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Thursday, 21 June 2007


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Do I detect someone trying to justify to himself the purchase of a new camera ?

Not much point in using a camera that doesn't give the type of results that you're after.

Considering B&W, I don't know why people were happy to push Tri-X to ISO 1600 or use Nedopan 1600 or Delta 3200 and have grain the size of golf balls but now want small sensor cameras to produce the smoothness of medium format film. Even in color pushing an ISO 100 slidefilm to ISO 800 can have it's charm: it can be an aesthetic decision.

Some time ago a friend shot a B&W picture with river in it on medium format B&W film and on 35mm film: we both concluded that we liked the 35mm picture better -- the grain and rougher gradation gave the picture some "bite" that the one shot on medium format film didn't have. I happen to like the "35mm aesthetic" and now also like the "small sensor" aesthetic. There's just too much preoccupation with "noise" and not enough with the quality of the photograph. Listen to Elliott Erwitt, who wrote the following:

"Quality doesn't mean deep blacks and whatever tonal range. That's not quality, that's a kind of quality. The pictures of Robert Frank might strike someone as being sloppy--the tone range isn't right and things like that--but they're far superior to the pictures of Ansel Adams with regard to quality, because the quality of Ansel Adams, if I may say so, is essentially the quality of a postcard. But the quality of Robert Frank is a quality that has something to do with what he's doing, what his mind is. It's not balancing out the sky to the sand and so forth. It's got to do with intention."

So, in choosing a camera I'm making an aesthetic choice: does it let me produce that type of look that I want in the photograph. The other choice is whethefr you like using a camera: how does it feel in your hands and how does it operate? That's all there is too it as far as I'm concerned.

—Mitch/Potomac, MD

Mike, welcome to the club. :-)

Yes, Olympus calibration or rendering or whatever of colour and other parameters of the picture has a special quality. Their cameras give more than the mere specs suggest.

The photos also have a 3D look often associated with much more expensive cameras or even medium format. Yes, it's something that can be done with proper postwork on almost any decent camera. But with Olympus it usually takes a lot less time.

Both E-410 and E-510 are quite nice cameras and you can't go wrong with them. But then, I am heavily biased. I have been using Olympus ever since I started using digital and anything else simply doesn't feel right in my hands. (Nikon comes quite close, though.)

I still wish they'd weatherseal the 410 and give it dedicated buttons...

As for the few results, here's several more postcards, with 410. (Except the poppies. They were shot with E-300 and not postworked really well. Ended on the page by accident.)


Please excuse the heavy-handed compression that created the horizontal lines in the sky.

"Do I detect someone trying to justify to himself the purchase of a new camera?"

I just bought a new camera, a few weeks ago--a 50-year-old folder. (I got inspired by Stephen Crowley.) That's it for me for a while.


Mike - When I made the jump to dlsr from a then best-of-the-best digicam, I went with the Olympus E-500. I hadn't seen many results but those I had seen were very good.

But, truth be told, I was very seduced by the promise of an 'open system' - the 4/3rds format. Now that Leica and Panasonic have joined in, some that promise is being realized - Leica lens that are fully compatible with the Olympus.

I recently acquired an E-510 and have been shooting with it for the past 2 weeks. The results are superb. Like you, I like lookng at pictures. Not sensor arrays, resolution charts, noise comparos, etc. It's all about the pictures and the pictures good damn good.

That said, I'm certain that the pixel peepers will find something to whine and complain about.

I have about 2 weeks worth of E-510 pictures on my blog to check out if you wish - http://landscapist.squarespace.com

I did the opposite of erlik: after a couple of years with a D70, rebelled and had the E-500 for a year. Now I'm back with nikon in the form of the D200. Olympus was not the right choice for me; you have to learn a different tone-curve to get from sensor to your desires, so if you already know how to get what you want from a good starting point, why bother?

Me, I've finally arrived at something like equipment heaven: something representative of dSLR, MF and LF view-camera, which covers all the bases I want for the forseeable future.

Contact-printing rocks, especially when you realise it can be done with nothing more complicated than one ceiling-bounced flash in your own bathroom and a skeletal glass frame for registration.

It's called the OM love. It carries over to the digital age. Nikon, Canon, etc. they are great cameras. They work. etc. but OMs. Now they are more than great cameras. They have... personality. It's like the Ms.

Just imagine the creamy bokeh with that 90/2 on a 4/3 camera. Ah....

''pictures from Olympus cameras look better than their specs would predict''

I am looking forward to seeing the 510. If the feel of the image is similar to the E10 I will be sorely tempted and if they could emulate the feel of the OM4Ti I would be a very happy bunny!

Hey! It's What the Duck from a different era! :-)

Nothing to disagree with in your comments on the GX100 or the primary importance of results. My diappointment with the camera review was that it didn't seem to really tell me what I wanted to know about image quality because it only looked at jpegs and I expect to be shooting raw. How much can I extrapolate from the author's experience with jpegs?

Adam, with 6+ seconds between RAW shots, it probably won't matter how good the quality is...

For the past few weeks I have been comparing the photo quality of the Ricoh GX100, Canon G7, and Leica D-LUX 2 (replaced by the D-LUX 3). Some of the tests, along with my conclusions, are posted on my blog, http://aminphoto.blogspot.com/. The GX100 has replaced the G7 as my compact camera of choice. I shoot primarily RAW, and increasingly in B&W. Yes "the controls feel like velvet," but the reason I reach for the GX100 is that it delivers the results.

Richard Man writes, "Adam, with 6+ seconds between RAW shots, it probably won't matter how good the quality is..."

I really don't get it when people say things like this. Are you serious? Suddenly the most important thing, above everything else including camera and image quality, is ability to shoot of frames every six seconds? With a GR1v, Minilux, 28Ti, T3, the fastest you could go from shutter click-to-image was 1 hour. Have our photographic expectations changed so drastically in such a short time?

As an aside, I have yet to experience 6-second write times on my GX-100. My Lexar SD card writes RAW files in about 4, maybe 5 seconds. Not great but acceptable, IMHO, and certainly no reason to abandon an otherwise great *pocketable* manual camera with superb image quality.

Mike, the E-400 with an old Zuiko makes for a spectacular combination. Olympus has a very perceptible color "look" that is obvious even to non pixel-peepers. I'll tell you about results- great observation BTW- the files from my E-400 just look better-- to me-- than those from my Nikon D200. (Unless you shoot over 400 ASA. Then they don't.)I've printed up 16x20 prints on a high end HP Designjet of straight up Oly files, at 240dpi, and they look fantastic. All from a "consumer grade" little camera. I

This is mostly a "me too" comment.

I've never owned a digital only SLR, but an E system camera providing sensor shift image stabilization together with the ability to use those fast E system zoom lenses brings and end to my desire to wait. The E system images that sold me were those from the E-1, but I spend a lot of my life at sea, so I wanted to wait for the stabilization.

I don't feel agreement with your last line though. The longer I live, the more strongly I suspect that it's _all_ just diversion.

John, I am not sure how well IS will serve you on a ship; I believe it works best with short and fast movements (like when using your ship's diesel for support ;-) but won't help you keep the horizon straight in rolling seas.

I also think sensor shift IS is nice, but in the case where I would need IS the most - long telephoto - it isn't very effective as the sensor can't shift quite that much.

I don't get the concern with shooting speed either. (I am using a Sony R1, which is very slow writing out the overly large RAW files, maybe 8-9 seconds.) It's never bothered me. Others have different needs, of course, but they know who they are and they know enough not to carry a digicam when they need speed.

When I shot film, I would shoot a roll of 36 every hour or so (but sometimes only a roll per day) when I was out walking around. That's one "RAW" every 100 seconds or so (at 3600 seconds per hour).

Mike, may I ask what folder did you get? And I hope we get to see the results!

andy said "Olympus has a very perceptible color "look" that is obvious even to non pixel-peepers."
- yes, and that's exactly why I had to get rid of my E300, the colour was not at all natural and I got fed up with struggling to make it look normal!
After the E300 I briefly tried a Fuji S6500fd, beautiful colour but the results were really no better than my old Fuji E550 so I took it back to the shop.
Even with a lot of work on the raw files these small sensor cameras produce images with hard, unnatural sharpening artifacts, once you begin to recognise the trait it can't be ignored.
So (for the time being) I've gone back to scanning 35mm colour neg.

Cheers, Robin

John W., you are more or less proving Ricoh's point. They hope the consumer will find a 6 sec between-clicks delay acceptable, when it's not. And they know it's not, otherwise they wouldn't bother with the internal buffer, only usable for jpeg's.

So, with the GX100 when you value image quality (your point, mine as well) you will end up losing some shots. Not all of them, just some. When you shouldn't. And that can't be fixed 1 hour later....

You should be able to have it all, not just learn to live with imposed limitations. Why? Because you're paying for the darn thing...

Alex, I think it's easy for you to say we should be able to have it all. No current model high-end compact camera has substantially better shot-to-shot times for RAW files. The fact that no single company is offering it all leads me to believe it is technically difficult or not profitable for them to do so. With the GX100, Ricoh has come closer to offering it all than any other company has.

Robin, I think I know what you're talking about. But...

In E-410 and E-510 you can turn the noise reduction completely off. You get a very nice and sharp photo. If you're using Photoshop, you can discard the default 25% sharpening, too.

Please go to the link I posted and tell me what are the artifacts there that _I_ didn't introduce in postprocessing. In Big Sky and Mondriaan you can see power lines a hundred, two hundred metres away. In 800x600 JPEGs without any additional sharpening for the web! And I don't see any oversharpening halos that plague so many cameras.

To wade back in on this debate about the shot to shot speed on the GX100 - I think that's for each person to decide based on how they intend to shoot with it.

I walk around almost everywhere I go (to work on the NY subway, to the corner store for milk, taking my daughter to school) carrying a small camera bag with my Maxxum 7D with 24-105 mounted with a Maxxum 100-300 and a Maxxum 11-18mm). When I'm going to work and back, I'm also carrying my briefcase with a laptop and, frankly, my back is killing me and the camera and bag are way too obtrusive. Sometimes I can squeeze my Dimage A1 in a jacket pocket (but not many of my jacket pockets will take it).

So, I'm mostly shooting street photography, a lot of grab shots and I wish I had something small and unobtrusive but with adequate quality to make professional grade prints up to, say, 11x14 (or at least 8x10). My main criteria have been decent resolution, a viewfinder, decent zoom ranges (starting at about 28mm equiv), manual overrides and camera controls and RAW.

So for my purposes, the GX100 specs looked pretty impressive. I could have wished for a slightly longer zoom range, an optical viewfinder and a lower price - but it looked like a camera to save for (until something better comes along as it inevitably will). The question is always about the image quality though. I've seen lots of cameras announced with amazing specs only to learn when they were released that image quality wasn't up to the mark.

Today I used burst shooting mode for the first time since I got the 7D when it first came out (my wife crossing the finish line in a NY Road Runners race) to get about 5 out of focus, overexposed shots, in spite of pre-focusing and using aperture priority for big DoF.

So I'm very interested in knowing about slow shot to shot times, but not sure it would be an important enough factor to stop me if the camera has decent image quality. I'd certainly miss some shots if it's slow, particularly with street grabs or for family candid snapshots - but my chiropractor (and even more my medical insurer) might consider that a decent trade-off.

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