If you like what you found here :

If you like this blog and if it was useful to you, I would like a small retribution in form of a charity donation for one of these animal shelters. They're awesome people and really need help. Thank you !

Lakeroad Ferret Farm Shelter
West Michigan Ferret Connection
Ottawa Ferret Rescue
Ferret Dreams Rescue and Adoption

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Legacy Lenses 4 - Leica Leitz Summicron-R 50mm F2

The Summicron 50 is a very successful design from Leica and it's around since 1953, appearing first in Leica 39mm thread mount (39mm LTM). There are so many versions of this lens that it's beyond the purpose of this post to discuss them. The important thing is that this lens is available in LTM, M and R mounts. LTM and M are for Leica rangefinder lenses and the R version for SLR.

The original Summicron LTM/M from 1953 was a 7-elements/6-groups design then changed to a 6/4 formula and again to an 8/5 formula for the aspherical version. There are also an APO (apochromatic) version, but I'll stick with the R version I had.

Leica Summicron R 50mm F2
Like ALL Leica lenses, the construction and the optical standard are top-notch. This lens is extremely sharp from edge to edge even at F 2.8, with excellent contrast and very high resolution.

I used it firstly with my Leica R6 and then as a mid-telephoto lens on a Sigma SD15 camera (APS sized sensor). The combination of the Foveon sensor and the "Cron 50" was a killer. My SD15 was converted from the Sigma SA mount to the Leica R mount by installing a custom-made mount from Sigmacumlaude.com.

I also used it for a while with the Pentax K5-II, by changing the lens R mount for a Pentax K mount from Leitax.

I sold this lens some years ago. Today I wonder how would it perform with my Sony A7-II...



Thursday, November 14, 2019

Legacy Lenses 3 - Fujinon EBC 50mm F1.4 (M42)

The Fujinon EBC 50mm F1.4 (M42) is, in my opinion, the best 50mm ever made in M42 screw mount. It's incredibly sharp and the EBC multi-layer coating makes it very resistant to flare and keeps a high contrast on the entire aperture range, except at F1.4 as expected. From F4 to F11 it's outstanding !

The wonderful EBC Fujinon 50mm F1.4
Do not copy without permission


Fuji has a reputation for making one of the finest lenses ever. To be honest I don't remember to see a single lens from them that wasn't excellent for the price they asked for it. They're masters.

The optical formula is 7-elements / 6-groups, and it weighs 270g (all metal!).

There are so many 50mm lenses on M42 mount, like the Takumar and some near 50mm like the Yashinon-DX and the Helios-44 range, some are really good but the Fujinon EBC 50mm F1.4 is stellar and my personal pick for a 50mm in M42 mount.



Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Legacy Lenses 2 - Tamron SP 90mm F2.5 Macro (Adaptall)

The second lens in this series is the superb but somewhat underrated Tamron SP 90mm F2.5 Macro. It's a beautifully made lens, tack sharp and relatively compact for a 90mm macro.

Besides its optical quality, the mounting system worth mentioning. It's the now-defunct Tamron Adaptall mount. It can be changed by the user in 30 seconds. I have mounts for M42 screw mount, Rollei QBM, Pentax KA, Canon FD, Nikon F and Olympus OM.


Tamron SP 90mm F2.5 Macro (model 52BB)
Manual Focus - Adaptall-2 mount
There are two models, the early 52B and the late 52BB . The 52B has a close-up accessory lens that allows making 1:1 macro. The 52BB is a 1:2 macro.

Not a Leica APO Macro Elmarit 100mm, but not too far. It's on par with the Canon EF 100mm Macro on optical quality for a fraction of the cost. It's a perfect general purpose mid-telephoto lens.

It's an 8-element, 6-group design.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Legacy Lenses 1 - Leica Vario Elmar R 35-70 F4 Macro

This standard zoom lens from Leica turned itself into a legend. It's incredibly sharp and oozes craftsmanship. The 35-70mm is a very versatile 2x zoom that covers from mid-wide-angle to mid-telephoto.

The lens construction is absurdly high, no jigs, controls smooth as silk and a fantastic black finish. 

But how is it in terms of optical quality? In one word, superb. On par with the best primes from Leica at the same apertures. Extremely high resolution, excellent contrast and a joy to use.


Leica Vario Elmarit R 35-70 F4
(do not copy without written permission)
It's a 7 group, 8 element (with one aspherical element design), made by Kyocera for Leica. Yes, the lens glass was made in Japan. Kyocera is an advanced optics, electronics and ceramics manufacturer that owns the Yashica brand.

You can check the original Leica literature about this fantastic lens here.



Leica Vario Elmar R 35-70 F4
(do not copy without written permission)

There are other similar lenses from Leica but they don't match this beast performance. The other ones are the 28-70 F3.5-4.5 and the 35-70 F3.5-4.5, they are ok, but not close to the above-mentioned one. To be honest I don't know another zoom as good as this one, from any maker.

The only inconvenience is the weird filter size of 60mm (E60).

I first used this lens with a Leica R6, then with my old Canon EOS 5D and finally with my Pentax K3-II after swapping the original R-mount to a custom made Leitax Pentax K mount (see below), but I had to install a manual focusing screen with micro prism and split-image on both cameras.


Leica R lens on a Pentax body
Thanks to Leitax Mount =)

(do not copy without written permission)

This lens is not cheap. Expect to pay near $1000 used, in mint condition. I eventually sold it for charity.

It makes a killer combination with the Sony A7 full-frame bodies.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Using Legacy Manual Lenses on Digital Cameras

Having started with photography in the late '70s, I had hundreds of lenses, with all sorts of experiences with them, from the very bitter lemons to extremely good ones.

Then, after 2005 I started to test and use them with digital cameras of different sensor sizes (Micro Four Thirds, APS-C and 24x36mm "Full Frame")

In my case, the cameras I want to use with manual lenses are the Sony A7 (A-Mount), Panasonic GX85 (Micro-Four-Thirds), Pentax K3-II, Fuji X-T1 (Fuji-X), Sigma SD15, SD1, and Canon EOS 5D.

There are several lens mount types, from very obscure and rare to extremely popular. The first thing you have to do is to check if there is a lens adapter to fit the chosen lens to your camera. This has to do mainly with three things: 


  1. The lens to sensor (or film) distance, aka registration distance
  2. The camera mount size
  3. The camera and lens mount types.

But compared to the digital camera bodies mounts, the manual lens mounts universe is many times bigger. There are so many lens mount types that it's difficult to name all here.

I'll comment just the ones I use or used. The numbers inside brackets are the flange to sensor distance.

Pentax K [45.46 mm]
M42 "Screw Mount" [45.46 mm]
Nikon F [46.5 mm]
Olympus OM [46 mm] 
M39 "L39 Leica Screw Mount" [45.2 mm]
Minolta MD [43.5 mm]
Leica R [47 mm]
Rollei QBM [44.5 mm]
Canon FD [42 mm]
Canon EF [44 mm]

To mount a lens and keep the ability to focus at the infinity, the adapted lens must have a longer flange to sensor (film) distance than the camera's mount.

For example, a Minolta MD lens will not focus at the infinity if mounted on a Canon EOS camera (EF mount), unless the adapter has a focal extender optical group, but such adapters will ruin the image quality.

The cameras will work just in Manual and Aperture Priority modes unless specifically said.

Case 1 - Canon EOS 5D (44mm LTS distance)

I would go for Leica-R, Pentax-K, M42, Olympus OM, and Nikon F. It's up to you.
The Canon EF mount has a subtype, the EF-S. They share the same mount but the EF refers to a full-frame sensor and the EF-S to an APS-C sized one.


Case 2 - Pentax K3-II (45.46 LTS distance)

This is a no-brain choice. Stick with Pentax K (manual or automatic diaphragm) or M42.
KA lenses will work in all modes.
KM lenses will work in Aperture Priority and Manual.
Leica-R lenses can be mounted if you use a Leitax custom lens mount. It makes a phenomenal combination.


My Pentax K3-II with the superb Leica Vario-Elmar 35-70 F4 Macro
The lens has a custom Leitax mount


Case 3 - Micro Four Thirds bodies (Panasonic and Olympus)

Almost everything will work, due to the very short LTS distance of the native mount of 19.25 mm
Be advised of the 2x crop factor.
The sensor is about the same size as a 16mm film photographic frame. This opens the possibility to use some very interesting C-Mount (17.52 mm LTS) high-quality movie lenses. The C-Mount to M4/3 adapter is a special case because it allows the lens to be mounted below the camera mount distance.


Angenieux 75mm F2.5 in C-Mount
(I'm not 100% sure if this image was from my cousin's lens, if you disagree please let me know)

Case 4 - Fuji X

The Fuji X LTS distance is even shorter than the Micro 4/3, with 17.7 mm, but the crop factor is more generous, about 1.5x.

Case 5 - Sony E mount (Alpha 7, Alpha 9, Nex)

The LTS distance is very short, 18 mm. The short distance and a reasonably large mount diameter allow the use of practically all mounts. 

Like the Canon EF mount, the E mount has two possible sensor sizes, APS-C and full-frame. 

Case 6 - The Nikon Nightmare

Nikon has a very long LTS distance and a not very generous mount size. This makes the use of manual lenses from other mounts almost impossible.

To complicate things even more, the Nikon system has severe limitations depending on the camera and lens model, even the lenses being of the same Nikon F mount. More about this in this post.

It's possible to use Leica-R lenses on a Nikon body using a Leitax custom lens mount, but I would not recommend it. The light metering will not work.

Now some thoughts...

1) Not always a lens that works perfectly with a 35mm film will perform equally well in digital, especially with high-density sensors.

2) Experimentation is the key.

3) Some "mystical" legacy lenses aren't even close to their fame when used in digital. This is even more evident with ultra-clear lenses. I found the much desired Nikkor 55mm F1.2 really bad wide-open, and the same observation is valid to the Olympus, Canon and Minolta counterparts.

4) Some very neglected "underdogs" proved to be optically much better than their modern "kit" equivalents. An unexpected example was the horrible Sony E-mount FE 28-70mm OSS that is part of the Sony A7-II kit, compared to a $25 old Minolta MD Rokkor 28-70mm F3.5-5.6 Macro. This cheap lens gives a run on the $400 Sony in all apertures and focal lengths. The Canon FD 50mm F1.4 SSC is another choking example.

5) Things don't need to be expensive to be good.




Friday, October 4, 2019

Using Canon EF Lenses on Sony A7-II with the Commlite CM-EF-NEX and the Sigma MC-11 Adapters

The main reason for me to buy the Sony A7-II was the possibility to use some perfectly good and sharp Canon EF lenses I already have by using an EF to Sony -E electronic adapter.

There are many brands and models of adapters, from Sigma, Commlite, etc. I choose the simplest one, the Commlite CM-EF-NEX to evaluate the possibility first.

Commlite CM-EF-NEX
front view

Commlite CM-EF-NEX
back view

The adapter is all-metal made and very sturdy. It has a removable tripod mount.

The lenses I tested:

Canon EF 40mm F2.8 STM
Canon EF 50mm F1.8 STM
Canon EF 24-70mm F2.8 L
Canon EF 24-105mm F4 L

All four lenses above worked very well with the adapter on the Sony A7-II with a fast and precise focus.

Canon EF 24-105mm F3.5-4.5 STM

This lens was very unreliable. Strange things happened like long minimum focus distance at the wide-angle setting and erratic autofocus at all focal distances. 
The problems are more common at the wide-angle setting. My lens can't lock the focus at 24mm, but works well from 35mm and up.
This lens is listed as compatible on Commlite's website.

Canon EF 50mm F2.5 Compact Macro
Sigma 70mm F2.8 EX DC Macro

Both lenses worked but with slow focus and lots of hunting.

Canon EF 17-40 F4 L
Canon EF 24-85 F3.5-4.5 USM

Both lenses worked ok. Not fast but very usable.
Lots of hunting on the A7R but ok on the A7-II

I also tested the 17-40 L and the 40 STM on the A7R (first version). They worked but very slow.

The Sigma MC-11 worked well with the Canon EF 24-105mm F3.5-4.5 STM and the Sony A7-II, so it's obvious that the problem with the Commlite CM-EF-NEX is due to some kind of firmware limitation. It's much more expensive but it's also much better.

The choice will depend on what lenses you have.


Good Bye Fuji, Welcome Sony

For some months I hesitated to post this, but now I'm comfortable to do this.
I was (and still at some point) a big enthusiast of the Fuji X-Trans cameras and I had many of them, six to be exact (two 2/3" compacts and four APS-C mirrorlesses). They are extremely well built with always excellent optics, no matter if aimed to the amateur or to the professional. Fuji has a long tradition of making one of the finest glass on this planet and they really rule at this point.

I also had a quite reasonable set of lenses and I didn't find a less than excellent one, even the "low grade" XC lineup has very sharp lenses (more on this later).

Fuji also has my deep respect for continuing to update their cameras firmware on a regular basis, with more features and bug corrections.

I'll not discuss the fuji equipment quality because it's nothing to discuss. It's great! Even the compacts with 2/3" sized sensors have very high image quality, mostly because of the extremely good lenses.

To be honest, is hard to beat Fuji's lenses if we're talking about price/performance ratio. 

Some things always bored me, especially the X-Trans raw files post-processing. Don't get me wrong, I more than know how to do and I have years of experience with this. The fact is that the programs that deliver the best results in terms of sharpness and colors are, in one word, slow to death on my computers. I'm talking about Silkypix Pro 8 and 9 and Iridient Developer.  And yes, I know about Luminar and Capture One. Luminar is just OK with X-Trans and C1 does a decent job but by no way on Earth I would pay what they ask for it and their subscription-based model is against my principles. I can live with the Express version but working just in catalog mode is very annoying to me, but it's free.

Raw Therapee is a very powerful option, but I don't like the idea of having several different raw processing programs. It's the perfect recipe to lose the focus on what matters, and oh boy, I know what I'm talking about, I have paid licenses of half a dozen programs plus the free ones.

But the software was not the point on my decision. At least not the main.

The second and really important aspect was about some really cool full-frame, manual and autofocus lenses I have. Being APS-C sized camera, I was not able to harness the full potential of those full-frame lenses with the Fujis, especially for some excellent ultra-wide lenses I have from Minolta (manual MD mount), Zeiss and Pentax.

So my quest for a decent and not outrageously expensive full-frame sensor camera begun. I considered the usual Canon, maybe a 6D Mk2, but some years ago I had a 5D and boy, it's heavy... The fact that MD mount lenses have a too short flange distance to be used with the EOS system made me think about the Sony A7-II.

But why the A7-II and not the A7R-II or even the A7-II I? Simple: the cost. I got an A7-II plus lens, pouch and a 32 GB SD card kit from B&H for a VERY attractive price and the A7-II has everything I need: Lightweight, full-frame, in-body IBIS, decent focus peaking system, AND able to use short-distance registration distance lenses. Bingo!

To be honest, the 24MP sensor of the A7-II is more than enough to my personal type of use, files are smaller and the post-processing is faster. I have absolutely no need for higher resolutions. Even 16MP would be great. I'm not on the professional market, my needs are mainly for travel.

But to pay for it I had to sell most of my Fuji gear. I decided to keep the X-T1 body and three lenses:

XF 27mm pancake: Why? Compact, cheap, light and sharp. It's hard to beat it for the price. I had both the XF23 F2 WR and the XF35 F2 WR and I decided to sell them even those two lenses being better in IQ than the XF27mm. Portability was more important and 27mm is just between 23mm and 35mm focal length.

XC 16-50 "kit" zoom: Why? It's VERY light and although all plastic, it has a very good optical quality. This lens is THE definition of plastic fantastic! I decided to sell my XF 18-55 F2.8-3.5 R and keep the XC 16-50. The IQ from both lenses are almost the same, if not equal, and the extra 2mm on the wide side makes me happier.

XC 50-230 "kit" long zoom: For the same reasons. This lens is no slouch.

The X-T1 along with those three lenses is still a very decent travel kit if you don't want to invest a lot of money.

But the 24-70 FE lens that came with the Sony A7-II kit was a lemon. The borders are, in one word, horrible, period. It's probably the worst kit lens I had in hands, even worse than the Canon EF-S 18-55 !

Now I'm using some very good Canon EF lenses on the A7-II with a Commlite EF-NEX adapter, along with some stunning old glass I have like the MD Rokkor 17mm F4 rectilinear ultra-wide angle.

Even better, I can post-process the Sony raw files happily in almost any program with perfect results with a fraction of the headache.

There are some REALLY awesome old manual focus lenses that certainly worth a try on the A7-II. I'll talk about this later. 




Rolleiflex SL35


Rolleiflex SL35

This is, in my opinion, the best 35mm camera made by Rollei. Not great, but decent. It's an all-mechanic camera body with a decent and reliable horizontal travel cloth shutter with speeds from 1s to 1/1000s.

The mid-sized, all-metal camera body feels very solid in hands but not too heavy. It's more compact than a Canon FTb or a Nikkormat, but larger than a Pentax MX.

It has no flash hot shoe (or even a shoe). If you plan to use a flash unit on it, you may need a flash bracketing mount or an accessory flash shoe that fits around the eyepiece frame.

This camera uses QBM mount lenses and it's compatible with 1-pin, 2-pin, and 3-pin units. It usually came with a very sharp 55mm f1.4 Rolleinar. According to some sources, it's a Mamiya design.

The viewfinder is large and clear, with a micro prism focusing aid at the center, and a match-needle lightmeter on the right side.

The SL35 has a depth preview and light metering button just near the film advance lever. When you press it, the iris closes to the proper aperture and the light meter is powered. This means that this camera has no automatic aperture reading for the light meter. By the way, it uses a PX625 battery for it. By the way, the light meter is unreliable (like all from Rollei). The shutter speed information is read by measuring the resistance value of a potentiometer linked to the speed knob and prone to problems. The light meter/DOF preview switch activates the light meter and it's also a source of problems.

Please do not confuse the Rolleiflex SL35 with the SL35M. The later model has horrible and unreliable mechanics, especially the film transport gears.

It's a cool camera if you plan to play with QBM lenses. There are some excellent, very sharp lenses for a good price on the second-hand market, like the Distagon 2.8/35, the Planar 1.8/50 and the Tele Tessar 4/135. They form an excellent starter kit.

Look elsewhere if you don't plan to use QBM lenses.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Moving from Media Pro to Photo Supreme

Phase One Media Pro is DEAD.
What are the options?

Due to its size, the original post was moved to a page format. 

Please see this link

Thank you!

Thursday, June 20, 2019

So, what's up with Phase One, Media Pro and Capture One ?

Phase One's Media pro was one of those great DAM programs that showed up some years ago.

It was reasonably affordable for 139 Euro when I purchased my lifetime license in 2012 and upgraded it in 2017 for 39 Euro. Not cheap, but fair for a quality piece of software that I still think it's maybe one of the best multiplatform (read Windows and Mac) DAM software around. But honestly, I was pretty upset about having to pay for the update.

The problem is that Phase One decided to discontinue it in 2018 and they're trying to push the former MP users into Capture One, and offering absolutely no discount for the migration. It was certainly a calculated move. 

The impression is that they are raising the prices to induce people to choose the subscription model.

Note that the Capture One perpetual license costs a lot of money, about 300 USD and the monthly subscription will be a money sink in the long run for 20 USD / month.

Just make some calculations: it will cost you 240 USD / year IF you choose the yearly plan, and 24 USD / month for the monthly plan. This is a total steal in my opinion.

And I'm talking about the BASIC Capture One. The full version is listed for 693 USD !!! With the "discount" the price drops to "mere" 417 USD !

Really?


To complete the drama, Media Pro is a 32-bit application and will not run on OSX 10.15 and up.

After my catalog passed 1GB in size and 100k images, MP became slower and slower to the point it was awful to use. The lag was so high that I decided to stop using it. At this time MP is taking EIGHT minutes to process the catalog (about 150K images) !

It's amazing of how fast Aperture is with the same catalog.

To keep things short, if you need a powerful DAM, give a try to Digikam or Photo Supreme.

Digikam is a bit different but powerful, fast, FREE and runs on Mac, Windows, and Linux but proved to be very unstable on my Mac.

Photo Supreme worked like a breeze. Please read this post.

You may also like to check for ACDSee Photo Studio and Photo Mechanic.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Apple Aperture is Not Dead (for now)

Last Update: May 25th, 2019

Before anything, let me state that I'm not a nostalgic guy when I talk about software, on the contrary, I'm a very practical guy, but I know when I have a good software in hands.

All Apple users may know by this time that Apple stopped to maintain its image editor and DAM software known as Aperture. Pure and simple, Apple decided that Aperture has reached the end-of-life cycle.

It's still working on MacOSX 10.14 Mojave and but it will NOT work on 10.15 (more information here.)


The bad thing is that Apple removed it from Application Store, but if you purchased it before, you'll be able to download it again. My advice is to make a backup copy of the application itself and keep it in a safe place while you can.

There are many rumors behind this decision, from a supposed deal with Adobe to more simple things like cutting costs. Personally, I don't believe the last option, but who knows? At this time their reasons don't really matter.

The problem is that there are no solutions at the present time to take Aperture's place with honor.

Most of the present day's DAM software are cloud-based, or subscription-based, or very expensive or just don't have the same features.

Let's see the main ones:

- Apple Photos is a bad joke. Period.

- Corel Aftershot Pro is lost in time and space.

- Phase One Media Pro can't handle very large libraries and was discontinued.

- Phase One Capture One is nice BUT... Extremely expensive for what it is. Has the same problem with large libraries.

- ON1 and Luminar aren't really DAM softwares, they're nice editors with some very basic DAM functions.

- Media Valet and other ones are cloud-based.

- Digikam and Darktable are promising but some basic features aren't still ready and Digikam is not the most stable program on a Mac.

- Adobe Bridge works, but not even close to Aperture. And has to do with Adobe Creative Cloud, so it's out of question for me.

Back to Aperture

The fact is that Aperture still rocks. And rocks well.

So, what's so great with it?

First of all, it's rock stable with Everything as tested to exhaustion. I can't remember about a single bug in it.

It's still probably the best DAM software for Mac. It can handle extremely large libraries and every possible feature you can imagine for image management, like projects, catalogs, albums, tags, ratings, keywords and more.

Its search engine is still unsurpassed even by modern programs like Phase One Media Pro, Photo Mechanic and any other ones I tested.

It's very fast and runs very well on any Mac, even on old ones.

Aperture has a very powerful backup system (the vaults) that can be done wherever you want, from a local folder to a network file server.

It has a very nice image editor that does everything for image adjustment and retouching. You can even call an external editor of your choice if necessary.

I tested it with libraries having more than 80K images without any problem. It's possible to use more than one library and to move images between them.

It's possible to consolidate all images inside the library itself or let them outside, just referencing them to the internal database.

Raw Engine

The raw engine is part of the operational system and it's updated according to Apple's policy to the OS you have installed. It includes literally hundreds of camera models and the updates come as an OS update.


The later versions of the RAW engine can handle fairly well the Fuji X-Trans raw files. Much better than Adobe Camera Raw. 

But there is a serious quirk here. Some of the cameras supported by the High Sierra raw engine aren't supported by Aperture. Surely Apple did this on purpose to force people to use Apple Photos.

Plug-ins

There are many interesting plug-ins compatible with Aperture. My favorites are:

The OLD Nik Collection:

Analog Efex Pro: Simulates film/vintage look
Color Efex Pro: Effects, retouching and correction tools
Silver Efex Pro: Simulates Black and White film
HDR Efex: Self-explanatory
DFine: Noise reduction tool
Viveza: Simple sharpening tool
Sharpener Pro: A more complete sharpening tool 

Note: Until mid-2018 the Nik Collection was owned by Google and available as freeware, but DxO acquired it and now it's paid (and expensive) and I'm not sure if the new version is still compatible with Aperture. If you have the old free version, keep it safe !

There are other cool plugins that deserve a look:

DxO Film Pack: Professional film look simulation
DxO View Point: Professional geometrical corrections

Noiseware Professional had an Aperture plug-in in the past, but it was discontinued. It was a wonderful professional noise reduction tool. If you have it, grab with both hands!

But honestly, read the manual. There are so many features that you can overlook. I know that reading manuals suck, but at least try.


There are other quite neat features like a fantastic degree of integration with Apple Automator and Applescript if you're a power user.

Apple's new path


I decided to test Mojave on my MacBook Pro and honestly I wasn't impressed. It's slower, has strange bugs with external USB hard drives and don't has anything else I consider a really useful new feature to justify the tedious upgrade process for all my other computers. Worse, I would have to pay for upgrades of lots of other software like Parallels Desktop, DxO, Silkypix Pro, and others.


My iMac and MacMinis will continue to run High Sierra until I can't work with it anymore.

Actually, with the advent of Affinity for Windows and all the important photography software being ported to Windows and the fact Apple is again making Mac user's life miserable again due to soldered memory and SSDs, making Macs not user upgradable or serviceable, I see no point to having a post-2018 Mac. I don't like Microsoft Windows, but I like even less the new approach from Apple.

Macs are becoming just too expensive, not upgradable, and a potential headache along time. That's why the Hackintosh community is growing so fast. Steve Jobs is probably rolling in his tomb.

Addendum:

My present option is to use Photo Supreme as a DAM and the following programs as external editors: DxO Photolab, Luminar and Affinity Photo.



Apple Photos, by the way, sucks!

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Minolta Hi-Matic 7s II

The Minolta Hi-Matic 7s II is a cool little camera with the main feature being the excellent 40mm F1.7 Rokkor. This lens is very sharp, the color rendering is fantastic and deserves to be in the hall of fame of compact camera's lenses.

Minolta Hi Matic 7S II

So, besides the lens, what's good in this camera? First, it has a shutter speed priority mode and a mechanical shutter from 1/8s to 1/500s. A mechanical shutter is important because the camera can work without batteries, you just need an external light meter, an exposure table or just use the sunny 16 rule.

The aperture is set automatically by the built-in light meter when you set it to auto mode, from F1.7 to F16 what gives the camera a reasonably wide exposure range.

If you want it's possible to set the aperture manually, but the light meter will be turned off when you do this. This means that if you want to shoot manually you will not have a working light meter. Just to be clear.

The camera is well built, small, sturdy and not heavy.

But there are some design flaws. First the horrible viewfinder. It's small and dim with a bluish tint. There's an aperture scale on the right side visible on it and the calculated aperture is shown there when using the auto mode. You need to carefully center your eye to properly see the frame mask and the aperture scale. 

Second, the rangefinder. Not very precise for close range and the patch contrast is poor and hard to see in dimmer light. This can be a problem with a large aperture lens like this one.

It takes 49mm standard filters, what's good, instead of strange diameters like 43.5mm used on the Olympus 35RC

ISO selectable from 25 to 800.

A great camera and not expensive, but it can't compete with the wonderful Olympus 35 RD that has a much better viewfinder, a similar lens and goes down to 1/2s shutter speed.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Remember Fuji X20 and X30 ? How Good are Them Really ?

Recently I was taking a look at the Fujifilm X20 and X30 reviews when they were launched and I was pretty surprised with some conclusions from two very well-known review websites.

Both (I can't mention names here) stated that the images were not very sharp and both cameras were not well suited for low light photography.

Having both cameras and knowing how to process the raw files properly, I'm sorry to say that both websites were terribly wrong. The problem with most of the reviews about X-Trans based cameras is that those websites almost always use Adobe Lightroom to do the conversion and adjust, but LR is probably the worst program to do this.

Just take a look below. All done with the X30.
The full-size files can be seen here.


Fuji X30


Fuji X30 in dull light


Fuji X30 details and fringing


Fuji X30: no details, right? Are you kidding me?

No details? Really ???

Fuji X30 Low Light

X20/X30 useless in low light? Not quite !

Fuji X30 at Night


Sharpness and Colors - Fuji X30

I'm not a brand fanboy but there are some things that annoy me a lot like some famous review websites doing their "in-depth analysis" using techniques far from adequate.

Do yourself a favor. If you have a Fuji X-Series camera please use a serious program to do the raw conversion and treatment. In these examples, I used Raw Therapee. Capture One for Fuji and Luminar are two solid options. Avoid Lightroom.

Remember that every time someone does a raw conversion, the result will depend heavily on the software and the user's knowledge. Don't be fooled.

The now discontinued X-Series compacts X10, X20 and X30 are top notch cameras with plenty of controls, raw mode, exquisite finish and a stunning lens.

If you learn their strong and weak points you won't be disappointed, just keep in mind about the small sensor and don't push the ISO too high. Those little gems are capable of stunning results.

They beat the Panasonic LX3 and LX5 and a hard match for the LX7 (I prefer the X20). They also beat by a large margin the Olympus XZ-1 and probably all other compacts with a 2/3" size sensor and even the Pentax Q (both 1/2.3" and 1/1.7" sensors models).

Sensor sizes:

2/3" (8.8 x 6.6 mm)
1/2.3" (6.17 x 4.55 mm)
1/1.7" (7.44 x 5.58 mm)








Sunday, March 24, 2019

PictureWindow Pro 8 Beta released

Today Digital Light and Color released the first beta version of their PictureWindow Pro 8.

Don't be fooled: It's a professional grade photo editor and it's extremely powerful.

Windows 64-bit only

It's free for commercial and personal use.

More information on DL-C website

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Panasonic G2, a camera ahead of its time

There are some few digital cameras that deserve a place in history, and in my opinion, the Panasonic G2 is one of these.

The G2 is the second model from the G series from Panasonic. It has the same roots as the GF1, the first micro four-thirds camera from Panasonic with exactly the same specifications.

The GF1 was a great camera with a legion of fans still today in 2019. It's small, versatile and has a good layout with a decent set of controls and multi-purpose flash shoe.

Panasonic GF1 with standard zoom and optional EVF

The GF1 with the EVF attached
The good thing about the GF1 was the small size, good lenses and excellent image quality. But it had a caveat, the rear LCD screen, not so great under a bright sky and Panasonic knew this and to make things easier, providing the external DMW-LVF1 EVF as an option. 

This EVF was usable but not great, and it was very expensive for such a low-resolution device (202K dots). It was intended to make framing a better experience but unusable for check focus when in manual focus mode. No Panasonic cameras at that time had focus peaking, just a quirky magnifier feature, not very effective.

The use of this EVF with the GF1 makes the use of an external flash unit impossible. This same EVF was also compatible with the compact camera LX3.

Then, Panasonic decided to strip out the GF1, removing the top mode set dial and adding a touch-sensitive rear LCD on the GF2. To make things even worse, the next GF3 got its multi-purpose hot-shoe stripped out.

I got my G2 after I lost my GF1 kit. Just the batteries and the charger remained. The good thing is that the batteries are the same on both cameras. 

The G2 main obvious difference compared to the GF1 is obviously the built-in EVF with a much higher resolution than the accessory LVF1, with a very decent 1.44M dots. The difference in image quality between both EVFs is huge. Even by today's standard, it's still not bad and way better than any of the built-in EVFs of Nikon or Canon bridge cameras.

The G2 sensor is the same as the GF1, a 12.1 MP 4/3 Live MOS.

Panasonic G2


What I like on the G2:

  • Superb ergonomics with a very comfortable grip for such a small camera.
  • Lots of direct settings by control dials on the top plate, like AF modes, metering modes, etc.
  • Decent EVF (1.44 million dots)
  • Very well implemented touch interface, but it uses a resistive technology touch screen, so the usability is not great but mine is still working perfectly in 2019!
  • It uses the same battery of the GF1
  • Flipping LCD screen
  • Direct access to drive mode (single, multiple, timer and bracketing) by a lever next to the mode dial.
  • Direct access to all focus settings by a dedicated dial and lever at the left side.
  • Decent pop-up flash AND a flash hot shoe.
  • Precise and fast AF.
  • Excellent metering system.


Panasonic G2 flip LCD



Panasonic G2 main mode dial

Limitations:

  • No focus peaking
  • No in-camera image stabilization
  • Video capture limited to HD (720)
  • Need an external microphone to capture stereo audio
  • Some noise at ISO 400, but usable at 800. Forget above.

Final Words:

Still good as a spare camera or when by some reason you don't want to risk a more expensive camera. Great little camera for hiking and very inexpensive in the used market. 

To my taste, the best value for money from all the GF/G Panasonic system until the G7 arrival. Don't try to compare it with the GX and GH series, they are very different and much more advanced.

There are plenty of information about this camera around if you want to do dig more.