Neptune Photo Newsletter
December 2017 Volume 71
by Steve Zimic
Leica's new CL (24MP APS-C) mirrorless camera is not just retro in name but in styling as well. But that's definitely where the similarity to the 1970's film version ends. The first clue would be the tiny illuminated LCD on top revealing basic shooting info. The non-tilting color touch LCD is multi functional using swipes and pinches much like your smart phone to control shooting modes and most everything else. Unlike its TL2 predecessor this model has a 2.36MP electronic viewfinder. The two dials have a center button which changes the function of each to control the most basic shooting parameters. You get 49 AF points and a new shutter that allows up to 10FPS. There is an adapter available to use Leica's full frame lenses although the 7 primes and 3 zooms dedicated to the system certainly should satisfy most photographers. Also new is the 18mm f2.8 Elmarit pancake lens which will sell for $1295. The camera will be available alone at $2795 or $3795 with the 18mm f2.8, or $3995 with the 18-56 sometime at the end of this month. More info on the Leica USA site.
On Raw vs JPEG
Admittedly this is an old argument, and many if not all of you have already decided which file type is best for you. However, if you're like me and decided many years ago that raw shooting is the only way to go, it may be time to revisit the reasons for doing so. I did just that recently and was quite surprised at my findings.
When digital photography first came onto the scene jpeg was the only way to shoot. Some cameras had a TIFF file option which definitely improved the quality at the expense of write time and huge file sizes. Those files sizes could definitely be a problem given the small computer hard drives at the time. When raw files where introduced, jpeg shooting was deemed strictly for amateurs. The reason for this was well founded since cameras didn't have very powerful processors to make a decent quality jpeg, due mostly to poor processing algorithms. Like your smart phone, modern cameras have huge amounts of processing power. That in conjunction with much better processing algorithms has in my opinion made the jpeg file something worth revisiting with your camera. I recently shot several different subjects in various lighting conditions, shooting both raw and jpeg files for each image. The jpegs were very impressive to say the least. Using Adobe software I attempted to match the jpeg's level of detail, noise reduction and color using the raw file. Although I was able to get very close, it was a lot of work. I thought about making a preset but realized the adjustments needed varied depending on the ISO used for the image. To top it off the comparison was done using the default in camera jpeg settings. A little tweaking of the numerous options in camera for the way the jpeg is processed yielded even more impressive results.
Perhaps not all camera brands have as impressive a jpeg file as that of my Olympus cameras, but it would be worth your time to check out. The files are 4-6 times smaller than raw files, so transfer times to your computer are much shorter. I'm also spending much less time editing my images which gives me more time to get out there and make images, or just relax reading some of my favorite authors. And for those situations where a raw file is needed to pull back the shadows and highlights more effectively, I can always switch back to raw easily enough.
Is the Tripod Dead?
With the smart-phone replacing cameras the demand for tripods is definitely way down. Even if you are still using a camera, the image stabilization in many models allows you to make sharp images in situations that would have definitely required a tripod. Sure, there are limits to what image stabilization can do as in night or astro photography, where a tripod is necessary to get the shot - at least a good shot anyway. I think many of us though overlook the most important use of a tripod - composition. For me at least, when I have the camera mounted on a tripod I'm free to more carefully examine the image at hand whether using the viewfinder or LCD. Somehow I'm able to see things in the scene that I normally would miss if hand holding. I think it has to do with the latest theory of multitasking, where it's been shown that the brain can really only concentrate on one thing at a time. So when you're multitasking your brain is basically quickly switching back and forth between two or more tasks without being able to fully concentrate on any of them. When hand holding a camera you're multitasking between holding the camera, possibly making adjustments and composition. Using the tripod allows your brain to concentrate on just one thing at a time which has been proven to be the easiest way to improve your photography. Once I'm happy with the composition, I can now concentrate on the lighting and decide what settings in the camera I might want to change, with the confidence that the composition is locked in. Sure, using a tripod slows down the whole process, but perhaps that's exactly what's needed in the hectic world we live in today.
What tripod to choose is a personal thing and there's no one model that suits every situation or every person. Recommendations will often tell you to buy the most solid tripod you can afford. While that's not bad advice, I think any tripod that will hold your equipment without collapsing or falling over in a light breeze is better than none. For a first tripod, I would recommend that you buy one that you'll be comfortable carrying, regardless of how stable or cheaply made it is. This way you'll be able to determine if it's something you want to deal with. If not, at least you haven't broken the bank and you gave it the old college try.
Most of the basic tripods come with a quick release plate that attaches to the bottom of your camera, so you don't have to fiddle with screwing the tripod head into the camera each time you use it. Arca Swiss style plates have become the most universal and readily available. Unfortunately most entry level tripods in the $40-$50 range don't use them. Whatever tripod you get, make sure the plates are readily available, because if you lose or misplace it, the tripod becomes useless. It's often said that the best camera in the world is the one you have with you. The same holds true for tripods.
New "Select Subject" in Photoshop CC
Adobe has released a teaser on you-tube showing off the new 'select subject' feature coming in the next upgrade. I've seen Photoshop teasers before that never came to fruition, but this one looks pretty legit. The tool uses artificial intelligence to automatically find your subject and selects it apart from the background. Although not perfect as you might expect, it seems to do a very good job as a starting point with just a single click. You can then refine the edges or use one of the many other selection tools to complete your project. Here's a link to the video.
Leica Noctilux 75mm f1.25
Now that's one fast portrait lens. According to Leica this is only the forth Noctilux lens ever created, which is saying something. The Noctilux line is well renowned for truly impeccable quality at all apertures and focusing distances. Going into the specs for a lens like this is meaningless since whatever they did it is going to be one superb optic. Availability is expected at the beginning of 2018 for a mind blowing price of close to $13,000, and those three zeros are not a typo. More info on the Leica website.
Fuji X-T2 - version 3.0 - Two times faster AFC with tracking, plus the ability to track objects 2X smaller. Supports new "Fujifilm X Raw Studio" (See below).
Fuji GFX-50S - version 2.0 - Improves radio flash controller usability using third party flashes, improved support for backup of camera settings, adds eye sensor + LCD view mode, adds "shoot without card" mode, expands EVF brightness control range, supports new "Fujifilm X Raw Studio" (see below).
For Fuji X-T2 and GFX-50S - New "Fujifilm X Raw Studio " - version 1.0 - Allows processing of in camera raw files when connected via the USB cable ( Mac only, PC version to follow).