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DSLR Killers — Mirror Mirror on the Wall, Who’s the Best Mirrorless of Them All?

UPDATE: if you dig mirrorless cameras or want to find out why everybody else loves them, you’re in luck. creativeLIVE has courses on mirrorless cameras by the talented John Greengo. Go here to check it out, learn more, enroll, etc.
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I like to shoot with the newest, biggest, baddest DSLR as much as the next guy. And I’m lucky enough to do so on the regs for my commercial work; however, when it comes to my day-to-day shooting (when I’m not snapping with my…ahem…iPhone) I’m having fun with Olympus OM-D’s and E-P3′s. I’m blown away with the images these little beauties put out. There are a whole gaggle of new cameras in this category that beg a look. So I called on my camera review pal who has used most of what is out there, Sohail Mamdani, to do a breakdown of the latest cameras in this category. Read on for what might be best for you in this category -Chase

Unless you have been living under a rock, you are aware of a new class of cameras. This class goes by many names – the Large Sensor Compact (LSC), the Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Compact (MILC), and Electronic Viewfinder Interchangeable Lens (EVIL) are a few of the labels that have been used to describe this generation of cameras, but most of them seem to fall short in one way or another. The collective refers to this category as “Mirrorless”, as that is the one thing they all have in common.

Today we’ll take a look at five cameras that are leading the charge in this category.

Olympus OM-D EM–5

The OM-D EM–5 from Olympus.

The OM-D EM–5 from Olympus.

Back in the film days, Olympus made a 35mm SLR camera called the OM–2. It was a neat little camera, and was pretty successful in its time. Looking at the OM-D, with its new Micro-Four-Thirds body from Olympus, it’s pretty clear that this little baby is of the same design pedigree as the OM–2. In fact, if you look at it from the front with a lens on, it’s not hard to imagine the OM-D as a film camera itself.

Flip it over, though, and the 3-inch OLED touch-capable screen dispels that notion completely. The OM-D may carry forward the retro look that Olympus pioneered for its digital cameras with the E-P1, when it brought back the venerable PEN moniker, but the insides are cutting-edge tech all the way.

DNG from Olympus OM-D, with Lightroom edits. © Sohail Mamdani

DNG from Olympus OM-D, with Lightroom edits. © Sohail Mamdani

Reviewers of the OM-D have been almost gushing about this little body – and with good reason. It seems to have breathed new life into a brand that’s been hit by scandal over the last several months. The image quality of the OM-D is superb, and I’ve taken to using this camera as my carry-round body with 12-35mm f/2.8 and 35-100mm f/2.8 lenses from Panasonic. (Chase shoots this body with the 12mm fixed 2.0…) With the OM-D’s in-body image stablization, I’ve gotten steady shots at down to 1/6th of a second, and the details captured by this compact body are downright impressive.

From its fast autofocus (Olympus claims it has the world’s fastest AF system at the moment) to its impeccable low-light performance, the OM-D hits enough hot spots that some pros are switching to this diminutive body as their primary camera.

The Good: Fast Autofocus, excellent low-light performance, fantastic in-body 5-axis image stabilization.
The Bad: Not much. Continuous Autofocus tracking is a bit on the unreliable side sometimes.
Who it’s Ideal For: Outdoor enthusiasts and photojournalists. You can use Panasonic’s 12-35mm and 35-100mm lenses and have an effective 24-200mm range covered. And in a package that is much smaller and weighs much less than, say, a Canon 5D Mark III body with 24-70mm f/2.8 and 70-200mm f/2.8 lenses.
Buy it: $999 (Body only) from B&H Photo
Rent It: From BorrowLenses.com, starting at $44

Fuji XE–1/X-Pro1

The Fuji XE–1

The Fuji XE–1

Okay, this is really two cameras, but they’re such close cousins that you can go with either one.

Fuji began its foray into the mirrorless market with the highly-acclaimed (yet quirky) X100. This was a remarkable camera in many ways – it featured a large APS-C sensor, a fixed 23mm (35mm equivalent) f/2 lens, a leaf shutter system, and a fantastic retro design that was every bit as eye catching as the images it produced. Fuji eventually followed up that single-lens model with the X-Pro1, which, while suffering from many of the same quirks as its predecessor such as slow autofocus performance, was a sellout on launch.

The XE–1 is similarly back-ordered, and with good reason. It keeps the sensor of the X-Pro1, which has managed to wow many folks with its color and detail reproduction, but packages things into a smaller size. It ditches the hybrid optical/electronic viewfinder found in the X-Pro1 in favor of an all-electronic viewfinder. Like the X-Pro1, the industrial design drips with retro finesse, and it maintains full compatibility with all of Fuji’s X-Mount lenses. There’s also a Leica lens adapter, so your manual focus Leica lenses will work with the XE–1 as well.

Fuji X-series of cameras definitely have some kind of special sauce in them. Fuji packs in a number of effects that emulate their classic film stocks like Velvia and Provia. Photographers who have worked with the X cameras, like Zack Arias, have been repeatedly blown away. Here’s what Zack had to say after taking a particularly striking image with his X-Pro1.

And I was sold. I’m in. I got it. It’s worth every effing rupee, peso, penny. I don’t care. I’m not in Bombay any more. I went somewhere else and once this light was gone I woke up with the X-Pro1 in my hands and yes. Ummm… maybe? No. Ummm… Yes. I zoomed in on this image to check focus. “Hot Damn.” It was one of the greatest personal moments of my professional life.

Honestly, if you can handle the X-series’ quirks, there is something pretty satisfying about the images coming from these cameras.

The Good: Fantastic image quality, cool retro design.
The Bad: Weird sensor design means RAW compatibility with Lightroom/Aperture is slow to arrive and doesn’t work as well.
Who it’s Ideal For: Portrait and landscape artists will love the high image quality, rich colors and the Fuji film profiles like Velvia and Provia baked into the JPEGs. Street photographers will like the retro rangefinder look and feel, which seem to put people more at east than a large DSLR and bazooka-sized lens.
Buy it: $1399 (X-Pro1 body only) or $999 (X-E1 body only) from B&H Photo
Rent it: The X-Pro1 From BorrowLenses.com, starting at $59

Sony NEX–6

The Sony NEX–6

The Sony NEX–6

Sony’s NEX series has been getting a lot of great press, and with darn good reason, too. The company has been making good on its promise to commit to the photography market, and its NEX compact cameras have been extremely well-received.

What’s remarkable about these Sony cameras is that Sony isn’t afraid to throw stuff at the wall and see what sticks. That leads, interestingly enough, to features being included in mid-range models like the NEX–6 that aren’t in the higher-end NEX–7. WiFi is now included in the NEX–6, so you can do things like view the images on the card in the camera on your smartphone.

You also have improved autofocus performance due to the inclusion of a hybrid system that uses both phase-detection and contrast-detection sensors. Most of the time, mirrorless cameras use only contrast-detection sensors, which are slower than the phase-detection sensors used in DSLRs. Low-light performance is also improved over the NEX–7, and to my surprise, is pretty awesome for a camera this size. I expect to see angry red, green and blue dots at ISO 3200, but instead, the noise that is there is more reminiscent of the big, fat grain you’d see in ISO 3200 film.

High-ISO (3200) image with the NEX-6. © Sohail Mamdani

High-ISO (3200) image with the NEX-6. © Sohail Mamdani

There is an entire ecosystem of adapters that allows for the use of Canon, Nikon, Sony Alpha-mount and other lenses on the NEX cameras(I’ve written more about that here). The stable of E-mount lenses is still growing, but is doing so rapidly.

What’s Good: Great image quality, low-light performance, small size.
What’s Bad: Needs more native E-Mount lenses.
Who it’s Ideal For: Pros looking for a small, compact shooter with performance to spare. Also, anyone shooting Sony’s DSLRs who wants to leverage their existing lenses via adapters on a smaller body.
Buy it: $848 (body only) from B&H Photo
Rent It: From BorrowLenses.com, starting at $50

Panasonic GX1

The Panasonic GX-1

The Panasonic GX-1

Panasonic is the other primary partner in the Micro-Four-Thirds standard (with Olympus), and its cameras have received excellent reviews as well, including DPReview.com’s Silver Award. The GX1, released last year, marked a departure from the single-model lineup of Panasonic’s Micro-Four-Thirds camera into two separate lines, the GF series and the GX series. The GF series was marketed more for beginners stepping up form a point-and-shoot, whereas the GX series was intended more for advanced amateurs or pros looking for a more pocketable camera.

There’s a lot to like about the GX–1. It’s smaller and lighter than many of its competitors, and has a touch-screen for added controls. One thing I found was that due to fact that you can do things in more than one way (physical control or touch-screen), you often find yourself hesitating and wondering if you should use the physical knobs and buttons or the touchscreen to accomplish a task. This kind of sorts itself out as you keep using the camera, and the touchscreen is useful for some tasks.

Where Panasonic really shines is in their lenses. The standards for most photographers are the 24–70mm, 70–200mm, 50mm, and perhaps a Macro in the 90–105mm range. Panasonic delivers soundly with a 12–35mm, 35–100mm and a Leica co-branded 45mm Macro, as well a 25mm f/1.4 lens. Because of the smaller sensor, you experience a crop factor of 2x, so the 12–35mm f/2.8 becomes a 24–70mm f/2.8, and so forth.

What’s even cooler is that the 12–35mm and 35–100mm zooms have optical image stabilization, which neither Canon nor Nikon have included in their 24–70 f/2.8 zooms yet. Moreover, Panasonic also offers a 7–14mm (14–28mm equivalent) f/4 zoom, which is particularly useful for landscape users.

And of course, since Panasonic is part of the Micro-Four-Thirds consortium, it can use MFT lenses from Olympus, Sigma, and other manufacturers.

What’s Good: Excellent lens selection, small, relatively cheap.
What’s Bad: Controls are cramped and a bit clumsy, not the most innovative industrial design.
Who it’s Ideal For: Beginners looking to step up to a camera with room to grow. Also, given the plethora of adapters for MFT cameras to adapt everything from recent Nikkor lenses to ancient M42-mount optics, it’s a nice step up to give that old glass a new lease on life.
Buy It: $449 (body only) from B&H Photo

Leica M9

Leica M9

Leica M9

If you’re surprised to see the Leica here, don’t be. People tend to forget that before the trend towards mirrorless cameras started, Leica was already there with their digital rangefinders. The legendary camera of legendary photographers, the overall design of the Leica M series hasn’t changed much since the film days, keeping an emphasis on classic elegance that has become the German company’s trademark and has inspired at least three of the models I mention here.

Leica DNG, treated in Silver Efex Pro 2. © Sohail Mamdani

Leica DNG, treated in Silver Efex Pro 2. © Sohail Mamdani

In the digital world, Leica has really scored with the M9. It’s a big step up from the M8 (and the new “M”, with no number after it, is apparently even better), and adds some interesting features like a first-rate bracketing option (though it feels weird to try and shoot HDR with a Leica) and better high-ISO performance. Here’s what I had to say about shooting with a Leica for a few weeks a while back.

Using a Leica distils the experience of shooting down its very core elements, and when you’re used to the photographic equivalent of driving a loaded Lexus LS with all the amenities, being dropped into the equivalent of a 1970′s-era Porsche 911 is a shock.

A pleasant shock in many ways, but a shock, nonetheless.

Leica’s lenses are another reason for its reputation. I keep using the word “legendary” here, and with good reason; these optics have some kind of magic that, in the right hands, deliver an image that is almost three-dimensional in nature.

Is it expensive? Yep. But if you can get your hands on one (rent one, if you can), it’s worth experiencing this little bit of history.

Leica recently refreshed their “M” series line, introducing the “M” (no numbers now) and the “M-E”. The new “M” camera sports a CMOS sensor in place of the old CCD and adds a number of features that bring the Leica series further in line with modern-day cameras. These features include 1080p video, Live-View, an optional EVF, and improved ISO performance.

Those looking to keep the spirit of the old bare-bones Leica alive will love the M-E. The M-E strips the camera down to its essentials – no video here, or Live-View, or EVF. You also have the old CCD sensor instead of the new CMOS, which is not a bad thing at all.

What’s Good: Built like a tank, fantastic image quality, remarkable glass.
What’s Bad: It’s a Leica. I’m not allowed to say anything bad about it (but if I were, I’d say the high-ISO performance isn’t good and the buffer is tiny).
Who it’s Ideal For: Besides Henri Cartier-Bresson? Well, surprisingly, a number of types of shooters. From street photographers (natch) to landscape and portrait artists, to travel photographers and photojournalists, the Leica can work for just about anyone looking for high-end optics, tank-like construction, and a camera with a deep and formidable history.
Buy it: $6400 (body only for the M9), $5450 (body only for the M-E), $7000 (body only for the new M)
Rent it: M9 from BorrowLenses.com, starting at $225

Conclusion

Mirrorless cameras are coming on strong, and they are rapidly gaining ground as people stop thinking that a great camera with a large sensor has to look like a DSLR. The image quality from cameras like the Leica, the Fuji and the Olympus are allowing the classic manufacturers to come back with a vengeance, while the newer kids on the block, like Sony and Panasonic, are putting out some incredible technology into the field of photography.

Will mirrorless cameras become the predominant cameras out there? I don’t know. There may be certain types of photography that these diminutive devices will always be unsuited for (sports photography comes to mind). But for many of us, mirrorless cameras may well become de rigeur for all kinds of everyday shooting. Just as the iPhone and other phone cameras are slowly replacing point-and-shoots for many uses, so too might the NEX–6 replace the D7000 for many uses. The cameras listed above are just the start; the product pipeline in this class promises to be even more exciting in the coming years.

 

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

LIVE Photoshoot using the World’s Biggest Camera + The Power of Personal Work

Update: The LIVE broadcast is TODAY Wednesday December 19th. Check out the post below and be sure to tune into http://www.chasejarvis.com/live — 11am SEA time (2pm NYC -19:00 London) — and enjoy the show. See you on there.

I am an advocate of personal work. Finding time to create personal projects has been one of the most valuable experiences of my career as a visual artist. My guest on the next week’s episode of chasejarvisLIVE is Ian Ruhter. Ian’s commitment to his personal work has been turning heads. A professional snowboarder turned photographer he was at the top of his game as a staff photographer and commercial shooter for the most respected magazines and brands in the snowboarding world. Then, more than 2 years ago, he had a vision of a photo that had never been taken – and he needed to be the one to create it. In a moment he went “all in” and started his pursuit of a new, completely unique, creative experience. He spent all his savings and converted a box truck into a tintype camera and started traveling around the country in his camera taking wetplate processed tintype photos – some of the largest that have ever been created. Check out the video above for a teaser on Ian and his work.

I’m so stoked that Ian is coming to Seattle next week to share his experience on chasejarvisLIVE. And even more exciting – he will be shooting the camera with me, my team and YOU. Dont miss this. It will be LIVE, un-scripted and inspirational.

WHO: You, Me, and a LIVE photo shoot with Ian Ruhter’s wetplate camera-truck + worldwide gathering of creative people
WHAT: Interview, discussion + a worldwide Q&A
WHEN: Wednesday, December 19th, 11:00am Seattle time (2pm NYC time or 19:00 London)
WHERE: Tune into www.chasejarvis.com/live. It’s free — anyone can watch and we’ll be taking YOUR questions via Twitter, hashtag #cjLIVE

We will be giving this signed photo of Ian’s away during the show – you have to tune in to find out how to win!

Watch the show today and find out how to win a signed print this Ian Ruhter photo

As always, you can ask any question of me or Ian (@ianruhter) that you might have, as we’ll be taking your question via my twitter handle + hashtag #cjLIVE and via my Facebook page.

THIS IS HUGE – WE’RE GIVING AWAY TWO MANFROTTO GEAR SET UP.
Help us promote the show by sending a creative tweet out to your friends to help promote this show
@manfrotto_tweet + #cjLIVE [note: you must follow @manfrotto_tweet to be eligible to win]

Bundle #1: Manfrotto Bundle composed of:
_Manfrotto 290 3-section carbon fiber tripod with quick-release 3-way photo head
_Manfrotto Midi-36 LED Light
_Manfrotto Stile Bella V Black Shoulder Bag
_Manfrotto Lino Apparel Soft Shell Jacket
_Manfrotto Lino Apparel Photo Cap Winter
Total Bundle Value: $780.00

Product Bundle # 2:
Manfrotto Bundle composed by:
Manfrotto Compact Photo Head Kit
Manfrotto Klyp Kit with Case for iPhone 4/4S + ML 240 LED Light + Pocket Tripod
Manfrotto Stile Bella V Black Camera Shoulder Bag
Manfrotto Lino Apparel Soft Shell
a Manfrotto Lino Apparel Photo Cap Winter

Total Bundle Value: $ 474.98

ALSO – FOR EVERYONE RIGHT NOW
We’re working with our good friends at liveBooks for 50% off an Emerging Predesigned Package site. Use the promo code CJLIVE. The discount is good for a yearly package, expiring 12/31/2013.[You can get it for $99 - regularly $199]

Special thanks to our sponsors who help make this show possible – please follow them and let them know you appreciate the free content that they help us deliver. Respect.
HP: @hpprint
Broncolor: @hasselbladbron
Manfrotto: @manfrotto_tweet
liveBooks: @liveBooks

View Official Contest Rules here.

Emerging Talent: Niki Feijen’s Interiors of Intrigue [and What Pro Photographers Need To Learn From Non-Pros]

ChaseJarvis_EmergingTalent_NikiFeijen_AmyRolloI was first introduced to Niki Feijen’s work via Amy Rollo who helps me with the Best Photo Locations pieces on my blog. I saw his stuff and, naturally, poked around to learn more about him. Ironically, one of my favorite parts of Niki’s backstory is that he’s not a professional photographer. He has a day job, and photographs his passion – urban exploring. And then something occurred to me: while it may be unconventional thinking, I believe deeply that pro photographers have a lot to learn from those who are not professional. Remember when your next photo wasn’t an “assignment” for a “client”? There’s something healthy about his. The following is Amy’s interview with Niki. The simplicity in approach is eloquent and noteworthy IMHO. Enjoy…

Amy Rollo: Every one of Niki Feijen’s intriguing shots could be featured ANY Best Photo Locations list.  With Tim Burton-esque scenes, intrigue draws you into these realms, yet we’re all terrified of what we may find around the corner. He brings us on a tour of abandoned hospitals, mansions, and churches. At first glance many of his images seem filled with life, sunlight bouncing off of smooth surfaces. Upon closer inspection you notice the decay and rot in every corner.  ”Lonely” is certainly a word to describe some these settings, but that sense feels temporary.  Like the family who lives here just went to the movies, but they forgot where they lived and their stuff has been waiting a few decades for their return. Naturally, I had to ask Niki what exactly makes him tick…

Amy Rollo: I understand that you’re not a professional photographer. Do you want to become one?

Niki Feijen: Well to be honest, I don’t think that my kind of photography could work out to be a full time job. If I want to become a professional photographer and do this full time I will need to step away of doing just urbex [urban exploring] photography.  I will have to master other directions, too. I would have to take assignments and I think it would drive me further away from the whole urbex thing. Besides that, I have an awesome job which I love.  In the meantime I can fully practice my crazy hobby. I’m currently in progress of assembling and publishing my very own book. I do not think I have the time and opportunity to do that if it were a full time job.

ChaseJarvis_EmergingTalent_NikiFeijen_AmyRollo

ChaseJarvis_EmergingTalent_NikiFeijen_AmyRollo

Why is photography important to you?

Photography is a way to handle my urge to be creative. Since its a hobby I can do whatever I want. I have all the freedom in the world since I do not need to be here or there. I can make a crazy surrealistic shot or show the eeriness of an abandoned hospital. The tension and excitement of urban exploring is also a big fun factor. The rush you get when finding an entrance into a building that has been left behind for 20 years and is in a perfect condition is priceless.

ChaseJarvis_EmergingTalent_NikiFeijen_AmyRollo

What makes photography art?

Every photographer has their own creative vision. Every photo tells a story just like a piece of artwork. If I can capture a scene and I can transfer the atmosphere of that scene to an audience, I have succeeded. If I can move the audience with my photographs and trigger their emotions, I think that is art.

ChaseJarvis_EmergingTalent_NikiFeijen_AmyRollo

ChaseJarvis_EmergingTalent_NikiFeijen_AmyRollo

Talk to me about photo gear, your perception, and your approach

Technology goes so fast right now and there is still the big Nikon / Canon which-one-is-better “war” going on. I don’t think that there are any bad cameras anymore. It’s still the photographer that needs to make the photo and it really doesn’t make that much of a difference with what brand you use. I am very happy with my Nikon D800,  but if i did not have all the Nikon lenses I could just as well have taken the Canon 5D Mark III. I truly believe that mirrorless cameras will have the future though. The flipping mirror is from the 20th century and it is time to move beyond that. The mirrorless camera already has a lot of advantages.  Look at the FPS rate for example. Already they shoot more than 50 frames a second and the whole thing fits in your pocket. In a few years they will have larger sensors and the mirrorless camera will be mainstream. In 10 years we will buy a bulky retro DSLR on ebay to put on display.

 Who or what influenced you to become a photographer?

I have been photographing since I was a kid. Fascinated by the shots of the World Press photo and National Geographic photographers like James Standfield. I wanted to be like them.  When I got my first camera I tried many different directions like concerts, landscape, portraits etc. Many years later i discovered urbex photographty and nothing appealed to me more as that. Trey Ratcliff introduced me to HDR and when I discovered the combination of urban exploring and HDR by the works of Andre Govia, I was hooked. Even today there are a lot of photographers that inspire me. Lee Jeffries for example is a master in black and white portraits. No one can transfer the emotion and pain of a person as well as he can.

ChaseJarvis_EmergingTalent_NikiFeijen_AmyRollo

 What makes a good photographer?

I don’t think you can define “good photographer”. What is extremely good for one person can be the exact opposite for somebody else. It’s the same thing as Art.

ChaseJarvis_EmergingTalent_NikiFeijen_AmyRollo

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ChaseJarvis_EmergingTalent_NikiFeijen_AmyRollo-01

ChaseJarvis_EmergingTalent_NikiFeijen_AmyRollo

Check out more of Niki’s work on his website and follow him on Facebook.

How to Shoot a 7 Gigapixel, 60-Foot Wide Photo in 5 Easy Steps [The Devil is In the Details]

San Francisco panorama

I’ve always been a fan of photographic works by Andreas Gursky and others that are huge in scale and still maintain amazing detail. While Gursky is a living legend and none of us are approaching his sphere any time soon, there are a variety of more accessible approaches to creating massive images that maintain incredible details available to most of us

As such I want to take a second to introduce Ben Pitt. Ben is a tech / photo geek who has been reviewing digital things and software for more than 15 years – and as this post demonstrates – he knows a thing two about making these multi-gigapixel images with insane detail and will walk you though it in this post… Be sure to click on the link to this crazy 7-Gigapixel photo here (requires Flash) to get a sense for what I’m talking about. -Chase
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Thanks Chase. Modern digital cameras’ excessively high resolutions really bug me. Seriously, who needs more than 12 megapixels? (Don’t answer that.) So it’s ironic that I’ve recently caught a different kind of bug: creating gigapixel panoramas. It’s done by taking hundreds of photos and stitching them together on a computer. The image above weighs in at 7 gigapixels. Printed at 300dpi, it would be 61 feet wide.

As Chase mentioned, take a second to check out the 7-gigapixel image at by clicking one of these links Gigapan (requires Flash), Gigapan for iPhone/iPad or Photosynth (requires Silverlight). Hit the Full-screen button and see if you can track down the four details below. Go on – zoom right all the way to the sidewalk where you can peep into the lives of millions of San Francisco locals going about their day.

Gigapixel panorama stitching is a stiff challenge for the computer, but the technique is surprisingly easy and the equipment needn’t be expensive. There’s some high-tech kits out there, such as the GigaPan robotic camera mounts, but my image was captured using a normal tripod and an inexpensive ultra-zoom camera I happened to have with me on my trip. A long telephoto lens is crucial, and the Panasonic FZ200 was perfect with its 600mm (equivalent) maximum focal length and crisp focus. I generally prefer to use an SLR or mirrorless camera but I love how versatile, compact and affordable these ultra-zoom cameras are.

Step 1: Shooting
First, shooting was pretty straightforward. I mounted the camera on the tripod, switched the exposure, focus and white balance to manual and zoomed in. All that remained was to zigzag across the scene, capturing it a row at a time with about 30 percent overlap to ensure an accurate stitch. I took 1,229 photos, captured in 16 rows of about 75 shots each. It took just over an hour. The weather in California is thankfully a little more stable than it is in my native England, so the light didn’t change much throughout the hour.

Step 2: Stitching
A week later I was back at my PC and finally able to stitch it together. I used a free Windows utility called Microsoft ICE (short for Image Composite Editor). The stitching process is entirely automatic – simply import the JPEGs and the software identifies common features in overlapping photos, adjusts each photo’s geometry as necessary and stitches them all together. It takes hours to process hundreds of photos but you can just leave the software to get on with it.

Photosynth for iPhone

Photosynth for iPhone

[Note: Other stitching utilities are available for Windows and Mac, such as PTgui and GigaPan Stitch. These will set you back around $100 but they have some useful extra features, such as GigaPan Stitch's vignette correction or PTgui's manual adjustment for misaligned photos.There are also some impressive panorama-stitching iPhone apps too.They can't generate gigapixel images (the iPhone's 33mm equivalent lens isn't long enough) but you can't beat an iPhone app for immediacy and interactivity. Check out DPReview Connect's round-up of iOS panorama apps here.]

Step 3: Troubleshooting
I’ve found that automatic panorama stitching is rarely faultless, and there were four areas where ICE ran into trouble in my San Francisco shot. I’d anticipated two of these – the sky and the hillside in the foreground – as I knew that there wouldn’t be enough detail in these areas for the software to identify common features in overlapping photos. I got around this by shooting the skyline again at 195mm, which gave me enough sky so that I didn’t have to crop Sutro Tower out of the shot. Zoom in and you’ll notice that the sky isn’t as sharp as the city, but it’s only really apparent in the aeroplane just above the blimp. For the foreground I stitched a dozen shots at 25mm. That’s far less detail than the rest of the image, but considering that the foreground is out of focus, the join is fairly imperceptible.

Step 4: Photoshop finishing
Next, I loaded these three stitches into Photoshop CS6, resized the smaller ones to match the biggest and blended them together. This is one job that’s not worth considering without Photoshop. I tried various editors to see how they’d cope with the 15GB PSB file, and Photoshop was the only one that stood a chance. If you don’t own it, bear in mind that you can now rent it for cheap.

The trees in the foreground confused ICE too because they were blowing in the wind, so I returned to the original photos to patch this area. There was also one small spot that I’d somehow completely missed, so I had to rebuild it with some Photoshop trickery – I owe a beer to the first person to find it.

Photoshop CS6

Step 5: Sharing
Sharing – and even saving – gigapixel panoramas is another challenge. JPEG and TIF formats won’t go that high, so Photoshop’s PSB format is the only option I’ve found to save it to disk. The best way to view and share them is via online hosting sites. These work in a similar way to satellite mapping sites such as Google Maps, downloading small sections of the photo as they’re requested. I uploaded to Gigapan.com using its free uploader utility, and to Photosynth.net using a plug-in for Photoshop. You can also upload to Photosynth.net directly from Microsoft ICE.

There are some breathtaking panoramas on GigaPan, Photosynth and elsewhere – check out Martin Kulhavy’s work at www.martin.kulhavy.info, and this 30-gigapixel, 360-degree monster by Matt Uyttendaele, who happens to be the man behind ICE. These are the photographs that inspired me, and I’m happy to have produced something that – technically at least – is in the same league and yet was achieved with a cheap camera and basic tripod.

I love the fact that I created and published this image but I haven’t seen most of it. It’s a photo for exploring – finding the finer details. Like the man in the red cap reading a book on a roof, two toddlers planning their escape from a playground or the masses of street art that stretches across south San Francisco. There’s something satisfying about how this image is inquisitive but non-judgemental. From the fire-ravaged house façade to the man in the park with his tent, this is what San Francisco looked like on the 13th of October, 2012. I hope you find something interesting in there too. I hope you’re the man in the red cap, reading this now. Either way, If you’ve got a long lens and a couple of hours to spare, I’d love to see what’s happening in your neighborhood.

5 Things GoPro Nailed with the Hero3 and Why You Need To Care (NOW)

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GoProHero3Hey friends – want to take a second to re-introduce Erik, my on-staff video guru. He’s been with us for a few years now and, as a film school grad and long time commercial shooter, his opinions are a great asset to my own. One thing we’ve both agreed to lately? That GoPro is an amazing company and–it’s becoming increasingly clear–they really understand what their consumers want. So I’m kicking this one to E-rock (affectionate nickname) for his opinion on GoPro and their increasing success…

Thanks Chase. Erik here folks. A few weeks ago when GoPro announced the new Hero3 cameras, we were lucky enough to be in attendance for the unveiling and even luckier to walk away from the event with a Hero3 Black Edition in hand – one of just a handful in existence.  To date, they have listened to feedback and made big improvements on each iteration of their Hero camera line and this is no exception.  The Hero3 Black Edition is a perfect example of their ingenuity.  Of course the image  quality has been improved and 4K is cool and all, but take a spin through the number tabs above this post and read about the 5 new features that I find most useful on the new Hero3.

NASA Photographer & Astronaut Donald Pettit Shoots In Space

Photography is in my blood, and space has always held a fascination for me. Easy to see then why photographer and NASA astronaut Donald Pettit’s talk about photographing in space held me rapt. No models or art directors, editors, agents or clients, just this one man an his small struggles to capture an environment that not many get to experience.

Watch the vid to learn about his work, his equipment, and a surreal existence aboard the space station for 370 days over 3 trips to space. Couple photos below to whet your palette for the talk…

[Saw this via PetaPixel - and big ups to our friends at Photoshelter for hosting Donald at Luminance 2012 and sharing this content.Check 'em out.]

donpettit2 nasa via photoshelter

Photo by Donald Pettit - NASA

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Photo by Donald Pettit - NASA

donpettit-1nasa via photoshelter

Photo by Donald Pettit - NASA

[Saw this via PetaPixel - and big ups to our friends at Photoshelter for hosting Donald at Luminance 2012 and sharing this content. Check them out.]

Let There Be LIGHTT — and MIRRORGRAM [two very cool new iPhone photo apps]

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In the process of drooling over my iPhone 5, I got the inside line on two new photo apps that I love and want to share… Lightt and Mirrorgram.

First, is…. Lightt
Lightt is perhaps THE breakout photo app that splits the difference between photos and video better than I’ve ever seen in mobile, while nailing the best of both worlds (ala some of my chasejarvisFRAMES videos but in created in your hand on the fly). It captures images in 10 frame bursts — a flipbook-like sequence of photos called a “highlight”– and then instantaneously builds a cloud-based visual timeline that’s skimmable from beginning to end and sharable via social tools. I got previews of this app from Lightt’s president, Pam, under the cover of pre-launch and was quite honestly blown away. (And in truth – Scobleizer was raving to me about it behind closed doors…here he calls it the “app of the YEAR”!) I will say that the new-to-mobile way of looking at images in this photo/video hybrid , plus the simple UI is frickin genius.

lightt iphone app on chase jarvis blogSharing is easy too, either an individual photo out of the sequence or the entire highlight if you so desire. There is solid social integration via Twitter / Facebook from your profile page — plus the classic number of followers, of those you’re following, and the number of highlights you’ve created, etc. I’m on there – so track me down and follow…

Overall I give this super DUPER high marks for concept and design & the big data coding running in the background blows my mind. Some smart ninjas made this thing sing. Get Lightt here on iTunes for iPhone. Android is coming soon I’m told.

Second…is beloved Mirrorgram.
Mirrorgram is a tight & very sexy little mobile app that lets you create and share beautiful mirrored images. It’s super simple and brilliantly effective. Created via a collabo between a smart dev team and my pal Justin Boreta of LA’s electronic music trio The Glitch Mob that you’ve heard in my most recent video (as well as the soundtrack for flicks like Spiderman and Tron). Put simply, Mirrorgram allows users to create mirror images of a photo by splitting it in half on the vertical, horizontal or diagonal axis, then reflecting it upon itself using a simple drag interface. Simple approach, really dope results. And fully shareable via Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Boreta told us…

“I came up with the idea of making Mirrorgram on the Drink The Sea tour. We’re all big iPhone nerds and started geeking pretty hard on iPhone photo apps as a way to explore cities and kill time on the bus. I’ve had a long-running fascination with symmetry and photo editing, and i realized there was no simple way to create symmetrical images on my iPhone. At the time, i was doing it with a lot of apps that weren’t meant for that, and wanted an easier way for me and my friends to make trippy, mirrored images….it allows you to see stuff around you in a new way. some of the most interest images i have taken come from mundane stuff like buildings, sand, plants, or the airport.”

I’ll second that, Boreta. I never thought of myself as a symmetry guy, but I’m in love. Who knew? Get Mirrorgram here.

mirrorgram app on chase jarvis blog

GoPro Releases Hero3 – [UPDATE WITH PHOTOS: I Have One In My Hand...]

UPDATE: I HAVE THE CAMERA IN MY HAND. ONE WORD – AWESOME. MORE WORDS LATER. IN THE MEANTIME…HERE ARE SNAPS WITH MY iphone5 (ahem…my favorite iphone of all time) …

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and here’s the post from earlier this morning of footage from this little powerhouse.

Last night GoPro initiated the launch for the new GoPro camera. I’m intrigued. So I’m going to go join in the fun – I’m on the first flight to San Francisco in just a few hours. Stay tuned.

Here’s what we’re told so far:

_Tiny: Especially when you consider that it shoots 4K video at up to (a bit sluggish) 15fps. Drop the resolution to 2.7K, and it shoots 30fps. 1080p video can be captured at 60fps and 720p frame rate at 120fps. This is a lot of cinematic punch in a tiny body.

_Sexy: GoPro seems to have made some great design modifications for this camera. It looks solid but is lighter and smaller than the Hero2.

_Faster: the image processer is 2x as fast as the Hero2

_Pricing: the Black Edition is $399, the Silver is $299 and the White $199. Pre-orders started at 12:01AM PT (3:01AM ET).

[Stay tuned for updates once I have the chance to play with it.]

Impossible Pictures of Pictures

Impossible Instant LabHey photo friends, Erik here with my quick 2 cents on a new product that has sparked some debate here in the CJ Studio. The Impossible Project has a Kickstarter campaign for their new “Impossible Instant Lab”, which will “transform your digital iPhone images into real instant photographs that you can touch, caress and share with friends.”   Take a look at the Kickstarter video for all the details:

I should love this thing.  I mean, it combines Polaroids with iPhone Photography with Kickstarter! What’s more hip and awesome than that?  The charm wears off for me quickly though when I realize that all of this is just taking pictures of pictures.  Is there any artistic merit here?  I respect the tangible nature of instant analog photography, but more than that I respect the difficulty, unpredictability, and commitment it takes to do it well.  In my opinion, all of that is lost when you’re using an instant camera more or less as a printer that connects to your iPhone. We LOVE our iphone dearly, but this gadget isn’t about that. Does an analogue printer of digital undermine instant analogue photography?

What do you think? Like I said, I should love this thing, but I don’t know

Aspen Photo Shoot: chasejarvis RAW Behind-the-Scenes Video

Real heli’s and remote octo-copters. Flying cameras and world-class athletes. Lots of hard work and a great campaign for one legendary resort.

Earlier this year in March you may have tuned into my live-updates while shooting the 2012-2013 campaign for Aspen/Snowmass resort. Amidst our 20 hour days we were able to kick out behind the scenes photos, some daily blog posts and a few other things highlighting our work (thanks to Aspen for being incredibly cool, most clients don’t let you do this…) But I also promised a behind-the-scenes vid… So here ’tis. 6 months after the actual shoot, but before anybody else gets to see it – we’re dropping it here today…timed with the launch of the campaign – and sharing several of the final ads before they land in magazines / billboards worldwide.

The focus for this work was to re-create and share the real Aspen experience, so we lived it. Shooting on location in the mountains comes with the usual crazy challenges. Cold weather, crazy wind, even colder hands and feet, scorching sun, altitude issues, running around above 12,000 feet… and in my case, a badly sunburned nose. While some of my BTS videos show that part of it, we wanted the focus of this video to be more on the ways we captured the photos, the people, the athletes, and the action. We skied, hiked, choppered, ate, drank and danced our way through this job – a helluva a lot work, but even more fun. Hope you enjoy.

Some nuts and bolts from the shoot not obvious from the BTS vid, but that you might be interested to know:
// I shot Nikon D3s + Canon 5d (remote from Octocopter) for stills and Nikon D7000 + Canon 7D for the Behind-the-scenes
// We strapped GoPros to my head, my leg, to an octo-copter, to myriad body parts on pro-rippers
// We used 2 real helicopters and 1 remote octo-copter
// Among the many shredders we worked with is legendary Chris Davenport. Literally one of the best pro skiers of all time. Chris has climbed and skied all 50+ 14,000 peaks in Colorado in one year and recently skied off Everest. Follow him here @steepskiing. Total badass. Consummate pro.
// We shot the entire campaign and video in 6 days
// We had a 6-person photo crew (2 producers, myself + 3 film/photo crew) + 25 others (agency, client, talent)
// We hiked + heli’ed to the top of Highland Bowl in pre-dawn hours and watched the sunrise above 12,000 feet.
// No animals were harmed in the production of this video – just a lot of brain cells

ChaseJarvis_aspen_2012 ad campaign

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And I can’t tell you enough how much I LOVE the music track behind this video. HUGE thanks to one of my favorite bands, The Glitch Mob for working with us to incorporate this song. In between playing amazing live music, getting brought onboard soundtracks for movies like TRON and Spiderman, they managed to squeeze us in. The video wouldn’t be the same without this music. Follow them here @TheGlitchMob and buy their albums here on iTunes.

Nikon D600 Camera is Here. It’s FULL FRAME, but What Do YOU Think?

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Nikon D600 via B&H

Alright photo friends, gear geeks, and camera droolers…

UPDATE: The debate continues below on Nikon’s newly released D600. Win or fail?
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Big announcement today at Haus of Gaga Nikon. Another news bomb just got dropped – the much-anticipated Nikon D600 is here. Not unlike the D4 and D800 before it, I’ve known about its imminent arrival for some time. But for the first time in quite some time, the specs on this camera have exceeded some expectations for a lower-numbered not “pro” body. On the other hand, it seems to be sort of “on par” with Canon’s similar price pointed stuff (7D) that was released 2 years ago.

Here’s some highlighted specs:

_24.3MP FX-Format (ie FULL frame) CMOS Sensor
_1080/30 or 720/60 HD Video Capture
_10 or 20 Mbps Video Capture modes
_100-6400 ISO – Expandable to 50-25600
_5.5 fps Continuous Shooting
_39 Wide-Area AF Focus Points
_Stereo Mic & Headphone Inputs
_HDMI out signal
_Wi-Fi Connectivity with Optional Adapter

(To see a range of images of the camera, click thru image tabs atop this page)

There are several curve balls for me that may have been rumored on the tech sites, but that Nikon actually delivered on this time around… The FULL FRAME move was a good one. A 600 series camera – smaller than it’s recent brethren – at full frame and with all the alloy frame and weather sealing of a high end pro body make this a tempting backup body for some pros, despite its small size and relatively cheap price tag of $2099.

Now, the megapixels. There’s a lot of em, but it seems like the right amount, not overkill like the D800. The fact that its sensor is large makes these megapixels a little tastier too.

Also, FINALLY this is geared more toward video…1080p, audio jack, HDMI out, we get 60p slow mo, and … it has variable bit rate.

The best news? I heard this thing is supposed to ship in just 6 days on Sept 19th.

Disappointments? No 1080/60 (ie slow mo video at full resolution). Bummer. The ISO sensitivity (and perhaps quality of that senstivity) has also been held back from what’s possible with other Nikon cameras. That has really shaped up lately to be Nikon’s ace in the hole – something that they’re doing better than anyone else. Also, probably should have put this atop the list of disappointments…where is the innovation? This is a great camera for the price, but Canon 7D and other have had similar specs for nearly 2 years. Hmmmmm.

(and my buddy DH is pissed that it only syncs at 1/200…because he’s a flasher…)

But beyond that… Please note I HAVE NOT touched one of these cameras, and like the D4, D800, NO I didn’t shoot the campaign. I haven’t yet spent time with the camera to tell you any gory details, although I’m assuming I’ll be able to chat more soon.

The look and feel of this camera? Click thru a range of images of the camera via the above tabs.

So.. I (we?) knew this was coming, but rather than me spouting off about having played with it (I can’t), or telling you what your feelings about this system should be (I won’t), let’s hear from you…

Love, hate, indifferent? Insights?

[Reminder that Nikon plays close attention to this blog, so your comments on this post - glowing or otherwise - might help inform Nikon about what your thinking.]

Link to all the Nikon D600 details and/or purchase here via B&H.

Time-lapse Photography on the Quick & Dirty [tech]

_How many seconds of time-lapse video can be produced in two hours?
_How do you set up your camera for time lapse?
_What kind of gear do you need?
_What kind of results can you get with a $200 camera vs a $5,000 camera?

I sat at the top of Signal Hill in Capetown, South Africa a few weeks ago to shoot some timelapse for a video project I’m working on. In the process, I thought we’d bust out a video to demonstrate the possibilities. I explain in the video above. We shot a Nikon D3s, a Nikon D7000 and two GoProHero2′s to create four different angles. Enjoy!

Spilling the Beans on Twit Photo with Leo Laporte + Catherine Hall

In a jet-lagged haze working abroad last week one of those reminder alarms hit my computer desktop while I was buried in some email that said, “Twit Photo 1pm”. After a moment of confusion, I realized it was a leftover reminder from a year ago when I was interviewed by Leo Laporte and Catherine Hall as a part of their popular web photography show, Twit Photo. I meant to share it way back when, but I’m reminded today that I never did… So here’s the show.

Topics include:
-why starting is everything
-why quitting is important
-gear
-lighting, what NOT to light
-chasejarvis LIVE
_”making it” or not
-commercial photography vs. the world
-the “un-moment”
-directing/shooting video

…and other relevant stuff. #respect

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chase jarvis leo laport twit photo

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