2 days later .. the Xvario

So how does it feels like to shoot with a camera that offers f 3.5-6.4 tortoise lens?

At this point, i have not done any of my model projects yet, so i will reserve my utmost comments after one of those shoot.

For now i would say, its a liberating experience shooting with the Xvario. Here are my reasons :

1) Its like a compact camera. A high quality compact camera that is so small, i bought a small Canon bag to hold it.

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This bag is so small and light to carry, i am beginning to feel my 4/3 system is heavy, despite having only 2 lens.

2. When you know in the back of your mind, the lens are awesome on this camera, each shot that you take, you somehow feel very confident that its gonna deliver.

Since its a “slow lens” shooting in broad daylight is no issue at all and i left it to maximum aperture (3.5 dial) and let the camera figure out the shutter.

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3. The exposure and white balance….is almost magical. No kidding, i am using just 1 focusing point which i move around using the “delete/focus” long press and since aperture is 3.5 and not razor thin dof, i could just slightly reposition the camera after focusing. Exposure is just nice, during PP, they holds up very well. I remember the Joe guy in the promotional video of Leica Italy talking about this and making it sounds like a commercial stunt, but seriously, it works.

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4. ISO 1600 is your friend. Coming from 2 extreme camera experience, my D4-high-iso-king and the Sigma-max-iso-200, i must say for practical use, the XVario iso 1600 is usable for handheld indoor shots.

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Now, the price is still expensive in every sense and i learn a new word today, its called “WAF” – wife allowable factor, from this guy called “Axel”. Let me just warn you that if you look at his images, you might just make the plunge.

https://axelpolt.exposure.so/colors-structures-light-impressions

Enter the XVario

I really need a break from my routine types of shoot. Typically consisting of models and a big aperture camera and lens.

The idea of doing street photography and casual shots of people that are “non posed” have been tugging at my heart for a long time. Yeah, they would not garner as much likes and attention to my page in fb as much as pretty images of models would, but having seen really amazing street photos, i can’t deny that non-posed shots are nothing short of awesome.

Enter the Xvario

I have read many many reviews before i embark on this journey. What i did is basically sell of my perfectly working Nikon D4 and all the lens except my favourite one, the 24 mm 1.4 nikon. Why would anyone sell off such a perfectly working camera and get a Leica. Just a few articles back, i was criticizing the non-bokehlicious-shallow-dof camera a loser and now i am owning one.

Hmm, let me put it this way. The only way i can learn to appreciate deep DOF and embark on a new journey of photography, is to limit myself to a gear that does precisely this.

My sigma with the 18-35 art lens in currently in Japan undergoing perfect focus tuning and i have no idea when it is coming back. That leaves me with the superb Oly EP5 which my wife will be using in her trips and tours.

Now that you have read my complete my self-justification list ;-), that started my move towards the Xvario.

Why? Isn’t this the shit-sandwich camera that everyone been pissing at? Isn’t this the slow lens and overpriced camera?

Yes, this is the Xvario. From various reviews, Steve Huff, all the way to general mags, this camera won’t pass my 2nd glance on normal day. But what got my attention is this guy’s review :

http://rodriguezahr.blogspot.com/2014/01/leica-xvario-camera-to-fall-in-love-with.html

Looking at his flickr set, he has Canon 5D MK III with 50 1.2 and all kinds of lens and works for ELLE publication in the middle east. His images are good, damm good. I asked myself why would such a person even buy a Xvario. That started me on reading up more reviews and dropping by the Avenue-K Leica store to check out the camera myself. I must say the price in Avenue-K is not in synch with the world, its expensive by nearly USD 500 compared to BHphoto, but i bought from them anyway, i guess its nice to see a local boutique shop here constantly supporting this brand.

I also bumped into this other guy’s review that seems to have access to all kinds of latest gadgetry :

http://soundimageplus.blogspot.com/2013/09/leica-x-vario-in-low-light.html

..and yet he calls the Xvario, “I’m not even going to bother to write yet again about how good the IQ is, apart from mentioning it now. So I’ll go back to m4/3 and Fuji X for the next group of posts, since that is what people want it seems. And I’ll be continuing to use my ‘secret’ camera, but not writing about it much.”

As the moderator for Leica forum in Dpreview, i had a few chat with Rodriguezahr about the issues on the Xvario and was satisfied with it.

Here are the major shortcoming and how u overcome it :

1. The oversensitive 4way controller. 

Buy the case, its beautiful and adds grip and additional thickness to the side, enough to shield the right thumb from hitting the pads unnecessarily.

2. The slow focusing

Set to 1 point focusing. To move this point, long press on the “Delete/focus” button and use the 4way controller.

As for the aperture being small and hence a “slow lens”. Well, consider it this way,  how much would u pay for a Leica Elmar like prime for : 28mm, 35 mm, 50mm, 70mm? Did you know that the 50mm of Xvario performs near on par as the 50mm APO that cost USD 7350.00? Go figure.

I have not start shooting yet as today is my first day with the camera, just snapshots here and there with the family. Will be posting more as i put the camera thru its pace and undertake various photo projects and limit myself to only use this.

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xvario, edited with silver efex pro ][

Street photography with Zoom

When i do street photography a year back, i was a strong advocate of shooting from the hip. I trained myself with the leica M9, 5 meter and zap. Nowadays there are crazy super street cameras such as the Ricoh GR that could do very discreet SP from 2 meter onwards using the same technique.

Well the thing is, in malaysia, its no longer a safe place to just walk around. So most photographers relocated themselves to either shoot in the malls or near big malls or some festive events such as Thaipusam. Its a sad situation really.

Seriously shooting in malls is kinda strange for street photography. But what is even stranger is shooting street photography with zoom lens. Ever since owning the 75 mm 1.8 on the Olympus Ep5, i am often amazed by the quality of this lens and coupled that with the image stability provided by the EP5, shooting bokehlicious photos and strong focus on subjects is a breeze.

My sigma sd15 camera and the 18-35 ART lens is now on route to Japan for fine tuning. Yeah despite tuning it myself using Allen screws and such, i find that i have not much confident that i am just missing a tweak or two.

So today i took the EP5 with the 75 mm and did the Mall’s Street photography. I know rite? Go ahead let the flame begins. But i do love the images taken. These are all edited using just IPad with no special apps.

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A new snack in town, looks like curled Aunty Anne pretzels.

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A couple enjoying BR. With the Zoom that was easily done across the other side.

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A beautiful westerner at the mall, framing this was a split second decision.

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Love this setup.

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Just a casual pose near the Japanese section.

Freelance modeling and chasing the celebrity dream

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I have been shooting freelance models for over 2 years now. The difference between me and the next Tom holding a camera is that i do seriously consider my passion in photography as a way of helping freelance models. How i came about adopting this notion is thru several experiences and my personal beliefs.

Firstly, i am a married guy, just crossed the 40th birthday. Now, surely i know how it looks like going around shooting young girls in their early 20s, since this age range of 18-25 dominates the freelancing models. Before appointing myself as somekind of “hero” in this community, i gave myself a set of rules. I will list them below and frankly, i have been quite successful in this pursuit although i have not perfected my own thoughts and maybe have instances that i have failed maintaining one of the rules as i intended it to be.

5 Rules every photographer should have when shooting freelance models
1. Never touch the model during pose
A good photographer should never touch the model for aiding in pose. Its pretty ironic how some photographers feel that they are qualified to teach posing in the first place, being non-professional and being rooted in asian culture. Touching the models not only disregard this fact, but it opens up dangerous expectation whereby the photographer could be bordering on molestation. Its obvious that these freelance models are not professional models in most cases and at most, have taken just cat walk from Amber chia or other academy.
A good photographer should instead just voice out how he wants the model to pose and what kind of emotion he would expect. If the model is unable to perform, he could show by his own pose what he thinks the pose should be or allow generous attempt by the model to try out the pose.

2. Always deliver some good images within 3 days
These freelance models needs the images for their portfolio. I am assuming its a collaborative work and not some paid event that focuses mostly on shooting for fun. Never underestimate the power of photos shown to agents and its potential in helping freelance models. They need the photos and that is why you are shooting them, so deliver the photos as soon as possible with some editing.

3. Don’t get emotionally attached
The models are often pretty and beautiful. Its not hard statistically to accept the fact that the more freelance models you meet, chances are that you going to meet one that you like sooner or later. You can’t compare your “aged” gf or wife to them and when you do meet one that has character or attitudes that you personally fancy, you risk being emotionally involved.
My advice would be, stick to “friendship” or being “friends” as ultimatum borderline when this does happens and remember rule #1.
Of course you can have many friends that from this community just like any other community and you can also have very beautiful friendships that can last for a lifetime but remember the objective in why you get to know them in the first place.
If you are single and the other party shows similar interests, this rule can be ignored and go ahead be bf/gf. Else stick with it.
If you are already in a committed relationship, you should adopt this rule before you even venture into shooting freelance.
Remember Star Trek? While there is nothing wrong to have friendship-emotion like those of portrayed by Captain Kirk with Spock, in photography you are like Spock driving the Starship enterprise, if you are emotionally compromised, you resign your position cause you going to set a bad example to the community and you have no idea how many ppl will copy your example.

4. Freelance models are models
They are models or at least trying to be one, some might even aim for full time. Like any other models, they do have their aspirations and dreams. Your task, is just to take photos, let the clients/agents see them in different themes/outfit/expression so that they get jobs. They are not your GF. There is no point taking photos with them or posing with them unless they are developed to be your friends and its done casually just like you would with other friends.
Publishing photos of the photographer with the freelance models on facebook or instagram are nothing except “Sendiri shok”, nobody wants to see it and viewers don’t see the photographer as some successful casanova but rather some lonely and pitiful guy.

5. Avoid Lingerie/Nude and Hotel shoot
While many will disagree with me on this since the idea of “fine art” tends to steer towards this, but the fact is, most photographers are not professionals nor full time graduate of fine art photography or works for fashion houses nor Victoria Secret. In fact i haven’t met one in these 2 years that could give me straight face or honest to self evaluation that they did it out of the love for art.
First of all, event jobs and the jobs that freelance models participate, 99% does not require these kind of photos, so its useless for them to have such themes done. Second, lingerie brochures and catalogues already comes with models before it reaches the local country here, there is literally, no market to have such collaboration.
Freelance models that does this, are doing it for just $$$ event itself, never for collaboration.
Fact is, nearly every single negative image of a model photography can be traced to some Peeping Tom photography that is 80% driven by horny guys with just 20% of actual photography.
Photographers with more than half of their albums consisting of freelance models in these themes should register themselves with the authorities and engage in counseling, they are a risk to the community.

Now with the rules done, i focuses on improving my skills in photography while dishing out advice to whomever i encounter. In most cases i will just be frank with them. Some are just not cut out to be models professionally due to limitation in height and other factors. Some have high potential and some are already way over popular even before i met them. Some have sweet faces innocent outlook and that is a very popular demand locally so they will do well in normal freelancing.

Model Freelancing is just a way to earn income and often you have to balance it between an actual career and the lure of being a full time freelancing. Frankly, full time freelancing is a big no simply because these jobs are dependent on nothing but the model’s “beauty” which diminishes comparatively vs the younger generation as each year passes by. Actress/acting in Malaysia is very limited and should be avoided as a goal, casting jobs favors euro/western looking ladies. Well in short, for freelance models, i would advice to just earn as much as u can decently while pursuing doing a proper degree until you reach 25.

Its easy for freelance models to be disillusioned, so really, if you are a photographer and if your friends are into freelance, dishing out occasional “reality” messages is the best thing you can do as a friend. There is a reason why the percentage of freelance models in age 18-25 is like 1000% more than those in 28-30. Once the girl reaches 27-28, no freelance jobs and no experience and no degree…the sudden drop in income would be hard to deal with.

Photoshop or natural, who cares?

I started off in photography trying to duplicate the scene as real as possible and zero photoshopping.

My my, how have times changed. Doing portraiture in Malaysia, i ended up shooting nothing but models, but that is another story. For now, lets just say, i jumped from natural to light editing with Lightroom and finally photoshop. I really wanted to do PS just dodging and burning, but the slew of imaging that floods the freelance of models community demands that images needs to standout from the crowd. First i undergo a personal tutorial for 3 hours by a genius photographer based in KL, Ming Thein, ironic cause he does not do portraiture, but being a person that recognizes skills and talents, i know he has much more to teach me than any portraiture guru around town.

He is a photographer that focuses on natural editing mostly because he is into street photography too. Now i learn a lot from this master, mostly on the most crucial part of photography which i see being missing from tons of photos flooding my news feed. But as any guru will tell you, go find your own style.

Well as the story goes, it doesn’t really matter how natural your image is, the reason is that you are not a photo journalist where the credibility of the image and how intact the image from the actual scene is important. This however does not means that u ahead and shoot with kit lens using 15 minutes of crap preparation and edit the hell out of it. 

My shooting buddy, one that stood with me thru many experiences with good models, bad models and dishing out any help to new freelance models is a big fan of photoshop, so much so that he edits “fantasy” literally into all his photos. Along the way, i realized, there is no reason to be so serious about “natural”, but rather, how happy the client/viewers are.

If you want to argue about “natural”, fact is, an image is just an interpretation of the sensor, with each brand processing the image according to its color profile. Want that leica color? Fuji? Olympus? U see, the image u get is just a rendition of the sensor. Instead of being an image taker which anyone with a camera can do, i decided that an image creator is more like it.

So it boils down to the image and theme that i undertake in my projects. For one, i appreciate models or people who have dedication in their preparation, being early etc. When it comes to beauty, there is always a “prettier one” around the corner so its just silly putting the subject as the “main” criteria. Check my archives and you will see mostly natural shoot with various types of toning editing. But for this theme i did lately, “Angel” i could not but apply heavier editing.

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