March 31, 2010

This is an image I took in January during my son’s birthday party. I was walking around with my Mamiya C330 looking for motives, mainly portraits. Then the baby feet caught my attention, especially in comparison to the mother’s. Baby feet have this chubbiness about them which actually make them great for art. No wonder baroque artist loved to sculpture, draw, and paint naked babies. With all the skin folds and round shapes they have a 3-dimensional quality that make them quite delicate.

Ha ha, I sound like a foot fetishist! Actually, when I posted this image on flickR yesterday, I was looking for the right categories. So I checked on “feet” in general. Wow, there are a lot of feet on flickR, and definately a lot of foot fetishists… 😉

Anyway, feet as a motive for classic black & white photography is nothing new and it was interesting to have a start. Let’s see if there will be more opportunities.


the road ahead

February 19, 2010

Sometimes when you look at the road ahead, there seems to be a lot of trash on the way and always nasty bumps that try to make you stumble in your tracks. 2009 hasn’t been an easy year and the next one is not going to be better either, I guess.
But then, you never know what lies behind the next hill. That’s sometimes frightening. But at the same time, you know you are alive and life can be full of new opportunities. So I will just push myself over that next hill and see what comes next. I am sure it will be good!

Camera Review: Mamiya C330

February 17, 2010

This is a short review about a camera that I have been using since 2005. i bought it on Ebay for the bargain of a price. I can tell you: Hasselblads are cheap these days. But If you even go for “lesser” brands like Yashika or Mamiya TLR (Twin Lens Reflex) you get the stuff almost for free, as far as value for money is concerned.

As usual, this review is not going to be too technical. I am really most concerned with how a camera handles and how the images look that I produce. If there is a “fault” in the lens quality or whatever, I might even embrace it as something which makes the camera stand out. So I mainly focus on that. A more technical review can be found here!

As mentioned, the Mamiya C330 is a fully mechanical (you need an external light meter!) Twin Lens Reflex Medium Format camera (6×6). That means you focus through one lens while the shutter mechanism is in a second lens below. Thus, even though it is a “through the lens” operating system, you still have no moving mirror, hence no vibration and the camera is super silent.
The C330 is from the 1970s when this kind of system (with Rolleiflex leading the way since the pre war era) was still in use among professionals. What makes the C330 and her little sister C220 to stand apart from the rest are the option of exchangable lenses which is really unique for a twin reflex, and the possibility to get as close as 1-2cm to the object which gives it almost macro qualities (and that on 6×6!).

I am only using a 80mm lens. I never felt the need for a wider lens (I do that with my Hasselblad) and longer focal lengths than the “normal” range are not really my piece of cake either. So 80mm works just fine for me. However, the changing lens mechanism is very different from a SLR camera. The whole front needs to be unlocked by a switch of a wheel on the side. Then the lenses can be removed and exchanged for another focal length.

In earlier reviews I have stated that the brightness of the viewfinder is one of the most important things for me. With a dim and blurry viewfinder, composing and focusing becomes a nightmare. That’s why I love the Hasselblad V system.
The Mamiya viewfinder is not as bright, but considering the (low) price and especially compared to Yashikas, (old) Rolleiflexes, or even new Bronikas, the C330 is still acceptable. The slightly dim (especially in the corners) waist level viewfinder slows you down, though. So this is not a fast camera.

Saying that:
From the ergonomic point of view, the C330 is excellent. With a broad neck strap, the camera feels solid, calm and stable. The shutter speed and aperture are a little bit difficult to adjust but once they are set, you should just forget about them. After all, this is a camera for studio or still portrait, not for action.
The focusing wheel can be locked, just as the exposure button. This prevents you from accidentally pressing it. Actually there are two exposure buttons. One is at the same spot as you would guess for a TLR, on the right side just underneath the lens. The other one is on the right side, slightly higher and is to be pressed vertically down. This means it is exactly where the right thumb is placed and makes it possible to gently press it down with even less vibration. I love that button!

But now to the most important thing: The images!
The Mamiya lenses used on the C330 are not the same league as a Hasselblad or a leica 35mm lens. They are not as sharp, especially in the corners. Actually they soften everything up which makes them not very good for architecture or landscape. But, for Portrait, or even still life, I think they are absolutely marvelous:

These two images where both taken in natural light from the side through windows. The softening of the contrasts and a bokeh soft like butter really contributes to the atmosphere. With my Hasselblad the images would be much more contrasty and sharp which in this case I did not want.

The option of extending the lens horizontally makes it also possible to get really really close, without the need for a macro lens. This doesn’t make it a macro camera but gives the photographer a lot more options in terms of composition and themes.

This is an image from the staircase of our house in Shanghai where we used to live between 2005 and 2007. Again, the soft light and bokeh produced by the Mamiya lens really contributes to the overall atmosphere of the image!

Overall, the Mamiya is a camera that is not a cheap alternative to more expensive options. It is a system on its own with its special character. I think it’s a fantastic portrait and still life camera that can be used indoors on a tripod, but also outside around the neck. It’s easy to use, very solid and reliable, and with its optics it gives you the chance to produce beautiful soft bokeh images. And it’s an absolute bargain!

Luka *22-JAN-06

January 22, 2010

Today is my son’s birthday. He’s turning four and I still can’t believe how big he has grown. From a chubby baby to an intelligent little boy who has his own mind, his own character, his own opinion, his own likes and dislikes. He’s a confident little boy who is already going his way (if this is possible with four, ha ha!).
I’ve put some images together, hope you enjoy them. I did…









These are the moments when I really start appreciating that I have a camera (or two) and use it!

Leica Frustration…

December 9, 2009

Today I walked out of my office and on my way to the bus stop I took out my LEICA M3 to take a snapshot along the way. When I pressed the shutter release I noticed that the camera was jammed. No way to press the shutter or move the film transport lever.

When I removed the lens to have a first look inside to see what the possible cause of the problem might be, I saw that the M3 shutter was broken. Just like that, without any apparent reason. This happened to a camera that had been repaired, serviced and certified as “almost like new” by LEICA just two years ago. Back then I paid around EUR 600.- (US$900) for the servicing.
Well the warranty is expired and I will have to send the camera in again. They will open the body, take everything apart, exchange the shutter, clean and grease everything, put it back together, attach new leather, and then charge me another EUR 500-1000.

I find this very very annoying…! ;-(

Leica Freedom Train

December 9, 2009

Today I found something new about Leica history:

In the 1930s, after the Nazis under Adolf Hitler came to power, they started to systematically strip the jewish population of basic civil rights. Jews lost their jobs, licenses were revoked, companies got seized etc, all with the final goal of killing them in what would be known as the HOLOCAUST.
Few people had the will and/or the courage to stand up against this regime and help their neighbors, colleagues, lawyers, doctors, schoolmates… People looked away, either trying to ignore what was going on, or even approved to the measures the Nazis took against their compatriots.
Many famous German companies took an active part in the HOLOCAUST and managed to profit from it. I still remember the 1980s when many big German department stores celebrated their 50th anniversary, only to learn that these were the direct result of assets being stolen from Jewish owners. The stores changed ownership, the name, and the original owners were left with nothing.

There are exceptions, though:
Starting from 1933 (the first year of the Nazi reign) until as late as 1943, LEITZ Inc. (‘Leica’ = ‘LEItz CAmera’) under their owner Ernst Leitz II, organized a so called “Freedom Train” and managed to save hundreds of Jewish Leica employees + their families from the HOLOCAUST by assigning them to oversea positions, sending them to America, Asia and other LEITZ subsidiaries, paying for the transport, accommodation, taking care of them and even finding them jobs in the photo industry.
In honor of this courageous deeds, Ernst Leitz II was recently posthumously given the “ADL Courage to Care Award“.

I was quite impressed, especially being aware that for such a prestigious company like LEICA, it must have been extremely difficult in those times to such things without getting into the spotlights of the regime. The Nazis were always very strong in using icons of German technology for their propaganda. Resisting this regime by saving their employees from persecution and murder is something that very much stands out. It also shows a company culture that unfortunately has always been very rare. A culture where employers and employees are forming a partnership, not only to bring the profits up, but also with a feeling of mutual responsibility and contribution.
I am living in Asia, where today employees are often treated quite badly (taking the most out of them and then spitting them out) and in return show little loyalty and feeling of responsibility. During my years in China this was quite apparent. The average time a manager spends at a Chinese company is 2-4 years, then they are looking for better paid jobs, or get fired.

Thus, my respect to LEICA and its history! A company that has never been big, compared to todays Asian rivals, but always managed to keep their integrity and their excellent reputation for being one of the best camera makes of all time, from the 1920 to today!

More about the LEICA Freedom Train you can find here!

Once in a lifetime…

November 19, 2009

One day you may find yourself in a shotgun shack
One day you may find yourself in another part of the world
You may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile
in a beautiful house
with a beautiful wife

And you ask yourself: How did I get here?

Turning 40 today… feels funny!