A Photographic Journey

My point of view

Myth busting: Lens Contrast

There is often debate on many forums about the topic of lens contrast.  In this modern age of lenses, the fidelity of lens contrast is getting higher and higher.  The reason for this increase contrast is better control of flare. This flare is caused by stray light that doesn’t come from the reflected light from the objects in the scene and hence doesn’t contribute to the photographic details of the photo.  This light from high angle of incidence enter the lens through the front element and bounce around inside the lens barrel and cause reflections on the internal elements and some will reach the sensor or film and exposure the film/sensor in a random but uniform way.  This stray light causes the photograph to become lighter in color and tone overall, especially obvious in the dark areas of the photo.  Obviously there is a cost to this flare, it veils the midtones and light tones and the dark tones, as a result there is some lost in details or dynamic range all areas.  This loss in detail is less apparent in the light areas.

There are two improvements in the modern lens that impact this the most, one is the modern multi-coating on the front elements that disperses the light coming from high angles and the improve absorptive properties of the inner lining of the lens barrel.  This results in a high contrast and a greater dynamic range.  There is talk that goes around that says that the blacks are blacker, but even though this is true in an empirical sense, a better description and a more accurate description is that the blacks appear blacker because there is less flare. If you consider it in terms of the tonal curve, for any given picture, a high contrast lens with low flare will have a wider dynamic range, which is overall a good thing.  In other words:  A high contrast lens will provide more tonal information than a low contrast lens.

So why are there so many advocates for low contrast, antique lenses?  Why do photos look better sometimes with a low contrast lens?

The answer lies in the limited dynamic range of our sensors and the even more limited range of film.  If the curve is wider you will exceed the ability for the sensor/film to capture the dynamic range of the scene.  I like to think of it this way:  I sometimes use HDR techniques in processing of some photos to improve the dynamic range, the HDR photo that results have too many colors & tones for the monitor to display and you have to remap the colors to shrink the dynamic range to usable levels (within the range of the color space you’re using).  There exists very expensive HDR monitors that can exhibit this HDR photos in their original glory, but since these monitors are not in general circulation at the moment we have to limit the dynamic range.  The same thing occurs with a low contrast lenses: you essentially are compressing the dynamic range at the level of the lens by truncating the blacks in the photos, this is obviously advantageous with film where the dynamic range of the film is very low and the end result less malleable unlike a RAW file.  Traveling with this train of reason, low contrast lenses will benefit positive slide film when compared to negatives, because the dynamic range of negatives are better.

The advantage of low contrast  for modern digital sensors is dependent on the scene being photographed.  A low contrast scene like my photo of the bas-relief at Angkor Wat is low contrast to begin with, almost the whole scene is uniformly lit & in the shade and the use of low contrast lenses will make this scene look very flat.  The bas-relief will look less 3D with less pop and this will result in less impact.

For a very sunny high contrast scenes with details hidden in the shadows and much of the scene are highlights, the scene is beyond the dynamic range of the sensor and as a result of using a low contrast lens, we compress the dynamic range at the level of the lens and when balanced with the degradation of information due to flare, we may still benefit from using a low contrast lens.  So my street scene of Lhasa taken with the more nostalgic Summicron would benefit even more from a lower contrast lens.

I think that even for a medium contrast scenes, digital sensors are better off with high contrast lenses.

In the future as the dynamic range of our digital cameras improves, the need for low contrast lenses will decrease.  Even in the present, with judicious use of HDR techniques this is already true.  Will this make low contrast lenses obsolete one day?  Yes and No.  Yes for digital and forever no for film users.


Rangefinder vs digital SLR

Rangefinder versus DSLR is a debate that has been raging for as long as the first film SLR cameras came out and there is no doubt that the battle fought over the last twenty years have shown that the DSLR has come out top dog. Lucky for me I don’t really have to make the choice, I would much rather have both as they both serve a different niche in my camera arsenal. But if I had to go with one and only one camera, it would undoubtedly be the DSLR. Their versatility is just unrivaled at the moment. (I think the mirror-less digital camera will probably outclass the DSLR in the future, but only time will tell there.) With a DSLR I can use it for every situation I can imagine and I think it would be easier to list the things that the rangefinder is lacking.

The rangefinder isn’t good at macro photography, fast subjects such as children, pets, birds., super-telephotography such as wildlife & birds, digital rangefinders are less reliable than their DSLR counterparts and not weatherproof. The latest DSLR sensors are simply heads and shoulders ahead of the Leica M9, M8 or the Epson R-D1, especially if you factor in the cost of a digital rangefinder. No autofocus can be a big disadvantage in many situations. The 100% accurate viewfinder of the professional DSLR and being able to see filter affects directly is also a boon for any photographer. The battery life, metering and high ISO performance of the latest crops of DSLR is nothing short of amazing.

So why bother with a rangefinder at all?

For me there are several reasons, I love the vast quantities of quality and nostalgic lens options available for the rangefinder, especially for the Leica M and LTM mounts, a similar thing can also be said about Nikon rangefinder cameras. These lenses produce a dazzling array of signatures and you can spend a whole life in exploration.  Rangefinders are also very compact compared to professional or semi-professional DSLR, which means they are much easier to carry around. A camera that is left at home isn’t going to take any good photos. For some there is also a level of prestige and pride in using a Leica camera and even though this isn’t a rational reason, it doesn’t make it any less valid in this materialistic and capitalistic world. The other advantages of the rangefinder are the quiet shutters of the older film Leica cameras and the bright and always visible viewfinders that isn’t blocked by a flipping mirror and allows for peripheral vision. The lightness and ergonomics and low vibration of the rangefinder can often mean less camera shake, so a photo can still be taken at lower ISO.

So each to their own and in my camera life I can’t see myself being handicapped with having to make the choice!

Film or digital that is the question.

Coming from an extensive background of using film for almost twenty years, I can be as bias as the next man. I have used the common film formats extensively, such as 135, 120 and even 4×5 sheet film. I have used the finest grain slide film to the modern wonder negative films like Kodak Ektar 100. I am enamored with the film options that are available today, they are of such quality and value compared to the distant past, I think film is far from dead but currently having a sort of renaissance. The options are less than when there were no digital option, but by and large the options that are available are technically superior to that of the past.

To cut a long story short, digital especially 135 format digital has surpassed 135 film format but a fair way. Even with a drum scan you would be hard press to compare it with most semi-professional DSLR output. The dynamic range of the digital sensor well surpasses that of film, capturing color more accurately and giving you a file that so much more malleable. Not to mention cutting your running costs and greatly simplifier your workflow. There are now very few areas of photography where film is absolutely necessary. The only situations I can think of where film is still a necessity are architectural shots for architectural projects where many firms still request 4×5 film outputs of me and a few exclusive online stock photo companies. But for the most part, newbies can take photographs happily for the rest of their lives without touching a single roll of film. So why bother with using messy film at all?

On the large end of the scale, 4×5 film scanned on a drum scanner will still out resolute even a 50 mega pixel digital back, not to mention using film even bigger than 4×5 inches. So at this end of the spectrum current 2010 consumer digital technology hasn’t quite caught up. I own a betterlight scanner digital back for my 4×5 setup that is 133 mega pixel and its resolution is astonishing and its color reproduction is the best I have ever seen but its bulk and slow scan times still keep film well in the running. In the medium format range the entry cost of a digital back can be very excessive for the serious amateur and using a home scanner, will it be a Nikon or Minolta dedicated film scanner or an Epson V700 flatbed scanner will produce a pretty good enlargeable images. Most medium format digital back in excess of 30 mega pixel will have the resolution edge over their film counter part not to mention better color reproduction. The downside of medium format digital backs are you’re dependent on batteries and they are much more bulky to use in the field. Reliability is also going to be a factor.

At the small end of the scale, 135 film although has been beating soundly isn’t quite ready to quit. You can emulated much of the grain and color affect of film digitally, but there is a kind of nostalgic value when using a film that simply can’t be replaced by using a modern digital camera & digital post-processing. The level of concentration and thought required when using film can be meditative and the satisfaction of a beautiful print, slide projected onto a wall or a good negative scanned into a computer can’t be understated. I have said elsewhere that it is this satisfaction of the photographer towards his or her work that is the primal essence of a good photograph. (This is probably why I love my Epson R-D1s so much, it has manage to retain some of these film camera shooting qualities with the convenience of digital.)

Of course then there are many wonderful cameras and lenses that don’t have a digital counterpart as yet and these beautiful antiques would be wasted if film was to die. Looking at my camera cabinet, I would be extremely sad to see my Rolleicord or Yashica Twin-lens-reflex camera, or my Olympus pen ft, or my Hasselblad Xpan II, or my Leica iiig, CL, M3, M6TTL, M7, or my Minolta CLE, or my Hexanon RF and my many film point & shoots become just icons of the past. I doubt that I am alone in my sentiments and I suspect the multitudes of film camera lovers won’t ever let it happen.

Don’t forget the Lens Hood!

It is infuriating to see people on the street not use a lens hood or even worst, bring it out and put it on backwards.  The lens hood is an essential part of a lens, it shades the front element from stray light that don’t result in any details on the sensor or film.  This useless light just bounces around the inside of the lens and some make it onto the sensor to expose it.  Causing flare.  The whole picture looks lighter in color/shade and loses contrast.  This lost in contrast is no good as because you lose information as the stray light overrides light that is carrying information.

Any strong light will cause this flare and it doesn’t have to be the sun, even incandescent lighting can cause problems.

Most lenses come with the corresponding lens hood and in cases where it doesn’t, it should be factored in to the cost of the lens, as it is essential part of the lens’ design.  Most Canon, Nikon, Sony, Pentax, Olympus, Panasonic or Leica lenses come with an appropriate hood, but there are some Zeiss-M mount lenses and Voigtlander M-mount lenses that comes with an inadequate hood or none at all.

Many medium format and all large format lenses don’t come with a hood and it can be a very expensive optional extra.  When using my large format lenses, I use a special dark cloth (it’s the option Ebony dark cloth) that extends over the lens and acts as a universal hood.

Shading the front element is very important and it becomes much more difficult if you are using 100mm filters from Lee, Cokin or Singh Ray.  The enlarged and uncoated surface area of these square or rectangular filters are very prone to flare.  Lee has some special bellow hoods with build in filter holders but I find using a large board (usually a A4 grey card) to block the sun manually quite effective.  The Lee bellow hoods limit the number of filters you can use.  You can get a tripod alligator clip that can hold the shade for you as well.   (This clip can hold your macro subject still as well)  Here is a link to the clip I use:  Plamp

Which lens should I buy first?

Here is an eternal question, one of the few that is inevitably asked by any perspective photographer.  At least those that invest in a camera with interchangeable lenses.

This is a topic that applies to all camera systems, rangefinder or single lens reflex.  I will be making comments on 35mm cameras only, as those of you that have medium format cameras would’ve already made this decision years ago.

The first question to ask if you just invested in a DSLR is should I buy a zoom lens or fixed focal length lens (or prime lens).  My recommendation nowadays is invariably a fixed focal lens.  Of course if you just brought your first rangefinder camera, then you have no choice but to get a fixed focal lens and you can skip the next couple of paragraphs.

Ironically, despite my current recommendation the first lens I brought for my Canon 5D Mark II was the Canon EF 24-70/2.8 L Zoom Lens, it wasn’t a poor choice, in fact it was a very reputable Zoom Lens with relatively good performance as Zoom Lenses go, it is a lens in the stable of many professional photographers for its performance & versatility.   What I didn’t know then that I know now, is that no zoom can match the quality of an equally priced fixed focal length lens.  I discovered this fact to my chagrin when I purchased my first fixed focal lens, the Canon EF 35/1.4 L, boy was I freaked out when I first saw the photos.  The sharpness and resolution of the fix focal lens just blew my zoom away and the creative option of a fast lens was something I would fall in love with.

The 24-70/2.8 Zoom Lens was an excellent first lens choice, as its performance peaked between 35mm & 50mm which means it covers the standard focal lengths well, with still the wide 24mm option and the tele 70mm option when needed.  (All zoom lenses have a certain focal length where its performance peaks and it is usually not the extreme ends, in this case 24mm and 70mm, but somewhere in between)

I still own my 24-70/2.8 L Zoom Lens, its flexibility is still useful on certain occasions where changing lenses and carrying two cameras isn’t practical.  But If I only have one camera and one lens, it would be my Canon 5D Mark II and that very EF 35/1.4 lens.

This leads me to the second thing to consider (the first if you are using a rangefinder), and that is which focal length to choose first.  My recommendation is 35mm for any full frame camera, this focal length is slightly wide and more flexible than 50mm as your first lens in its application.  There are many advocates for 50mm as your first lens, it is a personal choice and many of my favorite photos I’ve taken were with a 50mm lens.  You can’t really go wrong with either, but 35mm is no doubt more flexible and that is why it is the more common focal length lens on point and shoot cameras.

The reason to buy a lens between 35mm and 50mm is because these are considered standard focal lengths, as oppose to wide-angle or telephoto lenses.  Standard focal length lenses closely emulate our normal field of vision and are the most useful lens for general photography.  Most photographers will tell you that 80% or more of their photos were taken with either a 35mm or 50mm lens and there is good reason for this.

Also fortunate is that these standard prime lenses are the kit lens that comes with many cameras or if brought separately they are the cheapest and most often the sharpest lens in any system’s lens range.  Standard focal length lenses are easier to make, with simpler builds and hence cheaper.

Remember to take into account the crop factor of your camera if it has one, so for EF-S cameras like the Canon 450, you need to multiply the lens’ focal length by 1.6x to get effective 35mm focal dimensions, in other words you’ll need to purchase a 21mm lens (x1.6 = 35mm).  Here you’ll strike some problems with DSLR with crop sensors, you will find that 21mm fast prime lenses are inordinately expensive and not as good as standard 35mm fast prime lenses.  You will probably have to compromise and buy a EF-S or AF-S zoom lens that cover 35mm and 50mm, for example Canon EF-S 17-55/2.8 or the Nikon AF-S 17-35/2.8.  The problem with these lenses are as mentioned lesser performance compared to primes and their relatively slower apertures.  I would consider F/2, F/1.4 as fast but F/2.8 is a little pedestrian.

For full frame Canon, Nikon or other DSLR, your default choices are your brand lenses as these retain autofocus and are good enough quality. There are Zeiss made versions in Canon or Nikon Mounts, the ZE or ZF 35/2 biogon which is a fine lens, but you will lose autofocus which I think is too costly a loss for a standard focal length that you use all the time.

For a full frame m-mount rangefinder camera, like the Leica M6, Bessa R2A or the Leica M9, there are many many options too numerous to list, these cameras can fit virtually hundreds upon hundreds of lenses build since the 1950s. Lenses that I can safely recommend with almost zero risk of regret are the various Summicron 35/2, the six lens element version is probably the most cost effective and the Voigtlander 35/1.4, 35/2.5 or the discountinued 35/1.7 ultron and the Zeiss ZM T* 35/2 Biogon are all very fine choice.

For micro 4/3 cameras like the Olympus EP-1 the Olympus 17mm prime lens or the Panasonic 20mm prime lens are both a good start (I like the Panasonic better as it has better optics in this specific case).  The Panasonic m4/3 lenses works fine on the Olympus m4/3 body.

For the Leica M8 with a 1.3x crop factor I recommend getting the Voigtlander 28/2 or a Summicron 35/2 (whichever version that suits your budget, the 6 element version is good value, but the 7 element is my favorite, but the newer lenses with aspherical elements are good for digital as well but pricey. ) as fine first lenses.  There exists Leica 28/2, 24/1.4 & 21/1.4 lenses, but I can’t recommend these due to their relative cost and size on the camera.  Size may not be an issue with everyone, so I recommend trying these out in a store on the camera before laying down funds.  For me any lens that blocks the viewfinder is a big minus.  If you can afford a M8 and 21/1.4  lens, you are much better off with a M9 and 35/1.4 asph lens.  Another disadvantage of using a 21mm or 24mm on the M8 is the need for an external viewfinder which can decrease the spontaneity of your shots.

For the Epson R-D1 with a 1.5x crop factor sensor, I will stray from my recommendations a little bit, I have brought a Zeiss 25/2.8, Various 21mm lenses for my R-D1s but none have given me the fast prime lens feel I am looking for.  My recommendation is a Voigtlander 28/2 lens or any fast 35mm lens, the latter becomes a little too tele for my tastes but makes a great portrait lens.  Once again using any lenses aside from a 28/35/50mm will require an external viewfinder which is cumbersome.  Those lucky not to wear glasses, have the option to use a 25mm lens instead using the whole viewfinder as an estimate of the view, with the caveat that 25mm lenses are F/2.8 or slower usually.

There are some who will advocate a wide angle lens or even a telefocal lens, but they are in the vast minority.

Another question to consider is the speed of the lens, or the widest aperture the lens can be used.  Speed comes with an associated cost and in most situations size and weight as well.  Also fast lenses tend to perform not as good as the slower lenses at slower apertures.  In the world of digital ISO, where using an ISO 800 or more doesn’t degrade your photo too drastically, the need for ultra fast lenses has lessened, the lost in quality using a fast lens wide open doesn’t quite equate to the increase noise at using high digital ISO.  So extremely fast lenses like F/1.0 or F/0.95 which cost a monumental amounts of money is relegate for specialty functions, like shooting in the dark with unique bokehs (background blur).  I contest that a F/2 lens is often sufficient with a good quality F/1.4 lens as slightly better.  I have found f/2.8 or f/4 standard (35mm or 50mm) prime lenses as too pedestrian and lack creativity of faster lenses that allow you to throw the background further out of focus.

My digital SLR choice

As with most people my first foray to become a more serious photographer was with my decision to purchase my first Digital SLR (DSLR), my first DSLR was back in 2002 when I spent a boat load of money on a Nikon D100, it was a pretty expensive 6 Megapixel DSLR back then, it was a camera I loved, but as with most things digital it has been surpassed many fold since.  Surprisingly it was still functioning normally when I sold it a couple of years ago.

Surprisingly it was a good camera and produced wonderful photos for all the time I had it for.  6 Megapixel is more than enough for internet display and if it were not for the need to print large prints, I would have saved a whole load of money and stuck to it.  Of course it was a camera with 9-year-old technology, its ISO performance was very average compare to even the small sensors of the micro 4/3 (m4/3) system and new cameras have better tonal and dynamic range and response times, but it was adequate for my needs for 6 years.

During those 6 years, I wasn’t as intensive with photography and camera life as I am now and my photographic productivity was low.  It did help me learn about the basics of photography and the instant feedback was a boon to my education compared to the film SLR cameras I had before.

An interesting lesson learnt here is, that 6 megapixel is more than enough if you are just showing off stuff online and view your photos on a computer screen mostly.  Surprising 6 Megapixel prints up to A4 can be outstanding and quite adequate enlarged up to A3.

The spirit of this camera still lives on in my Epson R-D1s, the first ever digital rangefinder camera, this camera shares the same sensor as the Nikon D100 and produces similar files but with a different set of lenses.

I will not be reviewing my Nikon D100 since I doubt anyone in their right mind would still buy such a camera.

Three years ago I was  faced with the decision to buy a replacement DSLR and refresh my interest in photography, I first budgeted to spend on a semi-pro or professional camera body around US$2700 excluding lenses, so this rule out the top end professional bodies such as the Canon 1Ds Mark III or the Nikon D3.  I had also ruled out other brands of DSLRs such as Pentax, Olympus or the then fledgling Sony, because of the simple fact that 90% of the market is dominated buy the two Japanese giants and that means accessories and used lenses will be more abundant and to take advantage of their economy of scale as they usually have the best technology at any one time.

Speaking from the perspective of the present, things have changed in the camera world and these second tier DSLR camera companies such as Sony, Pentax and Olympus are more mature now with better products, they are becoming a more viable choice than before.  Although I have made my choice in systems, which I am stuck with now because of a rather sizeable investment.  I am more curious than ever in the lenses offered by these second tier companies and will probably try some of them in the future.

So back to the past, I was face with a tough decision between Nikon and Canon, I knew at the time that the Nikons have better wide angle lens choices (which is still the case today) and Canon had arguably better super-teles which was going to be useful if I develop a liking for bird photography (not much mammalian wildlife photography to be had here in Hong Kong!).  I liked the menu system of the more familiar Nikon cameras which also tend to have more customisable options.  In the end I went with Canon.  The reason being between the two full frame options at the time the Nikon D700 and the Canon 5D Mark II (5D2), the latter offered 22 mega pixels with the same picture quality as the much touted Canon 1Ds Mark III.  I knew I wanted to print large prints and the extra pixels made the difference for me.  I actually think that the Nikon D700 is a better camera overall, with its much better autofocus and its infamous wide-angle zooms.  But the decision was made and I haven’t regretted ever since.  I don’t think either camera I would have regretted buying.

I am writing about this here and so early is because I will be reviewing lots of Canon gear.  But, my camera life isn’t Canon-centric, not at all.  I think those readers that are Nikon-philes will not be lefted out, as I think my decision processes are valid no matter which system I was using and not to mention that most of my gear is not Canon, but other systems.

When I am asked which major Japanese brand is better, I answer that both the major players are perfectly acceptable options.  It just depends on your budget, your needs and the choice of cameras at the time you’re buying.  If my budget was more I probably would have gone with the Professional Nikon D3 body at the time.  Such is camera life.

As long as I am on the topic, I have since acquired a Canon 1D Mark III body for its much improved autofocus for photography of fast-moving objects, still using the many Canon lenses that I own.  I also got a really cheap, next to nothing Canon D350 for pinhole photography & for use with the Lensbaby lenses.

Preface to my equipment reviews

Before buying any piece of pricey equipment, it is recommended to do thorough research before laying down your hard earned money.  For me this research in to camera equipment is part of the fun of photography and through this research I often learn more about what I am buying.  For this my camera life, I am going to do reviews of various bits of equipment that I have used in my camera life, but I think more importantly I am going walk the reader through how I made up my mind to select that piece of equipment.  There is a saying that goes:  “if you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day, but if you teach a man to fish, you’ll feed him for a lifetime” , so what i plan to do is to teach you how I select which gear to buy.

The gear that I ended up selecting to buy and keep may not be what is best for you.  Every one has a different circumstance that leads up to different decisions.  To understand the choices I make, you must understand my situation and circumstances behind my choice.  My circumstances are, like much in life, dynamic and ever-changing.  My circumstance five years ago is certainly very different to my situation now.  But there has always been an underlying theme to my purchases, I usually buy things from a user’s perspective and I am fairly price conscious.  I also understand that good camera equipment could potentially last a life time, so on occasion where I think it important, I’ll pay the premium to own something that I can use for years and years.  So reliability, quality control, support and workmanship is also a factor.

Aside from the more practical world of cameras, there is also a world of collecting.  I think most readers would be only interested in what is practical but there are those in the minority that are interested more in the equipment’s collectablilty.  A collectable item invariably becomes more and more unaffordable as time goes on and so with only rare exception, my philosophy here is to buy what I need to make my photographic vision come true and not to buy some antique for the sake of treasuring its rarity.  For those buying their first DSLR camera, you may not know of this collecting world, but it’s there.

So for my future reviews of equipment I am going to walk you through my decision process as closely as possible.  I am going to separate reviews into three subgroups:  mini-reviews where I am just glossing over my experiences with the piece of equipment and in effect summarising what I felt about when using that particular piece of equipment, these reviews will be opinionated and only partially objective at best and hence I will restrict these reviews to stuff I actually use day-to-day rather than making grandiose passing comments on pieces of equipment I don’t own or rarely use.  There will be comprehensive reviews where I try to be objective as possible and going over every aspect that is important to me.  Then there will be comparison reviews where I compare similar products highlighting differences and each’s strength and weaknesses.

The scope of items for review is actually quite enormous, as I own many different systems, from common DSLR to rangefinder, medium format and large format…  So this is probably going to take years to review the equipment I actually own, not to mention any new gear in the future.  I am going to jump around a bit, I am hoping this site will be an enjoyable read, that surprises the reader with each visit, rather than being a dry infomercial that some other sites tend to become over time.

In time I hope what I write here will accumulate to become a review reference for those interested in the gear that I own.

One advantage of reviewing from Hong Kong is the small size of our geography means that there is a inordinate concentration of exotic gear here, when I run out of gear to write about or feel up to it, I will start reviewing and interviewing others with their own views on their gear and more about other people’s camera life.

Welcome to HK Camera Life.

A passion for photography have lead me down the strange path over the years, an unpredictable path that have meandered from being a snapshooter with my very basic Kodak P&S in the eighties, to my very first serious foray into my camera life with the purchase of my first DSLR in 2002 with my Nikon D100 and then an organic and hyperbolic growth in camera equipment from there, with forays in the past decade into all types of cameras, such as the Canon EOS system, Hasselblad Xpan, Leica and its wonderful lenses, Rollei 6008 system, Ebony 4×5 and the large format world, the dimunitive Olympus Pen FT and is modern M4/3 counterpart the E-P1 and many more.  This expedition into the camera world has not been aimless, I have not lost sight that the camera is just a tool to self-expression and it is with this compass direction that I explore the camera world.  I seek cameras that gives me a new way to express my visual world on the screen and paper, so my collection of cameras have few duplicates in function and form.  I choose cameras that allows me to photograph differently, will it be a different format, lens availability, specialized functions, a different viewfinder and a myriad of other functions that make each camera unique.

My camera life doesn’t start nor end with gear, far from it, it has been a tour d’force through all aspects of photography, such as camera and photography history and philosophy, the many books and references I’ve read, the high tech world of photo editing to the low tech world of film developing, the difficult process of getting the perfect print and the most important part…  the process of taking the photo itself.  The more I learn about photography, the more I realize that photography is much more than just taking a satisfying photo, at its simplest it is, but the scientist in me wants to learn more, to master what I learn.  And it is this trip to master photography that I have embarked upon, that is never ending, with an unknowable final destination that I will never reach but through this site I hope to share the journey with you.

I hope to share with you my camera life so far, the many experiences I have gained and to compile the research that I have done in this field and show you the remains of its digestion, and to show you the reader a single possible photographic path that you can take.   I want to show you all the detours I took in my photographic journey to reach where I am now.  The journey continues still and I hope to share my new discoveries in this, a camera life.

Eric Lai