Itโ€™s A Thin Line…Between Black & White!

“I, Angry” 2017. iPhone 6s Plus with Lightroom mobile app b&w “High Contrast” preset.

In keeping with my pledge/attempt to be more active, here’s a posting for today.

Cell phone digital black and white photography has arrived. Actually it’s been here for a while, but I’ve just never completely accepted it. Until now. Maybe ๐Ÿ˜Š

“Kid” 2010. iPhone 3G 2mp and Hipstamtic app. I’ve been experimenting with cell phone photography for quite some time, going back to around 2001. It started out as a novelty, but today the cell phone cameras are good enough for prime time.

 

In the days of film we had no choice but to shoot…film! ๐Ÿ˜Š

But then in the mid to late 1990s a little thing called “digital” happened. Suddenly we got instant gratification and especially for photographers, things never looked better.

In those early days of digital, color photography was already somewhat lacking so digital black and white was nothing more than novelty.

As the nineties turned into the 2000s, better and more capable cameras appeared and those of us experimenting with digital b&w were saying hey, this digital b&w thing might work!

“Little Girl With The Pink Balloon” 2011. Ricoh GR Digital 8.1mp. I almost never do the novelty selective color thing, but here’s proof that I too fell for it at one time ๐Ÿ™‚

I got my first copy of the original Ricoh GR Digital 8.1mp in 2006 and that camera (which I’ve reviewed and praised often) made me totally accept that digital b&w had arrived and was more than acceptable to me as a person who shot b&w film exclusively for years. It was finally good enough, indeed more than good enough for me.

Flash forward to today. Cell phone photography rules the world. Cell phone cameras have gotten so good I often tell people these days that they could easily do away with the traditional small sensor digital point and shoot and just use their phones instead. And indeed, that’s my recommendation.

“New York Smiles” 2013. iPhone 5.

According to reports I have read, sales of digital point and shoots have been on the decline for years now, primarily due to the popularity of cell phone cameras for general photography.

As great as all this progress is, one thing I’ve not been convinced with or have not been converted to is using the cell phone for b&w photography.

“New Year’s Day.”ย iPhone 6s Plus with Argentum b&w photo app. I hate to use the same U2 line that I’ve been using for almost thirty years, but “nothing changes on New Year’s Day” ๐Ÿ™‚

But now I think we are crossing this bridge too. Most of the b&w photos in this article were taken using my “old” iPhone 6s Plus with some of the popular mobile photography apps being used by today’s photographers such as Lightroom, Snapseed, and Argentum, the last is exclusively for black and white photography.

“Cold, Cold World” 2018. iPhone 6s Plus with Snapseed b&w filter.

“Freakzilla” 2018. iPhone 6s Plus with Argentum app.

In comparison to b&w film, I don’t believe any of them can quite match the look of true monochromic film images, but then again, what digital camera really does? I’m sure some will say the Leica Monochom can, but to me, even after looking at many, many samples from the Leica MM it still looks like digital b&w images. Superb digital, heck maybe even “film-like” (at times) images to be sure, but on the whole, still quite digital. I mean, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

There are many “crazy passionate” people (as I call them), who would probably be angry that I said Leica Monochrom images look digital, but I have the ultimate answer for that…

Is the Leica Monochrom a film camera? Or is it a digital camera? The answer is that it’s a digital camera, and there you have it ๐Ÿ™‚

So back to the b&w cell phone apps. In many instances a lot of the popular presets appear too dramatic, too dark and contrasty. There’s a lot of people that like that kind of look I guess. I do too, but not all the time. Other filters can appear too flat at times. Keep in mind, most of the popular apps offer you the option to edit the image, tweak the filter to your liking.

My workhorse film is Kodak Tri-X and in my opinion, this film does not natively produce such dark and contrasty images. There are films out right now that do offer that kind of look. I would say off the top of my head Japan Camera Hunter’s JCH 400 is one of the newer films that offer that dark and contrasty dramatic look.

Though none of the apps are perfect, overall though I’m quite impressed with them. I hate to say this, but my iPhone and these apps may replace my beloved GRD!! No, the camera’s not for sale, not yet anyway ๐Ÿ˜€

“Cool Car” 2018.ย iPhone 6s Plus with Argentum b&w photo app.

Another amazing thing to consider is back in the mid 2000s, before Lightroom came out, many photographers including myself were using Photoshop to tweak every picture to our liking. If you’ve been posting photos online since the early 2000s, you know what I’m talking about.

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“Dreamtime” 2010. Canon 7 Rangefinder, 50mm f/0.95 Canon “Dream Lens.” In the days of film, people “dreamed” of the day when they could have something easy like digital black and white on their cameras. They got it. They probably never dreamed of having it so easy on their phones. They got that too. But now that the dream has come true, do we really want it? ๐Ÿ™‚

Flash forward to today. The cell phone camera and all the apps and filters available for them can virtually do all the work for you! And most offer some level of control, allowing the user to tweak the levels to their liking.

This is nuts!! I used to spend hours trying to get images to my liking and now we have filters that produces almost the same end result immediately? As I said, nuts!

I have friends who still think they need a little digital point and shoot which they see as a “real” or proper camera. Coming from a traditionalist mindset, I can understand this. But in all honesty, for most of your point and shoot needs, I think your phone might be all you need. Most phones today shoot fast, and they are really perfect for street photography.

To be honest, the cell phone cameras are getting good at almost every kind of photography! They are in constant use by everyone, nearly everywhere. Ironically, by being so “in your face” all the time, the cell phone cameras are perhaps the most stealthy, inconspicuous cameras you can use. Plus you have nearly endless editing options with the apps available. And let’s not forget to mention, the ease of uploading photos and videos for sharing to friends, social media or what have you.

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“Strike A Pose” 2015. Nokia Lumia 1020, manually tweaked in Photoshop.

As great as all that sounds, one thing you won’t get just yet is any props for your phone shots. I’ve said it here before, everybody knows how easy it is to get a shot with your phone and probably the most uncool thing to say to another photographer is…Hey, I shot this with my phone! ๐Ÿ™‚

But just because it’s easier to shoot with a phone, does that necessarily mean it’s no good? I’ve said it before, it’s in human nature to want things the opposite of what you have. If it’s too easy, we want it hard. If it’s too hard, we want it easy. You can’t win with human beings ๐Ÿ™‚

But with an open mind, you can begin to appreciate that a cell phone camera can be used like any other camera. Sure, the phone makes getting the shots easier but the actual photography, ie, the subject, the light, the composition still remains exclusively in the eyes of the photographer.

Some people worry that they won’t have the same level of control on their phone cameras. With today’s phones, depending on your phone and/or the apps installed in it, you can have almost complete photographic control on the camera in your phone. In most instances though, most of today’s phone cameras can deliver consistently excellent results. So much so that you needn’t really worry about fiddling around with the settings, as much as you’d want to. Cell phone photography is all about getting the picture, and in that way, it ironically stays truer to the original goal we all have ofย getting the shotย than most cameras do.

“Brother Fro’s Ramen” 2017. iPhone 6s Plus and Argentum app. Brother Fro mentally debates whether he wants that ramen or not ๐Ÿ™‚

“Empty” 2017.ย iPhone 6s Plus with Argentum b&w photo app.

“Calm Before The Storm” 2017.ย iPhone 6s Plus with Argentum b&w photo app.

And yes, should we finally get to the cell phones Achille’s heel, a thing we like to call “Bokeh?” We all know that’s a weak point for cell phone cameras. But with the recent “portrait mode” fad with the fake bokeh, heck the cell phone cameras are heading into DSLR territory! I’ve seen some really bad results but I’ve also seen some impressive results. I’m no fan of fake bokeh, but in some instances it’s getting scary good.

Iย know you truly traditional photographers out there, I’m not moving you one inch. You’re not convinced! Hey, it’s ok ๐Ÿ˜Š

But for me, I see it. Cell phone has taken the world by storm and it’s been here for a while now, but I finally think I have to accept that cell phone b&w photography has arrived and it’s only going to get better. Keep in mind, the photos in this article only shows results from an iPhone and some modern apps. There are other phones and other apps out now that shoot b&w just as well or better. There’s also cell phones out there right now such as the Huawei P9 or Mate 9 that have a Leica Monochrome sensor in them. I haven’t even tried these yet, but I’m going to try to procure one for review.

“Playland” 2017. Rye, New York.ย iPhone 6s Plus with Argentum b&w photo app.

So am I going all cell phone for photography? No. I won’t be giving up my digital point and shoots or DSLR for black and white just yet. I certainly won’t be giving up shooting black and white film.

As much as I have grown to hate developing and scanning it, I’m going have to chuck it up and do more of it.ย Film is the last organic thing left in photography.

“Morning Stretch” 2009. Zorki rangefinder (I forgot which model) and Jupiter-8 50mm f/2, Kodak Tri-X developed in T-Max developer.

Why bother shooting film if it’s such a chore? I don’t know about you, but I love the art! To paraphrase someone famous, I shoot film not because it’s easy, I shoot film because it’s hard (compared to digital). I love torturing myself ๐Ÿ˜Š

Aside from the art, I do love the tactile feel of working a fine piece of machinery and manually controlling it. Many of our readers here, I know you do too.

But, if I want easy digital b&w (and I do sometimes want EASY) then I think I can do it with my phone! But it’s a love/hate thing. Just as the song said, “It’s a thin line between love and hate.” I love it because the results look pretty good. I hate it because something that used to give me a lot of pride, because it took a lot of work, is now too easy.

“Z Ten” 2017. iPhone 6s Plus with native iPhone b&w filter.

“Nap-Kin” 2017. iPhone 6s Plus with Argentum b&w photo app. Buenos Noches!

In closing friends, today, there really is a thin like between black and white. As the famous wrestler Ric Flair once said, “Whether you like it or not, learn to love it” I may not love it yet, but I might end up following his advice on this ๐Ÿ™‚

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Happy New Year 2018!!

Just want to take a moment to wish all good friends, family, and the great readers of this blog and very Happy New Year 2018!!

Wish you all great health, wealth, prosperity and more cameras and lenses ๐Ÿ˜€

There’s a new Sun arising right? What’s my resolution for 2018? Hmm, hard to say. Be more active here on the blog, maybe? ๐Ÿ˜˜

Just want to assure you all that it’s not for a lack of things to review or write about. Sometimes I even scare myself with the things I’ve acquired!

Two things keeping me from doing more, I think. One is being too selective. I want to write a good piece for you and not just throw something out there for the sake of it. I see this as a long term project where these articles will be around for a while on the web and I want to get it right. Accuracy counts.

You the readers have helped put some of our reviews such as the Rolleiflex 2.8C, the Contax T2, Canon T90 and several others right there on Google’s first page on their search engine and for that I’m forever grateful. Thus, I’ve become very selective on what to put out.

Secondly, I’m not the “kid” who was posting wildly to photo forums in 2003, hungry for photographic validation from my peers.

After a while you accept the fact that not everyone will like your work and it’s still going to be alright. There’s a billion photographers posting out there today. How are you going to add to that? Almost impossible I think! Just do your thing and be happy with it ๐Ÿ˜˜

Plus with two young kids to care for, a lot of my zest for writing and posting is exhausted before I even start. I’m getting old I guess! ๐Ÿ˜Š

I’m sure some of you can relate. But anyway, I’m going to try to be more active this year, not only on my blog but on yours!

Can I actually do it? I hate to quote our “beloved” President but from one commitmentphobe to another…”We’ll see” ๐Ÿ˜€

Anyway, Happy New Year to you all and thank you! You are the best!!

Photo Of The Day: โ€œSilent Nightโ€ 2017

Yes folks, Christmas is almost here! Apologies for the inactivity it has been a bit of a Christmas “rush” indeed this year!

Nearly ten years ago, I took a similar shot with my older daughter Zoe at this age and called it “Silent Night” hence the title ๐Ÿ˜˜

This photo was just a test shot of a beater Olympus OM Zuiko 35-105mm f/3.5-4.5 that I got for $11. It was mated to my old Canon 5D Mark II.

Generally I’m not interested in a zoom lens with this range, even in my “all film” days. I prefer primes and I’ve always found the standard 35-105mm a bit boring. Even if it’s a useful range in reality, I just hated using them. Plus these lenses are almost always long and clunky.

However, I knew that this lens in particular, the Zuiko 35-105mm f3.5-4.5 has a bit of a cult following and at $11 I said why not?!

Well, for a lens with a lot of optical defects, ie haze, fungus, God knows what else, it is quite impressive! I have had good luck with bad lenses before so this is no exception but it’s always a good feeling when you scored a deal and saved some bucks.

Don’t kill yourself trying to get one, it’s not a Canon L lens or Nikon pro grade lens. But it is very good. And it’s not a particularly hard to find lens though you’d probably pay a little more than what I paid for it. I haven’t checked prices lately, but I wouldn’t pay more than $50 for one even in great condition. Don’t let me stop you though, that’s just me.

I was impressed with the lovely circular and uniform bokeh. As you zoom in towards telephoto, the bokeh is not as pretty but hey it’s $11 bucks!

Who knows, this might end up being my best photographic “gift” this Christmas! ๐Ÿ˜Š

New Moon On Monday

The title of this image might be kind of trite (that Duran Duran song from the 80s!) as is the image, yet another image of the moon it seems.

But this friend is the Super Moon! I shot this last week using my old Canon EOS 5D Mark II and the EF 70-200mm f/2.8L (first version) at 200mm.

I didn’t post it last week because honestly I wasn’t all that impressed with last week’s “Super Moon.” It just didn’t seem that much bigger or all that different from the “regular” full Moon.

Yes, I know the effect would be enhanced when the Moon is near the horizon but I didn’t have the opportunity at that time.

I’ve also been spoiled because I used to take Moon photos through my telescope and the level of detail is much higher in those images. The above was taken with the 5DII using a Meade ETX-90 Maksutov telescope.

Nevertheless, considering that the 70-200mm zoom lens is much less powerful than a telescope, I guess it didn’t do too bad.

One note which may be helpful for those trying Moon shots through a similar camera/lens outfit…When in AV or Program mode the 5DII overexposed all the shots when using these modes. Manual mode, including stopping down and increasing the shutter speed and playing around with ISO speeds was needed to capture the features on the Moon. The camera in auto washed the details out.

It’s not hard to shoot the Moon though and it’s great fun. I hope you try it the next time the Moon is out. You don’t even need to wait for a Super Moon but you’re in luck because I believe there’s going to be another Super Moon (or two) next month! Cheers! ๐Ÿ˜Š

Rolleiflex 3.5F Planar Test Images

imgRolleiflex35FZaydaC168

“Sunday” 2017. Baby basking in the Sunday morning light with her YouTube nursery rhymes on her iPad. Rolleiflex 3.5F Planar, Kodak T-Max 400 developed in T-Max RS Developer.

Many of you who read these pages would probably know that I’ve always been a huge fan of Rollei and in particular the Rolleiflex TLR cameras. My favorite of course is the glorious Rolleiflex 2.8C with the Schneider Xenotar lens which I wrote about here.

Even though I’ve shot my many various Rolleiflexes and Rolleicords which were f/3.5 models, I admit I have a peculiar fondness for the 2.8 models.

It may even be some kind of unconscious snobbery, but I (as I’m sure many of you) have a thing for fast lenses and in the world of Rollei TLRs, f/2.8 is IT.

Now this is not something exclusive to the Rolleiflexes or TLRs, it’s everything! I mean, think of how many of you will perceive a 70-200mm f/3.5 zoom lens versus a 70-200mm f/2.8 zoom? Of course, many will gravitate towards the f/2.8 version. That half stop means alot!! At least in the mind ๐Ÿ™‚

But the fondness for fast lenses is not just something we want for no reason. For me at least, I prefer shooting in natural or available light, sometimes in less than ideal conditions. A faster lens would allow me to choose a faster shutter speed, minimizing the chances of blurry images. When you’re shooting at f/2.8 and ISO 400 film in dim or available room light, believe me, you’re going to want all the light you can get. There is a method to our madness, a reason after all!

With that in mind, and being that I already have the 2.8C model, I’ve always kept the 3.5F Rolleiflexes out of my mind. The 3.5F just like the 2.8F is also a top-tier model. Both also offer the option of either the Planar or Xenotar lenses.

However the problem for me was that these cameras are also nearly as expensive as the 2.8 models and if I were going to pay that price, I’d just get the 2.8! Now I got the 2.8 fairly cheaply back in 2008. I wouldn’t be able to get one these days with my current finances ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

So how did I come across the 3.5F? Maybe a little luck and like I said many times before, the cameras come to me! I was looking for something else entirely when I came across an ad for a Rolleiflex 3.5F in what was described as “user” condition. The party said he was selling for his uncle. I asked for detailed pictures and negotiated a price of $200 which was all I could afford at that time.

When I got the camera, I got the sinking feeling that this might be a piece of junk! It looked a little shabby, but I felt I could clean it up. The main thing that troubled me was the shutter didn’t have a reassuring sound. It seemed all the speeds sounded almost the same, and very weak at that. TLR’s generally have soft, quiet shutters anyway, but this one somehow felt different. On top of that the camera didn’t feel as robust as I’ve been used to from my other Rolleiflexes.

imgRolleiflex35FrancoR171

“Brother Fro” 2017. Gotta love the hair on Brother Fro! Rolleiflex 3.5F Planar, Kodak T-Max 400 developed in T-Max RS Developer.

I came to the conclusion that the shutter speeds were not accurate, but I decided to pop some film in it and give it a try. Not expecting much, I just shot randomly around the house using my usual “kid test” that I’ve mentioned before. I didn’t think I’d have anything worthy of posting for you good peeps! I said might as well try some film in it before I put it on the shelf while saving up for a CLA.

When I developed the roll, I said…WOW! This lens is SHARP!! It may even be better than my beloved 2.8C.

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“Sunday” 100 percent crop of the top image. Unaltered, sorry for the dust! But note the detail on the baby’s shirt and the fabric. It’s probably better seen on a computer versus your smartphone.

It’s not all positive though. I believe I was right about the shutter speeds not being accurate. They all appear to be a little slower than their rated speed. How much I can’t determine. Many of the images that should’ve been good were underexposed.

imgRolleiflex35ZoeZaydaC176

“Kodak” 2017. Rolleiflex 3.5F Planar, Kodak T-Max 400 developed in T-Max RS Developer. An example shot showing the typical underexposure I experienced testing this camera. Admittedly, this is a bit of a tough lighting scheme and I’m probably to blame for my “guesstimation” exposure. But note the studio light to the right and the spoon on the table to the left. They are sharp. Oh, as a result of my imperfect development, somehow the word “Kodak” from the film strip is etched into this image, and seemingly in the right place for it! ๐Ÿ™‚

But the ones that came out sharp, man they were sharp! And contrasty too. This lens made a better impression on me than the 2.8F Planar I tried back in 2004.

I’m going to try another roll in it. Maybe shoot some street with it. I think this lens would be great for that. Will keep you all posted. Till then, Happy Sunday! ๐Ÿ™‚

***BLACK FRIDAY AND CYBER MONDAY DEAL ALERTS*** ย Cell phone cameras have gotten incredibly powerful these days. If I were in the market for a phone right now, it would have to be the Huawei Mate 9, seen below. In addition to the beautifully huge 5.9″ screen and all the other goodies you would expect in a modern smartphone, the crowning glory is the unique Leica dual cameras built in, one of which is a 20mp MONOCHROME sensor!! If you know how much a Leica Monochrom rangefinder camera cost with its unique monochome sensor, then you know what a bargain this is. And this weekend, the phone is only $399 ($100 off) through our affiliated link. Check it out if you’re a b&w or Leica fan!

Huawei Mate 9 Only $399 This Weekend

As much as I love the Huawei Mate, I would have to think the Apple iPhone X is this year’s hottest phone gift. It’s probably the hottest smartphone of 2017! Check the link below and seek out the best prices. Hope you score a deal on the ultimate Apple gadget!

Apple iPhone X

For you traditional photographers, and I know you’re still out there, the hottest camera of 2017 has got to be the Nikon D850. If there’s one camera that can do everything, this is it! Check the link below and compare prices today to score a deal on this year’s Ultimate Camera gift. Your loving photographer will love you for it!

The Nikon D850:The Ultimate Camera Gift

The Fuji Instax Square might be this year’s “got to have it” photography gift! It combines a digital camera with analog prints. The printer is built into the camera! And at $229.95 and up, it’s affordable! I’m tempted to get this one myself!

The Fuji Instax Square $229.95

If you really love your significant other, and I mean REALLY love them, this would be that “above and beyond” gift! It’s the Fuji GFX 50S Mirrorless Medium Format camera. It offers image quality beyond reproach. Your loving photographer should not be asking for anything else after this one, and if they do send them to me and I’ll set them straight! ๐Ÿ™‚

Fuji GFX 50S

***MORE INSANE DEALS***

Now if you’re NOT into photography, how about music? Here’s an awesome deal on the hot new RolandFP-30 88 Keys Digital Portable Piano. Only $479 with the code “Cyberdeals”

Roland FP-30 88 Keys SuperNATURAL Digital Portable Piano, Black

ย 

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4 Mirrorless Camera Body, Blackย ย – $898 after $600 Instant Rebate + 4% Adorama Rewards

Panasonic Lumix DMC-G85 Mirrorless Camera with 12-60mm f/3.5-5.6 Lumix G Power OIS Lens, Blackย ย ย – $998 + Free 45-200 Lens

Happy Thanksgiving 2017

Just want to quickly wish everyone a very Happy Thanksgiving from my family to yours! Thanks to all for reading these pages, appreciate your support! Don’t worry, this young jive turkey has been pardoned ๐Ÿ˜Š

PS: Hope you get some wicked Black Friday deals this weekend! I wish I could ha! ๐Ÿ˜˜๐Ÿ˜˜

***BLACK FRIDAY AND CYBER MONDAY DEAL ALERTS*** ย Cell phone cameras have gotten incredibly powerful these days. If I were in the market for a phone right now, it would have to be the Huawei Mate 9, seen below. In addition to the beautifully huge 5.9″ screen and all the other goodies you would expect in a modern smartphone, the crowning glory is the unique Leica dual cameras built in, one of which is a 20mp MONOCHROME sensor!! If you know how much a Leica Monochrom rangefinder camera cost with its unique monochome sensor, then you know what a bargain this is. And this weekend, the phone is only $399 ($100 off) through our affiliated link. Check it out if you’re a b&w or Leica fan!

Huawei Mate 9 Only $399 This Weekend

Photo Of The Day: “Baby Fresh”

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For your Flashback Friday, here’s a shot from nine years in time, 2008. The gear used was a Pentax K10D and the awesome Pentax FA 77mm f/1.8 Limited prime lens.

At that time, I enjoyed greatly experimenting with flash and was using a portable softbox. Man, if you can see the detail on the original file you might be convinced 10 megapixels could be enough for anything! ๐Ÿ™‚

I may be weird, but more than just photographing a cute photo of my baby daughter, I wanted my lenses (especially the sharp ones) to reveal every pore, every detail and the 77mm f/1.8 certainly did! I think the glamour models would stay away from me ๐Ÿ™‚

This baby by the way is the same little girl two posts back that I shot with the Nikon D1, now nine years later. The Time Machine marches on!

The K10D is a great Pentax classic now and the prices have gotten super affordable. I did have some issues with it in low light or in high iso images, but this shot reminded me of why I loved it in the first place. And with today’s prices, heck it might be worthwhile seeking out another one! Happy Friday ๐Ÿ˜Š