Ron (2017)

Ron (2017). Leica M6. 50mm Summicron. Tri-X @1250 in Diafine.
From a recent roll, here's my dad sitting in a chair listening to my mom and sister talking. Developing with Diafine is so easy and being able to shoot at 1200+ ISO indoors is so handy that I've convinced myself that the contrasty, grainy look is what I was going for in the first place.

Digital Black and White

I have always disliked the idea of converting digital photos from color to black and white. As with film, I feel that one should decide if a photo is to be color or black and white before pressing the shutter. It's tempting to always shoot as Raw files and convert to black and white later if desired. That's the best answer for most people, but not for me. As convenient and flexible as the color-to-black-and-white process can be, it feels wrong. It feels like cheating. If I see a black and white photograph and know that it was originally shot in color, it's less meaningful to me. Fake, somehow.  I prefer black and white images to color, and I want to make black and white images even when shooting digital. I shoot black and white using only in-camera JPEGs rather than converting from color. The Acros film simulation in the X-Pro2 is terrific right out of the camera. I like the look.
Gene (2017). X-Pro2 Acros simulation
Shooting black and white using in-camera JPEGs also helps me avoid the urge to try every possible post-processing option. When converting from color to black and white I tend to tinker with VSCO or Nik or any number of other plugins and filters. As fun as that can be, it wastes time and leads to an inconsistent and haphazard style. As far as I'm concerned, the only true black and white photos are made using black and white film, but I don't shoot using only film. I'm ok with digital black and white photos as long as they were made that way to begin with.

Good Cameras

In my previous post about the X-Pro2 and 56mm I wrote, “I feel like I could actually make some decent images with this combination.” That sounds suspiciously like a belief that specific gear is required to make a “decent image” and could start a whole thing about it’s-the-photographer-not-the-camera or the best-camera-is-the-one-you-have-with-you trope.

To be clear, I of course believe that a good photographer can make good photos with any camera. But other than to prove a point, who would would want to?

On the other hand, I’m not a terribly good photographer. I just don’t have the creative vision for it. I enjoy making photos so this is fine with me. Much of the joy I derive from photography is in playing with various cameras and processes. I can make shitty photos with any old camera, and often do, but I prefer to use good cameras whenever possible.

I love cameras, but what do I mean by a “good” camera? For me, a good camera is about how it looks, feels, and functions. By “feel” I don’t only mean touch. I also mean how the camera makes me feel when I’m using it.


Leica M4

Leica film cameras are my idea of the perfect camera. Picking up a vintage Leica M is a tactile experience that no other camera can replicate. The feel of an M is perfect. The size, shape, texture, and weight are all ideal. Beyond that, there’s the emotional “feel” of a Leica. It’s impossible for me to separate Leica from its storied history. I’m sentimental that way, so using a Leica feels good in every way that a camera can.


Olympus OM-1n

My old, beat up Olympus OM-1n is a good camera. It had fallen down the side of volcano, so the previous owner gave it to me. It was a mess. The bottom plate literally required a hammer to get it back into shape. It’s tiny and barely works but I always remember where it’s been and I love it.


Olympus Stylus Epic

And yes, sometimes, a good camera is the one you have with you. I’ve been carrying a little Stylus Epic, on and off, for years. I paid $10 for the one in the photo. It’s plastic and cheap, but I love how it works. I can reach into my pocket, open the camera, and take a photo with one quick, smooth movement. And I don’t worry about dropping it. It’s a very good camera.


Fuji X-Pro2 with Fujinon 56mm f/1.2

And then there’s the camera that got me thinking about all this again. The Fuji X-Pro2. It handles similarly to a Leica M. It feels good in the hand. The controls are designed and arranged the way I like them. Finally, the images are technically very very good.

When I wrote “I feel like I could actually make some decent images with this combination” what I meant was that using the X-Pro2 feels good, works well, and helps me create the kind of photos I enjoy making. Therefore, like the others, it’s a good camera.


Gene at the buffet

Gene at the buffet. X-Pro2. 56mm f1.2. Acros simulation.

I took this photo of Gene at brunch today. It’s not a good photo, but I really like it because it looks the way I want black and white photos to look. I like deep blacks, sparkly highlights, and smooth out of focus areas.

This was shot using the X-Pro2 with the 56mm f/1.2 wide open. It’s straight out of the camera via the Acros (with yellow filter) simulation.

I feel like I could actually make some decent images with this combination.

First day with the Fujifilm XF 56mm f/1.2 R

I’ve only had the Fujifilm XF 56mm f/1.2 R for a few hours and I can already tell we’re going to become fine friends.

I love fast lenses, and f/1.2 is darn fast. The only other lens I have for the X-Pro2 is the XF 23mm f/2 R WR which is terrific for when I want the full-frame equivalent of 35mm.

I enjoy taking portraits, and the 56mm is perfect for that (85mm full-frame equivalent). I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about how images look at 100% crop, but so far this lens looks like a winner to me.

Here are a few from lunch at Founders Brewing this afternoon. All are straight out of camera using the Acros simulation, with a couple of nudges in Lightroom.





Polaroid SX-70

SX-70 repaired and ready to go

Few things trigger my nostalgia meter more than Polaroid cameras and film. It’s not because I spent my childhood shooting Polaroids. I only had access to a Polaroid camera a few times. It’s the idea of Polaroid that I love. It’s the iconic shape of the instant SX-70 photos. It’s the genius of Edwin Land’s design of the SX-70. It’s Andy Warhol.

I bought an original SX-70 several years ago when The Impossible Project (now Polaroid Originals) started making (or trying to make) integrated film. I shot a few boxes and it was fun but the film wasn’t great then. One day the camera just up and stopped working. It sat unused until a few months ago when I shipped it to Matt Widmann at 2nd Shot SX-70 Repair. I received my repaired camera this week and it’s beautiful. The new SX-70 film from Polaroid Originals works well and is as fun as I remember (or imagined).

SX-70 and a shot of Josie using Polaroid Originals SX-70 film

I’m looking forward to making lots of fun images with this camera.