Monday, 29 September 2008

Bed of Spikes

GRD, f9, 1/1000, ISO 400, JPG b&w

Need to catch up with my blog and I've written too much for the Photokina reports so no text for the next days, only pictures.

Sunday, 28 September 2008

Photokina 2008 - Part 2

Ok, yesterday's report dealt with serious compacts from Panasonic, Olympus, Canon, Nikon and Sigma. But what about the company that almost defines what a serious compact is all about these days and has been doing so for quite some time. Yes, I am talking about Ricoh.
While Ricoh did not announce anything new at Photokina, they showed the GRD II, GX200 and the R8 and R10 which were announced a while ago but are still some of the best serious compacts.

They also announced the Ricoh Candid Photo Project in cooperation with the Photographic Department at the Royal College of Art (RCA) in London.

I had the great pleasure of meeting the Ricoh representatives at Photokina and had a very nice chat with them. Ricoh is one of the few, if not the only, company that really values it's customers and their opinions. One thing that surprised me is that Ricoh does not only read the Ricohforum but also read the DP Review forum and are aware of the blogs related to their cameras. So they follow very closely what their customers think about their cameras.

During the meeting I was able to provide some feedback and suggestions to improve their cameras as well as my thoughts on the next GRD III. I highlighted the known issues and other things I would like improved that I mentioned previously on my blog and are also mentioned in the various forums (phase detection AF, noise reduction, dust issues, etc.). They were aware of this but could not give me any exact details as to how these issues can/will be addressed.

One thing they explained is why they had to drop the phase detection AF, this is not because they don't want to have a fast AF system or want to save money but because the company producing them stepped the production down due to lack of demand. Ricoh will look at alternatives and seeing how fast the Panasonic G1 can focus using contrast detection AF, I am sure we might not need phase detection in the future.

With regards to the GRD II and GX200 and the increase in MP, Ricoh does not produce their own sensors, like Panasonic, so they have to buy them from other companies. This limits what they can choose from and being a smaller company they can't dictate what sensors get produced for their cameras, like Nikon can probably do with Sony. They are aware however that their customers want less MP.

Ricoh bought the building pictured above in Ginza, Tokyo and will have a gallery on the 6th and 7th floor. I can imagine this should be well worth a visit and may also play host to their new camera announcement events.

As some of you might have noticed, Ricoh wants to step up their presence in the US and have Adorama and Popflash as the official shops.

Now you probably want to know what's coming out next from Ricoh. Well, they were very closed about this but ensured me there will be some "very interesting" announcements soon and they have a few interesting releases scheduled.
Ricoh knows about their niche, after all they created it and now everyone is following and copying what they did, and are also aware of the competition and what separates them from the competition. The plans for next year are to strengthen their position and compete better with the m4/3 cameras and the Sigma DP1/2.
There will be a new GRD III next year, as expected from the 2 year release cycle, but the interesting news is that it should showcase more than before why the GR line is their flagship camera.

I wrote about the first Ricoh London Meet-up a while ago and Ricoh were aware of this. They have expressed interest in taking part in another Meet-up where we can ask questions and provide feedback. This will be arranged together with Pavel from the Ricohforum and should take place beginning of December. More details will be provided when available.

On a Ricoh related note, Artisan&Artist* who have created the very stylish Ricoh GRD case plan to release new cases for Ricoh cameras in December and they displayed a nice leather half-case for the GX200.

Again, a big thank you to the people at Ricoh for meeting me at Photokina and I am very glad for the opportunity to also meet Pavel there.

If you can't get enough of Photokina reports make sure you also check out Tom's report.

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Photokina 2008 - Part 1

After my problems with the flights I finally managed to get to Cologne and went early in the morning to Photokina. Let me say that the trip was more then worth it and way exceeded my expectations.

First let me thank all the people at Ricoh for meeting me! It showed me that Ricoh is a company very much in touch with their clients and interested in feedback. I don't think other companies would have done the same, especially not to the same extent. I will write more about it on the post tomorrow which will be all about Ricoh.

The post for today will focus on the other manufacturers. Arriving at Photokina was
unproblematic and although I expected it to be crowded it was not too bad. Yes, there were a lot of people but the big scale of the Exhibition Centre meant that it never got too crowded in one single place. Also most people seemed focuses on the new dSLRs, something I was not interested in so I did not have to worry about the masses there :). What I was interested in were all serious compacts and there were a few interesting cameras available.

Since most manufacturers made their announcements in the weeks and days before Photokina I knew what to expect and what I really wanted to see. There was mainly the Panasonic G1, the first m4/3 camera, the LX3 also from Panasonic, the Canon G10, Sigma's DP2, the Nikon P6000 and of course the model prototype of Olympus' new m4/3 camera.

Let me start with the highly anticipated G1 and see if it really is what I was hoping for.

The good news it is almost it and the most interesting camera (for me) at Photokina. It is pretty small but not much smaller than the LC1 although much lighter. The controls are very good and I really like the push wheel, works a bit like the Ricoh adjust wheel so this is very good.
The LCD is the best I've seen with a very fast refresh rate, high resolution and very bright.
Am not so keen on the flip and twist feature though and would rather have a fixed screen since it will save space. Now what about the EVF, is it really as good or does it have problems? Yes, it is really that good and the best EVF to date, it is very fast, bright and provides a better view than most beginner dSLRs with a kit lens. The refresh rate goes down a bit and it gets grainy if it's really dark but this should not be a real issue most of the time and the LCD can be used in this cases. Still, I wish Panasonic would not have bothered to put it on the camera but make it an external accessory like Ricoh did with the GX100/200 so that I could leave it home and have a smaller camera.
The focus speed is very fast even in low light and I don't think anyone would have serious problems with it. The RAW buffer is also big enough so the camera is very responsive.
Overall the G1 is a highly impressive camera but it feels a bit plasticky and I dislike the dSLR shape so I hope Panasonic will release a camera shaped more like the LC1. This might not happen though since the LC1 has been designed by Leica so Panasonic might stick to more traditional designs.
One funny thing is that the camera warns you if the lens is not attached but does so only in Auto mode. Maybe Panasonic thought beginners might be surprised why their photos are not good after removing the lens ;). One has to wonder though why this is not used to automatically close the shutter so the sensor is not exposed when removing the lens. If you ask me it should be an easy firmware fix.

After this I went to play around with the LX3 and it is a very nice camera indeed. The build might not be as good as the Canon G10 or Ricoh GRD but it feels solid enough and the new small hand grip is pretty good. I could not notice any delay when shooting RAW but I also did not take more than 2-3 pictures in a row. As nice as the camera is, the controls are not very good. As you might know, I criticise cameras for having non-intuitive controls or badly laid out buttons and the LX3 could benefit from better controls. Yes, it has a great screen, fast lens and good sensor but the controls are pretty poor and it would not suit me.
Another issue is the full press lag, the camera will always wait for the focus to be completed and this can take a while in low light. The good thing however is that the screen does not freeze when focusing like on the DP1 and on the GRD II, under certain circumstances, but the focus is nowhere near as fast as on the G1.
The picture above is taken with the LX3.

A quick word on the Sigma DP2, it was not open on display so I could only see it in a case.
It is thicker than the DP1 with the lens retracted and is almost as thick as the new Onympus m4/3 prototype with it's lens attached. This could somewhat limit the pocket ability.
The lens is faster but not as wide and I would have preferred if Sigma would have put a faster 28mm lens on it.
The buttons now finally have markings next to them so are not black with black markings anymore, this should make it easier to see the function they have. They have also been re-arranged but it's difficult to say if this is good, bad or the same as before in terms of improving the handling.
I asked the Sigma representatives what improvements it received but it seems the only thing improved is the processing engine so RAW should be faster and the display lag might be fixed now. Unfortunately Sigma will use the same LCD as before so the green cast, poor resolution and viewing angles will remain.
With the m4/3 cameras announced the DP2 will have stronger competition than the DP1 although the Foveon fans and people who like the DP1 will be happy with the new DP2 and prefer it over other cameras for the sensor alone.

At the Canon booth I could have a look at the G10 and I was shocked as to how big it is. This is a literally a brick, it is huge but very solid and well built. I am sure you can whack someone over the head with it and it will still take fine pictures afterwards ;). The hand grip is very nice and feels like (is?) leather so this is a nice touch. Overall this is one of the best built compact cameras around. But it is big, very big, almost the same size as the Panasonic G1 and only a bit smaller than the Epson RD1, definitely not a pocket able camera unless you have huge pockets.
Ok, after I got over the shock of how big it is (and this although I knew the G7 and G9 before) I was quite impressed by the controls, aside from the Ricoh controls, it has the best controls of the serious compacts and is better than the Panasonic G1. Wish the Panasonic G1 would look and feel like the G10.
Ok, not all is great though, the dials on top of each other are silly and look like a wedding cake. Canon could have made one half the thickness without losing the usability or how about a push-in, push-out button for the inner dial?
Another thing is the (often requested) integrated OVF. Yes, it is 'better' than the one in the G7 but it is still a complete waste of space and useless. Did I mention that the lens still obstructs most of the view? On the other hand it shows why manufacturers should NOT put an integrated OVF in their cameras. Please make OVFs and EVFs only external to mount on the hot shoe and keep the camera small instead of offering useless holes to make the cameras bigger, the purists will learn of the advantages of the LCD or will have to live with a bigger camera but proper OVF/EVF if not.
The camera is otherwise very good but due to the size uninteresting for me but will probably appeal to a lot of people.

The Nikon P6000 was in my opinion the weakest serious compact camera announced. Yes, the focus is finally faster than the P5000 but not really fast compared with the other cameras from Ricoh, Panasonic or Canon. The controls are worse than on the LX3, the ethernet port completely useless (why would anyone put an ethernet port on a camera if Wifi and Bluetooth are better?!?) and the OVF tiny and an even bigger waste of space than the one on the G10 since it's smaller and even less accurate.
The GPS tagging is the only interesting feature, the rest is more a halfhearted attempt to catch up to the competition but it does not even manage to catch up on the last generation of cameras from Canon G9, Ricoh GX100 and Panasonic LX2.
I am sure the camera will find it's fans and sell well because it is from Nikon but if you can choose between the Ricoh GX200, Panasonic LX3 or Canon G10, the P6000 does not have anything that would let it stand out.

The Olympus m4/3 prototype model was really sleek and much smaller than expected. If they can pull it off, we might have one of the best serious compact cameras. I really like the design but hope Olympus will add some dials or wheels to make the controls faster. At the moment it's difficult to say more but it is very promising.

Ok, what else was there?
The Visual Gallery was great and offered a lot of different styles and some very interesting pictures. Time was short so I could not really appreciate this to the full extent.
The Lomo corner was fun and packed with people all throughout the day, well worth hanging around and taking some pictures.
The Fuji 3D camera is quite interesting and the prints looked quite cool. If nothing else it is at least a cool technology demo.
I have asked Leica if there are any plans to release a digital version of the CL but the reps did not even know about the CL and the answer sounded more like "buy what we have or go away". Overall the M8.2 was not very impressive when compared with the R-D1s, nice and the shutter is quieter but the R-D1s feels more solid and has better controls.

This was the first part of my report, the 2nd part will be up tomorrow.

Also have a look at Wouter's very good report.

Friday, 26 September 2008

The Wait

LC1, f2.4, 1/15, ISO 100, JPG, 90mm

After my flight got cancelled yesterday I had to go and try my luck again today. It all started fairly well and I passed through security in no time. Unfortunately this is where it stopped. Having already lost a day at Photokina through the cancellation I hoped to at least be able of meeting friends in the evening. But thanks to the incompetence of Easyjet the flight was over 4h delayed. If everything goes well you think Easyjet is quite good but as soon as something goes wrong you'll find out how good a company really is.
Easyjet is very bad, completely unorganized, unfriendly and unhelpful staff and no offer of compensation. They delay a plane for 45 mins at first, then another hour and finally started to swap times around but didn't know what's going on. Their only offer of compensation was after people complained to issue food vouchers. What might sound good at first turned out to be a bad joke. Giving people only a meagre 3 GBP voucher might be ok in other countries but in the UK this does not even allow you to buy a sandwich. This does not quite fit within the European regulations which demand an 'appropriate compensation based on the duration of the wait'. Guess they thought recommending people to go and buy a cheese burger at McDonald's is good enough. It might be if the 3 GBP would also buy you a drink with it.
Anyway, enough rambling on. Can't wait for Photokina tomorrow but this was the last time I used Easyjet, now I just hope I can get my compensation from them. Can't recommend using them at all, very bad service. Better pay a bit more with a decent airline.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

All Flights Are Off

GRD II, f2.4, 1/20, ISO 200, RAW

Exceptionally, I will have two posts today. Right now I should be in Germany having dinner but as you guessed, I am still where I started. Flight got cancelled so I will have to wait till tomorrow. You can read more about it here.

Black Droplets

GRD II, f2.4, 1/125, ISO 200, RAW

Typing this post from the airport on my UMPC, flight to Germany will leave soon. Saw this just after the security check and found it hilarious. If you ever wondered if there are enough CCTV cameras in the UK, the answer is "No" ;). At least we all feel warm and fuzzy inside with all this "security".
Anyway, tomorrow will be my first day at Photokina :). Can't wait to try out some of the new cameras and have a chat with Ricoh and others. The report and pictures will follow.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

The Light

GRD II, f2.4, 1/6, ISO 1600, RAW

Tomorrow evening it is off to Germany and Friday to Photokina so will keep this update brief.
Did not have much time to take picture today, the weather was not good and I did not see that many good photo opportunities. This is the only thing that caught my attention but the GRD II did not capture it as desired.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Time is Ticking Away

GRD II, f2.4, 1/40, ISO 80, RAW

Took this picture on my way home today, it was a grey and dull day but the light was good for this particular picture. I know I am late with this kind of picture but it fits today as much as it did last week. Shares are dropping and everyone is worried but this could be a good thing and bring some welcome change.

Monday, 22 September 2008

Thin Red Line

GRD II, f3.5, 1/160, ISO 80, RAW

Took only a few pictures today during my lunch break but thought this is quite funny to share. Was not sure whether to get rid of the number plate but then again not my problem and I did not tell that guy to park in front of that sign ;).

I will post another picture today but one that is not processed by me. Wouter sent me his version of yesterday's picture and I liked it so much I want to show it to you here since he did a great job with the b&w conversion. You should definitely check out his blog if you want to see some amazing pictures but are also interested in post-processing tips.

Sunday, 21 September 2008

High in the Sky

GRD II, f5.6, 1/640, ISO 80, RAW

The weather was great again today so made the best out of it and went for a long walk around Blackheath and Greenwich. Despite this, I only took a few pictures and this was my favorite one. I wanted to get the shadow of the kite in there and managed it in this picture.
Despite what everyone says, for me the GRD II just has more noise and less details compared with the GRD I even when developing the RAW files. Maybe I am just not good enough at processing RAW files but I never managed to get GRD II RAW files to look as crisp as the JPGs and RAW files from the GRD I. Even at low ISOs the GRD II does not work for me as well and RAW is not the answer.

Saturday, 20 September 2008

Shilouettes of Industry

I mentioned it before but I really like industrial photography and have to do a proper series on this. Today we had one of the best days in months with regards to the weather so after a visit in the Greenwich Park and Observatory it was time for a walk along the Thames to the O2. Along the way you pass by a lot of industry or old industrial installations so it was great for me. I tried to use ISO 200 to have some grain but the JPG noise in the LC1 is a bit blotchy and not as nice as the GRD I so I won't be using it like this soon. Other than this the camera was very good due to the versatile lens, although it suffers more from flare than the Ricoh lenses (guess Leica is not as good as the price would make you think).
I will try to post a series with different themes every weekend.

Friday, 19 September 2008

"This is where I used to work"

GX, f2.7, 1/290, ISO 64, JPG, 28mm

We finally had a warm and sunny day, feels like ages since the last time it was nice. Went to meet friends at Canary Wharf and took this picture on my way there. Really liked the scene and seeing them together. The GX performs well but the LCD is pretty much useless and so is the OVF although it is better than on most compact cameras and the controls are not as refined as in the latest Ricoh cameras but you can see how it started and compared to some other cameras it is miles ahead. You can say what you want about Ricoh cameras but when it comes to controls they are the best and people who actually use cameras seem to design them and not people who hate using cameras or have 12 tiny fingers ;).

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Mirror Image

GX, f4.3, 1/8, ISO 1600, JPG, 85mm

A non-photography day. Would this picture be any better with more details and less noise? Do the details in this case really matter, is the overall impact or the view at 100% more important?

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

The Fountain

GX, f4.3, 1/30, ISO 100, JPG, 85mm

Although I went for a walk during lunch, I did not end up taking many pictures today. Maybe it was me not being very inspired or maybe there just wasn't anything worth taking pictures of. This is one of the better ones, I like the green and details of the leaves in this picture.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

The Painter

GX, f2.7, 1/15, ISO 100, JPG, 35mm

Took a walk on my way home along the Thames in North Greenwich. The weather was miserable, grey, overcast and dark so not ideal to take pictures. It was still nice walk and the GX did a good job but the metering (on mine) is way off and the display difficult (or impossible) to see from extreme angles. I also notice that I look for different photo opportunities with the GX than I would with a GRD and I use the long end of the zoom most.
This picture is my favorite from the walk since it combines the three themes I like most when taking pictures, 'Street', 'People (painting or taking pictures)' and 'Industry'. The industrial theme was what made me take the walk to begin with but I was quite happy when I came across this guy painting the very same thing I wanted to take a picture of.

Monday, 15 September 2008

Passing the Lights

GX, f3.2, 1/125, ISO 200, JPG, 50mm

This will be a GX week so I will try to use the GX exclusively. It is not fast, not as convenient and the batteries don't last me that long but I like the camera. I still have the GRD II as backup just in case but should not need it.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Thames Festival

Today it will be more pictures and less talk from me. Spent most of the day walking around the Thames Festival taking pictures. Took only the LC1 with me and got through almost two batteries, it really consumes a lot of power even if you only use the EVF. In manual focus it preformed great, was fast and easy to use. Only problems came up as soon as the light levels dropped and the f2 lens with a max. ISO of 400 were not good enough to capture the action and it was a pain to focus fast enough with the lens at f2. This is why I need a camera with a very fast lens and at least ISO 1600 at least in GRD I quality.
Anyway, enjoy my ten of my favorite pictures, if I would have to select only one image it would have been the last one. All taken as JPGs and slightly processed, mostly noise reduction and contrast adjustments with some cropping. More pictures will be uploaded to Flickr soon.

Saturday, 13 September 2008

Museums Walk & Ricoh Meet-up

GRD, f4, 1/35, ISO 64, JPG, 40mm

GRD, f2.4, 1/52, ISO 400, JPG b&w, 40mm

We had the first London Ricoh Meet-up today. It was very nice to meet people you only talk to in forums and have a chat. We talked about cameras, printers but mainly about photography and pictures, something that comes quite short in most forums. It was very interesting since we had a wide range of Ricoh cameras. We had the GR1, GX8, GRD I, GX100, GRD II and GX200 but also the Sony R1 and Epson RD1s. It was good to get some hands on with these cameras.
The best bit was then going for a walk in the British museum just before closing time. This was the first time I did this and a great experience. While most exhibitions are closed, the main hall is almost empty. The light was great and we were walking around takig pictures, each with his own cameras of choice. Next time we will have to swap cameras and see how we get along :).
Afterwards we went for dinner and had a look at each other's pictures. This was very interesting to see the differences but also similarities in the pictures taken. The great thing about walking around with people and taking pictures of a place is that you get to see things from a different prespective but also the similarities between some pictures.

Unfortunatelly I forgot to take a picture of the table with all the cameras so will have to remember for next time. Here are two of the pictures I took in the museum, more can be found on Flickr.