Photo Of The Day: “Palm Beach”

Ok yes I know it’s been a long time since I had a decent camera review for you and I’m sorry it’s going to be a little longer cause just as I did my edits for my next review the computer crashes! Don’t you just hate that?!

Anyway, it’s almost 6am EST so there’s no way I’m going back to it now.

So just to let you know I’m still around, here’s a shot using a Leica M5 and vintage Canon 50mm f/0.95 “Dream Lens.” The film I believe was Fuji Superia 400. If you wish to see a larger version, you may now do so by clicking on the photo. I hope to include larger photos on future postings, now that I’ve found a decent work around to WordPress limitations on this.

My workflow is usually this…I start out testing the cameras and lenses on my kids, if they’re cooperative. Once I get decent shots of them, I move on to other subjects like the streets, buildings or anything else that strikes my fancy because once the gear passes the “kid test” I already know it’s going to do ok with anything else! 😊

The Canon 50mm f/0.95 is one of my favorite lenses of all time and I’ve been using it for many years. It’s a specialized tool, no doubt, so I use it sparingly. To paraphrase that now retired handsome old man in the commercial…”I don’t use the lens often, but when I do, it’s the most interesting lens in the world.”

The lens has that unique soft/sharp thing going on. It’s not the sharpest lens in the world, it’s softer than it is sharp, but it certainly has its own character.

I hope to post a collection of Canon Dream Lens images from a variety of different bodies in the near future.

Have a great week and see you soon!

Happy Father’s Day 2017

Happy Father’s Day to all you great fathers out there! While Father’s Day is generally a celebration of you, Daddy, any photographer/dad out there knows the best aspect of being a father is to be able to take photos of your greatest accomplishment life which are your kids. They are what makes you a Father in the first place 🙂

In celebration of this, here’s some photos of my beloved. While I have tried to shift to other subjects in recent postings in order to not “bore” folks who may not like kiddie photos, it’s the photos of my babies that inspire me most so please allow me today to indulge a little. In fact, it’s my tribute to these hard working kids because they are the ones who allow me to create reviews for you by being the main subjects for my camera testing 🙂

Thank you and once again, Happy Father’s Day to all you happy Papas out there and I hope you get some nice cameras and/or lenses today!!

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Any Father’s Day tribute should start with Dad! This is a shot of my late Dad with Baby Zoe from 2008. Pentax K10D, Pentax  SMCP-FA 35mm f/2 AL lens.

 

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“Munchkin In The Tree” 2015. Canon EOS-1D Mark III, EF 135mm f/2L.

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“Spring Fashion” 2013. Contax IIIa, 50mm f/2 Sonnar, Kodak Tri-X 400 deveoped in D76.

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“Cheeri-O” 2016. Fuji Instax Mini 90 Neo Classic.

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“Ho Hum Day” 2011. Nikon F100, Kodak Tri-X, 35mm f/1.8G AF-S DX…yes, the APS-C digital lens!

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“Sunday Girls” 2015. Konica Hexar AF, Ilford Delta 400 in D76.

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“Nine Degrees Of Separation” 🙂 2016. Iphone 6s Plus.

Flashback Friday March 24, 2017 Edition: M8 Pic & The End Of Pop Photo Magazine

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“Shout For Spring” 2016. Leica M8, 50mm f/2 Summicron-M.

Spring just arrived this week. I’m not sure about you, but I just don’t get to take many pictures in the winter. Not for a lack of things to take pictures of, but I just don’t find myself going to places that would make me want to take photos. Spring is more my thing! Hopefully, we’ll get to try some stuff we’re wanting to review and come back with some decent pics.

The above photo was taken last spring with a Leica M8 and 50mm f/2 Summicron-M. This is just straight from the camera. With a little post-processing, one could possibly turn this into something more dramatic and if I were still posting to photo sites, I might have done that but I find it too time consuming these days.

The M8 raw files or even jpegs have a crisp, chrome like quality when shot in color and can be very filmic in black and white.

Knock on wood, the M8, she looks fragile at first but has proven to be one heck of a durable and reliable camera. Knock on wood again!

I’m sure many of you wouldn’t mind another M8 review, just as I wouldn’t, and I’m going to try to give it to you someday. But let me just say when I first got it in 2010, I truly did not think I’d have it this long or that it would even last this long! Don’t wait for me, if you find a good deal at a good price with a good warranty go for it. M8 rocks!

THE END OF POPULAR PHOTOGRAPHY MAGAZINE

Well, it was announced about two weeks ago that Popular Photography, aka Pop Photo magazine would cease production after 80 years. They started in 1937 and was a mainstay at newstands here in the USA, and I’ve seen it in Asia too. Their sister publication American Photo has also been cancelled. I’m only talking about Pop Photo in this article.

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Popular Photography Magazine has come to an end. This 1997/1998 Buyer’s Guide was one of the last issues I actually bought. RIP Pop Photo!

I guess we should have known this was coming when they started changing to a bi-monthly publication recently, that’s never a good sign.

As a nostalgic fool, it saddens me a little to see them go. The magazine was very much responsible for keeping my interest in photography in the 80s and 90s. I loved those Nikon F3 and Minolta X-700 ads!

Then in the early 1990s, I remember spending hours in the college library reading nearly every copy of Pop Photo they had and it renewed my interest in photography, after a brief loss of interest. I know I should’ve been reading my school books instead, maybe this was the reason for my below-average grades 🙂

The magazine also served to fuel my G.A.S. even then as a poor college student. All those nice equipment photos, all those glowing reviews!

Yet it was those glowing reviews that made them lose some credibility to some people. I learned that the hard way. Back in the 90s Nikon came out with a headline grabbing super-zoom, the 24-120mm f/3.5-5.6 AF-D.

I got one based on one of their reviews. It was an impressive looking lens with its large 72mm filter size. After using it for a while though, I remember being very disappointed with this lens. Even with my then still learning eyes, I could tell this lens was sub-par on my N90s. I sold it and got the 28-105mm f/3.5-4.5 AF Nikkor which was a much better lens.

However, I still picked up the magazine or (actually if I may admit) looked at it every month at Barnes & Nobles, Borders, or whatever bookstore carried it. You got to remember this was pre internet days and this was one of the few ways to read about cameras, lenses, and photography back then.

I loved the articles from the late, great Herbert “Burt” Keppler. He was the main man at Pop Photo and a Camera Legend. He would write in this straight-up style that only a New Yorker could relate to. I remember I was over the moon when he sent me back a hand written response to a question I sent in. Sadly, he passed away in 2008.

As the years progressed, I would still look at the magazine, but it was usually for a quick glance and nothing more. I began to lose interest in the magazine as I could read better things online.

People used to trash them as a “rag” and only there to make money because of all those ads. In their defense, I would say come on now, they are Pop Photo after all and anything “Pop” is all about the masses. Just like pop music, yes they have to make some money.

They did attempt to give you reviews with some backup. They had this “SQF” (Subjective Quality Factor) thing on their lens reviews which were based on MTF charts I think. But it clearly stated “Subjective” so you had to be careful.

The thing with Pop Photo is that you had to read between the lines to figure out for yourself what they’re trying to say. They probably didn’t want to burn any bridges with their advertisers. For example, you might read in the article that a camera’s high iso was generally good, but look at their chart and it says “Unacceptable.” If you see that, then you know “unacceptable” is the real answer. It wasn’t that hard.

I found Pop Photo to be a much more enjoyable read than many other competing magazines. For example, if you compare Petersen’s Photographic to Pop Photo, there’s no comparison. Petersen’s reads like a rehash of the manufacturers brochure. Shutterbug was generally ok,  a little bit better than Pop Photo, but not much. My favorite photography magazines by far were those fancy British magazines and of course the awesome Japanese magazines. I can’t read a lick of Japanese, but I loved the photos!

Anyway, in today’s virtual world it should really come as no surprise to see Pop Photo go. Just like books, music, porn, etc, the internet killed everything real or “real” as we knew it. It’s still unclear whether they will continue as a website.

I hope they will, but speaking for myself, I never found their website engaging enough to keep my interest as the magazine did. Just like many old school companies, transitioning from the real to virtual world did not seem easy for Pop Photo. I think if they hired some real pros to refurnish their site, they could turn it around. They had a huge audience for their magazine, especially back in the day. It would be a shame if someone at the top could not capitalize on that and keep it running.

As it is right now, RIP Pop Photo. You were a great source of inspiration back in the day. Thank you.

 

 

The Extended Trip

 

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“Sisters Sa Kaeo” 2016. iPhone 6s Plus. The girls found themselves on a lovely, but lonely local unpopulated, undeveloped beach in the tiny village of Ban Sa Kaeo in the province of Nakhon Si Thammarat, Thailand.

Where the heck in the world are we?! I’m not sure many out there care, but based on the stats there are at least some who do. And I do appreciate that. I know we have been away for long periods before, but this is by far the worst and I do apologize. Some of you have left comments and messages and I promise to get back to all of you.

I have been away vacationing as well as visiting elderly relatives in SE Asia. While the trip is primarily to pay homage to relatives who are not in the best of health, any trip to SE Asia is a potential gold mine for photography. Not to mention a chance to actually use the gear I review here 🙂

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“The Mean Lady” 2016. Olympus OM-D EM-5, Zuiko 45mm f/1.8 in Nakhon Si Thammarat, Thailand.

One thing while overseas is that I always get minimal use of my phone and the internet due to lack of good wifi access and the high roaming charges I incur from my provider. As such I was barely on the internet, but the good thing is I finally know what it feels like to get a good night’s sleep 🙂

On this trip, as opposed to previous trips, I kept my camera gear at a minimal. I kept it light. Two digital cameras, two film cameras and a phone camera. While it may still seem like a lot for some, it’s not for me as I’ve lugged medium format gear and large lenses on my overseas trips in the past. Not this time. A sign that I’m getting old? Perhaps. Or maybe I’ve just learned to maximize from minimal gear? Maybe a combination of both.

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“Cool Blue Pool” 2016. Kids enjoying a splash in a small but cool, blue pool. Olympus OM-D EM-5, Zuiko 45mm f/1.8 in Paranaque, Philippines.

Above are just a few shots from the trip. I haven’t developed the film yet so we’ll see how those came out, fingers crossed. Anyway, just saying Hi! and thanks to all who still visit this site, I appreciate you, I really do!

Best, Sam

 

Photo Of The Day: “The Sea”

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Baby Z playing in the water off the beach in Wildwood Crest, New Jersey. 2012. Contax 645, 80mm f/2 Zeiss Planar, Kodak Portra 400.

In my Contax 645 review I stated that I would be uploading pics from the camera if I found them, so here’s one from 2012 when I still had the camera.

As with most American families, we typically start our summers on Memorial Day Weekend, which is considered the unofficial start of the summer season here.

For a quick getaway, we travel a few hours to the Jersey Shore. The beaches are generally clean and the towns are usually family friendly.

While I wouldn’t consider it very exciting for singles looking for a hookup, the Jersey Shore makes a quiet and relaxing getaway. The kids enjoy the beach, the pool, and the boardwalk. I do too, if I were to be honest. I realize these will be my kids’ memory of summers past when they are grown, so I always bring some kind of camera with me, even if my iPhone will do most of the time.

I remember taking this shot. The Sun was shining down brightly and while I normally aim for a fast aperture for shallow depth of field in portraits, I think I stopped down the 80mm f/2 Planar to maybe f/2.8 or f/3.5 and still got the top shutter speed of 1/4000 on the Contax 645 in AV mode.

Still, the lens I think provided a distinctive look and good exposure. It was a great camera/lens combo and I do miss it!

This also marked the last time I took such a big bulky camera to the beach and the last time took such a camera so close to the water.

This year I took an Olympus OM-D EM5 with me. Did it give me technically better, sharper, less grainy pictures? Yes, yes indeed. Did it give me images with that 80mm f/2 Zeiss and Kodak film look? No, no it didn’t. But what’s “better” really comes down to personal preferences.

Have yourselves a great weekend good people, and if you’re going to the beach, be sure to bring that camera along, but take care because the sand and water are camera killers! Anyway, take your best shots because these are the memories your family will return to again and again.

Tuesday Titans: The Contax AX Film Camera

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The Contax AX. A camera that could “autofocus” manual focus lenses. Totally unique, but it didn’t always work well. Note the tripod attachment on the very bottom is not an original part of the camera.

Today, I present to you good readers a double whammy:

“Tuesday Titans” and “The Best Camera I Never Knew” and the recipient of this honor is the legendary Contax AX 🙂

THE CONTAX AX

The Contax AX is a 35mm single lens reflex film camera introduced by Kyocera in 1996. At the time of its introduction, the AX made camera headlines due to its unique ability to autofocus manual focus lenses.

Although probably more technical than this, in a nutshell, AF was achieved by moving the film plane, the distance from lens to film. The official company description of this was “Automatic Back Focusing.” This was a remarkable achievement and still something unmatched in the camera world today.

THE CONTAX AX BODY

The Contax AX is a big, bulky, OX of a camera! The extra bulk was needed to accommodate the mechanism that would drive the film plane to focus.

The camera feels well built, sturdy, and again, bulky. Like most Kyocera made Contax SLR cameras, it gives the feel and impression of quality.

Ergonomically, the AX is pure Contax. That is, controls are well placed with knobs and dials, things I really like on a camera.

On the left top plate you have a mode shifter for AV/TV/P/M/X/B and the shutter speed dial which runs from 4s to 1/4000. Also on the left is where you can change ISO values as well as play around with the cameras Custom Functions. I can’t remember these off hand, but I think the only one I used was the function to leave the film leader out.

On the top right plate of the camera you have the on/off switch, the film counter lcd, the exposure compensation dial, the focus switch which includes macro, manual focus, continuous, single af. Also on the right is a dial for drive, i.e., single shot, continuous, even double exposure.

Again, all these are on switches, knobs and dials that are well labeled which I really love on a camera.

WHY IT DIDN’T JIVE WITH ME?

I tried two of these. The problem? Well, the first one I got couldn’t autofocus to save my life! It would just rack back and forth. Then it would get close, but seemingly give up. I sent that one back. I eventually got another one and it did autofocus…when it felt like it 🙂

Actually, I’m being unfair. Maybe not. Anyway, it did autofocus, and when it did, I got some nice shots. However, the AF was very fidgety. On certain targets, it would be great, but in general, the AF was inconsistent. It would rack back and forth, sometimes never getting the focus, even on easy targets. Sometimes it would be so out of focus and give up. Pre-focusing the lens seemed to help, but again, it wasn’t consistent.

The autofocus was also somewhat slow, but that’s to be expected and I’m not blaming the camera for that. You have to remember this was a camera that was attempting to autofocus manual focus lenses.

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“Olympians” 2011. Contax AX, 50mm f/1.4 Zeiss Planar lens, Kodak Tri-X 400 developed in HC-110. When the AX managed to focus, it focused well, but it was inconsistent. Shooting in daylight seemed to help.

And speaking of manual focus, you can do that with the AX and if you use the camera that way, it’s a pleasure to use, but maybe not to carry around due to its bulk.

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“Fix My Hair” 2012. Contax AX, 50mm f/1.4 Zeiss Planar, Kodak T-Max 400 in HC-110. Aside from trying to capture the moment, I was actually testing the autofocus system on the AX. The problem is that, with the AX, I always seemed to have to be “testing” it 🙂


BOTTOM LINE

So why does this “Titan” of a camera get a “Best Camera I Never Knew” badge? Because autofocus was its selling point. It was an admirable attempt by Kyocera, and like I said, if and when it worked, it’s great. But most of the time, for me, it didn’t hit its mark.

Ultimately though, I just could not rely on the AF to get the shots I wanted and decided that the AX was better as a manual focus camera. And if I wanted a manual focus Contax, I much prefer the (also big, but more portable) RX or the smaller ST (my favorite Contax body).

The Contax AX was a titanic attempt by Kyocera to bring autofocus to their fine line of manual focus Carl Zeiss lenses by doing something no one else had ever done before. It was made at a time when AF had already become the standard for 35mm SLR cameras.

However, company was not ready to join the AF race and wanted to keep their loyal customers happy. They eventually came out with a true autofocus SLR cameras, in 2001 with the introduction of the Contax N1 and the NX in 2002. Unfortunately, the company folded in 2005.

Kyocera and their Contax/Yashica line were something unique in the camera world. They were innovative and sought to bring the philosophy of high quality cameras and lenses to the masses and market themselves as an alternative to a “luxury” camera market that was ruled by the German giant Leica.

Kyocera and their Contax brand were the Lexus/Acura/Infiniti of the camera world. Unfortunately, many of their cameras, such as the AX, while beautiful, did not deliver the expected performance nor were they as reliable as a Lexus or Acura, or in this case, Leica.

They do, however, hold a special place in my heart and in the hearts of millions of camera fanatics around the world. The Contax brand still has a huge and loyal following. The AX may not have lived up to my expectations, but as I said it was an admirable attempt by a Camera Legend. In some ways, it was ahead of its time with technology that wasn’t quite ready for prime time. If only it worked better than it looks 🙂

WHERE TO BUY?

Due to its unique technology, the Contax AX is still quite popular among camera collectors.  I think most people will seek one out based on curiosity, as I did, only to find its headlining autofocus abilities clunky in real world use.

If seeking one of these, and I’m not sure that’s a good idea, prices have been trending steady at $200-300 dollars. Mid to low two hundreds are a good price on the AX. I got my first malfunctioning one about five or six years ago at around $300. As mentioned, I sent it back for a refund. I got my second one, which was sold as a parts camera because the battery chamber lock was broken, for $80. I replaced the battery chamber lock with a lock from a tripod and was more than happy with my $80 AX 🙂

If seeking one make sure your seller has a good return policy because I’ve said many times that the electronics in Contax cameras DO NOT age well. For a safe purchase try HERE and HERE.

Photo Of The Day: “That Smile”

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My little “Country Bumpkin” in 2008.

This could be considered a “Flashback Friday” post. This is my elder daughter in 2008, just a little more than a year old.

Shot with an Epson R-D1 and a seventy plus year old 50mm f/2 Leica Summar lens. I had just gotten this lens in rough condition on eBay for under $100. I was so enamored that it was giving me these (to me) beautiful soft/sharp images, just what I’d been looking for!

The Epson R-D1 was a 6.1mp camera, the world’s first digital rangefinder, and one of my favorite old school digital cameras ever. I’ve been meaning to do a flashback review of this camera, but this is one of those cameras that I love so much, I would need a lot to time to do it justice. Time I simply don’t have tonight. But I’ll get to it, eventually 🙂

Have a good Friday and a good weekend everybody!

Best, Sam