Pandemic Shooting 2020

Good morning war torn Camera Geeks! A late start for the blog this year as I have been continuing to put my efforts into our YouTube channel but the blog is never forgotten! So this week I will spend more time here.

In our first post of 2021, I’d like to take a look at some photos taken last year during the 2020 Covid-19 Coronavirus Pandemic. Some people might also call this “quarantine” or “lockdown” shooting but I think “pandemic” shooting is more accurate in my case, as quarantine shooting would mean I had to be in quarantine for the virus which I fortunately was not. And a lockdown would mean I never left the house which I did many times.

Looking back on 2020, I have to say it was perhaps my least productive year photographically. Because of the restrictions in NYC due to the pandemic and because of a new work schedule, I was rarely ever in Manhattan in 2020. And it was perhaps for the better, not only because of the virus, but because of the empty streets.

New York City is known for its vibrant and bustling streets full of life and flavor, but last year, especially during the first lockdown in March and April, the streets were eerily empty. It was surreal to see places like Times Square empty.

Take heart however that I have been downtown recently and life appears to be coming back to the Big Apple. Even though we are now on the second and perhaps even more deadly wave of the virus, there were a lot of people in various areas of the city during the 2020 Holiday season.

“Calm Before The Storm” with the Funky Bunch in New York City in late December 2019.

Perhaps it’s virus fatigue or just crazy tourists or a combination of both, people appear more willing to venture out.

Say what you will about New Yorkers but one thing I can say is, based on my observations, New Yorkers take Covid-19 very seriously. They, for the most part, adhere to social distancing guidelines and wearing masks.

This is perhaps due to New York being hit very hard by the virus at the beginning of the pandemic in the USA. New York was at one time the epicenter of coronavirus in the U.S., a sad and scary place that California is unfortunately in right now.

I spent a lot of my free time in 2020 going up to the woods in upstate New York.

CAMERA GEAR 2020

While 2020 might have been a bust for me photographically, it was actually a boon for me camera wise! Working long hours during the coronavirus pandemic as a healthcare worker gave me sufficient funds to pick up some stuff that I had been waiting a long time to get.

Now I want to make it clear that a pandemic was not an excuse for me to buy new gear. In fact, in the beginning, it had the opposite effect. Thinking about life and death made me not want to waste money on material things.

However, as time went on, working closely with coronavirus patients and surprisingly (and luckily) not catching the bug gave me the confidence to put in even more time at work. To be fair, let’s say it was not just luck because I did pay attention to all of my coronavirus precautions.

Eventually, it got to a point where I said, you know what you only live once! I was bored at home because of the lockdowns and store closures so without breaking the bank, I picked up some new used gear. Boredom can be a dangerous thing!

So here are my two most used cameras in 2020…

MAMIYA 7 & 80mm f/4 LENS

I’ve had the Mamiya 7 since 2014. I have never given it a proper review. Why? I’m not the guy who rushes out with a review of every camera I have although if there was ever a camera to review it would be the Mamiya 7! At the same time, the Mamiya 7 is almost universally known as a great camera system. What am I going to add to that?

I’ve been using the Mamiya 7 with the 50mm f/4.5 during most of my time with it. The 50mm is not the lens most people start with in this system and that wasn’t my plan either, but as usual I only got it first because I got it very cheap, like $250 in 2014! It should be stated that even then, that was quite a bit under its worth.

A view of the George Washington Bridge from the New Jersey side with my Mamiya 7 and 80mm f/4 in hand.

Fast forward to 2020 and I finally got the lens I wanted for it, which is the 80mm f/4 which is considered the standard lens for the Mamiya 7. I waited so long because I was quite happy with the 50mm and because the 80mm was always more expensive than I wanted to spend on it.

Not that I wouldn’t have bought one if I had the money, but being busy with other camera systems kept it in the back of my mind. In 2020, I was able to get one for around $400. Not exactly cheap for a standard lens, but it is a cheap price for the Mamiya 7 system!

I’ve been impressed with its performance so far. It is sharp and contrasty, just as I expected. I don’t anticipate getting another lens for the Mamiya 7 for a long time unless I find the 150mm or the 43mm at a very good price.

“Snow 2020” Mamiya 7, 80mm f/4 L lens, Ilford HP5 Plus developed in Ilfosol 3. The first and last snowstorm of 2020 in December. This was basically a quick snapshot but check the crop below to see the amazing quality of the Mamiya 7 80mm f/4 lens. This image was shot wide open.
It’s not often that I get this kind of clarity when blowing up 35mm negatives so the 6×7 negative of the Mamiya 7 really offers enlargement potential. In fact, I believe it is only limited by the film itself.

Olympus Pen F Digital

The Olympus Pen F Digital was the last camera I saw myself getting in 2020. While I’ve always liked its looks and while I’ve read positive comments about the camera, I myself have always seen it as somewhat of a glorified Pen Digital camera.

Having used the digital Pen cameras since 2009 with the original E-P1, I worked my way to other models like the E-M5 and E-M1. One great thing about the Pen series is the “art” filters Olympus provides. Their “grainy film” filter has been highly praised and I was quite happy with it.

Yet, I kept reading over and over again about the “Mono 2” setting on the Pen F. To make a long story short, I will say that my observation is…yes, it is an amazing Monochrome simulation! It definitely is more “film-like” than what I have seen from my E-M5 or E-M1 and it is not easy to emulate the same thing in-camera with other cameras. I’ve even tried the b&w simulation in Fuji cameras and in my opinion, the Pen F beats the Fuji hands down, at least when it comes to in-camera processing.

“Social Distancing” 2020. Olympus Pen-F Digital, LUMIX 20mm f/1.7 Aspherical G lens.

To my eyes, the Pen F provides a really nice mix of sharpness, grain, grit, and softness (yes, softness!) that makes the images in Mono 2 mode more film-like to my eyes. This is apparent even with a very sharp lens like my Lumix 20mm f/1.7 Aspherical lens.

“Animal Barn” 2020. Olympus Pen-F, Mono 2 mode, 20mm f/1.7 LUMIX G lens. Note the wonderful range of tones.
“Summer Of 2020” Olympus Pen-F Digital, Mono 2 mode, 20mm f/1.7 LUMIX lens. The year 2020 will be remembered as the year the world stood still.

Back in 2006 I either used film or a camera like the original Ricoh GR Digital to get black and white files like this. Today, we are lucky to have cameras like the Pen-F Digital that can emulate monochrome images the way I like them!

LATEST YOUTUBE VIDEO

In case you’re interested here’s my latest YouTube video. The topic is why I believe you need to buy the Leica M4-P right NOW if you’re looking for one. As I said in the video, if you’ve ever wondered how I got the Contax T2 for $300 or another camera for $200 when it’s worth $1000 now, it’s all about timing and the time is now to buy the M4-P! This is not the time to be cheap! Have a great day camera geeks! 😎😍📸👍🏻

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