands-ON — Canon Giveth, Canon Taketh Away

    Canon EOS 6DIt seems our exploratory swim in the waters of full-frame DSLRs is far from complete. With the ink from his recent reviews of the D600 and the mirrorless Panasonic GH3 still drying, I asked my homie Ben Pitt to put the Canon EOS 6D between his microscope plates and share his findings here. As you’d expect with a lower-priced semi-pro camera, the EOS 6D is a mixed-bag. It’s light and boasts integrated GPS + Wi-Fi, but a couple notable omissions are enough to yank this camera from the “obvious choice” list. Scrutinizing consumers have come to expect a catch with the $2,000 price point products. Does the EOS 6D have a big one? I’ll let Ben take it from here. – Chase

    A year ago, a full-frame camera meant a professional camera. They were simply too expensive for the majority of amateur photography enthusiasts. But with the Nikon D600 and Canon EOS 6D, the landscape has changed.

    Last month I wrote about the Nikon D600, and whether the inevitable compromises it makes compared to the pricier D800 are worth living with. I concluded that – for me at least – they were. Given the choice of a D800 or a D600 plus an extra $800 to spend on glass (or more realistically, household bills), I’d happily go for the latter.

    This month, it’s time to ask the same question about the Canon EOS 6D.

    There are no nasty surprises regarding image quality. The 6D’s 20-megapixel full-frame sensor is new, but quality is hard to distinguish from the EOS 5D Mark III’s 22.3-megapixel output. Details are marginally lower, but so too are noise levels. Incidentally, detail and noise levels are very similar to the D600, too. Canon and Nikon each has its distinctive colour processing but there’s nothing much to separate these three cameras’ image quality on an objective basis.

    1/320s, f/5.6, ISO 400, 400mm (click to enlarge)

    1/60s, f/5, ISO 100, 32mm

    1/125s, f/2.2, ISO 320, 50mm (click to enlarge)

    1/200s, f/2.2, ISO 12800, 50mm (click to enlarge)

    Their video modes are more varied. The 6D’s videos lag a little behind the D600′s for detail levels, and it lacks a headphone out to monitor the microphone input. However, unlike the D600, its aperture setting can be adjusted while recording. Overall, I’d class that as a draw, but both come a distant second to the Panasonic GH3 for video.

    As with the D600, the 6D takes its design cues from a cropped-sensor sibling – in this case, the EOS 60D. The 6D is only fractionally larger and heavier than the 60D, although the lack of an integrated flash and articulated screen possibly account for the minimal weight gain. The layout of buttons is very similar, with a generous number of single-function buttons but a few less than on the 5D Mark III. It’s great to have the AF-ON button included – something Nikon chose to omit from the D600. The lack of direct access to white balance settings is disappointing, though.

    Some people will lament the single SDXC slot, which compares unfavourably to the D600’s dual SDXC and the 5D Mark III’s SDXC and CompactFlash slots. I can live with a single slot, but it seems that this particular one hampers performance. Testing with an SDHC card rated at 94MB/s, burst mode set off at 4.2fps but slowed to 2.3fps after 26 frames. When I tested the 5D Mark III (which uses the same DIGIC 5+ processor), I found that the 6fps burst rate lasted indefinitely with a 90MB/s CompactFlash card but slowed to 2fps after 28 shots with a 94MB/s SDHC card.

    Still, 4.2fps for 26 frames isn’t so bad. If you’re looking for a fast camera for sports or wildlife photography, you should be more wary of the 6D’s autofocus sensor.

    As with the Nikon D600, its points are bunched towards the centre of the frame – it’s as if Canon has taken an APS-C SLR’s autofocus sensor and plonked it into a full-frame camera. But whereas the D600 has 39 AF points, nine of which are cross-type, the 6D has a much simpler 11-point autofocus with just a single cross-type point in the centre. That rules out the automatic subject tracking that’s available in the D600 and 5D Mark III – there simply aren’t enough AF points to track moving subjects. It’s also a pretty big drawback for portrait work, where you want to be able to focus on the eye without having to focus and recompose the shot. Then again, the 5D Mark II had a nine-point autofocus system, and it sold by the bucket load.

    So far, the D600 is coming out on top for features, but the 6D’s trump card is integrated Wi-Fi and GPS. GPS worked without a hitch in my tests. The GPS radio stays on when the camera is switched off, so it needn’t spend ages recalculating its position when you want to take a photo. An icon on the passive LCD screen reminds you to switch it off (via the menu) at the end of the day – shame there’s no hardware switch.

    The Wi-Fi implementation is one of the most sophisticated I’ve seen. With the help of the EOS Remote app for iOS and Android, the camera can be remotely controlled from a smartphone or tablet, complete with live view, touchscreen control over the autofocus point and full access to exposure settings. Image browsing is well catered for too, with responsive full-screen previews, detailed EXIF data and the ability to apply star ratings. There’s no option to transfer photos to the app at the full 20-megapixel resolution, though.

    The EOS Remote app running on an iPad

    The 6D also supports wireless tethering to a PC or Mac, which worked flawlessly once I’d jumped through various hoops to set it up. There are various other features, such as uploads to Facebook and YouTube over a local network and the ability to stream slideshows to a Smart TV via DLNA.

    Overall, the EOS 6D is a heady mix. Image quality is outstanding. Video capture has its limitations but picture quality is certainly flattering. Its controls and performance are decent enough, the autofocus is disappointing and the wireless features are spot on. That might sound like a fair compromise considering the breakthrough price, but it’s very much a case of taking the rough with the smooth. To me, the D600 feels more balanced.

    As ever, we’d love to hear your thoughts. Are 11 autofocus points enough, or has Canon misjudged its market here? Bear in mind that Canon wants the 6D to appeal to people who are ready to move up from a cropped-sensor SLR – it’s not designed for potential 5D Mark III owners who are looking to save some cash. Are the Wi-Fi and GPS must-have features, tempting extras or a waste of space? And putting any allegiances to one side, which company do you feel has made the best cut-price full-frame camera?

    100 Ideas that Changed Photography

    Every so often, I am reminded of the tectonic shifts in photography that seem to skip under the radar in our exploding world of photography and photographers. No harm, no foul — but it snaps my head back into place when pointing these out from time to time.

    Mary Warner Marian’s book 100 Ideas that Changed Photography” does a damn nice job highlighting some of these shifts. It’s her personal take on the most influential ideas that have shaped photography, from the daguerreotype in the early 19th century up to the digital revolution and beyond.

    Now… top “100″ lists are always risky business. Inevitable omissions beget unavoidable criticism; the author’s author-ity (and intelligence) gets questioned; the business of “TOP 100″ lists is decried. NO so long ago, when I created a little 240 page book of portraits titled “Seattle 100, which featured my personal curation of 106 people influentially driving culiture in Seattle, it was not to prescribe the “best” 100…not “THE” 100, but simply A 100 if you catch my drift. Fortunately for us, Marian’s book seems to take the same approach — curated list of her own design and one that I respect. Ultimately, this book is a reminder that much of the fear and chatter expressed in our modern day, the alleged affronts to the “craft” of photography by new technologies, are seriously misplaced. The art of capturing light has been evolving since Christian Gobrecht first illustrated the workings of a camera obscura.

    As the author Marien puts it:

    While it may seem that a new photo technology is born every day, photography is still what we make it, not what it makes us.

    chasejarvis_100IdeasThatChangedPhotography

    IDEA # 1: THE CAMERA OBSCURA When Christian Gobrecht illustrated the workings of a camera obscura for Abraham Rees’s The Cyclopedia or Universal Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, and Literature (1805-22), he was careful to show how the device created an inverted image.

    Collodian

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    IDEA # 13: COLLODION Photographers who used the collodion process had to process their glass plates before and after exposure. They brought a portable darkroom and sometimes employed assistants to help.

    The Lens

    chasejarvis_100IdeasThatChangedPhotography

    IDEA # 9: THE LENS Specially designed weights or impromptu inventions were attached to the shutter to create timed lens exposures.

    Negative/Positive.

    chasejarvis_100ideasthatchangedphotography

    IDEA # 4: NEGATIVE/POSITIVE The negative formed the basis of photography until the digital age. It is based on the reversal of dark and light tone.

    hasejarvis_100IdeasThatChangedPhotography

    Images and captions courtesy of Laurence King.

    A Robot That Drives Your Camera — The Little Motion Control Dolly That Could

    I stumbled on this gem via Kickstarter a week or two ago and reached out to my camera tech pal Sohail to get his take. In short, we cranked out this review in short order to give you a first look AND… I’ve got another prototype en route to my studio now to put it thru the paces of an actual commercial job… Will report back again after all is said and done, but in the meantime, Sohail goes deep with this little monster and validates that this motion-control timelapse dolly is a worthy endeavor… Take it away, Sohail… – chase

    Often, the simplest of ideas, executed without bloat, result in the most elegant and useful of solutions. That is what the L’il Mule personifies. In fact, when it was handed to me, my first reaction was, “That’s it?”

    That was, in fact, it. The L’il Mule is a trackless dolly that is the brain child of Warren Herndon, the man behind the popular Omni-Tracker line of video dollies. Warren appears to have taken the feedback he received from the Omni-Tracker to heart and has used it to build a dolly that, if you’re interested in video or timelapse, you should take a good look at. The Kickstarter project that he used to launch the L’il Mule is still ongoing, and has been funded at over 200%.

    The L'il Mule dolly

    The L'il Mule dolly

    Continue Reading →

    Hands-On Camera Review with the Panasonic GH3 — [Side By Side Comparos + Can it Beat a $250 eBay Bargain?]

    Given the response and discussion around last week’s post on the D600, I invited pal Ben Pitt back to share another hands on review of a camera that has been competing for eyeballs: the GH3. Since the introduction of the Lumix DMC-GH1 back in 2009, the GH-series’ has been gobbling up mindshare for photographers looking for some great technology in a tightly sized and affordable package. I’m a big ol’ fan of the mirrorless category of cameras of late…seems that all the manufacturers are making massive leaps to give us astounding quality in small packages (I’m currently playing with the Olympus OM-D EM-5 and loving it…and did a run-down on the mirrorless category — Sony, Olympus, Panasonic, Leica, Fuji — a few weeks ago here). But now, let’s let Ben do a deep dive on the Panasonic GH3 below. Take it away… -Chase

    Thanks Chase. Panasonic has long been the maverick outsider of digital cameras – consumers have long been not quite sure where it fits into their lexicon – but with the GH3 it looks like it’s lining up to join the establishment. Reviewers have been falling over each other to heap praise on this camera, and it’s easy to see why.

    The GH3 is bristling with the right sockets, buttons, levers and dials, an articulated screen and a large, high-resolution electronic viewfinder. Autofocus is startlingly quick, and being able to place the autofocus point anywhere in the frame via the touchscreen is a major advantage that conventional SLRs can’t match. There’s 4fps burst shooting with continuous autofocus, rising to 5.6fps with fixed focus, and a large buffer for sustained quick-fire operation. A PC sync socket and optional battery grip demonstrate that this is a reasonably serious photographer’s tool.

    Image quality is a big improvement over previous Panasonic Micro Four Thirds cameras, and broadly on a par with the Nikon D7000 for noise and details. However, it’s the video mode that really shines. Its videos are incredibly sharp, and there’s less moiré interference than from Canon and Nikon’s SLRs. They can’t match the GH3′s smooth video autofocus, either. With full exposure control while recording, bit rates up to 72Mbit/s and frame rates up to 60p (50p in Europe), nothing else at this price comes close for video.

    Nothing, that is, except its predecessor, the GH2. The GH3 makes big strides for photo quality and ergonomics, but a lot of reviewers have found that improvements in video quality compared to the GH2 are relatively subtle. That’s not a criticism of the GH3 but praise for the GH2, which has been a big hit among independent filmmakers.

    I’ve been using the original GH1 since June 2009. I’ve reviewed a wide range of cameras since then, but I haven’t used anything that has tempted me to upgrade. Admittedly, the GH1 is showing its age for photo quality, particularly for noise levels. But for video, it’s very similar to the GH2 and more capable than anything else I’ve used.

    However, I’ve recently been shooting with the GH3 (on loan from Panasonic), and I’m seriously tempted to upgrade. But then, the GH3 costs around $1,300 (€1,200, £1,200) and the GH1 is only fetching around $250 (€200, £170) on eBay.

    That got me thinking… the GH1 is currently a phenomenal bargain for video producers. Glass tends to keep its value much longer than cameras, so are video producers who are considering the GH3 better off picking up a GH1 and spending the rest on lenses? And should I stop pining over the latest model and be content with what I’ve got?

    Frustratingly, the answer isn’t as clear cut as I’d hoped.

    In many of my tests, the GH1 and GH3′s videos were hard to tell apart. The GH3 had a slight advantage for sharpness and its colours were a little punchier, but there wasn’t much in it. Here’s a frame from each camera’s 1080p output, split into three to show the GH3, GH1 and Sony’s NEX-5N – another excellent camera for video, but clearly trailing here for sharpness and colour response (click the image to enlarge it and type F to expand to actual size).

     

    Next, here’s the GH1 and GH3 again, this time set to minimum contrast in an attempt to capture as much dynamic range as possible. Both cameras excel for detail but neither of them have managed to capture anything in this over-exposed sky. Having said that, the GH1′s murky grey sky isn’t much to look at – I’d prefer to settle for the GH3′s bleached out white.

     

    The GH1′s handling of skin tones has always bugged me, with a strange habit of vein-like bands of desaturated colours along the edge of highlighted areas. It’s pretty subtle, but having noticed it, I keep spotting it again and again. It’s just about visible in the example below, but there was no sign of it in the GH3′s output. Otherwise, there’s not much to choose between them here. If anything, the GH1′s colours are generally more flattering and noise is less pronounced.

     

    The GH3 really starts to prove its worth in this high-contrast shot. The sky is well exposed in both cameras’ output but the GH3 has captured lots more detail in the gloomy foreground.

     

    Boosting the shadows in editing software shows just how much more detail there is in the GH3′s output. There’s no contest.

     

    Finally, here’s one more example, with the Nikon D600 thrown in for good measure. The D600 trails slightly for detail in the rushes at the bottom of the frame. However, the GH1′s lack of detail in the dark trees on the other side of the lake brings it to third place here. Then again, I wouldn’t consider the D600 for video because of its moiré problems, fixed aperture while recording and lousy video autofocus.

     

    So what’s it to be? I think it’s clear that the GH3 is worth the extra for those who want the best. No other mirrorless or SLR camera can touch it for video quality. As for me, I think I’ll stick with the GH1 for now. It may struggle in high-contrast scenes but it still packs an incredible bang for its buck. And that new Panasonic 12-35mm f/2.8 lens is pretty tempting too.

    You can buy the GH3 at B&H Photo here
    You can rent the GH3 at Borrowlenses.com here

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