Medium Format As The “One” perfect camera for hobbyist, feat 645Z and GFX50s

I must admit, I have been flirting with this idea for a very long time for my digital preferences. It has been around 2 months now ever since I started my One Camera One Lens restriction on using the film camera for a year. The idea is not entirely new as other people including the popular blogger Eric Kim advocated similar discipline.

You can check out some of the videos here, released on a weekly and bi-weekly interval, ads free and non-sponsored.

Covid-19 threw a big spanner on my plans as travelling even between district is now prohibited in Malaysia as part of the conditional movement restriction order. So with not much opportunity to finish up the 36 shots a week and while immensely enjoying the peace of mind with this approach I looked at my existing digital gears and wondered whats the point of keeping all the gears. If anything after a year, I am probably so sold on this restrictive approach that I wouldn’t ever need them.

medium format fujifilm GFX and Pentax 645Z portratis
Medium format 45 f2.8 / IG : sashaxuan / IG : changelivesimages

I took this discipline one step further and of today, I sold off my favourite EOS-R, Panasonic G9 and dozen of native lenses that worked on them. I kept the films few bodies that can work with exceptional lenses still in my dry box like the Otus 55 and several M mount lenses.

The result? A massive decluttering. Not only is the dry box having spare space, I realize all the spare items that was needed to support the existence of those items are not needed too. I ended up with 4 extra bags, 8 filters no longer needed (should have given it free with the lenses) and the same detoxifying effect on my mind.

I don’t need to think which camera to bring out when I need to shoot. When I need the film experience, 50F2 planar + Contarex. When I need the digital, BAM, here take this medium format camera and this lens.

Medium format 45 F2.8. I am a big fan of candid and realistic representation.

Photography, in terms of its role in our lives can be categorized into (3) three categories. You are either a professional photographers and makes a living in photography 100% (you would need whatever number of bodies and lenses needed for your job and this article would be moot), semi-commercial work of which you could de-clutter and like me, you could be someone who just enjoys photography passionately.

For us, hobbyists that enjoy photography and not so much about collecting gears, having a discipline of going out and producing amazing images while connecting with the community is the ultimate objective. It is what feed our addiction, shutter therapy and the sense of being part of something much bigger in purpose than the routine lives we see daily that are deeply driven by commercial motivation.

medium format fujfilm gfx for hobbyist
Medium format 45 F2.8. Beautiful gradation of a simple indoor scene of a hipster cafe in KL.

Now, here is the thing. I brought those lenses and gears to a contact of mine, Jeff Speaker and told him, “Here i am taking my 1 camera 1 lens further, take these and give me an evaluation” . Having a conversation with Jeff and the difficult situation the camera industry is in (Nikon Malaysia just closed its door), I am am prepared to a reasonable value and have no illusion about their worth being used. This means I would convert all these gears and lenses in my digital inventory into 1 Camera 1 lens.

Jeff came back with a trade in proposal instead. The big but in this trade-in scenario is that I was prepared to just use my existing Pentax 645Z as I still have 2 good lenses with it and it would be contradictory to my goal and direction to acquire more gears. The 645Z I had is the one tool that I would bring out when I need absolute quality and assurance in getting the images I want. I even brought it out to two overseas trip and no regrets on the weight. You can see some of my japan images, a friend I met-up in Tokyo and my wife in Khao Yai sunflowers farm.

Jeff’s proposal however make sense and I brooded over it for 2 days and agreed to it. He has a pristine used Fujifilm GFX50s and a 45mm F2.8 lens traded in by a customer for Leica or something. Bottom line, two bodies, dozen of lenses including some manual ones that I used with the EOS-R gone, a GFX + 45mm in. It dawned upon me, I am now left with just medium format cameras, the 645Z and the GFX50s and in a few months I might reduce them to One altogether when the 52 weeks is over or treat the other as a backup camera given that the sensor is the same Sony 50mp.

Would I have been happy having downsized to just the 645Z?, you bet. The GFX50s brings me closer to my current habit of packing 1 Cam 1 Lens and having no subscription to Photoshop I was eager to just use the Film simulation (cringe worthy but a lot of joy on the similar approach in my film camera experience)

fuji gfx medium format portrait
GFX50s 45 F2.8 – Classic Negative Simulation / IG : sashaxuan (Forbes 30 under 30)
medium format portraiture fujifilm gfx50s
GFX50s 45 F2.8 – Classic Negative Simulation / IG : missjoycelish

Look, I understand Medium format is expensive. I am totally advocating that anyone reading my blog here, if you have a decent camera since 2015, it is probably sufficient for all your use. The entire idea behind #jointherestriction is to move away from reading reviews of new camera gears, click baits in youtubes by influencers that peddles “this camera is the best camera yet”, instead go out and shoot. Spend on experience.

We are in the Era of disposable images and where lifecycle of digital cameras is just 1.5 years and that shiniest object you have in your hands that is worth 10k today is worth 2k tomorrow. Any investor would tell you, that is the worst investment ever. Buy used cameras for your upgrades and spend the extra funds on education, travel and props setup. If you are looking into Medium format digital, the 645D, 645Z and Fujifilm 50s is now available in the used market at prices lower than the latest Full Frame.

digital medium format photography using fujifilm gfx and 645z
GFX50s 45 F2.8 – Classic Negative Simulation, Realistic Skin Textures

Medium format totally works for me. If you are looking for reasons on settling for one, here are my reasons.

Depth Rendition

I love the tonality and quality it produces. The current sensor is just 0.79 bigger than the FF sensor but the results are significant. Images shot have better depth rendition, this is an overused term that can easily be explained. Just take a picture with your phone and at the largest aperture take a picture of say a cup. Notice the background blurring just 2-3 meters away compared to 10 meters are the same, the is absolutely no “transition” of depth between those distances. This is something IPhone’s fake rendition will never solve, neither will Huawai or any of those simulated depth regardless of who sold their soul and publish misleading youtubes on such features, they look absolutely fake and almost like a cut-out board.

Larger sensors allows much smoother transitions between distances. I am not referring to bokeh here but the depth rendition. This is also where i feel that plenty of test images you read on dpreview are totally missing the point by shooting on objects in similar focal plane.

digital medium format photography on gfx and 645z
GFX50s 45 F2.8 – Depth rendition

It is actually harder to produce high quality lenses for m43 like Olympus and Panasonic than to produce one for the Full Frame cameras. If you put in a FF lens into a m43 camera you will notice it does not produce the same excellent results you see on the FF camera when you pixel peep, unless the lens is of exceptional quality. This is why M43 system is at a huge disadvantage. They need to produce exceptionally high resolution resolving lenses while keeping the price low because consumers always compare them to FF. When you view mobile phone photos at 100%, you see the pixel quality are mostly junk but when you view m43 images, they look similar to those you see on FF, this is by no means an easy achievement by the m43 to appease the consumer’s expectations. You can check out the LPM measurements on micro four third lenses like those pro series, they often have to resolve “double” what is expected of a FF.

Now what has that got to do with Medium format? The opposite is true, you don’t really need a very high quality lens to fit the needs of the large sensor to produce very high image quality. The 645Z 75 F2.8 is crazy sharp and beautiful contrast yet it only cost USD 700, the results easily rivals a Summilux costing USD 7000 or more.

645Z 55mm 2.8 / ig : changelivesimages / sashaxuan

Image Pop Quality

This is an observable quality that is closely related to Depth rendition. Often we hear magical stories on how lenses produces images that just pops. Its pretty hilarious if you try to nail down the reasons behind them, personally I feel often it’s just the use of wide aperture and the contrasting colors between the subject and the background but some of my own images, I could not fit that narrative while still being awed by the results.

645z medium format portrait
645Z 55mm 2.8 / mandaa.cme
645z medium format portrait
645Z 55mm 2.8 / mandaa.cme

Ergonomics

As an asian, my hands are not as large as my western friends, but holding a medium format camera just works for me. The 645Z in particular has such wonderful grip and buttons placed perfectly that I don’t need to spend any time looking at menus. The Fujifilm GFX50s grip is superb and I love the simple physical buttons that I could find and use quickly. In a way I am a sucker for ergonomics, that is also the reason why my other 2 late cameras that I sold was the EOS-R and the G9, both are the best in its class for ergonomics in my opinion.

Bigger absolutely works for me, but not when it is as big as say a 67 Mamiya Rz or Pentax 67 both which i once owned and I felt had terrible ergonomics.

What if you don’t need a medium format camera?

I have done some of my best albums on both film and digital on FF and proud of some that I did on the m43. Did I mentioned I used to have tons of gears and been cutting down ever since until now. So you won’t miss anything, whatever you have now whether it is FF, m43, APSC, digital or film you could go out there and produce amazing images and you should be doing just that.

Weekly Photography Inspirations #4 and #5

photography inspiration and anti-gas

The day i stopped my Photoshop subscriptions, stopped reading any new gears reviews and lenses comparison, I found myself thinking more about the next theme, the location, the opportunities of creating art. Art that consist of outdoor and actual location, non-studio that captures not just the model or people in them but a real scene.

Amanda, professional make-up artist / @mandaa.cme

During this week I managed to wake up early and visit this road between two house. The owner took the opportunity to plant plenty of flowers at this road though legally, it doesn’t belongs to either side of the house. From such irrational need for plants and the risk of being removed by the local council, fate saw it fit to get them captured by yours truly.

Is that a drain pipe? Yes it is sir, it is as real as it gets.

Without Photoshop healing brush and clone tools, I didn’t bother to remove the pipes and dead petals from the images, since i was shooting film (you don’t need a film camera, just use what you have, if you really need one, just buy one and stick with it). When I sat down and look at the image, I began to appreciate the fact that they were there, those pesky objects, elements, but they are as authentic as nature is. It is what it is, minus Trump.

Bougainvillea

I envy anyone that is not staying in Malaysia. I envy everyone who has a camera and yet not living where the equator lines crosses. Do you know that in equatorial countries, our light quality totally sucks most of the time? When you have the spotlight shining directly on top of you most of the time, you get terrible light and for someone like me who enjoys available light and natural outdoor.

Don’t even start me on the flowers, BougainVillea is all you get, they are beautiful no doubt but the all year summer weather means the lack of other seasonal flowers and the trees here are either green or dead. D E A D, dead.

Large green leaves

One thing we do have going for us here are gigantic green leaves. It’s either rain or sunshine dear, so these plants grows and grows, I won’t be surprised if they are sewn as dresses for the uber sexy theme shoot.

I am digressing. This is my 4th installation of one camera one lens, truth be told, its one focal length, the 45mm f2 planar masquerading as 50mm. Why did Zeiss created the Contarex 50m F2 that is actually closer to 45mm and the same formula migrated to 50mm f2 modern planar on the M mount? I have no idea and you don’t need to google this up because it will lead to GAS and there is no such thing as the final buy.

Through the glass, a bakery in Petaling Street
@Irene.yfxp at a Cafe in Kuala Lumpur, Kloe

Overall I am very happy the results I am having so far. The lack of need to edit photos, heck i don’t even need to chimp. Editing took me like 2 minutes and that is because of the exporting folder workflow I have.

Brew a cup of coffee, sit down and enjoy the rest of the images in the 4th week of September + 1 week of October with music .

Full set of images available here for the 4th week of September / 1st week of October

https://flic.kr/s/aHsmReBoNn

Weekly Photography Inspirations #2 and #3

Since the last week of August, I have committed on using 1 Camera and 1 Lens by restricting myself to stop reading reviews, gears launches and instead just go out and shoot. You don’t need a film camera, any DLSR, m43 or mirrorless camera produced in the last 7 years will do fine.

I met a snag in the 1st roll itself, the Contarex Bullseye 50 f2 planar was showing back-focusing issues and I barely could get half the images in focus. As a result I had to find a 2nd body to try the lens on and confirmed that the first body which looks super new was faulty, there is something wrong with the mirror.

Do enjoy the images you can find them in the youtube here and a flickr link.

The first 2 out of 52 weeks

In these 2 weeks, I was sorting out issues from the missing spool (basically this film camera needed a spool to take in the film and the sellers omitted them) and backfocus issues. I visited a cafe with a friend Xiao Bai who works as an Interior Designer in Puchong to visit a new Cafe that have some japanese vibes.

I love the large window that the cafe use and most of the images is focused on that.

The 3/52 week

My friend Carol Lim, who is a top sales in the banking industry took the risk of betting against the weather and we drove 1 hour to a spot not far from Kuala Lumpur to do the shoot.

Although there isn’t any dramatic and sunset light, I felt the soft and low-moody ambiance gives the images a comfortable feeling of peace.

The most beautiful film camera

zeiss contarex is the most beautiful film camera

The year was 1958. The competitions were fierce. It is a take no prisoner stage, where every camera manufacturer did their best to produce the most reliable, most advance and beautiful 35mm film camera of all time.

The over engineered Leica M3 was released 4 years ago, the undisputed champion. There was no sensor war, no dynamic range, no fps, what can you possibly produce that can have an edge in engineering to offer the consumers?

Zeiss held a pep talk with the company, the engineers in particular needed to hear one. Something is cooking at the land of the rising sun and it is not going to be merciful when it arrives. How about we throw everything we can and create a camera that no man has ever imagined neither will the competitors ever be able to produce?

Zeiss created the Contarex Bullseye.

The most beautiful film camera in the world, historically.

As history records the aftermath, the most beautiful camera in the world which was supposed to be engineered to a level of perfection that it needed no after service nor care, did not fare well commercially. It was more expensive than the Leica M3 and a year later in 1959, Japan sent its Nikon F into the world, obliterating M3 and every other rangefinder in existence.

This blog doesn’t promote GAS and I have been pondering on which camera to use for my 52 weeks project of One camera, One lens, I decided to pay homage to the Zeiss engineers effort and ideals and use this camera for this task. The fallout of this camera was so bad it literally killed the company.

The engineers lost passion and never produced anything significant in terms of camera bodies. The company went downhill after that. While this is not the absolute truth of exactly what happened, it is my narration based on the timeline and understanding of engineers in companies.

sources : https://www.nytimes.com/1971/08/26/archives/zeissikon-plans-to-shut-voigtlander-unit-in-1972-zeiss-will-close.html
Over engineered, over promised. The world most beautiful film camera.

Why film? Why not just use the 645z and use that instead for the 52 weeks project? The reason is simply because of restrictions. Film development is still affordable here in Malaysia, we are looking at USD 4 for development and includes scanning. While they exist and the limits of 36 shots per roll is appealing for my objectives, this seems like a good direction.

The other reason is that I have decided to remove Photoshop and Lightroom from my workflow for this 52 weeks project. That is me showing the finger to this commercial company for their lethargic products and these subscriptions and megapixels marketing noises. Did you know that they parked their sales in IRELAND and you had to contact customer service to stop your subscription? No thanks.

The world most beautiful camera. Contarex Bullseye. Beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder.

Thus my 52 weeks begin. Come join the restriction, pick 1 camera, any camera, 1 lens and focus on photographing things that moves you, not the likes or public.

Here are some updated photos I took of the camera itself, it is a real beauty though that divine shell comes with a heavy history and cost.

The logo and emblem from days gone by

One of the unique craftsmanship seen on this camera is that it has no light seals to be found anywhere, in fact the only foam you can find is at the mount near the focusing screen where it has slight contact with the mirror as it flips up.

The mechanism of flipping the mirror is not the ordinary design that we find in the dslrs or slrs of the golden age of film cameras. It looks and feel complex, whether this complexity translates to anything superior is pure conjecture.

Photography, finding inspiration in an age of disposable images

Maybe some of you are like me, tired of reading reviews, tired of seeing SquareSpace ads, tired of looking for inspiration and instead landed on yet another YouTuber’s clueless images.

Tired of chasing for likes, tired of complying to Facebook and Instagram shitty screen estate for showing images and yet limiting your reach and audience? Sometimes we only need to take a good look at the mirror and ask why.

As a hobbyist, I have clear advantage over pros and I believe there are many like me, we enjoy photography but we don’t want to drag our passion into commercial stage. This is our exclusive area, a sabbatical escape from the daily business routine in our lives.

We create images and we share them so that others would see our work, enjoy our work with the hope that people could feel what we feel, see what we see. Sometimes we reached out to seek inspirations but instead we are greeted with gear reviews, messages about the inferiority of our gears and rubbish examples that are poor value for our time.

645z / li wen / August 4th week 2020

As time goes by, the challenge of doing a 1 camera 1 lens for a year is becoming both more attractive and meaningful to me. Limitation is a catalyst for creativity and a vote of protest from my soul towards all these noise coming from Brands, social media and the lack of appreciation of good work done by fellow photographers.

I have decided to share my images in Flickr and other platforms where images gets their well deserved resolution and display without all the shackles of compression and pursue of likes.

While I have not decided on the camera to participate in this challenge, I felt a strong peaceful confirmation whenever I think of this decision. I will be sharing a set of images each week on my YouTube channel just for people to enjoy looking at them to chill for the day and if you want to see the bigger versions, a flickr link is included in the description.

Every Week, 1 Set of Images for 1 Year, done on 1 Camera + 1 Lens

Here is the first one, enjoy.

Medium format street photography in Tokyo

medium format street photography

Is it possible? Of course. I would argue that one have been sold way too many times the excuse that you would fare better with smaller cameras, like the Leica.

Vivian Maier shot on a Rolleiflex, a twin lens system that is so much harder to focus and looks pretty weird when you have two lenses pointing at you. Back then people knew it was a camera and there is nothing in that form that contributes to her infamous photos.

Leica rangefinders are louder than most of the Olympus, Fujis and Ricoh GRs that exist in the market and probably the largest of them all. Still we have current credible photojournalist and photographers that swears by it for street use.

medium format street photography
The Introvert, Pentax 645Z, 55mm f2.8, Tokyo

The answer is really our own acceptance of what we are comfortable with. A medium format camera should not prevent you from doing street photography.

Kawaii / Pentax 645Z, 55 f2.8, Tokyo

If you prefer B&W cause it has more soul or captures someone’s soul (darn are we back in the dark ages) , a medium format camera like the Pentax 645z gives you beautiful gradation and smooth tonal dof transitions.

Metro 1 pm, Pentax 645z 55 2.8, Tokyo

Make your own decision. I personally had a lot of fun shooting and using a medium format camera like the Pentax 645Z for portraits and streets and I am convinced that the suitability of any camera is defined by you.

Pentax 645Z, the new beginning

Spending many days at home with nothing but work opens up dialogues and self reflection that one could not imagine are possible.

I have not been buying any new gears for sometime now. It has been an amazing journey and like a speech given at obituary, I spend nights thinking about life, work and what exactly ticked me all these years.

I believe in slowing down, that is why i bought, sold and re-purchased several Leicas and used many film cameras. I believe in the invisible driving force of inspiration having value above a spec sheet. I do not subscribe to majority pressure or impression without having tried the tool myself, one of the reason why I still kept the Olympus PEN-F despite the reviews.

Medium format portraiture / Pentax 645Z 55mm / Pang Yi Ling / Kawaguchigo Japan

But above all else, I have always believe that having too many gears, just like having many chefs, spoils the meal, in this case, the very journey of what I wanted to experience in photography. Ironic, contradictory and a struggle that I have faced ever since my first camera in 2007.

Photography should be just like a relationship, a marriage that you undertake with your partner and watch her grow old, together, till death do us part. This was the missing commitment that I struggle to bring in to photography as a result, my collection grew and my obligation to use them becomes a distraction.

Pentax 645Z street photography
Medium format portraiture / Pentax 645Z 55mm, Tokyo

As I pondered on each and every gear I bought, the images I created with them, the friendship that I found with other photographers, models and the conversations that took place. I came to a conclusion that I could very much be able to carry out this journey that I always wanted, a transition from using whatever tools I already have, to just using ONE .

The choice of tool will be the Pentax 645Z that I left at the corner of the drybox (its too big to fit in) and all my other gears will now be in hibernation mode. I would begin to give some of them away. There will be only reduction from this point on.

Medium format portraiture / Pentax 645Z 55mm / Pang Yi Ling / Kawaguchigo Japan

I know how silly this is going to be especially bringing that medium format DSLR into every genre that I enjoy doing including Street photography but it is what it is. The soul searching is over. This beast will be that “one camera” for building muscle memory and the defining partner in bringing out all my artistic visuals into reality.

As the world recovers from Covid-19, each one of us should discover what is essential to each area of our lives. If you are into photography, it is Marie Kondo time.

Portraits inspirations and photographers worth following

Youtube gave birth to many individuals showing their artistic talents online, some are good and some are talented video editors with no photography talents.

I found myself often mesmerised by images taken by street photographers of the old like Vivian Maier, Fan Ho and also those already established ones like Steve Mccurry. The younger generation of portrait photographers like Bella Kotak is also worth following.

Photography have undergone a lot of changes in this decade, the gears and tools that photographers use are also evolving. When we see some instagram profiles of people that have no popularity and body of work, we could also find inspiration there. Although I personally found mobile phone image quality to be nothing short of scam for still photography, that didn’t stop me from admiring the composition, work that could be found on Instagram of unknown but talented folks. (If you want really good image quality without spending a grand on crappy phones, check out cameras like D40x, D80, D200, they cost below USD 200 and out performs of any image quality you can find in Samsung S10, S11, future S20 or IPhone 18.)

While reading this site, I would be sharing images taken by me, mostly on cheap gears, if you are looking to de-gas yourself, you would find the ride enjoyable.

The problem I have found repeatedly is the lack of good photographers to follow on youtube. Often videos that I have seen add a few photos to support the content or review and while I could not deny that at first glance, the music, the presentation of the images was promising but I realized very quickly they are very mediocre images and the expectation of seeing something good turns out disappointing. It is as if a salesman were to show you a car and with lots of excitement in his showmanship but the car shown is in reality a plain worned out Hyundai, you could feel that you would love to agree with the salesman to justify his effort but you can’t.

ig: carol.limm, Nikon D200 / 35 f2

Let’s look at a list of people that I used to follow but no longer due to my own growth and understanding and some that I am following for different reasons.

Steve Huff

This is the guy that I found lots of nice articles on Leica. I got my first M9 after reading his blogs and posts. As time goes by, I began to see a pattern that every new gear seems to be his favourite ones and the content tailored for sales conversion. I am not contending on his sincerity as it might as well be true that each upgrade is the next best camera. The good stuffs on his page are about editing, where he showed how he got those straight building lines and portraits that he ran thru Nik Color Efex Pro.

A site to follow if you are looking for some reviews on high end gears and as a 2nd opinion, it is not a safe site if you are suffering from GAS 🙂

Eric Kim

What I love about Eric Kim is his articles on how to travel light. Those tips are gold and Eric is like an influencer of sorts when it comes to street photography. The images however are a bit too “normal” for my taste. What I believe one could learn from Eric is the courage and strategy he has when moving on the streets and you should then take images that moves you in your own way. Eric however like most of us, was found to be flip-flopping between his opinion, one day film is the best, the next day he is on Ricoh GR2 and perhaps he in candidly sharing his own progression in

ig: changelivesimages / mak3upqueen, Nikon D200 / 35 f2 / zero sharpening
ig: changelivesimages / carol.limm, Nikon D200 / 35 f2 / zero sharpening

Tony Northrup

This is one of the youtube influencers for photography. Tony together with his wife have probably steered more people towards Sony than any ads out there. The subjects that Tony chose on youtube are mostly click bait driven but he tries to make good of it by putting in personal opinion and stats that appeals to the intellectuals.

The topic he did on m43 is dead is one such controversial example and taking such a stand only means you are either very confident of the data you have or you have no idea how shallow you are. My own personal views on that is as uncertain as anyone else, I have Panasonic G9 with some cool lenses and I also have a Pen-F that I kept as a collection as one of the most beautiful digital camera ever made. Do I enjoy the G9, yes, it has one of the best ergonomics for me with decent quality. Am I investing in further lenses like the 1.2 for M43, no, APSC and FF are clearly the better options, mirrorless era is here and unless you are only doing birding, there isn’t much advantage at all.

ig: changelivesimages / missjoycelish, Panasonic G9, 25 1.4 Leica

Mattias Burling

Another influencer that I occasionally look up his youtube to see what else he is peddling on when it comes to gears that people no longer wants. This is the guy who I think is responsible for the resilient Ebay prices for Pentax Q.

In a way I appreciate his views and sharing on how these small sensors could be used to produce very good images, after all, 1/1.7 sensor is still bigger than almost every mobile phone’s sensor out there today except the Huawei P20/30.

However he will go on to show the same line of argument when it comes to Pentax MX-1 and I am sure other cameras like GXR or some obscure camera will come into his attention and ends up in a video. In short, if you are buying these cams, let me just make it clear for you, there isn’t anything really great about the IQ, it is just the sensor size being used and since today so much was compared with mobile phones, some people are perplexed that some 8 years old camera could produce nice images.

If anything, we should pay less attention to the sales pitch thrown by every mobile phone manufacturers out there on cameras. You can only squeeze so much from low quality data coming from that mobile sensor sizes.

ig : changelivesimages / mak3upqueen / Panasonic LX5 1/1.7 sensor

Ming Thein

This is a powerhouse nerd when it comes to photography. Todate there is no one who could express technical aspects of cameras and it’s output like Ming Thein. He was once appointed as the Chief Strategy for Hasselblad only to be shocked by the culture of the new management from China when DJI took over.

A short digression, does any country in their right mind knows that apps like TaoBao or Lazada is only promoting business one way to China and would eradicate local small retailers and infant industries? It is mind boggling how any government is having a blindspot on that. India is waking up with their rejection on Amazon’s entry despite the promise of billions by Jeff. I am not a fan of trade war, but every gov should be focusing on building the local industries and supporting the local small retailers.

I once paid for his lessons sitting in for 2 hours while he goes thru my images and providing feedback and exposition on light. While his street images are often judged as cold and soulless, his technical understanding and delivering product images like watches are up there with the best.

I have no idea why he roped in Robin ( a M43 supporter) to a site named after himself but there is much we can learn from MT. In recent months, his content no longer carries the “medium format is better” vibes since he is no longer with Hassy.

ig: changelivesimages / carol.limm, Nikon D200 / 35 f2 / zero sharpening
ig: changelivesimages / carol.limm, Nikon D200 / 35 f2 / zero sharpening
ig: changelivesimages / mak3upqueen, Nikon D200 / 35 f2 / zero sharpening

If you follow my instagram click into the models profiles and you will be surprised how good their own photos are taken by mobile phones. Those facts always keep me humble and the notion that we can learn from anyone, even models with a phone. Here is one example, Carmen a 22 years old student that I collaborated with end of 2019.

EOS R, is it worth it?

It’s September 2019 and you wondered if the EOS R is still a viable camera given that the Sony’s eye-AF is now the de-facto for autofocusing.

I came across the same question when I realized I have to either upgrade my apsc 6400 to A7III or another FF system.

I love the a6400, with the 30 1.4 it’s like a dream combo for general shooting including candid portraits.

EOS R with Otus 55 1.4

There is no good reason to change the a6400. I needed to upgrade it solely because now i know enough of Sony’s tech to make an informed decision on its eyeAF game changing feature.

I have several Canon lenses, a noctilux f1 from my Leica days and an Otus 55 that demands a FF body.

** For videos need, I have settled on m43, as much as I tried using m43 with the noctilux, the 4mm sensor stack glass is unsuitable for the M lenses ( Leica M9’s width is 0.8 mm). I m sorry to say this but m43 is in many ways a much weaker format when it comes to lower-light availability. Lower light scenarios which poses no problems to FF affects m43 image quality noticably. Unless u have a tripod.

EOS R with Otus 55, medium format look

The decision to go with the EOS R is based on my own long term observation of my character. Looking at my existing inventory, I always kept lenses that I considered legendary.

The Otus 55, Noctilux f1, 90 f2.8 summicron R, Zeiss 50 f2 Makro Planar are lenses that have resisted changing hands or traded in during my photography tools discovery.

If lenses are the main drivers to what I treasure in my tools, the mount and how that affect the images in the near future as a system, is important.

EOS R vs Sony

The RF mount now supports some lenses that I find to be amazing, 50 1.2 RF, 28-70 2.0 RF and 35 1.8 RF. Amazing? How?

It is in the way Canon tried to show the capability of the mount with novel ideas and the balls to pursue it.

Nikon launched the Z mount with a 24-70 f4? Really? That’s pretty lame.

Sony doesn’t have any lenses that I couldn’t find the equivalent in the DSLR world and those mount are as old they go. In a way Sony’s apsc was a more interesting line.

Thinking along this line, the EOS R is the system for me. I respect that Canon came out with 28-70 f2, a lens that is never seen before and the aged reviews of the 50 1.2 RF proves that the RF mount does delivers on its promise of great optical designs.

EOS R is the winner for me

Is the EOS R superior in anyway compare to the Sony A7iii’s lineup (A7R4 is available too) ?

Technologically, no. Nobody is.

The Canon EVF and hand held ergonomics however, are better. The colors are beautiful and the shutter sound is addictive. These small wins are good enough to make up for the loss in specs on paper.

Having said that, Canon has announced that there will be a firmware this month to ease the gap between the focusing technologies.

The Ultimate Camera and other nonsense {sharing}

what is the ultimate camera
the ultimate camera
Finding the ultimate camera in a connected world

AI is at our doorstep now. This post is about cameras, but first let’s take an honest look at how many phones have you changed for the last 5 years. Why did you changed them? Could you have held on to any of them and not upgrade to the new phone?

What has this gotta do with Cameras?

The recent news on Huawei got many of us thinking. Is it viable to continue using a phone that would have no more updates within the next 3 months. Truth is most of us might be very happy indeed if the current apps we have remain as they are and we just keep on using them. But the ugly side of the connected world is that our apps consistently fuel the need to upgrade itself or it won’t even run.

Take whatsapp for example. It refuse to run and force you to do an update. What if you are not able to update like what will happen to Huawei Phone? You end up with a brick.

red and green portraits
Red & Green Currency

Resisting the dependency on Sofware

I wrote about GAS and how i broke out of it here. While that is true for my film cameras collection, it was significantly harder when it comes to Digital. As of that writing on overcoming GAS, I had 4 cameras exchanges done on Digital and 1 on Film. While I have successfully stopped the film GAS, It took me a while to settle on the Digital. When I said exchanges, that is because I swap my camera instead of buying more.

I am digressing. Now what has the Huawei, Software updates have to do with cameras? If you look at the recent innovation on digital Cameras, it is beginning to reach the golden age of its kind, just as film did in the 1970s . We now see the inclusing of AI into the cameras, this is bad news in many ways. For those who are now beginning to see the picture, AI are firmware upgrades that adds extremely useful functionality to your cameras, so much so that the gap between a film camera and a digital finally have a wide gap.

The problem is that it introduces the same dependency cycle we had on the phones to our Digital Cameras and this is bad news. Somewhere along the line you going to have Cameras whose AI would not upgrade further unless you have a hardware upgrade to support it.

Take a look Olympus E-M1x direction and Sony A6400 and the Sony A9/A73 firmware upgrades. It is the future and at some point in time, greedy manufacturers will apply the update cycle trick into the cameras lineup as market share continues to go downhill .

What do you do when your market share are small? How do you increase sales? By upselling.

Find the golden line

couples communications, portraits
Couples communications

Here is the thing. If you read so far and you have no idea what was the big deal, well, your right, nothing really happened to your life and your photography. But something is happening to everyone else around you.

The latest Sony eye-AF with AI is putting disruptions to the concepts of focus points and practicality. Try it. I did and as much as I hated GAS, I came to the conclusion it was not just silly but ignorance not to use eye-AF for portrait shooters. This is not the eye-AF that we need to place the focus point at and wait 1 second or use a live-view. The new eye AFs are game changing feature that removed the need to even set a focus point, if you are doing portraits and it allows crazy tracking.

Candid portraiture photography
Smile your on candid camera

At this point, all the other manufacturers are scrambling to catch-up with Sony new eye-AF. That is the good news. What we can do is find a camera model that have good enuf AI tracking for portrait and before they start putting in kill-switches for upgrades. I know this sound hilarious, but the A7ii users ain’t laughing, they were all left out of the updates.

Remember Acros, Fujifilm simulation, its just a stupid preset and Fuji didn’t add it to their X-Pro and X-T1 users and only open it for users of X-Pro2, X-T2, X-E3, X-T20, X-H1, and X100F. A preset needs new processor upgrade? sure Fuji.

We have enough of this shit.

model portrait film presets sony a6400
Sony a6400 / Amanda

The ultimate camera is the camera that can continuously get free updates from its manufacturer without changing hardware. Since that is impossible, there is none.

There are going to be a backlash in all these, checkout Phoblographer hilarious post about ending up at Pentax door. I am not laughing at his choice, but rather I already know this is not going to last long, end of the day you just have to cut thru the noise and settle down.