In this episode of our very patchy Week Links of Photography series, we are taking a look at super sharp telephotos, Smartphone performance, Leica lens design principles, photography in Cuba, digital resolution enhancement, an ode to selfies (yes!), and more. Mostly, we are paying homage to two important figures in amateur photography, one of which passed away a few years ago, and the other last March : Michael Reichmann, and Erwin Puts.
This month marks my 40th anniversary of photography.
My first camera was bought from a shop along the walk to my school in a small town near the Spanish border. They had that lovely Olympus that all the mags were raving about in terms I did not understand, in between the pages my parents hadn’t torn out, and which I sometimes dug up form the bin to discover mutilated bodies and other horrors. France, back then, was mostly interested in photojournalism, it seems, and publications were definitely not fit for aspiring kids. The Olympus was way out of my financial reach, but the very charming shop owner directed me to a smaller and far cheaper Mamiya ZE2 that stayed with me for well over a decade. We’d moved to a new house out of town and my early photography was self taught and mostly about what lay around me at home or on holidays.
It remained that way for many years, until I chanced upon … Michael Reichmann. Or, more precisely Luminous Landscape, which provided the first structured learning process in my life, and introduced me to the life changing Ansel Adams trilogy, which I would still recommend over any other book ever written since. You wanna learn photography? Read those and save yourself a fortune and so much frustration. Michael Reichmann wrote fascinating articles, was never afraid of experimenting, taking chances and telling his results as he felt them, regardless of what the nascent industry currents were tugging the crowds towards. This informed and opinionated reporting, in a world of brand-suckling microinfluencers, is a rarity worth remembering and saluting.
Michael’s monthly competitions provided a strong stimulus to become better because he actually commented on our work and made suggestions on how to improve, involving a level of generosity also largely (though, thankfully, not totally) absent in today’s media landscape. I went on to win a couple of those, but this never granted me special status and Michael would slam my next submissions if they deserved it in a way that kept my ego well in check. As I developed DearSusan, our relationship deepened and though we never became close friends, his passing away did leave a hole in my life that sure felt like I had lost a close friend!
In A Small Video Gem, Kevin Raber digs up some Chris Anderson footage of Michael Reichmann on location, and pays the man a homage I would like to forward here. Thank you, Michael, for taking so many of us under your wing!
Erwin Puts, to me, was a poet. His compendium introduced the pull of Gear Acquisition Syndrome into my life, thankfully all at a cost that was powerful enough defense against his literary wooing. I read his publications over and over, marvelling at the research and depth of understanding and, once again, at the generosity of someone so eager to share a knowledge that could only have been the results of years of deliberate work.
To my eyes, Erwin puts came close to a language of rendering, similar in its ability to convey subjective information, to the language of oenology. Erwin Puts wrote about subtle gradations, and knew when technical flaws mattered to him and when they didn’t. He knew how to work around them and how to use them to his advantage, and shared this freely with others. His loyalty to Leica didn’t win all hearts, but I admired that in him and 100% of my Leica lens purchases were based on his inspiring writing.
All of this epistemological poetry has been lost to the brutal ignorance of lab rats and their self-absorbed MTF measurement march. Lost, as Roy Batti’s tears, in the market-serving drops of quantitative acid rains. But some of us remember. And some of us will never forget. Thank you for your generosity, Erwin Puts. TOP’s “Erwin Puts is Gone” alerted me to this loss and is certainly worth the read, for Mike’s (always interesting) perspective on this important man.
Photography on the streets of Cuba. What an interesting country Cuba is. Not only did they export more doctors than most other countries to provide Covid relief to others in need of medical assistance, they apparently have developed 5 vaccines (so far, France, the world’s 5th economy, is proudly standing on a sweet pile of zilch). And they are now offering vaccination holiday trips (which I am not endorsing) in the same way as Eastern European countries (and probably others) are offering dental trips. If you decide to get yourself a jab and click tour, Passport & Pixels offer this photographic guide (which I cannot endorse either, never having visited myself).
And now, to the moon. If you can’t afford Iron Man’s package deals to outer space, payable only in Bitcoin, a Leica Tele might come in a close second ? I’ve been pining for a Leica R tele for years, and love observing the moon. You ? To be honest, observing through a good telescope is something else … but this Markus Stark (no relation to Tony) video sure looks good! (spot the alien on the right at 2’58” 😉 )
Continuing with the Leica theme (no Leica aren’t sponsoring this post 😉 ) here’s Five Takeaways on Lens Development from Two Key Leica Managers. Peter Karbe, Head of Optical Development, and Stefan Janssen, Product Manager, discuss important issues such as feel vs performance, user feedback, futureproofing designs and the differences between lens ranges within the lineup. What would Erwin think, I wonder 🙂
Mobile Photography Awards 2020 winners prove that phone camera is enough for a great photo. It’s always difficult to recommend an article commenting on how good Smartphones have become. Beyond mere performance lie the issues of usability, ergonomics, the attitude of some owners … all of which can be sensitive subjects. But, dang, those photos are good. The proof of the pudding is in the eating, and I’m eating it and loving every bite!
Moving on to software, this should stir things up a little bit … 😉
Honestly, it’s difficult not to be as enthusiastic as Dan Watson about the performance of Adobe’s algorithm. As much as the backward scientist in me holding on to the reassuring hypothesis that one cannot simply create information out of thin air, my eyes tell me that the natively higher-res cameras produce only very slightly better results at low ISO, that it was all a tight enough battle not to care at all about the differences, and that the performance difference at high ISO was certainly in favour of the enhanced low-res cameras! Very impressive stuff!
Like Dan Watson, I feel this is a big deal. 4K video cameras such as the a7S3 are superb cameras only limited in their universality by a native resolution that feels on the low side, even to a dinosaur like me. Not any more. This also means we can choose to only blow up those photographs that actually benefit from it. Because, let’s face it, super high res and super high frame rates, in the hands of super high number of amateurs ain’t doing the polar bears no good! This new option feels good, really good.
Kudos Adobe. And thank you Dan, for the tests!
Market news. Nikon have recently picked up steam in the mirrorless arena but the least you can say is that they turned up late at the party. Still, that doesn’t mean they have been sitting on their thumbs. Rather, they seem to have pivoted upward, more specifically to the satellite supply chain, using their expertise in optics to 3D print components. I sure wish them luck! Speaking of space, Perseverance is making selfies cool! Yes, it’s possible, but only on Mars. Now we know why Elon wants to fly there.
Also, Olympus may have found refuge with Samsung, possibly providing the optics for future smartphones. Meanwhile, Samsung, still number 2 in sensor sales for phones, is quietly syphoning sales from number 1 Sony.
That’s it for now 🙂 Any thoughts? Ideas? Things you’d like me to look out for? Enjoy the read and please let me know!
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