Photokina 2012 Aftermath- What does this mean for Street Photographers? My thoughts.

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So the dust left in the wake of the tornado that is Photokina 2012 is still settling down. DPreview is even calling it “arguably one of the most exciting show for years.” But what does that mean for us street photographers?

Full Frame is Here to Stay. And more are coming.

The above pictures Leica M, along with the Leica M-E are just two examples of dedication to the full frame. Others include the Sony RX1 and the a99, since DSLRs are still relevant. Companies have fought out the Megapixel wars long enough, and consumers are now smart enough to realize that cramming a sh*tload of Megapixels doesn’t mean anything anymore (ahem, I’m talking to you Nokia).

See this video by the Verge:

As the Leica representative mentioned, bigger sensors mean shallower depths of field. This means that you won’t have to resort to a f/1.4~1.8 lens in order to achieve that shallow depth. More importantly, at our common apertures (f/8~11), depth of field will be more noticeable and combined with new technologies, we will be able to get ever so closer to the 35mm film’s dynamic range (millions of shades of grey, and hundreds of thousands of more colors).

The Sony RX1 in its miniaturized, Full-Frame glory. Would you drop $2799 for it?

Companies are Fighting to Be More Accessible than Ever to Us. More options than ever.

The prototype of the planned Olympus 17mm f/1.8 lens.

More and more, street photography is being recognized as a niche. That’s both good and bad. Bad because it’s becoming more and more a colloquial and common term, leaving more room for misinterpretation of the category (I’ve seen some very poorly so-called “street photography” groups with nothing but landscape photos). But the good is that companies are catering more and more to the segment of street photographers. Take the Olympus 17mm f/1.8 lens that’s in production: it’s a clear understanding that photojournalists and street photographers clamor for the 35mm equivalent.

Fuji introduced the X-E1 and released firmware to speed up the X-Pro 1:

Fujifilm as a company is setting a great example by listening to the feedback of their customers. Granted, their company is still recovering from a decade of obsolescence, as their execution still is a bit shabby (release a half-complete product, then fix: as evidenced by the X100, X10, and X-S1), but they make it right. They understood the speed of the X-Pro 1 was not suited for street photography, but fixed it to be suitable enough for street photography. That is the power of the consumer and photographer, we who choose the tools in this competitive brand landscape.

The OM-D E-M5, my current primary camera, also is a model of response. Having heard the call for a better sensor, faster AF, and a retro styled camera. In fact, it’s become one of the best cameras on the market for street photography because of this smart, targeted response to photographers.

Those who ignore our demands are quickly becoming obsolete.

I won’t say much. Hasselblad tried to defend its Lunar system,  a repackaged NEX system for the price of a cool $5k.

Those who try to market their way to photographers who demand a specific set of features won’t work anymore.

The same goes for companies who decide not to innovate, or create new things as excuses to claim they’re innovating. Samsung, in the Verge video above on larger sensors, argue that they want to optimize for their smaller sensors. On one hand it’s great that they’re to perfect what they do, but that’s evolutionary, not revolutionary. Being stuck with smaller sensors, they will never appeal beyond the amateur photographer. If that’s their target segment, that makes business sense. But innovation is all about breaking the barrier and trying something that doesn’t seem to be possible technologically.

Even Pentax, who is struggling to understand consumer needs with their infamously (and somewhat uselessly) tiny Q system, is trying hard to re-position their products by the needs of the consumer. This is what we need to see in the photo industry.

In the words of Louis C.K, “Everything’s Amazing and No One is Happy.” For us street photographers who demand depth in our photos, quick function and focus in our cameras, it’s an exciting time for us in this world.

&& Phil

Talk to me and follow me on Twitter @philhanphoto. (<-hey isn’t that a new username?!)

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And as always, comments below. Disagree? Agree with my thoughts? Let me know!

P.S. I’ve also joined a photo collective, revisedMEDIA. Check it out! Inspiring photos abound!

Steve Huff & I Review the Fuji X-Pro 1 (AF update)

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Well, not really. Steve Huff did a comprehensive review, and it’s very well written. You should check it out, it mentions both its merits and the quirks/AF woes in deep detail.

On the other hand, I FINALLY managed to get my hands on one in my local Camera store. I’ve got to say, I’m impressed with what Fuji’s vision was in creating the X-series. I’m not surprised that Dpreview came away impressed, the construction of the camera looks good. But Steve Huff is dead on in saying that it feels cheap, or at least lighter than it looks.

I tried to test for Steve huff’s quirks, but strangely I had no trouble with the on/off operations, and controls were responsive. I’m guessing uncleared SD cards usually pose this issue, and I had that same problem on my X100 before I sold it.

Give me some time to play around with this, I’ll be back later to test its AF..

*AF UPDATE 1

Shooting in the bright lighting of the camera store, the AF felt responsive. I tried it in street situations, and it quickly picked up focus. Raising the camera to my eye and quickly pressing the shutter button grabbed it excellent focus. I was using the 35mm f/1.4 lens.

But the trouble began in the narrow, dimly lit hallway of the store. Even with a much smaller focusing distance compared to the X100’s lens, I couldn’t get it to focus on a vase. It took 4 tries. No street photographer focuses 4 times on a subject. By then you’ll have already missed your shot.

In twilight (7:30pm), Steve Huff’s observations stuck as well. In hunts, misses, hunts, misses, and then maybe nails it on the third shot. Realistic street movements/actions including: raising the camera to your eye for immediate shots, or shooting from the hip are completely unreliable, primarily due to the lack of any image stabilization. For some reason, Leica glass never seems to suffer from this IS; it may be the electronic sensor that is more prone to movement. I don’t know, I have no technical knowledge in this area.

Unfortunately they didn’t let me take out any samples from the card, but this was more than enough to convince me that the X-Pro 1 needs a severe update to the AF. I went into the MF mode just to see what it was like, but the similar focus-by-wire design is still close to unusable. I’ll see if I can sneak out some images later.

Come on, Fuji. You can do better.

&&Phil

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The Shadow photographers #1: SH Roh

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In these series I hope to introduce some of the most compelling street (and non-street) photographers who have inspired me to start or keep shooting. The double entendre is that Street photographers tend to experiment with and work with available light (which tend to be shadows), and also tend to stay hidden out of “popular” photographers (dominated by studio photographers, landscape photographers, etc). I hope that you will enjoy discovering these hidden talents as much as I do. Remember, there is always a street photographer near you, somewhere…

Today I am pleased to introduce to you SH Roh from South Korea. A designer and full-time photographer, SH Roh works in Korea as a full-time designer and photographer-for-hire. I am constantly inspired by his photography of special events and settings– for he has a unique eye for subjects and unusual lighting, especially in concerts, musicals, and other events for which he is hired. He has mastered both extremely dark, grave photos but portray equally well bright subjects. I always see his Nike+ running feeds (Today I ran X miles…) and am convinced he is secretly preparing for a triathlon.

SH Roh has held numerous exhibits in the last few years, each with a special theme and unique purpose. He has recently experimented with overlaying text on top of photos– an unusual inclusion in the post-processing world. Whether he is on a new project with his Nikon D3, shooting in the streets with his Fuji X100, or sharing a picture of his latest meal, this photographer is certainly one to follow. I recently had the pleasure of interviewing this humble photographer, and hope you will enjoy his works as much as I do.

Q. Can you tell me more about yourself?

A. Hello. I am Roh Sh, a photographer. I majored not in photography, but in Korean language and literature. I am currently working full-time as both a designer and a photographer. I especially like capturing photos of musicians, and am also involved in design in the same area.

Q. When did you start taking photos?

A.  I began when I was very young. I happened to chance upon a film camera, and I’ve taken pictures ever since.

Q. Can you tell me what your shooting style is like?

A. It’s a bit difficulty to narrow down my shooting style to just one style. However, when I am working, I hope that people can hear the music in my photos. Rather than a still picture, I like motion in my photos– that’s probably how I describe my own style.

Q. What equipment/gear do you use (camera, lens, flash, tripod, etc.)?

A. Normally these days, I tend to bring along my Fujifilm X100, and for special events (photographing musicians or need a special lens for the setting I will be shooting in) I use my Nikon D3. Lenses change depending on the situation.

Q. Your photos tend to be very dark (both in exposure and subject). Is there a special reason for this?

A. I don’t try to capture a specific emotion of any sort, but I used to try and incorporate sad memories– parting with a person whom I admire, or parting ways with a loved one– so I unintentionally end up incorporating these feelings into my photos and essays.

Q. Do you feel there is a big difference when you take pictures for a job, versus for enjoyment (i.e. street photography)? What specifically makes it different for you?

A. I think even within a “job” photo, there needs to be further categorization. For a client-based photography job (ad photo or commercial photo, including performances), the client usually wants to blend my characteristic style of color and traits into their subject. Other than that, I don’t realize a specific difference between my jobs versus my so-called photography for enjoyment. The reason for this is, photography is about the study of the subject and its reinterpretation. And if you put those together, that’s an exhibition. That’s why I try to find subjects in my “leisure” photos (snapshots) and reinterpret them, so if we have to find a difference between them I guess it’s a difference in the depth of the photos.

Q. You take a lot of photos of musicians, how is it different from just normal snapshots? What inspires you to take their photos?

A. To take a musician’s photo, you need to draw out their unique characteristics. Especially during concerts, there are moments that will repeat themselves so I can never let my guard down and get absorbed into the shoot. It seems obvious, but I tend to listen to the artist’s works tens, if not hundreds of times before I go into a photo shoot. I want to find the right timing in the beat of the music and find myself the shot I need, and usually is the key to getting results I can be proud of. I love music, and I coincidentally was hired to take photos of the Jarasum International Jazz Festival– and that’s where I started. Rather than trying to subtly portray the music I try to get energetic and vibrant shots, and through that I’ve discovered more musicians both directly and indirectly, which has allowed me to expand my career further into the musician’s realm.

Q. I know you recently held an exhibition. What was it about?

A. For my first exhibition in 2012, I held an exhibition called “Great Expectations” for a month in the Modern Art Museum (inside of Hongik University). One of the reasons I prepared this exhibition was that although I’d used many subjects and had held many exhibitions, I’d never used the Pansori (Korean musical performance) as a subject. I wanted to add the fleeting aspect of photography with the theme of continuity, and went to visit the Pansori performers themselves. Then I received the lyrics for the performance and engraved the lyrics on with gilt (gold leaves). Many visited, and I received feedback saying that it was a very meaningful exhibition. I was fortunate enough to be called back by the Jeonju World Sound Festival for an extended exhibition.

Q. What’s your advice for newly aspiring photographers?

A. Many ask “how do you take good pictures”– I get that question a lot too. That’s when I suggest– take many photos! This doesn’t mean take more for the sake of taking more and increasing your shutter count, but rather cherish each picture you take along with the experience and unique subjects brought by it. In addition there are a lot of “Photoshop retouching” books that are released by the waves these days, but I suggest instead find a photographer you like and buy their photo book– and imitate them. I think that will be a better way to study and improve your photography.

You can see more of SH Roh’s works at www.rohsh.com, and follow him on twitter @rohsh.

As always, Like me on Facebook (near the top of the article too!) or follow me on Twitter for the latest updates! A comment is also much appreciated, sir or madam. A coffee for thee (or cookie, if thou prefers) shall be in order when we meet.

&&Phil

A comparison of Leica M9 and the Fuji X-Pro1

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Obviously it doesn’t make for a great comparison, but at the same time it’s interesting to note that Fuji has marketed towards that segment. But finally! An honest review of the AF which Kai calls “rubbish.” That does it for me.

Coming later today: the Shadow Photographers series. Stay tuned.

New Digital Cameras! Are they worth it?

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So the latest hype is around two new cameras, the Olympus OM-D E-M5 and the Fuji X-Pro 1 are panning out, as they’ve finally started shipping!

Some reviews:

Robin Wong’s Review of the Olympus E-M5.

F8 Photography’s take on the Fuji X-Pro 1.

Made me think twice about letting go of my Leica M6. Hm…

3 Ways Film Changed My Life

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“Gorgonic” -by Phillipe Han

Shoot, chimp, shoot, chimp, switch to macro mode, shoot shoot, chimp. This used to be my routine as I emptied out my 8GB memory card on my Fujifilm X100. I thought I couldn’t be happier– I was wrong. Maybe I could be happier.

One uncontented day I came across Eric Kim’s blog post on why you should shoot street photography in film. I went through the list and then convinced myself that I needed to get myself a film camera.

After trading away my X100 for a Leica M6, I was overwhelmed. I won’t make the story longer than it should be.

1. Film made me realize how scarce a true “decisive moment” is.

Us digital shutterbugs are used to shooting away, with an unlimited roll as far as the Gigabytes can see. But after countless hours tiring myself on Lightroom, I realized something– I take way too many useless and unfeeling photos.

Photos of people walking on the street.

Meaningless juxtapositions of billboards next to people.

Cold, unmeaningful, stale stares.

With only 36 exposures per film (and, let’s face it, most of us aren’t diligent enough to carry around a Bikkuri Fujifilm Film case), you’re limited to what’s left on the film, usually less than 36.

As trite as this may sound, this forced me to look at the world from a different perspective. It made me more daring, forcing me to think, “I have to get that shot”, whereas I would have taken at least 50 different pictures to get to the same shot with my DSLR or Fujifilm X100.

This means framing without the cropping. That’s it.

2. Film processing is obscenely expensive.

At least in America. Maybe one day I’ll dare to develop my own photos.

3. Film photography is beautiful precisely because you make mistakes shooting.

Before some of the nice folks on Eric Kim’s facebook page pointed me to the ISO 1600 setting, I experimented with different ISO’s because I literally didn’t know what ISO I had to be shooting at. I tried the Sunny 16 rule (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sunny_16) on my DSLR and I realized it was a rule of thumb that allowed reasonable exposures– not excellent ones. I didn’t know what shutter speeds were the “right” speeds to shoot at, so I ended up horribly underexposing my photos, or overflooding them with too much light.

But it was beautiful.

I will upload them later, but I realized that DSLRs try to meter exactly what the “correct” exposure is for each photo.

Photographs, while sometimes better with a perfect exposure (think– studio, or portraits), benefit from the human touch– the imperfection that makes us wonder what’s wrong with the photo.

Look at this photo from Linda Stokes, a photographer from my G+ network:

“February 18th, 2012” -by Linda Stokes

(Source: https://plus.google.com/photos/109501436364165187027/albums/5710684596314086593)

Maybe the exposure was intentional, maybe it wasn’t. But one thing for sure is that if you had aimed a DSLR at that crane, it would’ve thrown flash at the crane, making for an ugly, “correctly” exposed photo. The way this shadow was executed, with a bit of thinking, made it a piece more poignant and worth much brooding over.

Back in 2009, I used to shoot at f/1.4 only, being a newbie to the DSLR world. I shot this photo below in Barcelona, but only after accidentally flipping the shutter speed from 1/320 to 1/1000:

 

“One Day in Barcelona” -by Phillipe Han

The result was that it didn’t capture as much of the colors as I had intended, but I liked it. This moment, as trivial as it sounds, remains an important very dear to my shutterbug heart.

Lesson learned: let’s keep a human touch to all we shoot, even behind the cold wiring of an LCD.

Maybe I’m wrong, maybe not.

——————

This blog won’t be a simple “how to” or “Shoot X in 10 steps” blog. I won’t pretend to know everything about photography, because I’m far from it and still learning. But I will share my honest, down-to-earth opinions. I want to meet and talk with as many other people as possible, so talk to me.

How did film change your life?

&Phillipe

Talk to me on Twitter @phantasyphoto.

Invite me to G+ Hangouts.

Critique my work on 500px.

Agree to disagree with me in this blog.

Thanks for reading, now let me go develop some film.