Sony NEX-7 – The Perfect Panoramic Travel Camera

by Adam Spigel on August 24, 2011

Has the perfect travel camera arrived that is capable of producing wonderful panoramic images in a small package?  My guess is YES and I’ve pre-ordered mine!

My justification. Does it match yours?
1. All the resolution I need. 5 horizontal images merged with ptgui would create a HUGE beautiful panoramic image. One site said that when viewing NEX-7 and A900 images side by side, the level of detail looked comparable,  AMAZING!
2. It’s light! almost a half a pound lighter then a Pentax K5 (note: weight of the Sony glass could make up the difference compared to a few Pentax limited lenses).
3. Although the exact dynamic range is yet unknown, my guess is it will equal or exceed the Pentax K5. Yes, I won’t be able to do a 3 shot – 2 stop HDR photo but if the NEX-7 has decent dynamic range maybe HDR bracketing won’t be necessary. With the nature of fleeting light when taking sunset or sunrise landscapes, the fewer images, the better (5 is much better then 15).
4. Small form factor, won’t intimidate moving subjects and won’t shout steel me.
5. When trying to accurately frame and setup ND filters, I rarely use an optical view finder trusting the live view image much more with extra batteries on hand of course.  When a viewfinder is needed, the NEX-7 has the best EVF made to date and it’s also in the perfect location. Just ask any Leica M user.
6. I just don’t trust the focus on a DSLR. Don’t think I should have to create different profiles for each lens to obtain accurate focus. With a mirrorless camera, this isn’t a problem.
7. For me, the wonderful 24mm f/1.8 Carl Zeiss lens (35mm equivalent) is perfect when taking panoramic images in a portrait configuration (closest to using a 90mm lens in a 617 format). I can also use the upcoming NEX E 50mm f/1.8 which will give me something close to the 180mm in a 617 format when taking photographs in portrait mode.
8. First NEX camera where I can lock focus for consecutive shots. Believe that button close to where you thumb would fall can switch to manual focus which would in affect lock focus.
9. Its beautiful and looks well made.

1. Not weatherproof.
2. Can’t bracket 3 shots – 2 stops apart for HDR work.
3. NEX system is still a bit lens limited but the 24mm and 50mm will be perfect for my use.

DP Review – NEX-7 First Look

Pre-order yours now and support this site:
NEX-7 Body Only – Amazon (click here)
Zeiss 24mm f/1.8 E-mount – Amazon (click here)
Sony 55-210mm E-mount – Amazon (click here)

Using cell phones to take panoramic photographs

by Adam Spigel on July 14, 2011

It’s the big new thing, panoramic software to quickly take and stitch panoramic images. Guess what, the results aren’t half bad! There are even companies making phone accessories to attach fish-eye lenses and SLR lenses! Try putting one of those in your pocket:
TechCrunch – This Case Lets You Attach An SLR Lens To Your iPhone
TechCrunch – The GoPano: A Panoramic Lens System For The iPhone

I just installed DerManDar to my iPhone4 and I’m impressed. For the times I don’t feel like lugging my DSLR/tripod or my Canon S95, I ‘m going to start experimenting  with DerManDar to take panoramic photographs.

Just read that Apple will be including some panoramic software in its latest iOS 5 build which will come with the iPhone 5. I just wonder how big I can print those panoramic photos from the iPhone 5′s 8MP camera. Could be fun:
T3 – iPhone 5 features: panoramic camera mode detailed

Read more about the different applications you can install on you smartphone:
The Gadget Guy – Smartphone apps make panoramic photos easier than ever

Will Peter Lik start using the Seitz 6×17 Digital Panoramic Camera?

by Adam Spigel on June 29, 2011

Seitz 6x17 Digital Panoramic Camera

A Peter Lik blog entry says Peter plans on trying out a Seitz 6×17 Digital Panoramic Camera. Could this end up being Peter’s tool of choice? I’m a great admirer of Peter’s work. I think all of us photographers that try to make good panoramic photographs try to learn from him. We are all curious about the  tools and techniques he uses to make his beautiful prints.  I’ve been doing a lot or research in this area, how can I make prints that compares to Peter’s on a shoestring budget. Well, that will be another long blog entry. If you haven’t already done so, you must visit one of Peter’s galleries. They are located all around the world.

Getting back to the subject, I can see why Peter might want to stick to using his Linhof 617 cameras or why he would want to investigate using the Seitz 6×17. With one click of the shutter, Peter wants to capture what he sees at that moment in time. The moment he presses the shutter, he needs to capture any kind of subject, even subjects that are moving. i.e. the flow of lava or a crashing wave. Yes, we can create high resolution images with small sensor cameras but trying to to stitch moving subjects is near impossible or requires countless hours of post processing work. Capturing these moving subjects at high resolutions requires large format film or a high resolution digital camera. What makes the resolution of the Seitz 6×17 so great is that it captures images much like a desktop scanner, line by line and VERY fast. Yes there are limits to how much motion can be captured but at least it can be done with one press of the shutter. The Setiz 6×17 can capture a 160 million pixel image in one second! I’m kind of curious why Peter just wouldn’t use the new Phase One IQ180 digital back. Maybe he already does. With Phase One’s new focus mask feature to help validate focus and depth of field, I would think this would be a killer feature. Critical focus with these super high resolution cameras can be very difficult to obtain. Yes, the most expensive Phase One only has half the resolution of the Seitz 6×17 but just how big of prints need to be created. Also, besides the cost of this equipment, we can’t all have a crew to haul this heavy equipment.

So what do I see occurring? I’ll soon walk into one of Peter’s amazing galleries and see a new 4′ x 8′ print hanging on a giant wall all by itself and it will absolutely blow me away. I’ll start thinking  to myself, what can I sell to buy a Seitz 6×17.

Exposed – The Official Blog of Peter Lik – Seitz 6×17 Digital Panoramic Camera
Luminous Landscapes – The Seitz 6×17 Digital Panoramic Camera
Phase ONE IQ180 – Read More
Peter Lik Website

Small 64MP Landscape Camera

by Adam Spigel on May 25, 2011

I know, it’s a rather misleading title but ultimately, isn’t that what us landscape photographers want? Until the time we can just take one 60+ MP high dynamic range shot with a camera the size of a Leica M9, we will just have to make concessions.

So you might ask, what was my latest camera decision. After this weeks shocking Sigma SD1 price release, decided I needed to make a decision.

My requirements:
1. Must be a lightweight kit. Total body/lens weight less then 3 lbs not including bag, tripod, accessories.
2. Interchangeable lenses. Just having a 35mm lens is too limiting (Sigma DP2).
3. Have a wide dynamic range. With fleeting light, sometime can’t afford to do HDR.
4. Really Right Stuff or Kirk Photo must make L plate adapter for camera (use to make 60+ pano with PTGUI). Again, when working in a hurry, the extra time taken to attach a universal L plate is a pain and it’s too easy for the camera to fall lose. Yes, it happened in Italy and in Texas.
5. Can bracket up to 2 stops in each direction. When I do want to HDR, need at least 2 stops.
6. No shadow noise when taking low ISO photographs (sorry, Micro 4 3 couldn’t cut it and I don’t want banding issues).
7. Doesn’t cost a fortune.
8. Relatively compact. Want my entire kit to fit in a small messenger style bag.
9. When printing  a 16×20, would hardly be able to tell the difference between it and a medium format back.

My decision….. the lovely Pentax K5 with 3 fixed all metal limited lenses (21mm, 40mm, 70mm). Purchasing the 40mm and 70mm soon after my son graduates high school. Yes, I wanted a Canon 5D Mark II but the weight of proper lenses put me over my limit (didn’t work with points 1, 7 and 8 above). This will be my kit until someone puts out a full frame range finder with some small lenses at a decent price. My guess, 1-2 years. Who knows, maybe I won’t want to change after falling in love with the K5  and the great limited lenses.

Am I crazy? Just a little bit. Can’t wait to start traveling and taking some great panos!

DP Review – Pentax K-5 In-depth Review
Photography Blog – Pentax K-5 Review

Dynamic Range:
DxO Mark – DxOMark review for the Pentax K5
Flickr – Samples – dynamic range

Alpa STC Review

by Adam Spigel on April 27, 2011

Luminous Landscapes has posted a review of the Alpa STC camera. If you have an unlimited budget and you are a patient photographer, think this camera would give you the best panoramic pictures possible in the digital world. This camera combined with  excellent “shimmed” lenses and the new Phase One IQ Series backs with focus confirmation would be a dream.

Luminous Landscapes – Alpa STC Review – Read More

Exposure Fusion versus HDR

by Adam Spigel on April 13, 2011

This year, I started working with various techniques to increase my dynamic range. My ideal setup would be to have a camera that is capable of capturing 14 stops of dynamic range from one click of the shutter, no bracketing required. Yes, there are a few cameras/backs that can do this but I don’t have the mega-bucks required. I’ve read some good things about the Pentax K5 as having excellent dynamic range but still, the images don’t pop like the ones I see from a Phase One Back or from those that utilize HDR or Exposure Fusion techniques. No cropped sensor can compete with a large sensor’s extra real estate although newly released sensors are getting better!  I rediscovered this blog entry from Seb Przd where he talks about Exposure Fusion compared to HDR. Both are built into the the panoramic software I use, PTGui. Why I do like Exposure Fusion? It’s simple and doesn’t look fake. Simple as that!

Digital Photography School – Read More

Palmela 2011- International Panoramic Photography Festival

by Adam Spigel on April 11, 2011

Wish I could attend this panoramic festival in Spain running from June 1st to June 5th, 2011. Looks like a great group of attendees and speakers. Location is at the Cine–Teatro São João, Spain.
Read More

Is the Alpa 12 STC the Ultimate Panoramic Camera?

by Adam Spigel on April 1, 2011

The Alpa 12 STC camera is definitely an object of beauty and precision. It can take some of the highest resolution images possible when attached to one of the latest digital camera backs. Here is the problem. Would I want to carry a camera, back and lenses that cost me over 60k? Is it rugged enough to withstand bad weather? I’ve read it many times, only rich retirees and successful photographers should justify this type of equipment. The other fact that I keep reminding myself, I truly doubt you could tell the difference between a stitched Alpa 12 STC attached to a Phaseone IQ 180 back and a Canon 5D Mark II….WHEN printed with premium optics up to 20″x60″. Now if you print up to 40″ x 120″, I believe you would see some big differences from what I’ve read. One big Alpa advantage would be when only printing up to 12″x48″, you wouldn’t have to stitch because of the backs high resolution. Also, when using a big sensor like the one found in the IQ180, the increase in dynamic range would mean you wouldn’t have to bracket (no need for HDR). Oh, having shift capabilty with any lens would be a big bonus!

So what would hurt me more, someone steeling 8k worth of equipment or 60k? One thing is definitely for certain, I want to be in the financial situation where losing 60k worth of equipment doesn’t make me cry.  In fact, diving into that icy river for that 50k back would really make me cry.

Alpa 12 STC – Read More
Phase ONE IQ180 – Read More – Good Discussion on Subject
Luminous Landscapes – Alpa STC Review – Read More

NEC SpectraView Reference 301 & NEC MultiSync PA301W

by Adam Spigel on March 30, 2011

Maybe I should step up my future 10-Bit monitor purchase from the 24″ NEC PA241W-BK to one of these new 30″ NEC monitors. Read More

Fuji X100

by Adam Spigel on March 29, 2011

I can admit that I love new equipment.  When reading my future posts, a common theme you will notice is that I like to travel light with the best equipment possible. I’m always saying, “it’s like a game I like to play, what’s the lightest equipment I can take with me that also gives me highest resolution”. So what that means, I will be talking about a lot about lightweight cameras and cool modern bags that facinate me. My current lightweight kit is a Sigma DP2, Gitzo traveler carbon fiber tripod and small Tenba messenger bag. Of course, I also have an assortment of Hi-Tech ND graduated filters. The only thing I feel that’s missing is a little more resolution, a few more lenses and an increase in dynamic range. I’ve been able to compensate for the last two by using my feet as a zoom and using the Exposure Fusion within PTGui.

Okay, what about the new Fuji X100 camera. I admit that it looks facinating but from what I can gather, it would only increase my current kit’s resolution so I don’t think it will be a purchase.

What’s interesting is Michael Reichmann just said that he was able to get portfolio level results out of this little jewel, Read More. Michael’s site is one of my favorites so keep eye on Luminous Landscapes to read more about his X100 findings.

My dream would be to have a small lightweight non-slr camera that would never have a back focus issues, some killer fixed lenses (the trifecto – 35/50/85), a 21MP or greater resolution and a 12.5 stop dynamic range to speed up the shot time (no bracketing or exposure fusion). Before you tell me, I know there is no perfect camera but please let me dream.

The Online Photographer – Fuji Finepix X100 Review
DP Review – Fujifilm FinePix X100 In-Depth Review
Steve Huff Photo – The Fuji X100 Digital Camera Real World Review by Steve Huff
Photography Blog – Fujifilm FinePix X100 Review