Tag Archives: Minolta

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).

Sailing on San Diego Bay
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.

gaves overlooking coean
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.

big yacht SD harbor
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.

DSC00651
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.

fog with graves leading to trees
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.

DSC_3427
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.

bird on the cliff
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.

Ennis businesses vioght kodak gold
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.

Zion voight mid day K gold 2
This is also Kodak Gold using the Voightlander and 50mm lens.  
Zion canyon minolta ektar_
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.

Ennis sculpture trailer voight kodak gold
Shot at an RV park in MT. with Gold
Ennis door voight kodak gold
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.  
Pocatelo chief neon voight kodak gold
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.

58830006
This is Ektar showing skin tone 

And here is Fuji Superia 400 for comparison.

Liz & Pey 2
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.

jeff cathy jon betsy_
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.

bird eyes
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.

AZ trip with Cathy & Jeff-76
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.