Tag Archives: Minolta

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.

Using Film and old Cameras can Be very Enjoyable.

As I said in the last post I was headed out to use a film camera (Minolta 600si + 24mm f2.8) to take shots of a western styled old town.  I really had a good time and very much enjoy the fact that I got some really great photos.  Of course I have not seen any of them yet except in my mind’s eye as they were film.  Why was this really enjoyable?

  • I am now writing this post instead of editing my pictures.
  • The camera is absolutely a great high quality and easy to use film SLR.
  • I am currently have no regrets about what settings I did not get right for the pictures I shot.
  • I am confident that likely all film shots will give images and that some will be great.
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I shot this with a Nikon 750 and 24-120 zoom lens.  This was the day we got here and was lucky enough to have just a little break in the haze that has been around the last three days.  

A while back Ken Rockwell mentioned in his excellent extensive web site that a big advantage of film was that you did not spend your evenings after shooting during the day in front of a computer editing your shots.  Boy was he right.  After I go out and shoot for a day using a digital camera I edit them later in the day.  This can be a short time if I used my iPhone.  Or a long time if I shot raw and need to go through every one of them getting them to look their best.

Most 35mm film SLRs are really simple to use.  Even my fully automatic Minoltas have no menus.  All functions are operated with simple visual switches and buttons.  Plus it is very easy to go full manual or semi manual if you want.  Easy peasy no confusing crap like figuring out which of the choices I want to pick from either of my Nikon DSLRs.  I do think about what film I should use for the shoot though.  Today I mostly shot using Kodak TriX and then some with Kodak Ektar.  I thought the subject would match those two films characteristics best.  And I only took one lens, a 24mm f2.8.  I took that because it lets you get close and still get a lot in the shot.  Plus if people are around you don’t have to point right at them to include them in the shots.  And at 24mm almost everything is in focus.

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This is shot with a Nikon D750 and 24-120 f4.  Taken in Teddy Roosevelt National Park.  

I have no regrets from my settings as I have not seen any of the results yet.  In general I only change the meeter settings on the Minolta from spot to matrix or center weighted.  And I usually go back and forth between A and P on the mode dial.  The Minolta’s auto focus works so well with only 3 spots I almost never manual focus.  But if I did want to manual focus the Minolta viewfinder is bright and better than either of my Nikon cameras viewfinders.  Of course with a film camera the big setting you change is what film you use.  But that comes from learning which you like for what subject.

When I shoot film, which is frequently, almost all the shots provide an image.  If I use a good processor the quality of the images I get back improves a lot.  Usually when I shoot 36 exposures I get back 36 usable shots.  Mostly they need little editing or no editing unless the subject was in bad lighting.

WHY TRI-X AND EKTAR?

I like black and white film when I want to show shapes and and not be distracted by colors.  And the subject was a western themed town and black and white suites that.  I like Tri-X for it’s contrast and starkness.  Tri-X will likely help this subject as it is mostly newer buildings made to look like the 1880’s.  I think they will look more authentic with Tri-X.  I shot a few photos with Ektar 100.  This is my favorite outdoor color film when not shooting people.  Ektar is OK with people but puts some red into their complexion unlike Portra which adds white.  To me Ektar just makes most landscapes better.  The colors pop.  It is very fine grain.  It loves the outdoor shots in the western USA.  It is the king of red rock photography.  Portra would have worked OK for this subject too.  The slightly faded look would have added to the “old” theme of the town.  Plus Portra is almost impossible to expose poorly.  And several of the Fuji slide films would have worked well too.

 

Travel Photography – What To Take

We usually travel by RV in the USA and deciding on what camera gear to take is easy, Take everything you want.  But in 10 days we are going overseas by plane and if you take more than you need then you have to lug it around.  So for the last few weeks I have been trying to decide what should go.  At first I watched Rick Steve’s video and he is a minimalist and says, “1 compact camera”.  I have a very good recent compact that is a Sony super zoom.  It does a good job and critically, has a viewfinder.  For sunny days viewfinders are a must.  But here is the thing, I asked myself, “when you are taking pictures of the Parthenon in Greece is a small Sony enough plus an iPhone 7+”?

Parthenon in Athens, Greece-Parthenon ruins tourism destinations
These are likely conditions in mid day, difficult.  Bright sun and blown highlights.

Travel pictures always seem to run into the “mid-day” problem.  Even though for best photos you are always supposed to go out before dawn and an hour before sunset, the reality is that this is not always possible, or something you want to do.  Last night I listened to a very popular and very good you tube couple talk about what they do when traveling and they said, “take pictures early morning and the golden hour before sunset, and spend the rest of the day in museums”.  (Tony & Chelsea Northrup). Thing is if you are on a tour you go when your tour goes.  Or maybe you want to have breakfast and a shower before going out.  Faced with the fact that many of our best shooting opportunities in our upcoming trip will be between early morning and late afternoon I have been testing my cameras to see (once again) which handle bright sun in mid day best.  The contestants were iPhone 7+, Sony HX80, Nikon D5500, Olympus OM2n (film), Minolta 600si (film).

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iPhone 7+ with significant time spent editing.

The picture above was taken with my iPhone 7+.  It was taken last weekend at mid day with mostly bright sun.  I spend a lot! of time trying to get this picture into any kind of decent shape.  The result is OK.

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And this was a couple of days later with better color.

I then shot some photos a few days later with the iPhone and the colors were much better, but this required some work in Lightroom to get this shot to come out.

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Sony HX80 in full sun.

The Sony HX80 to me is a slightly better camera than the iPhone.  It still struggles with mid day photos.  I spent some time trying to get anything out of the above shot that was passable.

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This was taken on the same day but came out better.

The above shot was taken with the Sony while I was sitting in the shade and at a different angle to the sun than the yacht shot.

Yesterday I went down to the same general area and got this shot with my Nikon and just the kit lens with a polarizing filter.

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The difference here is the polarizing filter and mostly the fog.

I like the above shot.  It is lightly edited and pretty much just came out of the camera this way.  I was just shooting aperture priority and fine – jpeg.  The key difference in this being a good shot is the fog.  So no bright mid day sun.

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Nikon same aperture priority and Polarizing filter.  And this is after editing.

Shortly after the cemetery shot the sun came out and the Nikon failed to take memorable pictures.  I got so frustrated with the color in this group I turned most of them into black and white.

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Nikon shot with B&W filter.

The reason I was so frustrated is that I went to the same location the day before with one of my old film SLRs, a Minolta 600si, some inexpensive Kodak 400 negative film, and an Quantaray 50mm f2.8 lens.  I had this film locally developed and they fouled up the scan and only gave me tiny files.  But the fact is that this lower end film with poor scans gave a much better balanced color result, by a wide margin than any of the three digital cameras I have used this week.  Imagine if I had shot Kodak Ektar 100 and had a fine scan done.  The film would have won by a wider margin.

So after all this work, what is the best camera gear for me to take?  Very likely I am going to duplicate last year and take the Nikon DSLR with the 18-55 P kit lens & 35mm f 1.8 for low light, iPhone, & Olympus OM2n with my 50mm f 1.4.  I will likely add the Sony too as it is small and could fit in my pocket on the flight over.  We have booked a number of tours in places we are going to and many of these will be during mid day and sunny.  If I was to lighten this up just a little I would leave the Nikon home and add a couple of lenses to the Oly kit + a flash.  I would likely take the 28 mm f 2.8 and the 135mm f 3.5.  The flash is a T32.

I don’t know why I keep needing to re-affirm the fact that in natural light film usually gives a far superior result to digital.  If it is dark digital works better.  The iPhone 7 plus is a very good low light shooter.

6 Days later —–  OK, I just could not let this issue rest.  So I went down to the same beach cliff location today and shot my Nikon D5500 with raw and my iPhone 7 plus with Adobe camera raw in the iPhone.  The results from the two digital cameras was the closest I came to the film.  Of the two I have to say I preferred the results from the iPhone to the Nikon.  I edited both as with Lightroom as best as I was able and the color was just a bit more pleasing from the Apple.  But it does not change the fact that an 15 year old Minolta camera with and off-brand (but very good) lens and low cost Kodak print film gave superior results.  I am so disgusted with the whole effort I don’t even feel like posting samples.  If you want to see some write me a comment and I will do so.

Bottom line.  Digital daytime still shots suck compared to film.  Sure digital is better for more difficult lighting and interior shots, but in typical vacation type family shots film still rules.  I guess that is why more and more people are going back to film.  The scary issue for the camera makers is that this means for most snapshot /family shot shooters they don’t need a fancy digital.  Sure if you make your living with a camera you should get a high quality rig, but if you are a family shooter an iPhone (or better Android) smartphone camera is fine.  If anything my recommendation is for family shooters to consider a film camera, maybe an instant.  Polaroid is back with a new camera and Fuji Instax ones are all over the place.  Analog rules.  Digital is mostly for convenience not quality.  I am writing this as I listen to a 45 year old LP record on my good quality Hi-Fi system.  Analog music is easily superior to any digital I have heard.  Analog music is just not nearly as easy to use.  Same with photos.  Digital is easier and analog is better.

Kodak Gold 200

Over the last couple of years one of the films I have used with good results is Kodak Gold 200.

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Taken with Kodak Gold 200 – Voightlander Prominent 35mm & 35mm 3.5

This shot was taken last summer with my Voightlander and a 35mm 3.5 lens.  We just walked around Ennis MT and took in some of the local town sights about an hour before dusk.  To my eye Kodak Gold provides with good color saturation and has a pleasing white balance for landscape and people.

Me next to robot mr clean voight K gold
That is me standing indoors in a brightly lit entry way to the museum of clean in Idaho.  Same Voightlander camera but with a 50mm 1.5 Nokton

Gold has a fine grain if you don’t underexpose.  I have run into a few difficulties in the shadows of some shots with Gold.  You can get rid of most of the unpleasant grain with noise reduction in Lightroom, but better if you just expose for shadows and then turn the highlights down a bit.  One thing to keep in mind is that this is an inexpensive film and it is 200 speed and not 100.  Ektar has less grain but costs about 50% more and is 100 speed.

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This is also Kodak Gold using the Voightlander and 50mm lens.  
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Here is a shot of the same location but with Kodak Ektar 100.  This photo is pretty much right out of the camera with very minimal editing.  The shot above it with Kodak Gold had more editing.  

I find both of the above two shots to be quite attractive but the one shot with Ektar is just magic on a big high quality monitor.  I took a series of about 15 of the west side of Zion National Park with Ektar and when I got them back from the developer I just went “wow”, the best shots I have even taken of Zion with regards to the red rock color.

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Shot at an RV park in MT. with Gold
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Shot in Ennis Mt with Gold and 35mm lens.  This camera is an antique BTW.  From 1953.  The lenses are just beautiful.  So is the camera body for that mater.  
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Shot at dusk with Gold.  This is the shady side.  
the chief neon from sunny side voigjt K gold
Here is the sunny side taken about a minute after the above picture.  No settings were changed between the two shots on this old manual camera.  

As I said, Gold can go grainy on you when underexposed as you can see in the sky on the above two shots.  But then the shot above that of the door is very sharp with little grain and the only difference is lower contrast in the scene and correct exposure on the door.

Gold can still be bought at just over $4.00 US in 36 exposure rolls here in the US.  It is a good general all around film that does very well on skin tones.  Ektar is a finer grain and is beautiful for landscapes, but puts red into skin color.

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This is Ektar showing skin tone 

And here is Fuji Superia 400 for comparison.

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Fuji Superia 400 shot on a Minolta 600si with 50mm 2.8 lens with flash.  

To me Superia goes green and that is hard to control, and Ektar goes red and that can sometimes be a problem.  Gold is more in the middle but you have to watch the grain.

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Kodak Ultramax 400 shot with Minolta 600si 50mm 2.8 lens.  

And finally Kodak Ultramax 400.

All four of these are very good films.  They have to be to have survived the purge of the last 10 years.  Here are some tips.

Kodak Gold is a very stable film that is very versatile.  It is not fussy at all but I would recommend no underexposing it too much or grain could become an issue.  I prefer the Kodak Gold color rendition to Fuji.  Fuji Superia has less grain and 400 speed.  But it is also 50% more expensive on 36ex rolls.

Right now Kodak has two very good lower cost films in the color negative category.  Gold at 200 speed & Ultramax at 400.

Film vs Digital Photos – May 2017

About five years ago I started shooting film again after going with digital only for about 7-8 years.  Now in May 2017 it seems like film is back in a big way.  I have been writing this blog and one other with most of the posts being about photography.  My most popular posts are when I write about film and film cameras.  Recently I saw a post that was in Photoblographer on 5 great but unknown film cameras.  The Minolta 600si was in the five.  Within a few days I had a bunch of hits on most two 600si posts.  Same with my post on Kodak Gold 200.  Few have written about these items and all of a sudden my posts on them have been looked up and read.

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Shot with Minolta 600si with 50mm f2.8 macro Quantaray lens and Kodak Portra 160

For me personally I have settled into using both digital and film.  I have a number of both types of cameras and just pick what I think will give the best images.  The exception to this rule is that I carry an iPhone 7+ with me constantly and take a lot of images with it.  My most recent camera purchase is a Sony pocket camera.  It is a DSC HX80.  This is a very new model of super zoom.  I have had several Sony pocket cameras over the last 15 years and this one takes the best pictures of any I have had.  This is not the highly rated $1,000 one, but looks very similar.  I got it as I was trying to find something a bit better than the iPhone 7+ that had a long lens on it.  I like shooting wildlife and volunteer at the San Diego Zoo so there are times when a long optical lens is helpful.  I have to say the little Sony is a very good camera when you consider what it cost.  It even has an electronic viewfinder (the same one as the $1,000 Sony) that is absolutely essential in bright sun.  I recently took it with me to Arizona and the camera is a very good bridge between a large SLR or DSLR and a cell phone camera.

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Sony DSC HX80
AZ trip with Cathy & Jeff-53
Sony DSC HX80 at about 500mm a little tweaking in Lrightroom

On this trip I took my iPhone, the DSC HX80, and my Nikon D5500.  So no film cameras.  Why, I knew I would be bouncing around between outdoor and indoor, plus back and forth between landscape and people.  We did not plan to go to any epic landscape places like the Grand Canyon or Bryce.  So I spent several days trying to decide on what gear to take and just left the film at home.  I really wanted to take my old Voightlander, but it is just more limited than some of the newer cameras.  I got some very good shots with the gear I took.

The cactus is with the Sony, Casa Grande Nikon, and Route 66 with the iPhone.  All three were easy to edit and organize with Lightroom and Apple Photos.  I pretty much edited the pictures when sitting in the hotel and they organized easily as dates and times were already embedded in them.

Would the images have been better with film?  Maybe.  I would have needed two bodies for both 100 speed and 400 speed.  The 100 would have been Ektar or Velvia, and the 400 Kodak Ultramax or Fuji Superia.  I picked these films as I just have not been happy with my landscape shots using Portra 160 or 400.  I just don’t like the desert look I get from this film.  My two Minolta 600si bodies are just as easy to use as the digitals so I would have taken them.  I would have used my two primes a 50mm and 24mm both with macro.  The long shots could have been with the 70-205 Minolta zoom I have.  Absolutely the 50mm macro is better at close ups than any of the digital cameras I have.  The new Sony super zoom really has a long reach.  So a couple of the animal shots might not have been as close up.

The added reason I picked the digitals is that I am trying to get certain looks with them in camera and post with Lightroom.  I wanted to experiment some more to get the results I was looking for.

AZ trip with Cathy & Jeff-77

These shots of Casa Grande in Arizona I was trying to get the “Kodachrome” look.  To me this photo (from the iPhone no less) pretty much nails that.  And I could have made the same result with Velvia or Ektar in one of my film cameras.  In this case though it is a bit of a pano that is easy with the iPhone 7.

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Nikon D5500 with 18-55 P lens

The above is with my D5500 and I get the same “Kodachrome” look.  I just used the P setting and landscape mode.  I had saturation turned up +2 on the landscape mode.  Then in Lightroom I just added a small amount of additional color in the sky with the dehaze slider.  And I turned up the shadows a bit.

In summation I would have to say that I have settled into working with both film and digital for stills.  There are some things I like about each process.  As far as gear goes, I like some of my vintage film gear.  Looking at and holding cameras mostly made out of metal and not plastic is a pleasure.  And having full frame film cameras that are not heavy and relatively small is also a pleasure.  I would like to move up to a digital full frame sometime in the near future, but nobody has made the camera I want yet.  The closest is the Nikon 750, but I don’t like the fact that the camera and lens is so large.  And the Sony stuff is just too pricy for what you get.  Plus the lens cost and short battery life are additional problems.  I would really like to get up to the 30 meg area of file size too.  At this point the 750 is the same detail as my existing D5500.

Film Video vs Digital Video

While it seems I can get very good results with digital cameras I have to say I am glad that using film in movies is popular again.  I hate digital video on TV that has not been processed to look like film.  Netflix does that on their in house movies and they look terrible.  I can usually spot movies made with film or TV shows.  For instance HBO’s Westworld.  The cinematography was so gorgeous I figured it was film.  And it is.

Thats it for now.  I am going to try to get out this weekend and shoot some film.  I have some partially used rolls and I want to finish them and send them off to get them developed.