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Anti-Racism Demonstration Amsterdam

A small group of right wing extremists tried to spread their racist ideas in Amsterdam today. The capital city responded to this by amassing large numbers of kind citizens, to surround and silence those who seek to bring harm upon those who have already suffered so much. Making it very clear indeed, that Amsterdam is a city that welcomes refugees and does not take kindly to racism.

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Industar-69 Russian Lens review

This is a short piece about the Industar-69 28mm f2.8 LTM lens from the land of Putin, or Chroesjtsjov more likely. For this review I’ve mounted it on my Fujifilm X-E1 using a 5 dollar m39 to Fujifilm X adapter from ebay. 
So this is not a lens you’ll buy for its sharpness and optical perfection. This is a lens you’ll buy because you are in desperate need of some cheaply bought street cred. And that’s what this gives you. When you’ve hung this lens onto your fashionable mirrorles camera of choice, you will look like someone who knows his stuff. Using this sophisticated looking Russian made Tessar copy makes your camera look like a rangefinder that will make Bresson turn his head. So it looks damn good, yes oh my it does. The image quality isn’t that great though… It’s horrible at modern standards really. This lens is not sharp, it’s so soft that focus peaking will hardly work and above all, this lens won’t work for you until you take it apart and make some minor modifications to its core construction.
     Let me explain the above. This lens was never made for Leica camera’s, it just happens to share the same m39 thread mount. It was made for some Russian halfframe rangefinder that has a flange distance miles away from that of the leica’s. That means that the m39 adapter (needed for putting this lens on your camera) is a couple of millimeters to thick. So you either have to grind down the adapter, or screw the lens block inside of the lens barrel a little closer to the sensor. There are some great hacks out there on the interweb that will show you how to do this easily (this one for instance: http://www.mu-43.com/threads/20259/). Allright so this lens is an absolute piece of poo  right?  Well no, it is not. In fact, I totally love this little lens. And I will tell you why after the picture down below:
Fujifilm & Industar
Allright So if you get a good copy (DDR quality control…you never know), like mine, you will find yourself the proud owner of a full metal, smooth operating and above all very tiny lens. Even with the small m39 adapter, this lens protrudes no more than 25mm from the front of its retro styled host. Which is the European way of saying you’ve got yourself a one inch bulge sticking out your jeans pocket. Because yes, this kit will make your fujifilm X, Sony NEX or M43 camera awkwardly pocketable. Though I do suggest large pockets. Furthermore, it gives you a 42mm equivalent focal length. Which is very close to the legendary ‘perfect’ focal length of 43mm. They say that that is the closest you can get to what the eyeball sees (this does not apply to micro fourthirds camera’s, it’s 56mm there). The f2.8 max aperture is good enough for indoor shooting and some background blur. Ah yes, I almost forgot the one reason I actually went to the Bay of E and bought it from war-torn Ukraine. It’s the price! The cheapest near 28mm f2.8 mirrorles lens you can buy is the Sigma 30mm f2.8 DN EX lens for Sony and m43 MILC’s. And this lens costs you just below 200 USD where this one, with an adapter will set you back about 40 bucks. Allright, the sigma is a better lens in every way (except size and awesomeness) but you can just buy this lens to have fun with wherethe Sigma is dangerously close to being an actual investment. Same goes for the Fuji option. The Fujinon XF27mm f2.8 costs somewhere around 350 bucks nowadays.
The industar has a unique way of rendering things. Like I said, the lens isn’t that sharp and the contrast coming out of it isn’t very contrasty. Also the colors seem somewhat flattened to me. This may not sound very good, but it actually gives your pictures a sort of vintage feel. They sort of are vintage because they were created through some very old glass. If you are to apply the VSCO film simulations in Lightroom, pictures made with this lens are absolutely film-like. And that’s kind of the charm of this type of lens. It looks cool and gives your photo’s a unique look. It doesn’t even make sense trying to pixel peep this thing. This is a lens that needs to be used creatively instead of technically.
    So if you are willing to give up on autofocus, modern coatings and image stabilisation, this lens might just be something for you. When you buy this lens you get an everyday walkabout lens that will do your street photography, your portraits and maybe a landscape here and there. The focal length makes it a good lens across the board and the f/2.8 aperture makes it usable in a wide variety of situations. The size helps it to never be in your way.
Sample images below:
 20150402-DSCF7252A little bit of VSCO film magic and the Industar at F5,6.
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Wide open at F2.8. This lens does some crazy stuff wide open. The cornes are all over the place and it only remains sharp in the center, but that works just fine for this shot really.
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This shot shows the crazy swirly bokeh this lens creates. Love it or hate it.
Shot at F2.8
F5.6
It’s definitely sharpest at F5.6

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Nikon DX Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G

 

Nikon 35mm

Here’s a quick look at the Nikon DX 35mm f/1.8G for all you Nikon SLR shooters. Before I kick off I’d like to say that I truly believe mirrorless camera’s are the future. And I do predict DSLR’s will start to lose ground to the mirrorless offerings soon. But right now DSLR’s are still going strong, especially the Nikon and Canon SLR’s. As you know I’m a bit of a Fuji fanboy, but I found the X-E1 too unreliable for professional work. Hence my ownership of a Nikon D7000, for which I had recently purchased a nifty little 35mm (50mm equivalent). This review will be about my experience with this lens, and also the feel of it. I’m not some optical sciences expert so I won’t be talking about any of that scientific mumbo jumbo.

The Feel

This lens has a great feel to it. It’s very light and keeps the entire body in good balance. It’s constructed with plastics but it doesn’t feel cheap. The focusing ring on the other hand does feel like a bit of a trade off. It’s very thin and not very smooth at all. And a note for videographers; If you’re not using an external microphone, you will hear the grinding noise of the focusing ring when using MF. Keep in mind that coming from Fujifilm lenses, this lens will not feel like what you’re used to. But let’s be honest, the cheapest Fuji XF lenses will set you back at least 500 bucks, and this lens comes in just below 200, and in the end it’s all about the images it renders. This lens is also nice and compact. It has a relatively large maximum aperture for its size and weight.

Lens quality

I’m not a pixel peeper, I haven’t used nearly enough lenses to objectively make a proper comparison anyway. But I can tell you some of the things that popped in mind while using this lens. First of all; the image quality.

Most of the images shot below are taken wide open. In my opinion wide open is the most important aperture setting for a lens to properly be able to execute, because why buy a f/1.8 lens if you can’t use the wide open aperture. I’d have to be honest, this lens is not the sharpest in the world when wide open, but the images retain enough detail and sharpness to be very useful, especially when shooting RAW. So it certainly passes my wide-open image quality test. Focusing when wide open is pretty much okay, it can miss the focus on some occasions, but it’s nothing I haven’t seen before on much more expensive lenses, so don’t let that deter you. The focusing in general is quick and silent, except when using manual focus, then it sounds like you’re using a belt grinder.

Conclusion

This lens is one of those little lenses that you should just go out and buy. It is very cheap, the images it produces are lovely. And when used properly, this can easily be the only lens in your bag. It will not weigh you down, nor will it let you down when it comes to IQ. Below you’ll find some test shots, most of them shot indoors with poor lighting conditions, see how it handles that.

 

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On a budget II

Super old stuff on your super new camera

 Here’s another top tip, to help you get the most out of your money. So, last time I talked about getting yourself a used mirrorles camera. Now I’m going to talk about the biggest expenses you’ll be making as a photographer, lenses that is. Yes, lenses are expensive as hell. Those little pieces of glass cost the same as an old car. So here’s how to get great image quality for the price of a tank of gas.

Old manual lenses are very cheap, very, very ridiculously cheap. You can pick them up for like ten bucks. So that’s amazing value. Because these lenses are often great performers, with IQ rivalling expensive lenses nowadays. I’ve been using old pentax lenses for a while now, and I can definitely advise anyone to look into these little guys. Old pentax camera’s were often sold with a pair of standard lenses, the SMC Pentax-M 50mm f/1.7 and the 28mm f/2.8. I’ve been using both these lenses for a while and I can tell you, they are worth a hell of a lot more than what I paid for them. I bought these lenses with an old Pentax Super ME camera body for twenty bucks. I also got an old Philips C38 flash with that.

 Now these lenses are fully manual, so you’ll have to use both the focusing and the aperture ring on these guys. I found that to be absolutely lovely, it’s like using an old SLR again, except the pictures are instantly ready. It will take some getting used to for some people, especially the ones who grew up in an age of autofocus and advanced light metering systems. But if you wrap your head around that slower process of picture making, you might just end up loving it. Here are some appropriately retro pictures I’ve made using instagram:

 SMC-M28mm with Philips 38CT

And here a a few sample shots:

Using the 28mm

Using the 50mm 1.7

Using the 50mm 1.7

Using the 28mm

And here are a few things to consider:

Pro’s

-Excellent image quality

-Very affordable for everyone

-Awesome looking vintage gear

-Low profile street equipment

-Slow you down, so you might just end up with a higher keeper rate

-Relatively fast manual focusing using focus peaking

-You can use this method on any mirrorless interchangeable lens camera system

Cons

-No AF or automatic functions (I find this to be a good thing, but it’ll take some getting used to

-Some old lenses might require some servicing, so look out for good copies:

  • Fungus might be a problem
  • Sometimes you’ll find specs of dust inside old lenses
  • Check for smooth action on the focusing and aperture rings

 Same goes for the old flashes, there’s no automatic TTL metering, you’ll have to set everything up manually. But the great photographers of the past managed just fine with these means, so we should be able to manage as well.

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On a budget

Used Camera’s

I’m one of those shooters that doesn’t make a lot of money with photography. It’s a hobby, something I do for fun. But there is no fun in spending loads of cash. So here’s a post for all you folks out there, who like me, don’t want to spend all their money on camera gear, but also don’t want to settle for entry level stuff. So for the first time in my photographic history, I’ve bought myself a Sony camera.

NEX

The Sony NEX 7 mirrorles camera was the top of the line flagship model for the Sony NEX line. Just over one year ago this camera would set you back over a thousand bucks. And now the price has dropped dramatically. I picked one up second hand for less than half that price, with a kit lens. That puts it right down there with the entry level Fuji X camera’s, or even the more expensive compact camera’s. You get everything but an entry level camera though. This is still one of the better compact ILC’s out there. This camera was released in early 2012, and was received very well by the community. But it never reached that very popular status that some other mirrorles systems did receive. Possibly due to it’s high pricing, or maybe because the mirrorles market hadn’t matured much yet. One way or the other this is a very capable little camera, for a very nice price now.

 Lenses

Back in the day, this camera didn’t have a lot of lenses available to it. But now the Sony E-mount hasn’t just got a lot of Sony lenses available to it, but also Sigma, Samyang, SLRmagic, Zeiss, and many other lenses. And then I’m not even talking about all the manual lenses that you can use with this camera. Taking into account that you’ll have to buy adapters for those old manual lenses, this system has more lenses available to it than any DSLR out there. This is a very good thing, because there are lenses available in any kind of price range. Even if you’re a bit low on cash you can probably still find a lens that really suits your needs. And that’s why this camera is an absolute dream for all the photographers on a budget.

 This camera does have a bit of learning curve. It’s hardly straightforward in its operation, but with a bit of practice it can be become quite intuitive. All the buttons are customizable, they ain’t labeled though, meaning you’ll have to remember what functions you assigned to certain buttons. But in the end your carrying a very lightweight 24 megapixel APS-C compact shooter for the money of a second hand Fujifilm X100. So if you’re on a budget, I can definitely recommend looking into buying something like this.

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My Gear

Some time ago someone asked me, what camera do you use as your main camera? Which was kind of a good question, because I didn’t really know. At that time I was using the Fujifilm X-Pro 1, with the Fujifilm X10 and the Olympus OM-D EM5 on the side (I sold my last DSLR last year). Now my X-pro got stolen and has since been replaced by an X-E1, which I now consider to be my main camera. But it got me thinking, because having all those camera’s isn’t really necessary at all is it?

I’m a big fan of the idea that a good photographer reaches their potential by having a keen eye, and vision you know? Not for having bunches of expensive gear. Digitalrev’s Protog cheap camera challenge series are a testament of this. So I sold my Olympus to a very nice bloke who will probably have a great time using it. Gave the X10 to my dad, who is very content with it indeed. And I kept the X-E1, for that camera meets all my requirements. And that is the important part I think, any camera that can help you realize your vision best, is the camera for you. For some people it’s all about the gear, and half of the time they’re not even out shooting. Just reading reviews and pixel peeping camera sensor data… I don’t think that’s what photography should be about. Don’t get me wrong, I sort of went down that same road, so I’m not judging. But I think if one camera does everything you want it to, stick to it. You don’t really have to replace it.

I chose the X-E1 because it’s very small and lightweight and I really love the output from the X-Trans sensor, the files are very rich and the colors are absolutely great. It’s a champ in low light and has more than enough mega-pixels to do some photoshopping and cropping. I use it with the Fujinon XF 35mm f/1.4, which is a massively sharp lens that produces great images for me. For all you pro’s out there, I do realize that having a couple of camera bodies is important to be able to quickly switch between focal lengths. But I don’t consider myself a pro, and when I sometimes do professional work I rent an extra camera body. But for my day to day shooting, it’s just the one camera and the one lens. As I explained in a previous post, I like to just use one lens with a single focal length because that helps me to visualize the picture before taking it. Instead of having to compose the picture whilst taking it, I think zoom can be a big distraction. Every photographer has is own style of shooting, but my advice to everyone who is starting to explore the world of amateur photography; try not to get caught up in the search for the best equipment too much. Explore photography, find your own style and just enjoy photography for the art that it is. Don’t buy a big DSLR because it makes you look all pro like, just buy a camera that feels right.

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Should you use prime lenses or zooms?

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sigma30mm

It’s one of those classic questions, one that I will answer in the very first line of this article; it’s kinda up to you..You can do better than that! I hear you scream at your computer screen whilst reading this. Well, I was not set on this planet to tell you whether you should use a zoom lens, or prime lenses. But I do believe I was created for the very purpose of telling you what my experiences were using both, and which worked best for me personally.    To start of, I’d like to say that I am a big fan of using prime lenses, but like a lot of amateur photographers out there, I started my photographic adventure using DSLR’s and kit zooms. After a while I would upgrade to a more premium zoom lens that had a larger focal range and was built a bit better. I would scour the web for reviews telling me which lens was best for me. And my first relatively proper lens was the Pentax smc DA 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 ED. It was the first time I held a lens in my hands that wasn’t made out of cheap plastic (I’d used some cheap Tamron zooms before). After shooting that for a while, I discovered that I wouldn’t mind a bit of low light capabilities

And that’s the first point going to team prime. Because zoom lenses often come with limited aperture capabilities, even the really expensive ones won’t reach apertures higher than f/2.8. So middle of the night street photographers won’t often use zoom lenses. Primes on the other hand can have max apertures of up to f/0.95!

 But hang on there! What about the obvious fact that one zoom lens has the same focal range as a bag full of primes? Well, that’s an absolute win for the zoom there. Quite frankly, the zoom gives you the freedom to just go out with all the necessary focal lengths right there on your camera, and for some photographers that is all they need to know. And yet there are many photographers out there that use primes, and many companies making all sorts of prime lenses in loads of price ranges.

 I’m a fixed focal kind of guy. Maybe it’s because I’m lazy, but prime lenses do make photographing easier. Let me explain. When you’re shooting with a single focal length, say 50mm for instance. All your shots will have the same frame, making it easier for your mind to spot a potential photograph. Because after some practice, the 50mm field of view will be somewhat bedded into your eye, all you have to do is point and shoot when you see something worth photographing within that 50mm field of view. Now a zoom lens can be a major distraction. A zoom lens urges you to compose the picture while you’re shooting. You’ll be going back and forth between focal lengths to find the perfect framing for the subject, whilst with a prime, the composing will have happened inside your head before bringing the camera to your eye. Also a big plus of prime lenses is the image quality. Simply put, primes have much less distortion in them because of their more simple optical designs. And they can also be made smaller than zoom lenses because they don’t require as much glass.

These are my assessments, but they come solely from my own personal preferences, so feel free to completely disagree!

Zoom

Cons:

  • bigger

  • lesser image quality

  • poor low light capabilities due to large max apertures

Pro’s:

  • No need to change lenses

 Prime

Cons:

  • Stuck to a single focal length

Pro’s:

  • Smaller size

  • Higher image quality

  • Very large max apertures                                                       

So, as I said in the beginning, it’s really up to you. Some people feel more confident shooting a zoom, they know they are more flexible and that works best for them. Others prefer primes because they have adapted their brains to the using of certain focal lengths. In the end it’s all about you and how confident you feel using your gear.

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A little rebirth. Fuji X100 Firmware 2.0

Here’s another post about the Fujifilm X100. This time though, I’m talking about the X100 2.0. The sort of rebirth of the Fujifilm X100.

Even though this trusty ‘classic’ was announced all the way back in 2010 (which nowadays would make most camera’s be OLD) it still doesn’t feel long in the tooth at all. Many happy owners still use the camera even though it has been replaced by the x100s some time ago. It has seen the rise of the X-mount system, the birth of the X-trans, and even the X-trans II sensors, and you would think that Fuji has forgotten all about this little guy. But they have once more proven to truly care about their loyalists. A short while ago they released the 2.0 firmware update for the x100 which makes it a much more usable camera and makes it more than a match for similarly priced premium compacts.

Before I get into the specifics of the new firmware I’d like us to consider for a moment how very nice it is of Fuji to do this. It’s like a little present for X100 shooters like myself, a little pat on the back for being Fuji shooters. It doesn’t make them any money, and quite frankly none of us were expecting Fuji to do this. So it’s not like they had to do this at all it’s not even logical. But they did and I love them for being so very kind. Now the firmware promised to make the camera’s focusing system be more efficient, the minimal focusing distance has now been shortened by 30% (you no longer have to put in macro mode when taking a picture of a person sitting close to you). It also makes this firstborn X somewhat faster when using AF. And for all the people like me, who never used the manual focus on this guy because it was rubbish at best, can do so now because manual focusing is aided by the X100s’ focus peaking mode now, which is nice.

Well, I downloaded it, tested it, and compared it to the old firmware. And it works! I mean it’s still the X100 obviously, it doesn’t magically turn it into an X100s. It’s still the same 12mp sensor (which I love by the way). The output is still the same (nothing wrong with that), but the ease of use has increased quite a lot. I always used to switch back and forth between macro mode all the time. But now I don’t have to do that as much anymore. Also the focusing has definitely improved, it grabs focus slightly quicker and also more often… X100 owners know why this is important right? Because the camera sometimes wouldn’t grab focus at all sometimes. Don’t go using it for sports photography all of a sudden though, it still can’t do that. But its usability for portraits, street photography and all that good stuff is now even better.

All I can say is; thank you Fuji, you’re the best. You can download the firmware here (if you haven’t already): http://www.fujifilm.com/support/digital_cameras/software/firmware/x/finepix_x100/

Fujifilm X100

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Sigma 30mm F/2.8 DN ART Micro Four thirds Quick Review

The Sigma 30mm DN lens has been around for a while now. Loads of very positive reviews have been written about the optics of this very inexpensive lens. But some time ago Sigma decided to cater those who complained about the build quality. The lens felt rather cheap with its all-plastic body, and even though the internals remain very much the same, the externals have been completely overhauled by Sigma. This is now a very good looking, smooth and stylish little lens. In this post I’ll be reviewing this lens for you in a not so scientific way, I’ll just tell you some of my experiences with it, and I won’t be doing any pixel peeping tests. It’s just me telling you about a lens that I have come to appreciate a lot.

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Build Quality

The build quality of this lens is very good indeed, it feels like a solid piece of equipment, especially at its price point. The lens barrel itself is made of metal just, like the lens mount. This is quite the upgrade from the old version which had a plastic lens barrel. That lens felt like the €170 I had to pay for it, this lens on the other hand feels like something a lot more expensive. The lens is available in two colors; black and silver. I decided to pick up the silver version to go with my silver OM-D. The very first thing I noticed after attaching the lens was that it suited the silver Olympus OM-D very well, the bottom part of the lens is exactly the same metallic color as the OM-D body and the chrome top half just looks very good. All the mechanics seem to work just fine, the focus ring is smooth enough and the focusing itself is very quiet and rather quick.

Performance

As said before, the focusing is quick enough for me. I can really only compare this to the Fujifilm camera’s I had and the Pentax K5 DSLR I’ve used for a long time. So I can’t really be too scientific about it, all I can say is that when paired up to the Olympus OM-D it is one hell of a lot faster than the Fujifilm X100, X-pro1, X-e1 and X10 camera’s (a lot more accurate too). And it is also loads faster than my Pentax K5 with its kit 18-135mm lens attached to it. Even though the OM-D isn’t the latest in AF technology anymore, and this lens still has the same focusing motor as the previous model it is very snappy in my experience.

As I said before, I’m not going to get to scientific. And this is a very short little review. But I wanted to share my experiences with this lens because it’s definitely something to think about for all you Micro four thirds shooters out there. If you own an Olympus Pen or some other Micro four thirds camera, and you’re looking for an inexpensive, high quality prime lens, this lens is definitely worth picking up. I’ve used this lens extensively on my trip through England (In my post about an abandoned UK warehouse you’ll see a bunch of pictures shot with this setup). For me, this is one of those lenses that just feels good to use.

(Below are some sample shots. The two outdoor shots were made in very ugly lighting conditions, it was very grey and cloudy. The lens managed to render it well though)

 

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Abandoned UK Warehouse

A couple of days ago, I was driving through the region of Kent (UK). This part of the United Kingdom is also known as the garden of England. It holds many beautiful castles, mansions and gardens but it also seemed to hold something a bit more mysterious. Whilst driving toward Dover I saw some abandoned buildings in the middle an overgrown field. I decided to check them out, luckily I had my camera with me. The buildings looked somewhat like military barracks, some of them had collapsed completely and some were mostly intact. One of these barracks was filled with loads of big wooden Live Animal Transportation boxes, the animals had long gone of course. Another one was filled with boxes marked ‘’British Aerospace’’. I can only imagine what was, or still is inside of them (If only I had a crowbar in my camera bag). Below you will find some of the pictures I took at this rather mysterious location.

All pictures were made with the Olympus OM-D EM5 paired with the new SIGMA 30mm f/2.8 DN ART.

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