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Wednesday, 18 November 2015


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Nikon D800 w/ Zeiss 135mm f/2 apo


Can I be controversial and suggest that the best learning experience would actually be OC/OL/OY/OV (one camera, one lens, one year, and optical viewfinder). If we're talking about drawing boundaries around ourselves to become better photographers, the best way to do this is to be able to focus solely on the real live view of a window or through-the-lens optical viewfinder to learn implicitly how are decisions affect our final picture, instead of all the distractions and "ready to wear" real time image adjustments of an EVF?

Best Regards,


There are now so many great small interchangeable lens (mirrorless) cameras available to us now. For your suggested combo though, doesn't this Fuji have a smaller sensor that effectively doubles the lens focal length to 70mm? I regard that as a little long for this project, thinking something in the 35mm-55mm might be more flexible. One man's opinion.

[No, that's Micro 4/3. The crop factor for APS-C is ~1.5X, so the 35mm on the Fuji is ~50mm (a tiny bit longer, but nothing you'd notice). --Mike]

I seem to have missed something Mike...

I thought that I was supposed to use a Leica camera, so I bought an M2 and a DR Summicron, I have used several different b&w films, but I am now reasonably happy with Tri-X.

As an extra bit of punishment, I have learned how to develop the negatives, and I am using Rodinal "one shot"... I don't have any interest in building my own darkroom, so I have used a changing bag for development, and I have bought an old Nikon scanner which I am using with a newly acquired (£43 on Ebay) PowerMac G5 quad-core... I was using a 1.8 PowerMac which has been lurking in a store room but it was too slow and painful to use.

If and when I see an image that I really like, I will take the negative to the bloke who taught me how to develop (Keith) and spend a bit of cash in his darkroom... So far, I haven't impressed myself enough with anything :)

As a little aside, and for a bit of fun, I bought a body-cap with a pinhole from Eric Renner at Pinhole Resource, and took it to Ireland... as another sideways step I used CineStill 50, rather than b&w, and the processor messed up the prints, the negatives and then scanned the prints, rather than the negs, so nothing much came of the output.

Anyway I digress...Now, I read that the project has mellowed to digital, colour... Fuji even! I have an x100s, I needn't have bothered with the irritating Leica.

Having said that, the Leica has made me think (a bit), so your recipe might well have legs! I might actually learn about light, and composition, and developing, and maybe even with the scanned negatives, a smidgen of post processing.

BTW: Highly impressed with some of those Italian guys' photos in your last OCOLOY piece!

Hey Ho...

I am enjoying myself anyway...

Best wishes


[You were doing the original hardcore "Leica as Teacher" version. Nothing wrong with that! --Mike]

Should it not be OC/OPL, or OC/OFL?

(One Prime Lens or One Focal Length.)

Otherwise, a fool like me, forgetting the details of an earlier post, might think "Sure, I could do that with my E-M5 II and 14-150 lens, as long as I could use an extension tube for closer up."

But then again, I wouldn't, and I'm not part of "... those to whom it appeals."

OC/OPL/OY strikes me as a little like wearing the same clothing and shoes every day for a year, no matter the place, weather, etc.

I suppose you might put me in the category of those for whom the envisioned final image is the goal and choice of gear is means.

I wonder if there are any wealthy patrons who are looking to sponsor a fledgling photographer in a OC/OL/OY effort. I'm housebroken, good with kids, and have had all my shots.

By a double link jump, this post led me to Carl Weese's featured comment on
"You Must Do This", 11/11/14, a year ago:

"For a long time I've been pointing out in workshops that a lot of people misunderstand The Zone System and turn it into some sort of holy procedure exactly because they take it to be prescriptive instead of descriptive. It doesn't say, 'you must place caucasian skin tones on Zone VI,' it says, 'caucasian skin tones will fall on Zone VI in a realistic representation.' "

This seems to me to be at odds with St. Ansel,

"Many consider my photographs to be in the "realistic" category. Actually, what reality they have is in their optical-image accuracy; their values are definitely "departures from reality." The viewer may accept them as realistic because the visual effect may be plausible, but if it were possible to make direct visual comparison with the subjects, the differences would be startling."

—Ansel Adams, The Negative, from the Introduction

Why am I hauling around this old quote? Because it's important to me to know that my visual perception system and that of my photo equipment see very differently. I see it as my task in representative photography to create from the image captured something plausibly like what others would have experienced, including emotional response, had they seen the original subject at the time.

I see the Zone System as a way to achieve something like that within the limitations of B&W print media.

So if I raise the tonal values of a beautiful birch tree further above those of the background than the photographic gear "saw" (as I just did), to match my memory of the experience I had of the subject, I hope that I am creating a plausible recreation of what I "saw".

Responses of viewers to my photo books indicate that I succeed reasonably well in doing so.

And if you are on a tight budget you might consider a used Olympus OM-D E-M5 (the first model), which can be found for ridiculous prices pre-loved but in excellent shape, now that the manufactures presented the fourth "even better" iteration in the OM-D family. I saw the first offers in the € 230,- range...

Combine that with a 1.8/25mm Olympus prime or the equivalent Panasonic offering, and you should be set for results which might be hard to distinguish from the Fuji (of course they are when pixel-peeped!), especially on moderate sized prints

This very minute, I'd say either a Minox 35GT or a my Contax 159MM and 45mm Tessar. In either case I'd load up with a cheap colour film because that's how I see best.

I have no problem with your discussions of the Fuji system. I just wish I was in a place in my life where I really could look at $700 for a camera body and $400 for a really nice lens and think "yeah, I can do that!" It's a beautiful camera and the only one that would seriously tempt me more is the X-Pro that might go down in price when the new version comes out.

Instead, I'm saving for repair parts for my E-PL1 and hoping that maybe someday I'll find the $300 for a used 25/2.8 normal for it.

The X-T10 is a great little package, especially paired with the new 35mm.
For this project, however, I would have to go with the X100 line of cameras.
50mm-equivalent is my favorite focal length to shoot with but using it for an entire year's worth of compositions would be very difficult. Maybe a challenge is meant to be difficult.

As a Canon 6D shooter I don't get tired of Canon being ignored. It's a great camera that gets out of the way and lets me express myself. However it's not a ground-breaking design, nor does it incorporate any of the whizzbang new technology like Lytro that people like to talk about, or dare I say, fetishise. I don't gaze lovingly at my Canon and think what a beautiful piece of design it is, I don't take photos of it, I just use it as an efficient conduit between me and the image.

The Contax 159... small, manual controls exactly where one would need them, an amazingly huge, bright viewfinder image. One of my favorite cameras of all time. If only some camera maker would make a digital version (sigh!).

I know, that ship has long sailed.

In order to allow the necessary flexibility I have been shooting all year with my FM2 and a 50mm lens, but other cameras and lenses as well. I believe the purpose of the challenge was to get to know a single camera and a single lens (focal length) really well,not to force yourself to use that camera and lens to the exclusion of everything else. Call me permissive...

I keep thinking I want to do OCOLOY with my X100T. I think I bought the X100T with the excuse that I could do OCOLOY with it. :D If I got an X-mount camera, I'd just want to get lots of lenses for it.

@William Lewis--Don't know if this would help or frustrate more, but if you're in the US, Olympus website has the four-thirds (dSLR) 25/2.8 reconditioned for $160, if that was the lens you meant.

You are a bad man. BTW, if you add the grip to your cart with the camera it appears to be free.

I'm just starting my OCOLOY with a Ricoh GR. Is a camera with one lens, isn't it?

Due to being a working pro with already 80,000 shots on my big Nikon DSLRs, I can't really do a true OCOLOY project, but I have been striving to do all my personal shooting with a Leica M3 and a Summicron 50. As a child of the digital age, going to film and re-learning how to see light (no meter!) and how to focus has been an amazing experience. It's just a shame the logistics of shooting film, at least here in France, are getting so pricy and complicated.

May I suggest for Canon fans (we are the majority you know) contemplating OCOLOY the following. If your modest, the Eos6D with EF 35mm f2 IS lens, small compact and it will blow the Fuji image quality out of the water! If you are not so modest then the Eos5DsR with the new EF 35mm f1.4mk2 lens will do nicely...and that's going to blow almost everything else out there out of the water! (including Sony's best if I may say so...)

As for me I'm even more modest and there the Eos6D with the EF 40mm f2.8 'pancake' lens has been doing quite nicely for the last two years...and that has definitely blown my previous camera, a Leica X1 out of the water!

But seriously now, I have been shooting my personal stuff the OCOLOY way for a long long time now and its a game changer and, IMO the only way to get a vision or style and become serious about photography.

I would get a Canon 100D (SL1) with either the 24 or 40 pancake lenses. Cheap, small, great value. But then it's a Canon... not popular on the interwebs these days...

The Fuji Raw files are, in my view, too problematic to give a Fuji camera an unconditional endorsement. Especially for Lightroom users: Fuji's in-camera conversion outperforms Lightroom in every way. They say Fuji's JPEG's are great, but shooting JPEG equates to handing the control over the photographic process to the JPEG engine. It may be good enough for some, but not for others.
That said I don't think the OCOLOY project would suit me. I'd find myself wishing I had another lens at hand way too often. One year is a long time. Although it is wise to recommend using a 'normal' lens for the experiment, there are times when one will want to have a broader perspective. Some will reply a zoom lens would solve this problem, but if I got it right the idea is to get acquainted with one focal length, not the lens itself.
Another point is that, while I won't jump the full-frame bandwagon, many have done it and others will soon do so. This is an APS-C camera, which many have been brainwashed into believing not to have enough quality.
The real issue, however, is the electronic viewfinder. No matter how good it is, it's no substitute for a proper optical viewfinder.
So, neither Fuji nor OCOLOY are for me - although I admit there is much to learn from the latter. After all, I remember I learned a lot from using a fixed focal length lens for two months - but two months is 1/6th of a year!

Barry Reid's suggestion of one of the compact Minox cameras is splendid: a scale-focusing camera makes the original Leica version look positively luxurious, yet the lenses on thise cameras were (in at least some cases) very fine indeed and it was remarkably easy to get really good pictures. And they really are pocketable, of course.

Oh no! Hipster cameras are so 2014.
I love Fuji, but I doubt if they ever have been really serious about styling. Looks as if they moved their design department from the DDR to North Korea after the Wall was pulled down.

For the cash strapped, I recently picked up a mint Panasonic G6 body for £190. Add m43 pancake prime of choice or an adapted manual focus 24mm (48mm EFL)is viable with help from focus peaking. I have an Ensinor 24mm f2.8 for a more contemplative approach.

I'm intrigued by your previous statement that 'With a 50mm-e, you can "mimic" somewhat wider-angle lenses, and you can also mimic longer lenses.' Do you think you could find some pictures to elaborate now? I've always found 50mm equiv. difficult and much prefer 35mm.

Thank you Kathy, but I need the one for micro 4/3 format instead. On the older bodies (like my E-PL1), the 4/3 to micro 4/3 adapter is, essentially, so slow as to be unusable.

I'm also keeping an eye on KEH. They can get some amazing deals in at times :)

And what to do if you're working? I mean, my main workhorse camera weighs about 10pounds not including tripod - I can hardly imagine lugging it around for a project like this. At the same time, I can't just stop using it for many reasons. So is man allowed an exception? Will it ruin the ocoloy effect if one'll be constantly switching between the two cameras/lenses?

Really handsome - but is this relevant? I find the multitude of dials on top of dials and fiddly little switches actually much worse than the unsexy, button-controlled scrolling menus on my unglamourous Canon. Function over form wins for me.

No contest: Sony RX1 or RX1-MkII.

"Isn't it a wee bit of cheating to go out and get another camera and another lens [...]"

Well, the original version specifically insisted you go get a Leica. So, no?

Anyway, I imagine you might do the oc/ol/oy exercise with a new camera specifically because you want to bond with it.

If I had the money to do this it would be a hard choice between your suggestion, Mike, and a Pentax DSLR with the 35mm macro limited. On the one hand I like the manual controls of the Fuji and on the other hand I like the macro capability of the Pentax. One the third hand, I have money for neither!

I have a Pentax MX with 50mm f1.7 to do this project, but as much as I love manual controls, film just seems like too much of a hassle and too expensive these days.

I'd be more curious about the one printer in the original project description. I keep toying with the idea of this project and could figure out the camera and lens part of the equation easily enough. But I'm not sure which way to head with the printer. And for me, learning how to print well would be my goal for going into a project like this.

I don't have the "guts" to use just one camera and and one lens for a year, especially during a leap year.

One Ugly Camera/One Ugly Lens/One Year.. just my two penneth.

"Don't you Canon shooters get tired of being ignored?"

I read this, then I thought "Let's have a look for blogs by Canon shooters". Couldn't find any. We must all be too busy taking pictures.

OC/OL/OL (One lifetime).
Canon 5D3, 35/1.4L mark 2.
I could do that quite easily.

A 135/2.0 is nice, but not essential.

"... hoping that maybe someday I'll find the $300 for a used 25/2.8 normal for it. "

"Thank you Kathy, but I need the one for micro 4/3 format instead."

I suspect that, like me, Kathy was confused because you referred to a focal length and speed that have never been available for µ4/3 but are for 4/3. A typo for 25/1.8, perhaps?

Funny to see Paulo's suggestion as I did just that: getting a Canon SL1 for $299 refurb from Canon. I bought a 24 pancake from a friend that just couldn't get on with a prime. Looking forward to this. The little SL1 is just so fun in the hand. If I want big lenses, I'll get a bigger camera. But for the "take everywhere" aspect, the SL1 will do nicely

I still think the best OC/OC/OY camera is the Fuji X100T.

For Manuel: The Fuji RAW file conversion problem has been solved for a while now. If you want to use Lightroom, get a copy of Iridient Digital that will work quite seamlessly as a plug-in in Lightroom, and has specific conversions for monochrome. Brian Griffith at Iridient has got Fuji RAF conversion nailed.

For portfolio quality Fuji RAW conversion in an absolute sense (or for any other camera I have used), NOTHING beats Capture One Pro.

I went with Sigma DP2 Merrill for my OC/OL/OY experiment. Was always fascinated by Foveon based cameras, and that was a great excuse to jump in on it. Well, that, and the fact that it was just 50 EUR more expensive than buying 25mm Olympus prime for my OM-D.

And I do not regret my decision. That Sigma proved to be ideal for what I wanted to achieve with this project.

I really just wanted to force myself to slow down and put more thought into my photos. All those fancy features of my OM-D only distracted me. And that little brick simply forces you to slow down and get that shot just right. And what beautifully detailed images that Sigma takes. If only processing them was not such a hassle. I have a huge backlog of unprocessed images because of that :(

But, the results so far are that I shoot a lot less photos, while getting a lot more keepers and images that I actually like. And I think I actually get more enjoyment out of my casual photographic excursions now.

So I'll use this opportunity to thank you for writing that article and inspiring me to experiment and improve. Thanks :)

I started my year about a year ago, prompted by your article. My camera of choice was the one I have: a Canon 5 MII, and my lens is a Canon 50mm f/1.4 that I bought in the mid-nineties. While it is true that my photographs are different (not sure if they are better), I noticed something more surprising: my old lens definitely got better over the year, even to the point that it now seems sharper and has 'more character'.

I rented the Fuji in hopes of liking it; but not for me. Did not like the files.

@Wiliam Lewis: Yeah, I was afraid of that. Good luck on the hunt!

Funny you mention 35/2.0 lens, Mike. Just recently, I got myself a very nice copy of Zeiss Biogon 35/2.0. It seems that it and my Ricoh GXR-M is pretty much for me what you call OCOLOY. I've been shooting with it past few weeks and naturally, I plan to make it my only camera-lens combo as I want to both study the lens and enjoy its taste, so to say.

Not sure why you'd pair a water-resistant lens with a non-WR body, but ok. The 1.4 lens is a better match unless you just like pretty silver cameras and lenses.

Ditto for the Sony RX1/RX1R. That camera was made for that challenge, or vice versa.

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