GAS

Goodbye, Fuji X100. Goodbye Canon G12. I hated you equally….

_MG_8070

I’ve been both too busy and too lazy to get involved in posting here for a while, so let’s hope this posting breaks the drought. Please forgive my absence.

EDIT – Image of Nex 6 and Voigtlander 15mm f4.5, with brand identity taped out. Image added 30/09/13

My current photography chore has been thinning down my digital kit so that I have no more than I need (or perhaps I should make that “no more than I want in light of my needs”). Along the way I want to share a few of my observations regarding choice. I have been very busy in this space over the past couple of months.

Goodbye Fuji X100…

I didn’t bond and therefore like this camera.

I used a Fuji X100 for the past six months for my walk-around camera, but I never really got into it as an image making machine. I found that it was far too easy to screw up in too many areas with it that would spoil the images it was capable of capturing – exposure (via the easily rotated +/- compensation dial); focus (as things were very rarely in proper focus thanks to its inflexibility, but they looked great on the LCD only to be a huge let-down in processing); the high ISO performance was not as good as it’s been made out to be by the sympathetic (non-owner/user?) press; and any number of things related to its unique menu structures that could lead to getting lost in the controls and thereby missing a great image opportunity. Even the top retro chrome housing of the camera wasn’t really that great – it was just silver-painted, not chromed, and this finish began to wear off where I held it.

The genuine Fuji lens hood was weird and wouldn’t accept a lens cap, and the filters screwed on backwards. Design clue that led me to believe that Fuji wanted to force an owner into buying only genuine accessories.

I waited months for the promised v.2 firmware update that might resolve my focus issues to no avail. No image stabilisation and no face detect were also spoilers for my snapshot use, so the internet’s favourite pin-up unit has now been disposed of. Maybe its new owner is smarter than me….

Goodbye Canon G12:

I also had a Canon G12 for snapshots, but again I couldn’t get along with it, and ultimately its IQ was not up to scratch because of the tiny-sized and therefore noisy-when-pushed sensor. It was so similar to the disappointment that was the Canon G10 that I also hated. It is also now gone to a new home. I have a Canon A650 IS stuffed in my driver’s door pocket that I like a lot better than either of these cameras, and it only cost me thirty bucks. I also have to confess that I keep a Canon PowerShot A650 IS (apparently a close cousin of the venerable Canon G9) in the car for those moments when I want a chance of shooting something with camera that won’t die from being cooked in the interior of our mobile ovens in Australia over summer – and if it does die from heat exhaustion, well then I have only lost about $30 I guess. It uses AA batteries so I don’t worry about charging it, as you will know that having children means that you keep buying a never-ending supply of batteries.

Both of these cameras I had desperately hoped would be a worthwhile tool for me, but alas, neither of them lived up to the over-hyped expectations I had for them. I am glad they are gone.

But they left a couple of holes that needed filling.

Tiny P&S – Pentax Q:

A while ago you will recall I got hold of a tiny Pentax Q with just a standard prime lens. I was a doubter at first, but I am pleased to say that I have used it sporadically over the past six months, and I am now convinced it’s a great leap forwards on my old Canon PowerShot G12 as a P&S tool even though I don’t have a zoom for it. I love the IQ it can generate, and the standard f1.9 prime lens is outstanding for my needs. Equipped with a super-cheap viewfinder in the hot shoe this is a wonderful tool and is getting a beating now. The killer mode is “bold monochrome” for this one, and mine stays set to it. I understand these cameras are hugely popular in Japan, and I can see why.

Mid-size street-shooter – Hello Sony Nex 6:

The mid-size dilemma was a very tough one to solve. I have used Micro 4/3 kit since its release, and although it is capable of getting the goods, I also picked up a Fuji X100 to give this much-hyped camera a workout. I had begun to suspect that I could do better – a lot better. I loved the Olympus E-P2’s accessory electronic viewfinder, but I had tired of it falling off whenever I carried the camera over my shoulder. I tried an old Leica M8 and hated it, so I kept on looking. My daughter uses a dated Lumix G1 body (she’s 11 and has already won a couple of school photo contests – I am so proud of her), and so my dilemma was solved by just keeping this kit with its lenses for her use, and sourcing a Sony Nex 6 with the bog standard kit lens and the wonderful Sigma 30mm f2.8 prime for my use in this very important street-shooting space.

I am going to service my extra lens needs as and when they arise through my existing 35mm manual lens pool and a couple of super cheap-but-perfect adapters for Leica M bayonet (and therefore M39 screw mount too) and M42 screw mount lenses. The 1.5 crop factor of the industry-leading true APS-C sized sensor allows them to work almost as intended on this body. So far I am liking the Voigtlander 15mm f4.5 Heliar (see the photo above), and the 28mm f2 Ultron.

The Nex 6 is capable of fantastic quality results (spectacular 3D quality images jump off the print and screen alike even just from using the JPG setting and the kit lens, far better results from my first day of Nex 6 shooting than I ever got with the Fuji X100, period), and in the kit form I have it is a small, discrete unit with few issues – no-one looks at you when you are using it, just like with the retro-looking X100. Fabulous features abound for my use – RAW files (although I had to update to Photoshop CS6 to use them, many thanks Adobe for the endless upgrade cycle forced on us – I will NEVER use your cloud solution, BTW); great auto sweep panoramas; and multi-stop auto exposure bracketing that was absent from my Nex F3 (also gone!) and also in a usable from from the X100.

About my only gripe with the Nex 6 is that it is too easy to accidentally change exposure settings through bumping the rear selector wheel, although this camera isn’t in the same league as the Fuji X100 for this annoying problem. It seems a bit slow to start, but I suspect that’s from my use of a huge 32 gb SD card so far – I need to try a smaller one. The Fuji X100 also suffered from slow starts with a big memory card fitted.

Full-size camera – the Canon 5D2 is still my favourite:

I also have a Canon 5D Mk 2 which I continue to absolutely love and always look forward to using as I know the results will always exceed my expectations. Although it is big, it is so easy to use that it never gets in my way, allowing me to not worry about the camera at all and to concentrate on the image instead. The Canon L glass is brilliant and never loses its value once acquired. The Nex will get a workout when I don’t want to take a big DSLR kit.

These three cameras are now the backbone of my image making toolset – the Pentax Q for pocket duties, the Nex-6 for bulging pocket duties when I want flexibility and quality, and the mighty Canon 5D2 for anything needing ultimate quality and guaranteed results, or when i need to use studio-style lighting.

However, I am still looking for the ideal kit bag(s) so that I don’t have to think about which one to grab when the urge overtakes me as I know they can all cut the image quality mustard, and are also fun to use to boot!

What is your photo kit comprised of, now we are well into the second decade of consumer digital cameras? Do let me know by leaving a comment.

f1.4


Oh dear. The camera that I was referring to in my last post is the beautiful and rare (especially as a working example) Yashica Lynx 14E. This 35mm beauty has just about the fastest lens ever fitted to a fixed lens camera – a Yashinon 45mm f1.4 with a leaf shutter.

This is a worthy son of the legendary Ermanox from the guy who eventually designed the Zeiss Sonnar lens formula. It had an Ernostar f1.8 lens – on a plate camera.

Back to the Lynx – electronic CdS metering, full manual control, viewfinder lights to indicate exposure – and that lens. A 7 element Planar design, made by Tomioka. Just wonderful. And the whole setup is as sturdy as a brick – just in case you need to bop someone over the head to get away safely in darkness.  More words to come.

GAS

A little while ago I wrote about the dreaded Gear Acquisition Syndrome – GAS – grabbing firmly hold of one of my toes. Well, here is tangible evidence of this awful problem. I became keen – read obsessed – with getting hold of a working copy of each of the line of the Canonet rangefinder family. It’s a long story, so here goes.

I was given the front New Canonet QL19 as a non-working to play with. I became interigued with it and saw it as a challenge to see if I could resurrect this nice but oh-so-dead box. It pushed all of my buttons – fast lens, lots of chrome, a rangefinder, fast to use for candids, and so on. It took me a month of my lunchtimes to resolve all of its issues to get it back into working shape. These included battery box corrosion, black wire syndrome, a loosely mounted lens, a non-linked shutter linkage, a stuck shutter, bad door seals, misaligned and dirty rangefinder, and best of all a working but wildly inaccurate meter. If I had known about these when I started out it would have been thrown into the bin. Anyway, the internet provided a trove of repair information, and a month later I covered it in beautiful red skiver book leather in place of the leatherette I had to destroy just to open it up.

Many other Canonets have followed, spanning the golden years of rising Japanese market dominance between 1961 (Canonet) and 1972 (Canonet QL17 GIII). I was even sent a freebie from a Flickr fan in the USA as a gift to add to my collection. All of these have been fixed or tinkered with to get them into good order. The GAS problem was then, what series comes next? I started next on another line of classics, from Yashica. This eventually reulted in me acquiring (among other beauties from the eventual Zeiss partner) a fixed-lens low-light specialist with an f1.4 leaf shutter lens. More to come on that dalliance later.