Sunday, May 31, 2009

Is the old way the best way?

There is a trend emerging on the net, generally amongst older photographers, to point to simpler times and advise the new generation to follow a similar path. Usually this will involve some sort of return to film, a fully manual camera, and a simple fixed focal length lens. The idea seems to be that by forcing people into a more rigidly controlled,less forgiving environment they will acquire a deeper understanding of the craft of photography and gain discipline from the experience.

I am not so sure.

In reading blogs from many of these people, another theme that comes through is their dissatisfaction with digital and its inability to replicate what they got with film. As if the replication of what they have done in the past is the ultimate aim of the new medium.

I wonder if, the discipline these people have learnt is actually a strait jacket, constricting their creativity and their ability to adapt. Worse, I wonder if by encouraging newcomers to photography to follow their path, while certainly giving the new guys and girls a greater grasp of the craft, if they aren't also crippling their art in the long term.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Why Sony forums get a little tense

The internet is a place for conflict, we are mostly hidden away in our bedrooms or studies tapping away safe in the knowledge that no matter how horrible we are, our 'real' selves are immune to any pay back or opprobrium for what we say on the net. Photography forums are generally pretty civil, but there is an undercurrent of tension that runs through many that occasionally bubbles to the surface.

Recently I've noticed that the Sony forums (which are my main haunts) are probably the some of the 'worst' of the photography based fora. To the extent that on DPReview recently one poster felt the need to wonder if Sony users should actively work to calm it down a notch. That's probably not a bad idea but it made me wonder what is it with Sony that seems to be making this happen. My theory is that there are 3 factors.

1. Since taking over Minolta, Sony now has trolls actually in its ranks. Usually trolls are people from outside a brand who pop in to cause a bit of trouble for the thrill of it. In Sony's case there people are from another brand - Minolta (notice how the Konica always gets dropped off) - but they don't pop in, they live on the Sony fora. The resent Sony for swallowing up the company they loved, they feel Sony is treating the Minolta heritage with disrespect and they constantly cry that every problem with every camera Sony has produced is solely a result of Sony changing something Minolta had. These people bring an overwhelming and incessant negativity to any and all Sony photography fora.

2. Sony is a hated brand at the best of times. Apple and Pentax etc are brands that everyone loves. Even people that don't use their products always have a soft spot for them and hope they do well. Microsoft, Sony, IBM etc are hated brands - even people that have never used their products just seem to hate them on principle. Sometimes its their business practices, their history, their success, god knows. But the harsh fact of life is Sony just isn't a huggable brand.

3. The underdogs fans are always hypercritical. The fans of the underdog, whether its a camera company, sports team or political party know that to win their guy has to be better than the opposition and when their guy fails, even just a little, they fear the backsliding will begin and the race lost forever. Therefore, the fans of the underdog become super sensitive, concerned over every little slip-up, careful not to let a single discretion go on by. Compounding this sensitivity is two 'sub factors':

a) Not wanting to be wrong. Like tipping against your football team, slagging off at your own brand protects you a little if they do actually fail. Yes your company has gone and your camera is no longer supported but at least you weren't fooled - you always knew there were problems. Moreover, you knew the answers and they just should have listened to you.

b) Justifying shifting. Being part of the minority is tough. Not only that, sometimes no matter how good the things your brand are offering might be, sometimes your brand just doesn't offer what you need. But shifting brand is also tough, there's a lot of inertia to overcome and sometimes a lot of money to find. So trashing your brand is part of the process for leaving. Leaving because one lens isn't quite cheap enough is a tough sell, even to yourself, but leaving because Sony sucks and everything they touch is crap is easy.

None of this should be taken to imply that Sony and its products are perfect and beyond criticism. In fact there are many, many things I'd like to see Sony changes and I've never hidden that fact. All I'm seeking to investigate in this post is the venom you see sometimes in Sony fora.

Friday, May 22, 2009

What do I look for in a lens

Some recent discussion on Nikon v Sony lenses sent me scurrying off to the net for a quick literature search of tests and I found something interesting about myself. That there were parts of tests I cared deeply about, and parts I didn't give two hoots about. Since then, over a coffee, I've had a think about what I care about in more detail. And here's my results....

1. Resolution. Why? I can correct pretty much everything else in processing - that simple - whereas if the data didnt make it through the lens onto the sensor and out, I'm screwed. But within resolution, what matters to me:

a) center resolution wide open (wide open I expect a narrow DOF anyway so edges are irrelevant)

b) maximum achieveable resolution at any setting

c) across the frame performance in the f4-f8 range.

2. Flare. Can be fixed but very hard and seems to always crop up at the worst time.

3. Bokeh - not that interested in grading it, I find that impossible to characterize across all different scenarios, but I look for problems.

4. Anything else that's much worse than the norm and so bad I'd have to spend more time than its worth to fix it.

5. I do also look for something "special" dont know what it is, but I know when its missing. My Zeiss 50 has it, my Sigma 20 has it, my other Sigmas dont. Its feel, its weight, its smoothness, its coolness, its that special X, factor, the David Bowie bit.

As always these are whats important to me given what and how I shoot and process.

How do others assess glass? Whats important to you?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

And then depression set in..

After a great run of over 20 trouble free submissions to Alamy - four rejects in the row. What the fuck! I've never had that many outs before.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Once again I have a decision to make

Well, once again I sit on the cusp of a great decision. After three years of using a DSLR I've finally figured out what I want in terms of a lens line-up. Basically I want a bunch of fast wide to short tele primes and a really long zoom - that's about it. The bad bit is that having decided on what I want I realise I actually only have a small part of it (a 50mm 1.4) and I have to buy the rest from scratch. But given that situation I now have the opportunity to again look at my system choice. This is something that I need to think about really carefully but one thing that is interesting is how little money is a factor.

More to come on this.....

Sony Canon EQ Nikon Eq
A900 2700 2700 2700
2x 1.X n/a n/a
35 1.4 G 1370 1180 360
50 1.4 0 484 325
85 1.4 1370 1870 1230
135 1.8 1480 935 1270
70-400 1600 1460 1550
$US Total 8520 8629 7435

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Somtimes I love a simple image

With all the whizz bang effects that our software affords us these days sometimes I find my self wanting to strip it all away and present some very simple, very "clean" images. A recent visit to a car show gave me that opportunity. The clean flanks of the cars with their stark badges really call out for a very simple but powerful image. I hope I did them proud.