TMP

Landscape photography with a difference!

One week with the Leica, Elmar and ACROS.

Since making my monumental decision to abandon digital photography and photograph with my 1957 Leica M2 exclusively for a whole year, I feel more motivated and refreshed. It's like a heavy weight has been lifted. As you know the Leica is essentially a hand made precision instrument sans electronics of any kind. To be free of all electronic control is a truly liberating experience. No batteries and no meter. To use a single prime lens, in my case a 1957 Elmar 5cm f/2.8 is equally refreshing. Quite quickly one begins to "see" in the focal length of the lens, you begin to visualise your composition even before making the exposure. One thing I have also found to be stimulating is using the "Sunny 16" method to evaluate exposure. Upon seeing the developed negatives emerge from the tank is a tense, but ultimately rewarding experience. Even when exposing under mixed lighting conditions not one frame is a bad exposure. I do not have the opportunity to travel far so my photography is confined to a rather local area, one to which I can quickly travel. This means one has to work hard to find interesting subjects to photograph. I would love to hop in the jalopy and spend a weekend in the Lake District, but alas! I have a "normal" life.

See what you think from this series made last weekend and during the week? All photos are Fuji ACROS 100 in Adox FX-39 exposed with the Leica M2 and 5cm Elmar. Fuji ACROS 100 is an excellent film, sharp, low grain, loads of tone. I am expecting Fuji to kill it, just like they did with the excellent and brilliant Neopan 400. FUJI - I DON'T LIKE YOU AT ALL!!!!! DON'T KILL ACROS and BRING BACK NEOPAN 400 - PLEASE!

All clad in scaffolding as a substantial repair is undertaken.

An unashamed selfie from the old Chepstow bridge. A shadow selfie as I call it. Fuji ACROS 100 in Adox FX-39. Note the supermarket trolly.

Wall in Sudbrook. Fuji ACROS 100 in Adox FX-39.

Cut off at the root. A wall in Sudbrook. Fuji ACROS 100 in Adox FX-39.

This tree seems to be growing from out of the very rock. 365 Steps, Fuji ACROS 100 in Adox FX-39.

Ivy and a tree at f/4. Fuji ACROS 100 in Adox FX-39.

A low estimated light level meant that I had to go to f/2.8 at 1/30th of a sec hand held. Fuji ACROS 100 in Adox FX-39.

Old Gnarled Tree on the 365 Steps. Fuji ACROS 100 in Adox FX-39.

Muffy with the Elmar 5cm wide open at f/2.8 a little soft made softer by moving photog. Fuji ACROS 100 in Adox FX-39.

Muffin about to yawn. Exposed f/2.8, Fuji ACROS 100 in Adox FX-39.

I tried creeping upon Muffy for a sneaky photo, but the Damned cat moved. Fuji ACROS 100 in Adox FX-39.

On the 365 Steps, Tintern to Chepstow road. Fuji ACROS 100 in Adox FX-39.

No Batteries Included.

I think I have out ranted myself on this subject over the last few posts and I think you know my feelings.

Just to briefly re-cap, at some point you become totally sick of the whole digital photography ecosystem and mentality. As you well know I have reached that point. I have become totally disillusioned with how software and technology has come to dominate photography. Not to mention my increasing abhorrence at digital manipulations that often take the original exposure into the realms of fantasy. You may be interested in having a read of my previous post HERE.

At some point, the digital gadget-camera delusion and obsession, for some, will burn out. To use a metaphor, the bubble will burst. It’s not the answer to better photography. It is a mistake to continually throw good money on new gear, software and technology when it’s you (and I) which is the greatest obstacle in the pursuit of great photographs. You want to read that again: It is YOU that is the greatest obstacle in the pursuit of great photographs. Your equipment is innocent of all charges.

So what do I do now!

Where will I go in this post-digital era?

You may remember in the latter stages of one of my recent posts my plan of photographing exclusively with the Leica for a whole year.

That began on Saturday the 1st of August.

Why the Leica! As much as I would love to make those amazing landscape previously mentioned I can’t afford it. Also, I don’t have the time, the money, the commitment, the determination or the sacrifice that would be inevitable. Besides, why do what millions of photographers are doing! In a trough of photographic despair three weekends ago I threw all my gear on the bed and started using my iPhone taking pictures in preparation of posting the whole lot on the bay of e.

My frame of mind was that of walking away from photography. I have had enough of many things previously discussed. In a future post I will cover the issues and mental state of my personal voyage in photography, depression, dissatisfaction, obsession and Aspergers.

There I was dejectedly snapping away, being agitated by the faux shutter sound, when I picked up my Leica M2. I paused and held it in my hand. I admired the aesthetic of its classic lines, the reassuring weight, my thumb caressed the texture of the vulcanite. I put down my iPhone and held the Leica in both hands running my fingers over the metal work, enjoying the tactile sensation of the milled metal knobs. Advancing the mechanism and releasing the shutter is silky smooth and is mechanical bliss. I did this several times. I found it calming. I then knew in that instant the Leica had to stay. I could NEVER sell it. From out of the darkness a little flicker of photographic light waxed, a beacon in the black.

It was then I hatched my plot. To be photographically digital free. To go back to basics, not even using a meter. No electronics, no batteries, just a plain mechanical camera. A machine! To photograph exclusively with the Leica for a whole year. So, starting the weekend just gone that is what I have initiated. My only expense - film and developing sundries, and I will keep a tally of the costs involved.

Electronics, computers and software will only enter the picture (Haha! Pun!) when the negatives are developed. There are a few problems to be overcome! The negatives often have drying stains despite the use of a wetting agent. The negatives often have a number of small white specks - dust! Worse still, the negatives often exhibit grainy skies despite the grain being smooth elsewhere. As the sadly late and great Barry Thornton once said “you can’t make a fine print from a course negative”. Technique needs to be improved.

Already from using the Leica for a short period I have found that you quickly learn to pre-visualise the print, you become more aware of the subject, a deeper impression is made on your memory, by using a prime lens you begin to “see” the lens. Further benefits discussed later… The below pictures exposed practising the Sunny 16 method and developed in Adox FX-39 and are Kodak Tmax 100 unless otherwise stated.

Farm Lane 1

Farm Lane 2

Bottle, Elmar 9cm f/4.

Cribyn, Brecon Beacons. 1958 Leica M2, 5cm Elmar f/2.8 Ilford FP4+ in FX-39

Waiting...

Passing by.

Bit of a blur.

The SSC.

I just love my garden.

The best Fell walkers...

When in Wales...

Shadow Selfie (you hear it here first...)

Sunny 16 and the Leica.

As part of the recovery process as explained in the next post I have been out with the Leica. My Leica is an M2 with a 5cm Elmar f/2.8 lens and a 9cm Elmar f/4. Both the M2 and 5cm date to 1957 whilst the 9cm although from the 1950’s is an updated design from the 1930’s. Both lenses are four element Tessar based designs.

The weather was nice, my wife was away visiting her parents in Portugal so I took the opportunity, grabbed a couple rolls of film and, among other places, visited Hay-on Wye.

The films I used were Ilford Delta 400, Ilford HP5+, Ilford FP4+ and Rollei Retro 80S. All of the Ilford films were developed in Adox (formerly Patterson) FX39 and the Rollei in dilute Rodinal. The films were all exposed without a meter using the Sunny16 “rule”. Every single frame has good exposure unlike a typical Zone V (18% grey)  meter whether hand held or in-camera.

You may think “GASP!!!! HORROR!!!! Exposing without a meter! I bet the negs are crap!” That is exactly what I thought when I found out about the Sunny 16 “rule”. How can you get good exposures just by GUESSING the exposure? A couple of years ago, for a laugh, I tried it.

The results were actually a revelation!

Not only were the exposures good, they were better than what a meter would have done in some of the cases. In fact, the four rolls of various films recently exposed by S16 not one frame is lost or even bad.

Furthermore, not having a meter is a liberating experience especially with purely mechanical cameras such as the Leica. Here, mechanical cameras really do come into their own and you can shoot unencumbered and unfettered by electronics of any sort. It is pure photography and  using miniature cameras (35mm for those who are not that old) your photography is fast and fluid and the camera really does become an extension of the self. A free artistic tool instead of a tool trying to become artistic.

I would absolutely recommend using the S16 “rule”. It takes only a little practise and you have to develop the nerve and conviction in your own exposure calculation. The confidence it gives you is amazing!  Soon, you’ll be going beyond the S16 rule, tweaking and making modifications to suit your own shooting style.

That is enough of the blab. Here are the photos to prove it. In a near-future post I will outline the S16 “rule’ in conjunction with the most popular black and white films, how to develop them and how to scan them. I will also talk you through a few tricky exposures and how a meter would have totally failed. Until then, I hope you like these snapshots…

HP5+ in FX-39

HP5+ in FX-39

HP5+ in FX-39

Enjoying a coffee in the Italian Cafe in Hay-on-Wye

Ilford Delta at EI200 in FX-39

Ilford Delta 400 at EI200 in Adox FX-39

HP5+ in FX-39 after the dev tank broke open.

HP5+ in FX-39

Ilford Delta 400 at EI200 in Adox FX-39

Ilford Delta 400 at EI200 in Adox FX-39

Rollei Retro 80S at EI60 in Adox FX-39

Rollei Retro 80S at EI60 in Adox FX-39

I just can’t help myself...

m2-leica-2015139.jpg

I just can’t help myself.

I’m sure you’ve done the same thing as me. You buy your favourite photography magazine, browse, and there, on a double page spread is this amazing landscape. The composition is perfect, the shadow is perfect, the colour is perfect and that light! I would die for that light!. The image is amazing. And you go “I want to make a picture like THAT!”.

Well, that is a perfectly normal response. The trouble is you have a mortgage, a full time job, you’re married and have a couple of children. Oh yeah! This particular picture is also in Iceland. Yet, you still think “what gear do I need to make a picture like that?”. You just can’t help yourself.

You look at your existing camera, lenses and kit, it now looks crummy and pathetic and you think “well, that all has to go”. Whilst thinking this you have forgotten, of course, why you bought that gear in the first place. You will now sell it for the exact same reason your existing kit replaced the last lot: Because new kit will carry your photography forward and by spending even more hundreds (or thousands) your photographs will suddenly yield dynamic compositions and colours that just glow. If only I buy that Canon 5D marque III with a bunch of “L” lenses!

You are now deluding yourself as I have done for years.

But you’ll ignore me because your delusion is so strong it has you in its pernicious vice-like grip. Photography magazines are designed and written to fuel your delusion. Tantalisingly they parade in front of your very own eyes a series of amazing photographs. You pay particular attention to the camera model and make that is in small print in the far lower right corner. “I could make prints like that if I had…” If only you could hear yourself! The delusion is running at full throttle. Mix in an obsessive persona and you are in big trouble. The more your delusion is fuelled the more money magazines and manufacturers will make from you. It is an addict/drug-dealer relationship. Eventually, you’ll end up spending thousands as I have done and the results will be just the same. You’ll end up a lot poorer, more frustrated and ever more demoralised that spending all that money hasn’t yielded the results you want. I mean, what is WRONG with my Canon 17-40mm “L” lens, I MUST have a bad copy.

If this is YOU, then do not worry. The problem is actually right in front of you. It’s you!

The reason why someone else’s photography appears on a double page spread in an international magazine and ours don’t is because the photographer KNOWS how to use their equipment. They put in the effort to be in the right place at the right time often camping overnight. They are at location at 5am on a remote Scottish peak to get the light. And that’s IF the conditions are right. (It’s worth repeating) Amazing photos happen because the photographer is in the right place at the right time in the right conditions and he/she knows how to get the best from their equipment. They probably will get the same results from your equipment. Your equipment doesn’t matter! With advancing technology you can get great results from quite modest equipment nowadays! Pro kit from a few years ago is also as cheap as chips. Instead of obsessively and slavishly thinking that to get great pictures you have to spend thousands on great gear (this is what the camera companies and their sycophantic horde of amateur magazines want you to believe) the answer is actually the making of great pictures is free.

FREE!

Yes! Free! The secret of great photographs does not rest in equipment, technology or software. Great photographs come from the photographer. From inside and that can be developed for free.

All this time and money wasted obsessing about specifications and this and that when all the time the cause of bad pictures was ME and NOT my equipment. So, I am not buying into the digital delusion any more. I am not buying any more cameras and equipment. I am not buying any more software, filters or plug-ins. I am not buying the next gimmick camera manufacturers have to conjure up to sell their wares. I’ve finished! I have had enough chasing Scotch mist and magic silver bullets. I have been totally STUPID.

Read part two next week: Recovery! And how on Earth am I going to even attempt to make good pictures let alone great ones.

I have just had enough!

reflection-ii.jpg

I don’t really understand the concept of irony, but, if I did this may just be ironic. When I first became hooked on cameras, or rather just one in particular, I just liked taking photos. I was never really into film per se. I never understood the mechanics or technique. I was a happy snapper.

Some years later another interest, oops, sorry, obsession took over and photography quietly slipped into the background and out of my consciousness. The winds of change blew through my life once again and one obsession merged into another - computers. My morning routine was happily started by the Microsoft Windows start-up sound. I started a business. Then, by chance, by pure chance, in the tail end years of the 1990’s, I bought a digital camera, the Casio QV-10. I was doubly hooked. Computers AND Cameras!

The digital photography bug, which is really an extension of the computers, gadgets and software bug, ran it’s course. Software, photoshop, filters, plug-ins and cameras beyond count. All bought with the promise that my photography would improve and perpetuated by the self delusion that it would. It never did. Why? Because I was crap. I pinned my hope on, and swallowed the sales line of, “if you buy this (insert camera/lens/software here) your pictures would win every competition going". I switched from digital to film to digital to film to digital. Going from 0.3 mega pixels and ending up with 20.

There comes a point when you get sick of software, photoshop, filters and plug-ins controlling your “photography”. You get sick of in-camera micro-processors, in-camera software and a whole host of software technicians and engineers standing behind the scenes all waiting to pounce with another upgrade. Cameras which can shoot RAW at 12 fps for 50 frames and that can also shoot HD video. You know how much crap HD video I see in my job? A company announces a new camera model, then another new one, and another new one and yet another. A bewildering plethora of choice. You study all the specs, read all the reviews not realising you are well and truly hooked into a replenishment cycle. The cycle of which means a camera being “antiquated” in ever decreasing circles, spiralling down. Ten years, five years, eighteen months, 12 months, eight months, six months. That’s what it feels like! After almost 20 years you have done everything digitally you can. The bug dies.

You get sick of software and technology controlling your image. You get sick of seeing enhanced, photoshop manipulated landscapes. You get sick of Photoshop skills being as important if not more so than the actual act of using the camera. You become sick of the fake, the faux and the fraud.

Software isn’t photography. Filters aren’t photography. Plug-ins aren’t photography. Photoshop isn’t photography. These things produce the fake, the fraud and the faux.

You get sick of dicks uttering completely crass words along the lines of “You can do in Photoshop what you can do in the darkroom”. Completely failing to mention you can do a thousand times more in photoshop. In the darkroom you are limited by chemistry, physics, time and skill. There are no such limits in photoshop. You get tired of dicks justifying their own lack of skill and resorting to photoshop by uttering such immortal lines as "I'll fix it in photoshop later" or “the dead old guys faked it, so can I”. Sure they did! They were highly skilled artisans who developed their skills over a number of years. Today, you “rent” your software, download a “tute” and go click, click, click, clone, clone, heal, layer, adjustment layer, click, click, clone etc. DONE! If you can’t see the difference between the two then go into the darkroom and do there what you do in photoshop. Dick!

You’ve heard it all, done it all and your images still don’t look like (famous photographer’s name here).

Why?

Two reasons…

1) I am crap and you're crap. No amount of buying anything is going to solve that one.

2) My resources are limited. My time, my health, my money. I can’t afford to go to those locations you see in the magazines with the equipment I need and at the time I need.

So, I give up right!

Almost did.

When I was iPhone photographing my kit to put on the bay of e, I picked up my 1958 Leica M2. I knew then I couldn’t sell it. What a classic camera! It kept the photography desire alive. Then came a plan. Why not spend a year photographing with the Leica. No computers, no electronics, no meter. Perhaps for this digitally jaded photographer this may be just the tonic.

Have I the courage to do it!

To sum this post in a sentence would be to say that I am sick of the control of software and technology has on my photography seeing this as a solution to my photographic ills instead of concentrating on real photography. More on the later.

Oh yeah! I almost forgot. The irony. Nope I have difficulty with that one. It’s as clear as a mauve hippo.

Why I love film! A personal voyage.

rotting.jpg

Let me make it quite clear: I am NOT against digital. In fact, I do more shooting with digital than with film. Neither is this borne from nostalgia. Granted, I started off shooting film way back in 1984. But back then I was just a happy snapper with not a photographic care in the world. Although I loved my camera a Practica MTL5 and it’s Carl Zeiss Jena 50mm lens, I just thought it was a nothing-special little box. In the early 90’s I discovered Apple Macintosh computers in a big way and in the late 90’s I acquired my first digital camera a 0.3 mega pixel Casio QV-10. It was a relationship made in heaven. Two obsessions married. A few Olympus cameras later I then acquired my first digital SLR, the Canon EOS D60. That was in the April of 2003. I clearly remember reading in a professional photography magazine at that time and I quote “6 megapixels is all you need for a full A3 magazine spread”. It was a review of the D60 and proved the point by doing a full A3 spread. From that day to this, my mind is of the same, anything more than 6 megapixels is a waste for the vast majority of photographers. I used the D60 together with my Leica R3 and R4. Most shooting was made on the D60 and I was shooting colour film on the Leicas.

I was not a happy bunny!

Three reasons: Firstly, I really wasn’t very good. Secondly: I was dissatisfied with the results from the D60. I didn’t like it’s colour rendition and I felt the whole experience was lacking. Thirdly: The situation in camp Leica was equally poor. Although I was making some really good colour prints I wasn’t happy with what I was doing, something was missing, I felt empty. I lacked direction and inspiration.

A seminal moment occurred in my life when during a lunch break I was aimlessly wandering town. I happened to walk into a Newsagent to browse the magazines. Quite by perchance a magazine caught my eye. It was the October 2003 copy of Black and White Photography, issue 26. It had an amazing picture by Earnst Hass on the front cover. I was entranced! Mesmerised! In that very instant I knew what I wanted to do. I knew what I had to do. It was a Eureka moment. I had to shoot black and white film.

But, why do I love film, especially black and white, especially 6x6 medium format film?

That has been a question that I have often asked myself. A question that is immensely difficult to answer. Even now it is difficult to explain. In this post I’ll just deal with the film aspect. I’ll save “Why I love Black and White” and “Why I love Square” for another post or two.

I love film because...

1) There is no instant preview. With digital you make the exposure and then you can instantly review it. Looking at the screen you can say to yourself “Look! There’s Sophie by the fountain! Oh! She’s still there”. If you don’t like the picture you make another one, and another one, and another one until you do. Nothing goes on in your head. With film you obviously don’t have that capability. As a result film makes you visualise the end result, you become much more observant and keen to get it right first time, you scrutinise the scene making sure you get it right. You become aware of the little details you miss with digital just like a calculator reduces your mental arithmetic or a spell check diminishes your ability and practice of spelling. Film, by its very nature makes you develop a keen sense of scene awareness. Over a period of time this pre-visualisation becomes uncannily accurate, your “hit” rate increases your use of multiple exposures of the same scene reduces. Your shooting becomes much more targeted and efficient. You shoot less and keep more. As a result your work load and costs reduce.

2) With digital you may have a tendency of making a large number of exposures and then instantly judging your reviews and deleting accordingly. You may end up with a good number of similar shots on your computer taking up your limited HDD space. Deciding which to keep and process may be agonising and time consuming leading to the oft inevitable snap decisions and bad decisions. You waste time because you end up processing a number of coarse files. No matter how good your equipment you can’t get a fine print from a coarse file. Generally with film I often process some time after the event. I have a drawer with a number of rolls of undeveloped film. They are all mixed up together. When I am in a developing mood I choose a few and develop them. Often I do not even know what is on the film. When I pull it from the developing tank, which in itself is exciting, I look at the negs with fresh eyes and look at the negatives anew. As the memory of the original event has faded you can make a really fresh judgement instead of a snap judgement on a screen or judging from a often large number of similar copies in a Lightroom library. You already have a better hit rate with less pictures so deciding which ones to keep is often not difficult. You develop less and keep more.

3) If you become a little jaded with the look of your film you can just change it. There are plenty of options from which to choose especially in monochrome. You can’t do that with digital. Once you have made your purchase you are stuck with what your camera gives you. So you had better like your colour rendition, noise and dynamic range etc.. You buy a digital Nikon or Canon you are stuck with it. You buy a film Nikon or Canon you can stuff it with any film you like and change it whenever you like - even mid-roll.

4) Film is incredibly flexible, more so than people realise. Film has an incredible dynamic range, monochrome especially. If you know how to expose and develop properly you can get even more from the film. Developing film is easy and inexpensive. Your development process should so well organised and practiced that your results will be ultra consistent. You will become so practised and adept that your pre-visualisation will be seen in your fine negatives. If they are not then you are doing something wrong. People who are or were dissatisfied with film and changed to digital at the first opportunity are either lazy workers or bad workers and usually both. With film you can be really sloppy with your metering or just guess if you must AND still get excellent results. With colour negative film you can over expose by up to three stops and no one will notice AND still retain those precious highlights. Modern scanners can extract an amazing amount of detail and data from film especially in the highlights of colour negative film. In short, you can shoot and not worry at all about losing your shadows or highlights. You don’t need to keep checking that histogram with film because you haven't got one because you just don’t need one. Film is stress free shooting.

5) I love the “feel” that film gives me. I often find digital sterile. I love that organic feel to film. The way it responds to light, the texture of the grain, the tone of the colour. It’s not nostalgia more so the lack of “soul”, the sterility of digital that makes me appreciate the more flattering, organic and natural rendition of film. A well exposed and processed negative, which in itself is an easy task, requires less photoshopping than an equivalent digital file. There is more data in a negative than in any RAW file. Taking into account you shoot less with film, have a greater “hit” rate, you don’t waste time reviewing, loading and sorting HUNDREDS of digital files (often of the same subject). Even when you factor-in developing and scanning. Film saves you time.

6) Slide film in an inexpensive sub £100 camera has a richness of colour that digital just can’t match at the same price point! If you want to throw a few thousand pounds into a top or near top-of-the-range digital camera replete with lenses you can! Sub £200 medium format cameras are of such quality you’ll have to spend thousands to match it with digital. Film will save you thousands of $ or £.

7) Neither do you have to worry much about your gear being stolen. Generally its cheap enough to replace. Thieves want to steal kit they can sell or pass-on really quick so they are after digital kit and not your old fashioned film stuff they think nobody wants. But don’t go around with a Leica strap on your M2.

If I had to sum-up in one pithy phrase it is this Film makes you a better photographer. I am still working on that.

Well, that’s about it. I can think of a few more reasons why I love film but I think I have covered my main reasons. Take heart digital users I am going to do a post on “Why I love digital”. My conclusion just may surprise you.

Finally, I have to thank my friends Ike and Don who have contributed more to my joy of photography than they can ever imagine.

 Below: AGFA Isolette III, 75mm Solinar. Folding camera.

66 RAW014

  Below: Rolleiflex Automat, pre-war.

Chris 01

Below: Hasselblad 500CM, Carl Zeiss 80mm f/2.8 Planar.

Img047

Below: Yashica Mat 124G.

Img082

 Below: Hasselblad 500CM, 80mm f/2.8 Planar.

Img101

Below: Yashica Mat 124G, 80mm f/3.5 Yashinon.

Img647

Below: Yashica Mat 124G, 80mm f/3.5 Yashinon.

Iron Seat

Below: Rolleiflex 2.8C, 80mm Carl Zeiss f/2.8 Planar.

Rolleiflex013

Below: Rolleiflex 2.8C, 80mm Carl Zeiss f/2.8 Planar.

Rolleiflex042

Below: Rolleiflex 2.8C, 80mm Carl Zeiss f/2.8 Planar.

Rolleiflex053

 Below: Rolleiflex 2.8C, 80mm Carl Zeiss f/2.8 Planar.

Rolleiflex071

Below: Rolleiflex 2.8C, 80mm Carl Zeiss f/2.8 Planar.

Rolleiflex081

Below: Zeiss Ikonta folding camera.

Rotting

 

Panasonic DMC G1 Review

crib-goch-rising-762.jpg

I'll just get straight to it - I have bought a Panasonic DMC-G1. Where I would like to differ from other reviews is for me to give an actual user overall and real world view and not an anally retentive super detailed review one can read in a million places. WHAT I REQUIRED. My main camera is the Fujifilm Finepix S5 Pro, a pro spec camera based on the Nikon D200 body. What appeals to me about the S5 is its great colour, skin tones and that huge dynamic range. Together with my usual lens the Nikkor 24-70mm f2.8 it comes in at quite a weight believe me. I mainly use the S5 for weddings and mountaineering. However, I came to a point where the sheer weight of the system dramatically slows me when I am struggling up Tryfan or Crib Coch, and to the point where I am so tired the motivation of taking the kit from the backpack diminishes to zero. On my last trip the S5 just stayed in the rucksac. Sad innit.

So that had me thinking of a solution, something light, portable, able to back up the S5 and with superb image quality, and RAW was a must. Enter the G1. There were a few alternatives, the Canon G10, the LX3 and a few of the Olympus cameras. After consideration of the specs what swayed me in my final decision was the excellent reviews on DPReview, DC Resource and Steve's Digicams.

So, G1 ordered Monday from Warehouse Express and arrived the following day. Exciting stuff. I looked at the box for a few minutes in anticipation, there was a degree of trepidation "have I wasted my money" I thought to myself. At last I summoned the courage to open the box and a few breaths later the G1 body was in my hand. "WOW!" it's so small and light. And the lens is cute and dinky. Mine was in a deep royal blue.

HANDLING: THE PHYSICS. When they said a small DSLR they weren't joking. The G1 is dwarfed by my S5 and 24-70mm f2.8 lens. It is so small. It is very light. The body plastic feels, well how can I describe it, kind of 'furry'. Its quite a pleasant texture. It fits in the hand very well and as my hands are small with short fingers, it is quite comfortable. If you have huge gorilla like hands, then, I would say, you may find the G1 on the fiddly side. Overall the ergonomics, layout, handling and weight are very good. Even so, I do find the buttons just a little fiddly. A slight criticism. All the important controls are at your finger tips, no need really to delve into the menu system.

HANDLING: THE SOFTWARE. I shoot mainly in RAW. Even on the S5 the RAW write-to-card speeds are quite slow - well, they are 35Mb each. I was very surprised at the RAW write speeds on the G1. The playback review speeds are impressive. Blindingly fast. I mean fast. Superb. The menu system is easy to use. Full Stop. When shooting RAW the G1 attains about 2fps with a depth of about 10 shots (although I have not done accurate tests on this aspect).

The LCD/EVF Personally I hate using a camera at arms length. That's years of using film cameras for you. I was a little concerned over using an EVF full time. But, it is good. Not a replacement for optical finders for sure. I quite like using the EVF and the amount of data it can display. Having a live histogram means you can make accurate exposure compensation BEFORE the shot instead of after. The EVF does darken when shooting into bright light, but even in moderate light there is enough data and sharpness for accurate composition. Manual focus also, is easy, fast and accurate.

THE RESULTS Simply put - FANTASTIC. The resolution and levels of detail are excellent especially from RAW files. I process in Lightroom which is better and more flexible than the supplied Silkypix (which WILL suffice for the majority of users). Exposure is excellent and I would say better than my S5, the colours are very pleasing and quite neutral which is my preference anyway. Focussing is surprisingly fast, accurate and silent. The only criticism is the live view histogram is not accurate in comparison with the review histograms. A little care must be taken when exposing for the highlights. The live view histogram seems to ignore small spectacular highlights present in the review histograms and this can result, if you're not careful, in highlight clipping. The dynamic range is no where near the S5 (then again, what is), but is standard for a camera of this type. No problems there either.

CONCLUSION I totally echo the reviews on DPReview, DC Resource and Steve's Digicams. The G1 is an excellent camera that will deliver fast excellent results in a very small and light footprint.

Some pictures to follow.