Category Archives: Cameras and Photography

Reprocessing reminder

Do you have a favorite photo that you made a while ago?  Perhaps with an older camera?  If so, you may want to see what new versions of software and your revised tastes and improved skills can do differently.

I had a request for a print of this image.  It’s from way back in 2007, made with my first DSLR – a Nikon D80:

Littleton, Colo. cabinLittleton, Colo. cabin

I like this photo.  A lot, and not just because of the subject.  It reminds me of driving along the road between where my Mom used to live and my Sister’s house, and visiting them both.  It’s been on the blog before:  here and here.  If you’re interested, please take a look at these two posts to see earlier versions.

Fortunately, I was saving my digital files in RAW format even back then, so I can take full advantage of any improvements in photo software.  I decided to run this through my current imaging workflow before printing.  Using DxO Optics Pro, Photoshop, and Lightroom, I was able to reduce noise, improve shadow and highlight detail, and tweak color, contrast, and brightness.  I feel the new version is better.

Using current software on an image made with 10-year-old technology can be amazing.  I even see a spider web hanging from the near door that I never noticed before.

What do you think?  Do you ever reprocess your older images?

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make and / or reprocess some photos!

©2016, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Pocket Computational Photography

If you’ve followed this blog for a while, you may have seen my earlier posts on computational photography.  If not, you can review them at this link:  http://edrosack.com/?s=computational+photography.  The term refers to using software algorithms to supplement or replace optical capture processes.  Common examples are multi-frame panoramas, focus stacking, HDR processing, post capture focus, and other techniques.  You can read more about it at this link on Wikipedia:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Computational_photography

As phone capabilities increase, their computational photography power is growing.  Camera phones have long been able to do on the fly panorama and HDR capture.  And here’s an example of a new capability that arrived on the iPhone 7+.

BokehBokeh

Apple calls this “Portrait Mode”.  It’s available in Beta on the iPhone 7+ in the latest version of IOS.  Since the 7+ has two cameras separated by a small distance, it provides the info necessary to compute a “depth map” of pixels in the frame.  The software uses this to selectively blur pixels based on distance to add a “Bokeh” (shallow depth of field) effect that helps with subject isolation.  For comparison, here is the non-computed version of the image.  You can see that the background looks very different.

Original
Original

All isn’t perfect.  The algorithm has problems around small features at the boundaries.   Look closely at the next frame and you can see blurring issues at the edges of the reed.

Phone output
Phone output

The processing blurred parts of the reed that we wanted sharp.  For the first photo above – I cheated and used Photoshop to correct the problems.  Maybe in future versions the software will be better.

Here’s one more example.  This is Lynn, rocking an election day t-shirt.  First, the portrait mode version.

Lynn - original
Lynn – portrait mode

And finally, the original.  In this case, the software did much better, with no obvious blurring issues.  These two are straight out of the camera with no processing on my part.

Lynn - portrait mode
Lynn – original

It’s fascinating how photography and computers are merging.  For someone who started out programming a large room sized Univac in FORTRAN with punch cards, the power and ability that fits in my pocket is just stunning.  I’m glad to have it with me.

What can they possibly think of next?  Do you use computational photography techniques?  Do you like or hate them?

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go compute some images!

©2016, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

iPhone vs. "big" cameras?

When I’m traveling, I try to take an iPhone photo when I get to a new place.  Sometimes I forget but when I can remember, the iPhone’s GPS capability records the location for me.  Then when I’m back home, it makes it easier to map out exactly where I’ve been.

This is one of the first photo’s I made on our trip out to Utah a few weeks ago:

Cedar Breaks National Monument amphitheaterCedar Breaks National Monument amphitheater iPhone panorama

 When I posted it on Flickr, I commented “Straight out of the iPhone’s panorama mode. I’m not sure why I have all these other cameras.”  And I do like the photo.  Phone cameras do pretty well, especially in good light.  So I wondered …

When I got home and processed the rest of my photos, I took a look at some of the other iPhone images compared with similar images from my “big” cameras (interchangeable lens cameras with larger sensors).  Here’s another example:

Sunrise at Point Supreme, iPhone PanoramaSunrise at Point Supreme, iPhone version – Panorama mode

Although the light was very pretty that morning, it was also very challenging for the iPhone sensor and lens.    I’ve tried to adjust the photo to be as similar as possible to the one below.  But I can still see major differences.  I made the next photo a minute or so later and very near the same spot with an Olympus E-M5 II micro four-thirds camera and the 12 – 40 mm f/2.8 Pro zoom lens.

Sunrise at Point Supreme
Sunrise at Point Supreme – Olympus version – multi image panorama

After looking at several cases where I had similar photos, I think this example shows why we need to keep our big cameras.

  • The exposure latitude and dynamic range capability of sensors that are larger than the one in the iPhone means that the dark areas have more detail and less noise, and the bright areas are less likely to blow out.  For high contrast light (sunrise / sunset) this helps a lot.
  • The lens in the iPhone didn’t handle the flare / glare very well.
  • The resolution capabilities of phone cameras are growing.  But with careful capture, I can create much larger images with the big cameras.  For instance the last photo above is 58 megapixel. The amount of detail in a file that large is enormous compared to a phone photo.
  • Control:  For me, the big cameras beat phone cameras in flexibility / control and ergonomics.  I can easily control everything from lens choice to aperture, ISO, shutter speed, etc.  You can get apps for your phone that add better controls, but I find them inconvenient and don’t often use the ones I have.
  • Color / white balance:  The default color and white balance on the phone are very good.  But when I use the big cameras, I can shoot in RAW format, which makes adjusting white balance and color much easier in post processing.  RAW format also allows more adjustment latitude, since I’m working with a 14 bit file in RAW, instead of an 8 bit jpg file.  RAW is coming to the iPhone soon, which should help.

So there are some reasons why I think big cameras are worth the extra weight / trouble of bringing them along.  I use my phone camera to supplement them.  How about you?

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!

©2016, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Frustrating Film Failures

… Well, some film failures and a small favorable film finish.

I’m a sucker for old cameras.  I recently came across two that I ended up buying.

My "newest" cameraA Zorki 6 35mm film camera made in 1962 in the Soviet Union

This first one is a Soviet “Leica” clone I found in an antique store.  I’d heard of them before, but never held one.  It seemed to work, and since I’m a sucker – I bought it.  I got it home, put in a roll of film and tried to take a few photos.  The shutter is inconsistent and started running very slowly.  First failure 😞.   If you’re interested, there’s more info about the Zorki 6 at the Camera-wiki article at this link.

I ran across this next one at a different antique shop.  It’s from Germany in the mid 1950s, and came with a clean Zeiss Sonar 50mm f/1.5 lens.  I like the shutter speed range from 1 second to 1/1250 second (including T and B). The built-in selenium light meter still works too and no batteries are required.  I’m always a bit leery of messing with these old cameras in the store.  So I didn’t actually open it up or try to do too much investigation while there.  It also seemed to be in pretty good shape and I went ahead and bought this one too.  Yes I’m a sucker.

Zeiss Contax IIIA 35mm rangefinder film cameraZeiss Contax IIIa ‘color dial’ 35mm rangefinder film camera

I was able to find a manual and much more info about it online.  You can read the Camerapedia article at this link.  The first problem I ran into was a missing take up spool.  So I tried to use a spool from a 35mm film canister, but the film wouldn’t reliably advance.  Second failure 😞. More research turned up many used Zeiss Contax take up spools for sale, and I bought one from Ebay.  Several days later I loaded up yet another roll of film and started clicking away again.  This time the film advance worked.  I finished the roll and anxiously shifted to Cinderella photography mode (see below*).

And yeah!  Some of the frames were good.  But many had weird light leaks.    I inspected the shutter curtains carefully and saw a gap between them on one side.  When the film is wound, the gap moves across the frame and if the lens cap is off, it partially exposes and ruins the film.  Third failure 😞.

I can’t fix this.  But I bought one more roll and this time I covered the lens each time I wound the film.  And finally I was able to get some decent exposures.  Favorable Finish on the fourth roll!! 😊

Here are three frames from the camera, along with comparison digital images I made at the same time.   I think the camera works pretty well for 60 years old!

MKMK

MK in the back yard (Film is on the left, click for larger versions) –  I really like the way the Zeiss Sonar 50mm f/1.5 lens renders both the background and subject.

Pine tree at sunsetPine tree at sunset

A Pine tree at sunset – (Film is on the left, click for larger versions) – The color rendering is different, I think digital might win this one.  Different film would give different results.

In the gardenIn the garden In the garden (Film is on the top, click for larger versions) – The Caladium leaves were in the sun and the B&W film seems to have handled the highlights better.  The subject isolation in the film version is better here too.

So, can I draw any interesting conclusions from this exercise?

  • Buyer beware – 50 and 60-year-old mechanical devices may not work like new.
  • There are no  new parts for most old cameras and few people know how to work on   them.  Unless you’re willing to go to a lot of trouble / cost, they are what they are when you get them.
  • You can buy a film camera with a warranty (KEH.com does this).  It would be less frustrating.
  • Film holds up pretty well (at least at web resolutions).  I scanned these frames in with a desktop scanner and I could get better quality (at greater cost) with a professional drum scanner.  Anyway, I think current digital cameras beat film hands down for convenience and quality.
  • The “film” look can be pretty nice.  I think the film portrait of MK came out better than the digital version.  This is mostly due to the Sonar lens and 35mm film size.
  • Film cameras can be frustrating, but they are fun to play around with.  And film and old lenses definitely render scenes differently than digital cameras.
  • For me, film is definitely a hobby as opposed to something I would use all the time for my photography.
  • But film is enjoyable to play with. This Contax is usable if I’m careful and I might take it out and load it up from time to time.  It reminds me of the rangefinder that my father gave me as my first camera.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!

©2016, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

*Cinderella photography:  “Someday your prints will come”.

Lake Apopka wildlife Drive

My friend Tom M. wanted to go out shooting last week and hadn’t ever been to the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive. The drive itself is only open to cars from Friday through Sunday, so we met on Friday morning and went over.  It was raining when I got up and still cloudy on the way over, which made for interesting skies in my infrared photos.

Lake Apopka Pump HouseLake Apopka Pump House – 2 frame panorama, infrared, black and white.

We did have a bit of good light while we were there.  We saw this bird struggling to swallow a fish and stopped to watch for a few minutes.  It was on the side of a canal with the clouds reflecting in the water behind it and flowers blooming in front.  I stayed in the car so I wouldn’t bother it and shot a series of single frames while we watched.  This one was the best one of the series.

Nice catch! Nice catch! – an Anhiga tosses a fish it caught along a canal on the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive.

On this trip, I brought my micro four thirds cameras.  I’ve used the system for about four years and they’ve worked very well.  The dynamic range and noise performance are not as good as larger sensor cameras, but it’s “good enough”.  And the noise is not an issue for me.  DxO Optics Pro does an outstanding job processing the RAW files.  The focusing capabilities have been fast for static subjects – but I’ve never been able to do very well with continuous focus.  Well, I recently traded up to a used Olympus E-M1, which has phase detect sensors built into the image sensor and it’s been doing a great job with continuous focus. So much so that even for birds in flight it’s working “good enough” too.  Here’s an example from Friday:

Checking me outChecking me out – A hawk in flight looking at the camera

You can view other photos I’ve made with the micro four thirds system in this album on Flickr.

Lake Apopka is an awesome place, I’ll definitely go back.  I’m collecting photos from there in this folder on Flickr, and you can also read an earlier article I wrote about it here on the blog.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!

©2016, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Rectaflex update

I first posted about this back in January of 2012.  Surprisingly, it’s become one of my most popular articles and “Rectaflex” is now a common search string leading to my website.  Since then, I’ve learned a bit more about the camera and so I thought I’d add this info to bring anyone interested up to date.

Early 1950s, Italian Rectaflex film SLR kitEarly 1950s, Italian Rectaflex film SLR kit.  This is a multi-frame focus bracket, stacked in Photoshop.

A lot of the new information first originated with Andrew Fildes, a photographer in Australia who also collects cameras.  He too has a Rectaflex and saw my post.  He emailed me, initially to make sure I knew how collectible these cameras are and we had an interesting email exchange.  Here’s how the conversation started:

“Just spotted your post about the Rectaflex. Good grief.  Has anyone told you yet what you’ve got there?  … The most common Rectaflex in working order is worth about $1000, Unusual models or rare ones (‘Specials’) can go up to $20K or more… (The lens cap is a $150 item if clean) … looks like you’ve got the Angenieux 35mm f2.5 there as well but the other one – 10cm f2.8 Meyer? That’s unusual!  Even the rings and cases are worth a lot to collectors.”

I think the collecting market has calmed down a bit since then, and the copy I have isn’t in working order so I don’t think it’s worth all that much.  Still – it was an exciting email!  I wish I could’ve asked Lynn’s Grandfather about it – I’d like to know his story behind the camera.  Andrew said that a lot of his information came from the book Rectaflex The Magic Reflex, by Marco Anonetto.  I bought a copy (included in the photo above) and it’s a wonderful resource if you want to find out more.  It seems to be out of print now, but if you search the web, you can find copies.

I got another email recently from Bosse, who lives in Olso, Norway.  He’s very knowledgable about reflex cameras including the Rectaflex and he’s posted a huge amount of info on his website at http://www.pentax-slr.com/108413508.  Boss confirmed that mine was manufactured for USA sale, probably around 1950.

Although I still can’t find out much about the 10cm f/2.8 Meyer lens, there’s more info on the web now about Rectaflex than there was in early 2012.  If you search, you’ll get many hits  for your reading pleasure.

So that’s my post for this week.  By the way – have a wonderful holiday season!

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!

©2015, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Thoughts on Processing Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II High Resolution Photos

Introduction

I’ve been using an Olympus E-M5 Mark II for several months and I’ve mentioned it once before (in this post about algorithmic and computational photography).  I very much like the camera and the photos I’ve made with it.  You can see some of these in this set on Flickr.

Today I’d like to talk more about its high res mode and some things I’ve learned so far while working with it.  I’ll use this recent image from the north bank of Haulover Canal in Merritt Island NWR for my example.  By the way, please click on the photo, you’ll be able to see a higher resolution version on Flickr.

Daybreak at Haulover CanalDaybreak at Haulover Canal

For those of you who aren’t interested in this particular camera or capability, here’s the tl;dr summary:  Your capture and processing tools, technique, and skill make a difference in the resulting photo.  But that’s true of every camera.  And you already knew that, didn’t you?

Okay, for those of you that are interested, here’s some hints on how to get the best out of this mode.

RAW Import

I’ve found that the software I use makes a big difference in the detail that shows up in the file.  I normally use Lightroom for all my photos, although I also have DxO Optics pro and I think it does a good job with higher ISO images.  But I noticed issues when using either of them with the Olympus high-resolution files.  Here are three 1:1 crops, processed in the three different software packages.  These are just after importing from the RAW file, with (mostly) default processing, although I did adjust sharpening on the first two to try to improve detail.

Lightroom Processed

Processed in Lightroom  CC Version 2015.1.1

DxO Processed

Processed in DxO Optics Pro 10 Version 10.4.2 

Olympus Processed

Processed in Olympus High Res Shot Raw File Photoshop Plug-In 

To my eye there’s no question:  the Olympus software does a better job processing the High Res Raw file.  The result is sharper, with more detail – so I’ve switched to using it instead of either Lightroom or DxO Optics Pro for initial input of the high res files.  There are limited adjustments available with it, so after importing the file I usually add an Adobe Camera Raw adjustment layer in Photoshop to help fine tune the highlights, shadows, etc.

Motion Artifacts

You can see artifacts on the water surface in the crops above.  These are from the way the high res files are created.  Each file is composed of 8 separate captures that the camera combines into the high res RAW output file.  So any motion during capture will result in strange-looking distractions.  If your camera is moving, the image will be unusable.  So I use a sturdy tripod, a cable release and / or a shutter delay.  If part of the scene is moving (like water, or wind-blown branches) you’ll see the distracting artifacts in that part of the frame.  For some subjects (e.g. still life) this isn’t a problem – nothing moves.  For landscapes, you’ll need a very calm day or you may want to remove the artifacts in post processing.

If they bother you, there are (at least) a couple of things you can try.  Olympus also saves the first of the 8 frames that it uses to create the RAW file.  You can open this, up-res it, and mask it into the high res version wherever there are artifacts you want to remove.  (Note that you’ll have to rename the normal res file – your software probably won’t recognize the .ORI extension).  And you’ll have carefully process the normal and high res files exactly the same up until the point where you do this so that any color or brightness difference doesn’t show.  And finally, you’ll have to recognize that wherever you do this, the resolution will suffer.

For water surfaces, you can also try applying a motion blur in Photoshop and masking it in to hide the artifacts.  That was easy to do in this photo, since it was a relatively long exposure (1/2 sec.) and the water surface was calm.  Here’s a before and after 1:1 comparison:

Motion Artifacts

Motion Artifacts – prior to removal

Motion Artifact removal

Motion Artifacts – masked out using a motion blur layer in Photoshop 

Other Artifacts?

Olympus outputs 64 Mega Pixel RAW files.  Olympus themselves say there’s not 64MP of information in the file.  It’s more like 40MP, so they downsize their JPG files to 40MP.  When using this mode keep that in mind.

There’s not too much else to worry about, although I have seen some things that look like “hot pixels” in the high res images (2 or less per file).  I’m not sure if that’s what they are and I also don’t see them in normal res files from the camera.  But they are pretty easy to remove with the Healing Brush in Lightroom.  By the way, If anyone else has seen these, I’d be interested in hearing from you.

Red Dot Artifact

High Res “Hot Pixel”

Conclusions

So, the E-M5 Mark II High Res mode:

  • Is most suitable for still life types of images when the camera is mounted on a tripod and nothing is moving.
  • Is best processed from RAW by the Olympus High Res Shot Raw File Photoshop Plug-In – at least with current (August 2015) versions of software.
  • Offers better resolution and improved color and noise characteristics than the normal mode images.
  • Can be used in other situations (e.g. landscapes), but unless the subject is still, you’ll need to deal with motion artifacts.
  • Provides the greatest benefit with better lenses.  Lower quality glass could compromise the output resolution of the system.

If you capture images in high res mode and the artifacts are too difficult to deal with, you can always drop back and use the normal resolution file.  The results will be almost as good for anything except large prints (or pixel peeping).

Have you used a capability like this?  What have you discovered?

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!

©2015, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.