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It is now over a month since Cameracraft September/October 2023 went out to printed edition subscribers and was released in the App and Pocketmags, and to our digital-only subscribers who received the link to download in a September 1st email.

With main features previewing the season we are now most definitely in – Autumn or Fall – it’s only fair to let the world see the issue with the informative New England Fall article by Jeff Folger, and the introduction to wonderful Welsh waterfalls at this time of year from Jon Rees. And as usual it’s an edition with plenty to read as well as great photography. Please subscribe to our worldwide digital delivery £15 a year to get future issues on the day they are published, or choose the printed edition sent out by mail at the same time. Just click on the cover for the download link to read this edition free!

Download or read through our July-August edition free

Cameracraft is received exclusively by subscribers and members of The Guild of Photographers. It’s easy to get single copies or subscriptions from this site, and in addition to the printed magazine digital delivery is an eco-friendly low cost alternative which fully supports our unique magazine.

After our subscribers receive their copies whether digital or printed, we wait a couple of weeks before releasing this viewable and downloadable PDF version. It’s a good quality too with the PDF created at Retina screen resolution so you can zoom in or use a large screen. To download and keep you may need to right-click if the PDF opens in a browser window – it’s normal now to have an extension installed which does this. You will however get a better choice of view modes by saving an opening using Adobe Acrobat. Select Two Page view to see the spreads properly, and expand your window to fill your screen. Don’t select ‘Full Screen’ mode as for some reason Adobe make this disable the two-page view!

Your downloaded PDF will include all email and URL links from the text on the pages.

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Read here using the navigation tools. Download using the link below the embedded version.

Read our September/October issue here now – free

Mailed to our subscribers on September 1st and also published on Pocketmags, it’s now time to let everyone read the current magazine. You’ll notice that it contained a feature about The Photography Show, which reached subscribers over two weeks before the show. It’s not very often that we have articles which are time-sensitive but this is one reason it pays to subscribe and get Cameracraft hot off the press!

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Sony A7RIII review in Cameracraft

Read David Kilpatrick’s review of the Sony A7RIII

Cameracraft January/February started the A7RIII test report, and March/April 2018 continued it. Both are free to read here. In the second issue you’ll also find the review of the 24-105mm f/4 FE G OSS lens. In the first issue, Gary Friedman looks at the RX10 series and one-inch sensor quality as well – and David tests the Voigtländer Nokton 40mm f/1.2 Aspherical FE manual focus lens, Sigma 16mm f/1.4 DN DC, and Samyang 35mm f/2.8 AF FE.

Part 1

Part 2



Never say ‘zoom with your feet’…

There’s a dismissive and rather superior position some camera club buffs take – ‘why not zoom with your feet?’. It is well worth ignoring. The focal length of your lens, whether your use a zoom or a range of fixed focal length lenses, decides the exact relationship of elements in the picture including one component you just can’t ‘zoom with your feet’, the sky. The depth of blue above the horizon, the scale of clouds, can only be changed by using a different focal length.

Here is the cover of the May/June 2017 Cameracraft magazine, and in a very rare lapse of judgment I used one of my own photographs. I had never photographed this church before despite driving past it on the A7 Scotland to England road through the ‘debateable lands’ for the last 28 years. A quick left turn down a farm estate road led to St Andrews church of Kirkandrews, an 18th-century gem with the unusual feature of being built on a north-south alignment instead of east-west. This put the late March afternoon sun on to the south door and sundial.

Now this is a typical deliberately uncorrected 24mm steep angle shot, and I also have very straight versions taken from further away on the 24-70mm CZ f/4 lens and A7RII. but they are all at between 24 and 32mm with the church smaller and composition using the churchyard and walls. That’s because the sky simply looks best with a wide angle.

Despite some bad press, I’ve found the 24-70mm to be an excellent lens. You can get good deals and Amazon UK is showing discounts up to 19% – check our affiliate link which helps photoclubalpha cover its costs if you buy.

When we pulled up here, there was a car on the other side of the church spoiling the view I had seen from the road, spotting a dramatic old dead tree. We chatted to a lady who was looking after the churchyard and gardens, a lifelong commitment. She said it was a pity the church was locked as the interior was worth seeing – and left taking her car which had been prominently in my planned shot. So, we parked the car in the field further away, and I returned to the area of the tree.

I knew what I was looking for, and at first walked to a spot and composed this at 30mm. But by moving round and just looking at the possible camera positions (and heights above ground) I could see the relative scale of the church and tree could be changed by finding the best angle of view and perspective. This is what using your feet AND a zoom helps you do, and ‘zooming with your feet’ most certainly does not if all you have is a fixed lens. A 35mm or 28mm would have been fine here, but I knew how much clearance I wanted between the church bell tower and the branch, how large or not I wanted the fallen branches to be (and I do not ‘garden’ subjects like this which are someone else’s property).

This shot at 26mm was able to give me more sky. It’s also one which I could straighten for converging verticals (it has space to do that) using Photoshop/Camera Raw‘s excellent tools for this. To the right, there was an ugly wooden barrier to keep livestock off a sapling. Below, you can see why this was not a good addition to any composition. Earlier on there was that white car between it and the church, which had departed.

From this position, I was generally happy with the scale of the tree and church and their relative weights in a vertical composition, but felt it needed to be a little tighter.

This framing at 35mm kept all parts of the tree clear of the church, placed them neatly and avoided any strong foreground of fallen wood.

This example moved me closer to the tree, at 24mm again, giving the most attractive sky and clouds. But I felt the broken main trunk of the tree was slightly too strong and the ratio between the tree and church just missed the mark. Such small differences do count. Normally I don’t show anyone the ‘ringaround’ compositions, only the final shot. In what is essentially a landscape scene, it’s not always that important. In commercial work, including portraits, wedding or fashion you need to realise that a centimetre or two difference in where you place your lens can distinguish good photography from ordinary. This, and the timing of your shot, also marks out the best press photography.

Precision viewpoint is where both your feet and zooming come in. By moving much closer to the tree, and using it as a solid closure to the left hand side of the image, the small forked branch could be positioned to frame the church and no slightly more ugly broken branch ends would be shown. The closer viewpoint was controlled to within an inch or two side to side and vertically, by crouching slightly to get the lens in exactly the position I wanted.

This also kept the church centred and therefore without converging verticals. I was already seeing this as a black and white conversion, and possibly a cover image, with the space necessary for typical cover lines and logo. This was the picture I did use for the cover.

However, from the same viewpoint zooming to 41mm allowed a different crop with a larger scale to the church.

You can see how I have moved to my left just a small amount, and also stepped back a couple of paces to change the relationship between the forked branch and the church. This is the control you gain from a lens like the 24-70mm – and why you should zoom PLUS your feet, not zoom WITH your feet. Above all, you should walk round and look, even without the camera, studying the interplay between foreground, background, middle distance and the sky.

For my first three years of using the Sony full-frame mirrorless system I have been without a 24-70mm, using a range of primes and the 28-70mm instead. Although I had used excellent work from the 24-70mm f/4 in our magazines, from other photographers, there were so many bad reports about it. But 24mm has always been a critical focal length for me, so I had to buy it when a good deal came up (a refurb from Sony, which allows me to recover the 20% VAT which I can’t claim on regular secondhand items). Well, it’s not perfect because at 24mm the focus field is very curved (cap-shaped) to the extent that detail at the edge of the frame is focused on around 45cm when the centre is set to 45m. This can lead to the idea it’s soft. In fact, this curvature improves the sharpness of the tree trunk and the distant church at f/11 – 42 megapixels can be demanding. But if this was a portrait, with a distant scene beyond, it would have the reverse effect and make the outer field seem less sharp.

  • David Kilpatrick

Affiliate links to help photoclubalpha if you order the 24-70mm Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar f/4 FE – B&H Photographic, Amazon, and WEX.

Sony’s precision aspherics

In interviews about the new micron-accurate aspheric lens element moulding process used to increase the resolution of the latest Sony G Master lenses, a visual has appeared which shows the ‘onion ring’ effect that coarser mould machining causes in lens elements.

Working independently, I’ve been aware of this for years – and I have used a point-source photography technique to study lenses. I’m not an optical engineer or scientist, indeed I don’t even have a degree in anything. I came into photography through Victorian books and teenage years experimenting with lenses, developer formulae, building my own equipment and using observation, corollary and deduction to understand how things work. It’s helped me explain difficult technical stuff to many thousands of readers through books and magazines, without using maths or formulae, and very few diagrams.

In the Cameracraft back in 2013 I published a home-brewed rendering of aspheric moulding visual analysis.

Here’s Sony’s visual showing the difference between traditional aspheric moulding (pressed glass aspheric, as pioneered by Leica and Sigma) and their new refined pressing with better engineering.

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And here is my home-brewed visual from Cameracraft when I explained the bokeh and resolution issues created by pressed elements (and also, some other aspects of bokeh, which I’ll refer to below the image):

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This is the clip from a 2013 article in Cameracraft dealing with broader aspects of bokeh, depth of field, aberrations and how images are rendered. You can download the two-page article here. Nine years after we launched Cameracraft the magazine is going strong, it’s a bit thicker and does have the occasional advert unlike our original, but it is still one of the best ‘never knew that before’ reads a photographer can have drop through the letterbox. You can arrange that easily enough here!

Here is the full article as a downloadable PDF.

Sony’s new superlens was not any better than the Sigma 70mm f/2.8 macro which I still use. My reasons for choosing this macro are simple – it is optically excellent and traditionally made without any aspheric or other special elements, and it uses simple focal extension for focusing, not rear or internal group movement. This means it’s a true 70mm lens even when used at 1:1 and gives the maximum lens to subject distance, for its focal length.

However, it’s MUCH better than the Voigtländer 50mm f/1.4 used for the colour bokeh shift example at the top. Sony’s information makes it clear that the new more precise aspheric moulding allows new surface profiles and the elimination of chromatic aberrations which cause this magenta-green foreground to background shift in so many otherwise excellent lenses. I’ve said that to do so, the new lenses must be what would once have been called Apochromatic, though that term has only ever meant that all wavelengths focused to the same plane and at the same scale. Even past Apo lenses can show poor colour bokeh. It’s interesting that Sigma, after years of plugging the APO (capitals not actually needed, folks!) label chose not to label some new lenses this way even through their performance matched or exceeded earlier APO models. Sony seems to be taking the same view – G Master will be sufficient label to imply very high resolution, elimination of bad colour bokeh shifts, and by implication an apochromatic performance on RGB sensors.

So will I be buying these amazingly expensive, large, E-mount dedicated lenses? Probably not. My unscientific observations tell me there are smaller, lighter, far less expensive lenses which will serve me better. Mirrorless digital camera bodies with high quality EVF and high magnification focusing allow me to  do things I could never have done over 40 years ago when I took my first position as a Technical Editor (of the UK monthly Photography published by Fountain Press and edited by John Sanders). Geoffrey Crawley, editor of the British Journal of Photography, showed me how to evaluate any lens quickly with the help of a light bulb, a darkened studio, a roll of background paper and a sharp pencil. Back then you had to expose film, now you can just look through the finder. In a photo store, any LED spotlight will do for a quick check. Focus centre, magnified to max, at full aperture. Move to all corners in turn without refocusing, magnify each time. Refocus each corner in turn when magnified, examine change in rendering of point source. Buy the lens which shows symmetrical, balanced results and the best sharpness of the corners when the centre is correctly focused. Do this with a light source at least 3m/10ft away and if you can, even further. Repeat one stop down, two stops down, with zooms repeat at three or four focal lengths across the range. Never do it at close distance (hint: lens test chart results are only good for the distance you photograph the chart from, which is why Imatest, DxO and other labs have test targets the size of a wall and industrial sized space to work in).

And, if you have a single LED bulb or miniature LED torch, you can examine any of your lenses in a darkened room and produce a ‘bump map’ which will reveal its moulding defects, scratches or fungus, blemishes, and population of dust and microfauna.

– David Kilpatrick

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For our PDF and App editions, go to Pocketmags where you’ll find Apple iOS, Android and all the usual choices to subscribe or buy individual editions.

And if you really want a trip back in time – there were huge changes between 2012 and 2015. Cameracraft documents the rise of mirrorless, the growth of hipster retro, and the discovery of older manual lenses as it happened. You can read a full set of the 12 issues via this one-off YUDU subscription:

Click to view the full digital publication online
Read Cameracraft 2012-15
Self Publishing with YUDU

Friedman’s Alpha 99 e-book released

Well, we knew it would take some time – Gary Friedman has been working on his Alpha 99 e-book since the camera was pre-released to the press, and six months later, he’s got a huge volume as a result.

“This is my largest and most comprehensive work to date – 625 pages!”, Gary says.

It is available in triple-digital form: Buy a DRM-free, digital copy for USD $29.95 and you can download it ANY of the following formats:

* .pdf, (great for your computer or iPad)
* .mobi (ideal for your Kindle)
* .epub (ideal for your Nook and other e-readers).

(Printed books will be available from April 2013.)

Here’s the link.

Gary Friedman’s new Alpha 99 e-book

http://friedmanarchives.com/alpha99

Gary has just returned from Malaysia and Singapore, where he was running workshops including one for Sony themselves. He’s also just finished signing off the proofs for the latest Cameracraft quarterly magazine, published by Photoclubalpha’s owners Icon Publications Ltd, edited by David Kilpatrick with Gary as US Associate Editor.

Issue No 3, 2nd Quarter 2013, will be available from the first week of April and includes a great story on Gary’s period working in China, a portfolio proving that pinhole photography does not have be soft and murky, a look at viewpoints and the camera, the best ‘historical battle recreation’ set we’ve ever seen, and more.

http://www.iconpublications.com/cameracraft/

 

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