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! 😎😍📸👍🏻

Leica M4-P Sale At Amazon!<!–>>

Photo Of The Day: “Autumn” 😍

It’s early November and around here where I live the leaves are well past their peak. This photo was taken a few weeks ago up in Rockland County, about 25 miles from NYC. The autumn leaves were still at their beautiful peak and I just had to get some shots. This was one of my favorites.

The camera I used was the Olympus Pen-F Digital, my current favorite digital camera and the Panasonic LUMIX 20mm f/1.7 G lens. I’ve had this lens since 2009 and it’s sharp, versatile, and always delivers the goods.

Whatever you shoot, there are still a lot of Autumn remnants. It’s a beautiful season for photography. Get out there and shoot! 😎📸👍🏻

Celebrating The Olympus Pen

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The Olympus Pen FT and Zuiko 38mm f/2.8 pancake lens.

With the release of the new Olympus Pen-F digital, I thought this would be a good time to celebrate the old Olympus Pen film series and the original “Digital Pen” the Olympus E-P1 🙂

Before we do that, just a few notes on the new Pen-F digital. It is a 20mp mirrorless camera in the Micro 4/3’s format. It has a built-in 5-axis image stabilizer in the body, much like the OM-D (which I love) series or the EP-5. 1080P HD Video. Nice touches include the electronic viewfinder (EVF), the 80/50mp (raw/jpeg) high-res mode, and customizable modes. There’s a lot more to it of course.

The funny thing is that when Olympus released the E-P1 in 2009, they marketed it as the new “Digital Pen” yet with this new Pen F, we are being told (as seen on the Dpreview video) that this is a whole new class of Pen cameras, and priced accordingly at $1199. Yeah, ok 🙂

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“Decade Of Digital” From left, my first digital camera bought in 1999, the Olympus C-3000 Zoom and the Olympus E-P1 from 2009.

Anyone who knows me knows I’m a huge Olympus fan going way back. I’m sure the new Pen F digital will be awesome and just on the specs alone, it looks to be 1000 times better than the original E-P1, but I probably won’t be getting one any time soon. Not now anyway. Price is an issue, yes. Don’t have, and don’t want to shell out that much for a Micro 4/3’s camera.

And nothing against Olympus, but coming from the old film school, while I love the new Pen’s retro looks, I just see it as a digital camera dressed up in a film camera’s suit. Much like the Fuji X series, Nikon DF, or any number of cameras riding on the retro wave. This has been an enormously successful formula for many companies and more power to them. While I love the way they look, I’m just not as easily pulled in by it.

In addition, it’s really hard for me to get excited about the latest and greatest these days. The truth of the matter is that most of the cameras from the last five years (and going back even further actually) have been extremely capable.

I may sound a little less than enthusiastic, but I’m still young enough to realize that whether it looks like a film camera or not, whether I like the retro looks or not, learn to love it because (and my fellow film fanatics might not like this) let’s face it…This IS the “Digital Era.” Film may be around for a long time, who knows. But the “Film Era” has passed and it will never be the film era again.

But if you got the dough for the new Pen F, I’m sure it’s going to be an awesome new toy for you!

If you want to see all the new Olympus cameras, you can do so right HERE which is an easy link to everything. You can also pre-order there or here Olympus PEN-F if you want to be among the first to get one. My favorite might be that “Faux Leather” OM-D EM10 II!! 🙂

Below are some images from the Olympus Pen F and FT half-frame film cameras and the Olympus E-P1. I’ll dig up more if I can find them. I’ll keep shooting with these oldies until I can save enough for the new digital Pen F 🙂

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“Order & Chaos” 2009. Olympus Pen FT, Zuiko 38mm /2.8 pancake lens, Tri-X. These two sequential frames from the half-frame Pen FT shows how order can turn into chaos in a minute if Grandma is babysitting you 🙂

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“On Life & Love” 2010. Olympus Pen F, Zuiko 100mm f/3.5, Tri-X. As in life, love grows like the weeds, is full of hope and promise, but eventually grows old like last week’s bouquet of roses 🙂

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“Beauty & The Beast” 2009. Olympus Pen FT, Zuiko 38mm f/1.8, Tri-X. Both a little scared, neither one prepared, beauty and the beast 🙂

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“Aging In a Digital World” 2010. Olympus E-P1, Lumix 20mm f/1.7

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“RGB” 2010. Olympus E-P1, Lumix 20mm f/1.7, Brooklyn, NYC.

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“Sex & Religion” 2010. Olympus E-P1, Lumix 20mm f/1.7, Atlantic City, NJ. You might not be able to see it, but there’s a gentlemen’s club on the left and a church on the right. I’m still trying to figure out why WordPress is not letting me post larger pics.

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“Digital Buddies” 2009. Olympus E-P1, Lumix 20mm f/1.7 ASPH. Had a little fun with this one 🙂