Sunday, November 10, 2013


Thomaston, Connecticut

The autumn color that was so subdued this year is still hanging on, far later that usual, in its own subtle way, but over the past week something has crossed a line on the seasonal light. Suddenly, it's winter light, not autumn. For a week now I've been working with a new camera, a Lumix GX7, doing careful tests of various parameters and, much more important, just getting out to take pictures. I don't much like sunny days and blue skies, but did some photo-walkabouts in bright sun partly just to use the camera. At first I thought there was something funny about its rendering of blue sky, then made myself really look closely at that sky (not the pictures) and realized the blue had moved from the rich blue of three seasons (it has a strong magenta component as recorded by a good rgb sensor) to the wan and watery light of winter (a digital capture of it shows a noticeable shift from magenta to green).

The camera has an electronic level function. When I use a view camera I almost always set things perfectly level and plumb—just part of the aesthetic of the medium. Sometimes I want that with a handheld digital capture, so I was interested to try it. The owner's manual sort of apologizes that the electronic level indicator (EVF or LCD) might be off by as much as 1°. The surprise was that handholding the camera on the framing I want while maintaining >1° deviation from perfect level/plumb is damn difficult. It also makes me think that previous methods I've used, like a hot shoe bubble or 2-axis level on a digital camera, the 2-axis level I have screwed into the top of my 7x17" view camera, or even the Torpedo level I use on the flat surfaces of my 8x10 Deardorff, 5x7 Agfa/Ansco, and 12x20 Folmer Schwing, are, well, perhaps not accurate to 1° unless used with the utmost painstaking care. Whether that matters is a whole different discussion.


Profligatographer said...

My now venerable Pentax K5 from 2010 has the automatic horizon correction. I leave it turned on but pretend to believe that I am just getting better with age [g].

It also has a dandy electronic level that displays both roll and pitch, but that is best used when the camera is mounted on a tripod.

Of course, almost all image alignment can be modified in the computer's virtual darkroom with very little effort.


Carl said...

This two-axis level tool would be a cinch to use on a tripod, but using it while framing the shot carefully handheld is too much like walking and chewing gum...

richardplondon said...

Something irrational inside me, won't permit me to use the active K-5 horizon auto-correction (grin). It's an aspect that I like too much about photos, to wish it different: that they were held and pointed a given way, at that given instant. I feel perfectly justified to correct in Lightroom, but at least that's all been my overt decision.

A (3-axis) display option is certainly great on the tripod. Also the ability to nudge the "aim" of the camera a little, by means of sensor movement ("composition adjust") helps reduce the need for a geared head.

It's remarkable how a subliminal levelling readout actually can be taken in, even in the throes of picture-making.

I recall seeing on TV, a system that glider pilots use - whereby the altimeter is hooked up to a tone generator: a quiet musical note rises and falls as you catch or miss the invisible updrafts and air currents, or fly more or less efficiently. An unobtrusive part of the general sense gestalt, in other words. Maybe a camera's level could emit a subliminal "click" or something?

I see a trend moving back toward the tactile and the material in recent camera equipment, and that's a good thing.

Carl said...

This brings up a couple things, Richard. For a couple years I've been having a higher than I'm used to number of mis-leveled shots. I was wondering about old age or middle ear problems, but the minute I began working with the GX7 the problem disappeared. It has a very rectangular straight-edged body, (obviously an homage to the M-Leica) while the G3 cameras I've used for a couple years are boxy and rounded. I think that bulbous shape was somehow throwing my hands off kilter.

Second, out shooting this afternoon, I tried using the 2-axis level indicator on the LCD, not the EVF, with the screen flipped out to 90° position for "waist level viewing." For some reason I found it much easier to frame and neutral the level indicators than when using the EVF. Don't really know why, but will have to experiment some more with it.