Tag Archives: best camera

On Ken Rockwell

Why oh why would I even write about Ken Rockwell?

He is easily one of the most hated in the industry. That’s why.

If you haven’t read or heard about him then you are one of the lucky few. It probably means you are out there shooting instead of lurking in forums and hurling shit at other “photographers”. Some forums even have strict rules of “no KR discussions”. Some “togs” are very quick to tell n00bs not to read Ken Rockwell.

But WHY?!

Here’s my own conclusion based on common observation: Those who hate him are primarily jealous gear heads who can’t stand the blunt opinions of KR.

Hey, Rockwell isn’t perfect and some of his views are kinda outrageous. Consider his opinion on not using tripods for example. I’m not sure if he is just masochistic but I will bet my unused Nikon D700 that I can take better photos than him if we go on a one-on-one photoshoot contest on the same location as long as he doesn’t use a tripod. I can guarantee that I will have more keepers and more interesting shots than him. Does that make me a Rockwell hater? Far from it. Have a read on his other articles especially those that tackle composition and FARTing and why your gear does not matter. Every newbie should read them. If you visited Rockwells page and totally missed his excellent tutorials then there is no denying that you are a gear whore. Yes, Rockwell is a gear head. What differentiates him from other gear heads is that the guy can shoot. Compare him with FroKnowsFoto or Kai of DigitalRev (if you don’t know them then consider yourself lucky for the second time). Compare him with those “photographers” who hate him. If you don’t believe me then check out his gallery at 1x.com. Now try submitting your own shots to that group and see if you can even get one image approved by their expert curators. Gear whores, on the other hand, think that Rockwell can’t shoot. Guess what, he owns everyone’s dream gear. So if you think that he can’t shoot then truly gear does not matter if you suck at photography. So touche. Every gear whore who hates him is shooting himself on the foot. Gear heads hate him because they can’t beat him. Rockwell is everything a gear whore wants to become but can’t. Rockwell can buy any gear he wants yesterday. Heck he could probably get any camera before they are even released. I said BUY. Not borrow. Kai or Fro don’t even own the gear they “review”. Rockwell BUYS his gear. He buys them and make very blunt reviews about them. Fan boys will kill anyone who makes blunt criticisms about their chosen brand. That’s why they hate him. Gear whores feel like Rockwell just told them that their mothers are ugly. They feel that it’s cool and that it makes them more credible if they hate Rockwell. They can’t accept the fact that after they upgraded to the latest and greatest camera and acquired the holy trinity of lenses their photos still suck. Rockwell was right after all!!!

I’m not saying that Rockwell is God but some say he is the Chuck Norris of photography. If you have not read about that then consider yourself unlucky. It’s easily one of the funniest posts I have read.

I’m not saying you should believe whatever Rockwell says but he is more credible than any other “photography” magazine when it comes to gear reviews. It’s quite funny because there won’t be Rockwell haters if they did not visit his website frequently. How could you hate someone at first glance? You have got to be a frequent visitor to develop a hatred for the guy. These same gear whores keep coming back for more! And rightly so. Rockwell is easily one of the most honest reviewers out there unlike magazines who are scared to say something bad for fear of being abandoned by gear manufacturers.

So you really hate Rockwell? Then I would like to see your photo gallery.

Drive by Shooting

Image

As promised, I am posting the photographs I have captured during my recent long drive to Snowy Mountains. It was  a one of a kind photoshoot “session” since nothing was ever planned at all. I didn’t know what to expect in each location; in fact the word “location” does not mean much at all because I barely stayed in one spot. It was more of whatever-comes-my-way type of thing. These shots were taken literally along the shoulder road.

Image

It was very challenging. Firstly, because setting up a tripod was impractical when a “session” lasts for a couple of minutes. Five clicks and away I went. Secondly, there was not much that can be used as a foreground element therefore subjects were typically several hundreds of meters or even kilometers away. Thirdly, since I had no time to set up my gear, filters became too cumbersome so I had to pick the right light conditions.

Image

Think about it for a minute. Low light, distant subjects, no tripod. Now you know why I practically dumped my Nikon D700 in favor of the small Olympus E-P3.

Image

I only have two lenses for my E-P3, the 17/2.8 pancake and the 40-150/4-5.6 plastic tele zoom. To be honest, I never needed anything more. The 35mm equivalent focal length of the pancake lens was wide enough for just about anything and the plastic tele was long enough for landscape shots. What I liked about my E-P3 was the fact that it is so light and it has built-in stabilization. And because it is a 43rds format, at f5.6 I basically get the equivalent depth of field as a full frame camera shooting at f11 at the same field of view. Instant two stops of light advantage!!! With image stabilization, I never needed a tripod! How good is that?!

Image

The images above were all captured by the plastic tele. I think it is sharp enough even wide open (f5.6) at the long end. I shoot it at f8 when I can just to get that extra ooomph. Here’s another one captured by the same lens:

Image

During those instances when I got the chance to rest and shoot properly on location, the 17mm pancake became very handy. The weather was also quite weird in that it would suddenly rain for a few minutes and then it stops. The E-P3 and 17mm combo was small enough to put inside my jacket’s pocket during a downpour.

Image

Here’s another shot captured by the pancake lens:

Image

And this is from the cabin where we stayed:

Image

I learned a very important lesson in this trip: Do not sacrifice fun for photography. In fact, photography should always be fun. If your equipment is a hindrance, then look for something else. Just because it’s more expensive does not mean it’s the best for every situation. Never underestimate the power of a compact camera. Even a point-and-shoot or an iPhone is good enough if you know where to point it.

Image

Before I end this post, please allow me to show you a few more of my E-P3 shots:

Image

Image

Image

By the way, all the photos here were shot in JPEG. I didn’t want to miss the best JPG rendition in the industry that I only get from Olympus.

Until next time! 🙂

Snowy Pilgrimage 2012 Update

I thought I would be able to update my blog throughout the course of the snowy trip. It turned out to be the most different among the trips I had. Not only did I lose access to the internet most of the week but the type of subjects and shooting opportunities were very different as well. There were no planned shots at all. I just aimed and shot whenever I got the chance. It was a run-and-gun type thing.

I brought my D700 with me because of the larger buttons that are easier to press in the cold. I also managed to bring my Olympus E-P3 by accident because it was inside my work bag together with my laptop. As it turned out, the E-P3 became my most valuable camera while the D700 stayed inside the car trunk!!! I would say that this trip was like a test drive of the E-P3.

For the mean time, here’s a shot I took with my iPhone in East Jindabyne:


I will post photos and stories when I get back to Brisbane tomorrow after a 12-hour drive.

— from my iPhone

My Dream Camera

I have owned and extensively used different cameras from different manufacturers and, from my experience, each one of them have their own shortcomings. I have owned a Canon 40D, Sony A700, Olympus E-P1 and currently shoot with a Pentax K5, Nikon D700 and Olympus E-P3. I have given up on trying to find the perfect camera. There isn’t one and I doubt if there will be one. In my native tongue, we have a saying that goes “libre ang mangarap”. It literally means it won’t cost you anything to dream.

So dream I will. I want it to be as realistic as possible so I will use current technology to build the perfect DSLR.

First, the sensor. I would like the dynamic range of the Pentax K5 in a full frame 35mm format with the noise profile of the Nikon D700. The K5 has this amazing capability to pull details from shadow areas without a shift in color even in shots that were underexposed by 2 stops. The D700 noise profile is like film, not the smudgy type you find in other cameras. I want a base ISO of 100 so I can do long exposures without the trickery that happens when you use extended ISO sensitivities. Even a max ISO of 6400 offered by the D700 is fine by me because I rarely shoot beyond 800 anyway. I would like 24Mp maximum. This resolution allows me to crop a 2:1 panograph at 18Mp or 3:1 at 12Mp. That is still huge! At 24Mp I can confidently shoot at f11 without noticeable drop in sharpness due to diffraction or unnecessary blur from mirror slap.

Color rendition. Nothing beats Olympus colors. They are simply the best. Although I shoot RAW, I shoot JPGs when using my E-P3 unless I’m bracketing for HDR capture. The D700 has the worst JPG colors ever.

Memory banks. I want 5 custom banks to store my favorite settings and I want them to be easily recalled via a twist of a knob. The Canon C1/C2 is the perfect example of this but I want 5. The custom banks must be fully customizable like the Canon 40D does. I would like to couple the timer with high-speed successive shooting and AEB in aperture priority mode. Aside from this, the timer should automatically enable mirror lock-up just like the Pentax K5 which means only the shutter curtain should be moving throughout the entire X number of frames in the AEB mode. This prevents blurring caused by mirror slap. Oh, the knob must be secured by a button like the one on the K5 and not the retarded set up of the D700.

Image stabilization. I like how Sony does it. Very reliable and very easy to disable because it has a dedicated button. Other cameras require you to hunt for it in the complicated menu. Pentax SR is almost useless and it totally ruins your shot if you forget to disable it when the camera is mounted on a tripod.

Viewfinder. Large and bright like the D700 but should cover 100% of the frame. The viewfinder door of the D700 is also very handy for long exposures because it prevents stray light from entering through it. The rubber cap should be round but not too large. The D700 got this right. Of course there should be a viewfinder focus adjustment for those who wear glasses like me.

Sensor cleaning. So far only the Olympus cameras have reliable sensor cleaning feature.

Build quality and ergonomics. The D700’s shape and build quality is superb but they should get rid of the built-in flash which is very vulnerable to damage especially from extreme weather. The weather sealing of the K5 is very good because it could withstand serious liquid and dust and temperature abuse. In terms of grip, I like the Sony A700. I also like the layout of the A700’s adjustment wheels. Very easy to reach and turn. The D700’s front wheel is quite tricky to use and I don’t like it. The battery compartment of the K5 is the best. There is a metal lock that twists to close the battery door. Very well done.

Focusing. D700 focus points but please spread them wider. The screw focusing motor of the D700 is fast enough for me. Those of the K5 and A700 are also fast. Canon, on the other hand, should have fired their engineers.

Adjustment buttons. The button layout of the Canon 40D is the best. I could change just about any setting with just my right hand. That thumb stick is also very welcome. But please not that HUGE thumb wheel. The thumb wheel of the D700 is the best. It has enough resistance and click feedback when you turn it. Those of the A700 and K5 are too clicky and too jagged for my liking. For the AEL button, the A700 is perfect. It can be configured such that the exposure is locked until it is pressed again. That means you can lock the exposure and take multiple shots then unlock. Perfect for panoramic stitching and when using exposure compensation.

Power switch. The K5 is perfect. It is similar to the D700 but is more clicky and easier to grab with your pointing finger. The A700 is ok but it requires the left hand. The one on the Canon 40D is nuts. Canon should fire the one who designed it.

AEB. At least 5 frames but 7 or 9 would be ideal. The bracketing range and intervals should be fully customizable just like the K5. The A700 has a very limited AEB. The D700 although it has 9 could not go beyond 1-stop intervals and worse, it could not be coupled with the timer.

Menu system. I like the A700 while I absolutely hate the D700. Canon 40D and Pentax K5 are also acceptable.

LCD screen. There should be two. The top LCD of the Nikon D700 is perfect as long as you don’t get confused by the inverted exposure indicators. You can also easily turn on the LCD light in the D700 from the power switch. The K5 LCD is fine with me. I do not need touch screen. I actually disabled that feature in my E-P3. I do not need a flip LCD because I feel that it’s just another thing that could easily break. The K5 silver limited edition LCD is supposedly shatter-proof.

Pop-up Flash. None just like in the Canon 5D2. However, there should be an option to do commander mode like in the Nikon D700. Not sure if that is possible but it’s just a radio signal so I don’t know why you have to fire a flash to do that.

Lens mount. Nikon mount is the best because of it’s compatibility with old, cheap but superb manual lenses. Pentax and Sony are also very good in terms of compatibility. It’s just that I have a huge investment on Nikon film cameras that I prefer the Nikon mount. Forget Canon. Aside from abandoning the FD mount you can’t even mount a modern EFS lens in a full frame camera.

Storage. I prefer the speed of CF cards but hate bent pins. A dual format CF/SD would be perfect. I like the huge bay door of the Nikon D700. The K5 and A700 do not open wide enough and are quite annoying.

Shutter cable port. I like the simplicity of the K5. The D700 is unnecessarily complicated while the A700 reminds me of how annoying it is to plug a computer IDE data cable.

Neck strap hook. I like the ordinary hook of the Canon 40D. I do not like the movable triangular hook of the D700 and K5. Aside from being noisy, they twist the neck strap as well.

Color. Although black is fine I probably would want the chrome finish.

And that is my realistic yet impossible dream camera. At this point in time, the Pentax K5 is the closest match followed by my previously owned Canon 40D. I think the new Canon 5D3 would be the closest to my dream camera but I have not and may never use it due to monetary constraints.

If you have managed to finish reading this lengthy post, I hope you will realize that there simply is no perfect camera for everyone. Being a fanboi is just insane. Use the right tool that suits you best and don’t be afraid to switch brands if needed. For those who are new to photography, trust me when I say that any camera is good enough if you put enough effort into photography.