World premiere: The 2014 Leica T (Typ 701) review

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Caveat: this review was produced with a final production beta camera and lenses; this means that whilst we’re probably 99% of the way there, there will almost certainly be some small changes before the camera finally ships. All sample images were shot in DNG and converted via ACR, with the 18-56 and 23mm native T-mount lenses.

Let me say up front that whilst I have been very clear that innovation has been somewhat lacking in the camera industry across the board of late, there have been a few standouts that do so precisely because they push various aspects of the game – be it image quality or more rarely, ergonomics. I’ve long had the feeling that Apple’s latest camera implementations – touch once to lock exposure and focus, again to shoot – have really distilled the essence of the camera down to its bare minimum. It uses technology not to pad out a spec sheet, but to free the photographer to concentrate solely on composition. Shame then, that none of the more capable cameras have really gotten this implementation right – until now. I believe the Leica T is the first generation of a paradigm shift in the way we control and interact with our cameras.

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Photoessay: Architectural juxtapositions

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I’m pretty sure none of the architects or designers involved with this project could have envisioned the sightlines I used for these images, or if they did, it’s almost uncertain that they would have been able to forsee the changes in the environment surrounding the buildings. Some believe that photography is no more than a derivative work of somebody else’s primary creation; I of course disagree – and that will be the subject of a future article.

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Photoessay: Trees revisited

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Following on from the previous article on improving the digital B&W workflow process, it’s only fair that I show you some examples. I’ve chosen near-field landscapes – effectively, trees – as the test material, because I’ve always felt that this has been the most difficult subject to capture in a convincingly natural way*.

*Yes, I know, nature is in colour and monochrome images are by definition unnatural, but bear with me here.

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MF digital goes mainstream: early thoughts on the Pentax 645Z

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Image from Pentax UK.

A couple of days ago, Pentax threw down the gauntlet to the other medium format digital camera makers in the form of the 645Z. It uses the same ~50MP 44x33mm CMOS as the Hasselblad H5D-50C and Phase One IQ250, but with one critical difference: unlike the Hasselblad and Phase One, it’s feasibly within the reach of a whole load more people. And it isn’t just the shocking price – $8,500 plays $29,000 (Hasselblad) or $37,000 (Phase) – it’s the UI and operating gestalt, too. I think what we’ve just seen is an early game changer.

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A digital B&W epiphany

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With the previous article on HDR, the zone system and dynamic range as background, I can now explain exactly what my B&W discovery was: it’s mostly to do with the highlights, but only in certain areas. And to make things more confusing, creating a natural-looking – perhaps even filmic image – required me to take processing steps that were both highly counterintuitive, but also go against everything else I’ve done and used successfully in the past. Read on if you dare; I can’t promise enlightenment, but I can certainly try for insight.

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Demystifying HDR, the zone system, and dynamic range

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My eyes, my eyes! I had to work quite hard to make this as a) I don’t own any of those filter programs and b) I don’t do this kind of hyper toned, overlapping HDR. The actual, final version of this image is at the end of the article.

HDR/ High Dynamic Range photography is perhaps one of the greatest blessings and curses of the digital age of imaging. On one hand, we have retina-searing rubbish that’s put out by people who for some odd reason celebrate the unnaturalness of the images, encouraged by the companies who make the filters that make doing this kind of thing too easy – and on the other hand, there are a lot of HDR images out there that you probably wouldn’t have pegged as being anything other than natural. There is, of course, a way to do it right, and a way to do it wrong. I use HDR techniques in almost all of my images – I live in the tropics, remember, and noon contrast can exceed 16 stops from deep shadows to extreme highlights – we simply have no choice if you want to produce a natural-looking scene.

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Medium format digital in the field

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There are quite a number of medium format digital cameras available today; the vast majority are designed to handle like oversize DSLRs, and in some cases, there’s very little difference size- and control-wise between these cameras – take the Leica S, for instance. This makes them both familiar and easy to use, but also somewhat liable to catch out the unweary. My digital field work with medium format is done with a Hasselblad CFV-39, mounted on a 501CM body. The method of operation constantly reminds you that this is most certainly not another DSLR; not least because you have to wind the camera after every shot to recock the shutter and lower the mirror! The intention of this article is to look at the practicalities – or impracticalities – of using medium format digital in the field or while travelling as a DSLR replacement, and more importantly, in a way that lets you actually see enough of a difference to justify it in the first place.

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Photoessay: Following the crowd

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Same same but different

Today’s photoessay is the precursor to isolation and the concept of man – to be the subject of a future photoessay. People seek each other’s company and now congregate in their individuality – no man is an island, and all that. This is an intermediate, transitory stage before people become deindividualized again: at the end, they flow like water. And like water, even though at the microscopic level there is discreteness, at the macro level, there isn’t. Perhaps it is inevitable because there’s simply not enough space; perhaps it’s inevitable because fundamentally, humans are social creatures and deep down, most of us need some sort of affirmation and acceptance. Remember, I did say some time ago that we photographers are really also philosophers as a consequence of the way we interpret, filter and re-present the world…MT

The making of a lot of these images, and the ones in the previous photoessay, were featured, deconstructed and explained in detail in How To See Episode 2: Tokyo and Street Photography Episode 1.

This set was shot with a Hasselblad 501CM, CF 2.8/80 and CF 4/150 lenses and the CFV-39 digital back.

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Poll: H2 2014 workshop locations: where would you like me to go?

Following on from the previous report from the Melbourne Making Outstanding Images workshop and in the interests of determining which locations I should go to in the second half of 2014 – planning begins now – here’s a poll to get your input. Also feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments.

Please note:

  • Please only answer if you intend to attend
  • Making Outstanding Images workshops are three days long, and follow this syllabus (Melbourne and London). They are aimed at all photographers of all levels and cover the core toolkit you need to make the images you want.
  • Masterclass are five days long, and follow this syllabus. They are aimed at intermediate/ advanced photographers who want to take their photography further, develop style and want an intensive feedback cycle to hone their vision. The aim is beyond just making pictures: it’s to turn you into a serious photographer.

Thanks in advance! MT

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Workshop report – Making Outstanding Images, Melbourne

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Melbourne threw one enormous challenge at us: the weather. Those who live there weren’t surprised, but personally not having lived there for the better part of 20 years, I forgot just how indecisive and rapidly changeable it could be. If the days start off clear and bright, they landed up stormy. If they started off with rain, by the time 4pm rolled around, you wished you were wearing shorts and a t-shirt because it might be 30 degrees in the sun. Though it provided considerable sartorial confusion, it did also allow a wide variety of shooting conditions to be experienced – everything from what to do when there’s no light, to how to handle extremes of contrast when your camera can’t hold everything.

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