Good-bye, Steve Jobs

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.
Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

-- Steve Jobs, 2005 Commencement Address Stanford University

My Almost Perfect Combo

I can't say how long it will be so, but right now my almost perfect combo is a Voigtlander 28mm f2.0 Ultron mounted on a Sony NEX camera. Among mirrorless, interchangeable lens cameras some might like the lens selection of the m4/3 cameras or the controls of the Ricoh GXR, but when it comes down to raw sensor performance, nothing beats the Sony NEX. The first generation sensor on the NEX-3 and 5 are still better than most of the competition and the new sensor in the C3 and 5N is even better yet.

The Voigtlander 28mm f2.0 Ultron is an M-mounts lens made by Cosina in Japan. As far as rangefinder lenses go, it's a bigger lens, but not huge. It's solid and well-made. In your hand, it has a bit of heft that is satisfying especially in comparison to the light-weight, plastic, native primes found on most mirrorless cameras. It just feels well-made. My example has wonderfully smooth focusing and the aperture ring has a satisfying click for each stop and half-stop. Plus, lots of details of this lens are easy to appreciate: the lens hood just melds into the body, the lens cap is a classy looking pinch-design, the focusing-tab is a good size, which makes it easy to use. It's no Leica, but it is a very nice lens.

via CameraQuest

On the NEX it turns into a 42mm equivalent lens with a wide max aperture of 2.0. It's a very good wide-normal lens and I have it on my camera most of the time. If I had one qualm with it, it's that the minimum focusing distance is 0.7 meters. You can take two approaches to that issue. First, you can fix it with the Hawk's Helicoid M-mount adapter that uses a helicoid to shorten the minimum focusing distance, or you can learn to live with it and use it to your advantage because it forces you to step back and take a bit more into you photo. As a beginner it's easy to take close-up pictures of flowers, patterns or tools to name a few subjects of mine. The less in the frame, the easier composition becomes. Step back a bit and take a photo of a person in their environment, for example, and the many, varied components of the image force you to think a bit more and, consequently, improve a bit more as a photographer.

Voigtlander 28 f2.0 Ultron on NEX-3
If you would like to buy a Sony NEX camera, you can use this link to buy one at Amazon. You can also buy the Voigtlander Ultron 28mm f/2.0 at Amazon.  Both links are affiliate links. 

Mirrorless Cameras

Nikon's recent introduction of the V1 and J1 cameras has started anew the always interesting, but tiresome, discussion of which mirrorless camera lineup is the best and has the most staying power. To be honest, I really couldn't care one way or another, but some people like to defend their choices at the exclusion of any other choice. I don't find that to be a very productive debate. As I see it, the mirrorless market right now is populated by an array of choices each of which has their own list of advantages and disadvantages. Which of them work for you is purely a matter of personal preference and needs.

For example, my first mirrorless cameras was a Panasonic GF-1, which I bought in November, 2010. I still think it's one of the better cameras in this class ever released and likely will go down as one of the early classics. It combined a durable build, good controls, and came in a package that included the excellent Panasonic 20mm lens. However, I don't own it anymore (a decision I sometimes regret, but that is tangential to this discussion) and that is because one of its disadvantages got in the way of what I personally want from one of these cameras. That's not to say the m4/3 system isn't a great system. In fact, as a system, m4/3 is probably the best mirrorless system out there and if I had to guess which of the systems was likely to stick around then it would be my current pick. So if the system was top-notch then why did I switch? Well, what I didn't like about it was the 2x crop factor. I like to shoot manual, adapted lenses (the reasons why this is so might make for another good topic to write about) and the 2x crop factor made every lens I tried just a bit too long for my taste: a 28mm became an equivalent 56mm and a 50mm became a 100mm. Even my ultra wide 15mm turned into a rather average-wide 30mm equivalent lens. It was for this reason that I began to look at the NEX system. The NEX, along with Ricoh's GXR and Samsung's NX camera, offers an APS-C size sensor, which gives me a 1.5 crop factor. My 28mm become a 42, the 15 becomes a 22.5, and the 50 becomes a 75. Those focal lengths felt better to me, more useful.

Voigtlander 28mm f2 Ultron

Voigtlander 15mm f4.5 Super Wide Heliar

I no longer own a 50mm lens as I've sold all my adapted SLR lenses and I'm slowly replacing them with rangefinder lenses, but the above two lenses make a pretty good two lens kit.

Anyway, I haven't made my point which is for each mirrorless system available there will be someone who doesn't like it for everyone someone who does. Someone will find great use with it while another will not. To each their own as they say. Remember the point is not to defend your camera of choice; the point is to find one you like using and to use it.

Aborted Beginnings

At the beginning of August I decided I would embark on one of those 365 projects, which is, for those unfamiliar, a project to take a photo a day for 365 days. I knew going in that it was going to be a massive undertaking. I mean doing anything everyday for 365 days is quite a task, unless what you are doing is eating, sleeping, showering or something else along those lines. Regardless, I decided I would make a valiant attempt and do the best I could. Well, I made it 21 days before a project at work swallowed up most of the free time I had. I was working weekdays and most weekends and as a result my project died. That was six weeks ago and I'm just now processing what I took during my aborted 365 project.

I did get a few descent images during that time and those 21 days did teach me quite a bit so I think I'll give it another shot at some point. When that will be, I can't say.

Here are a few shots I took from one particularly fruitful outing.