Advanced digital cameras with automatic features are great for action, low light, and video. They are not that good for shooting spring flowers and other things that bloom in the spring. For me spring has arrived. My first California poppy bloomed today and I have early roses coming out. Half of my yard is fields of blooming Alyssum and other wildflowers. I record spring happenings like this every year.
Shots like the above are just far easier with manual cameras. I had to fiddle with the Sony A7iii to get the focus on the orange poppy and not the background. My iPhone absolutely refused to get sharp focus. But my almost 40 year old Olympus with manual focus only was completely simple. I have negative film in it so I know that the highlights will not get blown easily. But from past experience I know flowers tend to be about 1 stop over a center weighted meter. So I just set the Oly -1 stop. Put it on a little light tripod, took maybe 30 seconds to focus precisely on the flow and took the shot. Of course the disadvantage of film is you have to wait for it to be developed to see the results. So I can remember how I shot the photo I keep a photo log in my iPhone notes app.
Then I loaded a roll of Ektachrome into one of my Minolta 600si’s. Getting that set up was about twice as hard as the Olympus because the Minolta has auto focus and no manual focus aids in the viewfinder. But no menus to putz with so maybe 10 times easier than my full auto Sony A7iii.
Film. I have a bunch of film (maybe 25 rolls) left over from last year. None of it has expired. I just have not shot much of it lately because I have been too busy playing with my full frame Sony and iPhone. But now that spring has arrived there are all kinds of beautiful subjects that will be available and I want to use some of my older cameras. I have heard some disquieting news that Kodak Alaris is selling the film business. As I mostly use Kodak film I hope there will not be any problems with supply. Overall I like the look of Kodak film better than any other. I would have to say Ilford makes excellent black and white. The last roll I shot was Ilford 50 speed and it was just a great result. And Fuji has announced they are raising their film price 30% soon. So I don’t know how to read that. 30% + of their consumer film is not that much, but 30% on Velvia or Provia is a bunch. That would make Velvia about 20 bucks a roll and that is too much. The current price of $15 bucks is already too high. BUT.
BUT continued – if I had just used my film cameras this past year and my old Nikon D5500 and Sony HX80 it would have been far far cheaper than what I spent to get two full frame cameras. New full frame cameras and especially full frame camera glass that is good is soooooooo expensive it just makes my head swim. New full frame lenses are being introduced left and right by Sony, Canon, Nikon, Sigma, and a bunch of others. The latest for my Sony camera is a 135mm f1.8 – I am sure it is a great lens, but it costs $1,900 US dollars!!!! And it weights over 2 lbs (almost a kilo). Good grief Charlie Brown that is a lots of dough and very big and heavy. I have an Olympus 135mm f3.5. These sell for about $40 on eBay and it weighs about 8 oz. If I wanted I could get an Oly 2.8 for about $75. Or I could get a Minolta AF 135 2.8 that would work on my A7iii for about $140.
I have bought two Minolta lenses from eBay that are supposed to arrive tomorrow. 1. 100mm f2.8 AF macro. This lens is rated as about 9.5 on a scale of 1-10. I paid $220 for it including shipping. Condition is rated as mint. 2. Minolta 100-400 f4.5-6.3. I am curious to see how good this lens is. The reviews I read on it said it was good to excellent. I paid about $250 including shipping. Rated Excellent + condition. I have been thinking about getting this 100-400 for a while now but was trying to decide if I wanted to pony up the $2,500+ for the Sony new one. Then I tested the Minolta 70-210 f4.5-5.6 that I have against my Sony 24-105 f4 I bought new a couple of months ago. I thought the Sony would blow it away. It did not. I shot some houses on a hill opposite out house that are about 2-3 miles away and the Sony and Minolta are about equivalent. I paid $32 for the Minolta lens about 2 years ago. Just before Christmas I paid $1,300 for the Sony. The Minolta lens is smaller and lighter than the shorter zoom Sony. The Minolta 100-400 I have coming is much smaller and far lighter than the new Sony 100-400mm.
I bought the 100mm 2.8 macro because spring is here. I have been using various 50-55mm lenses on my Sony and Minoltas and 50 & 135 on my Olympus bodies. The Minolta 100 has been rated as a great lens by a number of people including just last week the “Casual Photographer” blog. Ken Rockwell has raved about how good the lens is. So I am looking forward to it. 100mm in macro is just easier to use than 50mm macro. My Zeiss 55mm lens is excellent and I can get pretty close with it and then just crop the image. Hopefully the 100mm will be better. A Sony 90mm 2.8 macro is about $1,000.
Even though I keep thinking that I will get away from using any film I keep going back to using some. I like manual cameras. I like being able to set them quickly how I want them without having to delve into any deep menus. For landscape manual focus is fine. There is the problem of getting a good lab to develop, but that is solved easily by just paying more to a good one. Enough for now.
2018 was a big uproarious year in the image and video creation business. After going a couple of years with buying only new smartphones and a compact digital Sony I got caught up in all the changes and bought not one new full frame camera but two. And I also went back to the full sized iPhone after saying the smaller one was a perfect size. I also bought a new MacBook Pro.
Featured image above was taken with a Nikon D3200 in 2014 and edited in iPhoto
Early in 2018 I started using tripods again after years of mostly hand held. My flower photos improved doing that. I was bored after having my Nikon D5500 for 3 years so even though I really liked that camera I started looking for my next larger digital camera. I wanted to get a Nikon and wanted to get their upcoming mirrorless. But back in the spring of last year there were only rumors about when the new Nikon would be out and it looked like it might be the spring of 2019 before you could get one. So when Nikon sent me a low price on the D750, 24-120mm, and grip I bought one. I also got the Nikon 50mm f1.4 at the same time. Total for everything including tax and shipping was about $2,500.
After using the flyweight and very easy to use Nikon D5500 for several years when I got the D750 I did not like it at all. Too big and heavy. With the 24-120mm zoom on it the size seemed gargantuan compared to the D5500. It hurt my 71 year old right hand with a little arthritis. But I then got a Peak Strap and used the 50mm lens and the 750 started to grow on me. The controls of the Nikon D750 were easy to learn and very intuitive after having two crop body Nikons. The Peak strap was a big improvement over the strap that came with the camera. I only shot stills with the 750. For video I used my iPhone X. I also tried using some of the FX lenses on my D5500 DX Nikon body. The better lenses made the smaller Nikon a lot better. Images from the 5500 and either FX lens were very nearly the same as using the D750. On the other hand the 750 focused much quicker and the viewfinder was way better.
The Nikon D750 had buttons for most adjustments that were easy to find and when you needed to use the menu on the back screen it was obvious that Nikon had spent some time designing them to be intuitive. But what the D750 did not solve was washed out mid day full sun colors. Looking back on it now it is obvious that I should have stuck with the D750 longer and learned to improve this problem instead of jumping to the Sony system. I did not find out till later that using live view on the Nikon you could see a histogram before shooting. But I did use bracketing with the 750 and that worked well.
The full frame Nikon came with us on our summer motorhome trip and after a while I just got used to the size of it. The D5500 was still much lighter and easier to handle, but the D750 was OK.
My film photography in the first 6-7 months of 2018 suffered because I kept experimenting with different film stocks, using expired rolls, and using labs that were not great. This has now changed and I went back to using my preferred and unexpired film stocks plus two of the best labs and now my film shots look great.
We got back from our long summer trip in late August and by this time Nikon had set a date for intro of both their Z6 & 7. Sony was selling lots of A7iii and A7riii. After watching about 1,000 (exaggeration) you tube videos I decided in Oct to buy a Nikon Z7 or 6. I called George’s photo and then went down with the intention of buying a Z camera. While there I chickened out getting the new Nikon Z7 because it was expensive, new, and getting mixed reviews. I have a number of Sony-Minolta lenses that will adapt easily to the A7iii, and made the spit second fall back decision to get the Sony A7iii and 55mm f1.8 and not the Z7. Likely if the Z6 would have been available then I might have gone that way. I figured, “If you don’t like the Sony you can sell it. The price was not in the same range as the Z7 and the Sony was very very popular so no problem selling it.” The next day I got the Sony A7iii, LA EA4 Sony adapter, and Zeiss 55mm f1.8.
Right away after getting the Sony it was obvious that it was difficult to use and confusing. I had had 4 Sony compact cameras over the years so I knew a little about the Sony menu system.
I did find that the sony adapter worked well with the Minolta A mount glass. But while several of the Minolta lenses worked brilliantly on the film camera they were made for the Sony A7iii image quality with them was just not as good. Why, I suspect these lenses were developed for film and the A mount. They just don’t perform as well as when adapted. This is stated over and over again by Ken Rockwell in his blog kenrockwell.com which you should read. I agree with him.
Just before Christmas I bought the Sony G 24-105mm f4 lens for the A7. It works great, $1,300. I bought this as I liked the Nikon 24-120mm f4 and missed it’s abilities. This Sony is essentially the same but does not cut the corners just a bit at 24mm like the Nikon did. I only paid $500 for the Nikon and the construction quality seemed just as good. Plus the D750 was quite well weather sealed and the Sony A7iii does not seem to be.
The switch to Sony from Nikon was painless. I found willing buyers quickly for all of my Nikon gear. I sold the D750 and 24-120mm for very little less than I paid. But of course less the ebay sellers fee. The D5500 I used for 3 1/2 years and sold it with kit lens for around 60% of what I paid. The Sony HX80 sold for about 60% of what I paid and I only used it 1 1/2 years.
So what did I loose and gain by all of these transactions.
I gained eye auto focus.
I lost one camera I loved – D5500 and two I liked – Nikon D750 & Sony HX80 and gained one camera that is technically very competent that is growing on me a bit but so far I would have to say I only like it slightly.
If I had it to do over again I would go back to what I had.
Auto eye focus is not enough to make this worth it. One of my New Years 2019 resolutions is to get rid of GAS and use what I have now for the rest of the year. I will make two exceptions 1. Olympus introduces a full frame camera that follows what I like about the Olympus OM2n of small size, high capability, and everything you need and nuthin you don’t at a price I am willing to pay. 2. Nikon updates either the Z6 or D750 that fixes the obvious flaws in both bodies. And I can sell the Sony for enough to pay for one of these two exceptions. If neither of those two scenarios comes to pass I am going to live with what I have and improve my skills with that gear the complete year.
Expanding on my exceptions 1 and 2.
Olympus – I am completely perplexed as to why Olympus has not followed up on it’s fantastic OM series and introduce a system with a full frame sensor. The price of sensors has come down and I see no reason not to go with the advantages of a larger sensor for the same reasons I like full frame film cameras. I like the perspective I get from 35mm. I will not buy a camera with a small sensor like the micro 4 3rds.
Nikon Z6 or D750. The Z6 needs to get their auto focus to work as well as the 4+ year old D750 period! Why do I want to pay a lot of money for a camera today that is not at least as good as their 4 year old comparably priced 750? And for gods sake add another card slot. Preferably with SD cards. 750 to 760. I have never had an issue with a mirror or the F mount. To make the D760 really desirable the live view focus needs to be as good as regular view. And a touch screen. 4K video is obvious. I could live without the EVF if the back screen worked as fast as the Sony A7iii.
My second new years resolution is not to use expired film and to stick with the films and labs I know and trust. No cheeping out on bargain film or labs. And to shoot more film.
Apple XS Max upgrade from iPhone X. Meh. The iPhone X was a great great iPhone. The iPhone XS Max is slightly bigger and better.
MacBook Pro 15″ 2018 6 core 512 gb upgrade from 2013 MacBook Pro 13″ 2 core 256 gb. Meh. I have literally used the crap out of my old MacBook. It still works fine and I am using it to write this blog post. But I does show some of this heavy use in balkiness to start up sometimes. It is also much slower to start now than 3-4 years ago. But it is not slower to start than the new one.
Pros of the new MacBook –
Cons of the new MacBook
no variety of ports like the old one. This one really pisses me off. I delayed for two years getting a new MacBook because of this but finally caved because I need at least one reliable newer computer and wanted an Apple. Not only did they take away ALL the old style USB ports but the idiots removed the mag safe connector. They even obsoleted my Apple Thunderbolt screen so I had to buy a dongle for it. And no SD card slot. Something I used all the time with my old one. So now I am switching over to the new style connector. By the time I switch everything over it will be time for Apple to obsolete that connector too.
I really liked my older MacBook Pro. My favorite Apple product of all time. The new one I bought because I wanted to stick with Apple and I was worried about the age of my old unit. I would have rather bought a new old style MacBook with upgraded chips. Apple has made this device worse not better for me. The old style keyboard is better.
Conclusions. New is many times not better and sometimes worse. I have purposely used only photos from 2014 to show that with my old gear before I started spending a lot of money my shots turned out fine. I really liked my old Motorola Maxx smartphone. It worked well, it had some very slick features, and the battery lasted forever. I bought my first iPhone the 6S after the Moto and in many ways the Maxx was a better device. But now you cannot go back to 2014 because Motorola has been sold and they make just so-so phones compared to Apple.
Back in 2014 I used Apple iPhoto, iMovie, and Aperture. But then Apple obsoleted iPhoto and Aperture and gave us Photos. Photos is a better organizer and works with on line better, but the editing functions work poorly with any photo that was not taken with an iPhone. Or at least poorly compared to Lightroom. Now I am still stuck sorting back and forth between Apple Photos and Lightroom. And I also have to remember if I used Lightroom CC Classic or Lightroom CC. My real photo collection system in 2018 was more of keeping photos on local disks out of any software. And now I am going to go back and have prints made from my best photos of last year + 2017.
In this blog I have posted very good photos (or at least ones I like) from cameras up to 65 years old, film, digital, DSLR, smartphone, and compact. All worked just fine. The key to photography is the photographer and not the gear. And that is going to be the same in 2019 as it was in 2018.
I have been on a film use slump. I have a closet full of film and I just have not been shooting film for the last six months. Why, I bought a full frame Nikon D750 and two lenses in May six months ago and spent the whole summer and September using-testing it. Then I sold the D750 and lenses and bought a Sony A7iii. And I have been testing it for the last two months. Yesterday after writing the previous post about how it was hard to love the Sony, today I thought, “Use a camera you really do love and have some fun”. So I got out my original Minolta 600si that was loaded with Portra 400 and got out my best, but heaviest tripod and started shooting. At first I did not get out the tripod out of laziness. I have learned in the last few years that if you want to get the best flower and plant shots a tripod helps. When you are doing close ups it is always best to have the camera rock steady.
One of the great benefits of shooting film over digital is that you have to wait to get it processed and cannot edit it immediately. What I mean is that you can have an enjoyable shoot and then keep enjoying yourself. You do not have to feel obligated to edit what you just shot. With film if you are using a good quality not long expired film likely all of the shots will come out. Maybe some need tweaking a bit but I almost never have ruined shots any more.
The above shot was the fourth shot I took with this camera and when I saw it I just went, “Wow”! Keep in mind this was consumer grade film from Wal Mart that was given to me for free and the processing was with a just OK lab.
When I get my film back from the lab scanned it usually is mostly processed and edited when I get it. Sure I Lightroom it a bit if needed, but way more often than when using a digital SLR the film shots come out right from the get go. And they are already in jpeg, plus I have the negatives or positives and a CD scan as back ups.
Back to why I love the Minolta 600si. This thing was designed and made as an anti menu statement. All controls are easy to use and this is a modern camera, auto focus with more than one point, adjustable metering with spot, center, and matrix, auto film load, advance, and rewind, top LCD giving you setting information, front and back adjustment wheel, even high speed sync on the flash.
All functions are obvious marked simple switches, dials, or marked buttons. Things that are individual marked controls are AF mode (Continuous, Auto, Single), Auto focus area (simple marked switch with picture grams ), Exposure (spot, center, matrix), exposure and flash exposure compensation dials, just like todays full frame digitals the front control dial is for shutter setting and the rear dial for f-stop, there is a mode dial with program, A, M, S, and drive switch with double exposure, bracket, single, multiple, and timer. In the manual it points out that if you have all the switches so they are either vertical or horizontal you are set on full auto and you can just point and shoot. Full Manual is also very easy to activate.
Having individual switches and dials for adjustments means you just make one direct movement to change the setting.
If you want to adjust AF area you just move the setting lever. Same with metering. Spot, center, or matrix meter setting you look at the dial and either move it or not. On the Nikon D750 or Sony A7iii you push the metering button and then change the setting. With the Nikon D5500 you need to bring up the back touch screen. Touch the place for setting, and then touch the setting you want. It is certainly true that the digital cameras have more settings. If you need those extra settings then the 600si won’t do for you. Very likely you do not need them.
Auto focus mode.
Same deal. Look at the knob and set to what you need. One movement. No menu screen.
Or look at the way the 600si handles drive.
Simple and direct. The indicator switch can be set to double exposure, bracket, single shot, multiple shots, and timer. The Sony A7iii is about ten times this complex. It has all the settings for this, but you have to remember where they are in the drive settings. The Nikons are also much more complicated but much easier to learn than the Sony.
The 600si also has a built in flash. I think this is a significant feature. The Nikon D5500 and D750 do too. But the Sony A7iii left it off. Why? They included it on my tiny compact camera and include it on the crop sensor bodies. It is much better to use a full size flash, but the built ins are very good for fill in.
You will also notice the Minolta has a double dial for exposure compensation and flash compensation. And the Minolta does high speed flash. And very handily it has built in motor drive for loading, advancing, and rewinding film plus auto film speed.
Conclusions – To me the Minolta 600si is for the film shooter who wants automation plus manual. So this camera is good for landscape, people, and wildlife. Landscape is usually easy and all manual settings usually work fine. But for people and wildlife it helps to have some automatic features. As a bonus, with an adaptor you can get the AF lenses from this camera to work on the Sony A7 bodies almost as though they were native lenses. I have found the auto focus and exposure work very well. Not so much with the TTL flash. These camera bodies sell for about $35 on eBay. Make sure you get a good one and maybe pay a bit more. The batteries are not common, but for sale on the internet at reasonable prices. I have found the batteries are good for a year or two. The manual states 15 rolls of film. I think it is about double that. I would suspect it depends on how much you use the built in flash. I bought a very capable high speed sync Minolta flash on eBay for $35. And I bought the 24mm f2.8 macro lens you see in the picture above on eBay for $80. The lens is a Sigma/Quantaray.
If you buy one of these in good working condition you will be able to learn to use it in a day. The manual is on the internet. It is simple, simple, simple to use. I would guess you can get a whole kit with one body and three lenses for $150. A stunning deal. I already have $4,600 into my Sony A7iii with only two lenses.
Back about 1 1/2 years ago I bought my fourth in a line of Sony compact cameras going back to a Sony Mavica in 1999. The new addition was the Sony HX 80. When I got it that model was just out and cost me all of $380 at Best Buy. I had always liked using and the results out of my previous Sony compacts and this was a good one too. I was looking forward to having an electronic viewfinder, steady shot vibration reduction, and the ability to optically zoom from 24-720mm equivalents. For the price and size of this camera I got very good results including really amazing long lens shots of birds in flight and distant mountain tops. One of the big benefits of this camera was the small size, and one of the problems of this camera was the small buttons and small electronic view finder.
Soon I figured out that it was just simpler and better to set the camera to Auto when the exposure seemed not too wide and then I would use A mode and adjust the exposure setting using the zebras on the back screen or in the viewfinder. Sony’s “intelligent Auto”. worked well and was able to detect most scenes and to find people’s faces. And that is how I used the camera until I sold it about 8 weeks ago. My 2 1/2 month old Sony A7iii is a highly capable camera that gives excellent stills and video. It is hard to adjust and change settings quickly on it most of the time. I am sure after I have it for a year it will be easier. So after grousing about how hard it was yesterday when we expected family to come over for a Christmas cookie decorating event I decided that I would try setting the A7iii to Auto and seeing how well it did.
For all of these shots it was always in Auto and I used my 55mm Zeiss f1.8 prime lens. Also used was a Godox flash in some of them. I set the flash on TTL and did not adjust it at all.
As it turns out I think the Sony did a splendid job. When there was a face in the scene it picked it out right away. It did a good job of auto white balance, exposure, speed, and so on. Do I plan to just let the camera do the thinking for me in the future, no, I like trying different settings to get the best result possible.
Color. I am finding the best results at this point to be just setting the camera to export raw only and editing that in Lightroom CC Classic. I have also used Lightroom CC and there is little difference between those two. I prefer the organizational ability of LR Classic to putting everything on line like CC wants you to. The Sony does seem to put out raws that need little editing. For these shots I mostly tried Adobe auto to see if that improved it. In about half the shots it did. And then I mostly added either Adobe Standard profile or Sony Standard profile. Plus maybe a little clarity or dehaze.
All these shots were hand held and this lens does not have VR, but the camera body does. The A7iii was able to get focus quickly and snap off the shot rapidly. I seems to work with the Godox flash easily. I did have a cover over the flash head that quieted down the light blast a bit.
I am surprised at how well the A7iii was able to automatically adjust for backlight and skin tones and come up with a good result. We have had cookie decorating parties in this same spot for about 15 years and the Sony did the best job on exposure of any camera I have used so far. A year ago though I did shoot some Fuji 200 speed film using my Minolta and I will now insert in a few of those shots.
The above film pictures I did use a flash but forgot to tilt the head up so in some cases there is glare on the faces. But the colors are good.
The above six shots were also Fuji 200 (Walmart film) but shot about a week later and with my manual focus Olympus OM2n. All of them except the top one were just nature light through a window. The top one I think the color is a bit affected by a little incandescent light. The bottom five photos are all excellent with the beautiful bokeh you get from the Zuiko lens and the just popping colors on the gingerbread house and the painting. I love some of the sharp focus rolling into off focus from wide open glass and the inexpensive Fuji film just does a great job. There is a little of the Fuji green tinge in the shots though. I did shoot about a roll or so of film yesterday and when I get it developed I will post the results along with the Sony photos for comparison.
I like both the Sony shots and the film shots. The Sony shots are technically excellent. Clear, start, exposed right, clean. Even though the lens I used on the Sony is very highly rated it Just is not rolling in and out of focus like the old Zuiko. Plus the film adds some softness to the look. I find the look of the bottom five shots where the focus rolls in and out and some of the color is just vibrant and other times soft to be beautiful in a way the Sony photos are not. And that is the reason I think film still has a place in 2018. If all we had was digital our photos would look mostly like we were Xeroxing the World. More art is needed with the Xeroxing.
I just spent 5-10 minutes trying to get my bluetooth speaker to attach to my iPhone so I could listen to some music. Every time I turned the speaker on it was pulling music from some device somewhere in the house but not the one I wanted it to. After a few failed attempts I gave up. I did not feel like fishing out a wire and the dongle that adapts the iPhone to an old style phone plug so I could just use a wire.
Earlier today I wanted to scan a document to email to someone. I loaded the HP printer scanner and then realized that my new MacBook Pro does not have the software for that scanner loaded into it. And since that HP is about four years old there are no updated drivers that work with the latest Mac software. So I had to go get one of my old Windows laptops that I knew had that software in it so I could run the scanner.
An hour later I tried to make a new folder on one of my external drives so I could store some data on it. Guess what, the new MacBook does not have the software on it to get full use of the Seagate drive like the old MacBook does. So I had to fire up the old MacBook to see what the name of the software is and go to the Seagate web page to get the driver.
Don’t get the idea I don’t like tech, I do, but I like stuff that is simple to get to work right and lasts a while. Bluetooth usually works OK, but can be a PIA. Wires are simple and always work. Software drivers and getting software to work in the system you want it to work in can be easy, hard, or impossible. That older HP combo printer scanner is likely not going to work as a network scanner unless wire it into the network or wire it directly to the computer I want to send the scan to. It works fine and is not that old.
My point here is that if you take photos today that you want to enjoy a few years from now you had better be very careful how you save the files. If you take high quality photos and want the quality to be the same in the future you have to be especially careful to make sure that no software changes your files.
To make sure your file exists and is readable in the future you need to save some copies. This is what I do. I put the files on a plug in drive. I then back it up on a second drive locally. (In the future I am only going to use drives formatted for Mac as I do not trust that the driver for the drive will be updated in future years.) I keep copies in either Apple Photos or Adobe Lightroom CC or both. Usually the raw in LR and the jpeg in Apple Photos. I also have a third back up drive I update about once every six weeks that I store in my motorhome safe. Then as a final measure I keep a copy in drop box. Drop box is the only on line service I have found and used that does not screw around with the size of your files when you load and download them. Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Flikr do. Oh I almost forgot Flickr. I have a lot of my files on Flikr and some on Google Photos. And I sometimes make photo books or have prints made.
I have had significant problems in the past loosing large numbers of my photos. I used to back everything up to one hard drive. It failed. I lost several years of full sized files and my only copies were on Apple Photos. Just last month I went to update a file from 2017 in my main back up drive. The whole year of 2017 was missing. In this case I had a back up copy of the back up copy on another drive. Some of the files did not want to be copied and I had to play with this for a couple hours. So at this point in time I am hyper careful.
I have had several on line back up systems change dramatically for the worse. I used iPhoto and Aperture on Mac. I liked both of them. But then Apple discontinued both and substituted Apple Photos. Apple Photos is still not nearly as effective at editing files as the previous system except using on line. Apple’s system of on line photos is pretty good now most of the time. I used Google Picasa to edit thousands of work photos. It was the best quick edit and file organizer you could get at any price and Picasa was free. Then Google canceled it. Adobe Lightroom on the other hand has improved. I use both Lightroom CC Classic and Lightroom CC. Both work well. The on line CC system keeps adding features and you can use it fairly well in conjunction with the CC Classic. Flickr used to be free. Now you have to pay to use it. All of these systems have at one time or another played with the size of the files except drop box and Adobe Lightroom CC Classic.
I would say my files are now very secure. But I am tired of it taking so much effort. Plus I have no illusion that raw files will work ten years from now. By then your raw files will be from an obsolete camera and you will be using a many generation newer OS. The best you can hope for is jpegs will still work. I think jpegs are mostly safe.
Here is how I did it 14 years ago. I bought film or the people that developed it sent me free film. I would send it off to Seattle Film Lab. At the time I used my Olympus OM2n and a couple of Olympus pocket film cameras. When I finished a couple of rolls or even just one roll, I would send it to Seattle Film Lab in a prepaid mailer. They would develop it and send the negatives, prints, a CD of the scans, plus a free roll of film. That would take about a week. The thing is Seattle Film Lab would edit the photos before I got them. I rarely edited what I was sent back. When I went on vacation I would use slide film so I could project the shots on a screen in full resolution. I used Kodak Kodachrome in those days. You couldn’t edit slides. You either got them right or you did not. I made photo albums. I saved the negatives, CD in files in a file cabinet. My prints from 2004 look just fine and have not faded. The CD’s I got back then still work. And if I had not sold my projector I could use slides. The only thing that endangered your back up files was your house being destroyed. So if needed today you save a copy of scans in a location not in your house.
I do not plan to go back to just using film. But anyone that tells you getting great photos is easier or cheaper today is contradicting what I have learned. iPhones or good Androids take great photos and video and are easy to use. They give better results than old pocket film cameras. But big digital cameras with big lenses and big files are very expensive, need careful care, go out of date in about 3 years, and storing the files is complicated. If you don’t already try both higher end digital and film and use what you like the best. I waver back and forth.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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