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Posts Tagged ‘panasonic

A Day in Glen Park

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Olympus PEN E-PL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7

Seems like there are more and more farmers markets popping up around San Francisco lately. I found out a few days ago that for the first time this past Sunday, a market would be set up in the small neighborhood I grew up in, Glen Park. Such a big place in my heart for this little neighborhood.

To my fellow San Franciscans: weren’t the clouds crazy beautiful yesterday? My goodness. We never get clouds like this! While the wife perused the market, sampling the local produce, I snapped away:

The Glen Park market was relatively small, so it didn’t take long for us to be done checking it out. All that gazing at food made us pretty hungry….

More clicks on the way to La Corneta, the local neighborhood taqueria. Not the best in the city, but hey, they made a killer quesadilla for us today:

Stomachs full, a little more shooting. Even though I spent so many years of my life in Glen Park, I never get tired of just walking around town in this area. Come to think of it, I’ve never really done a photowalk here o_O

That ugly building on the left is the Glen Park Bart station…why is it so ugly??? Oh well.

Took a coffee break at Bello. This cafe is relatively new for the neighborhood, and I actually hadn’t tried it yet until today. Seems like they’ve jumped on the “individually-hand-brewed-drip” bandwagon that’s become very popular among the city’s elite coffee houses. It was a decent cup, but it still had nothing on a cup of Blue Bottle, Ritual, or Philz.

We left the area for a couple hours, and came back for dinner at Gialina, Glen Park’s gourmet pizzeria. As with many SF neighborhoods, Glen Park didn’t used to be this…hip. Before this place was Gialina, it was one of those greasy, ghetto pizzerias. Times have definitely changed for the better around here =)

Gialina is always packed during dinner rush. I’m surprised we got the best seats in the house, at one of two tables by the window. Yes!

Potato and Pancetta pizza. “Potato!?!?” Was my first thought when I ordered this pie for the first time a few years ago. Crispy carbs covered with thin slices of more carbs? Extremely…delicious…. We also ordered a roast pork chop, perfect with a glass of the house red:

Three scoops of Bi-Rite Creamery snickerdoodle ice cream for the lady, and an afogatto for me. Perfect finish. My Nikon FM came along for the day as well. Still trying to get through a roll of Ilford HP5 that I’ve had loaded in the camera for about a week. Strange that I can completely drain my digital camera’s battery in a single day, but it takes me forever to work through a roll of 36 exposure film.

Good night, Glen Park!


All Images: Olympus E-PL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 (all JPEGs)

Written by Jonathan

May 15, 2011 at 8:35 pm

The Saturday Morning “Ritual”

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Olympus PEN E-PL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/1.7  1/4000sec  ISO200

Before I get started with today’s entry, I just want to say thank you to everyone that took the time to read my previous blog post and leave a comment. My post entitled Revisiting Film Photography was featured on Freshly Pressed, the front page of I was so excited to see all the comments start pouring in, not simply because I relished the extra attention to my site, but because of the content of the comments themselves. You shared your personal experiences with me, and it’s been fascinating to see the discussion that I started continue to grow through your stories.

Some of you reminisced about the shooting film back in the day, expressing a newfound interest in that dusty old SLR in your basements that you haven’t used in years. Others of you haven’t given film a try yet and expressed curiosity about using the medium. Some of you admitted to knowing little of photography and yet expressed interest and appreciation through your comments, while others you are active film shooters who shared your own great experiences with the format. Thank you all! It has truly been a pleasure reading your personal experiences!

So, Film vs Digital, what’s my final word on the subject? If you look at all my recent work, it’s pretty obvious that I do a lot of work with digital cameras. Is my recent experience with film going to change all that? Probably not. But the truth is, I just love photography. I’ll take pictures with anything that, well, takes pictures. I see the Film and Digital formats simply as two different ways of making art. So, film or digital? Answer: Yes.

Ok, back to this post:

Olympus PEN E-PL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/1.7  1/1000sec  ISO200

As much of a Philz and Blue Bottle addict that I am, I’ve been trying to visit some different cafes here in San Francisco to see where else I can get a stellar cup of coffee. We started the weekend this morning at Ritual Coffee Roasters on Valencia street.

With large, east-facing windows gracing the storefront, tons of beautiful light flooded the cafe. How could I possibly resist taking my camera out?

Olympus PEN E-PL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/1.7  1/250sec  ISO200

Here’s where Ritual’s drip coffee is individually brewed to order. Wait a minute now…maybe I should head to the hardware store, pick up some copper pipe and just make my own filter-holding contraption!

Olympus PEN E-PL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/2  1/800sec  ISO200

Olympus PEN E-PL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/2  1/500sec  ISO200

If I’m visiting a coffee-house for the very first time, I always try their drip first. If you can make me a killer drip, I’ll keep coming back for sure. The roast I chose was La Esperanza, described as “sweet and creamy, with flavors of butterscotch, Danish pastry, dried stonefruits and a lavender finish.” A one pound bag of whole bean Esperanza will set you back a whopping $22.50.

Olympus PEN E-PL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/2  1/4000sec  ISO200

My friends had lattes, complete with the obligatory frothing art on top =)

Olympus PEN E-PL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/2  1/4000sec  ISO200

Olympus PEN E-PL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/2  1/2500sec  ISO200

Verdict? The drip was awesome, among the best I’ve had in fact. But I paid handsomely for it, so regular visits here will not be a wise “Ritual” for my bank account.

Olympus PEN E-PL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/2  1/60sec  ISO200

We didn’t stay long at Ritual, because we needed to get breakfast elsewhere. The coffee perfectly complimented the famous morning buns at Tartine Bakery. Sorry Tartine, but your drip coffee leaves a lot to be desired. Every time we go, we see a bunch of other people in there, standing in line with their cups of coffee from other cafes. Hilarious =)

Written by Jonathan

April 30, 2011 at 11:34 pm

Blue Bottle Mint Plaza

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Olympus E-PL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7

Early one morning, I  hit up the Mint street Blue Bottle cafe with some friends.  Just outside we were greeted by some empty tables and these high school chemistry lab chairs, which cracked me up. They did seem to fit the cafe’s styling though.

The cafe is small, but surrounded by huge windows that reach all the the way up to the super-high ceiling. The early morning sun was pouring through the windows from the east, while at the same time bouncing off the exterior of the building, hitting the grey building across the street, and radiating back through the windows again. This created lighting that any photographer would drool over.

We arrived just as they opened, so the place was pretty empty. This one man got comfortable right away, putting his hat up, placing his book on a stand, and enjoying a hand-made brew. Wish I had more time to just chill at cafes…we were getting our coffees to go!

Good friends, good coffee, beautiful lighting. What a perfect morning.

Photos courtesy of my Olympus PEN E-PL2 with a Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 lens, a combo that just keeps growing on me. It’s just so easy to take this camera everywhere. I can pull it out in public places without even being noticed as I snap away.

These are all out-of-camera JPEGs. I recently installed an update to Adobe Camera Raw that’ll allow me to start playing with the camera’s RAW data. We’ll see what becomes of it =)

Written by Jonathan

April 8, 2011 at 8:39 am

The Blue Bottle Kiosk

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Olympus E-PL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7

Time off work for a visit to the doctor’s on a Friday. Gotta love it. After my appointment, I had some time to kill before picking up the wife from work, so I decided to coffee up.

Tucked away along a small city street in the heart of Hayes Valley lies a Blue Bottle Kiosk. No big signs proclaiming its whereabouts. It’s Blue Bottle for crying out loud! All the locals know exactly where it is.

After I ordered a cup, I turned around and saw….a Shiba Puppy! Though Shibas are increasing in popularity here in SF, it’s still pretty rare that you see one on the street. This is Ichigo, a 7 month old, male Shiba:

I wish I had my Shiba with me, but this little guy would have probably tried to run from her =P
Unlike Suki, Ichigo is very shy, so I couldn’t go right up to him. I took a few snaps and–

“Sir, your latte is up!”

Yummmm….and served in a 100% biodegradable, custom-logo-printed, natural-colored hot cup. When you’re done, you can toss it right in the green compost bin along with its corn-based, polylactic acid lid. How very green…and expensive,which probably filters down into the price we pay for this brew!

Oops, cash only, and of course I didn’t have any. The super-cool barista apparently thought I had a pretty trusting face, so she let me take my coffee and go grab cash at the nearest ATM. Oops again. Card wasn’t working…so I had to huff it to my nearest bank. Oh well, photo walk!

Haha, how can you not take a picture of this guy? (right)

All images in this post were taken with my new Olympus PEN E-PL2. Apparently Adobe just made available a release candidate of the latest Camera Raw that supports the E-PL2’s raw files, but I haven’t downloaded it yet, so these are all out of camera JPEGs.

One of the things I noticed about shooting with a smaller camera is that people usually don’t notice you using it. The extra stealth over my DSLR is pretty refreshing out on the street.

….and oops, I took too long getting cash, so Bridget just took the bus to meet me back at the kiosk, where I had more coffee…oh yes. There she is in the background, waiting for me to stop dancing around my double shot with my camera and just drink it already. Mmmm…love coffee.

I wouldn’t typically do a blog post about a trip to the coffee shop, but I’ve been trying lately to focus a little more on the every-day, seemingly mundane things that I do when it comes to my photography. There are a few blogs that have inspired me quite a bit in this regard. Check’em out:

Pink Peony Photography, Karleen Su

A Happy Day, Jacqueline Jaszka

Saaediaries, Kelven Ng

These fellow blogger/photogs are just fantastic when it comes to still life…and putting diptychs together, which I’m totally lame at doing myself. At least giving it a try is forcing me to do more vertical shots =P

Seriously though, all three have a talent I envy for turning the ordinary into something extraordinary, which I think should be the goal of every photographer.

Have a great weekend!

Olympus PEN E-PL2: First Impression

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My entry into digital photography began with a high-end compact camera (Lumix LX3). I still have one in fact: The excellent Canon S90. I love it, but there’s no way around that tiny sensor. You have very limited control over depth of field, and detail suffers at higher ISOs in even the most advanced point and shoots. Naturally, I progressed to a DSLR, with a D700 as my main weapon of choice these days. There’s only one problem with the otherwise wonderful imaging machine that is the D700, however: It’s huge!

I’m the kind of person that carries my camera everywhere I go, and in many cases, especially if I’m going out with the purpose of photography, the D700’s mass doesn’t really bug me. On all day outings, simple trips to the store or on other errands, or just grabbing some dinner with friends, however, it can start to feel like a burdensome anchor over my shoulder after a while. I’ve been wanting something smaller for such occasions.

Ever since Micro Four Thirds cameras started appearing on the market, I’ve been pretty intrigued by the concept of a small, lightweight, large sensor (compared to a compact), interchangeable lens camera system. The technology has matured somewhat now, and these little cameras have become quite popular.  For me, the appeal is simple: compact body, DSLR-like image quality. A camera that I can grab when the size of my DSLR may not practical for a given situation, but that at the same time gives me more than my point-and-shoot does as far as image quality. Recently, I met up with a friend who let me take a look at her Panasonic GF-1. After playing with the camera for a few minutes, I was sold on the m4/3 system.

Enter the Olympus PEN E-PL2

I ordered the E-PL2 together with the Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 lens, which gives me a 40mm full-frame equivalent angle of view through the viewfi—uh, LCD. I must say, the lens looks pretty slick on the camera’s silver body.

This little “first impression” review will cover a few of my thoughts about the camera since I received it last week. This is not a review unit. I carefully considered which camera I wanted to acquire to fill the gap between my point and shoot and my DSLR, and finally added the E-PL2 to my gear bag. I’ll be sharing my thoughts on the camera continually in future blog posts.

The EPL2 is a modest update to the recently released E-PL1, a camera that seemed to bring mirrorless interchangable lens cameras to the masses by offering a model at a much lower price point than the flagship E-P2. From what I’ve read, there’s not a whole lot of difference between the E-PL2 and E-PL1. I won’t bore you with an exhaustive list, but there are some key updates that do matter to me:

One difference is the rear LCD screen. Size and resolution have been bumped up to 3 inches, 420k dots. Can’t hold a candle to the 920k dot screen on the back of my D700, but it still looks great and I have no problems using the LCD for manual focus. The AP2 port (covered by the hot shoe cover above) accepts some pretty neat accessories, most notably a high-resolution electronic viewfinder that I didn’t order just yet for myself. I’m not one of those “I must have an eye-level viewfinder or I can’t take pictures” photographers. Maybe all my iphoneography has weened me off of the concept =)

Another change is the addition of a clickable command dial around the OK button on the back of the camera. Unfortunately, this is one aspect of the camera I’m not entirely thrilled about. For such a critical control point, the command dial feels a little fiddly. Likely to make room for the larger LCD, the dial is placed very close to the edge of the camera body, making it somewhat awkward and cramped to use at times. Not a deal breaker by any means, but rather a design quirk that takes some getting used to.

The E-PL2 comes kitted with an updated standard zoom, the Olympus M. Zuiko 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 MSC (Movie and Still Compatible) lens. I have a feeling I won’t be using the zoom all that much. The 20mm f/1.7 is faster, more fun to use, and is more compact.

However, the kit lens does seem to perform pretty well optically, and focuses surprisingly fast. Zoom and focus ring action, as well as internal focus mechanisms, are smooth and silent in operation, preventing lens sounds from finding their way into the audio track of your videos.

This is my first Olympus camera since my film days! I’m actually planning on purchasing the Olympus OM to m4/3 mount adapter, which will allow me to use the F. Zuiko 50mm f/1.8 (shown right) on my E-PL2. Pretty exciting to be able to use legacy lenses on this new camera.

I didn’t want to spend all day on these product shots, but here’s a quick photo of the E-PL2 between my Canon S90 and Nikon D40. The E-PL2 is certainly not pocketable like the S90 is, but its size and weight make it perfect for either a large coat pocket or small bag.  With the 20mm pancake mounted, the size and weight of the E-PL2 feels similar to that of a high-end compact like the Panasonic LX3/5 or Canon G12. I keep mine in a little messenger bag, and walking around town I can’t even tell it’s in there.

The built in pop-up can remote-command off-camera flash guns. The strobist in me is very intrigued by this feature…

A slightly fiddly command dial aside,  the E-PL2 operates very well ergonomically. The grip is comfortable, and the camera feels solid and very well made. Performance is also very snappy, making the camera a joy to use overall. Ok, enough about the camera itself. I didn’t spend all weekend staring at it, I was out taking pictures! Below are a few samples. Enjoy!

Olympus EPL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/4, 1/400 second, ISO200

Note that as of the writing of this post, Adobe Camera Raw does not support the E-PL2’s raw image files, so I don’t have the ability to process the raw image data from the camera in Lightroom 3 just yet. I guess it’s good that I did my recent JPEG experiment! All of these images are therefore processed in-camera. I’ve heard great things about the Olympus JPEG engine, and I must say, the E-PL2’s JPEG output does not disappoint. I love the way it renders colors, particularly blue skies:

Olympus EPL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/3.5, 1/320 second, ISO200

Olympus EPL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/5.6, 1/800 second, ISO200

Olympus EPL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/5.6, 1/800 second, ISO200

Olympus EPL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/6.3, 1/1000 second, ISO200

Olympus EPL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/4.5, 1/500 second, ISO200

Olympus EPL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/6.3, 1/1000 second, ISO200

Olympus EPL2 + Olympus M.14-42mm F3.5-5.6 II | 14mm, f/9, 1/400 second, ISO200

Olympus EPL2 + Olympus M.14-42mm F3.5-5.6 II | 14mm, f/8, 1/320 second, ISO200

Olympus EPL2 + Olympus M.14-42mm F3.5-5.6 II | 14mm, f/10, 1/620 second, ISO200 (-0.3EV)

Olympus EPL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/6.3, 1/1000 second, ISO200

Olympus EPL2 + Olympus M.14-42mm F3.5-5.6 II | 21mm, f/10, 1/400 second, ISO200

Olympus EPL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/5.6, 1/800 second, ISO200

Olympus EPL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/3.5, 1/320 second, ISO200

Olympus EPL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/5, 1/500 second, ISO200

Metering is very dependable, consistent, and accurate. I very rarely have to nudge the camera with any exposure compensation.

Some Closeups:

Olympus EPL2 + Olympus M.14-42mm F3.5-5.6 II | 42mm, f/11, 1/100 second, ISO200 (-0.3EV)

Olympus EPL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/1.7, 1/125 second, ISO200

Olympus EPL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/1.7, 1/2500 second, ISO200

Olympus EPL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/1.7, 1/500 second, ISO200 (-0.3EV)

Olympus EPL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/1.7, 1/250 second, ISO200 (-0.3EV)

Olympus EPL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/1.7, 1/125 second, ISO200 (Monotone)


Since I’ve never really shot with an Olympus digital camera, this is my first experience with in-camera Art Filters. You could dismiss this feature as a gimmick I suppose, but I found the filters to be incredibly fun to use.

The filter effects are overlayed onto the view screen in real-time as you compose, giving you a preview of the Art Filter’s effect before you take the shot, and multiple filters can be stacked. It’s really cool!

I found myself gravitating towards the Pin Hole Filter:

Olympus EPL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/5.6, 1/500 second, ISO200 (Pin Hole, -0.7EV)

Olympus EPL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/1.7, 1/25 second, ISO200 (Pin Hole)

Olympus EPL2 + Olympus M.14-42mm F3.5-5.6 II | 14mm, f/8, 1/400 second, ISO200 (Pin Hole, -0.3EV)

Olympus EPL2 + Olympus M.14-42mm F3.5-5.6 II | 27mm, f/11, 1/400 second, ISO200 (Pin Hole)

Olympus EPL2 + Olympus M.14-42mm F3.5-5.6 II | 14mm, f/9, 1/500 second, ISO200 (Pin Hole)

Olympus EPL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/6.3, 1/1000 second, ISO200 (Pin Hole)

Olympus EPL2 + Olympus M.14-42mm F3.5-5.6 II | 14mm, f/9, 1/500 second, ISO200 (Pin Hole)

Olympus EPL2 + Olympus M.14-42mm F3.5-5.6 II | 14mm, f/8, 1/400 second, ISO200 (Pin Hole)

Olympus EPL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/5.6, 1/800 second, ISO200 (Pin Hole)

Another neat Art Filter is Diorama, which gives your images that tilt-shifted, miniaturized look:

Olympus EPL2 + Olympus M.14-42mm F3.5-5.6 II | 14mm, f/10, 1/500 second, ISO200 (Diorama, -0.7EV)

Olympus EPL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/3.2, 1/250 second, ISO200 (Diorama)

Perhaps my favorite would be Grainy Film. This filter gives you that high-speed, black and white film look:

Olympus EPL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/1.7, 1/125 second, ISO200 (Grainy Film)

Olympus EPL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/1.7, 1/13 second, ISO200 (Grainy Film)

Olympus EPL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/1.7, 1/1250 second, ISO200 (Grainy Film, -0.3EV)

Olympus EPL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/2.8, 1/200 second, ISO200 (Grainy Film)

Olympus EPL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/4, 1/400 second, ISO200 (Grainy Film)

Olympus EPL2 + Olympus M.14-42mm F3.5-5.6 II | 33mm, f/5.6, 1/100 second, ISO200 (Grainy Film)

Olympus EPL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/5.6, 1/800 second, ISO200 (Grainy Film)

Olympus EPL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/2.5, 1/800 second, ISO200 (Grainy Film)

Olympus EPL2 + Olympus M.14-42mm F3.5-5.6 II | 14mm, f/6.3, 1/250 second, ISO200 (Grainy Film)

I haven’t used this one that much yet, but here’s a couple snaps using the Pop Art filter, which boosts color and contrast to almost ridiculous levels:

Olympus EPL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/1.7, 1/125 second, ISO200 (Pop Art)

Olympus EPL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/1.7, 1/4000 second, ISO200 (Pop Art)

Olympus EPL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/1.7, 1/400 second, ISO200 (Pop Art)

One new filter that I haven’t shown here is Dramatic Tone. I have yet to take a picture using this filter that doesn’t look positively ghastly. I’ll keep trying 😉

Low Light Shooting

Over the weekend, someone asked me why I chose the E-PL2 over the Panasonic GF2, or even the highly regarded GF1. Indeed, it was the GF1 that got me hooked on the idea of a m4/3 system in the first place, so what gives? For me, there is one critical feature missing in the Panasonic GFs that is built into all of the Olympus digital Pen cameras: in-camera, sensor-shift image stabilization.

With a stabilized body, any lens you stick on the E-PL2, from a modern zoom to an old manual prime, gets the added benefit of stabilization. Combining a stabilized body, therefore, with a fast prime like the 20mm f/1.7, allows you shoot at wide apertures while using impossible-to-hand-hold shutter speeds. To get a better idea of what this can mean for low-light photography, check out some samples below, all taken hand-held. Note the shutter speeds as well as the ISO settings on each image:

Olympus EPL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/1.7, 1/13 second, ISO200

Olympus EPL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/1.7,  1/20 second, ISO200

Olympus EPL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/1.7,  1/10 second, ISO200

Olympus EPL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/1.7,  1/10 second, ISO200

Olympus EPL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/1.7,  1/30, second ISO200

Olympus EPL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/1.7, 1/13 second, ISO200

Olympus EPL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/1.7, 1/13 second, ISO200

Olympus EPL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/1.7,  1/10 second, ISO200

Olympus EPL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/1.7, 1/4 second, ISO200

Olympus EPL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/1.7,  1/8 second, ISO200

Olympus EPL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/1.7,  1/20 second, ISO200

Olympus EPL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/1.7,  1/20 second, ISO200

Notice that I’m hand-holding the camera at shutter speeds down to 1/4 second and getting getting clean, detailed night shots without having to boost ISO beyond base level.  I don’t expect the high ISO abilities of the E-PL2 to be anywhere near what my D700 is capable of, so the extra help I get from the sensor-shift stabilizer to keep my ISO as low as possible when hand-holding in low light is really appreciated.

Shots of Suki

Of course, no post would be complete with out some shots of Suki. The E-PL2’s continuous auto focus is not quite fast enough to keep up with Suki if she’s moving erratically, but you can still get shots of your pet with this camera.

Olympus EPL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/6.3, 1/1000 second, ISO200

Can a fox become man’s best friend? Of course! My best friend is a fox =P

Olympus EPL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/1.7, 1/1000 second, ISO200

She IS a fox. =)

Olympus EPL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/1.7, 1/1250 second, ISO200

Olympus EPL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/1.7, 1/80 second, ISO200

I absolutely love this camera so far. I find the image quality to be excellent, and the size and weight are refreshing. The E-PL2 is easy to carry around all day, it’s inconspicuous, and best of all, it’s downright fun to use. I can see myself traveling with just this camera and one lens and be completely satisfied. Stay tuned for more images, and some video testing as well! I’m off to do more shooting with the E-PL2.

Product Shots: Nikon D700 + Nikkor AFS 24mm f/1.4G | Nikkor AFS 24-120mm f/4 VR II

You Don’t Have to Be a Great Photographer

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“You Don’t Have to be a Great Photographer to Take Great Photos”

A marketing slogan used in a commercial promoting one of Panasonic’s latest cameras. The commercial shows a man presenting some beautiful images he took at some sort of exhibition. People start asking him questions like “what was your aperture?” or “what shutter speed did you use?”, to which he responds “uh, really big” and “uh, like really fast,”  betraying his ignorance when it comes to photographic technique. Seems that the camera did all the work for him. I imagine many photographers might take one look at this slogan and get really offended, as if the commercial is somehow dismissing the importance of the skill, discipline, and artistic ability that so many photographers today work so hard at developing.

The reality? This is just a commercial targeting a specific audience. Is there absolute truth in marketing? Does that Big Mac you bought for lunch today look anything remotely like it does in the McDonald’s commercials? Of course not. McDonald’s knows it and so do their consumers, no one’s getting fooled. If you’re an artist with a passion for photography, you already know what it really takes to make a great picture, and Panasonic does to. They know they’re not selling an idea here, they’re selling a camera, and they’re using an exaggerated idea to do it.

While more serious photographers would be better off just getting a good laugh from the commercial, aspiring photographers should also be careful not to take such marketing too seriously. I love how legendary photographer Joe McNally puts it in his latest book:

“Good pictures demand care, and truly good pictures are hard to make. The manufacturers are out there selling us the digital dream, telling us that the camera does it all. And some of these machines almost do; they are marvelous contraptions. But no matter how fancy the gear, photography itself, at the end of the day, rules. Just like Mother Nature, the photo gods are mercurial indeed and smile upon us only occasionally and reluctantly.”

Truth is, today’s cameras are more sophisticated than ever before. They automate processes that were once completely cumbersome and manual, allowing you to focus more on things like composition and aesthetics while thinking less about what exact settings you need for the exposure you want. This does not mean that you don’t need to know how shutter speed, aperture, and ISO relate to exposure. It does mean, however, that you can approach a scene with today’s cameras without your very first thought being “I wonder what my shutter speed or ISO should be,” because your camera could very well make that decision for you, and in many cases, make a better decision than you would. Besides, aperture, ISO, and shutter speed are not the only factors involved in making a good photo.

In itself, does the knowledge of how a camera works and how to juggle aperture, shutter speed, and ISO with ease make you a great photographer? Of course not. There are so many other factors to consider in making a compelling image, like how you see and interpret a scene, how you compose, what you decide to include or exclude from the frame, using texture, using color, understanding how light behaves, deciding what to put in front of your camera, and hey, just being in the right place at the right time. As Joe says, at the end of the day, photography, and all it entails, rules.

So, getting back to this Panasonic ad. To me, the fact that people are asking about the man’s camera settings in a situation like this seems, in itself, unrealistic and absurd in the first place. Personally, if I showed someone a photo I took and the first thing they say is, “so what was your shutter speed?”, I’m pretty sure my response would be, “uh…I don’t know, can’t remember.” Why? It’s not important enough to remember! I got the shot, period. Knowing what my shutter speed is won’t tell you anything about what conditions were like on-location when I hit the shutter release, what I was thinking at the time, or what look I was trying to convey in the final image, including any post processing decisions I made. To me, the people in the audience asking questions in this commercial appear just as ignorant as the photographer. Who cares what exact shutter speed he used?!

The key to using today’s cameras is not to believe that the camera will do it all for you, but to understand how your camera thinks and nudge it in the right direction in order to accomplish your vision. The camera can’t do it all. It’s smart, fast, and sophisticated, but needs input from you in order to create art. The amount of input from you varies from one scene to the next. In the image above of San Francisco’s China Basin during sunset, I started by letting the camera do its thing. I saw a beautiful scene, and knew the lighting wasn’t too crazy for my camera to sort out exposure wise. So I walked over, found my composition, and with my camera on Aperture Priority Auto, took the shot. The result looked a little dark for my taste, so I went +1EV on my exposure compensation dial. The camera automatically chose the corresponding shutter speed to get me a stop of over-exposure, and the next image was exactly what I wanted.  The camera gave me its best guess, and I simply gave it a little input based on that guess.  What was my shutter speed? Beats me. Couldn’t tell you without revisiting the image’s EXIF.

So, do you need to be a great photographer to take great images? I suppose that depends on how you define a “great photographer” and a “great image”. New camera technologies have made photography much more accessible than ever before, and today’s cameras are truly amazing. Panasonic seems to have taken that fact and stretched it into a funny ad, but any camera, no matter how advanced, is just a tool. It helps you get the job done. How well the job is done will always depend on a whole lot more.


Image: Nikon D700 + Nikkor AFS 24mm f/1.4G

Written by Jonathan

December 22, 2010 at 2:13 pm

Camera Shopping in Japan

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While in Kumatori, Osaka, Bridget and I went shopping at a local Aeon center, where I got a chance to take a look at some yummy camera equipment. One of my favorite reasons to come to Japan is to get my hands on Japan-exclusive gear, like this white Lumix GF-1 (above), which I absolutely fell in love with. It controls very similarly to the Lumix LX-3, so it felt right as soon as I started using it, although I simply can’t imagine using a compact camera that doesn’t have dual control rings like the Canon S90 anymore (control freak!). What impressed me most about the GF1 was its very speedy performance for a mirrorless camera. The auto-focus speed, in particular, is incredibly snappy for this class of camera.

The store also carried the very newly released Olympus EP-L1 (above). I liked the size of the camera, but found the controls to be a little awkward to use. The rear LCD is also kind of…meh.

On the other hand, I liked the GF-1 so much that I had a very difficult time resisting the temptation to walk out of the store with the 20mm f/1.7 and the “storm trooper white” body, Japanese menu system and all. Reason, however, prevailed over gadget-lust in the end. I can’t really see a place for this camera in my bag right now. Sure is a nice piece of gear though!

Top Image: Canon S90 at 10mm f/2.8 ISO400 1/400 second

Bottom Image: Canon S90 at 6mm f/4 ISO80 1/30 Second

Written by Jonathan

April 4, 2010 at 1:22 am