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Sunday, 29 June 2014


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Setting photography aside for a moment, I am boundlessly impressed that your community can afford to spring for concrete. Thinking long term, i guess. Around here it is all asphalt, which will need repair in a few years.

Mike, what ever happened to the D800. You promised to write about it a bit? Love to hear your opinion of the camera. I still own the camera, but like you have been gravatiing to the mirrowless cameras.

[Hi Albert, I've sold the D800, to help raise money toward moving. I did write quite a lot about it, mainly when I first got it. Search the site. --Mike]

From Wikipedia ...

The first street in the United States to be paved with concrete was Court Avenue in Bellefontaine, Ohio in 1891, The first mile of concrete pavement in the United States was on Woodward Avenue in Detroit, Michigan in 1909.

It takes a lot to keep us rollin'.

Weren't you going to do a review of the X-T1? Or did I miss it?

Just curious, but what did you have to do to get them to lay new pavement on your street? Picket city council? Grease some political palms? Where I live, a city/town of about 200,000, the city spends all our tax money on "sexy" useless projects, that benefit noone except land developers and hotel owners, and totally ignores the needs of the greater community. Driving down our neighborhood streets is like navigating one gauntlet after another of potholes and mini sinkholes that never get fixed.

Where's the rebar? You guys up north build concrete roads with no rebar? That's amazing.
Nice photos of the sawyer.

Morning Mike...Re: XT-1 ISO dial. Perhaps the Canadian version is different as mine has a button centered in the dial, which must be deliberately recessed to manually change ISO. The 23mm is on my current lust list, however I think I will be able to live with the aperture ring quirk given the setting is always visible in both the viewfinder and on the rear lcd. The XT-1 is a great camera with a good assortment of lenses....now if only I had that elusive 23mm.

[Yes, you have to manually depress the X-T1 ISO dial lock and hold it in while turning the dial. The Oly however has a two-position button. Push it in and the dial is locked; push it so it's out and the dial moves freely until you lock it again. I prefer that. A small thing, though. It doesn't rise to the level of an real complaint. The 23mm lens slipping off "A" so easily is, however, an actual problem. --Mike]

Mike, are roads usually made of concrete in TOP Headquarters' neck of the woods? Here in southeastern Pennsylvania, and in New England where I grew up, roads are typically made of asphalt.

I didn't know the reason for scoring the concrete. I always thought it was to allow for expansion and contraction when the surface becomes hot or cold.


When you say, " I will say, though, that the Fuji's files are so good that the X-T1 makes me a little less satisfied with the image quality of the files out of the Olympus. Not that there's anything wrong with E-M1's files, but the X-T1's are that little bit better.", what does that actually mean?

What is it about the X-T1 files that allows you to draw that conclusion? Is it something concrete and explainable or just 'gut' reaction (which is perfectly normal and okay).

I like both cameras. The X-T1 does better with higher ISOs. The E-M1 seems to have more dynamic range. The sensors have the same resolution but, of course, the Fujifilm sensor has a larger pixel pitch which generates a bit less noise at the higher ISOs. That can almost be fully neutralized in good software.

On the other hand, with the X-T1, I have found fine detail in green foliage to be, for lack of a better term, mushy. The fine detail in the E-M1's images of green foliage seems to be much better. I suspect this difference is a function of sensor architecture or poorly rendered raw conversions, but I don't know which. The colors rendered from each camera certainly are different, but that can also be largely neutralized or refined to one's liking in editing software.

Lastly, to me, the X-T1's raw image files almost look like there has been noise reduction applied to them in-camera. They are very, again for lack of a better term, smooth. The Olympus image files appear more 'film-like' and seem to have sort of a 'tooth' to them. I don't think one is better than the other, just a difference in look.

Just wondering what you felt made the difference to you. Thanks.

[Hi Dennis, Sounds like you know more about it than I do. It just seems to me that the Fuji files have more high ISO flexibility and better highlight recovery. My files are also influenced by the fact that I am using a premium prime lens on the Fuji and a consumer zoom on the Olympus. --Mike]

Real World camera testing! Interesting concrete is used instead of ashphalt. Contractors are hoping no errors or omissions were discoverd after the various municipal services were placed.
And in the view of the world HQ of TOP it is obvious it is a lovely area however the structure is way too small. How goes the search for a new residence?

[Hi Bryce, Not well. Good houses in good neighborhoods are scarce here in town, and they tend to get snapped up almost immediately--in stark contrast to most of the houses on offer, which sit on the market interminably. My strange needs (lots of room for an office, a big room or roomy basement for a pool table) tend to mean that the only houses big enough for me are out of my price range--and are too luxurious as well. There is a truly tempting building lot in a lovely location, price $95k, and I've found some great plans for small houses, but sadly I don't have enough money to build. Frustrating, but overall I can't complain at all--I have a comfortable house in a nice neighborhood and very little debt. Count your blessings, not your problems, eh? --Mike]

I was interested to see that you do roads in concrete in your part of the world. I think I am correct in saying that this is a system that is no longer used here in Europe . It is all Bitumen Tar Macadam here laid in the summer heat here.

I was fascinated by that concrete laying machine probably working with lasers, very cool. The laser has brought us some fantastic construction tools and instruments.

To return to photography. I have the Lumix 12-35 2.8 glued to a EM5 to make up one of the best camera lens combinations that I have ever used. I love this lens almost as much as the Nikon 180 2.8 I used on my 801’s during my theatrical photography days back in the 90’s.

Often when I travel I just take this combination which I find covers almost everything I come across and can be slung over the shoulder or popped in the briefcase when not in use.

For documenting my construction projects though, it is a second hand rather battered GX1 with an also second hand 14-140 lens that go on duty as building site dust gets everywhere.

I,too, have been watching road construction near where we live- badly needed, I dare say. The neatness with which the road crews chewed up, spit out, resurfaced and striped the new section was fun to watch. Concurrent with the road work are two new banks under construction, one kind of pedestrian, but the other architecturally interesting. Possessing no skills for any of this work, I watch with awe and respect. And even take a photo or two of the progress. Someday I want to do a series of portraits of flaggers. The paving machine you photographed is a kid's dream! Tonka, where are you?

I share Mike's fascination with the nuts 'n bolts of road and bridge construction, probably because I use the resulting 'product' every day, and it involves massive and impressive tools that are often very clever.

An 8 inch concrete slab should serve very well for a long time. Near us, a busy expressway entry/exit ramp and the adjacent road was paved with a thoroughly inadequate 4" slab, presumably because it was constructed by the lowest bidder. For the past 20 years (!) this pavement has repeatedly buckled and caved under the weight of 80,000 lb. tractor trailers, leading to endless rounds of temporary repairs. The rubble gets jack-hammer'd out and replaced with another 4" section, only to disintegrate again within 6 months. One of my patients happened to work on one of the endless repair jobs, and I asked him why they didn't start from scratch and do it right. He just shrugged. Apparently it's easier to find the money for a bandaid (over and over and over) than to fix it once and for all, even though the cost over time is far higher that way.

It costs a lot to 'save money', I guess.

Re: The famous Fujifilm "light touch" aperture rings.
A few strategically placed scraps of black(non-shiny) gaffer's tape at various places on the Fuji camera body, or on the spatially well-endowed[read: large] Fuji lens hoods supply a quick and cheap and always present means of locking the aperture ring to the setting of your choice.

Now that I have seen the sprawling TOP World HQ, I have to ask: When will you have the next expansion fundraiser?
(That looks like a SMALL house!)

Mike replies: Thanks for the Hoodman tip Darlene. Is the H-LPP3 is the one you use?

That should be the one Mike. I let it hang from my neck and use it with the Merrills on and off tripod. Really easy to use and very beneficial.

When I was a kid, I used to think they got the whole road/ tire thing backwards. Cement Tires & Rubber roads seemed much more logical to me. No cracks or pot holes in the road, no flat tires........
I'm reminded of that every spring as flat tires and bent rims abound and pothole crews are on every road.
We need a high tech solution....... ; -))

An interesting bit of trivia is that concrete keeps drying for decades, it just reaches a point of sufficient hardness pretty early.

I've tried the E-M1 with the Olympus 12-40/2.8 zoom. The only bad size is that the combination doesn't fit in a pcoket, otherwise it's excellent.

Myself, I keep wanting to use full frame (35mm), although I'm increasingly feeling that it's irrational.

I see your concrete-road laying machine, and raise you this Dutch brick-road laying machine.


I see your concrete machine and I raise you with a dutch brick carpet laying machine, how it works, I have no idea but I love the random pile of bricks going into the top and the beautifully arranged bricks emerging from below. The night cutter photos are great.


[Um...do you and Bernard know each other? --Mike]

I agree with you, Mike about the difference between the Fuji and Olympus files. One of our customers has both cameras and he showed me identical scenes taken with both. When you see them side by side it appears to me that the Fuji images have more 'openness' which could be from Dynamic Range being applied as standard in camera processing. I noticed this with my X100 as I couldn't see how to turn DR off.
Could just be the architecture of the sensor, though, which I think is just stunning. I'm splitting hairs here, because I love the Olympus, but (here comes a saucy jumble of metaphors)if only Fuji's X-Trans had hopped in to bed with MFT : a marriage/tempestuous affair made in heaven ?

I have to agree with the Hoodman comment for the DP2M, although the actual Hoodman was a bit pricey for me. I have a 3rd party one that works essentially the same but for a lot less money.

And I don't even consider the DP2M as the camera I take out for snapshots. I consider it my large format camera and treat it the same. If I am going to use it the big Gitzo goes along. I also use an external meter. Although the size makes me feel a bit silly sometimes, until I look at the results. That thing puts out awesome "negatives."

Hi Mike, I would suggest that you try the Olympus 12-40mm f2.8 lens with the E-M1 rather than the Panny 12-35mm. Apart from being a better match visually, the 12-40 has the very useful 'snap' focus ring found on the 12mm and 17mm Zuiko primes. Optically, both the 12-35mm and 12-40mm are gems though - you can't go wrong with either.
Cheers Kevin

I completely concur with the value of using an LCD loupe with the Sigma Merrill cameras. I have a DP3M and use the Kinotehnik LCDVF, which attaches magnetically to a frame that adheres to the camera. Perfect for hand-held photography, and that extra point of contact adds about as much stability as a monopod.

The batteries for the Merrill also fit quite nicely in most Compact Flash card wallets. It's nice to have them pre-bundled and ready to go.

Thanks for the photo-essay. It tells a good story. The nighttime pictures are particularly arresting, of course.

I find it interesting that you like the E-M1 when you disliked the E-M5, given that they're so similar. I prefer the E-M1 for its more generous grip and especially its viewfinder, but to me the family resemblance is pronounced.

Also, when did you become such a zoom guy?

It reminds me of the Dutch brick road laying machines: http://q8allinone.com/2012/12/tiger-stone-the-brick-road-laying-machine.html

Strange camera choice may I say. I bought my DP1/2/3M to Canada as I do not close at home and do not want to carry D600/D7100 with 24-70, 70-200 and 80-400. But if I am at home, I would use Nikon for this kind of "job". No weight concern.

Having said that, I think you really need all 3Ms to zoom in/out. Hence like those rangefinder year, you just carry 3 cameras with you and going out to zoom in. With a bit cropping, you could be fine on the zoom part.

For the battery, I got 6 on top of the original 6! And two usb charger with each can charge 4 batteries at a time i.e. totally 8 at at time. And that can be charged even by using those powerbank iphone charger. It is like film as the video linked by this site led me to buy this. The guys said clearly that you need these batteries like film.

Still, using 4x5 to film road is hard I guess. And these DPxM is 4x5 like. Good you tried. I am trying myself in the last few weeks and especially now in Canada mainly photo with them. They are good so far. The Nikon D810 is pushing me now after looking at this high resolution DPxM pic.

BTW, have they suddenly died on you like, light on all the time and need take out the battery (the photo seems fine!). My DP1/2M did. Not my DP3M which seems have a few features the other does not have. I think there is ... well all large format camera has their strange behaviour.

any idea why one chooses concrete, like your street, vs. asphalt pavement that we mostly have in the northeast? clearly we both have harsh winters so i'm guessing temperatures might not be the reason?

[Lots of our streets in Waukesha are asphalt. I have no idea why they chose concrete for this project. --Mike]

When all the talk about ACR and XTrans greens began I went back to files from 2008 (D200) and worked my way forward in time pixel-peeking at lots of images with foliage rendered from raw in a wide variety of lighting conditions. Distant green foliage looks mushy with the D200/300/700, Lumix G1, X100, X-Pro-1 and XT-1 raw. None of them looked great with respect to crisp greens, especially when the foliage was further from the lens and in shadow regions. I even compared D700/Nikkor images with XT-1/XF images from the same scene at the same time (twilight ). After careful rendering parameter selection the XT-1 greens were just a bit better than the D700 greens.

However the workflow and rendering parameters for the Nikon and Xtrans raw were quite different. And the XTrans raw can take a bit longer. Optimum sharpening parameters vary more from image to image compared to Nikon raw and sub-optimal the color temperature parameters can cause problems with XTrans raw. It takes a while to adapt.

I sold my D700 bodies and all my Nikkor glass and switched to a couple of XT-1s with XF glass. No regrets.

I also think the 12-40 oly zoom is the perfect fit for the OM-D1. I was out taking photos at the Gay Day parade today in San Francisco with the Olympus OM-D1 and 12-40 zoom. I was thoroughly stoked with the quality and quantity of tack sharp grab shots I got. I could could zoom in 200 percent and count the hair on the persons ear I was taking a photo of. The day was sunny with dark shadows, so I put the Olympus fl-600 flash on the camera for a little fill light. I got very polite, nicely exposed shots. I picked it up over my now under used Nikon D600.

I can see your house now on Google Earth, and I can also see all the red circled pot holes before the road job was done. Interesting to see where you live.

No concrete roads here in Western Australia, only bitumen, but we don't get the extreme cold or the amount of rain and snow you get.

I never get used to seeing no fences between houses in USA. Amazing. ALL houses have fences along the boundary lines in Australia. How can you be sure your dogs remain on your property? It's the law here, dogs must be under the owner's control at all times and that means staying inside the boundaries unless they are tied up. I used to have a next door neighbour who threatened me with reports to the ranger if my dog strayed onto her property.

Cameras - Pentax K-5 and all its full sized heavy lenses, tends to stay in the cupboard now; Canon 40D is long gone for similar reasons; Fuji S-100fs for travel, loved it but it had drawbacks, retired; now Olympus E-M1, with 14-42mm, 14-150mm and 75-300mm, terrific for travel. I shot the lights of the Singapore skyline from a ship in the harbour before dawn recently, took no particular precautions, just shot away in P mode and all my shots are pin sharp, nicely exposed and almost noise free. Love it.

And now I've just received a Sony RX10. My first impression on looking at the first shots and the video is, SHARP. I think this will be my other, and perhaps most used travel camera. Until I get my hands on a Panasonic FZ1000, that is. This is fun.

The EM1 really shines with the Oly Zuiko prime f/1.8 lenses. They are so light, it's easy to pop four or five into a camera bag and still have the camera bag weigh much, much more than the lenses. I do hope Oly comes out with a fast 7mm prime.

Enough to make any gearhead drool!



Cummins QSB6.7 Tier 3, water cooled, turbocharged, after-cooled engine with 260 HP (193kw) @ 2200 RPM. In line six cylinder, 6.7 liter (409 cu in) displacement, with 12 volt electrical system and 130 amp alternator.


Two heavy duty 14′ (4.27m) track systems, with 14” (35.6cm) wide, triple grouser street shoes. Track components with sealed links, lifetime lubricated rollers, grease gun type hydraulic track tension adjustment

I would like to second (third?) the recommendation for the Olympus 12-40 f/2.8 zoom. Seems to be great across the whole range and at all apertures, and it focuses very fast.

I saw 2 person gave good comments on Hoodman and even featured that in your comment list. May I give a different view.

I got it for 2 years+ now and every time I used I appreciate how good it is as a loop and then put it back to the cabinet. It is not even earned a place in my drying cabinet! I have a Chinese knock-off of Kinotehnik LCDVF and use that. I even tried to find a way to stick some thin magnetic strip to convert my Hoodman (as it is a very good loop unlike my knock-off). Cannot find that still. Looking.

No. Just do not buy that for normal use. But I agree if it is 4x5/8x10, it functions the same as the loop I bought for my view screen. Unfortunately it cannot do that function.

Yes, indeed, that Fuji 23 is a wonderful lens, and the best I own as well. In fact, I think it's one of the best lenses I've ever used.

Your thoughts about the E-M1 and X-T1 also parallel my own, including wishing that the X-T1's ISO dial was a push-to release lock like the mode dial on the E-M1.

Lastly, regarding the image files from the E-M1 and X-T1. The E-M1 files are excellent, but the X-T1's image files have an "it" quality to them that is hard to describe, but really, really lovely quality in a way that few, if any other cameras have.

For Dennis Mook: It's true that ACR and Lightroom struggle with Fuji RAW files when rendering foliage and grasses, and often gives a mushy look. Using Iridient Developer, which now functions fully as a "plug-in" within Lightroom, completely eliminates that, and does a better job of RAW conversion overall. Additionally, Capture One also does a superb job of converting Fuji RAW files, better than any other app I've used, with no mushy foliage detail.

After reading this blog for years and having a fair idea of what you lean towards photographically, I suggest you try to get your hands on any of these lenses to really run the E-M1 through its paces: Olympus 17/1.8, Panasonic 20/1.7, Pana-Leica 25/1.4. These lenses reveal a level of performance and nuance that just isn't possible with the lens you've been using.

Re: zooms, I'd add that the Oly 12-40/2.8 is one of only two zooms I've used in 35+ years that I would say is up to prime lens standards. Very impressive and highly recommended (if you want a zoom… )

I'm reminded just how good American trucks look compared with European lorries.

I'll bet that the reason you got concrete instead of asphalt is because someone in your area has "Juice", with a capital "J". (Maybe you?)

The seams in the newer asphalt roads by me are already beginning to widen and crumble :-/

Nice to see pics, and i know that you wanted to test those cameras, but I would have liked to have seen one taken with a DSLR, and not necessarily FF, for real world, man on the street comparison.

Wow! That power paver is really impressive! They use REAL CONCRETE?? We get nothing but asphalt up here. Of course, I live in Alberta, so of course the roads are paved with oil! Still, I'd be impressed too if I saw that thing. I bet your new road lasts a long time.

By the way, you can forgive yourself for having a lot of cameras around, you are the editor of a popular camera blog!

....and just to add, I liked your last pic of the guy sawing the joints at night, it reminded me of a pic from W. Eugene Smith that someone had linked to in your blog about photographing heat: The Dance of the Flaming Coke". Both your and WES's pics illustrate the focus and concentration necessary sometimes while working in an inhospitable environment. Maybe we can or not photograph heat, but I think a huge challenge would be to photograph "Thought". I don't think anyone would dispute that Rodin "owns" "Thought" in sculpture with his "Thinker" , but I think successful photographing of "Thought" as Rodin moulded with sculpture would be quite a challenge, and quite interesting.

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