As a working advertising photographer for many decades, it was a simple business decision to transition from film photography to digital photography. No one questions the speed, instant feedback, and yes, overall quality of digital images.
So why would a photographer choose to go fully “retro” and shoot 4×5 sheet film with a vintage view camera? Is there any good reason these days to hide under a dark cloth and move the controls of a classic camera made of wood, while struggling with an upside-down image?
It turns out that there are lots of valid reasons to shoot with an analog view camera, and this savvy digital photographer would like to explain a few of them to you.
Note: The above image shows me with my Graflex 4×5 view camera. You can handhold a camera like this and it can produce a negative that can be scanned to mural-size digital files. Cameras such as this can be found used for $300 or so with a lens.
#1 A View Camera Forces You to Slow Down
Film photography is not an instant process. If you are using a view camera, film photography really slows down, because you have to load film holders, insert them into the camera, close and cock the camera shutter, stop down the aperture, remove the dark slide on the film holder, and finally, trip the shutter.
And that’s for a single exposure. Added to that is the time needed to develop the film, and either scan the film into the digital domain, or, if you’ve really gone retro, go into the darkroom to make a print on old-fashioned photosensitive paper.
On the other hand, there is something quite calming—and productive—about the slow pace of view camera shooting because it forces you to plan your shots. I have to admit, when using a digital camera, it is far too tempting to just click away without much forethought, with the expectation that something good will result if you just fire away long enough.
You might argue that you can look at the results instantly on the camera display, and that is true. However, being able to see ten bad pictures on the screen of your camera is still ten bad pictures.
I have learned that the deliberation needed for view camera photography goes a long way towards honing my “eye” so that I go right to a “keeper” shot. Often the time involved is actually a “wash” because I don’t have to wade through a pile of unsuccessful digital images. That single 4×5 sheet of film covers the job.
On a side note, let me comment on the dismay of digital shooters when they realize that the ground glass image on the view camera is upside-down. Yes, this is off-putting at first, but I can tell you from personal experience that it actually helps final image quality. Painters will often invert their work to judge balance and composition, and the upside-down image on the ground glass helps in the same way.
Furthermore, when you are looking at an image measuring 4×5 inches, it is easier to judge composition and the relation of objects to each other. It’s almost like having a 4×5-inch screen on the back of a digital camera. Details that you might overlook due to their small size are now obvious. This is not a trivial benefit of that large ground glass image.
#2 View Camera Perspective and Depth of Field Is Unique
Without getting into too much optical mumbo-jumbo, let me say that view camera images exhibit a different look and feel from images taken with digital sensors. Because the “normal” lens for large format is much longer than the “normal” lens of a full frame digital camera, images often have a pronounced three-dimension feel to them, a combination of shallow depth of focus and some other more subtle optical differences. It’s the opposite effect of cell phone pictures, where everything is in focus. Thus, it is a creative tool when used properly, with the ability to bring attention to certain image areas while also pushing into softness other image areas.
Taking advantage of this ability is a learned skill, to be sure, but in the right hands produces some lovely effects in portraiture and close-up images and never looks forced as with computer manipulations in post-production. The large ground glass image helps with this, for reasons mentioned above.
#3 An Ideal Architectural Tool
It has become somewhat of a lost art but the control you have with a view camera and architectural subjects can’t be beat. Because the lens and film plane can be moved independently with a view camera, you can achieve parallel vertical lines on building edges, eliminating the “falling backwards” look you get when you point a digital camera upwards. I see this often in pictures for real estate ads.
The various perspective-control lenses available for digital cameras are an attempt to duplicate the tilt adjustment of a view camera, and they do work up to a point. However, they don’t solve the problem of having to view the image on a small screen, where discerning small errors in framing and perspective is not possible.
Most view cameras also permit a “swing” adjustment, which can be used to bring a “near” object on one side into sharp focus along with a “far” object on an opposite side, all without stopping down to pinhole apertures. This is the kind of control that you really can’t achieve with a digital camera equipped with a fixed lens.
#4 Sheet Film Is Easily Scanned
I use a hybrid workflow when shooting sheet film. I develop the film in a daylight drum for black-and-white and send out the film for color. The sheets then go into an Epson V750 flatbed scanner for conversion to TIFF digital files. Because of the 4×5-inch negative size, the scanner does not have to be set for insane levels of resolution to produce large data files. Yet, if you wish, you could order out a high-end drum scan and get a file big enough to print out wall-size murals.
Compared to the aggravation of dealing with curly strips of 35mm or 120 film, loading and scanning 4×5 sheet film is low stress. The film is thick in comparison and sits flat in the negative holder. The smaller magnification that is typical means you don’t see minor dust or scratches.
#5 Sheet Film Is “Self-Archiving”
Digital photography requires constant attention to data integrity and preservation. By necessity, photographers make sure to keep backup copies of images, usually multiple backups in different physical locations; otherwise, they risk losing images to power failures, memory card failures or human error. All of this takes time and attention and is one of the more unpleasant chores of a digital workflow.
Film images on a negative, on the other hand, archive themselves. Once recorded on the film surface, a picture is pretty much there for good, assuming you don’t physically ruin the film. Especially in the case of black-and-white film, the image consists of metallic silver, whose longevity is measured in centuries, with color emulsions stable for decades if stored properly.
There is, in short, something reassuring about film images, a feeling that they will be around after digital images are lost to simple carelessness, or, at the other extreme, a world-wide Internet calamity.
I would advise letting a lab do your film processing at first. Later it is not hard to process film yourself and I find that step oddly enjoyable and relaxing in the same way as taking the picture in the first place. Then it’s off to your scanner, and most likely the results will provide an interesting alternative to the frantic pace of your go-to digital camera.
If you’re interested in learning more about shooting 4×5 sheet film with a view camera, be on the lookout for my follow-up story on Digital Photo Pro detailing how to get started with this type of photography. I’ll also include a series of sample images I shot recently with a view camera and 4×5 sheet film.
We’ve got all the best Labor Day camera sales rounded up here to go alongside all the other great Labor Day sales that are out there right now. Whether you’re looking for an inexpensive point-and-shoot camera or want to commit to the latest in mirrorless camera technology, there are some fantastic Labor Day camera deals going on right now. Each is sure to save you plenty of cash providing you know what you’re doing. That’s why alongside rounding up all the best Labor Day camera sales, we’ve also taken the time to look at whether now is the right time to buy a new camera and rounded up everything you need to know about how to choose a camera on Labor Day. Read on while we guide you through everything you need to know.
Labor Day Camera Deals 2021
Should you buy a camera on Labor Day?
Do you need a new camera? It’s a really obvious but important question. It’s incredibly tempting to be lured in by the Labor Day camera sales and buy something that you might not necessarily need. Think before you hit the buy button. If your existing camera works just fine or you know you won’t really use it then hold out and don’t buy one.
Once you’ve figured that out, consider what your budget is. Cameras can cost a little or a huge sum of money. It all depends on what you want it to do and how powerful you want it to be. Not everyone needs the most expensive camera but also, if you have big plans, you don’t want to scrimp and buy one that lacks the features you require. Plan your finances accordingly.
Of course, Labor Day camera sales are a great time to spend more to get a lot back for your money. It’s good to future proof so if you can, spend a little extra and enjoy more features for less than you’d ordinarily pay. It’s wise to do your research beforehand though and know exactly what you’re getting into before you make an expensive purchase. That’s why we’re here to help out. Resist spending too much even if the Labor Day camera deals are really tempting.
When it comes to timing, Labor Day is a fairly good time to make a technology purchase. The summer has been relatively quiet since Prime Day, and Black Friday is still a couple of months away. While Black Friday is great for technology purchases, by buying now, you get an extra couple of months with your shiny new camera. Labor Day camera sales are one of your last chances to get a good offer before the winter, after all.
If you hold out until Black Friday, you might grab a better deal than those available via the Labor Day camera deals out there but it’s not guaranteed. It also means you’ll need to spend money on a new camera in time for the holidays when money might be tighter while you juggle holiday expenses. Plus you get some extra time to perfect your photography skills before the holidays. Black Friday is a good time for any technology purchase but it’s no longer guaranteed to be the best time so it’s understandably tempting to go for it now, rather than wait for a later sale.
Just remember — don’t be tempted by a new camera unless you really need one. You don’t want to spend cash you don’t have simply because you were lured into a sale. That’s why it’s a good move to do your research and know what you’re looking for before you buy a new camera, whatever your budget. Fortunately, we’ve got you covered on that front before you hit the Labor Day camera sales.
Crucially, your budget is a vital part of the buying process. By knowing how much you can spend, you’ll know if you can afford a mirrorless camera or if you need to stick with a point-and-shoot camera instead. The best digital cameras for you aren’t necessarily the same as for other people. In the case of point-and-shoot cameras, they can be compact and affordable, while others can offer advanced features including full manual controls and large sensors. It all depends on your budget and needs. The key thing to note though is that you can’t remove the lens from the camera like with other devices.
Advanced compact point-and-shoot cameras can cost hundreds of dollars which is why they’re worth seeking out in the Labor Day camera sales but they can also cost just $100-$200 too depending on what you need.
Another option is to go with a mirrorless camera. The best mirrorless cameras are expensive but offer a ton of versatility. Superior to the best DSLR cameras, they offer superior image quality, faster performance, and all without the bulk of a DSLR. That’s because they don’t have a mirror like a DSLR and nor do they have an optical viewfinder. That can take some getting used to but they provide fantastic results. Mirrorless models cost from $500 to several thousands so it’s worth knowing exactly what you’re getting into.
Then there are DSLR cameras. They cover the same price range as mirrorless cameras with options for consumers to professional tastes, but they offer electronic viewfinders and a mirror too. They also generally have fantastic battery life but they’re bulky and heavier than mirrorless cameras. Generally, first-time camera buyers should go with a mirrorless camera instead of a DSLR but that may depend on the deal you come across.
Read up on the features each camera offers and work out what’s best for your budget. It’s important to consider how high-end you need to go and what megapixel range you require. Although, bear in mind that the physical size of the sensor matters more to image quality than the number of pixels on it. You also want to consider how portable you need your camera to be as if it’s awkward to carry, you may find yourself sticking to your smartphone to take snaps. Speed is also useful as you won’t want to miss out on a good opportunity to take a great photo fast.
Budget is a key component here but look out for popular and well-regarded brands like Canon and Nikon for DSLRs and Sony and Olympus for point-and-shoot cameras. Steer clear of unknown names if you want great performance when looking through the Labor Day camera sales.
We strive to help our readers find the best deals on quality products and services, and we choose what we cover carefully and independently. The prices, details, and availability of the products and deals in this post may be subject to change at anytime. Be sure to check that they are still in effect before making a purchase.
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As we’ve reviewed the majority of Sony E-Mount and FE mount lenses to date, we thought we’d put the top-scoring lenses into a list so you can easily see which are the best, and what options are available. You can use Sony E-Mount and FE-Mount lenses on all Sony E-Mount mirrorless cameras, which includes the Sony Alpha 7 series, the Alpha 9, the Sony Alpha A6000 series and the Sony Alpha A5000 series.
A Little Lens Background
You can use Full-Frame FE-mount lenses on APS-C Sony E-Mount cameras, and this will give you a 1.5x crop of the lens. For example, a full-frame 50mm lens will give the equivalent of a 75mm lens. You can also use APS-C E-mount lenses on full-frame Sony E-Mount cameras, and this will use a cropped area of the sensor, with the resolution of the image depending on the camera used. This will make an APS-C 50mm lens equivalent to 75mm.
Sony FE 100mm f/2.8 STF GM OSS
A new leader, the Sony FE 100mm f/2.8 STF GM OSS is, no doubt, an amazing lens and the use of an apodization element adds something very special. It would be easy to think of this in too narrow a way, but the obvious application is of course for portraiture. This could give that something extra to images where already, to be fair, we can get beautiful bokeh with existing lenses. But this does go the extra mile, offering outstanding sharpness as well as that vital, gorgeous bokeh. The lens is actually a total pleasure to use.
Offering outstanding sharpness with sublime bokeh, it’s a magnificent lens.
The Samyang 85mm f/1.4 is our leading third party lens. It offers even sharpness, a fast and bright f/1.4 aperture as well as excellent manufacturing quality for a very fair price. The lens is also weather-sealed and will prove to be an excellent portrait lens.
This is a large and impressive looking lens that offers an equally impressive performance. Sharpness is excellent and Chromatic Aberration is almost zero centrally and generally kept under one pixel at the edges. At f/22 diffraction reduces edge sharpness but results remain good and flare is also totally absent. Images have good contrast and almost anything can be added to the shooting repertoire for the Sony FE 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS.
The Sony G Master FE 70-200mm f/2.8 OSS is, without a doubt, a very fine lens. It operates smoothly and is very well made, however it is worth taking care when shooting against the light. Bokeh is excellent but edges do show some signs of fringing, particularly at 200mm where it becomes quite obvious in some subjects, such as branches against the bright sky. This can, however, be easily corrected in software so it’s not really anything to worry about. Sharpness figures are superb and it is also extremely even from centre to edge, giving a very precise overall crispness. Some may think the price is a little high but for what the lens offers, Sony E-mount users may consider it an excellent buy.
The Sony FE 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 G Master is a superb lens in every way, offering excellent image quality, outstanding sharpness and very well controlled CA. Distortion levels are low, AF is silent and the bokeh the lens produces can only be described as beautiful.
Zeiss optics are always going to give you a level of build quality and elegance of design that other manufacturers can fall short on. The Batis 40mm f/2 CF is a lens that produces crisp, clean images, justifying its price tag in terms of the image quality you get. We praised it for its insignificant CA levels, no flare, and a relaxed and pleasant bokeh quality.
Sony G Master is the premium lens series of Sony’s arsenal, and this Sony FE 24mm f/1.4 doesn’t disappoint. It performed impeccably at a competitive price point. It earned an editor’s choice award for its superb sharpness throughout, fast and silent AF, and gorgeous bokeh. It also features a declickable diaphragm for video applications.
The Sigma 28mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art is a fast, bright lens that can be used for a wide range of shooting applications. It handles well, with a precise focus and superb results. The price is fair for the quality of image you can achieve. The lens is also dust and splashproof and has beautiful bokeh.
This compact, high quality and reasonably priced AF 24mm f/2.8 FE lens has excellent sharpness at the centre and edge, virtually no distortion and fast and accurate AF. It’s a classic and compelling focal length to use, making it a great third party lens choice.
Another third-party contender, Sigma offer their 56mm f/1.4 lens at a competitive price, with superb performance and superb sharpness. It has smooth bokeh, a high-quality build and moisture and dust sealing. It’s an editor’s choice for its unobtrusive design that works efficiently.
Even though this lens is ideal for portrait photography, the Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM is actually ideal for a wide variety of subjects. It’s a very fine lens that’s incredibly well made and is a joy to use. Resistance to flare is excellent, sharpness is outstanding and CA (chromatic aberration) is almost zero in the centre of the field, and is contained to less than one pixel at the edges. Distortion is also commendably low and the lens produces beautiful bokeh. It’s superb in every respect and received the ‘Editor’s Choice’ accolade as a result.
Some lenses are a real pleasure to use, and the Samyang AF 35mm f/2.8 FE falls into this category. The technical quality is excellent, the AF is fast and accurate and the results look punchy with superb colour rendition.
In terms of value, it’s hard to argue with such a modestly priced lens when it performs so well. Weather resistance would be nice, as would full-time manual focus in AF mode, but apart from that the lens pretty much hits the spot. It is certainly an excellent match for the Sony mirrorless range for which it has been designed.
If you love ultra-wide lenses, then the Sony FE 14mm F/1.8 G Master Lens could well be the one that will hit the spot. The dynamic compositions that are possible are unique to this type of optic, and on top of that, we have an absolutely superb optical performance, far in excess of what the first lenses that I have mentioned were capable of. The price seems high, but it is competitive compared with the alternatives, and we do have that fast f/1.8 aperture.
For architecture, landscapes, interiors, special effects and all sorts of image-making, the look of a 14mm is awesome, although it does need some thought to be given to the composition to extract the best out of it. It is especially true that we need to get in closer, and closer, to avoid an image with tiny subjects in a wide, empty space. Fortunately, the lens focuses close enough to make this easy. It is also very useful for shooting small models, such as the doll’s house picture, as it opens up the subject and it looks more realistic.
A lovely lens indeed, and definitely ‘Highly Recommended’.
What a delightful lens this is to use. It has an elegant simplicity, performs superbly well and is a useful, if somewhat unusual, focal length. Of particular note are the high and even sharpness, centre and edge vying through the aperture range for supremacy, the resistance to flare and the general ease of use.
The 40mm focal length has been tried many times over the years and is a popular choice, not as wide as a 35mm and yet not as restrictive as a 50mm. All these focal lengths fall into the description of a “standard lens”, and the 40mm could be seen as an excellent compromise. One that handles as well as this and performs as strongly especially so.
What a delight to have such a light and compact lens that handles superbly and delivers excellent sharpness both centre and edge. 24mm is such a useful wide-angle and it is quite surprising that there are so few prime lenses of this focal length currently on the market. Those that do exist tend to be much larger, fast lenses for DSLRs, and also much more expensive. Of course, there are many zooms that cover 24mm, even at f/2.8, but they are comparatively bulky and expensive and this new lens is a very different sort of beast.
The Sigma 135mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art is a really sharp lens, with excellent handling and beautiful bokeh, which makes a powerful mix. Although many photographers have felt that 135mm was slightly too long for a short portrait telephoto, perhaps looking at 100mm instead, with this Sigma the close focusing seems to be a game-changer. Whereas the 135mm often stopped short at 4 feet or so, at just over 3 feet this new lens makes the tight head shot absolutely possible and probably tips the balance. Coupled with a truly splendid performance, Sigma has a winner, without a doubt.
The Sony FE 135mm f/1.8 G Master is indeed a very impressive lens. In terms of design, ergonomics and performance it cannot be faulted. It is expensive, and that is really the only downside to a lens that will produce the goods and offers the potential of a very long service life.
A superb choice for Sony FE mount full-frame users and as such Highly Recommend.
The Sony FE 85mm f/1.8 lens is superb to use, and also superb in many ways in terms of its performance. The lower cost compared to most 85mm lens does not seem to have reduced the performance at all. So full credit to Sony for achieving this. The one weakness is the tendency to flare against the light, which is a shame, but it need not be a deal-breaker, depending on the sort of image-making we do.
To summarise, an excellent performance from a well-priced lens and one that can easily be Highly Recommended.
With a high level of performance and a pleasing character, the Samyang AF 45mm f/1.8 FE lens has plenty of potential to become a favourite. There are some parameters that may need some additional correction in software, not really an issue as the solutions are there. It is light and compact and generally just delivers the goods in a simple, discrete package. When used for street photography, it can be an advantage to use an unobtrusive lens.
There is some flare and there is no weather sealing, so these are a couple of disadvantages, but to be absolutely fair, the price tag is a very attractive one and generally, the Samyang AF 45mm f/1.8 FE lens is a delight to use. Highly recommended.
Zeiss Batis 135mm f/2.8 Apo Sonnar T* (Full-Frame)
The Zeiss Batis 135mm f/2.8 Apo Sonnar T* lens is a beauty, of that there is no doubt. It oozes quality and there would appear to be little downside to it apart from the price. A lens to aspire to and, if it can be afforded, to put very high on the list of possible purchases.
The Zeiss Planar T* FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA full-frame prime lens is designed to be used with Sony E-Mount cameras and it’s another excellent offering from Zeiss / Sony. Image quality is excellent, sharpness is superb and CA (Chromatic Aberration) is very much under control. Flare does have some effect and when shooting against the light there can be a drop in contrast and there is a small amount of barrel distortion but really, it’s an insignificant figure. The bokeh of the lens is very smooth and overall, images are crisp and clear.
Zoom lenses do have strengths and weaknesses in their performance, but there is little to complain about with this Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM lens. Sharpness at its best is excellent to outstanding, CA and distortion can be addressed in software, although centrally CA is very well controlled anyway and flare is non-existent. Images are excellent and the bokeh is indeed beautiful in fact, it’s quite sublime at times. The Sony lens represents a level of performance that can only be found in the most expensive lenses. It is itself quite expensive, but given that prices may yet ease over time it is within the realms of being a realistic price.
The Samyang AF 35mm f/1.4 FE lens is a very attractive proposition for those seeking a fast 35mm lens. The quality is uniformly excellent and the price much lower than the marque alternatives. All in all, the lens is excellent value for money.
Our lens reviewer described this lens as a ‘belter’ and thanks to its price point, sharpness levels and overall image quality, it’s easy to see why. The Sony NEX 50mm f/1.8 OSS does have a few Chromatic aberration problems but this flaw is easily overlooked taking into account this lens’ positive attributes. Autofocus is very fast and accurate and optical stabilisation is a nice feature to have and it allows sharp hand held images to be taken in around half the time with shutter speeds as low as 1/10sec.
The Meike 85mm f/2.8 Macro lens is a well made, well-priced lens that will do the job efficiently and to an excellent standard.
As a general-purpose short telephoto for portraits, landscapes, etc., it may be that the loss of AF will be an inconvenience. However, in the arena of macro shooting, this lens comes into its own, being what it is clearly designed for. Very often MF is the method of choice for macro shooting anyway. All the accuracy of the focusing is concentrated in the macro range and the image snaps clearly into focus in the viewfinder or on the monitor screen.
Expensive, but outstanding. That is the simple equation, the choice that is there. Definitely, the Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 G Master lens is one to aspire to and one that upholds the fine performance levels of the G Master range. The focal length range is versatile, the aperture a fast and constant f/2.8 and the construction quality of a very high order. In conclusion, a very desirable lens.
The Sigma 65mm f/2 DG DN Contemporary is another superb I-series lens from Sigma that offers outstanding sharpness, low central CA, good flare resistance and pleasant bokeh. Construction is excellent, the body is dust/splash-proof and the lens comes with a 3-year guarantee.
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Sigma 35mm f/2 DG DN Contemporary
Make no mistake, this is a beautiful lens that has a really strong performance. It’s very close to ideal anyway and with its all-metal construction and very fine optical performance (albeit with in-camera corrections switched on if necessary), we don’t have any hesitation in giving the Sigma 35mm f/2 DG DN Contemporary the accolade of Highly Recommended.
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Sony FE 70-200mm f/4 G OSS (Full-Frame)
This lens is a high-level performer that does the job efficiently. Don’t be put off by the f/4 maximum aperture as it’s not really much of a disadvantage. In fact, the size and cost of the lens actually make it a serious contender for those in the market for a new telephoto lens. The only slight drawback is the possibility of some flare, but fortunately, this does not seem to be a major problem. Our reviewer was happy to ‘Highly Recommend’ the 70-200mm f/4 G OSS and said it was ideally suited to the Sony Alpha 7R II.
The Sony E35mm f/1.8 OSS might seem expensive but the performance it delivers does make it a worthwhile purchase. Sharpness is very good from maximum aperture, and can even be considered as outstanding as the lens is stopped down. Other optical anomalies, such as CAs, falloff and distortion are also kept well in check and the lens is lightweight as well as compact which will please many.
The Sigma AF 16mm f/1.4 DC DN Contemporary lens gives excellent performance, a reasonable price and a very bright f/1.4 maximum aperture, which all add up to a very desirable package, that will be appealing for both Micro Four Thirds and Sony E-Mount photographers.
The Sony FE 24-105mm f/4 G OSS performs very well indeed on a technical level, but also produces clean, sharp, smooth images that give overall an impressive aesthetic result. If anything is a bit weak it is the CA performance, although that can be corrected for those images that demand it. Overall, however, it’s a great result and we have a sharp, crisp lens with close focusing, fast and silent AF, impressive flare resistance, superb control of distortion and at par for the course price. Highly recommended.
The Tamron 70-300mm f/4.5-6.3 Di III RXD lens is a pure delight to use. It does its job admirably, without any glitches or vices getting in the way of enjoying our photography. The optical performance is not perfect, although at the centre of the field it is excellent throughout. The edges at wider apertures are weaker, but even this need not be too much of a problem as it does open up some nice portrait possibilities as well as offering a selection of apertures where the images are indeed crisp right across the frame. Being aware of the lens’s characteristics enables us to work with it to produce the images we want.
Overall, a lovely lens that is well priced and works well with the Sony camera body. Highly recommended.
The Sony FE 12-24mm f/4 G is expensive, but also excellent, which is always a dilemma. Easy to handle, superb central performance, huge potential creatively, there is so much to like about the lens. There is no doubt this is a very worthy choice for, especially, full-frame Sony users.
The Laowa lenses as a range are certainly very interesting, sometimes unique and always deliver the goods in terms of performance. Traditional metal construction does mean a higher price, but we have to choose whether the trade-off of quality of results balances out the cost/performance equation. This will obviously be different for different users.
What we get is the widest lens in its class, with a fast, bright f/2.8 aperture, that performs very well indeed.
The Laowa 9mm f/2.8 is a compact, widest in class lens with fast f/2.8 aperture and excellent overall performance
The Loxia range is an attractive proposition, with useful focal lengths and, if the 25mm f/2.4 is anything to go by, excellent qualities. The new 25mm f/2.4 is compact, beautiful to use in a most traditional way, full of the tactile high grade feel that is rarely seen. The price may be slightly on the high side, but then again what price quality? Some may question the manual focus, but with this lens, it is so easy to find the point of focus that with minimal practice it should soon become second nature. Admittedly that will not suit everyone.
All in all, a lovely lens that matches well to the Sony FE full-frame mirrorless cameras.
This lens delivers a performance worthy of the Carl Zeiss name, especially in the centre of the frame, where sharpness is excellent, or even outstanding when stopped down. The Zeiss 24mm f/1.8 Sonnar T* lens is a premium piece of glass that doesn’t disappoint. Contrast holds up very well when shooting into the light and there are very few instances of flare, even in very harsh lighting conditions. Sharpness is excellent but there are a few problems with CA, however, the amount of fringing will be acceptable for many.
The Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 is a lovely lens that’s designed well, is a pleasure to use and the results ooze quality. The OLED display is actually quite useful and the construction quality is impeccable. The only thing not to like is perhaps the price, but it starts to look much better value when pitched against other premium quality lenses. Overall, the Zeiss Batis 85mm f/2 is a beautiful premium lens for full-frame E-Mount users.
The Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2 is an exquisite premium lens for full-frame E-Mount users. There’s nothing really negative to say about it as design, the way it handles and the images it produces are all superb. There was a tiny issue with CA (nothing that can’t be corrected) and the price might put some people off but overall, it’s a pleasure to use and construction is impeccable, just as you expect from a brand such as Zeiss.
The Sony FE 28mm f/2 has a lot going for it, delivering high levels of sharpness in a lightweight and compact body that has a reasonable asking price. It’s a shame the aperture has to be stopped down to improve performance towards the edges of the frame and to reduce chromatic aberrations, but overall the lens performs well. The lens is quite resistant to flare although contrast can be noticeably reduced when shooting into the light.
The Meike 50mm f/1.7 is on the budget side of prime lenses however it does offer you impressive, even sharpness, a metal construction and low CA as well as low distortion for Just over £100. It’s also weather-resistant so you can shoot with it in inclement situations.
The price alone will ensure the Sony E PZ 18-200mm f/e.5-6.3 OSS becomes a niche item, but if money is no object, and you require the best quality, most convenient solution for general picture taking, then this lens could be for you. This lens is quite resistant to flare and retains good contrast, even when shooting into the light and Chromatic aberrations are pretty well controlled. Sharpness levels are excellent and so is the build quality.
Zeiss has, yet again, produced a lens with optical characteristics worthy of the Zeiss reputation, that’s well designed and solidly built. Although the Carl Zeiss Touit 12mm f/2.8 T* does carry a premium price, the additional cost isn’t so much that it will put this lens beyond the reach of everyone, especially those serious about using quality glass with their camera. Sharpness levels are excellent, Chromatic aberrations towards the edges of the frame are very well controlled and shouldn’t pose issues for most images, distortion is very mild and falloff of illumination towards the corners of the frame is incredibly well controlled.
As a general-purpose lens, a good 18-135mm is hard to beat on APS-C format cameras. The close focus and long reach lend themselves well to close-ups such as flower studies. The 18mm wide-angle can accommodate most architecture and landscapes. The close focus means small object photography is simple, and quality of results at these close distances are well maintained.
The Sony lens generally performs well, but with caveats. Central sharpness is fine until we reach small apertures of f/16 and beyond, but beyond that detail is soon lost. The edges are quite poor when longer focal lengths are used, although the centre still sparkles crisply. This in itself can be used creatively for portraiture and other close-ups.
Although not perfect, the Sony E 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS lens is still a very good choice for general photography and capable of delivering good, bright and sharp images.
KamLan has a simple, ambitiously specified lens for a very low price. It is well made, performs well and, within the limitations of manual focus and lagging edge quality, it is still a lens that delivers something very useful. The bright f/1.1 aperture is one thing and the gorgeous bokeh is another. The lens is not technically perfect, but it does have excellent photographic, creative qualities that could be used to advantage. At £126, there is little to lose.
Minamata, an interesting new movie about famous US photographer W. Eugene Smith, goes on UK release today, starring Johnny Depp. There has been controversy around Depp’s involvement, however, with the director accusing MGM of burying the movie because of the headlines surrounding Depp’s recent libel case
Minamata, a long-anticipated biographical drama starring Johnny Depp as war and documentary photographer W. Eugene Smith, is released across the UK and Ireland today. It tells the story of how Smith, a celebrated but reclusive photographer, was commissioned by Life magazine to cover the Minamata disaster in Japan from 1971-4.
Bill Nighy plays the commissioning editor at Life magazine
The residents of Minamata, a coastal city in southern Japan, had long been suffering major health problems caused by dumping of toxic chemical waste, including mercury, into the local fishing waters by a major chemical company called Chisso Corporation.
Smith embeds himself into the local community, recording its efforts to deal with the so-called Minamata disease – a devastating neurological illness directly caused by mercury poisoning – and receive recognition and compensation from the Japanese government. Chisso had been dumping poisonous waste, including mercury, from 1932 to 1968.
The movie recounts how Smith used his camera to record the unfolding human tragedy and how he pays a high personal price for his involvement in the campaign – we won’t give the ending away just yet. Smith and his wife, Aileen Mioko Smith, took hundreds of photos of the people of Minamata, who were struggling with their illness and campaigning for compensation.
Tomoko in her bath. Credit: W. Eugene Smith
One of Smith’s images had a particularly strong impact. Taken in December 1971, Tomoko in Her Bath (above) showed a parent tenderly bathing her Minamata Disease-stricken daughter. This black-and-white image is not only considered Smith’s greatest photo, but its stark revelation of the physical impact the illness had on people also drew international attention to the ‘Minamata Movement’ campaign.
The movie is based on the book of the same name by Smith and Aileen Mioko Smith and is directed by Andrew Levitas. As mentioned, the biggest name in the movie is Johnny Depp (below).
“For many years I’d had a bit of a fascination with (Smith),” says the actor. “I knew Mary Ellen Mark very well. She was a photographer at Magnum for a while and had known W. Eugene Smith, so I asked her about him because I admire his photos. She told me how he was this curmudgeonly but ultra-sensitive sort of Bohemian, a hardened war photo-journalist who had seen it all. Then she told me this great story about him. His sense of humour was such that, when he was asked, ‘What does the W stand for?’ he would say, ‘Wonderful.’”
Depp continues. “I hope it’s as accurate a portrayal of ‘Gene’ as I was able to glean from all the information that I’ve read, and from talking to all the people who knew him — certainly Aileen. He was complex, you know? Kind of a madman, kind of a genius; a total, lawless, bohemian coming into a culture that is so calm, serene and peaceful. He is a ticking time bomb. He did not want to feel. He had such pain inside that he would do everything he could to escape the feeling. But I think Minamata opened him up again.”
With Minamata itself having drastically changed since the ’70s — it is now a very modern-looking eco-city – the production could only shoot a small portion of the film on location in the actual place, so the balance of production was based on warehouse stages in the port of Belgrade, Serbia, and on location in the coastal town of Tivat in Montenegro, which proved a remarkable match for Minamata Bay. “It took a little bit of finding, but we got very lucky, I think, in finding something very similar,” says production designer Tom Foden.
Visual style “I built the movie to all be from Gene’s point of view,” adds direct Andrew Levitas. “We’re inside his mind and we are seeing these unfolding events through his lens. This is one of the greatest photographers of all time, a guy who could see the world through any lens of his. He could shoot a photo in his mind without the camera. He had incredible skills, and it’s also an incredible blessing for a movie, because it can make it visually refreshing and different and interesting.
This movie should feel visually like something you haven’t seen before, because we’re taking all this stuff on board. My camera is Gene… Johnny and I spent countless hours talking about where Gene’s mind would be in any moment: what was happening, what was going on, and building all that back story, so I could put him in a room and roll the camera for 30 minutes and let him do his thing.”
Hiroyuki Sanada plays an activist leader
On the Japanese side, there are also some familiar faces, notably Hiroyuki Sanada (The Last Samurai, Westworld) as Mitsuo Yamazaki, a leader of the activists, who helps the families and patients, and tries to fight against the company and the wider government. Meanwhile, celebrated musician Ryuichi Sakamato composed the haunting score.
Controversy Despite the movie’s UK release today, director Andrew Levitas has been unhappy about the way US studio MGM has handled Minamata, accusing it of “burying” the movie owing to the recent controversy surrounding Johnny Depp and his loss of a libel action against the Sun newspaper.
Who was W. Eugene Smith? * William Eugene Smith was born in Kansas in 1918 and became interested in photography as a teenager. * He started working for Newsweek magazine in 1938, and covered the Pacific war from 1943. He was seriously injured by mortar fire during the Battle of Okinawa * Following the war Smith continued working as a photojournalist, with notable subjects including country doctor Ernest Ceriani and Albert Schweizer. He joined Magnum Photos in 1955 * Together with his Japanese-American wife, Aileen Mioko Smith, he moved to Minamata in 1971 to cover the unfolding mercury-poisoning scandal * Smith returned to the US in 1974 and continued to work and teach until his death in 1978 from a massive stroke.
According to the International Center for Photography, “Smith is credited with the developing the photo essay to its ultimate form. He was an exacting printer, and the combination of innovation, integrity, and technical mastery in his photography made his work the standard by which photojournalism was measured for many years.”
Shooting an A to Z photo project is a more versatile area of photography than you might first think. You can, of course, shoot items that begin with each letter of the alphabet, but it’s much more fun and testing at times if you shoot things that are shaped like letters.
What Gear Do I Need?
As letters can be found in various locations at different heights and angles you’ll probably want to take a zoom lens out on your journey with you so you can shoot wide and also at longer focal lengths without the added weight of multiple lenses weighing your bag down.
Some letters will jump out of the subject at you with ease while others will take a little more thinking about. Make sure you carry a checklist to keep a track of letters you’ve captured and you may find it easier to think about one letter at a time rather than hunting for several in one go.
This project will have you walking all over so wear a comfy pair of shoes and of you have kids, this is a great thing to get them involved in, too.
Branches make good candidates and also rocks with holes in can make great ‘A’s or ‘P’s. Anything that looks even remotely like a letter will create a quirky and fun piece of photography. A lamp-post, for example, will make a great ‘I’ while the end of a bench looks like an ‘L’ if you look closely enough. Once you’ve found all of your letters, try turning them into one big collage that you can hang on your wall. You’ll probably find yourself capturing the near and far, the small and large, the straight and the curved, in sunshine and shade so this project is a great way to challenge yourself and your photography skills.
A Twist On The Theme
The other thing that you could try with this theme is an A – Z of photography styles. B for Black and White, S for sepia, etc. This is probably suited to more experienced photographers who know more terminology, though.
Another more fun thing you can try is getting a group of friends to pose as all the letters of the alphabet or as mentioned above, capture objects that begin with each letter of the alphabet. If you’ve already tried an alphabet project why not take on a number challenge instead?
Be experimental with this – there are no real rules other than that the photos must represent the alphabet in some way. You could make it more challenging by limiting yourself to inside or outside objects, for example. But most importantly, though, it’s about having fun and enjoying your photography!
Zoom burst photography is a photography technique that is achieved by zooming your lens in or out whilst the exposure is being taken. It’s a great technique for exaggerating movement or for just adding an abstract feel to an image. Colourful subjects or scenes with patterns work well as they help create a really striking zoom burst that’s full of bright, colourful lines.
1. Equipment Check List
To get the desired effect, you’ll need your zoom lens and a tripod, to keep the image steady, plus this will allow you to have your hands free to smoothly control the zoom. A zoom with a good range to play with will mean you can get a really even effect, with some nice long streaks guiding the eye through the image. You’ll also need a remote or cable release to eliminate any shake caused by pressing the shutter. If you don’t have one, then use the self-timer setting on your camera. Using the flash on your camera or an external flash gun can help to add sharpness and freeze the image too.
2. Get The Zoom Right
The key to success with this technique is to get the amount of zoom burst right. If the zoom is too obvious then it may disguise the subject. If you don’t zoom enough, then the image won’t have the desired effect. You don’t want your exposure to be too long, otherwise, your shots will be overexposed, but it needs to be long enough to enable you to create the zoom effect.
To create the effect you can zoom in or out, most people choose to zoom out. Press the shutter and wait for a while, around half to three-quarters of the exposure should do it, and then you need to zoom out in a smooth and fast manner. Leaving the image to develop for half to three-quarters of the exposure beforehand allows some definition to be captured in the image before the zoom is added. Try somewhere between 1-3 seconds for your starting exposure length and extended if it’s needed. If you can, it’s worth locking the focus, too so it stays constant.
Use a small aperture and an ISO of 100 or 200 for the best results. If you find that your images come out overexposed, it’s probably best not to make the exposure time shorter as this will make it more difficult to fit the zoom in. Fit a polarising filter or ND filter instead and try again.
3. Experiment & Try Again
It’s then quick and easy to see on the screen if your attempt was successful. If it wasn’t, you can try again straight away. Experiment with the shutter speed and zoom timing until you find something that works for you and your subject. You may find you need to crop the shot for better composition but as the vanishing point will be in the middle of the frame, this won’t cause any problems.
To be different, why not zoom in, try a shorter zoom, experiment with city lights at night or rotate the lens to add circular shape to your lines? If one idea doesn’t work just delete the image and try again.
The year was 2019, I had just gotten accepted into the USA Olympic Weightlifting program and had accepted a personal training position at a gym. As a former athlete, it felt as if all my dreams were finally falling into place. Little did I know that my euphoria would be short-lived and just one short month later I would wake up restrained to a hospital bed.
Hearing the words, “Marvin, you went into cardiac arrest while playing basketball” come out of my mother’s mouth turned my entire world upside down. The beeping of monitors, echoing of IV drips, and constant blood draws form the basic framework of my nightmares still to this day. I was healthy, a life-long athlete moments away from performing on one of the world’s biggest platforms. So how could I have dropped dead on the basketball court needing over 15 minutes of life-saving measures, resulting in me being rushed to the emergency room with a tube down my throat breathing for my otherwise lifeless body?
I felt lost as I navigated the daunting new life that I had to adjust to. Trading my weights for heart medications and my cutoff shirts for a wearable defibrillator in case my heart decided to stop again. Everything that I had worked for my entire life was being stripped from me, and although I was grateful to be alive, I didn’t know how to live a life that wasn’t mine. It was a different type of grief. A grief I didn’t know how to process or move on from because I was supposed to be enjoying my second chance at life.
This is where my photography story began.
To pull me out of a mashup of post-traumatic stress disorder and depression related to my grief, my family and I took a cross-country trip from Texas to Utah. We crossed New Mexico and Colorado before landing in Utah and then Wyoming on our way to our next destination. I was taken back to the times we took this same trip as a kid and how much I enjoyed seeing the views of the mountains and the wild animals. I knew that this was something that I wanted to capture to continue to remember throughout my years.
At the time I had no official photography gear, but I did have my iPhone. I stopped frequently and got out to explore a bit every chance that I got. The anticipation I felt while driving between stops is part of what made me realize that this would be my new passion. The images I captured are what sealed the deal.
Since the discovery of my new passion, I have traveled to many states and explored so much. Each shot I get reminds me of how different my life could be if I hadn’t gone through what I did nevertheless I appreciate each day more because of it.
Getting to capture such art with my scope is truly an honor. Even though I have so much growing to do as a photographer, I know with a story like mine I have to keep pushing to explore more. If I can muster even an ounce of what I have been through into my art, then I know there is no limit to the platforms that it will be shared on.
Looking back, I was beyond mournful of the loss of my previous life, but I am awed by the life I have been able to create. I wake up every day with the same drive I had for football practice; the same motivation to get the techniques right as I did with lifting weights. The groundwork is all still there, it just has a different outcome now. An outcome that blesses people’s homes in the form of wall art and is shared across social media to the masses. So even though it looks different, my dreams have shifted and evolved to fit my new perspective.
About the author: Marvin Scope is a travel and landscape photographer based in Texas. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of Scope’s work on his Instagram.
A few archive pictures of my Dad, Arthur Riley, today. It’s quite some time since he died, but it’s a good day to show him during his peak in the Royal Air Force in WWII. He was in North Africa and Italy, particularly around Bari. If Gina is still alive, just about possible, he spoke of her often but never saw her again after the war. We have no pictures of Gina as my Mum destroyed them all…..
But first, a picture of my Dad’s Dad, in other words my Grandfather. My Mum is on his right arm and on his left is my Aunty Norah, who was originally engaged to my Dad but then eventually married his younger brother Jack. My Grandad has a satisfied smile does he not?
The dental Technician as a young man, in his laboratory, probably in Italy. The names provided may mean something to somebody somehwere, a slim chance but as I have the information here it is.
Us Brits are well known for moaning about the water that often falls from the skies above the UK but even rain should be welcomed sometimes as without it, we wouldn’t have cascading waterfall, rivers and streams to photograph. So, to carry on with the watery theme, here’s 5 water-based photography subjects you should try and capture with your camera this year.
1. Water Droplets
If you don’t have the time to find a river or stream, wait for it to rain and use a macro lens to capture raindrops on a window at home. The upside-down projection of the world outside always make interesting images or wait until the rain stops falling and head outside, into the garden, to photograph the drops of rain that can be found on plants. Focus on the end of a leaf, background blurred, so when the droplet falls you’re ready to capture it, pin-sharp. Just remember to use a tripod as the slightest shift in camera position can drastically change the composition and it will reduce the risk of camera shake too.
2. Waterfalls And Rivers
If you want to have a go at blurring waterfalls or the movement of a river head out on an overcast day it’s easier to get the slower shutter speeds you need to make this technique work. Make sure you have your tripod with you when you leave the house and a remote cable release (if you have one) to stop shake ruining your shot and take care when you’re metering as your camera can be fooled into thinking the scene’s too bright so all your shots could come out underexposed. Bracket a stopover and under or fit an ND filter to stop as much light entering the camera.
There is no right or wrong shutter speed to use when photographing waterfalls as this depends on how far you are from your subject, how much blur you want, the amount of water you’re photographing and the speed at which it’s flowing. But if you want a starting point, a speed of 1/15sec is a good place to begin. If you’re at the coast, this same technique can be used to photograph waves. Once you have your smooth, flowing water shots, set a faster shutter speed, 1/250sec or higher, and make your watery scene seem frozen in time.
For rivers, get down low with your wide-angle lens to demonstrate how the river narrows to the vanishing point or look for higher ground and show it meandering through the scene.
Lakes and reservoirs provide plenty of potential for photographing reflections. A sunny day by a calm lake will give you an almost mirror-like image of your surrounding landscape but don’t forget to try and shoot somewhere there’s foreground detail to prevent the scene looking boring. If you’re not near a lake, a puddle or wet pavement will work just as well.
4. The Sea
While at the coast you can either use a slow shutter speed to blur the waves or a fast one to freeze them in their tracks. If you go for the fast approach wait until the wave is at a peak and shoot. Slow speeds are great for creating lava-style flows of water as waves break on the beach.
5. Water Bubbles
Capturing water bubbles is fun, challenging and can leave with you with a series of abstract shots well worth hanging on your wall. You’ll need quick shutter speeds and ideally, work manually to give you more control.
Travel and holidays give us so many opportunities to photograph exotic locations, interesting people and other subjects we might not see at home. With this in mind, we’re sharing 6 travel-themed tutorials for you to peruse before your next trip.
As we dream of jetting off to warmer climates in search of sea, sun and some scenic shots to photograph, we thought we’d put together a collection of top travel tutorials you really should have a look at before you head off with your case packed and photographic gear ready.
As well as portraits and shots of beaches why not take a few photos of the plates of food you purchase? After all, getting your smartphone out before you chow down is the normal thing to do nowadays, isn’t it?
Historical ruins such as churches, castles and abbeys decorate our countryside and seaside towns but you’ll also find a few smaller, but still impressive ruins closer to home. Walls, arches and columns are still dotted around a few towns and villages which are still photogenic even if there’s not much of the structure left to photograph. If you’re off on your travels, have a look online and at local tourism centres to find out what ruins are near to where you’re staying.
If you’re heading off on holiday here are a few tips to help you keep taking photos when it’s hot outside. Plus, as well as looking after your gear, don’t forget to look after yourself. It may seem obvious now, but it’s easy to get away with taking photos and the small things such as reapplying sunscreen and having a drink of water can be forgotten.
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