Just a week after i wrote about being an anti-black and white photography guy, i noticed my mind comes under constant probing by myself. “what if i was wrong, what if B&W truly is the best way to show forth the soul of people?” .
“Nah! nothing beats the beauty of colors, with the exception of high key shooting. ” retorted my other self, in justification of what i wrote. Thus, when i was in Singapore last week, i realized that i begin to see things differently, i no longer have the excuses of shooting stuffs thats gonna need B&W to salvage it or make it look more “moody” since i have some chinese-face to defend (hahaha).
Anyway here are some photos i took in Singapore, enjoy.
Sometimes, natural portraits without much make-up are unavoidable. This is because the subject could be young and does not possess sufficient make-up skills and if the make-up artist is not available.
I must say, i am kinda liking the Xvario for portraits despite not having the shallow dof. Using PS i could creatively apply blurring at certain areas. The model in this photo shoot is Elyn, its her first shoot and i am quite happy with the results.
Ipoh have many sites where nostalgic looking buildings are still around. Some are even in operation for business. One particular site is the old town ipoh, where you will find many cafes maintaining the existing vintage feel of the building but offering hipsters food and menu.
I visited Ipoh for a day yesterday, took the opportunity to use the Xvario for street shoots.
Ipoh is a beautiful city located in Perak, Malaysia. Urban legend has it that its a place where most of Malaysia’s beautiful ladies comes from, quoting various examples, eg Michelle Yeoh, Malaysia’s first bond girl.
The food in Ipoh is plentiful and comes in all kind of creative forms. What i mean by this is that the local in Ipoh tends to be very entrepreneurship when it comes to food.
Its been a crazy day. I undertook a portraiture project using just Xvario and in the afternoon i took the same camera for street photography.
Now, i realize that Xvario’s contrast based focusing did miss focus quite a number of times where subject is backlighted, this is why mastering the zone focusing works wonders.
A camera like Ricoh GR and XVario has a form that promotes street photography. I have been trying out various other cameras but i have never been motivated to capture images and be surprised by the results as i did with these cameras.
Why? I believe it boils down to something so simple and raw, its practically the trigger for motivation. It begins with “Form”
1. Size matters
You can shout and chant the whole day and read magnum contact books and dead photographer’s portfolios. But if you gonna hold a 70-200 zoom lens on your dlsr and walk up the street and shoot, you not going to succeed. Size matters. Holding on something big, is not going to give you the speed and flexibility to move right into a scene and shoot it. Street photography is about people and expression where you are almost at the same place, witnessing and participating. I love zoom shooting in mall photography, something i did as a kind of street photography when i am just too tired or motivated to walk outside. I get nice photos but nothing that i am really happy with.
If you gonna carry a 50-500 lens, you are better off joining the Olympics than doing street photography. The anticipation in street is not just one direction, it could be behind you or on your side, and to shoot discreetly and yet breath in the scene, size affects mobility and mobility affects results.
A camera that is of the correct size grants the bearer such joy, that its hard to describe. When news of friends and people moving away from DSLR to 4/3, Fuji’s and whatever else out there, i initially thought that its just a rush decision. Make no mistake about it, liberty and freedom is a feeling that many associate as criterias for happiness and when your camera gives you event a taste of that, its hard not to understand why they did it.
2. Camera Quality matters
Motivation begins when you feel inspired by something or a thought that you hold in your mind. Holding a lego camera, will not get you motivated unless your motivation is pre-planning to fail and yet not feel bad since you got a bad deal to begin with. Lets face it, carrying a plastic camera that feels like toys, does not contribute a single motivating trigger to you anymore than a B rated movie gonna get you high expectation. Expectation however matters. A camera that is build nicely, triggers all kinds of good thoughts and inspirational feeling when you carry it.
When i first had my M9, despite the reality that its a camera that is kinda “stupid” with all kinds of limitations, i did produce some photos that i am very happy with. Logically any camera today with a fast lens could easily out gun any Leica M shooters if the photographers are on the same level. Auto focus is just too stupid to be ignored. After i sold my M9, i got all kinds of cameras. They all could in theory, capture much better photos in various lighting conditions. I did have many keepers no doubt, but the joy of holding the camera just isn’t the same. M9 felt stupid due to the technological limitations and rangefinder, but the build and touch of the camera, inspires one to go out and shoot. I know one day, Leica will produce one that you won’t feel stupid and at the same time highly inspired by the build quality.
Partially this condition is met in the Xvario. The camera immediately brings back the feeling i had with the M9 and minimizes on the stupidity part. The only “stupid” part i felt was the slow lens but given that i wanted to train on deep dof, this counters the thought. The Xvario, to me, is the real Digital Leica. Its far from perfect, a perfect one would be 24-70 mm 1.4 on a FF Leica but at the current situation, that is crazy thinking 😉
3. Inspiration matters
It begins when you hold the camera, up to the point when you shoot it. My nikon D4 performs flawlessly and was iron clad dependable. Inspired, hardly, but it does removes me from distraction of limitations since if D4 cant’ perform, its entirely the photographers fault . Ricoh GR is so light, u feel immediately like moving around and shoot. Xario feels so solid, you feel that every moment is special. D4, tells you, go do your job. Its not a bad thing if you are a full time photographer on duty, but for your own passion based projects , inspiration goes a long way.
No article should be complete without a photo to prove my point right? I have been fetching my daughter for more than 4 years to the school. I have used all kind of cameras trying to capture something i like, her silliness and laziness when waking up from the car, or just some expression. I got that with 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 :
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 :
..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.