Technology and Flexibility

mickyates Falmouth, Landscape, Leica, MA, Masters, Nikon Leave a Comment

We all to one degree or another suffer from GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome). It goes with the photographic territory that we want to use the ‘right’ equipment, whether that is digital film, large format or even cameraless. I could blame Vilem Flusser and his ideas on apparatus, but that would be churlish and just an excuse.

As my photography has developed, and as my bank balance improved, I have moved from Pentax (the KX with 55mm Takumar is still one of my all time favourite film combinations), to Nikon and then Leica. Too many times however we see debates on megapixels, crop factors, tracking focus and more. Totally natural, but not necessarily going to improves one’s image making.

This past week, Leica introduced the SL2. I have the SL1 in my kit, and it is my ‘go to’ when I am shooting events, portraits or (occasionally) weddings. I am pretty sure that the SL2 features in my photographic future, but not just yet. There is perhaps an ultimate irony in the fact that my MA FMP work is shot with a Micro 4/3 Olympus, and a relatively tiny sensor adjusted for infrared. In any event, I was chatting with Jono Slack who beta-tests all new Leica equipment. Here is his SL2 review. We were talking about the SL and how it works with other brands of lenses, Nikon be be precise.

So I decided to dust off the Novoflex adaptor, and run a few frames with Nikon’s 80-200mm lens. When I bought the SL, one of the attractions was the ability to use the camera with many different kinds of lenses, Leica and otherwise.

The 80-200 F/2.8 is a flagship product for Nikon, in its many variations, and a professional sports lens. I have a couple, although the latest models do not work with the Novoflex adaptor that I have.  I used the AF-S D series lens, from 2001, which allows manual aperture adjustment. It has always got excellent reviews. The Novoflex adaptor I have works transparently, although one has to focus manually. The SL’s focus peaking works flawlessly with this lens / adaptor combination, so that is hardly a chore.

I set the SL at ISO 800, and the Nikon lens at F/5.6. And I shot at the maximum 200mm focal length. This allowed some pretty high speed exposures, to reduce any camera shake as I was shooting handheld.

First, the full frame image, reduced in file size for the web. The native SL image size is 6000 x 4000, 24 megapixels. Click on the image for a larger view.

Leica SL, Nikon 80-200mm, Full Frame

The image has had only minor corrections for dynamic range, noise and sharpness – colour is exactly as shot. There is a lovely 3D ‘pop’ with pleasing bokeh and very natural colour reproduction.

Next, the same photograph with a crop factor of 1.6, equivalent to an AP-S C. This image is 3750 x 2500, 9.4 megapixels. As reference, here is a good explanation of crop factors.

Leica SL, Nikon 80-200mm, 1.6 Crop Factor

Looks pretty damn good to me.

Next, cropped  down to Micro 4/3 sensor size, roughly a 2.0 crop factor, yielding an image of 3000 x 2000, 6 megapixels.

Leica SL, Nikon 80-200mm, 2.0 Crop Factor

This also looks pretty good to me. I should note that I have converted the first three of these images to a 3600 jpg file size for consistency on the web, which means the first two are downsampled, and this last one is slightly upsampled.

Finally, and rather extreme, to an image size of 2000 x 1333, a 2.7 megapixel file and a crop factor of 4.

Leica SL, Nikon 80-200mm, 3.0 Crop Factor

Clearly this is loosing some sharpness, and I created a smaller 2000 jpg for the web, versus the 3600 for those above.

I am pretty sure that if I was using the Leica 90-280 SL lens I might ‘see’ better results. But one does wonder about that? Whilst the photographs might not totally exhibit that ‘Leica bokeh’, the image quality (IQ) overall is still rather good, even at the smaller file sizes. And then of course there is always more post processing which could boost clarity, etc, which I have avoided here.

The pursuit of megapixels has always been an odd marketing game, although one can see the value of resolution to a point. In a previous post, I noted that a high resolution scan of a 35mm film negative yields about 33 megapixels, and a medium format film file is in the range of 100 megapixels.

I conclude that, whilst I will almost certainly make the SL2 upgrade, the flexibility the SL series gives in combination with my other ‘ancient’ kit is going to be almost as worth exploring as the camera itself. Now I am dusting off my Nikkor 17-35mm F/2.8, PC-Nikkor 28mm F/3.5 and the Nikkor 14mm F/2.8 ….

And, as ever, the real magic is in that grey matter a few inches behind the sensor or film – not in the equipment itself.

I am going to post this on social media to see what my photo friends think.

Infrared Photography

mickyates B&W, Cambodia, Falmouth, Infrared, MA, Masters, Olympus, Photography, Travel Leave a Comment

I want to develop my ‘negative traces’ work for the Cambodia project, using different photographic techniques. For the the latest module in the MA, my Work in Progress used digital images converted to black and white negatives. These were quite well received in the grading process. I have previously noted the possibilities of using infrared, and why. In short, it could provide images which challenge traditional perceptions, and engage the audience in different ways in decoding my work.

Amongst other work that I have researched, Judy Glickman Lauder’s mix of traditional black and white, negatives and infrared is inspirational.

Judy Glickman Lauder. Railway to Treblinka.

So, I have just requested a conversion of my Olympus OM-D system to infrared.

This graphic illustrates light spectrums, humorously and accurately.

From xkcd.com

The visible light spectrum is a fairly narrow band, with infrared at frequencies below visible light (higher wavelengths), and ultra violet at higher frequencies (lower wavelengths). Near infrared was discovered by William Herschel, in 1800.

Digital camera sensors can access some infrared frequencies, but have filters to deliver just the ‘real’ visible colours. It is possible to get lens filters to counterbalance this, but then exposure times are massively increased. I did some experiments with this approach last year.

A full conversion allows the sensor to access a much broader frequency range. There are several ways to do this. ‘Full Spectrum’ effectively allows the camera to access both the visible and infrared frequencies, creating false colour images. It is possible to convert to sensor to specific frequencies – 590nm, 680nm, 720nm, 850nm being the most common. Infrared Camera Conversions illustrates the pros and cons. I have opted for 720nm conversion, which can deliver ‘false colour’ images, but which can easily be post-processed to black and white, giving images quite similar to black and white film. This seems the most appropriate digital solution to meet the project needs.

Robert Williams Wood. Published 1910. IR Landscape

Clive Haynes notes that:

‘The first photographs made by infrared radiation were made in the late 19th century with the first documented published infrared photograph in 1910 by Robert Williams Wood (1868-1955).  Wood was an American physicist and professor of optical physics. He had been fascinated by what he called “invisible rays” and was credited with the discovery of electromagnetic radiation beyond the visible spectrum. He developed photographic emulsions to capture this radiation and produced the first photographs of both infrared and ultraviolet radiation. The photographs exhibit the characteristic whitening of healthy foliage which became known as the “Wood Effect” and it remains one of the distinctive features of many infrared pictures.’

One of the most striking effects in infrared photography is what happens to foliage. The Chlorophyll in living cells does not absorb or reflect infrared light, so light bounces inside the cells, and can pass straight through. Essentially, this renders living greens as photographically transparent – hence rendering them white in black and white images.

Walter Clark. Published 1934. IR Face.

Walter Clark (1899–1991) published an article in 1934 in the Journal of the Biological Photographic Association, on ‘Infrared Photography’. This included an infrared photograph of a woman’s face, which is the first published picture of a person using that technique.

I am hoping to get the camera conversion back before my next Cambodia trip, mid February. Fingers crossed.

………………………

Clive Haynes. Undated. Infra Red Photography. http://www.crhfoto.co.uk/crh/digital%20infra-red/digital-ir.htm. (Accessed 17/01/2019)

Anonymous. Undated. Light Spectrum. Undated. Available at https://imgs.xkcd.com/comics/electromagnetic_spectrum.png. (Accessed 17/01/2019).

Anonymous. Undated. Pros and Cons of Infra Red Conversion. Undated. Available at https://www.infraredcameraconversions.co.uk/conversions/4593501215. (Accessed 17/01/2019)

Robert Williams Wood on Wikipedia. Undated. Available at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_W._Wood. (Accessed 17/01/2019).

Glickman Lauder, Judy. 2018. Beyond the Shadows: The Holocaust and the Danish Exception. New York: Aperture.