Mamiya RZ67 pro II, Tri X


Merry Christmas to all of you readers !
I hope you have a magnificent xmas break, and may you wildest photographic dreams come true !
(yes Nikon, it's too late now...)

I'll be offline for 2 weeks (which for me is equivalent to vacations), but I shall be back with plenty of nice stuff to post.


Reasonnable budget photography gift ideas !

I am photographically horny as hell: I just received my 50mm 1.2 AIS lens... review and samples soon ! But until then, some xmas shopping tips !

You just remembered you have a remote cousin coming from christmas and you are socially bound to make him a present. But what?

Thank god your cousin is a person of taste and follows ACameraDiary, which tells you one thing about him/her: he/she is into photography.

You got the general idea covered, but what will you get? Cameras and lenses are too expensive of gifts for someone who doesn't have the power to make you sleep in the couch ! Luckily photographers need plenty of little things that we postpone getting all the time.

A set of Lens Filters
Cheap, super useful. How many photographers do I see walking around with a $1200 lens in the open and not filter to protect the glass. How dumb. Also, you can do plenty of cool things with a filter : increase contrast, filter a color, polarize light when plenty of sun to avoid weird reflexions of light, even exposure etc etc.
Read this to make more sens of it, but essentially, it is very very useful and under used.

You'd rather have this happening to your filter than to your lens.

A smart camera bag
I can only recommend KATA Bags. Read that CNET review too if you want. Because they are super nicely conceived, they don't look too much like a camera bags too. It's versatile, can take a laptop, and not too pricey.

A tripod
Such an underestimated device. I shoot everything you can see you my portfolio with a tripod. How can you do landscape without one? The problem is most people go cheap, and end up having one that breaks down after a short period of time, then buy an other one that is more expensive. So what to get?
I recommend entry level Manfrotto for anyone willing to travel light and that doesn't use super heavy pro gear. For a compact or entry level SLR, that will work just fine.

A strap
I use that strap from Black Rapid. Why? because it's not just a strap for around the neck hanging with your camera bouncing around. It keeps the camera tight on your chest (under your arm) with a smart blocking system, and allows the camera to slide along the strap when you raise it up. Pockets are conveniently placed, if you are moving around, traveling, it's really a must have for an SLR.

Waterproof cases
How many of your friend buy a new compact just before on vacation to Thailand? How nice would it be to provide them with the underwater case to go along with their diving lessons?
Most manufacturers make one adapted to each model, like this Canon one. I'm sure you can find one for your friend's compact camera !

Nikon D4


"Nikon D4 specs:
  • 16.2 MP
  • 11 fps
  • 100-102,400 native ISO range, expandable to 50 and 204,800
  • CF + XQD memory card slots! That's right, the Nikon D4 will have the new Compact Flash XQD memory card slot.
  • Compatible with the new Nikon WT-5 wireless transmitter
  • Integrated Ethernet in the camera
  • Face detection/recognition function that will be working in the viewfinder (maybe some type of a hybrid viewfinder? Nikon had several related patents)
  • Improved video, I have no other details on that but my guess is 1080p/30/25/24 and 720p/60/30/25/24 similar to the Nikon D800
  • Uncompressed video out through the HDMI port
  • Ability to assign the two buttons on the front of the camera to smooth aperture control during video recording
  • Improved 51 AF points
  • AF detection range will go down to EV-2.0 (the D3s went to EV -1)
  • Autofocus system: 9 cross-type sensors that are operational up to f/8"

Why I do like it:
  1. large pixels on a large sensor: excellent dynamic range and high ISO performance, the dream for wildlife
  2. 11FPS, the dream for wildlife :)
  3. 9 cross type sensors and not just a couple in the center (long story short, faster more accurate focusing)
That's it. It's not much, but it does it all. Large sensor, not too many pixel plus Nikon's superior 2000 RGB dots metering system should make it a killer camera for action photography.

Ah ah ah, seriously? (Sony NEX 7)

The Sony NEX 7. An APS C sensor + cheap zoom lenses for 1350€ (1500$?).

Forget my language but, are you fucking kidding? Is it like a consumer test to see how stupid people are?
It drives me mad because I know some guys are going to spend half or more of their salary on this crap, then come to me and say "my pictures are not like I expected, it must be the settings, can you help me?". Well yeah I can: sell it, buy a camera.

I will always say things as they are we it comes to protect the costumer against crap marketing, that's what the Internet it for :)

The NEX 5 for 450$ is a good compact, it's worth what it provides, but this one is outrageous.

Let's attack it with method:
  • The best camera in the world with a sensor this side is the Nikon D7000. It cost 900$ and can perform with premium Nikon lenses.
  • The GF2 or even NEX5 can give you the exact same results. THE EXACT SAME. If not even better, because they all have much bigger pixels that this one.
  • It's not even compact, it's reaching a size that makes it a completely retarded concept: it's more expensive than the best SLR on the market by an actual camera brand, and requires as big of a bag to carry around.
  • Not to mention the long term value of those bastard concepts that won't have any lens available in 5 years when your D7000 will still be a very good camera with full support.
  • The best medium format cameras in the world cost less than that. 
At 500$ it would be a good premium wait it's not even compact. So however you look at it, it doesn't make any sense ! Get a GF2 instead with the 20mm lens.

What Compact for Christmas

Readers of this blog know how much I have a hard time calling most compacts a proper camera. However I selected a few that are worth a look if like me also, you can't walk around with a 6 pounds block of metal everytime.

Any of those camera will be a good choice, this is a can't go wrong selection. Bare in mind however that they all have different advantages from one another.

Fuji X100 / the great but too expensive one (1200$)
Pricey, but offer the sensor of a DX DSLR, a great 35mm equivalent lens, superb built quality. Not flawless but will satisfy the hardcore amateur. ISO performance is excellent and compares to the best DSLRs...however a little pricey for a backup camera.

Canon G12 / Nikon P7100 plenty of functions but a small sensor (450$)
Those Nikon and Canon pack all the cool stuff you might expect from a premium brand. Video modes, f2.8 max aperture lenses...Have them in your hand to see which one fits best to you, because that will be pretty much the only significan difference. The images won't match the ones of a X100 as the sensor is much much smaller, that explains the price difference too (about twice cheaper than the X100)

Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5 / A bright lens (370$)
It's main strength lays in the F2.0-3.3 lens, really good aperture figures for a compact. It mean decent low light performance and potential to play with depth of field, even on a small sensor. Cheaper than the previous ones, I would tend to prefer it to the G12 /P7100. I think the value / dollars is better.

Canon Powershot S100 / For those who care a lot about size (440$)
This is a very good product for those who don't want to care about anything but point and shoot, yet with a good picture quality, the all thing fitting in your pocket. I got this for my mother last XMAS (the previous version), it works great. FYI the S95 is about 100$ cheaper and is the exact same at 95%.

Sony NEX 5D / Large Sensor, interchangeable lenses (500$)
A good product, pretty much the same as the GF2 (sensor a bit larger). If you offer or get that, you have one of the 3 best compact around. Why is not my winner? Because with lenses, it's not a compact anymore !!! It just gets too big.

Panasonic GF2 / My favorite choice even over the X100 (500$)
Why is it the winner? Because it combines 3 of the most important features:
  • It has a large sensor (APS C, much bigger and all of the above appart from the X100)
  • You can get it with a really good multpi purpose prime lens (20mm 1.7) like the Fuji X100
  • It cost half a X100, which should be the max price for a compact.

Lens review : Nikon's 50mm f1.8

Nikon 50mm f1.8D Best value for the money on the market.

I could stop my review here, the lens costs nothing and outperforms most of the middle range zooms that costs 5 times more. At medium apertures, it performs as well as a $1200 zoom.

If you are getting all serious about photography but you are on a budget, if you want a versatile lens with a strong portrait orientation, if you like to have nice bokeh (blurry backgrounds etc.), you should keep reading.

  • Plastic made 
  • 7 blades
  • F1.8 to F22 aperture
  • Minimum focus distance 45cm (1.5 ft), no macro
  • 52mm diameter
  • 150gr
Yes please. As sharp as it gets if you shoot above F2.8.

Auto focus
Fast fast fast

What distortion?

  • Best image quality for the money in the DLSR market
  • So cheap it's like nearly free
  • Ideal complement to a kit zoom lens for portraits
  • Gets a little soft (not as sharp) below 2.8, but sharpness is not synonym to good picture
  • Plastic made, doesn't feel so solid, but feel and reality are different. I've had one for a while, it has seen a lot, and still doing fine.
  • On non full frame, it can be a little long focal length for landscapes
Short review you might say? 125$ for a top performing lens, what else do you need to know !

SAMPLE SHOTS (photos by me)

Versus other 50mm Nikon mount lenses

Nikon 50mm f1.4
- The main differences are built quality (a bit better on the 1.4), and sharpness at f1.8 superior on the F1.4. It is worth getting the F1.4, no it isn't. 3 times the price for a 5% improvement isn't worth it.

Nikon 50 f1.2 AIS
- Now that's a different story. I am replacing my 50mm 1.8 by this. Why? Because this F1.2 lens is the ultimate machine for nice blurs. However, it costs 6 times the price, and is manual focus only. If you are an accomplished photographer trained an manual focusing, get this one. For everybody else, don't. You will find it very very hard to focus on a DSLR with the focusing screen unchanged.

- Sigma 50mm f1.4
No. Vignetting is not acceptable below 2.8, doesn't perform great at all. Only built quality is good, but I've been very disappointed by Sigma's reliability in the past.

- Zeiss Planar 50mm 1.4
No. Too expensive and not worth it. Build quality is great, performance is good at mid range, but wide open it's rubbish for the money.


Get one. Against all other Nikon mount lens at 50mm, this one wins thanks to its super fast AF and price. You wouldn't be making a compromise on quality, it really, really works brilliant. I use it as a studio lens. 
If you are seeking perfection, have money, and can focus manually, get the 50mm f1.2 AIS. But it'll be much harder to use.

Review: Epson V700 film scanner

Привет !
You now can say "hi" in Russian if you can read Cyrillic. That was my Flickr moment of the day :)

Frequent readers know that I am much more passionate about film photography than digital. See those articles:
However, shooting film raises a question: how do you get a digital version of your shots? Well the best way for me is to get a negative scanner, or a scanner that can scan negatives. The difference? There used to be scanner just for negatives, working magnificently, but there are no more on the market for a few reasons: they were more than 3000$ and demand was little.
Now most people use a flatbed scanner that can scan negatives.  Flatbed you said? It means a normal one if you prefer, the ones with a glass, a hood on top etc.

The great news is: best flatbed scanners perform just as well as dedicated used to , and cost much much less: about 10-15% of the price of the other. Also, they allow you to take all film sizes, and not only 35mm. That is a huge plus.

Today I'll review what I believe is the most well spread scanner for that purpose on the market, the Epson V700 Perfection (yes, they dared).

Now the next 5 lines are for those who are reading that on their smart-phones and won't go all the way down as their bus is about to reach destination: 
  • get one, it does the job well at a reasonable price
  • no the V750 (one version above) offers nothing that is worth the extra bucks
  • yes it does from 35mm to large format, and normal scanning too, comes with a decent scanning software and costs about 550$. 
  • the only flaw: the film holders are kinda crap, it's much better to scan against the glass, but it requires flat films or a anti newton glass. 
Now the detailed version for tablet users bored in the train:

  • Dual lens system, can go up to 6400 dpi (on a 6x7 neg, you can images that are so ridiculously big your computer pukes them out of indigestion)
  • 16 bits per pixel in BW, 48 in color
  • USB 2.0
  • film holder for 35mm (20 shots), medium format (6 to 8 shots) , large format and slides.

  • Comes with a LaserSofr Imagine SilverFast, Photoshop Element, Epson Scan
  • Has a dust removal technology 
  • you can scan normally (normal paper), on the glass or on the holders
  • the most important: image quality
  • scanning speed
  • reliability (so far mine is a rock and trust me, it's been thru a lot)
  • ease of use
  • versatility
  • software is simple and work well
  • film holders have adjustable height. More or less a few millimeters, etc. However, since film rarely is flat, and the holders only pinch fil on the edge, the film gets curvy in the middle, hence out of focus. You simply can't solve it unless you buy better film holders with a anti newton glass to compress them flat. For that reason I shoot on the glass, and use small yet heavey metal parts to keep the film flat. My anti newton glass order is pending. Once you have one (70$), it's a perfect system.
  • the software works well, but sometimes bugs and get you kinky stuff with color negs. For example, the color rendering on the preview has nothing to do with the final file. Rare occurrence,  just relaunch.
  • Too much anti dust removes actual details from the picture. Just clean your stuff.
Would I recommend it:  yes, a million times

When I got it, I wanted to be independent with my medium format scans, not rely on the cost of printing, and have the freedom to do with scanning what i'd do in a dark room if I had the time and the skills. This brings me the best of both world, film for shooting, digitalization for everything else.
I had one main ask, I wanted ultra sharp, beautiful rendering that would honor my Mamiya RZ67. It does it brilliantly.
Last but not least, you can get huge files for super large printing. 

Example 1, Trix 400 at 1200 Dpi + crop on 120 film.

Example 2, Portra VC, (crop soon to come)

Example 3,  2400 Dpi + crop on 35mm film.