Ricoh GR III Requests

I’ve now switched between Fuji and Ricoh for a second time in a few years, and I am convinced the current GR II is a very well designed and competitive imaging machine, but I am definitely hoping for a GR III within another year or two. So, here are my two cents worth for Ricoh’s design and engineering teams. If you’ve also used the GR series, let me know what you think.

For the impatient readers out there, here’s my bullet list of do’s and do not’s. These are roughly in order of importance.

Do

…add high quality 14-bit raw file support, faster data handling and upgraded processing

…bump up the pixel density while also increasing the per pixel performance as long as the lens can handle it Continue reading

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Olympian weekend

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Thanks to the awesome folks at Looking Glass Photo I had a chance to test out a shiny new Olympus camera this weekend. For free, and you can too! Well, at least if you live in the Bay area. Here’s a … Continue reading

Treasure hunting Sonnar

I like to get across a sense of place through pictures. The Treasure Island flea market is a unique place with many characters, and even a bit of magic, but it takes some serious effort to do it justice through photography. 20140227-205453.jpg For me, the best tool for large crowded spaces like this, with lots of nostalgia and human drama, is a classic 50mm lens on a full-frame camera. I’ve tried using a 50mm equivalent on a smaller sensor in this same setting, but the perspective just doesn’t look right to me. Continue reading

GR firmware update and the all new original film look

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Ricoh released a firmware update recently, and it includes a new setting that is described as producing an exposure that mimics the original look of GR film cameras. I couldn’t find any more details on how this was implemented, but … Continue reading

Is there a Lightroom in your pocket?

Adobe seems to have managed two major FAILs this year: a massive private data security breach and a surprise switch from boxed software sales to monthly licensing fees. To me, this is serious incentive to explore alternative ways to edit my images.

Although there are various commercial and shareware software packages available, in-camera raw processing has improved to the point that it is now a reasonable option in some scenarios. Sure it whacks your battery like crazy, and there are still huge limitations in performance, but some manufacturers are starting to include competitive options with their latest cameras.

The three I recently compared just happen to be the ones I currently have on hand, but they are also a cross-section of what the more innovative companies are producing these days. The Olympus OM-D E-M5, Fujifilm X20 and Ricoh GR are all very capable of producing usable JPEGs straight out of camera.

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The “GR” from Ricoh stands for GReat!

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After my first day with this pocket rocket, I was already sold on its merits. Erik Kim had an early review on his street photography blog, which got me thinking about it. Although it’s clearly aimed at the highly discerning … Continue reading

Revisiting the Aquatic Park

After having been away for a while, going back to the Aquatic Park again was an eye opener. Seeing the birds still there and in even greater numbers than during the Winter is awesome. My previous pictures are way back in the archives.

It gave me a reason to get out my OM-D E-M5 and M.Zuiko 75-300 lens after using the little X20 almost exclusively for a few months. These three pictures were taken just as the sun sank low enough to provide spectacular reflections off the water at dusk. This has now become my favorite time of the day for nature photography. Maybe if I lived on the East Coast I would prefer early morning?


Surprisingly, now that I’m starting to compare the two, both Fuji and Olympus cameras seem to benefit from similar amounts of noise reduction in post processing – even though the Oly has 4 times the sensor area. That being said, the color depth and highlight recovery potential seem to be better with the E-M5, and the extra 4M pixels help when making bigger enlargements.

It seems the smaller X20 sensor is nearly on par with the bigger one in low light, as far as I can tell. Both have very usable, but distinct noise patterns, and I am guessing the X-Trans’s non-Bayer type color filter pattern and various enhancement algorithms bring the smaller sensor’s images up to snuff. Seeing this makes me want to try the other really innovative sensor designs from Sigma (Foveon, with its layered detectors) and Leica (M Monochrome, which has a filterless CCD)

Even though the X20 has minimally invasive noise up to around ISO 800, and I prefer the OM-D at 400 or below, I now also remember why I like using the E-M5 so much. It works perfectly in combination with this amazing Olympus lens to make very, very pleasing images.

The color tones, light transparency, and overall rendering are just plain beautiful, and you you can reach way out with the 600mm FF equivalent focal length. The only combination I like better is the same camera with the Pana/Leica 25mm f/1.4 lens, but that one provides a much more commonly available perspective, albeit with amazingly high IQ. Maybe direct comparisons between the Oly and Fuji output at normal and near normal lens lengths, and low and medium ISO levels would be a good topic for a future post?

Low light event shooting with just a pop-up flash?

S0042948I recently had the opportunity to shoot a relatively informal nighttime event. Because of the intimate setting, I wanted to be inconspicuous, and to be part of the fun. So, I took a very small camera with only a built-in flash. It wasn’t exactly easy to get high quality pictures this way, but the results were better than I expected.

If Apple had not updated Aperture to import .RAF files, I would have had a tough time. The lighting was harsh and dealing with shadows when trying to take portraits requires a lot of post-processing. The workflow I was using up until recently with ACR did not work very well for me. Now, using Aperture for initial import and exposure adjustment, followed by CS6 with Topaz and Alien Exposure plug-ins, the quality seems to be hitting a level that is fine for web use and should be good enough for small to medium-sized prints.

DSCF2828There were a few photos I either missed or that wouldn’t be acceptable for a professional due to blurring. The maximum ISO I used was 800, and I had no lighting equipment except for the pop-up flash unit. Luckily, it worked very reliably.

For friends and acquaintances in a non-critical setting, the advantage of having a camera that totally allowed me to be one of the crowd made it a very different experience than it would have been with a DSLR and off camera flash. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying the results are the same, but for the particular purpose I had in mind it seemed to work well.

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Two Views of a Valley

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The first one is a close up of the wildflowers covering Wildcat Canyon’s slopes after Spring rains subsided. The next is a view of the valley containing the Lafayette reservoir, you can just make out Mt. Diablo in the clouds. These … Continue reading