photoblogography - Just some stuff about photography

Venice, sigmatized

somewhat sidetracked

in Photography , Tuesday, March 12, 2013

After 5 weeks in Patagonia and Antarctica, and a huge editing and processing backlog to get through and even maybe publish, what was the obvious thing to do? Of course!! Go to Venice and take some more photos! Well, I’m not making any excuses. Venice is a magical place, especially in February, and it’s just down the road. So. Here is a small selection of, maybe, a slightly different take on La Serenissima. No gondolas, no bridges, no canals (well, almost). And all captured with the quite unbelievable Sigma DP2 Merrill. Oh, and I’ve also got about 300 Olympus Pen Venice shots to get through before I can get back to the backlog!

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What, MORE cameras ?

Lord, won’t you buy me….

in GAS , Monday, March 11, 2013

In the last couple of weeks I’ve been dedicating my “photography time”, what little there is of it, to getting a better understanding of how my Sigma DP2 Merrill camera and its associated software, the much maligned Sigma Photo Pro work. And I’ve got to the point where it’s going pretty well, and I can extract optimal results from the camera. And “optimal” in this case is truly awesome - and for once using “awesome” is justified. So much so, that the idea of buying the new DP3M, with its longer, 75mm equivalent, lens is swirling around my head at each coffee break.

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coffee, sigma style

Actually, I’m also very tempted by the new compact Fuji X20 as a take-everywhere camera too. But there’s also a strong voice telling me I’ve got too many cameras. Well, what does that actually mean? To me, photography is an important safety valve that lets me blow off creative steam, which if it remained bottled up, would have serious consequences on the rest of my life. It allows me to tolerate, and try to do well at, an otherwise dull and repetitive job (relatively, that is. I consider myself lucky to actually have a well paid job with a prestigious employer, with pleasant, intelligent colleagues, and especially in the part of the world I live in. I do not forget to count my many blessings. But back to whining about toys).

So let’s do a quick camera inventory. I currently own 4 distinct “systems”.

  • Olympus micro Four Thirds: this is basically my general purpose system. I have a Pen E-P3, and 6 lenses, as well as a few older manual focus lenses which can be used via an adapter. This system easiy fits in my small Domke F803 shoulder bag and is ideal for travel, especially when photography is not the dominant objective. The technical quality is certainly good enough.
  • Olympus Four Thirds: this is my “serious” system. I’ve been using it since 2003, and at present I use the E-5 body. The strong point of this system are its fabulous range of lenses. The 12-60 and 50-200 zooms are class leaders, and between them cover 90% of requirements for relatively little weight and bulk. However I also have the speciality 7-14 ultrawide, the macro 50mm, and the telephoto 150mm. The latter pair are possibly two of the sharpest, best performing lenses ever built by any company, and that’s a widely held view. Also the whole system has tank-like build quality, has well proven weatherproofing, and with the E-5’s optimal live view coupled with its swivelling screen, the ability to get into really contorted positions. So this is my workhorse system for dedicated photography trips. But it’s heavy, fairly cumbersome (although considerably less so than an equivalent Canon or Nikon system), and I’m getting less enthusiastic about carrying it around.
  • Hasselblad XPan: this is obviously a specialist system. I’m on my second XPan body, having destroyed the first, and I have the three available lenses. The image quality from this (film) system is excellent. To some extent this is my trademark format, and while I can still buy film for it, I’ll be using it. Actually, this too fits in the Domke F803, provided I don’t take anything else, but fully loaded it is fairly heavy. And if I take this along with the big Olympus, as I tend to do, and a tripod, then I’m well on the wrong side of 10kg.
  • Sigma DP2 Merrill: well, I’ve already made my appreciation for this camera clear. In terms of niche it overlaps with both the Olympus systems, offering significantly better image quality, but considerably less flexibility. I am wondering if it could actually replace my micro Four Thirds system, but there is a lot that the mFT system can do which the Sigma cannot. But in a scenario which suits the Sigma, there’s really no contest.
  • Ricoh GRD4 (RIP): since I’ve mentioned and highly praised this camera before, I should include it, but sadly it is now in the hands of some thieving scumbug in Buenos Aires (and for the record, I do not let that all too common incident - for Buenos Aires - colour my opinion of the average Argentian. They’re wonderful people). This was my everyday, pocket camera. At present the Olympus PEN has taken over that role, but it’s really a bit too big, hence my interest in the Fuji X20.

So, have I got too many cameras? I didn’t mention my antique non-functional Canon A1, my small collection of semi-functional Ricohs, or my so far unused, bought on a whim, Lomography Belair 612. So by any sane measure, absolutely yes. But I would say I’ve got too many when they start getting in the way, when they become an end in themselves. It’s an easy trap to fall into, especially with so many desirable cameras on offer these days, but I don’t think I’ve fallen all the way in yet. Obviously any camera that just sits on the shelf is a waste of time and space, but all the above get regular exercise.

I am thinking about selling the mFT system, but the apparent promise of an Olympus body which is designed for both micro and full Four Thirds lenses is alluring. I’m also thinking of selling the Olympus 150mm lens as frankly using it is a little beyond my skill level. And it ties a lot of money up. And I will sell a spare XPan 45mm lens with all its accessories.

So should I just hit the button and buy a DP3 and X20? What will they actually bring me, apart from a few minutes of retail therapy?

What I really need to do is to at least make an attempt to get my photography to a wider audience. Then maybe I’ll have a little more justification for the shopping. Although I’m reluctant to the point of neurosis to bang my own drum, frankly I feel my photography is at the very least on a par with a lot I see out there, if not better. It’s just not very strident. I need to get into self-promotion mode, nobody’s going to do it for me. But more of that in another post.

In the meantime… should I? Or shouldn’t I?


Sigma DP2 … should I ?

or shouldn’t I ?

in GAS , Thursday, November 29, 2012

For ages now I’ve been wondering about buying the brilliant-but-flawed Sigma DP2. Or maybe DP1.

Sigma DP2

All the internet gurus seem to be raving about it, from eminent elder statesman photographers such Michael Reichmann or David Taylor-Hughes to uber-tech-geeks such as LLoyd Chambers. Not to mention the hordes of forum dwellers, including some of the more intelligent of the species. It seems to be the camera that has everything: amazing image quality, close to ultimate resolution, film-like rendition, practically pocketable, discrete, well designed and not unrealistically expensive. Of course you have to accept that it has a fixed lens (a very, very good one apparently), that it can’t take photos in the dark, like the latest Canikons, that it munches through batteries like a pig in a field of clover, and that you can only process it’s RAW files in Sigma’s own software, which apparently is truly dreadful.

Well, on that last point, most of the reviewers obviously have led a very sheltered life when it comes to software. I’ve downloaded Sigma Photo Pro, and found a few DP2 Merrill RAW files, and tried it out. It isn’t that bad. I would put it about on a par with Olympus Studio/Viewer - a bit slow at times, a tendency to do things in an unconventional way, but it works. It seems it’s biggest sin is that it’s not Lightroom, which is not a problem as far as I’m concerned.

And the results are, indeed, breathtaking.

But… in what way are they breathtaking? The resolution and clarity is exceptional, and to a lesser extent so is the colour. But unless I’m going to be printing on the side of a house, does this matter? At screen / web size, there’s no practical difference between the Sigma images and those from my 12 megapixel Olympus E-5 or E-P3. And both of those come with exceptional, interchangeable lenses. Which I’ve already got. I doubt that there is any practical difference in printing up to A3, or even A2, which is as far as I go. And there’s no end of software applications which can happily handle Olympus RAW files.

So, it’s a thumbs down then? Well, I don’t know. I have a feeling that the Sigma could be very nice to have along with me on my forthcoming trip to Antarctica, but then I’d start getting (even more) stressed about which camera to use. On a nice, clear day it could really come into it’s own for certain landscape shots, but then again the E-5 does a good job too. And I’m still debating if I should take the XPan, adding even more variables to the mix.

Of course there’s a considerable deal of GAS (Gear Acquistion Syndrome) and Retail Therapy involved here. But this is counterbalanced by a general feeling of too-many-toys nausea. And they don’t call me Indecisive Dave for nothing.


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