Seven Weeks With The Lumix S Pro 24-70mm f2.8 (Pre-Production) Lens
“Mmmmm, this is going to be special”. This was what I said to myself as soon as I looked at the the very first test frame I shot with the lens on my Lumix S1R. Followed by, “Its so sharp!”. This was a very good way to start shooting with a brand new lens. In fact, a pre-production model at that, with early, pre-production firmware.
I felt rather honoured when Panasonic Lumix UK got in touch to see if I’d like to test out the unreleased S Pro 24-70mm f2.8, ahead of it’s global launch on August 28th, 2019, which was around 1.5 months away. Unboxing the generic brown box, cutting away the bubble wrap, revealed the new lens. I found out the lens had been carried by hand, all the way from Japan! I got out some black tape, covered up all the markings and began shooting.
It’s a bit of a special feeling knowing only a handful of people globally have seen the lens and I’ve been asked to test it and make images with it to be possibly used for the global launch. It’s also quite stressful, knowing photographs have to be made to not only showcase, but live up to every aspect of what was already proving to be a spectacularly good lens.
One of the characteristics that hit me as I begun shooting more and more, was that this wasn’t just a sharp lens, but it had something special. Pure clinical sharpness is ok for forensic type photography, but for being creative, for conveying mood, for sharing a story, one also needs gentleness, subtlety and grace. The rendering from this lens has all of that.
Generally, a 24-70mm f2.8, is a bread and butter lens; pretty much everyone will have one in their bag and it’s the standard professional zoom. Versatile, useful and a safe choice. What I found special though, was this wasn’t just a bread and butter lens. Where one may have a standard zoom for safety, one would also have a special prime with nicer rendering, for making those special portraits or creative shots.
Well, the S 24-70mm f2.8 has all of that. It’s truly special to have all these qualities wrapped up in one lens. Versatility and speed, but also beautiful rendering, colour, contrast, detail and well, a bit of poetry too. I found it captured light and colour beautifully and rendered a nicely soft background in out of focus areas. As much as I hate talking about this and using the word bokeh, it does have beautiful bokeh! (I need to add my dislike is purely based on people who only care about bokeh and nothing else, especially not the craft of photography).
It is chunky though. I felt the same way as when I first picked up the S Pro 50mm f1.4. Although I wished all of the S Series lenses could be a little smaller, just as with the S 50mm, as soon as I started shooting with the S 24-70mm, it justified it’s size and won a place in my camera bag. In fact, I pretty much didn’t shoot with anything else and seven weeks on, it’s always been mounted on either my S1 or S1R.
It just produces beautiful images and no matter what type of subject I point it at, it does as I ask and produces what I want. Fast to react and precise in rendering.
Super fast and silent AF, outstanding build quality and stunning optics. I have a feeling the scientific types at DxO Labs are going to enjoy putting this through their rigorous tests.
So please don’t read this small post as a review; it really is a quick preview. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves. Keep in mind though that this is a pre-production lens with early, non final firmware and so is definitely a pre-release lens. Yet, it helped make these images with grace. I can’t wait to get my hands on the final thing! If you have an L Mount camera, I suggest you try it too!
It’s been an absolute honour and a positively stress filled joy, to have been one of the three judges in the RAF‘s annual competition.
The Royal Airforce has trained some phenomenal photojournalists and I would say the top of that list would be Don McCullin, who signed up to National Service in the RAF as a photographic assistant. To be invited back for the second year to judge the work of McCullin’s contemporaries is indeed a special treat.
One certain way of knowing how high the level of photography is in any competition is by looking at how much discussion, heated debate and heart breaking compromise occurs between judges.
Well, I can say that this year, even more so than last year, the debates were passionate. Its also worth noting that Highly Commended places were optionally awarded by the judges, purely because the level of the work was so high and the competition was so close.
Judging of the 13 different categories of the RAF Photographer Of The Year Competition 2019 took place at the RAF Museum, in London. Jim Hedge (Picture Editor at the Guardian), Martin Keene (Press Association Group Picture Editor) and myself spent a day looking through hundreds and hundreds of prints. For the video category, we had access to view the entries beforehand and then spent around an hour together viewing our favourites and discussing the merits of our chosen favourites.
The Image Of The Year (Category L) was a great illustration of the skill of the RAF’s photographers. The winning image by Cpl Ash Keates, titled Concorde, grabbed my attention the second I saw it after entering the judging hall and it stayed with me. I later found it had had the same effect on one of my fellow judges too. A strong sense of composition, colour, technical perfection married to the subtlety of capturing the shadows left by the Red Arrows on the water, raised it from a great picture to a winning photograph.
The four images I’ve shared here show an absolute mastery of craft; bringing not only fast reflexes, but an art of composition, a deep aesthetic sensibility and layers of subtlety. Our task was to choose just one winner, but the work was so good that we decided to also award six Highly Commended places too.
The Photographer of the Year (Category K) was won by a superb portfolio of six images by Cpl Tim Laurence (ACSSU, RAF Halton). Another showcase of mastery of craft, with a varied set of images which worked extremely well together, yet each in their own right shone. Another extremely difficult category to judge with much debate and discussion as the level of work was so high. Cpl Laurence also had his phenomenal photograph titled Stargazer (of a Chinook at night) highly commended in the Image Of The Year category.
First place in the Video (Category D) section goes to SAC Ed Wright (Photo ACSSU) for Fortune Favours the Bold. Finland will be the host nation of Bold Quest 19.1 held in April-May 2019. Bold Quest 19.1 is a multinational joint fires interoperability demonstration and assessment event sponsored and facilitated by the United States Joint Staff.
The People’s Choice-Vote Now!
During the judging process, these nine images made it to our People’s Choice board. Have a look at the stunning photographs and make your vote (It’s a quick, one click vote).
Behind The Scenes
It really is a joy talking about great images, championing favourites and being treated to so many great images. Many congratulations on all the winners, all who were highly commended and my best wishes to all who entered their fantastic work. I’ve only shared some of the winners here, but do pop by the RAF Photographers’ Instagram to see more work. You can also find them on Facebook.
Here’s a video prepared by the RAF, part of which is a behind the scenes look to the work done by their photographers and also gives a glimpse of the judges at work.
Inauguration of Lumen, the Museum of Mountain Photography, at 2275m, perched atop Mount Kronplatz-Plan de Corones, South Tyrolean Mountains and Dolomites, Italy.
The highs and lows of photography? Well, in this case, the very highest of highs of photography, in the highest museum dedicated to mountain photography, at 2275m. Part exhibition venue, part museum, part architectural magnificence and part a fabulous place to eat, Lumen was for me an illuminating visit to a very unique place.
Uniquely, one can visit the four floors, exploring 1800 square meters of phenomenal mountain photography, then step outside and try one’s own hand at photographing the splendid views from Kronplatz mountain, situated in the Pustertal Valley, South Tyrol, Italy. The sights of The Dolomites and the Alps is breathtaking.
Not only layered landscapes but also some action shots of free falling paragliders, mountain bikers or the more sedate pace of hikers exploring the trails or the beautiful mountain flowers. I have to say that my nine hours didn’t feel enough as I wanted to continue taking in all that was on show at the museum and also make my own photographs around the magnificent venue and the views and opportunities for imagery.
Lumen is possibly the most inspiring museum I’ve been to. It’s been thoroughly thought out, beautifully designed and curated with taste and aesthetic depth. As an outsider to the world of mountain photography, my mind was opened when presented with so many aspects of imagery about the subject. Mountaineers, climbing shots, shots from the summit, images of record, all shot in a documentary way, showing the amazing feats, but also beautifully creative images of mountains in the landscape. It’s fascinating to see how mountains are perceived by different nationalities or beliefs; places of freedom and leisure, holy places, symbols of ideology. Nature, culture and symbolism.
Even the elevator has been creatively designed, with a glass back looking at a giant, four floor Lightbox, showing a journey from the valley to the peak of the mountain. Beautifully conceived and executed. Get in, press level three and start from the top. One Starts the journey by looking at the work of the pioneers in mountain photography. There is a section dedicated to the changes in photographic technology, starting with the earliest of cameras from 1840 and moving through the eras to digital. Many nowadays would have ever seen a darkroom, so I was thrilled to see a darkroom set up, along with three trays showing the steps in the development of a print, all done digitally, so no chemical stains or scents in this darkroom, just knowledge and experience.
Along with the more traditional prints, there is a lot of innovation throughout the museum. Everything from Virtual Reality headsets, allowing the visitor to experience the mountain, through to an action packed audio visual room showing the thrills of the sport of climbing.
One of the most interesting rooms to explore in a fully immersive way, was the Speigelsaal with its mirror walls, floor and ceiling. One huge wall was a screen showing images of mountains, which were then infinitely reflected through the room.
To add to the fascination, visitors walking around can see each other, or catch their own reflection, in a floating through time and space kind of way, defying gravity and hovering over a continuous montage of scenes. For those into selfies (and yes, I did take several!), this may just be the best location on the planet to do a self portrait.
The “Shutter” is a particularly impressive concept; a huge room with a floor to ceiling, circular focal plane type shutter which can be open or closed and therefore can be used as a projector screen when closed. When open, it’s a beautiful place to view the nearby mountain ranges and landscape from. A shutter through which to view and with which, to project what was already captured.
The artist in residence up to December 2019 is the supremely talented and fascinating photographer Kurt Moser, who along with project leader Barbara Holzknecht, forms Lightcatcher. There is a room dedicated to his wonderful ambrotype portraits, a film showing his workflow with this amazing technique as well as a “tiny” large format camera.
I say tiny as Kurt’s smallest regular use camera is a vintage large format Multilith Camera (USA) made in 1907, with a Charles Beseler Company 18” f3.6 lens, which when fully extended measures two meters. He calls this camera “Baby” and it can create ambrotypes up to 50x60cm.
The three meter “Lady in Red”, is the new camera which was purpose-built for Moser’s ongoing project on the Dolomites, following concern of putting the vintage baby camera through gruelling trips in the mountains. This supports both the square 90×90 cm and horizontal 90×55 cm formats. His next camera will be built into a vintage, six wheeled Russian military truck. Using an extremely rare Apo Nikkor 1780 mm and Leitz Epis 1000mm f3.5 lens, for photographing landscape images on black glass.
Kurt Moser says of the residency, “the artist in residence program of the Lumen Museum is very important for us. It is a relevant step on our way to Berlin where in 2021 we will have our big Unesco Dolomites Solo Exhibition at the Museum of Photography. The Lumen is our first exhibition and gives us the opportunity to make the ambrotype and its very special visual language accessible to a large audience. We also have videos in the Lumen which explain the procedure of ambrotypes to visitors, sharing this ancient technique. Of course our theme, the Unesco Dolomites, fits perfectly into the concept of the museum too!”
During the inauguration event, Kurt Moser did a live demonstration with “Baby”, making an ambrotype portrait of television presenter Max Moor. For the gathered crowds, the portrait was posed and lit, with the camera then being focused. After this point, the sitter had to remain completely still whilst the team rushed to their mobile darkroom to coat the glass plate with a collodion solution, which is then rendered photosensitive in a silver bath.
The prepared plate has a shelf life of only around five minutes, during which it must be processed and fixed. The coated glass plate was then rushed back into the Lumen Museum, placed in the camera and the lens cap was removed, allowing the nine second exposure. The plate was then rushed back into the mobile darkroom and processed, with the fixing stage being done outside the van, to the delight of the gathered crowd.
Once you’ve explored the museum, I can’t recommend highly enough popping into the “AlpiNN” restaurant, which combines culinary delights with the most stunning view. Even the mountain water is a sensory delight.
The summer season will continue to 13 October, open Monday to Sunday (including public holidays), between 10:00 to 16:00. Do keep in mind that the last cable car down is at 17:00! Find out more at https://www.lumenmuseum.it
A bittersweet email from the British Journal of Photography and 1854 Media Awards let me know that “…your entry made it to the second & final round of judging, we regret to tell you that your image has not been shortlisted on this occasion”.
Still, nice to make it that far! Rather than the work remain unseen, thought I would share my Portrait Of Britain here and show the ten images I entered for the awards.
Many thanks to the judges and many congratulations to those shortlisted.
Camera and lens details can be found in all the captions below. All raw files were edited and processed using Adobe Lightroom Classic and finished off in either Alienskin Exposure X4 or Nik Collection Silver Efex Pro.
Thrilled to have two of my photographs selected by the curators of the BPPA’s (British Press Photographers’ Association) tremendously powerful and not to be missed, Assignments 2019 exhibition. The show is beautifully curated and thanks has to be given to the talented team of curators, comprised of some of the brightest beacons in the photojournalism industry. Many thanks to Tom Stoddart, John Downing, Nikki Sutherland, Lawrence Lustig and Julie Edwards.
At the private view of the exhibition, it was an absolute joy to meet Fleet Street’s legendary press photographer John Downing for the first time. He had been a huge inspiration for me and my ethos of never being without a camera came from reading about his work. When a colleague pointed out my photograph (The Joys Of Life), it was an absolute honour to hear him kindly praise the image, saying it was one that he had chosen personally and to hear his kind compliments about the composition, timing and light, pushed me to blush!
This photograph was made on a Panasonic Lumix G9 and Leica DG 50-200mm lens. The raw image was processed in Adobe Lightroom and the monochrome treatment was finished in Nik Collection’s Silver Efex Pro on an Apple Mac Pro and fully calibrated Eizo CG monitors.
The second image kindly chosen by the curators was of a homeless man, seemingly passed out from wine, after another hard day on the streets.
The photograph was shot on a Sony RX1RII camera. The raw image was processed in Adobe Lightroom and the monochrome treatment was finished in Alienskin Exposure X3, on an Apple Mac Pro and fully calibrated Eizo CG monitors.
The photograph was made on a Panasonic S1R and the S24-105mm lens. The raw image was converted to a DNG file using Adobe’s Raw Converter (as Lightroom hadn’t yet released support for the S Series, which is has done since). The Raw DNG file was then processed in Lightroom and finished in Alienskin’s Exposure X4, on an Apple Mac Pro using calibrated Eizo CG monitors.
Probably the most moving, revealing, honest, soul shaking and tear jerking talk I have ever been to, was last night’s event at Kings Place. Photojournalist Don McCullin opened his heart and shared his soul in a way I’ve only ever known from the very closest of friends. To say it captivated every ounce of my being would be putting it mildly.
Photojournalist Don McCullin shares a story from the Vietnam War, during his conversation with foreign correspondent Fergal Keane. Kings Place, 90 York Way, London, UK. 24 April 2019. Photo: Edmond Terakopian
Without doubt, Don McCullin is one of the very greatest photographers of our time. He was in conversation with foreign correspondent Fergal Keane OBE, as they discussed McCullin’s 60 year career, covering his extensive work in war zones across the world, his documenting of poverty throughout Britain, as well as his more recent, therapeutic landscape photography.
The evening though was made unforgettable by hearing, nay, feeling, the inner most thoughts and emotions of a journalist who has dedicated his life to showing the injustices suffered by many.
The Preoccupation With Gear
As the talk came to an end and I collected my emotions, it came as the biggest shock to hear the first question:
“What’s your favourite film stock?”…
Astonishing that the whole emotional and intellectually challenging rollercoaster ride of pure, uncensored heart felt emotions, dotted with the very best of the “stiff upper lip” humour as a temporary escape, a member of the audience’s only question was about the type of film used.
To think that the power of McCullin’s images have anything to do with the brand of film used was as astonishing as it was infuriating. McCullin of course answered patiently that it was Tri-X, but followed with his own question of “Let me ask you something; why did you come here tonight? What were you expecting?”. There was no cruelty in the question, just a genuine wonderment of why after his outpouring of emotion about the human condition, that the only thing thought worthwhile asking was about film. Of course there was no answer from the chap and the questions continued, thankfully about the actual work, not film, aperture, shutter speed or cameras.
Don McCullin’s words, on the wall in his retrospective at the Tate Britain.
During the talk, McCullin did share that sadly he felt that none of his pictures made a difference. Decades of wars continued, captured by his mastery of seeing and he moved onto wars which he didn’t cover. The futility in his voice was exceptionally moving. Thankfully, the final question of the night was as wonderful as it was powerful. A lady thanked him for his dedication and work. Saying that whilst when he was at school studying history, he didn’t have the advantage of seeing pictures by Don McCullin, she had the tremendous advantage of studying history and seeing the photographs by Don McCullin.
Anyone who knows me, knows that I take a huge interest in the equipment I use for my work, be that professional assignments and commissions, or personal work. However, this equipment is the tool which helps me create. Its part of the beginning process and not the be all and end all in my photography.
Photography has, what I think is a unique peculiarity about it. When some people look at an amazing photograph, they immediately jump to asking what camera and lens is used, or in the case of this chap from last night, what film was used. However, if the same person has a great meal in a restaurant, they would never ask the chef about the make of pans used, and the model number of the cooker used. When has anyone asked a great author about which pen, typewriter or word processor they used?
Its great to have nice gear. For me, when I started out as a photographer, I had an aperture priority only camera called the Nikon EM. It was great and I loved it. However, I outgrew it relatively quickly and I would miss photographs or not be able to craft them the way I had envisaged, because of it’s inadequacies. My second camera, a second hand, original Canon F1, had a terrible focusing screen and a stiff lens, which meant focusing became an issue when speed was of the essence. At that stage, as I began my career on my first local paper, the Ealing Gazette, I vowed that I would as much as possible, buy the best equipment I could, as I never wanted to miss a picture because my equipment wasn’t capable enough. I never wanted to blame my tools. I should take the blame, learn what I did wrong and improve.
Looking at photography, especially for those who enjoy this as the most wonderful hobby, or even those about to take the road to becoming a professional, I have one piece of advise; recognise the camera as a tool, for making wonderful imagery. Invest your money after having bought a decent camera and lens, at the beginning stages, into learning about photography. Books, exhibitions and articles written in proper, established photography magazines as well as magazines and newspapers which use great photography. Blogs and YouTube videos by self appointed gurus and influencers will do nothing for improving your photography. Search out workshops by real, proven photographers with real track records, not fake robot followed Instagram accounts by self appointed ambassadors. Photography becomes so much more joyous and interesting when one starts to invest time and money into the craft, rather than just the gear. The gear will always be there and once you know how to craft an image, then getting better gear and more lenses will elevate and not hinder your photography.
Mindfulness, intelligence and emotion, mixed with an aesthetic, a sense of timing and an understanding of the situation, makes the photograph. I’ve found that when a photographer genuinely starts to understand photography, then they truly appreciate the ability of their tools and this then elevate’s their imagery. It’s a long term thing and results in a life long love of photography. Those who just see the gear as being the important thing, will get lots of kit, get disillusioned quickly and leave photography. Play the long game is my advice.
Incidentally, if you haven’t yet seen his retrospective at Tate Britain, I can’t urge you strongly enough to catch it before it closes on the 6th of May 2019.