PHOTOOG Photography writings by Olivier Giroux


Sometimes it’s better to practice than write

Let’s get the obvious out of the way: I haven’t written anything here in a long time.  It’s not that I haven’t had anything to say, but that I’ve been unusually satisfied just doing other things, shooting, among other things.

For most of the intervening time, I have simply been putting mileage on my M9 and the same kit of M lenses I’ve held onto for the last 3 years. Once I found this kit, or this kit found me, I had no desire to keep testing and reviewing more so the reporting ground to a halt.  Needs change though, and there may be more to write about again.

Look at me, I’m care-free!

In a way, writing was a great way to get rid of the unsatisfactory baggage accumulated along the way. Have I been baggage free, then? No. I’ve failed to report just how unsatisfactory the D800 has been for me.

The D800 is the most amazing camera that I just don’t want to use, and I’m still its owner only because of fear that I might need it. Its sensor is so awesomely good that it has rebuffed several cases of egregious pilot error, who needs to expose properly when you can fix 3-stop errors (either way) in post? The downside is that it’s a heavy, fat and ugly beast with only the lenses to match (including ZFs, in my present opinion).

The last lens I mentioned on this site, only with a hint, was the new Sigma 2.8/180mm OS Macro which exemplifies what I've come to dislike with the DSLR. In short it's a beast, I think it’s the biggest lens I’ve handled yet. I found it to be sharp, stopped down, but with the same dull micro-contrast I’ve come to associate with Sigma lenses (fairly or unfairly, OK, don't flame me) so I just didn’t care to finish writing the review.

Look at the 100MP right next to it!

Writing can do more than vent frustrations with a lens or camera, though, it can also be a way to infect others with particular enthusiasm for the same.

There is some of that to go around lately: I’ve jumped on the m4/3 bandwagon and am loving it! How could I not, after Olympus executed precisely what I asked for in this post from 2010 and then provided a terrific answer to this other post from 2011?  Right, I could not avoid it.

Adopting this third system has taught me a lot:

  1. That auto-focus is not completely hopeless, in fact it can be wonderfully implemented and actually deliver the goods for once.  Contrast AF is the right way to do AF, especially with clever eye-priority algorithms, and it isn't slow at all.
  2. That I am in fact happy to give up the OVF for the unique benefits that EVFs provide.  Being able to visualize dynamic range limits directly while framing is a great way to do ETTR.
  3. That adapted lenses from other systems are good (fun, even!) for idle experiments but next to useless in practice.  It was a romantic notion to which I held for a long time, in absence of experience, and which I discarded almost immediately after trying it.  I occasionally find a use for it, but it's rare.

Some of these combinations are laughable.

In the short time since this picture was taken I’ve already added 3 more lenses, at least; I’m addicted to the gratification of excellent and inexpensive m.Zuiko glass now. Just earlier today I compared the new 1.8/25mm Zuiko and the 2/50mm Planar through aperture series, and couldn’t find much to fault in the Zuiko except: tad lower contrast, some field curvature.

I think I am finally getting to see the flaws in m4/3 but it’s taken months of continuous use, far longer than it took for me to fall out completely with the D800.

I’ll probably be writing about the m.Zuiko lenses eventually.


Filed under: m4/3, Nikon, Personal 4 Comments

A Lytro and a Biogon

These two are like night and day, foresight and hindsight.  Hindsight looks to the past and shoots 20/20; foresight not so much.  The Lytro is my daughter's camera and we'll be putting mileage on it soon.

On to the subject of the 21mm Biogon ZM.  Here's a pair of samples for the Biogon, and this time the links point to full-res files ( warning: 20MB jpegs) because they're intended for maximum pixel-peeping:


They're really very good.  They're also shot at f/8.  My first surprise was that the lens isn't anything special when shot at f/2.8, or even f/4 sometimes, the Distagon does better.

My second surprise is that, due to an accident of the shipper, I got to see a silver version of this lens in addition to the black one I have above.  The aperture ring on the silver lens was terrible - it was stiff and I could barely feel the detents.  I was really afraid my black copy would be the same, but thankfully it feels like a real Zeiss ZM.

More to come later.



Leica 75mm Summarit-M Review

The 75mm Summarit-M has garnered an unusual volume of praise compared to the other Summarit-M lenses, with many gushing reviewers equating its performance to that of the powerful 75mm Summicron ASPH. Although the truth of this lens is not likely to line up with such expectations, its chief virtue is still clear: this lens makes some very popular 2-lens and 3-lens outfits much more affordable. It is also clear that M photographers have adopted the lens as the new standard short-telephoto.


More Stuff On the Way



Bought my Lytro :^)

I plan to give it to my 4yr-old as her first camera. It was either that or a P&S – it wasn’t much of a contest. I want my daughter to think iPads and plenoptic cameras always existed, that I’m a dinosaur with my M.

This is the Polaroid of this era, what an amazing disruptive technology! Go Brian, go!

I had written this whole disparaging tirade about multi-frame blending hacks we keep hearing about here at NVIDIA. I’m skipping that to keep this positive.

In comparison to that other stuff, light field photography is a whole new medium where you’re making holographs instead of photographs. This medium has appeal for the lowest of amateurs at some immediate mass-market level (the focus thing) but to the serious artist there will soon be possibilities which did not previously exist. It will take a while for people to figure out what visual art can be made from holographs, and how to present them in mind-stimulating ways, and for all the tools to arrive that enable that.

It might take my daughter’s generation to grow up for that to really happen.

The gear will mature too and will stretch its application range. The beauty of this technlogy is that it’s relevant all the way to the top: think light field in a Phase One, light field in a RED. OMG. It just gets better and better, more and more mind-blowing as you think about it moving up the food chain.

This is the first week of the rest of photography’s history.


Faulty Distagon

Great news, I received a brand-new 1.4/35mm Distagon ZF.2 this week!  Unfortunately it is defective and will have to go back as soon as B&H will return from holiday.

The problem is that the ectronic aperture control is systematically off by half a stop.  i.e. 1.4->1.4, 1.7->1.4, 2->1.7, etc.  I suppose the widget that controls this was installed with a small offset inside the lens.  The manual aperture ring is accurate however, and my D700 is configured to use that instead now.

What's sad/funny is that this is only an issue because it's a ZF.2 lens; I would have been perfectly happy to buy this as a ZF.1 and would have nothing bad to say about this copy right now.  This is the first time something like this has happened to me (getting a bad product) and I'm annoyed that it happened to be a Zeiss lens -- the inspection certificate for the lens was signed despite this, so it's kind of meaningless.

The good news is that it is the first f/1.4 lens I actually want to shoot at f/1.4.

- Olivier


Nikkor 300mm f/4G AF-S IF-ED Review

As a class, 300mm f/4 lenses are the standard for the rational photographer in need of moderate reach. This Nikkor is a superb example of the class, but like the other Nikkor (non-exotic) telephotos it is relatively obsolete today. In short, a lens of this focal length needs to have stabilization.


Leica 28mm Summicron-M ASPH Review

The 28mm Summicron ASPH is both a landmark optical design and one of Leica’s most appreciated lenses out in the field. It is to date the best combination of quality, speed and size for the versatile 28mm focal length – the perfect documentary lens. What’s more, not only is this Summicron nearly the perfect lens technically, it is also a very pretty object to behold.


Data for the new aspherical 50mm Nikkor

Photozone has tested the new Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G.  See the data here.

This lens is just about perfect but focus shift is a more than hoped for.  Still at this price it represents a shocking value.  Kudos Nikon!

I look forward to torturing it.  :^)

- Olivier


There are (still) no telephotos for me

The world hasn’t really changed since the last time that I wrote on the subject, and I haven’t really changed either so I’m still stuck.

This lens is 15cm long.  It’s the telephoto that I want.

More after the jump.