Essays / category / Education

Ted Forbes over at The Art Of Photography YouTube channel recently started a photo assignment project for his viewers. The idea is to create old school photographer notebooks, the sort we all used back in school to help get our thoughts and technique together. I still use such a concept to storyboard editorials, but that is more sketching. I also use Pinterest and Evernote in a similar fashion. I actually maintain a shooting log in Evernote, complete with final photos etc.

I decided to join in this project for a couple of reasons. The two most important were the fact I have been feeling a bit creatively restricted. Ever since I have gotten to a certain level on Instagram, I've been getting many requests to shoot from agencies and agency models. Almost all of these requests have been for lingerie or boudoir and some occasional fashion. The fashion I love. I am allowed to shoot editorial there. The lingerie and boudoir is a little different. Boudoir is very stylized and plays within a certain box, while lingerie can be editorial in nature, most of the models requesting it want something more Victoria Secret's than something more editorial.

Above is an example of what I've been shooting of late. In truth while I really like that shot, I was more excited to shoot a young woman named Caitin. Here is what we did.

I just love that shot. The other reason is I wanted to create content that went away from what I have been creating for this blog and my own YouTube Channel. There are a million channels that go over gear and technique and will walk you through Photoshop et al. Honestly I was feeling like an idiot doing that. There are folks that do it far better. After starting this is have decided to focus that part on what it is like for me to be a photographer. My process and what it means to me. So many thanks to Ted Forbes to starting this project and inspiring me to change what I do here. Hopefully all of you join me in this adventure. Now without further ado, the ten viewpoints....

Ten Viewpoints

The first assignment that Ted gave was to take one subject or idea and shoot it from ten different viewpoints. In truth I shot 13. No edits, no selection from a larger set, all thirteen images right here.

The above is the actual notebook I pasted my shots after printing them out. I know it looks a bit old school, but the charm of it is what makes me happy. Below are the actual shots with the notes I scribbled along the edges.....


Shot on a Samsung Galaxy S5 with Camera FV5

I was a bit distracted when I started this. I couldn't decide what to shoot with. I spent so much time worrying about gear rather than what I am shooting.

The hard part was getting it to focus. Finally I just gave up. In the end I just went with it. In the end I really loved what I got. I ended up shooting 13 images. I wonder what Ted will assign next?

Why B&W? I think mostly because of the abstraction of B&W. It basically reduces things to just light and composition.

If I were honest, these shots may not be as creative as some of the other work others have done for this. I'm perhaps lacking the level of creativity and need to push there.

All italicized text is as exactly written in my notebook.

For many of us, the camera we use most is the one on our phone. Be we professional shooters to casual snap shooters, the phone is always with us. “The best camera is the one you have with you” is something Chase Jarvis once said, and by that axiom the camera on your phone is the best camera of all time. Sure from a technical standpoint it may not be as full featured as say a Pentax 645Z or as fast as say a Canon 1DX, but honestly those cameras are heavy, and don’t have Instagram built in. The smartphone, be in an iOS or Android device, has made us a connected world that information can be transmitted in real time. In photography this is even more evident with the work of photographers like Eric Kim and Takei out in Vancouver. Both use smartphones heavily for street photography, the instant nature of them being perfect for the documentary nature of this type of work, the deeper narrative reserved for the Ricoh GRs, Leicas and Fujis they also use. Of course we all want our images to look great when we release them to the online world. A cottage industry of image editors and manipulation apps exist on both iOS and Android. In this first of a series on these apps and integrated workflow we will look at VSCO.

What is VSCO?

VSCO is short for Visual Supply COmpany. What VSCO is best know for are plugins that work in Lightroom and Photoshop simulating various types of film emulsions from the days of yore, much like DXO Film Pack and many others. Last year they released a mobile version of there plugin system that like everything else has a Social Media element as well as the photo editor aspects.

When you open the app you are brought to the main screen which is the Library with menu bar open. Once you click on Library the screen clears the menu sidebar and comes to the main screen.

The main screen is very clean, with just a few icons that go to one of the various features. The video below will go over everything but here in the article we’ll focus on the icon in the lower left - the mixer.

In the mixer you can adjust quite a few variables. In the included video we go over each one. Here are some clearer images of each screen for reference.

Just follow the video below.

If I could change anything in this app it would be the ability to edit in landscape ala Snapseed, also in the crop section I would add classic photography aspect rations such as 6x17 and 6x12 as well as a free ratio option.

Any questions feel free to ask in the comments!

One thing that many people don't realize is that when you shoot Instant Film, the print isn't really the final product. Whether you shoot Impossible, Instax or Peel Apart, there is always more. In this first in a series on Instant Photography we'll go over how to recover a negative from Fuji FP-100C. The process is straightforward and requires only some warm water, a sheet of glass, a sponge and of course some bleach.

Start off by reserving the backing from your polaroid. It can be dry or you can clear it immediately after you process. I personally like to let them dry as while I'm shooting I don't want to slow down. First wet the surface of the glass. then wet the emulsion side (that is the side that was in contact with the print) after removing as much paper as possible. Make sure you have the water running. The temperature should be warm to touch but not very hot. At this point you can either use bleach based toilet bowl cleaning gel or bleach based cleaning spray (I personally prefer Fantastic 5 In 1 Bleach Cleaner). 

Depending on the type you use will affect the final negative. The spray cleaner will bleed over to the emulsion side creating odd and random color and density changes that I sort of like. If you want a more solid negative with little loss on the emulsion side use the gel cleaner. I usually leave the bleach on for about twenty seconds then rinse and scrub with the sponge to remove the black anti halation backing off the negative. Once it clears (which will be nearly instant) using just warm water rinse off the negative rubbing the emulsion side gently to remove any "gooey" residue.

I go over the entire process in the video below;

Here are the results!

Remember folks I do have a Polaroid Project I'm working on and would love your support. You can find out more at my GoFundMe page for this project. If you have any questions please feel free to comment below!

To continue on Scott W Leslie’s question about editing video in Photoshop, let’s discuss one type of video that Photoshop is really great at creating - a cinemagraph.

What Is A Cinemagraph?

A cinemagraph is a short (about 4 seconds max) looping video used on the web or on TV. Usually they look like a still image with a small section that is in motion. Perhaps it’s light moving over a lush head of hair, or the cape of some hero moving in the wind. The idea is to create some small image that has a sense of motion, but acts for design purposes as a still. The first step in creating the image is to shoot the video. It has to be something that can easily have the motion looped. For this lesson I shot some water flowing from a faucet over an orange using a Pentax 645Z and the 645 200/4 SMC-A. The reason I use a manual focus version of this lens (I do have the AF version) is that that lens is easy o modify to a de-clicked aperture for shooting video. IN a later video I’ll show you the whole procedure on how to do this, but it’s about the only current option to use lenses on the 645Z with a smooth iris for cinematography.

The other thing to consider is that you must create a custom color profile (i.e. modify one of the scene modes) to give as “flat” an image as possible. That means turning the saturation, sharpness and highlights all the way down and the shadows all the way up. I keep this profile solely for shooting video. After setting a custom white balance I shot the video at ISO 1600 at F/4 and a shutter of 1/50th at 24fps. There is a very specific reason for those settings, but that will be covered later. I then imported the video into Photoshop CC 2015.

After importing the video I trimmed the beginning to the 14 second mark and cut the remained after the 22 second mark. Why trim on the from and cut the back? The reason for this is when I go to the next step, the data in the trim section is still there, while the data in the cut section is lost for the most part in our next step. You see we will be duplicating this layer into a new video group and recovering about 2 seconds from the start and trimming the end so that the last frame of the duplicated layer is the exact same frame as the starting frame of the original layer.

The reason we need to do this is create a smooth looping video that doesn’t look like it skips. To start this step from the Timeline Window we create a new video group. We then using the “Duplicate Layer” function on the Layer Palette. If you use the keyboard shortcut you will duplicate the untrimmed video which just adds time to your workflow. The Duplicate Layer function on the other hand only duplicates the edited clip which is what we want. When duplicated the new clip will be at the very end in the same video group as it’s original. We must drag that clip into the new group then drag that group so it is below in order the original group as we see below.

At this point we now add back about 1-2 seconds to the start of the video in the new group and trim the end of it so it matches the end of the first video, basically making the last frame of this duplicate clip the same as the first frame in the original clip. At this point we must now smooth out the video image so there is no “skipping” in playback. We do this using opacity markers on the original clip layer, setting the first one about a second into the duplicate clip, and using additional markers to set the opacity to 0% by the end of it’s playback so the last frames of the duplicate frame are showing through fully.

Now that we have a smooth looping video it’s time to color grade the image. Color Grading is the video equivalent of Color Correction in still photography and the major reason why you want as flat an image as possible. Unless you are shooting with a camera that generates CinemaDNG files, this is your best option. Now I already use color grading in still photography to set a “mood” when processing in post images for editorials. To do this quickly I use an action I call “Grade” that creates a layer group that has two Curve Adjustment layers (one set to “luminosity" and the other to “color”) and one Channel Adjustment layer set to “soft light”. After making adjustments as needed and adding some addition adjustment layers based on need (in this case Saturation and Levels) I get the image rather quickly looking the way I want.

Now it’s very important to note that if you use grading to make sure that all those adjustment layers sit in a group outside and above in the layer tree of the video groups. If you don’t do this, then the next step will not give the desired results. At this point we have a beautifully graded short clip, but it’s not yet a cinemagraph. It has too much motion. The idea is to look like a still with limited motion. We must now scrub through the video and find a spot which we think will make a great still. Once we find that spot we use the Command-Option-Shift-E keyboard shortcut to basically capture that specific frame as a still on a new layer, making sure that it sits at the top of the layer tree as seen below.

If you play the video now you will see zero motion. We are almost there. Now to add motion back all we have to do is create a layer mask and using a brush set to zero hardness and flow and opacity at 100 percent paint black on the mask where the orange is. It should look like this when done.

If you play the video now you’ll see the image stays perfectly still except where the mask is black. There the motion from the clips below take over showing nation. Now if there is any retouching you need to do at this point for say a beauty cinemagraph you do it to this layer, making sure that the mask for the motion hole gets copied to any layers that you create for retouching. finally we can export this video using the “Save For Web” feature as a GIF file set to diffusion, Dither at 100%, 256 color and looping set to Forever.

 Finally below is a short video going over the entire process.

Feel free to comment below, or like and subscribe on YouTube and ask in the comments there. See you in the next article.

In this edition of “What’s In My Bag” I’ll go over one of my favorite toys, my “Frankencamera” setup for stills using a Pentax Q.

What’s Actually In The Bag

Let’s first start with the bag itself, my old Dome F-803 Messenger Bag. It’s an old bag, so old the strap has worn off so I went and purchased a military bag strap made of the same canvas at an Army/Navy surplus. As you can see besides the strap, this bag has lasted me about twenty years! The F-803 is usually a 6 pocket affair that comes with an insert to make the main compartment a three pocket setup. I’ve taken the insert and use it in my F-802 that you’ve seen in the previous edition of this series.

The rig itself is from an old Sunpak Slave flash as well as an IKan cold shoe. The video light is used as a focus assist light in this setup while the three F-18 flashes have diffusers made from tracing paper sandwiched between plastic from a clear plastic folder and held on by gaffer’s tape. To trigger all this I use a Pentax 2P Hot Shoe Adapter that has a pass through to allow the flash mounted on the hot shoe of the Q to fire as well as a PC Port with a splitter to connect the other two flashes via sync cables. Basically this whole rig cost at most $80 from parts that are readily available In another article I’ll go over shooting with this rig and how I post process everything.

Enjoy the tour!

This question comes in from Facebook user Scott W Leslie.; "I didn't know you could edit video in Photoshop." We'll Scott let me show you how that is done.

Yes you can edit video in Photoshop CC. Now I will state that the video editing tools aren't all that advanced, but still they are quite good and intuitive. What's more important here is the fact that Photoshop's tools are quite well suited to creating Cinemagraphs. For those wondering a Cinemagraph is a very short looping video, sort of a still image with motion. In this first of two articles I'll show you how to do the basic edits, import audio and color correct and grade your footage. In part two we'll create a Cinemagraph and discuss some of the additional tools you have in Photoshop CC to edit video. Now this tutorial will assume that you have a passing familiarity with Adobe Photoshop CC, especially the idea of using Layers and of course things like Curves and Levels etc al.

Let's start off with the main Photoshop window. If you notice there is a Timeline window at the bottom of the screen. It works much like the Layer Tab and can be minimized when not in use. To access the Timeline Window select it from the Window Menu as shown below. The Timeline Window will also automatically appear when you import a video.

Once you import the video you'll note the first difference between using Photoshop and say DaVinci Resolve or another editor. Photoshop places all media on the timeline, there is no separate media pool. While this allows for greater speed since the application isn't importing data, it does make editing and assembly of the footage somewhat harder as you cannot scrub through and set in and out points for the footage so you can place it on the timeline. One other thing you'll notice is that Photoshop will do is that it creates a new Layer Group for your footage. 

This is actually a very powerful tool as it allows you to do local adjustments and effects to that specific group while allowing for global adjustments using other layers based on their order in the Layer Window. Basically the Timeline Window is an adapted Layer Window giving you the basic tools such as transitions, cutting etc. The actual positions of the tracks is controlled by the Layer Window. Now please note that when you add additional footage you can add it to the current Video Group (or Layer) or create another layer for use. It's important to note that when creating new adjustment layer to edit and color correct globally you must create it outside of all the other groups you are going to correct. Local corrections are done within the Video Group Layer. 

As you can see above this allows for a lot of control over the footage and images. You can easily do things like Picture In Picture as well as a slew of other effects quickly and precisely using Photoshop CC. The biggest issue is of course the lack of a media drawer that will let you more readily set things on the timeline making the editing of larger projects (say anything longer than about ten minutes) a tedious chore. That said however, it is quite the powerful editor and quite quick and easy to use especially if you have little familiarity with video editing. This is why Photoshop CC is so well suited for the creation of Cinemagraphs which we will discuss in the next part. In the meantime watch the video below for a full walk through of the items we've discussed above as well as how to export and save your finished videos.

Finally if you have a question that you'd like answered about anything photographic please feel free to comment below or contact me via email or Twitter.

This little video goes over what I carry each day in my daily camera bag. This is basically what I have with me when I walk around daily, and whenever I do documentary photography. For the most part the why's and wherefore of the individual cameras and digital gear are covered in earlier articles here about mobile photography. Just click that tag on the left and you'll find them. The only thing I really didn't talk about was the bag itself, the Domke F-802.

I love Domke bags. My old F-2 and F-1x have been with me for a couple of decades along with the F-803. The way these bags are made out of military grade impregnated canvas is just bulletproof. Outside of a Pelican Case, nothing is better than a Domke. They may not be as flashy as say a Billingham, but they do the job well and for the most part are designed much like the cameras that were around when Bill Domke created the bag when on the staff of the Philadelphia Enquirer, to last a lifetime.

As far as the large number of notebooks I carry, what can I say. I do use them heavily, and have a fetish for Moleskin notebooks specifically. There is just something about a well crafted little notebook like the ones they make. Something very Zen, much like shooting film on an old Leica Rangefinder. To be honest that is why I love shooting documentary (or euphemistically "street") photography. I don't shoot it to get into Time Magazine or anything like that. I shoot it to document the world I see and in all honesty to relax and almost meditate. I try not to worry about much when I shoot street and while for time and cost primarily shoot this work digitally, on occasion I will break out one of my old film cameras, many of them without built in meters and shoot the old fashion way, f/8 and be there as well as Sunny 16.

Enjoy the video, and do read the articles that go in more detail about the items I carry.

As many of you know I shoot with a Pentax 645Z for a large portion of my work. Prior to that I shot with a Pentax 645D and before that I rented a Phase One back for an old Contax 645 I use to own. Now many of you will of course ask the obvious, why shoot medium format digital today? With cameras available in the 30+MP range that are smaller and less expensive what is the allure that would lead one to medium format? Let me get this clear right off the bat, I have a very strong relationship with Ricoh Imaging, the owners of the Pentax brand. This article was suppose to be a simple white paper on how to get around Capture One for tethered shooting. It was suppose to be quick and easy, but with many thanks to Ricoh and of course much patience and a few revisions this has become something a bit longer.

Now back to the question - “Why Medium Format”. As I noted there are cameras by several manufacturers that easily get into the resolution of many medium format units. Cameras by Sony, Nikon, Canon and soon Pentax as well all have “full-frame” options that reach into the 30+ mp range. Resolution must therefore not be the driving reason for the desire to shoot medium format. What could it be?

In the image above you see three shots side by side using different cameras and their respective “normal” lenses. Each uses a different sensor size and have the identical field of view. In all the shots the ISO and aperture are identical as well as the FOV. Yet in each the DOF is vastly different, getting shallower with each increase in sensor size. Why is this? Focal length is the answer. On the far left is a shot using a Pentax Q with it’s 8.5mm f/2.8 lens, next to it is a shot from a Pentax K3 using a 16-50 at 35mm, and finally the Pentax 645Z using a 75/2.8. Even though each of these lenses provides a near identical FOV, the shorter actual focal lengths will have a lot more DOF. You cannot argue with he law of physics. This is why one shoots Medium Format, you use longer focal lengths for the same FOV. Because of this you get better subject isolation and shallower DOF for the same FOV. The penalty of course is you need to be a lot more careful with your focus technique, and of course you can’t shoot rapid fire, willy nilly. The exploit the benefits of Medium Format fully, you have to slow down your approach and take a bit more time.

Now let’s move on to the next matter, workflow. When Pentax released it’s first MFD, the 645D, it enjoyed support in Capture One for DNG conversion. One could capture via a workaround into Capture One as well, much like Hasselblad H3D users had to do. Unfortunately Phase One has decided to block DNG support not only for the 645Z, but all Pentax cameras. Since their product is vastly more expensive with far less technology, Phase has decided to block all competitors in an attempt to monopolize the market and take choice away from the consumer. Now for the vast majority of Pentax users this is of little consequence, but for 645Z users this is a major headache. Most work done with Medium Format cameras is done in a tethered workflow model. This is primarily due to the market sector MFD users are in. While the 645Z has expanded these markets and the places one can confidentaly use a MFD, the vast majority of the work still is done in markets where an AD will want a realtime view of what is being shot.

Thankfully for us Capture One is not the only solution available. Adobe’s Lightroom CC provides us with two methods to implement tethered workflow. One of these methods also provides the added benefit of compatibility with Lightroom Mobile, thereby allow you to provide an experience similar to using Capture Pilot only without the iOS only restrictions. So let's dive in!

Option 1 Pentax Transmitter Software

This first option is the least desirable of the options available. It is basically similar to the old “watched folder” work around in previous versions of Capture One. The application is Pentax Image Transmitter 2.0. This version of the package does provide an image preview and allows you to fully control the camera as seen from the screenshot below.

One very interesting thing is the LV function that gives you the Live View screen right from the camera. It also allows you to write directly to the memory cards while tethered, and allow you to shoot in TIFF as well as the usual DNG and JPEG formats. What Image transmitter basically boils down to is a quick and dirty way to whether and capture to your computer.

The control panel above is the key for what we are trying to do. The section at the top marked “Destination” is where you will choose the folder your captured images are stored. This will be important when we get to Lightroom in the next step. Now the most important thing to remember is that folder must be empty for Lightroom to do what we need it to do. The video below will demonstrate the final steps.

The live view feature is the most interesting thing and as you can see includes focus peaking. The only real bad thing here is the fact that one cannot enlarge the window or use the Transmitter Software to also do video capture direct to the hard drive. Another limitation of this method is the fact that in Lightroom I cannot target a Collection. Collections is where the real power of Lightroom in a capture workflow lies. Collections allow you to sync via the cloud to mobile devices such as an iPad or Android Tablet like the Samsung Galaxy Note Pro. 

Option 2 - Pentax Tether Plugin

While the above does work to capture to a hard drive and as you see in the video above apply a recipe as the images are imported into Lightroom, the limitations on syncing with an exterior device is problematic. Another issue is of course the need to run additional software. The less one has to worry about the better. To that end the folks at Ricoh Imaging worked together with Adobe and created a plugin for Lightroom that allows direct tethered captured. The major benefit of this is that you can send the files directly to a Collection that can be synced with Lightroom Mobile. This allows you to hand the client a tablet and they can watch the image pop up right there. Now granted Capture Pilot does this as well, but Lightroom Mobile goes a few step farther allow not only selection of the images which gets synced back to Lightroom, but it works via the Adobe Cloud, not just WiFi. This allows the client to be remote from the shooting location, hell even the other side of the globe if need be. LR Mobile also allows the client, or better their Art Director to modify the DNG development recipe and have those changes updated to whatever the photographer is shooting.

After going to File>Tethered Capture the following dialogue box should pop up. Here much like in Capture One you can set the location, file naming, metadata and of course the ability to “Add To A Collection” where the real magic happens. Once you click OK the following control bar pops up;

Unlike the Transmitter Software, the options are far more limited for camera control. Outside of the big silver button to fire the camera, the control panel only shows the information that you have set on the camera itself. usually I first create a collection for the shoot and make sure that I have it sync with LR Mobile. On the Collections Panel this is represented by a small double ended arrow to left of the collection name.

 Once Capture occurs the images are transmitted immediately to LR Mobile allowing the client to select and of course if they are capable make needed adjustments to the photos and have those elections and adjustments sync back to the host computer.

The video below show the full process.

Feel free to ask questions below in the comments.

In the last article we discussed the various capabilities in using old lenses on modern digital cameras, MILC to be exact. In this article we'll go through the complete process of developing RAW files with an eye on how to correct or enhance the unique look of these optics using the Pentax Q and Kern Paillard lenses from the late 50's.

What you see above is my Pentax Q with a C-Mount adapter to use the Kern Palliard (KP) SWITAR 25/1.5 lens. C-Mount lenses cover a 16mm film frame and currently are available in two types - motion picture and CCTV. Now while the modern CCTV lenses are multicoated affairs, they are optically inferior to their motion picture brethren. The KP's (the one on the camera is from 1956) are considered to be the Leica of 16mm motion picture lenses, with incredible optical quality. The downside of using vintage motion picture lenses is they are made of either single or uncoated optics that can cause a bit of chromatic aberration that can be difficult to correct for. In this case we have a single coat optic.

Since this article is about dealing with these sort of optics let's just dive right in. Above is a shot of Cory Nova from the Q shot using the KP. As you can see the contrast is a bit low and the color a tad cool. What really stands out though is while technically sharp the lens due to being single coated has a certain softness. The first thing we must address is the color and contrast.

First off we address the color by shifting it just a tad warmer. We also drag down the highlights and bump the shadows up ever so slightly. Oddly we decrease clarity and do nothing in the contrast. The clarity drop is to give the skin a smoother look. Increasing contrast is not done as that would tend to contract the histogram, giving less leeway when doing post production in Photoshop. Please note this is the ACR control panel, not Lightroom. We'll delve far more into that application when I publish my 645Z articles. So if I didn't add contrast how did the contrast increase ever so slightly?

In the latest versions of ACR and Lightroom there is an FX tab that has a wonderful feature when dealing with the "haze" that single coat optics have on digital sensors - DeHaze. This is a bit different and not as destructive as just cranking up the contrast slider. The idea here is not to use too much. A small amount goes a long way. One thing you'll note is that I did not address the "sharpness" of the image yet. I don't in the ACR, but do in Photoshop. At this point I export out a 16 bit TIFF and move to the next step.

One reason I use Photoshop over Lightroom is the extensive retouching one does in much of the work I do. It is by adapting the technique I use for retouching images I can increase the "sharpness" of the final image. Above you see the final exported image. The next step is prepping this image for retouching by making two duplicate layers. 

The first layer is what we call a "low frequency" layer. It is created by duplicating the original image onto a new layer then applying a slight gaussian blur. This is the layer we use to correct color and such. 

The next layer is the "high frequency" layer. This again is a duplicate layer, this time applied to the low frequency layer and creates a grayscale image that contains all the detail information for retouching. At this point I do all my retouching work. Once done I duplicate the high frequency layer leaving the blending option at "Linear Light".

Much like the ""high frequency" layer this adds detail. I drop the opacity to around 50% so as not to over sharpen the image. From this point I flatten the image and carry out my final post process procedures. Now while this may seem a bit long and involved it really isn't. About the best way to perhaps save time in this process is to create a custom lens profile for the ACR module. Now since this is just a small MILC and not a Medium Format legacy camera like say a Mamiya RZ or Hasselblad 500CM using a Phase One back, I really see no reason to go through all that. In the future however I will do an article on this in case any of you do want to do this. I'll leave you off with the final image to enjoy and hope you all join me here for my next article.

Feel free to ask any questions below.

The photos you see below were all shot digitally on cameras that do not have the mounts natively of the lenses used to shoot them. You see the lenses used to shoot these images are between 50 and 60 years old. How could I shoot these old lenses on a modern digital system? I used a pair of Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera (MILC).

Over the last few years these types of cameras have become more prevalent in the consumer sector and with the introduction by Sony of a "full frame" MILC, now begins to enter the professional market. The question many of you of course who aren't acolytes of the modern camera world will have is what exactly is a MILF anyways? Granted the vast majority of you will be a bit more advanced and will know what they are, so for those of you please indulge me while I educated the less initiated among our readers.

Basically cameras use one of three systems to create a way to preview an image prior to shooting. The most common on cameras where you can change the lens involves a mirror in the path of the light between the lens and the focal plane which bounces the light into a prism and mirror system so you can see what the lens is pointed at. This is known as a Single Lens Reflex camera. When you see the contraction DSLR you are basically discussing a camera with this type of viewing system for composing and focusing the camera. 

 A MILC eschews the mirror in the light path either using direct viewing or some other system to compose and focus the image. In most modern digital MILC that would be either the rear camera screen (giving us a digital version of direct viewing such as one would have on a large format camera) or on cameras sold more to the enthusiast market an Electronic View Finder (EVF). I could discuss Rangefinders but that would needlessly confuse the situation, so let's just work with the above. 

 The benefit of using a MILC is that they tend to be much smaller that cameras with the same sensor size since there is no need to create space for a mirror and it's flipping and instant return mechanisms. Smaller cameras usually means smaller lenses and less weight to carry around all day when you are out shooting. There are of course drawbacks, but technology is quickly eliminating many of the issues. One of the benefits of all this is that the registration distance (the distance between the back of the lens to the focal plane is reduced. This has become a major selling point of these systems, many competing to get thinner and thinner. 

 Now why is this benefit? With such short registration distances this allows for a unique situation, if one can via adapter extend that distance and allow the mounting of other lenses, one could conceivably mount practically any lens one wanted at any time. Capitalism being what it is a small cottage industry around just that very idea has evolved in the last few years. Almost any MILC can currently be adapted for almost any lens mount out there. Now personally I don't understand why anyone would want to mount say a Canon or Nikon lens to an MILC outside of being a bit of a gear freak, but for those of us who have lenses for systems long abandoned prior to the digital revolution this becomes a very attractive option. I personally own two MILC systems specifically for this purpose. One is a Sony NEX-6 which I use with Olympus Pen F lenses from the 60's. The other is a Pentax Q which I use with Kern Palliard C-Mount lenses from the 50's and Pentax Auto 110 lenses from the 70's. 

 The above image demonstrates what I love about these old lenses. The draw of these lenses is due to the very different formulation as well as the fact that these lenses were hand built and hand polished. They had a very different character than modern lenses, a bit softer but still "sharp". Of course using these older lenses does incur some penalty on digital sensors. The biggest issue is that to modern eyes these lenses tend to have low contrast. 

The major reason why is that lenses back in the 60's and 50's either had no coatings (the case with a certain Kern Palliard you'll see in part two) or are just single coated, like each of the Pen FT lenses I use with the Sony NEX-6. Of course more recent lenses, those built mostly in the 80's onwards tend to have a good look on a digital camera, but these older lenses do need some work.

 Both of the shots above for instance were shot using a Olympus 38/1.8 for the PenFT. Being single coats the contrast was quite low compared to a modern lens. Another issue is that older lenses tend to be a bit warmer in color rendition than modern lenses, requiring a bit of work to adjust color unless you are willing to create a lens profile for it. 

Of course if you are using a 500 series 'blad with a Phase One back, this is something you've probably done, but if you are using some funky lenses on a consumer digital, you've probably haven't, and if you are into Lomography may not want to. Now granted the focal length's I am using on these systems are fairly easy to match with modern lenses for each system, but with that said, there is a certain charm and of using these older vintage lenses. The feel of a smooth focus ring, the satisfying click of the aperture ring, and most importantly, that unique look lenses of those eras give an image. In part two we'll look at some images from the Pentax Q and go over ACR processes to keep in mind when working with these vintage lenses.