My blogger camera

Written by feltedhat on . Posted in Camera gear

My “other” hobby is photography. So I thought I would loose a few words on my blogger camera setup. I am very much interested in the technology and hardware aspect as much as taking the pictures. So I am buying and selling a lot of camera gear. There actually was one time when I owned four different digital camera systems with their respective lenses. And that is not counting the analog cameras as well. I bought into the systems to see which one I would like most. And after a while it was clear to me, that I felt best with a full frame rangefinder system and the Micro Four Third (MFT) setup.

The first because of the picture it produces are simply magic. The second because it is a power house in a very compact package. When it comes to MFT, for me, it is all about compact size. So even “bigger” MFT cameras wont do. But as said, the size plus that I can do all kinds of things with it. It works for vacation/traveling, portrait, macro, bird photography. And yet still I have a camera that fits into the pocket of my cargo pants or a jacket. Not with all the lenses of course. 🙂

Panasonic GM5 with Olympus 75mm 1.8

The camera
So it is no wonder that the camera I used most and lately I use exclusively for shooting the pictures of this blog is an MFT camera. It is the Panasonic Lumix GM5. This was after the Olympus O-MD E-M5 and the GM1 the third MFT camera I owned. And the GM5 has it all. Well maybe except a stabilized sensor. This is actually the reason why I would like to get a second MFT body, the Panasonic GX80. But that is material for another post. Coming back to the GM5, to me it combines a very small package with all the functions I could wish for. Very important for me is the electronic finder that I use a lot.

blogger camera

And the lens I “lately” discovered to work best for my cigar shots, is the Olympus 75mm f1.8. Because of MFT sensor-size the 75mm translates into 150mm, if compared to a full-frame camera system, and this makes this lens a larger fixed focus tele-lens. Compared to other telephoto-lenses it is still very small and has autofocus which I desperately need as my keeper rate with manual focus is significantly lower in product shots. Another advantage is, that f1.8 is rather fast, so I can still get a nice picture in a dimly light smoker lounge or inside of a closed room with artificial lighting. And this with the Olympus 75mm’s much praised sharpness.

And last but not least, the 75mm allows me to take a product-picture from a distance I feel comfortable with. I do not have to lean-in like crazy. Actually I do not have lean-in at all or only if I want to get a macro shot. For macro shots I do not use a dedicated second lens, if not I go the cheap way. I use a screw-on macro lens, I got from Amazon. Sure, the image quality is worse when compared with a dedicated lens. I am sure. But I can carry this screw-on lens in my bag together with the GM5 and attached 75mm lens and all the other stuff I need, on a night out to smoke, no problem. And since major parts of macro pictures are always blurred anyway, I do not feel the loss in quality is that bad.

Panasonic GM5 Panasonic 100-400mm Olympus 75mm Samyang Fisheye

When it comes to the Olympus 75mm another point is that I like the background blur (bokeh) it produces. It is very pleasant to me. And the hokey is obviously a product of being a fast and a telephoto lens. I like it more than bokeh from other lenses, e.g. the 45mm’s.

That said, background blur is a bit of the Achilles heel of MFT. But it seems that better and faster lenses for the MFT system are released by the month. So this is really making up for the smaller sensor. This is for instance why I really like the Mitakon 25mm f0.95 manual focus lens. Being made for MFT it still offers sufficient leeway by having enough depth of field to forgive smaller focusing mistakes when taking a picture with manual focus. But the overall picture it produces, for me, can easily hold up with pictures taken on bigger and more expensive setups. And the pictures made with this 25mm lens have this sort of pop and character that I look for. This is why, when not taking pictures for this blog, the Mitakon 25mm is practically glued to the GM5.

As can be seen in the picture above and mentioned in the introduction, I use my GM5 for every photographical challenge. This is why, next to the 25mm and the 75mm I have a fisheye lens from Rokinon to go really wide. To go really far I have the rather new Panasonic 100-400. The 100-400 translates into 200-800mm which is an incredible reach. Together with the in-lense stabilization this is as good as it gets. And this while it still fits into one of my small Freitag bags, leaving room for other lenses or cameras. Even though I have this lens for only a few weeks, I prefer it over the 100-300 from Panny already. It obviously has more reach. But call me crazy: I think the stabilization helps me to get shares images as well. And an honorable mention goes to the holga-filters that I put on once a year, when I feel really artsy. 🙂

Panasonic GM5 MS-Optics Apoqualia 28mm Voigtländer 10mm

One of the advantages of a mirrorless camera as well is the possibility to adapt third-party lenses to it. Since the distance from sensor to lens-mount is so short, there is room to mount an adapter and practically use every lens produced. That is with two restrictions:

a) Adapting a lens will enable you to use it with manual focus only. At least for the moment there are not many adaptors that transfer the signal from the camera to the lens, so manual focus has to do.

b) Due to sensor-size you have to multiply the lenses size by two. So a 50mm lens from Nikon turns into a 100mm used with an MFT camera.

But those two restrictions, in my case, are not so relevant because I am a wide angle junkie and the lenses I posses are manual focus anyway. 🙂 In the picture above you can see the MS-Optics 28mm F2.0 with M-Mount attached to the FM5 and on the side there is the M-Mount Voigtländer 10mm. On the GM5 I can use them as fast 56mm prime lens or as a ultra wide 20mm lens. But most importantly is that I enjoy shooting with them a lot!

Finally a short word considering the accessories seen in the pictures. The green leather camera case is from Cotta. The wrist strap is from gordyscamerastraps. And to make some of the pictures I used a Gorilla Pad.

Hope you found some good, usable information in this post and got some inspiration for a blogger camera. Or possibly not only for a blogger camera! After having played around (for years) with other systems like Nikon and Sony, I can say that I am very happy with my MFT setup! And in case you want to see more, and not only gear-pictures, you can check out my photo blog, including a link to my flickr-page: frontlefteye.com. 🙂

My other camera bag

Written by feltedhat on . Posted in Photo

Since the post about my Freitag bag is still one of the most popular ones on my blog according to the amount of hits it gets, I thought I could post about my other bag too. 🙂

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And here it is. It is the Freitag HAWAII FIVE-O and like all the bags from this Swiss company it is made from second hand material. Namely truck tarp, bicycle inner tubes and seat belts. One very convenient thing for me is that I can adjust the shoulder strap. With that I can vary the spot where it touches my back or if I want the bag to be higher up to get a better look onto what is inside of it I can do this very fast and conveniently (and this is great when fumbling around with lenses or changing the battery on the go).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Like my other bag I use this one as a photo bag too and I can easily carry one camera with an additional lens in this smart bag and as you can see from the picture there is even space for a second camera! Keys, handy, additional batteries and many other small things can be nicely stowed away as well. And so far I am not missing foam padding or compartments – at all. I simply put my cameras in a cloth bag (like the red one that can be seen in the picture) or I pack the lenses in a soft pouch and in they go! It can actually fit a big DSLR including tele zoom (in my case a 28-300mm) and I could even squeeze in a compact camera or a small lens. No problemo.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I own this bag for a few months now and I am very happy with it as I was looking for a smaller bag to just carry around one camera and a few accessories/lenses. Most of the time when I want to go out and take pictures I have my “main” camera in my hand anyway so a bigger bag with just one lens remaining in it was simply too much. So this small and light bag really fits this bill perfectly. Plus due to the truck tarp it can take rain with no problem at all! I couldn’t think of a better (small) photo bag.

Rangefinder – shoot film

Written by feltedhat on . Posted in Camera gear

No cigars and no Brandy here as I would like to write a few lines about ‘my other hobby’: photography. In particular this post is about rangefinder cameras and about me starting out to shoot film.

At first some words of theory for the ones of us not being camera gear heads. A rangefinder is a camera that works with two overlapping images that have to be aligned/fused by turning/adjusting a wheel or the lens. Once the image coincides the area is sharp, respectively the camera knows the distance to the sharp part of the image. In other words you are looking at a camera that has its design principle invented decades before (the todays pre-dominant) Single Lens Reflex cameras (SLRs) which work with a mirror.

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In order to learn more about photography my (hobby related) new years resolution was “shoot film”. In particular with older cameras that do not contain a computer that outperforms the one NASA used to land on the moon in the Sixties and thus does all the thinking for the modern photographer. I wanted to be forced to really go into understanding aperture, shutter time, etc. and live with the consequences of my doing including more limited post processing possibilities.

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But why range finders? Well, I was bitten by the Leica bug about two years ago and after some figuring out how to finance this I got myself a used M8 and a Canadian made 35mm Summicron on ebay. And I loved it immediately! It made me use the camera more consciously as I was forced to think and take my time to take the picture. And the resulting images, how they are rendered, the colors and the details were simply magical to me! After a while I lusted for the full frame M9 because of even more details, CCD sensor rendering and colors and no more crop factor calculations. I made some re-arrangements (sold the M8 and some other stuff) to get a good used copy together with a new Summilux 50mm ASPH. The results coming out of the M9, if properly done, really blow my mind up until today and it is my favorite digital camera bar none. Seeking for an additional excuse to own insanely expensive Leica glass then made think on how I can re-use the lenses on another camera body. Coupled with the fixed idea of wanting to shoot film I got hold of a beat up M4-2. After a little service, repairing the Vulcanite and some ‘tape-work’ I am very happy how this fully mechanic camera handles. I yet have to see how the pictures really come out as I am still experimenting with different films. Last but not least I stumbled over a nice opportunity to get a Leica IIf that was (and is) in very nice shape and I could not resist to get my hands on this almost 60 year old thread mount jewel as well.

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Apart from the Leicas I am lucky enough that I am allowed to use my dad’s Swiss made Alpa Reflex rangefinder built in the 1940ies by a former watch maker company. I used this camera before, back in the 80ies and early 90ies when digital photography was not even invented and I liked it. But somehow over the years I have completely forgotten about it. You can imagine that when I set myself the goal to shoot film this camera was on the top of my list and I am happy to say that I am currently running the first roll of film through it since 20 years. I wonder if the old and dusty, but back then highly regarded, Agenieux 50mm 2.9 lens is still capable of taking good pictures?

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Another rangefinder in my ‘possession’ is the Voigtländer Vitessa. This one was my dad’s as well and spend a good 40 years in a box in the cellar before I discovered it a few month back by mere coincident. First I wasn’t sure what to do with it but before I am going to make a decision here I will run some film through it. 🙂 While the 3.5 minimum aperture lens is not to my liking – did I mention that I am a real sucker for fast glass?!? – I find the way the Vitessa handles very appealing, the range finder window is nice and bright and the camera is very easy to operate with the wheel to get things in focus.

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Last but not least there is my newest aquisition: the Nikon S2. In fact it is so new that I did not even load it with film yet. But I was always curious to go back to the origins of Nikon and see what the genetic pool for modern DSLRs looks, feels and handles like. And I am particularly intrigued by the fact that the S2 has a fast 1.4 50mm Nikkor lens – remember, I love fast glass. Looking very much forward to use this one in the field.

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Most of the cameras in this post are much older than I am. So I am very impressed on how this dusty and rusty cameras handle! Nevertheless I am sure that until the end of the year I will sell some of the cameras again as there are only so many cameras I can use and own. But in the meantime working with extra ordinary rangefinders from the last 60 years is a real pleasure and a special treat!

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Since this post only has pictures of gear I would like to take the opportunity to point out my own photo blog: www.frontlefteye.com – go pay it a visit from time to time. And don’t forget my Facebook entries as there is even more content (this goes for feltedhat as well as frontlefteye). There are no film photos online yet but this will change, promised. 🙂

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