Category Archives: Photography

My thoughts on a variety of photo taking.

Why I Chose A Sony A7iii over Nikon Z7 – Z6

Up until now my experience with digital cameras that were not attached to smartphones has been 4 Sony’s and 3 Nikons.  All have been reliable.  The Sony’s up until now have all been compacts.  The Nikons have been two crop sensor and one full frame DSLR.

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Shot with Sony A7iii and Sigma 50mm f2.8 Macro lens

Over the last year I have wanted to step up to a full frame digital sensor as that is what I have been using for many years with film photography and I just like the perspective and subject isolation you get with 35mm.  And I have been thinking about going mirrorless full frame to get reduced size and EVF to facilitate exposure.

Last spring Nikon offered me a deal I could not pass up on a D750 full frame DSLR.  I bought it with the 24-120mm f4 and a 50mm f1.4G lens.  I have to say that the images out of this rig were excellent.  Nikon sold me the 24-120mm lens for $500 and that is a bargain.

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Nikon D750 with 24-120 f4 lens shot at 24mm

The above shot was with the 24-120 and shot at 24mm.  When you look at this at full resolution it is a great shot except for the top corners.  But for me the combo of the D750 and 24-120 was just too big.  Plus my experience with the last Sony compact with the EVF and my iPhone and using the Adobe camera app got me used to seeing exposure and over exposure in real time.

So I figured I would look at Sony and Nikon as that is what I have good experience with.  I went to the camera store with the intention to buy a Nikon Z7 or Z6 and changed my mind while in the camera store.  Why?  1.  I have a number of legacy Sony-Minolta lenses that I thought would adapt really well on the A7iii.  2.  The A7iii was $2,000 and Z7 was $3,000+.  3.  I liked the fact that the Sony was on it’s third generation of A series cameras and figured they had the bug ironed out.  4.  I have had recent experience with the Sony HX 80 compact and the menu system is very similar to the A7iii’s.  I did not have a problem with the HX menu.

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A7iii with Sigma lens

I bought the Sony A7iii and figured if regretted I could always sell it and buy something else.  I also bought the Sony – Zeiss 50mm f1.8 lens and the Sony LA 4 adaptor.  The Zeiss f1.8 lens is a small, light, very high quality standard lens.  It also costs $1,000.  In my opinion sharper than the Nikon 50mm f1.4.  And it cost $375.

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Sony A7iii with Zeiss 55mm f1.8

Most of my older Sony-Minolta AF lenses work as well as I thought they would.  The 50mm f2.8 Macro which has been one of my favorite lenses.  Gives very sharp, colorful, good bokeh results.

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Shot with Sigma 50mm f2.8 Macro 
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Shot with Minolta 70-210mm f4.5-5.6 a low cost lens

The medium tele Minolta works pretty well.  I like the bokeh and it is light and easy to use.  It is 1/4 the size of the Nikon 24-120mm f4 and about 1/3 the weight.  Plus I paid $32 for it.

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Shot with Sigma 24mm f2.8 Macro

And above is using the Sigma 24mm 2.8 Macro I paid $80 for a couple of years ago.  I have several more that worked well too.

The Sony autofocus adaptor worked quite well with all of the autofocus lenses.  Although using the Sony with a very sharp digital sensor did show some of the weaknesses in bokeh a couple of the lenses have that was covered up more using film.  Film has more grain usually and tend to smudge the bokeh a bit.

Here are two more from the Sony and the Sigma 50mm f2.8 Macro.  These have been cropped quite a bit and the details in the full size image are great.

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OVF compared to EVF.  I like OVF better but EVF offers more information.  Being able to see the histogram and zebras before taking the shot makes it worth it.  The mirrorless is also far better for taking shots using the back screen.  The Sony is much more responsive than a DSLR back screen.

Videos are far better.  with the mirrorless than the DSLR.  Video was so bad on the DSLR cameras that I almost never used it.  The Sony A7iii is extremely easy to use.  Although the adapted lenses would not be good for autofocus.  The camera would make too much noise using the old lenses.  I have tried the Zeiss and it is silent.

I do miss the 24-120 but not the weight and size.  Sony makes a 24-105 f4.  I have given some thought to buying it, but I don’t want to get back to lugging a heavy camera around.  Using the adaptor and the 24mm prime I already have is less than half the weight and size of the Sony 24-105.  But not a zoom.  I think I will stick with what I have for a while before doing anything more with additional new lenses.

Do I regret not getting the Nikon.  I do not regret not getting 45 mega pixels at all.  My computer set up is just not ready for lots of big still files.  And I have not had a problem getting used to the Sony menu system.  I set up buttons for almost all functions and hardly use the menus.  But I would have to say that the Nikon EVF is quite a bit better and I would like to have that.  I do not love the Sony position of the front and back selector wheels.  The D750 was better.

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Far left is Olympus OM2n, the Voightlander Prominent, Minolta 600si, then the A7iii.  Of the four I prefer the Oly.  I put a a leather ever ready case around it and it becomes very easy to take and carry with you.  I also have an ever ready case for the Voightlander.  The 1953 leather is looking a bit worn, but still very serviceable.  The Sony A7iii above has the Zeiss 55mm lens on it which is a small lens.  But it is easy to see from this picture that what we think of as a small lens in 2018 is much larger than the other three.  Much bigger than the Zeiss and the Sony is not an easy camera to tote around.  I am giving some thought to getting the Zeiss 35mm f2.8 or the Sony FE 28 f2 which are even smaller than the 55mm.  But since I have a closet full of film I can just use some of it with the smaller SLR’s.

Final comment.  Olympus is the only one of the larger camera companies that have not come out with a full frame camera.  If they were to make a smaller full frame and smaller lenses I think it would sell.  Maybe even to me.

 

Camerageddon = 2018 – Might Be The Biggest Year Of Change Ever In The Photo – Video Industry

This year has had one significant introduction after another in new camera bodies, systems, and film.  Sony has introduced the A7riii and A7iii.  Both mostly great and maybe the greatest full frame mirrorless cameras of today.  Nikon has put forward the A7 & A6 full frame mirrorless designs with new lenses.  So far to me this looks like the biggest contender of the Sony’s.  Canon EOSR.  A great camera, except, no ibis and big crop on video at 4K.  Both Nikon and Canon have only one data card slot.  This is a big omission.  Fuji XT3.  Another great camera, but crop sensor and no ibis.  Fuji again with the R version of their medium format camera.  This looks like a great landscape camera but lacks features that are in the full frames.  Panasonic now is talking about their S line for full frame mirrorless, but full specs are not available.  And then Zeiss and their ZX1.  Complete specs are not available and neither is the price.  As I said in my previous post I love this ZX1 concept.  I want one.  But I want one based on specs that I imagine but are not confirmed yet along with the price.

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Nikon D5500 – Using Lightroom to get B&W

I would like to buy a new full frame mirrorless camera.  I currently have a Nikon D750 DSLR and would like something smaller and lighter plus has an electronic viewfinder.  Of the ones above that we actually know the specs and price of I would say the Sony’s and the Nikon’s are the closest to what I want.  But here is the thing, I am not sure I like either enough more than the Nikon D750 to switch.  I like have tried the A7riii and did not like the way it felt in my hand and thought the menu-control system to be difficult.  I do like the dual SD cards.  The Nikon Z7’s are just now getting shipped to their buyers.  So far I have heard good feedback.  But I don’t really want to switch to XQD cards.  My three computers all have SD card readers but not XQD.  So dongle time would be the case with the Nikons.  And I like the dual card slots I have on the D750.  I don’t like the fact that Nikon is charging a lot more for a 50mm f1.8 than and F mount 50mm f1.4.  Actually I don’t like that a lot.

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Kodak Tmax 100 with Minolta 600si and 50mm f1.4

Or for that mater Nikon charging 50% more for the Z mount 35mm f1.8 than the F mount f1.8.  Even the 24-70 f4 is more than I recently paid for the F mount 24-120 f4.

And neither the Sony’s or the Nikon’s have settings adjustments for the all important aperture, shutter speed, and ISO dials.  Ones I can see at a glance like Zeiss and Fuji.  The Sony and Nikon do have quick change on aperture and and shutter speed but not in the elegant way Zeiss and Fuji do.

And then the Fuji XT3.  What a great camera with dedicated settings for aperture, shutter speed, ISO, and exposure compensation.  And it is a beautiful camera, far more so than the Sonys.  And a bit prettier than the Nikons.  Plus it is cheaper than any of the full frames.  But no 35mm sensor.  What were they thinking???  The whole World is going back to the best image size ever invented full frame 35mm and they stick with crop size? And no ibis to top it off.  But I have to say the simplicity of the Fuji and quality of materials, and the smaller size have great appeal.

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Shot with iPhone X and it’s wide lens

I have no experience with Canon cameras except that several of my friends and relatives have and like them.  Most prominently my professional TV and Movie cameraman son who is about ready to go back to a Canon DSLR after having a Sony A7S for two years.  His reason, “Canon has better colors”.  And this is a person who uses $100,000 camera rigs in his work.  So maybe when the Canon R is in the stores I will take a closer look.  Right now I don’t like the one card slot of the Canon or the no ibis.  Plus it is big unlike the Fuji.  But Canon has an extremely good reputation so maybe more on it later.

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Shot with Nikon D750 and converted to B&W with Lightroom

Like Canon I have no experience with Panasonic.  Their two full frame bodies look quite good, but no final specs or prices yet.  So more to come on these two later.

Kodak Ektrachrome is finally shipping.  After the unexpected Zeiss ZX1 this Kodak announcement was the most exciting of the German show.  I like shooting with film.  I like the look of the results I get from my old SLR cameras (4 of them with lots of lenses) and one very nice Voightlander rangefinder with a set of 3 lenses.  On our summer trip this year I did not shoot as much film as I had planned as I bought the D750 just before the trip and was still experimenting with it.  But one of the rolls I shot was Kodak Tmax 100.  I used my Minolta 600si for this film and all of the shots turned out.  I was being lazy and did not use any filters for the whole roll, which was a mistake.  I should have used a yellow, orange, or red for daylight shots.

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Both of these above shots were from this roll of Tmax.  The second shot was a lean out the moving train shot with 100 speed film and an unstabilized lens.  The camera was set to auto focus and worked perfectly.  It has 3 auto focus points and not 500 like modern cameras.

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The above 3 shots are from Portra 400 film that was about a year expired.  All were shot on a 40 year old Olympus OM2n and 50mm f1.8.  One of the best film SLRs ever made.

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And the above three were from inexpensive Kodak Gold 200 that was expired two years. I used my second Olympus OM2n to shoot these.  The Kodak Gold really did it’s job, but if I had it to do over again would have shot with fresh film.  Keep in mind these were shot with a very simple old meter in the Oly and then put through medium priced developing and only mid range scanning (3000 x 2000).

So I am thrilled to be able to get Kodak Ektachrome fresh again.  I fully expect that Kodak’s new formulation will be better than the old Kodak Ektachrome.  This film is being made in the United States in Rochester New York and is shipping from the factory now.  The new Ektachrome is the “natural” formulation and not the old “vivid” formulation as per an interview I watched yesterday from a Kodak spokesperson.  Why am I thrilled?  Slide film has punch you cannot get from negative film.  And you can project slide film on a screen without electronics.  One downside is reduced dynamic range.  As you can see from the three color photos above, the Kodak Gold has tremendous dynamic range.  I have already called one of the local camera shops to get an estimate as to when they are getting the film.  Guess is second week in Oct.

My Pick For The Most Significant New Camera Introduced This Year So Far

Back in April of this year I wrote a post saying that all of the big camera makers were going to copy cell phones in their ability to capture, edit, and upload easily and quickly.  So just after Photokina in Germany last week Zeiss is the first significant company in the photo industry that starts the trend.

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Zeiss has not made cameras for over ten years, but has worked closely with many camera companies like Sony extensively.  All four of my Sony compact cameras I have owned over the last 15 years have had lenses from Zeiss.  Many of Sony’s best E-mount (A7 and 6000 series) glass comes from Zeiss.  Even the lenses in the glasses I am wearing today were made by Zeiss.

Key points of the Zeiss ZX1

  • Full frame digital camera with a little over 36 mega pixels.  Supposedly Sony makes the sensor for this camera.
  • Small, lightweight, easy to use camera with a fixed 35mm lens.  According to the company introduction they have purposely kept the controls of this camera and settings down to a minimum.  The emphasis is on using it to create great photos and video and little time setting it up.
  • ISO, shutter speed, and f-stop are all set by dedicated controls.  Aperture is on the lens, and the other two on the top plate.
  • This camera comes fitted with Adobe Lightroom CC to edit your work using the camera’s back screen.  Your photos and video can then be sent to Adobe wirelessly or a computer or any other device using wifi.
  • You can post to social media directly from the camera wirelessly.
  • The camera comes with half a tera byte of storage internally.  So no media cards needed.  And backs up through wifi as you work or when wifi is available.
  • Modernist sleek form that goes towards the future and not retro in any way.

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I love this concept.  The camera is to come out the first part of next year.  Prices yet to be revealed.  If I love the camera or not will have to wait until I see the complete details, price, performance, and hold on my hands and use it just a little.  But right now I really want, the concept and camera if it is at a price I am willing to pay.

So why do I say this is the most significant camera introduced this year?  Because it goes beyond simply going from DSLR to mirrorless, it gets back to expanding the industry of making cameras instead of just turning over most of it to cell phones.  This camera fits right on top of the best call phones.  It works just like an iPhone or high end Android but just the camera part.  Because of it’s simplicity most people can use it.  And most people are never going to buy or use a Nikon Z7 or Canon DSLR or Sony A7riii.  The Nikon, Canon, and Sony are just too big, heavy, and complex for casual shooters of both stills and video to want.  Zeiss has done what Nikon, Canon, Sony, and other big camera makes have not been able to do, they combined a big high end sensor with editing an internal storage, and wifi ability with simplicity.  Sony could have easily done this camera but did not.  They are still wedded to their impossible complex menu systems that twists your brain into frenzy looking for things.  Nikon is moving this direction but it will take a while.  Fuji is the closest to the ZX1 but this is a radical redesign from their heritage soaked designs.  Fuji has simple controls but in a traditional way.  The Zeiss does it in a futuristic way.  And Canon can but will likely take a while.  To me the only other company that is close to this camera is some of the Leica models like the TL.

So tell me what you think in comments.

 

Waiting For Good Light

If you cannot see the back LCD on your DSLR maybe it is not a good time to take pictures or video?  Or you should stick to film that has huge room for bright highlights in full sun?  95% of my best digital outside photos or video are taken when it is not bright overhead sun.  So instead of a new camera with EVF or reading the zebras to make sure your highlights are not blown you should just take your shots or video when the light is good?  Even if you turn down the exposure on digital so you don’t blow your highlights in full sun you have to pull your shadows up so much that you get a lot of noise.  The best digital cameras like a Nikon D850 only have about +2 stops of highlights before the pictures are unusable.  The best film like Portra have about +4 stops.  Many times when the photo is overexposed a stop when you try to improve it in post you just don’t get a good result even using raw.

The flower below was taken with a digital camera about an hour before sunset and mostly in the shade.

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Nikon D750 taken late afternoon

The shot below is what happens to many digital photos when taken at mid day.

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Same camera as the above shot a D750 but full sun in North Dakota this summer.  This was taken raw but there is no way to get this into a good photo.  At least it is beyond my ability.

On the other hand here is some film shot at mid day with full sun.

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Inexpensive Fuji film and the lowest priced scan
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Fuji 200 (cheap) but a medium quality scan both of these taken at mid day
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D850 late afternoon in shade
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Fuji 200 mid day shot.  Medium scan.
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Black and white film works fine mid day but a filter either red or yellow would have improved the sky.  Kodak TriX 400
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This is Tmax 100 with no filters.  Again I should have added a yellow or orange or red filter.

Right now you have a ton of people switching to buy mirrorless cameras from DSLRs to get an EVF.  That way you can control your exposure better when you can’t see the back screen.  My suggestion is that if you cannot see your back screen maybe your camera is telling you it is not a good time to be taking pictures.

Now if you are switching to mirrorless because you want to take more videos with your camera then I think that is a good reason.  But if you are going to take mostly or all photos and not video there is no reason to ditch your DSLR or not buy a new one.  Both Nikon and Canon offer very good DSLRs at modest prices.  I have a several year old Nikon D5500 that takes sharp clear detailed photos and is half the price of a comparable mirrorless.

I wish I had only taken one or two cameras on our trip

Two posts ago I put up one talking about taking a ton of camera gear with me on our current long extended trip.  I wish I had not done it.  If I had it to do over again I would take – 1.  Cell phone of course.  It is always with you.  2.  Compact pocket camera with long zoom.  About the same quality as a good cell phone but with the ability to optically zoom.  3.  Digital changeable lens camera.  4.  Changeable lens film camera.  And if I was flying somewhere out of the USA I would leave the film camera at home.

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Nikon D750 with 50mm f1.4

Why?  The number one most important rule in taking good photos or video is to know your camera.  Lots of cameras means you never really get really familiar with them.  This is really true of digital cameras, but also a bit true of film ones.  Today even good smartphone cameras have many many options.  It seems like every year more are added and they become more complicated.  And my compact Sony pocket zoom has so many menu options that it is almost impossible to understand them all.  On the other hand I have found Nikon DSLR cameras easier to figure out.  And my D750 full frame digital is pretty simple if you are using raw.

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Nikon D750 with 50mm f1.4 Nikkor

What lead me to write this post was today when I was using my Olympus OM2n film SLR that I have owned for 38 years.  I was in a public place and my dog was with me on a leash.  I loaded up a roll of expired Ektachrome I had been saving for some Montana shots.  The OM2n film loading is tricky.  You need to make sure the film is loaded securely or you can think your film is going through when you cock the wind lever and it is slipping over the sprockets.  I have leaned by past bitter experience that you need to look at the rewind winder when you cock the shutter to see that it moves a bit.  If it does not the film is not moving.  Today the rewind winder did not move.  So I just opened the back and sure enough, loose film.  Now with lots of leader out I got it loaded fine.  Then when leaving the left side of my Peak strap came loose.  The little black flexible string had fit through the break in the circle holder on the Olympus camera.  Fortunately I caught the problem before my almost 40 year old camera was broken from falling.

If you use only one or two cameras then this sort of problems become rare.  You know what to look for.  Before the days of cell phone cameras I would say that you should only have one camera with you, but today you almost always have the cell phone one with.

Travel Photography When You Can Take Everything

We travel regularly by motorhome.  We don’t live in a motorhome, but we do go for local and extended trips with one.  One of the benefits in doing this over either going somewhere by car or flying when you like to take pictures and video is you can take everything.  Another benefit is that if you are a hybrid shooter who uses both digital and film you have a refrigerator with you to store your unused and exposed film.  We left mid June and I had with me.

  • Nikon D750 Full Frame digital DSLR with two lenses
  • Nikon D5500 Digital DSLR with three lenses
  • 2 Olympus OM2n’s with six lenses
  • 2 Minolta 600si SLR’s with six lenses
  • 1 Voightlander Prominent rangefinder with 50mm f1.5
  • 1 Sony compact HX 80
  • 1 iPhone X
  • At least 30 rolls of film
  • 3 tripods.  None have been used yet.

We are now still on our trip.  Since I bought the D750 shortly before the trip I have used that the most so far to see how well it performs.

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Taken with a Nikon D750 with Nikon 24-120 f4

And the answer to that question is pretty dam well.  Other than the two little corner imperfections that I should get rid of with Lightroom the above photo from Bryce National Park is very nice.  Yes there is a little bit of sky issue caused by too wide of a lens for a polarizing filter, but when you look at the file in full size on a good screen the detail and color of the rocks is stunning.

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Nikon D750 with Nikon 50mm f1.4

The above shot was a couple of days earlier near Page UT.  This was taken at dusk and the file was taken raw and it allowed me to bring up the foreground of the photo so that it blended well with the top of the frame.  When you see this file full size it is very detailed.  Again I have not done as much Lightroom as I could and the top corners need a little fixing.

My experience using this camera when traveling is that if you put my 50mm f1.4 prime lens on it and one of the Peak larger camera straps you can carry it around pretty well without feeling weighted down.  It is nowhere near as easy to use like this compared to the Nikon D5500.

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Taken with a Nikon D5500 and 18-55mm P

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All three of these photos above were with my D5500 and the latest 18-55 P model zoom.  I took the D5500 with me this day because it is much lighter than the D750 and I felt like using it instead of the 750.  To me the 5500 files are as good as what would have come from the 750.  But when I work with files from both these cameras there is no doubt that the full frame 750 and full frame glass gives more details and less noise.  It seems like you can crop the 750 files forever and they still look great.

And a few times I have put the little compact Sony in my pocket and come up with these results.

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All of these were shot hand held.  You cannot do raw with the Sony so these were jpegs only.

Plus I did use my iPhone X some.

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For the iPhone X pictures I used for these three the native Apple app that comes with the phone.  Sometimes I use the Adobe Lightroom camera app which allows you to use raw.  This works very well with the Adobe Lightroom mobile app on the phone and my iPad.  But as you can see from these three shots that the standard Apple app works pretty good.  The middle photo is taken using Apple’s portrait mode.  This now gives what I would call excellent results in most of the times I use it.

Now here is the bad news.  No matter how many cameras you have with you you cannot control the weather.  We have been in the mid west USA mid summer heat dome and we have had bright overcast days for at least a month now.  Blue skies and puffy clouds have been as rare as Leicas.  Bright overcast skies are the enemy of good outdoor photos.  Bright overcast skies are almost impossible to shoot with a digital sensor camera as all digital cameras do not handle highlights that well.  Even if you shoot in raw you might have only two stops over on the best digital camera.  What happens is this.

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Wisconsin Dells shot spoiled by too much contrast in sky to land.   
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North Dakota grasslands spoiled by too bright sky

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So with too much contrast in the sky you only solution is to take shots without sky like the one above.  The problem with this is that when you are at places with natural things to see like National Parks you need to put some sky in the shots sometimes.

To me not being able to handle over-brignt highlights as well as photo film is digital photographies biggest weakness.  In one very well done you tube video I have watched a couple of time “The Slanted Lens” showed how the Nikon D850 compared with Kodak Portra film.  The Nikon shots were not usable at 2 stops over and the film was OK up until about 4 stops.  This is a very big difference.  Remember that each stop doubles the amount of light.

  1. Mirrorless cameras with good EVF’s and indications in the viewfinder are helpful at knowing when the highlights are too bright.  However, this does not fix the problem.  It tells you to turn down the exposure, but then you can plug your shadows.  Or if you don’t plug your shadows, you darken them.  And when you turn up your shadows in post it increases noise.
  2. Film tends to work better than digital in situations where you have very bright highlights and lots of contrast.  At least film with lots of dynamic range does.

Thats it for now.  Time to go shoot some film in the classic western town of Medora with classic old SLR.

Nikon – Please help all of us that cannot afford to buy a Leica M10

I bought a Nikon D750 a few weeks back.  I love the images I am now getting out of it.  I hesitated buying this camera for a couple of years for one main reason, it is big and heavy.

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Nikon D750 and Olympus OM2n

This afternoon I took out the camera bag that holds my two Olympus OM2n’s.  I removed the winder from one and took the ever-ready leather case off the other.  I then put the new Peak strap on the Oly and was kinda shocked at how compact and light it is.  The above picture gives you an idea of the size of both.  Both cameras are full frame, both have a 50mm f1.4 lens on them.  Of course the Olympus is film and manual focus.

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In addition to size the Olympus weighs about half as much even though it’s body and lens exterior is mostly metal.

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Going by what I have seen on the Nikon Rumors pages the most likely camera in their opinion will be a lot like the size and look of the OM2n/ Leica M10.

Please Nikon make this reduced size mirrorless full frame camera a reality.  I cannot afford a Leica M10 unless I sell all of my camera gear and then throw in a few extra grand.  And even after all that the Leica will have no auto focus.

Once again Nikon, I love the image quality out of my D750, but I hate the size and bulk.  And a Sony A7iii by the time you add a lens is not much smaller.