BEING AN EXPERT ON ME – Marilyn Armstrong

I know a few things. Along the road of life, I’ve done a bit of reading and studying. Like many writers, I’m a generalist.

I know something about this, that, and a bit about that other thing. A lot about a few things, less about other stuff — and I’ve forgotten more than I currently know. Which makes me highly competitive at Trivial Pursuits. All that random knowledge needs to be good for something.

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I’m an expert at just one thing. Me.

I know my body. The strange way it works. I know what I like. I’m good at knowing what I would like, too.

To illustrate my point, this is the story of a lens I bought — and why I’m passing it to another photographer who hopefully will get more use of it than I have. Call this: Photographer, Know Thyself.

In November 2013, I bought the Panasonic Lumix G H-H020 20mm f/1.7 Aspherical Pancake Lens for Micro Four Thirds. I used it once, to shoot a “lighting” at a museum in December.

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That set of photographs are among the best night shots I’ve ever taken. The Panny 20, as it is fondly called, is a sharp, fast prime lens. Slightly wide-angle. Perfect for people who like to do street scenes, especially at night. It was the first lens recommended to me after I got my Olympus PEN E-PL1. That was many Olympus cameras ago, but the lenses still fit because the format has not changed. I think that was in 2011. Maybe 2010. 

The Panny was already available. Everyone who used a 4/3 format camera said I should buy it. It was then (still) quite expensive. No free now, but a lot less expensive because so many more lenses have come on the market. It was especially costly for me. I was much more broke six — almost seven –years ago than I am now, which is saying something.

Its praises were sung. I resisted. There were many fewer lenses available in 4/3 format back then. This one had a great reputation. Except I didn’t think I’d use it. At 20mm (effectively 40mm in 35mm terminology), it’s not a perspective of which I’m fond.

It’s unflattering as a portrait lens. Not the lens you’d grab to take some fun candid snaps of friends or dogs.

Dancing in the dark heritage museum

I don’t do much street shooting. Mostly, I shoot landscapes and casual portraits. I didn’t feel this lens would be the one I’d reach for as I headed out the door. I like longer lenses for portraits and wider ones for landscapes.

Eventually, I gave in to the pressure. I bought it.

I used it once. Since then, it has lived in a padded pouch, always ready to go. Always the lens I think I might use, but never do. For “normal,” I use my Olympus f1.8 25mm. If I’m going out and don’t know what I’m going to shoot, I take a camera with a long zoom so I’m ready for whatever pops up. At home, my favorite lenses are the Olympus 12-50mm (with the macro button, though it’s not “true” macro), the f1.8 45mm for portraits.

Let me not forget the f2.8 60mm macro which I use to take most closeup flower shots — and my 100 – 300 Panasonic zoom which is my birding lens. It is a great birding lens. When I was trying to decide whether or not to buy it (it is the most expensive lens I own), everyone said it was perfect for shooting birds. Which is what I wanted it for. I am not alone in the bird shooting department.

What I learned? If I think something won’t suit me, it won’t.

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No matter what anyone else thinks. I’ve lived long enough to know what suits me. As a photographer for so many years, I know the types of pictures I take.  I’m not particularly thrilled by “normal” lenses in the 40 to 55mm range. I never was, even back in the dark ages when I was a newbie photographer.

Unless you’re just starting out in whatever, trust your instincts. Save your money for things you will love. Whether photography equipment, computers, food, clothing, or vacation … go with your gut. Leroy Jethro Gibbs always does … and we know he is always right.

Where you are concerned, there is no better expert than yourself.

TIME FOR A SNACK! FLYING SQUARES FOR BECKYB – Marilyn Armstrong

Time for a Snack – A Flying Square for BeckyB!

I need to talk about the lens I used for this shoot. I am now the proud, impoverished owner of a beautiful, new 100-300 mm lens for my Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II.

Olympus makes a 75 – 300 mm lens, but its low-end is f4.8 and high-end is f7.3 — which if you know photography, is pretty slow. I should add that the Olympus lens isn’t native to the micro 4/3 either, requiring an adapter which cost half again as much as the lens. You can buy cheap ones, but they don’t work. You need the Olympus model and that costs almost $200. They are never on sale or available second-hand.

This lens is native to the micro 4/3. Panasonic uses the same format as Olympus, which is good for both manufacturers since, in micro 4/3, there are plenty of lenses from which to choose. This one opens at f4 and ends at f5.6, which while not really speedy, is definitely faster than the Olympus model — and without an adapter, it will also work better.

The price of the Panasonic lens is higher, but since you don’t need the adapter, the price is not far apart and the Panasonic is a better lens. It’s silky smooth and sharp.

Having never bought a long lens for the Olympus, I’ve been using my Panasonic Lumix DMC FZ-1000 for anything that required a long lens. It was bothering me to so rarely use my best camera.

Well, okay, the FZ-1000 is a good camera too. Just a very different camera. It may even be a great camera, but I prefer the color and fine finish of the Olympus. I wanted to work with it.

I really wanted that lens and finally, against all logic and reason, I bought it.

The Panasonic 100-300 mm lens costs as much (more?) than the camera. Most good lenses cost as much or more than the cameras they work with. Good glass is expensive, with good reason. Cameras wear out, but lenses, properly cared for, last forever.  You can get many new cameras and keep using your original lenses.

Lenses are an investment. Cameras are temporary.

I don’t have a lot of high-end lenses. It’s a poverty thing — but then, I saw this on sale for $100 less, supposedly “used” on Amazon. My experience with “used” lenses from Amazon is that they are actually new lenses, unopened and never used. This was true for this lens too. Brand new, never opened, never taken from its original packing. Just $100 less, making it barely affordable.

Warblers

I took it out of its container, fitted it on the camera … and there wasn’t a bird in sight. Disappointed, I played with the focus and suddenly, a slew of birds shows up including a woodpecker, another bird I don’t recognize, a bunch of warblers and Chickadees. As I shot, they actually got into quite a little tussle over who got the next seed.

You’d think we were running out of birdseed, but there’s at least a couple of pounds of seeds in the feeder. Various birds are getting possessive about who eats first, second, next.

Meanwhile, the lens is a winner!

It’s good for exactly the purpose for which I bought it. Birds. All the reviewers talked about birds. That’s what you do with a lens that long. Shoot birds. I suppose you could also shoot airplanes or drones, but birds are more fun.

I can’t begin to tell you how thrilled I am to finally get a long lens for the Olympus. I’ve been using one Olympus or another for a long time … more than a decade and this is the first time I bought a good lens. Not a great one, but a really good one.

The birds showed me their best sides and they are all squares, too!

EXPERT ON MYSELF

I know a few things. Along the road of life, I’ve done a bit of reading and studying. Like many writers, I’m a generalist. I know about this, that, and the other thing. A good deal about some stuff, a little something about lots of stuff. Which makes me highly competitive at Trivial Pursuits. All that random knowledge ought to be good for something.

Heritage Lights 13

I’m an expert at just one thing: me. I know my body. The strange way it works. I know what I like. I’m good at knowing what I would like, given an opportunity.

To illustrate my point, this is the story of a lens I bought — and why I’m passing it to another photographer who hopefully will get more use of it than I have. Call this: Photographer, Know Thyself.

In November 2013, I bought the Panasonic Lumix G H-H020 20mm f/1.7 Aspherical Pancake Lens for Micro Four Thirds. I used it once, to shoot a “lighting” at a museum the next month of December.

Heritage Lights 30

That set of photographs are among the best night shots I’ve ever taken. The Panny 20, as it is fondly called, is a sharp, fast prime lens. Slightly wide-angle. Perfect for people who like to do street scenes, especially at night. It was the first lens recommended to me after I got my Olympus PEN E-PL1, I think (not sure) in 2011. Close enough. 

The Panny was already available. Everyone who used a 4/3 format camera said I should buy it. It was then (still) quite expensive (it’s not cheap now). Especially for me. I was even more broke five years ago than I am today, which is saying something.

Its praises were sung. I resisted. There were fewer lenses available in 4/3 format back then; this one had a great reputation. Except — I didn’t think I’d use it. At 20mm (effective 40mm), it’s not a perspective of which I’m fond. It’s not flattering as a portrait lens. Not unflattering, but not the lens you’d grab to take some fun candid snaps of your friends or dogs.

Dancing in the dark heritage museum

I don’t do much street shooting. Mostly, I shoot landscapes and casual portraits. I didn’t feel this lens would be the one I’d reach for as I headed out the door. I like longer lenses for portraits and wider ones for landscapes.

Eventually, I gave in. I bought it. Used it once. Since then, it has lived in a padded pouch, ready to go. Always the lens I think I might use, but never do. For “normal,” I use my Olympus f1.8 25mm. If I’m going out and don’t know what I’m going to shoot, I take a camera with a long zoom so I’m ready for whatever pops up. At home, my favorite lenses are the Olympus 12-50mm (macro), the f1.8 45mm, and the f2.8 60mm macro.

What I learned? If I think something won’t suit me, it won’t. No matter what anyone else thinks. I’ve lived long enough to be know what I suits me. I’m not a newbie testing the waters. As a photographer for almost 50 years, I know the types of pictures I take.  I’m not particularly thrilled by “normal” lenses in the 40 to 55mm range. I never was, even back in the dark ages when I was a newbie photographer.

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Unless you’re just starting out in whatever, trust your instincts. Save your money for things you will love. Whether photography equipment, computers, food, clothing, or a vacation … go with your gut. Leroy Jethro Gibbs always does … and we know he is always right.

Where you are concerned, there is no better expert than yourself.

EXPERT | THE DAILY POST

CEE’S COMPOSE YOURSELF CHALLENGE

This is great challenge for me and I want to thank Cee for giving me the opportunity to join it.

I overshoot. Which means I take too many pictures of the same things. I shoot  from many angles, using different lenses (mostly primes, these days), and in changing light. I figure if it’s worth shooting at all, it’s worth shooting a lot.

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Sometimes the differences are sufficiently subtle that I doubt anyone else would notice, but I can always tell not only what I was going, but what I was thinking when I took the picture.

Alfred Eisenstadt could still remember every picture he took, which camera and lens he used, the kind of film he had in the camera and what he was thinking when he pressed the shutter. And that was when he was in his 90s. Read about it here.

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BY THE RIVER

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On the last day of July, the heat finally broke. The humidity, too. A few months ago, I got a Panasonic Lumix f4, 40 to 150mm telephoto for my Olympus cameras … and then, the Olympus f1.8 25 mm went on sale.

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I bought it, thus completing my lens collection for the Olympus cameras. There are others I wish I had, but they are all out of my price range — or they duplicate (or overlap) lenses I already own.

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It was a very bright day. The big problem on very bright days is always exposure. The contrast is so sharp, it is hard to find an exposure where you can see the highlight and not lose the detail in the shadow.

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I learned a lot about my two lenses. That the Lumix telephoto is not as good as I might wish, but it’s okay. It gets me closer than I thought it would with acceptable quality. The exceptional lens in that range is out of my price range. I can work with this.

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The Olympus f1.8 25 mm is a terrific piece of glass. Sharp from edge to edge with lovely bokeh.

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My collection is complete. I know I’ll want something else. That someone will make a camera I lust for because a passion for camera gear never really ends. But for the foreseeable future, I’ve got what I need, more than I ever expected.

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FUCHSIA AND CHRYSANTHEMUM – A TALE OF TWO LENSES

This is the time of month when I go through all the memory cards in my cameras. I look at each one to see if there are any pictures I have forgotten to download. I don’t miss much, but this month I found quite a few pictures I’d forgotten.

The pictures of the fuchsia were the first pictures I took using my macro lens. I was still figuring out how to find my focus. I’m still figuring it out.

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I took most (but not all) of these from further away then later pictures. Minimal processing. For reasons I’m sure someone who has a better understanding of optics could explain to me, macro pictures intensify grain and distortion.

yellow chrysanthemum OIL

Therefore, aside from a bit of cropping and sharpening, these are as they came out of the lens. I didn’t mess with the lighting, contrast, or color because less is more with my macro lens. All shot with the Olympus PEN PL-5 and the Olympus f2.8 60mm macro lens.

The chrysanthemum is my bouquet of the week from my dashing husband. I did not use my macro lens because I was shooting the house. The light is pretty dim, so I used my f1.8 45mm portrait lens. Sometimes, that extra stop makes all the difference.

Again, very little processing, mostly because the pictures didn’t need it. With one exception, they were reasonably sharp. The color was true. I cropped more than I do using the macro, probably because there was more to crop.

Everything shot with the aforementioned Olympus f1.8 45mm lens on the Olympus PEN PL-6.

PENTAX Q7 – BIG BANG IN AN ITTY BITTY PACKAGE

The little Pentax Q7 puts the fun back into photography. I’ve been an enthusiastic amateur photographer for 45 years, but this camera is unlike anything I’ve ever owned or used. And it is way better than I expected and different, with unique optical qualities.

That a sensor so small produces sharp pictures with excellent color is remarkable.

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The resolution is startling. Although you can’t make poster-size prints from these files, 8X10, and 11X14 prints are not the impossible dream. The focus is fast, and the gyroscope is a blessing for those of us who have trouble getting the picture straight (I drop my right hand). I can’t give you technical explanations of how it works, but the information is available elsewhere online. I can assure you the pictures are crisp, clear, and the color is true.

Battery life is pretty good. They are small batteries, so you’ll get maximum a  hundred and fifty to two hundred shots on a charged battery. I suggest you buy and carry extra batteries when you use the camera. Of course, I think you should do that for all cameras. Amazon sells good-quality, modestly priced, after-market batteries by the bunch. They recharge in a couple of hours. Pentax includes a separate charger with the camera.

The color rendering on the Q7 is almost as good as I get from my Olympus. That is very good indeed. It is true though a bit less rich. It’s easy to adjust in post-processing for more saturation, or change the setting from natural to enhanced. There are plenty of settings from which to choose.

The Q7 is fast, light, and ultra-compact, so it should surprise no one that it lacks a built-in viewfinder. If you demand a viewfinder, this won’t be your favorite camera. Pentax sells an accessory viewfinder, but I have not tried it. I don’t use a viewfinder. Between my eyesight and eyeglasses, viewfinders don’t work for me.

A NOTE ON DOCUMENTATION

The controls are simple and would be even simpler if it included a real manual. The manual it comes with is not “authored.” Likely it was generated by software and includes information without context. It doesn’t even tell you where to find specific controls or function.

Camera manufacturers have unilaterally decided we don’t need manuals. They are wrong. We all need manuals. This issue is not exclusive to a particular camera. It is a malaise affecting the entire electronics industry. Bring back manuals!

OPTICS

The zoom is theoretically “equivalent” to about 90-280mm in 35mm terms, but it isn’t really. That merely describes its field of vision but takes no account of the optical qualities of the lens. The equivalence is inaccurate.

You can’t realistically expect optics to translate by a simple multiplication process. We translate them in a general kind of way for reference purposes, but the field of vision is not the same as the optical quality of a lens. The Q7’s 8.5mm prime lens roughly translates to 50mm (in 35mm terms) if you only consider field-of-view. Depth-of-field, hardness, softness, how it flattens or widens an image are all optical qualities. They don’t translate.

For example, the 8.5mm shoots wide-angle and focuses at about 8 inches. The Q7, however, lets you control bokeh — at least to some degree — and you can get some amazing effects. I’m still learning how to use some of them. I wish it came with a decent manual!

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I use the 8.5mm prime lens for landscapes and close-up work. At f1.9, it handles both tasks well. It’s my default lens, and I bought it separately from the kit that came from Adorama.com with two f2.8 zoom lenses.

I carry the camera and three lenses in an insert that fits into my tote. Sometimes, I bring only the camera with a lens attached. 

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It is the smallest interchangeable lens camera on the market. I originally heard about it from a blogger I’ve been following since before I was a blogger. He has written a lot about this and other cameras. Great photographer, too.

Check out his website at ATMTX PHOTO BLOG Urban Landscape + Lifestyle Photography.

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Taken from inside a moving car through the windshield glass (which was none too clean).

I shot all the pictures in this post with the Q7 except the photos of the Q7 itself. For that, I used an Olympus PEN PL-5 with an f1.8, 45mm lens.

I don’t do HDR and used minimal processing. Did I mention that the Q7 shoots RAW and JPEG? At the same time, if you like.

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It won’t replace a full-size camera. Its smallness creates limitations. But the range of its capabilities is substantial.

The Pentax Q7 is an ideal travel camera.  It is compact and light, but not a toy. It’s a real camera. You can get a sense of its size from the gallery pictures.

Pentax released a new version recently. I’m okay with the Q7, so I haven’t checked it out yet. I don’t know what new features have been added. I hope Pentax will release new lenses. Otherwise, I am very pleased with my current gear.