Shooting Film – The Olympus OMG

In a recent post I forecast the death of film photography. I still stand by that thesis. However that doesn’t mean I don’t like to play around with it from time to time. I am actually kind of happy that film didn’t become completely extinct around 2008-2010. That, however doesn’t mean I think it is here to stay in perpetuity either.

Since film cameras are reasonably inexpensive, though steadily increasing in price, it’s fun to use them occasionally. About a year ago I picked up an Olympus OMG. Now some of you that haven’t heard of this camera are going to laugh at the name and I assure you that OMG then didn’t mean what OMG does now.


feel free to skip ahead if you like…

The Olympus OMG was from Olympus’ amateur line or what we now call the consumer or entry level line up. All Olympus cameras with two digit model numbers; OM- 10/20/30/40, are from the amateur line. The pro models are, of course; OM-1/2/3/4. The OMG introduced in 1983 was an upgrade from the OM-10 adding a manual mode in addition to the aperture priority mode of the OM-10. Also added was a PC flash sync socket and contacts for an auto winder or motor drive. The OMG is a reasonably standard camera from the era. Features include a horizontally traveling cloth focal plane shutter with speeds from 1 – 1/1000 plus Bulb and with flash sync at 1/60 or lower. Like all Olympus cameras, the controls are placed differently than as is common on other cameras of the time. The shutter speed is controlled via a ring on the lens mount instead of the more common dial on the camera’s top plate. Because of this, the aperture ring is relocated to the front of the lens. The rewind knob is in the normal place on the left side of the top plate, but to engage it you use a switch on the front of the camera body instead of the more normally encountered release button on the bottom plate. It has an exposure comp dial on the right side top plate with an external ring to set ISO/ASA. The power switch is on the left side top plate with settings for AUTO/OFF/MANUAL/BULB and a position for battery check. Speaking of batteries, the OMG takes commonly available SR44/AS76 batteries, so there is no need for a special battery or adapter. However, the camera will become totally inoperable without batteries and will lock up. The view finder is a standard pentprism affair with a built in hot shoe for flash and internally it offers a split image focusing screen.

Back to the story…..

I paid around $45.00 USD for mine including taxes and shipping. When it arrived it was, typically, a little dirty, and the batteries were dead. It came with the inevitable 50mm f/1.8 lens as you would expect.

This is not my first time owning this model. In the early 1990s I found one in a pawn shop that included the camera with a 50mm f/1.8 Zuiko, a 75-150 zoom and a Vivitar 28mm, along with a bag, tripod, motor winder, and an assortment of filters plus a few other miscellaneous bits of kit Including an Olympus flash. All for $120.00 USD (About $217.00 today). A difficult deal to pass on at the time and I didn’t (ironically it would probably be about the same price today). Sure it wasn’t a real OM pro model but that wasn’t necessary as I wasn’t really an Olympus fan at the time. Aside from my main Canon EOS kit, I also owned a Nikon FG in addition to the OMG. I will tell you this, there is no comparison with the Nikon. In build quality, operation, and fit/finish, the Olympus OMG is a far superior camera to the little Nikon FG. 

I don’t know what ever happened to that camera, I am sure I sold it, I just do not remember where or when. Periodically, though, I thought I might like to own another one, then digital became the dominate format and the threats of a film apocalypse were real and present, and, anyway, I was pretty busy with life. So I forgot about it.

A couple of years ago I started browsing around the internet looking at old film cameras just for fun. I started looking for cameras that I used to own, thinking it might be fun to have a collection of the cameras I have owned in the past. So when I started looking for an OMG, I found there weren’t many to be had and the ones that were available were in terrible condition. I am sure this rarity is because they were relatively low end consumer type cameras not because of any sort of overt desirability or collectibility. I would imagine most were thrown out or sold at yard sales then thrown out, or still are packed away in someone’s attic or basement. 

I finally found and bid (successfully) on the one I currently own. Like I said, when it arrived it was in pretty decent cosmetic condition if a little dirty, and after installing new batteries, everything seemed to work as it should. On the other hand, the light seals were just goo, and someone tried tape to fix the problem. There was some funk of some sort in the lens and some sort of detritus floating around in the viewfinder.

I ordered and installed a light seal kit – a deceptively frustrating task that appears fairly easy at first look, and ends up being a bit more difficult but isn’t too bad, it just requires a certain amount of patience and dexterity to do right. Cleaning out the old seal material and installing the new seals took me about 45 minutes. The job is technically correct but could be better cosmetically.

I managed to remove the focusing screen and extract the piece of whatever the heck it was, and reassemble everything. The last step was to clean the lens. I successfully got it apart and clean, but on reassembly, the aperture ring was stuck. That’s when I discovered I lost a tiny spring and detent ball during disassembly. So… I ended up getting another lens online for $35.00 (it came to about $48.00 with shipping). It’s not as mechanically perfect as the first (the aperture ring feels a little “spongy” when opening to f/1.8) but is perfectly clean internally and works fine.

At that point, with fresh batteries, everything seemed to work properly.

So I loaded a roll of FujiFilm 400 from Walmart and snapped a few shots around the house and garden and at the local park. Nothing fancy, just running a roll to check the light seals and see if the meter actually, really worked, and if it was reasonably accurate.

After a little hassle getting my film back from Walmart (I really cannot recommend them) it appears as if everything is in order. So that’s good news.

Surprisingly many of the shots have a strong magenta/purple cast that is easily fixable in light room. I researched the film and it doesn’t seem to be a problem with this film, and I have never seen a lens do this, to this extent. So I have to conclude this is a problem with the processing. I also noticed the camera overexposed one or two shots that were really contrasty with a broad dynamic range. I can’t really blame the camera – these older cameras cannot meter with total accuracy for that type of scene.  I will, at some point, run another roll and send it to a better lab in the future. Also, right now, I am running the same stock, as a test roll, through a Canon EOS A2. We’ll see what happens – I am not using Walmart this time.

Before with magenta cast and after with Lightroom adjustments

At the end of the day, I think this camera is a good choice for a basic film shooter based on its relatively standard set of features, even considering the oddly placed controls. It offers the tactile experience of a vintage camera while using modern batteries. All in, including the camera, new lens, light seal kit, and power winder, it comes to about $135.00 USD (Which would have been around $75.00 in the early nineties). Not bad for a camera you can have some fun with.

Stay safe and see the world you own way

thanks for reading.

Film Photography is Dead!

Many years ago, I heard an older friend of mine refer to another really old guy saying “he’s dead, but he doesn’t know enough to lay down”

So it seems is the situation with film photography despite the film photography supporters and pundits constantly declaring a rebirth and renaissance. Film photography may not be actually dead yet, but it’s going to figure out how to lay down pretty soon. It’s not from the lack of film either, it’s the cameras

Back in the early 2000’s we all thought film was really dead. You could buy flagship film cameras from the eighties and nineties for $50-$60 or thereabouts. I passed on a few Nikon F3s in great condition that were well under a hundred bucks. Because I, like many others thought film would be completely gone before 2010 and the cameras would be nothing more than paperweights. Despite popular expectation and prognostication, film is still here 10 years later in 2020. It seems there are a few folks keeping it on life support. Fuji, Kodak, Ilford, and a few others are still producing and selling film. While you really can’t drop it off at the corner drug store for processing, in most cases, there are enough mail-in labs, easily found online, to accommodate most shooters. Of course, there is always the “develop at home” option for the hard-core hobbyist. Rest assured, the film manufacturers will continue to make and sell film as long as there is a profitable demand. The demand will wane when the cameras begin to really increase in price due to rarity, ultimately leading to disuse.

The price increase is already under way. That $50.00 Nikon F3 from 2005 is now (in the same basic condition) a $500.00 camera and they are increasing all the time. Unfortunately the supply of serviceable examples is decreasing and that is partly what is causing the price increase generally seen across the board in film cameras. The supply is decreasing due to unrepairable problems. It is cheaper to toss the broken camera than to have it repaired, as a rule, even if it is reparable, no one is making replacement parts anymore. The repair people have to cannnibalize another camera to get parts to repair the first one. The extinction of a certain camera model only depends on the rate of attrition.

The problem will reach critical mass when shutter mechanisms start failing at rapid rate. In some cases certain parts can be made by various machining processes, at a price. Shutters and light meters are really the only things that cannot be made individually for anything resembling a reasonable price. As to the light meter? Ok you can use “sunny 16” or an external meter. However, if the shutter fails, you are done. The major manufacturers no longer make those old film camera shutters and you cannot adapt a shutter from a digital camera. Your only option is to take one from another camera of the same model (that has had a different failure). Since no new film cameras are currently being produced, it’s only a matter of time before we run out of donor cameras. Then, as the remainder fail, the amount dwindles until that particular model has gone the way of the DoDo bird. Thus it will continue across models until only a few cameras exist in working order, and their use will not support the film manufacturers at a level that will maintain profitability. At that point it’s over.

Of course there remains the hope that someone will start making film cameras anew. An independent company cannot do that. The engineering and pre-production costs are too high to make it a profitable venture. Recently Nikon cancelled the F6 (their last remaining film camera) which was pretty much prohibitively priced at some $2600.00 USD and a while back Canon discontinued their EOS 1v in 2018. Yes, supposedly the Nikon FM10 is still available but, a cursory Google search does not produce any new options for purchase, only used. So we can surmise that it is also out of production at this time. The major camera companies just do not see demand for new film cameras. When they do, they just end up competing against themselves. Take the Nikon F6 at $2599.00 brand new. A lightly used F5 in generally good condition can be found for less than $500.00 USD all day long. There is just no market share there. Besides, film aficionados are really not looking for modern cameras. They are looking for vintage cameras. They enjoy the haptics of manually focusing, setting the exposure, and advancing the film. Modern “do-it-all” film cameras from the late 1980’s onward do not offer that experience. They are more akin to shooting a DSLR which does not align with the “film experience”.

The only film option that may remain for the longer term is large format – 4×5 and 8×10. Those cameras have always been made by smaller companies and, indeed, there are new companies making them as I write this. They are, essentially primitive simple machines that rely on zero technology. lenses are readily available and replaceable. However, since the shutter is generally in the lens, we might run into the same shutter problem as we do with other film cameras. The shutters in view cameras, though, should have more life left as view cameras are not shot near as much as SLRs or other roll film cameras. We will see.

So, for now, if you shoot film, just enjoy it,  don’t pretend it’s not dead or it will really surprise you when it decides to lay down.

As always, stay safe and see the world your own way.

Thanks for reading.

Single Image Sunday

Here we are on another Sunday. My last few single image posts have had a negative slant or were trying to find positivity in a time when there is so much negativity as a result of current events.

This week I am posting a “found” composition from 2019 that immediately caught my attention. I was fascinated that someone would actually go to the trouble to create this and then display it in public in this way. A pure burst of positivity. I think we need more of this type of thought now and it, basically, sums up a great deal of my own personal philosophy.

If I could say any, one, thing right now, it would be – “don’t ever let the circumstances win, don’t give up, and if circumstances dictate, create a new beginning for yourself”

This probably has a foundation in my personal situation. I recently quit my job – in the middle of a pandemic no less – due to what could only be described as a toxic work environment with a completely incompetent manager. I was going to try to tough it out until the springtime, mostly due to the pandemic, but that didn’t work out. The job was having a negative effect not only mentally, but the stress was causing physical symptoms as well. It was time to go. Unfortunately, my wife and I didn’t have a very long landing strip – financially speaking – so there was that. However I have since found a new position in the same broad industry. The new position is something I have wanted to do, in the industry, but is at a lower pay rate. I guess the pay cut is the price for quitting my last position on short notice. So things are looking up. Here’s to small beginnings!

Of course the message in this image can be taken in either a positive or negative light. What you do with it is up to you.

I hope you see it as a positive and I hope it improves your day.

Stay safe and see the world your own way.

Thanks for reading.

How Many Megapixels is Enough?

As the camera companies continue to churn out cameras at an alarming rate (considering their business seems to be decreasing dramatically) it appears as if the “megapixel wars” have begun anew. What seemed to be an end to the battle as everyone settled into the 24 (ish) megapixel area, has turned out to be nothing more than a temporary cease-fire.

Megapixel count is nothing more than a marketing ploy (for the most part) by the camera companies to entice you into buying the latest model because it’s “just that much better”.

They, and the gear shills on YouTube would have you believe that while two years ago 24 megapixels was fantastic, now it’s horrible. You NEED whatever the new number is.

Let’s look at some of the newer (ish) cameras for a minute:

Nikon Z7 – 45.7 MP

Canon EOS R – 30.3 MP

Canon EOS R5 – 45 MP

On the other hand:

Nikon Z6 – 24.5 MP

Canon EOS R6 – 20.1 MP (!) Not sure about this one.

Sony A&III & A9 – 24.9 MP

So, now we are all over the map with megapixel counts with the manufacturers having you believe that a premium camera has to have a higher megapixel count, it just has to, and if you are not using it, your photography will suffer. Unfortunately, too many people fall into this trap.

Resolution, in the form of megapixels, costs money. As businesses the camera companies want money. The best way to get it is to introduce a new product with MORE POWER! Resulting in folks who haven’t entirely thought this through shouting “take my money!” just to have the latest and greatest.

There are reasons to buy megapixels, but there are more reasons not to. For instance most of the newer cameras are being marketed as pseudo flagship models and carry a premium price of at least $3k USD or more, and then you are buying into an entirely new lens mount, and most are only offering premium lenses so far. That’s a lot of money. Then there is computer power. It takes a lot of processing power to work with a 45MP image. So you can probably plan on spending a few thousand more on a new, upgraded, computer capable of efficiently handling large files.

Of course there are reasons to buy megapixels. If you are a wildlife or action sports photographer, you can crop in to a long shot without loosing resolution – cropping is the primary reason to have a natively high MP count, even for commercial work. I sure hope you are doing paid work though, as you are about to drop around $10k USD for a camera with a couple of lenses and a new computer.

Don’t talk about ginormous enlargements. Those have been made billboard size forever with low resolution and work just fine because they are meant to be viewed from a long distance. We could talk about print quality, but very few people print their work nowadays so that argument really doesn’t hold up. Besides, you can get great images and prints from fairly low megapixels as we’ll see shortly. Most people post their images online at low resolution. The fact is though, you can get a really good 8”x10” print from a 3 MP camera.

There was a point around 2008-2009 that National Geographic magazine, which you have to admit in known for superb photography, stated the the minimum resolution for publishing digital images was 8 MP, and now, they don’t even have a statement regarding megapixels in their guidelines.

Having said that, it’s really a question of how many megapixels you want, not how many you need, and that’s just a matter of preference.

Now lets look at some images. We’ll start at the low end.

Taken with a FujiFilm Finepix S3000 at 3.3 MP circa 2008

Salton Sea CA 2009 – Fuji Finepix Copyright 2020 used with permission

Taken with a Nikon Coolpix L11 at 6 MP circa 2008

Grand Canyon 2007 Nikon Coolpix L11 Copyright 2020 Jim Rush

Taken with an Olympus eVolt 500 at 8 MP circa 2009

Olympus eVolt 500 Circa 2009 Copyright 2020 Jim Rush

Any of those photos are highly useable both on the web and as prints up to 8″x10″. Admittedly they may even work for larger prints, but I’ve never tried. Though I am tempted to try an A3 print with the 8MP image just for fun.

Moving forward about 10 years:

Taken with a Canon EOS 50D at 15MP circa 2018

Canon 50D, EFs 18-135 copyright Jim Rush 2020

Taken with a Sony A7II in 2019

Sony A7II FE 50mm f/1.8 Copyright Jim Rush 2020

I don’t  have any photos with higher resolution but the internet has plenty if you want to compare. Obviously there is a notable difference between 3 and 24 MP, but not so much between 3 and 8 MP, or between 15 and 24 MP. Even at 3 MP details are still sharp. The question is, is this an attribute of MPs or advances in sensor technology? Would the 6 MP images be similarly sharp as the 24 MP image with current sensor technology?

As you can see, for website and social media use, I am certain that anything 3 MP or greater is going to work just fine. Heck, even Adobe Stock sets their minimum at 4 MP for commercial use images. That should be all the information you need. 

Now, honestly, there are no new cameras for sale that offer 3MP. Most everything is pretty much 20MP or greater. At 20+ MP you are going to be in good shape for most anything you want to do. So choose your gear accordingly and don’t succumb to the advertising.

As a last point of irony, two of the most praised and popular digital cameras from the past, right now, are the Nikon D700 and the Canon EOS 5D. Both 12 MP cameras and both highly regarded by the so-called experts, who have stated all over the internet that they are even good for professional use. Thus the argument for lower megapixel and used cameras grows even stronger.

Remember, I am only discussing resolution via megapixels in this post, not features and benefits of newer cameras or really even sensor technology. The point is, make your decisions accordingly and that “more is better” when it comes to megapixels is just not true, so don’t fall into the trap.

Let me know what you think in the comments.

Stay safe and see the world you own way.

Thanks for reading.

A Review of the Sony FE 50mm f/1.8

The “nifty fifty” is a lens that every photographer should have in their kit. What a “nifty fifty” is, is a 50mm lens that usually has a maximum aperture of f1.8-f/2.0. This spec lens used to come with just about every new camera purchase as a kit. Over the years it has developed sort of a reputation as being sub-standard. In most cases, nothing could be further form the truth.

Sure  across the board there are other more expensive options in every camera manufacturers lens catalog. In the Sony eco-system there are of course the Zeiss 50mm f1.4 and the Zeiss 55mm f/1.8. By all accounts better lenses, only marginally though, and both at five to eight times the price. Of course there are various 50mm options from third party manufacturers, most notably Sigma. Again at a much higher price point.

So lets look at Sony’s “nifty fifty” – the SEL5018F according to Sony’s catalog:

50mm focal length

Full frame compatibility

6 elements in 5 groups

7 rounded aperture blades

49mm filter thread

47 degree angle of view

Weighs 6.5 ounces or 186 grams

All in all pretty standard. Note this lens does not have built in image stabilization, or Optical Steady Shot in Sony terminology, because most of Sony’s full frame cameras have in body stabilization (IBIS).

This is not a critical scientific review so I will dispense with MTF charts and the like.

In my experience, the lens offers an acceptable degree of sharpness and good image quality. However it is somewhat subject to flare, so use a lens hood or your hand if needed to shade the front element.

There is, in high contrast situations, especially against a light background, a decent amount of chromatic aberration mostly in the form of purple fringing.

Also the focus motor is a little loud so this would not be an ideal lens for video as you would probably pick up extraneous noise during focusing. The lens does not have an external Auto/Manual focus switch either.

How does this lens compare to offerings from other manufacturers? My only basis of experience is with the Canon 50mm 1.8 STM which I used to shoot on my canon DSLRs then adapted to my Sonys before getting the Sony version. I found the Canon to be sharper and more contrasty, while having a better overall image quality, and for half of the price. However adapted lenses never work as well as native mount lenses in my experience and the Sony version is not that far behind the Canon in the mentioned areas, and Canon has had much more time to develop their lens.

So, is it worth it? Absolutely. If you favor the 50mm focal length and want a fast aperture this is a great way to go. If you are an APSC shooter, it is a decent focal length for portraits, though you might be better served by Sony’s APS-C version that does have built in stabilization and slightly better IQ – though at a higher price point.

Let’s look at some images.

So, is it worth it? Absolutely.

Let me know what you think in the comments.

Stay safe and see the world your own way.

Thanks for reading.


RAW vs JPEG is an argument that has been debated pretty much since shortly after the advent of digital post processing software that allowed access to the RAW image data. So, once again, for fun, which is the better option?

I think JPEG can be, ultimately, the better format though with one or two small qualifications.

JPEG or .JPG files get most of their reputation as inadequate and inferior because they are considered by most self appointed experts to be a beginner’s format that no serious photographer would use, for no particular reason other than with this file type, you are letting the camera and its processor make basic editing decisions and the output is a highly compressed file with much of the original digital information absent. On the other hand you are also guaranteeing yourself a useable image at minimum. Truthfully, most beginning photographers actually do start shooting JPEG because it’s safe, also it is the default file format for most digital cameras in the full auto modes. This doesn’t make it a just beginner’s format, or any less usable in the final analysis. Many pro photographers use JPEGs and are doing so more and more.

The next evolution for the beginning photographer is that they start watching videos online and maybe, reading various posts and articles online wherein they discover RAW files and their supposed superiority. This a a pretty standard progression for a digital photographer. they really don’t understand fully what RAW files are and what to do with them yet.

The standard line of advice goes like this; if you are a serious photographer, you should be shooting RAW exclusively. If not, then, at least setting your camera to save RAW plus JPEG so that you have the RAW files in the future, for use when you become more experienced at editing. A bizarre thought process. Though at first it does seem sensible, but, if you think about it, It basically says – “start out shooting junk, then when you’re better, you can shoot big boy pictures” – this argument can break down rather quickly if challenged. Unfortunately the RAW file side usually wins just by force of numbers. Even though the winning argument is a bit of a fallacy as we will see in a bit.

The basic premise is that with film, the photographer has much latitude when printing the negative in a darkroom. RAW files give the digital photographer this same (or even greater) latitude. Which when approached correctly can give a degree of refinement to the final image.

What this doesn’t discuss is that most photographers in the film only era didn’t develop or print in the darkroom. They either didn’t like the environment, or the process. Darkroom work is a separate skillset from photography and a good darkroom tech was highly valued. Many photographers left their film at the lab and then went back to shooting. Obviously there were some photographers that developed and printed their own work but they were fewer than you might think. On the other hand there were  well financed hobbyists that did build and use home darkrooms. Does that mean RAW files are better suited to hobbyists then? Possibly but probably not.

In camera JPEG. Sony A7II , FE 85mm f/1.8. ISO !00, f/1.8 @ 1/1600. Slightly cropped for composition in Adobe Lightroom

When I, personally, first started shooting seriously with digital around 2007, there really wasn’t a lot of information on RAW editors to speak of software that would actually open the file was scarce and expensive. So, like many people, I was a JPEG shooter and happy. I was editing some in Photoshop Elements and overall, was pleased with the results. I still have two black and white prints matted, framed, and hanging in our living room from that time. Then I was away from photography for a while, and when I went back to it in 2013 I began to hear more and more about RAW files and the amazing latitude (especially regarding highlight and shadow recovery) you had when processing the image.

So, after a bit, I started shooting RAW and processing in Lightroom just like every other serious photographer, or so I thought. I have to admit that in the beginning it was interesting to spend time at the computer editing RAW files. The control I had over the image was pretty amazing. Of course I followed a pretty standard path and found that many (if not most), of my images were over processed (I’m being kind to myself here….) bringing  me back to the old advise that just because you can do something doesn’t me you should, and went back to a much more minimalist style of editing. Still using RAW files.

There was, however, a nagging thought in the back of my mind though, and it went something like this – I used to shoot and edit JPEGs .. mostly minor adjustments to exposure, contrast, and maybe a little highlight and shadow adjustment. A lot of what you might call minor “tweaking”. Why am I spending all of this time and computer power to end at the same result? Why am I not shooting JPEG? The answer of course was because I was too “serious” a photographer to shoot JPEG, of course. Serious images relied on editing skill. Wait… what?

Out of camera JPEG. Sony A7II, FE 16-35mm f/4 @35mm. ISO 100, f/8 @ 1/250.

It’s been said that if you shoot RAW, you are an editor and if you shoot JPEG, you are a photographer. I do believe that there is much truth in this. I prefer to be a photographer with some editing skills rather than the other way around I never was a darkroom tech. Why am I an editor now?

Then I started to think about it and, realized a few simple truths. First there isn’t any such a thing as a true raw data file. If there were, all you would see was a series of 1s and 0s on your screen, no image at all. The camera’s onboard processor has already interpreted those ones and zeros to form an image file. So when you open a RAW file in Adobe Lightroom, Camera Raw or some other program, it is already a processed image – just with more information and lacking the file compression that you get with a JPEG. Some cameras even offer a compressed RAW file option (hmm…..). So if we think we are dealing with true unmolested original data, we’re just kidding ourselves. Of course this is also where the argument about which camera’s so-called color science is superior. 

Next I began to think that if you use JPEG and there is less information to manipulate, then you had better get it right in camera. Then came the epiphany –  this is exactly the same as color transparency (slide) film used to be. If you shot slide film you had better get everything correct in camera because there was no practical printing or darkroom process by which you could correct things like you could with negative film. Yes in the pre-digital days, the ability to successfully shoot transparency film was the mark of a true pro. Yet now we think of JPEGs (which can easily be compared to slides) as being amateurish. That is a serious flaw in the thought process.

Admittedly, in the early days of digital photography, JPEGs weren’t that good and photographers really wanted to get at the RAW data so they could process their own JPEGs. I would submit that now, JPEGs are exponentially better than ever and there is no practical reason to shoot RAW except in rare cases where you may want to shoot and save both to give yourself a safety margin for a specific image in case the JPEG shot fails. It happens.

Even Reuters (a kind of well known news agency) only accepts JPEGs from their staff photographers and stringers as part of an ethical position statement. By extension, this means that JPEGs are of a high enough quality that one or the world’s premier photo news services recognizes the quality of current JPEG output.

So, then, should we be shooting JPEG? Well it is my belief that, after shooting RAW for many years, JPEG is, day to day, the better format, for most photographers, for most uses.

There are caveats though. Most cameras now come with picture profiles (or something similar – it’s all in the name) that are not the same as the automatic “scene modes” you find on most cameras. Most of these profiles are adjustable to an extent, especially regarding vibrancy, contrast, and sharpness. You will have to experiment a little to find the sweet spot with these settings that gets you the result you want.

I would rather be shooting photos, or writing about photography than sitting in front of my computer or iPad editing RAW files when, in the end, my edits are about the same as the camera’s JPEGs, as compared by shooting JPEG an RAW at the same time.

So, in the end, for probably 80% of photographers 99% of the time, JPEG is the better solution.

Wait, what?

Ok so, maybe I was a bit overzealous at first. There are some specific types of photography where Raw files might be the better choice. For instance Landscape photography where you might use focus stacking or may be using HDR techniques. Formal portraits where you are going to do extensive editing to improve skin and adjust lighting. Wedding photography because you want the bride to look her best. Lastly high end real estate photography, architecture, or interior design because you are going to be blending several images in Photoshop. These are all examples of when you, as an editor, should have as much image data as possible available.

Essentially if Photoshop is your primary editing tool because of its power to change reality you probably would be better off shooting RAW. If you use Lightroom from start to finish you are in the 80% and that makes you a photographer.

If you are so inclined let me know what you think in the comments.

-stay safe, see the world your own way, and thanks for reading.

Sony 12-24mm f/2.8 GMaster Lens

Ah, the sights and smells of summertime. New cameras and lenses are born into the world celebrating new life for the camera industry.

Yes, that was sarcasm. I am so over the semi-annual new gear introductions that are nothing more than incremental improvements, for the most part anyway.

So, Sony has announced. Their new FE 12-24mm f/2.8 G-master zoom which by all all accounts so far is a tour de force in optical design and engineering. An extreme wide angle 2X zoom with a rectilinear design that almost completely eliminates any of the normal distortion or “fisheye” effect that you would  get from such an extreme wide angle lens. At  f/2.8. The fast aperture itself offers moderate but good bokeh which, again, is almost unheard of in wide angle lenses that normally offer excellent depth of field characteristics. You don’t normally think of this type of lens as being any kind of bokeh beast. On top of all of that the lens has, effectively, no chromatic aberration or color fringing and almost zero noticeable vignetting. Amazing!


This could be an architectural photographer’s perfect lens and it probably has a lot of use for  landscape photography. Of course it could be used for photojournalism and documentary work with prudence and caution. Actually it could find a place in almost. Any photographers kit – except for the price. 


Wait what?

$3,000.00? That is just an absurd price – full stop. I do not care how “good” or “amazing” it is. I used to think Sony’s FE 24-70-mm f/2.8 G-master at over $2,000.00 (for what is essentially a “walk around” lens) was ridiculous but this far surpasses their previous idiocy especially since they also offer a 12-24mm f/4 “G” version for significantly less and is probably at least 90% as good as this lens.

Perhaps I am the wrong consumer for this lens because I don’t get the value proposition. If this were, say, a Leica lens, I would understand. I still wouldn’t be interested because I am not a Leica shooter but at least I understand their value proposition.

Sony is not Leica. Sony does not have a history of superior optical design and hand craftsmanship. Sony is, first and foremost, an electronics company that makes great digital cameras. Great in the sense that they work well, are well constructed and eminently useable. They offer a reasonably complete lens library and have a good amount of third party support.

In short, they have matured their camera division into a formidable force in the industry competing fully for market share with Nikon and Canon. This still does not merit a $3K lens. 

If that last bit sounded pretty cynical, well, it is. Even as a Sony shooter, who is familiar with their penchant for overpricing I am still surprised at this latest bit of ridiculousness. 

I doubt that sales figures for this lens will be stellar.

In the meanwhile – stay safe, see the world through your own eyes and thank you for reading.

An Easter Weekend Road Trip and Some Unexpected History…

I have started this post at least three times trying to get into the substance of it. I don’t know why it seems complicated.

Maybe it’s because I have several interests and avocations in life outside of my “professional” existence. In reality, my job is nothing more than a means to support whatever my interests are at the time, and they can be myriad, sometimes annoyingly so. That being the case, sometimes it’s hard keeping everything on one track.

So, one of the constants in my life, since I can remember, has been road trips. I am not, and never have been a “vacationer” in the conventional sense. I prefer to get out and explore on my own and, well, I come by this naturally as my Dad was the same way. While I was growing up, our family vacations were usually spent on three day weekends to various destinations and exploring what we could along the way. This is how I saw Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco, China Town in Los Angeles, The old Army Air Force Training Base in Blythe California, Meteor Crater in Arizona, Hoover Dam in Nevada, Sutter’s Fort in northern California, and so many other things, including driving nearly the entire length of Route 66 by the time I was a teenager, and visiting the Capitol building in Lansing Michigan. This has continued into my adult life, and my wife is an enthusiastic co-conspirator, for the most part. (Yes, this is leading to the Easter weekend road trip!)

Another one of my passions is reading. Now I am not a voracious fiction consumer. As a matter of fact, I rarely read fiction preferring instead to read historical accounts and reference works–especially if they pertain to my other interests – like photography, or jazz, or history.

Ah! Let’s talk about history, another one of my consuming interests. Not so much history in general, but rather narratives of the events that shaped the 20th century, especially, but not exclusively, from about 1930 onward. To this end, about two weeks before the Easter weekend road trip, I bought a copy of Bill O’Reilly’s book The Day The World Went Nuclear from the bargain table at our local mall bookstore, and promptly forgot about it in the shuffle of daily life.

Then the road trip.

So how do a book by Bill O’Reilly and Easter weekend come together? Really O’Reilly’s book is just a fun coincidence that ties into one of the interesting circumstances on our road trip.

The trip was to be done in 24 hours from Texas to California (some 1200 miles). Based on previous experience, 1200 miles in 24 hours is around an 8 on a difficulty scale from 1-10, but doable.

Now I could have taken one of two easy routes, I-40, or I-20 to I-10. Instead, I opted for a two lane trip across New Mexico and Arizona on US. 380 and U.S. 60 – just to see something different. We did.

We left home about 12:15 a.m. on Good Friday, and eventually picked up U.S. 380 into Roswell, New Mexico. In Roswell, before dawn we enjoyed breakfast at Denny’s, filled the car with gas and headed west. We were in Lincoln, New Mexico at daybreak – epicenter of the famous “Lincoln County War” of 1878. For any western history aficionado, this is an unbelievable location. With most of the buildings seemingly original to their 1870’s roots. An area that seems about as historically preserved as it could get.

It was just sunrise so, I didn’t really make any images, mostly because everything was still in shadow and we were on somewhat of a time schedule, so the time wasn’t there to wait for better light.

Sunrise in Lincoln New Mexico

Heading west, we came to the town of Carrizozzo, New Mexico, a nice clean little town with beautiful early morning light.

The Rainbow Motel in Carrizozo New Mexico.

A line up of old trucks by the highway just outside of Carrizozo New Mexico.

Little did we know, the trip was about to become much more interesting.

On this particular trip, we had passed a number of “historical markers”. I’m not usually one for stopping at these things as they’re usually not all that interesting. My wife was driving (her turn) and I was a little groggy from driving all night when I saw a road sign for the gate to the White Sands test facility. I had been on the southern side of the facility when I was about twelve or thirteen (thanks Dad) and they have a welcome center and such for the tourists. I figured there might be something on this side, but probably way too early for it to be open. However, there was a marker a few hundred yards down the road, so lets stop and read the marker I say.

Gob smacked!


Excuse the lens flare, but I was completely consumed by the information in front of me. If I would have put some consideration into my route planning, I might have seen this coming…

I suddenly realized, that I was within a few miles of the place that the universe was forever altered in an instant, and the world’s balance of power would be forever determined by horrendous weaponry that was based on a science invisible to the human eye.

Damn! That’s some weighty stuff right there.

Okay, we let that sink in for a minute… Then we decided to do a bit more looking around, basically because I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t.

So we backtracked a bit and headed south on the road to the White Sands gate. It was definitely a gate.

Gate At the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico

No touristy stuff in sight. No Welcome center. Just a white pickup truck driving toward us on the other side shortly after I stated taking pictures. I’m guessing they really didn’t want us there. So, we decided to head back toward the highway. We probably weren’t going any further anyway. If you look closely in the above image you can see a small brown sign just inside the gate that says “Trinity Site”.  By the way, after doing a little post trip research, it turns out that the site is opened to the public on the first Saturday in April every year – two weeks before we were there!

Trinity Site sign

The trip became even more interesting after we left the White Sands/Trinity area passing some cows as we continued west on U.S. 380.

Cows – but you knew that, didn’t you?

As we headed west and picked up U.S. 60 in the little town of Socorro, New Mexico. We stopped for gas and the restroom in Socorro. After filling the car (a 2011 Honda Pilot named “Pete” – long story) using the rest room and, generally getting ourselves together, we checked the GPS and headed west on U.S. 60.

As we headed out of town commenting on the scenery and style of the town we came upon a sign that told us VLA was a few miles away. Being slightly goofy from the road we started making jokes like – what kind of a name is VLA? –  buy a vowel already, and my wife “they’re probably a wealthy community that doesn’t need another vowel”. So the jokes continued until we found out what VLA was.


Well, Ill be damned. Who new (uh… I’m guessing a bunch of people). Time for another side trip.

This facility is pretty much open to the public (unlike the humorless folks at White Sands). There is a walking tour, videos explaining the place and its mission, and of course the ubiquitous gift shop.

… And a whole bunch of these…

Satellite antenna at the VLA – this one is actually part of the self guided walking tour, and you can get pretty close to it.

This is a really amazing place.

Inside the Welcome Center.

As if this whole place wasn’t impressive enough on its own, it has a Hollywood connection too, the movie Contact was filmed there. Wow.

This was just plain impressive, even after fourteen hours on the road with no sleep!

So, after this we needed to make up some road time.

Heading west on U.S. 60 again, we stopped just outside of Show Low, Arizona, gassed up and used the restroom. I used an old standby of mine – I washed my face and arms, grabbed a sports drink and a beefstick and we hit the road. I was driving and, as the effects of the sports drink hit me I got my second wind and felt fine. We turned north to Holbrook and then picked up I-40 west.

One last thing. We had to stop in Winslow, Arizona to… well…stand on a corner.

I actually took a photo of my wife standing here but, I don’t think she would want me to use it, so this will have to do.

Yep, the’ve made a whole touristy thing out of an Eagles song. It was fun though in a campy sort of way.

Back on the road, then straight through – Flagstaff, Arizona (don’t forget Winona), Kingman, Barstow, San Bernardino (not quite but almost, and my sincere apologies to Bobby Troupe).  We  arrived at 7:00 p.m. Pacific time Friday evening or about 22 hours after leaving.

Had a great Easter with the kids and grandkids. Then I did a straight through drive back – sorry no side trips on the return just mile after mile. My wife? Well she flew back on Thursday (huh!) and Pete the Pilot? He’s waiting for the next one.

Thanks for reading!