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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The enhance feature from Adobe seems interesting. But I wonder what is preventing a A7R IV or R5 owner from using it, and getting even more resolution out these already very-high-resolution cameras? And thus continuing to outperform lower-res camera images?
That’s a good point and only two answers come to my mind.
(1) Maybe (and that’s a big maybe) there’s more information to be reclaimed from large pixels that could be undersampling the lens
(2) The need for that software is far less important when the camera is already high res. I think very few people with 40+MP wish they had a lot more, and that main benefit here is to be able to have most of the pie and eat it 😉 Particularly with video-centric cams that have limited potential in photography. That makes them very universal and it wouldn’t surprise me to see them bundled with such software (possibly in-camera) in the future. It seems to be working far more easily than pixel-shifting.
“The need for that software is far less important when the camera is already high res” . . . No it isn’t. What about highly cropped images from a high res camera like a Sony A7Riii, or A7Riv ? The new “Enhance” feature in ACR ( or the better, Upsamplers from A.I. Upscale or BigJPG) can be highly cropped then Upscaled with these A.I. software packages to greatly improve the images. A.I. Upscalers like “Enhance” can be used to:
1) Create super Macro shots without using expensive macro lenses,
2) As Dan Watson showed, eliminate noise in high res, high ISO shots.
3) Greatly restore low res images from old film shots.
and a lot more uses too. I agree with Dan, a new world is beckoning.
I suppose you’re right, Paul. There’s just a few nuances to make here: cropping a shot to create a macro illusion will not produce the same results, as the perspective will be very different. And I’m not sure how much can be won back from old grainy film shots.
My hunch is that large pixel cameras undersample the lens and hence, their per-pixel information is superior to what high-resolution cameras produce. So, those pixels can be cleverly split by such software while maintaining a similar level of resolution as the higher-res sensor.
However, the great thing is that we can all experiment. I will do so with my X1D which has fairly large, but not huge, pixels and will report here. If you try on film or on macro, I’d love to know what your results are 🙂 Cheers
“Enceladus ( a 310 mile diameter moon of Saturn) discoveries have changed the direction of planetary science,” said a scientist at JPL. “Planetary scientists now must consider Enceladus as a possible habitat for life.” Consider the next flyby of Enceladus yielding blurry, high res, closeup, macro images. What happens after JPL image scientists use A.I. Upscale technology to show what may be life forms, e.g. a big octopus like object? Does the world budget another $20-$50 billion and 5 years to send a Mars-like helicopter or orbiter to Enceladus? In my opinion, a large, landmark event fostered by the new break-through in A.I. software is beckoning.
I sure hope you are right, Paul 🙂 Astronomy was my n°1 passion as a teen, long before photography.
Today, a lot is hidden behind the term AI, so software editors will need to disclose what it is they do to “enhance” the image, if scientists are to use those solutions. But it sure looks like a promising direction.
BTW, I have tried a bit on my side and the results are really impressive!!
Paul, I think you’ll find this interesting 🙂 https://scitechdaily.com/seeing-quadruple-artificial-intelligence-leads-to-discovery-that-can-help-solve-cosmological-puzzles/ I’ll add it to next week’s link post, but thought you might want to read it now 🙂
You don’t get it. Native high resolution + pixel shift + enhance… that is the ticket!
😉 😉 😉
Mind you, with pixel shift, you are creating pixels with more real information in them, so my guess is Enhance would work better on those files than on standard ones. It would be cool to try. If only I knew someone with that camera … 😉
I adore “Kyoto 2”.
Your early history as a budding young photographer is probably mirrored all over the world. Certainly mine was much the same as that.
I think the comments on Nikon are a bit harsh. From what I’ve gather over the years, you haven’t made much use of Nikon anyway, but here’s how I see Nikon – from the viewpoint of a Nikon user! Nikon is slow to move – granted. But as I said in a post on another website, a day or so ago, it reminds me of the fable of the tortoise and the hare. The hare might have been faster – but the tortoise won the race.
Remember Canon’s launch of the camera that was to “kill” the D810, with only about 36MP – and Canon brought one out with over 50MP? Well shortly afterwards, we got the D850. With only 45MP. And its sensor trounced Canon’s larger one! Side by side comparisons by the score, showed the D850 giving sharper, clearer images, with better contrast, in one photo after another after another.
As I said the other day – I’m a patient man – and the D850 was worth the wait.
And while you’ve gone off to MF, with the Hassy, I think most pundits now agree that Nikon’s Z-mirrorless range is not just novel – it’s very different – and can turn up the flame, to scorch its competitors, quite readily.
Adobe’s algorithm? Well back away, Adobe was the clear market leader. Now it’s only hanging onto that by the skin of its teeth and a bit of bravado. There are dozens of other programs out there now, vying for our dollars. Some of them outperform Adobe hands down, in certain applications. But if someone wants to cling to the “tried & tested”, I don’t mind – their choice, and they have every right to make it. I scarcely ever use Lightroom any more, and then only for a very limited number of functions. And my use of PhotoShop almost always centres around image re-sizing, adjusting light & contrast, and perhaps a couple of other minor finishing touches – most of my post processing is done elsewhere, and it seems to be increasingly so, as newer programs take over.
But – if somebody else adores Adobe, it’s not my role to suggest they shouldn’t – “they happy, me happy”!
It wasn’t my intention to be harsh towards Nikon at all. It’s a brand much closer to my heart than Sony will ever be. I owned a film F801, a digital D80 with a CCD to die for, and a more recent D801e, which was built like a tank and made me question my sanity when I moved to a certain flimsy mirrorless replacement. All of my Nikon cameras still work as on day one and I wish I had that level of confidence in my previous steed … The Z cameras have a wide bayonet and nice glass, a lovely build and ooze confidence. The colour science can be a bit of an acquired taste, particularly in the greens, but they are really lovely cameras and all of Dallas’ photographs in yesterday’s post were made on a Z7. Brilliant! I’m merely pointing out that Nikon are still active in interesting areas and wishing them luck.
Adobe haven’t always been very respectful of their users which, to my eyes, is a cardinal sin. But their software just works. Others are better in some respects but you need to mix and match and that can take up a lot of time. Like Nikon, they are reliable, not systematically the best at anything, but solid, dependable and a one-stop shop. For people with time constraints, that’s a great mix of qualities 😉 But my point was merely that the implementation of their new algorithm seems really good. And I’ll be testing it and reporting in these pages 😉
An enchanting historical novel with a touch of nostalgia – thank you
Thank you Ian 🙂 🙂