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Monday, 26 November 2012

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It is amazing how impervious I am to whatever charms the shape of that camera has. And I am susceptible to the aesthetics of an awful lot of cameras; like I was born with beer-goggles for this tech segment. I hope you post a pleasing picture that your brother has made with this rig so that its picture-making charms can be part of the discussion.

Ben Marks

You are a totally thoughtful brother. I didn't realize these Pentax cameras are so unpopular. At $300 plus change, I may have to pick one up.

Funnily enough, I've been tracking the falling Pentax prices over here in Europe too. In the end, I fell for a Pentax Q rather than the K-01 (because I really liked the idea of a 50mm fixed on a compact). At these prices, they really are exceptional value.

Pak

Thoughtful gift! He'll probably be the only person he knows who has one, which can be a minor extra thrill, especially with such a distinctive looking camera.

"Just do it" is about right for black & white digital. I have copies of both Jeff Schewe's Digital Negative and Vincent Versace's From Oz to Kansas, but I'd have to confess that I've scarcely cracked either one open. Too busy working on the shots I took last month, some of which really cry out for black & white prints.

It's also tempting to dive back into the archive of 'digital negatives' and try new interpretations of them, seeing as how raw conversion keeps getting better all the time. But my favorite black & white prints from 10 years back really can stand on their own (at least I think they can), and attempts to 'improve' them almost always fail. Nothing worse than endlessly polishing a few old chestnuts, rather than moving forward.

Saying the K-01 "hasn't been popular" is a gross understatement. It was a risky industrial design with a questionable technical brief (mirrorless camera the same size as a mirrored camera, with few of the benefits of either?), and the market showed its preference for the same-old same-old with more pixels.

However, it still contains the amazing Sony APS-C sensor that made the K-5 shine (as well as the Nikon D7000 and various Sony SLTs), and the "kit lens" is a cracker of a 40mm! Great images for those who can look beyond their own "image" of a camera.

B&W conversion is something that a lot of people seem to be over-thinking these days. A fair bit of "critique" one sees on the internet comes down to complaining about b&w conversions.

My attitude is that is the conversion is good enough to separate the stuff that should be separated, you're doing fine. That's my attitude, but I am notably laissez-faire about technical details. The main thing, as it always has been, is, "is the picture any good?"

I went through a similar exploration of black and white conversions a few years ago. I'd find some new program, download a trial version, and see what it could do.

I never found a program that provided the magic I was looking for.

I've since settled on creating a normal mode curves layer with a channel mixer layer on top (with monochrome checked) in Photoshop. I do all the adjustments on the curves layer.

This simple setup gives me fine control over the contribution of each color channel to the tonality of the B&W result. In addition, I can locate where the detail I want to enhance lives in each color channel and make the curves steeper there.

While you can save and reuse a set of curves, I've been happier starting from scratch with each image.

This method is no panacea. For one thing, it doesn't give you an interesting look to start with as inspiration. I've found I spend a lot of time with each image deciding how I want it to look.

The discipline of continually working through images (and particularly, not getting hung up on a particular image) really helps here. It took me a while to realize that B&W conversion isn't something I can learn a simple recipe for and be done.

I will say made better progress when I stopped looking for the perfect tool and started working on images instead.

Also, it was a gift. And gifts are always always always better when they are new and shiny. Except if it's an old Leica. I'd accept one of those. In fact if there's anyone out there, my email address is.. ah fugetabouit...

That K-01 is very tempting at the moment, especially since B&H graciously kicked back $250 of the money I just spent on a new K-5IIs.

I've been researching mirrorless cameras for the past few months. I already have a Pentax K10d, so the K-01 looked tempting. Dutifully, I've read reviews for the camera and checked its prices. Last night I came across the very attractive Adorama price and decided it was time to buy, but chose to sleep on it. This morning I woke up and talked myself out of a purchase. Then I read your site, as I do every morning, so I'm not sure if your post pushed me over the cliff or away from it. My Pentax K-01 with the "crepe" lens is now backordered. Thanks for the K-01 post.

The Koni Omega 120 had a baby and named it Pentax K-01.
That is one ugly looking kid. Who's the father? Fred Flinstone?

Mike,
I think your kernel of wisdom, of getting out and shooting every day and being mindful all the while is a really good one. And I do find the more you do (pick up the camera at least once a day), you do get better because you're thinking about it all the time and learning all the while as a result. The fact you can immediately review what you just shot with digital cameras only reinforces and speeds up the process.

One of the revelations my wondeful Fujifilm X-cameras (X10 and X-Pro1) have been is that their "retro-workflow" (setting aperture, shutter speed, and comp literally by hand, and framing in their wonderful OVFs before the shot) forces you to intellectually re-engage with the process of making compelling images, and I found that I was really missing that experience of engagement. That re-engagement has me more excited about getting out and generating work EVERY day than I've felt in a long time.

Regarding converting to black and white, I've been using the Nik Silver Efex Pro 2 plug-ins for Lightroom 4 and Photoshop that allows for contrast, brightness, and structure moves, as well as emulating several different black and white film stocks and optical color filters. I've been getting results I've been very pleased with from using it:

http://photos.imageevent.com/puma_cat/fujix10pics/Work%204.jpg

http://photos.imageevent.com/puma_cat/fujix10pics/Chinatown%20-10.jpg

http://photos.imageevent.com/puma_cat/fujix10pics/X-10%20tabletop.jpg

There's a free, fully functional demo for Silver Efex Pro from NIK, so Joe Bob Briggs says "check it out".

Mike,

I had to advise a non-photographer friend on a camera, and my advice was: Sony NEX 5N with the Sigma 30mm f/2.8 lens. Together, about $500 and simply outstanding IQ (superb sensor, superb lens).

I use the same combo alongside my DSLR and I am amazed by what this little kit can do. I have also customized the little NEX and have aperture/ISO/compensation at my fingertips. The focus peaking is great. Video is simply awesome, 1080/60p with full manual control (change aperture/ISO/EV while shooting!!). And the screen is tiltable, for waist-level shooting.

I wish you we're my brother !

For b&w conversions, I've followed the general approach of http://www.prime-junta.net/pont/How_to/n_Digital_BW/a_Digital_Black_and_White.html for a while now.

Another vote for Silver Efex. The jump from the first iteration to the most recent version (2.something) was astounding. It seems like a wizened film developer took over and dictated every change made. The plethora of options seem endless.
I don't work for them, I just really like the results.

I guess there is always the in-camera jpg mode - I've been pretty impressed with than on my D7000. If you're really lucky you might even get that plus a RAW capture in case you change your mind.

Adorama has raised its price $30 on the body but now B&H has it at $317. Once I put it in the shopping cart B&H offered me further discounts on Pentax lenses, including the 16-50 @$675. Seems like a great deal if that's what you're looking for.

I have no idea if the K-01 is as good/bad as some commenters think, but it appears to be a super-cheap way to get a nice new body for anyone who has some Pentax lenses.

Black & White conversions are a tough area, I'd easily go with one of the many B&W film emulators, like Alien or OnOne Perfect Black & White, than trying to spend hours dickin' around in PhotoShop to try and get that Black & White look (well, okay, here I lied, I'd just SHOOT black & white film!).

We learned long ago scanning color transparencies to black & white for newspaper ad use (far before reasonably priced digital cameras), that the problem is that panchromatic black & white film is not totally panchromatic (something I remember from college in the 70's), so when you make a conversion from color information on a scanner (or digital file), reds and blues and greens of similar tone track as the same density, whereas if you shot a black & white negative of the scene, they would NOT. A lot of times, this minor variation makes all the difference in getting that "real" black and white look. That's why our late 80's black & white scan conversions looked "flat" and lifeless....

I hope, and guess, probably, that a good black & white film emulator, uses the color information from the digital file to reproduce tones based on the same way a film like Tri-X would reproduce those same color tones, thereby rendering a "natural" black & white film look.

Interesting to note, that even film makers before the advent of digital, were divided into camps that "knew" that "real" black & white film making had to be done with black & white negative, and not their usual color negative just printed black & white. For similar reasons...What's why a lot of video shot rock videos, from the dawn of music video time, look "wrong" if there are black & white scenes: too flat, too "off"...

'Crepe lens' - love it !

I like DXOptics (www.dxo.com) Filmpack for B&W conversion because it replaces a plethora of controls with two basic ones - choose your film, and your filtration. The film choices are calibrated from real B&W films (spectral response, HD curve, grain size and shape, etc) so if you choose Tri-X then the resulting image looks as though it was actually shot on Tri-X.

Mike I was "curious" about B&W conversions but I am enough of a PITA that I don't convert anything that I didn't shoot with the conversion in mind(one can do that when they have a day job)
anyway I really like the DXO Raw converter and their film pack (basic) this "customer" comment pushed me over the edge to their product over what I am sure are equally excellent choices.
http://www.dxo.com/us/photo/filmpack/user_testimonial/sebastiao_salgado

About the Pentax K01 ... I was one of them who really wanted to like the camera, especially the yellow / black model. I thought it was good design. Except for the awkward, cheap, gummi card slot cover. This detail was the deal breaker for me.

Regarding B&W conversion (and techniques and filters in general), I get the feeling that people all to frequently start with the technique and then judge if they like the look. While thats a good way to build exprtience, it leaves out the step of deciding beforehand what result you're looking for. It's a bit like flippng through a book of quotes hoping to find a sentiment that you'd be proud to express.

Instead, I try to start by deciding what I want to say and how I want the image to look. Then I select the tool I need to create that result.

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