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.

Heritage lights 58

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.

72-BW-Statehouse-Boston_124

72-Statehouse-Beacon-Hill_127

72-Statehouse-Beacon-Hill_125

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.

72-chairs-peacham-long-0919_052

72-Chairs-Peacham--0919_015

BY THE RIVER

72-riverside-ma-0731-40-150_007

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.

72-riverside-ma-0731-40-150_048

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.

72-bridge-ma-0731-25_084

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.

72-sky-ma-0731-25_073

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.

72-ma-0731-40-150_059

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

72-ma-0731-25_068

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.

72-ma-garry-0731-25_067

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.

fuchsia macro 0615-10

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.

72-Whitinsville-Downtown-Snow-Roads_028

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!

72-crocus 2015_01

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. 

72-Bridge-Sunday-Q7_036

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.

72-Uxbridge-Snow-Roads_029

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.

72-Stone-Fence-Sunday-Q7_013

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.

I’M READY FOR MY CLOSEUP MR. DEMILLE

CEE’S FUN FOTO CHALLENGE: CLOSEUPS

This week’s topic is Close Ups. I know I just used this topic for my Black & White Challenge. I set their schedules differently, so I had failed to realize the two topics of Closeup would run almost back to back. I would suggest using some bright and vibrant color on this one.

72-Cardinal-II_20

If only I had a macro lens. I yearn for one, but I haven’t been able quite to afford it. It has remained just out of reach.

UP CLOSE KAITY PROM PORTRAIT

My closest shooting lenses are a 20mm (40mm field of vision) Leica/Panasonic for my 4/3 Olympus and an 8.5mm (50mm FOV) for the Pentax Q7. The latter will focus as close as 8 inches. It’s not quite a normal prime nor a true wide-angle but is a bit of both.

December bouquet

The 8.5mm lens for the Q7 is marketed as a normal prime. It isn’t, really.

buds on the trees in April

The optical qualities of an 8.5mm versus a 50mm lens differ enormously, even when the field of vision is similar. I have found this to be one of the hardest concepts in photography to understand and explain. It took me a long time to wrap my head around it.

72-Buds-Vine-Sunny Day_002

Therefore, as close as it shoots, my 8.5mm Pentax lens is not a macro lens. It is fast, sharp, and I enjoy using it, but true macro work requires optical qualities I don’t have.

72-Mobile and regular Phones_08

Luckily, I have an excellent portrait lens. I can’t imagine ever needing to take a portrait closer than my 45mm (90mm field of vision) Olympus lens can focus.

72-Bishop-Dogs-March_6

BOUQUET WITH BOKEH

Much to my surprise and delight, Garry brought me flowers yesterday. The previous bouquet of sunflowers needed to move on to wherever dead flowers go. I tend to not bury the dead ones until I can replace them with live ones. For reasons I just can’t explain, I always feel bad about dead flowers.

bouquet with bokeh 3

Even though I know they would die anyway, even if no one cut them and put them in a vase. Even if they lived their entire lives in the most natural of setting, they would go from bud to dead blossom because, hey, death is just the ass end of life.

bouquet with bokey 14

I like photographing the bouquets. I can’t shoot them in the house anymore because the light is blocked by the new air conditioner, so I carried the vase and bouquet to the deck. Perfect weather, perfect light. Bright, but a little hazy. It doesn’t get better than that.

bouquet with bokeh 10

Just for a change, I used my Olympus portrait lens and was, in viewing the results, reminded of how very much I love this lens. Honestly, I’m not sure you can take a bad picture with it. It has the loveliest bokeh (that fuzzy background) and a wonderfully shallow depth of field. It’s intended for taking portraits of people, but it turns pretty much everything you shoot into art.