Category Archives: Review

The Gatherers Of Light

Voigtlander Nokton and Super Nokton; Long Term Real World Review

A look at a pair of the latest additions to a most unique line-up of lenses, designed for m43 cameras. Read through to find a 15% discount on the full range of Voigtlander m43 Nokton and Super Nokton lenses.

Voigtlander 29mm f0.8 MFT Super Nokton Lens

Voigtlander 29mm f0.8 Super Nokton (f0.8 equivalent 58mm field of view) on camera and Voigtlander 60mm f0.95 MFT Nokton (f0.95, with an equivalent 120mm field of view). Pictured on my Lumix G9 camera. London, UK. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

This astonishing f0.8 aperture’d lens, with an equivalent 58mm field of view on 35mm full-frame format, is in a class of its own. Ground Aspherical elements and a 12 aperture blade design mean that its rendering is simply as spectacular as its light gathering. It focuses down to a very impressive 0.37m and measures 88.9mm x 72.3mm, coming in at 703g.

Voigtlander 60mm f0.95 MFT Nokton Lens

Voigtlander 60mm f0.95 MFT Nokton (f0.95, with an equivalent 120mm field of view) with my Lumix G9 camera. London, UK. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

A 120mm equivalent at f0.95 makes for a very special portrait lens. Its close focus of 0.34m though, brings it into close-up photography territory, making for a very versatile lens. Measuring in at 82.5 x 87.7mm and weighing 860g, this is the chunkier of the newest two Noktons. 

The pair make for an extremely impressive set and the addition of a Voigtlander 10.5mm f0.95 MFT Nokton or Voigtlander 17.5mm f0.95 MFT Nokton lens will make for a perfect three lens outfit, for photographers or film makers, with a uniform rendering, colour, feel and of course, unique light gathering ability.

Discoveries Of The Super Fast F No.

I’ve been using fast aperture lenses for most of my career (almost 33 years at the time of writing). I was the first amongst my colleagues, on my first two newspapers in the 1980s and early 90s, who had an f1.2 lens, in the form of a Canon 55mm f1.2L FD lens. This was soon to be joined by the phenomenal Canon 85mm f1.2L FD lens. In those days of film, the most common film a photojournalist had was 400 ISO, so those fast apertures allowed us to work in hugely varying light conditions.

For me, fast lenses have always been about their light gathering ability and not ‘bokeh’.

I later went on to get AF versions of these lenses in my Canon EOS days. Many years later, when the Leica M9 came along, I saw what the recently released Leica Noctilux ASPH could do. So, after some saving, an insurance cheque from when a security guard dropped a bag full of camera gear and broke most of it and selling off of less used equipment, I managed to get a Leica 50mm f0.95 Noctilux ASPH. An aperture I’d never ever dreamed of and one which opened many possibilities.

Lumix G9 and Voigtlander 29mm F0.8 MFT Super Nokton Lens. Angelika Ghazaryan, a descendant of Genocide Survivors, at the 106th Commemoration of the Armenian Genocide of April 24th, 1915. Members of the British Armenian community gather at the remembrance service for the 1.5 Million Armenians massacred by the Ottoman Empire. US President Joe Biden has become the first US president to issue a statement formally describing the 1915 massacre of Armenians as a genocide by the Ottoman Empire (modern day Turkey) on the day that Armenian communities around the world marked the killing of 1.5 million Armenians. St Yeghiche Armenian Church, London, UK. April 25, 2021. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

My philosophical approach to lens choice has always remained the same; standard lenses, later joined by zoom lenses as the quality increased, married to at least one super fast aperture lens. This approach makes for an extremely versatile outfit.

Years later, I started shooting what began as a personal project on opera, which soon turned into a major 10 month project with an exhibition (seen by over 400,000 people) and a book, supported by Olympus. I was an Olympus Visionary at the time and was shooting with OM-D E-M1 and E-M5 MkII cameras. When working backstage, I quickly realised that the f1.7 M.Zuiko lenses weren’t fast enough. My Leica M9 and 50mm Noctilux weren’t usable either, as I simply couldn’t see enough in the dark to allow me to manually focus the optical rangefinder. The Olympus mirrorless with its EVF was allowing me to see in the dark, almost like a soldier’s night vision, but the available lenses just weren’t usable as the light levels were so low. I started looking for a speedy solution.

I recalled Voigtlander has a 25mm f0.95 Nokton and when I looked deeper into this, realised that the range had been expanded. A quick phone call to Hardy at Robert White Photographic, was followed by me ordering a Voigtlander 17.5mm (35mm equivalent) and 25mm (50mm equivalent). These two f0.95 lenses allowed me to create work impossible to shoot otherwise. Having these f0.95 apertures was truly a revelation. To give an idea of the lighting conditions, I’d often be shooting at 5000 ISO, 1/20th of a second at f0.95. The marriage of fast aperture and built in body stabiliser allowed me to work unhindered by the less than favourable conditions. The slightly deeper depth of field on m43, also aided me to get my subjects sharply in focus. Some of these pictures were printed at over A0 in size, approaching around 1.5m in length for the exhibition.

Olympus OM-D E-M5 MkII and Voigtlander 17.5mm f0.95 MFT Nokton Lens. Ida Ränzlöv, singing the part of Arminda, Anchise’s niece, waits backstage for her cue. Mozart’s La finta giardiniera. Dress rehearsal. Royal College of Music Opera School, Prince Consort Road, London. November 25, 2016. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

Later on, on a different production, I decided to add the Voigtlander 10.5mm f0.95 Nokton (21mm equivalent) to my setup. These three Noktons have stayed with me since I first got them in 2015, through to my transition to Lumix.

To see some of my work using these Noktons, either visit my Instagram @terakopian or look at the backstage, low light work in my reportage on the opera, Albert Herring on my SmugMug website: https://terakopian.smugmug.com/Albert-Herring-Opera 

To help illustrate the light gathering aspect, imagine this as a shooting scenario: You’re shooting a portrait in a dimply lit church, trying to craft a beautiful image using the available daylight, gently flowing through the windows. At a very reasonable 400 ISO, you choose to shoot at 1/125th shutter speed, to ensure no movement from you or the subject. With a Nokton, you’re at f0.95, which allows these settings. If you were to shoot with your pro spec zoom lens at f2.8, you would have to ramp the ISO up to a less acceptable 3200 ISO. For me, this ability to shoot with available light is far more of a priority, than bokeh hunting, which of course the Voigtlander Nokton and Super Nokton will give you, by the bucket load. The ability to isolate the subject, is there, in a very unique and aesthetically pleasing way. 

Lumix G9 and Voigtlander 29mm F0.8 MFT Super Nokton Lens. A portrait of opera singer Aris Nadirian. London, UK. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

The Fast F No. Flip Side

These are all specialist lenses and when wide open, they’re not clinically pin sharp when shooting a lens chart, specifically as you start to edge further out from the centre, the sharpness drops somewhat. Even a Leica Noctilux ASPH costing over £8000 struggles with this. Physics is physics and any lens that reaches the dizzying apertures of zero point something, has to make a compromise or two. I only raise this as I’ve occasionally read criticism of all these mega aperture lenses, where the social media poster clearly doesn’t understand that these are specific tools for ultra low light work. Of course, when you stop down to the f5.6 through to f9.0 window, the lenses will sharpen up dramatically, including towards the edges, rendering ‘perfect’ clinical results. For me though, an image with soul wins over a clinically sharp picture of a boring, static object. Photography is about emotion and thought, and these lenses give us the tools to create such work, in conditions often out of bounds.

Voigtlander 29mm f0.8 SUPER NOKTON (f0.8 equivalent 58mm field of view) on camera and Voigtlander 60mm f0.95 MFT Nokton (f0.95, with an equivalent 120mm field of view). Pictured with my Lumix G9 camera. London, UK. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

These aren’t general purpose lenses, they are however masters in low light and creative photography. They allow you to work in conditions that are dreamt of and rarely realised with regular prime lenses or zooms. Just to put your mind at ease when I write they’re not clinically pin sharp, I’m more than happy to put my reputation on the line and produce not only my own personal work with these nocturnal creatures, but shoot commissioned assignments too. They are that good. Just not as good when shooting charts on a wall, pixel peeping the chart and comparing them to standard lenses, which don’t have the f zero point something magic.

It’s about keeping in mind that these are specialist tools, which means that I use my Noktons for specific work, that’s where they shine. For fast street photography during the day, I’d definitely choose an AF lens. However, for the same genre at night, when trying to work in the most challenging of situations, then these lenses are the perfect choice and will produce magic. For observed moments in a pub, at a wedding, by the canals in Venice, or a portrait of a loved one, choosing either of these lenses will produce pictures that you will treasure. The close focus also adds the ability of still life closeups, of anything from flowers to objects. Shoot these wide open to create something extremely unique, or stop them down for a more traditional look.

Lumix G9 and Voigtlander 29mm F0.8 MFT Super Nokton Lens. Barbed wire and fencing nearby London Underground rail tracks. Ealing, London, UK. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

This magic takes a little bit of work though and you need to raise your skill level. Once you do though, imagery that wasn’t recordable, begins to write to your memory card. Put in the time it takes to master manual focusing, learning how the focus ring behaves, develop a little muscle memory, use focus peaking and punching in to magnify the focus point to check critical focus, and these lenses will make you smile. You start to produce results from environments you simply wouldn’t have previously been able to really work in. One other tip is to focus wide open, which allows you to be absolutely critical when focusing (it also gives focus peaking a razor’s edge of area to highlight, adding to accuracy) and then if needed, stop down to shoot. Naturally the subject dictates how to approach it, so with faster shooting scenarios, one can focus stopped down as well.

My bag of three Noktons is now a bag of four Noktons and one stellar, Super Nokton. These five lenses are a crucial tool of how I work. I’d definitely recommend you check them out. 

Lumix G9 and Voigtlander 29mm F0.8 MFT Super Nokton Lens. Sunset reflections during a COVID 19 Lockdown permitted exercise walk. Ealing, London, UK. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

Tonal Range

My years of shooting with my three Voigtlander Noktons showed me that these lenses have tremendous tonal range; from highlight detail, with a lovely information rich gradation, all the way to the deepest shadow areas. This provides a raw file with all the details you need, ready to be processed to produce a vibrant colour or the lushest of monochrome images. I’m thrilled to share that these new additions exhibit the same rich, full tonal range. Stop them down a little and they become pin sharp too, perfect for detail rich landscapes or urban cityscapes. 

Lumix G9 and Voigtlander 29mm F0.8 MFT Super Nokton Lens. Daily life on the South Bank, opposite the Houses of Parliament, London, UK. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

Image Processing

When it comes to image processing, m43 cameras have their lens correction info built into their raw profiles. With any non-m43 or non electronic lens, this information is missing. I’m thrilled to say that Adobe’s LightRoom has all this information in the lens correction module. So, just choose Voigtlander and then find the profile for the lens you’ve shot with. In my LightRoom, I’ve actually set up Custom User Presets for each lens, so one click, populates all the settings I need, including some raw processing tweaks.

On the subject of image processing, all the images posted here and in the related Flickr album (see below), were shot in raw and processed in LightRoom. The finishing touches to the colour photographs and the black and white treatment on the monochrome images, were done in Exposure Software’s X6 and X7.

Lumix G9 and Voigtlander 29mm F0.8 MFT Super Nokton Lens. Daily life on the South Bank, opposite the Houses of Parliament, London, UK. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

Construction

Anyone who has used a professional grade manual focus lens from the ‘good old days’ will immediately feel at home. Both of these lenses are phenomenally made. Engineered to perfection; perhaps, over engineered even. To help illustrate this, my three previous Nokton lenses are seven years old at the time of writing; seven years of professional use has left the performing exactly as they did initially and looking practically brand new. These are well made, professional grade lenses. As the DNA is the same with the two newer lenses, I have no doubt that a decade or two on, these lenses will be just as good as they are now.

Voigtlander 60mm f0.95 MFT Nokton (f0.95, with an equivalent 120mm field of view) with my Lumix G9 camera. London, UK. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

The focusing rings are smooth, the aperture rings sure footed. For film makers or those working on film sets as photographers, the aperture ring can be de-clicked at the twist of a ring, resulting in silent operation.

On the video front, the full range of m43 Noktons and the Super Nokton, provides an amazing set of lenses. High end film makers prefer manual focus anyway. The feel, accuracy and look of these lenses, married to a quality ND filter, will produce a wonderful look and feel.

I used to shoot Canon FD (mainly L lenses) and then Nikon AS and AIS lenses in the 90s and both of these Voigtlanders remind me of using those quality lenses with their silky smooth and sure footed handling.

Voigtlander 60mm f0.95 MFT Nokton (f0.95, with an equivalent 120mm field of view). London, UK. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

These solid and metal bodied lenses are heavier than most of their plastic bodied brethren though, so one needs more careful matching to camera body. They balance perfectly and handle beautifully on my Lumix G9 cameras, with or without (which is how I usually have mine) the vertical grip. I wouldn’t really use them on my smaller and grip-less Lumix GX9. I’d definitely recommend the higher end bodies with grips or the middle range bodies with their optional grips. This will make for a more comfortable setup. In my days when shooting with Olympus and my set of three Noktons, the E-M1 balanced perfectly, but the E-M5 MkII definitely needed the grip added for comfortable working, as the built-in grip was just too small. Of course if working with a tripod, or a cage for video work, the handling won’t be an issue. It’s worth keeping in mind that the extra engineering and metal construction makes for much more control on fine tuning the focus, which is crucial when working wide open. 

Other f0.95 Options

At the time of writing, other options for proper f0.95 lenses are from Leica with their Noctilux range and Nikon with their Noct. These options will set the photographer back in the £8000 to £10,000 range. There are a few other options available, but these are gimmick lenses in my opinion and good to play with perhaps, but not to shoot seriously with, in situations when one has to use dependable gear. I definitely wouldn’t use the other options on professional assignments, where as I haven’t hesitated to use my Voigtlander Noktons.

Lumix G9 and Voigtlander 60mm f0.95 MFT Nokton Lens. Joe Biden has become the first US president to issue a statement formally describing the 1915 massacre of Armenians as a genocide by the Ottoman Empire (modern day Turkey) on the day that Armenian communities around the world marked the killing of 1.5 million Armenians. (London, UK) 106th Commemoration of the Armenian Genocide of April 24th. Members of the British Armenian community gather at the remembrance service for the 1.5 Million Armenians massacred by the Ottoman Empire. St Yeghiche Armenian Church, London, UK. April 25, 2021. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

At the time of writing, the Voigtlander 29mm F0.8 MFT Super Nokton comes in at £1,599.00 (inc VAT) and the Voigtlander 60mm f0.95 MFT Nokton at £1,049.00 (inc VAT). Whilst not cheap, nor is their construction, or the results they produce. Given how well they perform, how well they’re made and well my older Nokton lenses have lasted, these are valued appropriately I’d say. These lenses are worth every penny and the Super Nokton is unparalleled in it’s f0.8 aperture.

Lumix G9 and Voigtlander 29mm F0.8 MFT Super Nokton Lens. Joe Biden has become the first US president to issue a statement formally describing the 1915 massacre of Armenians as a genocide by the Ottoman Empire (modern day Turkey) on the day that Armenian communities around the world marked the killing of 1.5 million Armenians. (London, UK) 106th Commemoration of the Armenian Genocide of April 24th. Members of the British Armenian community gather at the remembrance service for the 1.5 Million Armenians massacred by the Ottoman Empire. St Yeghiche Armenian Church, London, UK. April 25, 2021. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

When planning a camera outfit or planning lens purchases, investing in the best lenses you can get, is the wisest move. Sticking a cheaper lens in front of the best sensor, will give an much inferior result to putting a great lens in front of a good sensor. The other aspect, is that lenses far outlast camera bodies. So invest wisely and you won’t need to change the lens anywhere near as often as you would a body. 

Both of these optics produce phenomenal results, with a look and feel that gives the images a signature and a ‘pop’. For me, a huge part of the attraction for Lumix and Olympus m43 is the Nokton range, as it adds tremendous versatility that no other lens mount on the market has; super fast apertured lenses covering ultra wide angle, to medium telephoto (equivalent of 21mm to 120mm). With the addition of these two optics, the range is now not only complete, but with the Super Nokton, out of this world good. I can’t recommend them highly enough. As I have done, get in touch with Robert White Photographic and check them out. You won’t be disappointed. 

Final Thoughts

Whilst both m43 brands produce exceptional lenses, especially in their Leica DG and M.Zuiko PRO ranges, including faster f1.2 and f1.4 options, there just isn’t the option to go faster. In a sea of images shot with f2.8 zooms, with some stretching for the Lumix, Olympus or Sigma faster lenses, nothing is going to give the look of these Voigtlander lenses. The 60mm Nokton and 29mm Super Nokton, render in a unique way, not only letting you create in lower light, but to make an image which is unique. An image which pops. Bringing almost a three dimensionality to the scene. If you can look at a scene, raise your camera and make a unique photograph, I say, why not?! Creativity is about creating, not mimicking the masses with run of the mill facsimiles.

Lumix G9 and Voigtlander 29mm F0.8 MFT Super Nokton Lens. The wall of hearts grows as a memorial to loved ones taken by coronavirus. Each heart representing every one of the UK’s close to 150,000 victims (to date). The memorial is the idea of the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice campaign group, which has called for an inquiry into the Government’s handling of the pandemic. The National COVID Memorial Wall. North Wing, Lambeth Palace Rd, South Bank, London SE1 3FT. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

Aperture Is Aperture

These astonishing lenses are f0.8 for the Super Nokton and f0.95 for the Nokton.

Let’s clear up a misconception though; that of apertures being somehow different in Micro Four Thirds, as its a cropped sensor. I keep seeing misinformation online in forums and groups, so think it crucial to clear this up!

Lumix G9 and Voigtlander 60mm f0.95 MFT Nokton Lens. A portrait of Elvis. London, UK. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

Imagine that you have a 70-200mm f2.8 lens. Its a constant aperture lens, so f2.8 all the way through. So, at 70mm, f2.8 is the same as f2.8 at the 200mm end. Both, given identical lighting conditions, will provide the exact same exposure. So, f2.8 is f2.8.

However, the depth of field on the same lens will differ tremendously from the 70mm to the 200mm end. 70mm will give a wider depth of field, with more being in focus, compared to a shallower depth of field at the 200mm end.

So, it’s in fact depth of field and the rendition of the image in defocused areas, or bokeh, which differs between sensor sizes. So, an f2.8 aperture on a given lens, will render bokeh, or set depth of field differently between m43, APS-C, full frame or medium format etc. The larger the sensor, the shallower the depth of field and the softer the bokeh. As mentioned though, the light gathering ability of that f2.8 aperture remains the same. So, for the physics of light, these f0.8 and f0.95 apertures, have the same astonishing light gathering ability as a full frame camera and lens would….well, if there was an f0.8 option available.

Lumix G9 and Voigtlander 60mm f0.95 MFT Nokton Lens. Geese on the South Bank, opposite the Houses of Parliament, London, UK. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

One last point on the subject of bokeh; many novices will rush to buy the most exotic aperture lens they can afford, wrongly thinking it will improve their photography because its a “bokeh monster” or that it will magically just render bokeh, without the photographer needing to master any basic elements of photographic technique or understanding of photography.

One can achieve beautiful subject isolation and soft background, with a lens set at F5.6 or f8.0, or get everything relatively sharp in the frame with little or no isolation using an f1.4 aperture. Camera to subject distance needs to be close and subject to background, much farther. Keep this in mind. It’s not just setting an aperture, but understanding subject and background distances, for a given aperture, for a given social length.

Given this understanding, then yes, a magical aperture of f0.95 or f0.8 will not only let you work in super low light, but allow you to achieve astonishing subject isolation, with that 3D look and super soft, beautiful bokeh. Given the lens is a good lens; aperture alone won’t produce creamy backgrounds. So dear reader, do get these dream lenses, but also learn about photographic technique and practice too, so you can get the most out of your lenses and even more importantly, get much more joy and satisfaction out of your photography. 

One Last Thought On Bokeh

It’s really disconcerting how may photography enthusiasts are bokeh hunters. There’s a sizeable enough group of people who express more interest in out of focus backgrounds, than they do for the in focus aspect within the photograph; the actual subject. No great photograph in history has ever been about the out of focus background. Whilst these lenses will allow this, crucially, they allow creating photographs and video, in lighting conditions which would make it impossible. They produce a beautiful and unique signature when doing so and can make your subject pop. That is where they shine in my opinion. 

Lumix G9 and Voigtlander 29mm F0.8 MFT Super Nokton Lens. Members of the British Armenian community gather at the remembrance service for the 1.5 Million Armenians massacred by the Ottoman Empire. 106th Commemoration of the Armenian Genocide of April 24th. St Yeghiche Armenian Church, London, UK. April 25, 2021. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

READERS’ DISCOUNT CODE

The fabulous folks at Robert White Photographic and Flaghead Photographic Limited have very generously provided a 15% discount code. The code is multi-use, so you won’t be limited when getting a second or third lens, should you decide super low light photography or subject isolation like never before available on m43 is for you.

The code Terakopian will get you a 15% discount off, from any of the six Voigtlander Micro Four Thirds lenses. Visit Robert White Photographic if you’d like to use this discount. Having shot professionally with five of these lenses for years, I really cannot recommend them highly enough. They open up new avenues of possibility with your camera.

Link To My FLICKR Album

To view the photographs featured and some others, without downsizing or compression, please visit this Flickr Album which accompanies this review.

Lumix G9 and Voigtlander 29mm F0.8 MFT Super Nokton Lens. A Pilot Custom Urushi fountain pen. London, UK. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

The Seam Between Photojournalist and Artistic Photography

As the year comes to a close, I was truly humbled and moved when photography commentator Shira Shavit wrote a piece about my work on her extremely popular LinkedIn.

Opera singer Ida Ränzlöv, singing the part of Arminda, Anchise’s niece, waits backstage for her cue. Mozart’s La finta giardiniera. Dress rehearsal. Royal College of Music Opera School, Prince Consort Road, London. November 25, 2016. Photo: ©OEdmond Terakopian / 2016

Shira chose a backstage photograph of opera singer extraordinaire, Ida Ränzlöv, as a leading image and very kindly wrote the following about my work.

“I usually write about photographers who are not among the living. For photographers who have left a priceless legacy. That influenced me. Who left a mark on me. I have written very little about photographers while they are still alive. But this Is one of the pulse-pounding photographers and I am very attached to his work. A brave connection of a viewer In front of the work of the photographer – It’s a special bond . Edmond Is one of them. The seam between photojournalist and artistic photography – He symbolizes for me. Beyond being a photographer of supreme grace he Is also a wonderful human . Photographers show us the world, through the lenses of their eyes. I have a real and sincere fondness for observing the subject Of the world through the lenses of Edmond’s special eye.”

“Photography as a language, of all visual languages, Is known to be the most intuitive, completely unmediated and speaks directly to the brain. There Is a factor In photography that evokes the almost physiological response of the word / sound – wow. The wow factor – I found In his work.” – Shira Shavit, December 2021.

Loupedeck CT Review

Five Months Of Working With The Loupedeck CT

Workspace. Ergonomics. Repetitive Strain Injury. Workflow. Efficiency. Speed. Control.

Jargon that gets introduced into any conversation about working on a computer, ranging from moans about things taking too long to physically painful woes. As creatives though, we’re using computers in much more in-depth and involved ways. Photography, video, audio and so on, bring with them much more complex creation software, which moves us away from typing, some mouse usage or simple cut and paste shortcuts, into a myriad of easily confused and forgettable keyboard shortcuts, some involving a fair amount of finger dexterity. Add to this the operating of a cursor applying a brush or a cut on a timeline, and it’s very easy to start doing advanced level yoga with our fingers on a keyboard and mouse or probably even worse, trackpad.

Loupedeck CT at my Apple Mac workstation. London, UK. April 01, 2021. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

Spending hours editing and processing a big assignment, or sometimes weeks editing long term projects, made me realise I had to find a better way of working. Around seven years ago, I bought a Contour Design ShuttlePRO V.2 and programmed it for use in Lightroom. This lived on the left side of my keyboard whilst a Wacom tablet lived on the right hand side. The concept was simple; program often used commands and key strokes into the unit, operate it with my left hand, whilst the right hand operated the Wacom pen. Much more efficient and also ergonomic.

The Shuttle Pro though wasn’t perfect. The keys stopped responding properly after a couple of years and I wanted something more designed for creative use, rather than as an office tool which could be re-purposed. Also, the software left much to be desired. At The Photography Show at the NEC around three years ago, I was walking past the Loupedeck stand and caught a demonstration of the Loupedeck+. At the same time, a colleague walked past, saw me watching the demo and told me he’d been using one for a while and loved it. I was sold. Passed over my credit card and walked away with it under my arm.

With both of these systems, I had to add printed labels onto the keys I had programmed. Otherwise it becomes too much of a head scratcher trying to remember (although given enough time, it does become muscle memory, but for the initial weeks and months, labels are definitely needed). I’d seen various, often gaming targeted, keyboard type devices with small OLED panels which could display labels, but non were suitable for my needs. Then came along another product from a company I had already trust in; the Loupedeck CT. 

The company calls this unit a “precision editing console for creative professionals”, with “endless customisation”. Well, they’re not wrong! Whilst the Loupedeck+, which I’m still very fond of and do recommend, was primarily aimed at LightRoom users, the CT opens up many more applications, with the bonus of having customisable workspaces and pages of programmable keys with icons that show what they each do. No more printed or scribbled labels needed! Plus, having the added ability of having multiple pages, each touch key can take on multiple uses, so an ever changing set of labels on the touch screen, is a tremendous help indeed.  

Before I get into my thoughts and experiences, I decided to make this a long term review, for two reasons. Firstly, the CT is as complex or as simple a product as you wish it to be. The Loupedeck CT software already comes with customisation for a variety of different photography, video, illustration applications as well as the OS itself. So, it’s good to go, straight out the box. Or, you can spend time with it and create your own customisation; from modifying the existing setup with the odd key here or there, to fully making up your own workspaces, buttons and so on, which if you want to do it properly, will take a little bit of time to design efficiently, so it suits you perfectly. The actual software is very user friendly and easy to customise. The second reason for making this a long term review, was a colleague told me he had read a report of build quality issues with the knobs on the Loupedeck CT. This did surprise me as the unit felt very well built and constructed as a premium piece of professional grade hardware. As a result of these points, especially the latter, I decided to use it for a while, in a full on professional environment, before writing up my review. The Loupdeck CT has sat on the left of my keyboard for months, whilst to the right of which is a small, Wacom Intuos Pro tablet (highly recommended). As a side note, these two peripherals work perfectly together and fulfil the same ethos of taking away physical strain and fatigue, whilst adding more precision at the same time. Add a quality twin monitor setup (my choice is Eizo CG monitors with built in calibration) and you’ll have a sweet setup that helps you fly through editing and gives you precision when processing.

Even in Finder, the OS controls make it a very useful tool to have. I have LightRoom and Photoshop programmed on two launch keys. One tap and the software I need starts up. Even something like the Calculator becomes easier to use; tap the Calculator button and the CT itself turns into a calculator keypad. You even get a snazzy analogue clock in the centre of the main control dial. The Launchpad, Siri, a new Finder window or System Preferences are all one button touch away.

Getting back to the customisation aspect, the best piece of advice I can give is to live with the CT as is for a while. Use it extensively and get a feel for how the unit works. Soon, you will organically start to realise what’s missing for your own particular needs. We all have our way of working with the software we use. Our own individual quirks or specific workflow needs. Its this extra time spent, that’s time well spent, as it will not only get you used to the various touchscreen and hardware controls, but will help you mentally map what you would like to customise and add, for your unique workflow needs.

Loupedeck CT at my Apple Mac workstation. London, UK. April 01, 2021. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

If you do a lot of work on location or a lot of travelling, one huge bonus the CT has over the Loupedeck+ is that its size makes it travel friendly. You can even get a travel case for it. A strange addition, until I thought it through, is that it has 8Gb of onboard memory, which just shows up as a removable drive, when the CT is plugged in to your computer. This is perfect for keeping any custom settings backed onto, the driver software, along with any other custom presets you may have for other software, meaning that you could just plug the CT into any machine and have it set up for your custom needs, within minutes. Fully self contained, on location tool.

So, almost five months on, I have sat down to type out my thoughts. To address the second point first, the one of build quality, I haven’t had a single issue with neither the hardware, nor the software. Every dial, button and touchscreen interface has worked flawlessly since I first plugged it in, around the middle of November 2020. In this time frame, I’ve gone through at least 10,000 pictures (assignments, personal shoots, competition edits, putting together talks and presentations, as well as putting together images for my new forthcoming website. Just as my Loupedeck+ never gave me a single issue, the Loupedeck CT has just worked and blended invisibly into the background, letting me work efficiently and without fuss. For me, this is always the mark of a good piece of equipment or software; something that empowers you to work well, without making itself apparent and just fading into the background. I’ve even gone through a major OS change, going from Mac OS Catalina to Mac OS Big Sur on my 2013 Mac Pro, without issue. Incidentally, Windows is also supported, although I’ve not tested the unit on a Windows machine. 

There are two main things the Loupedeck CT allows you to do; work with efficiency and work with much better control over the tools you use within your chosen applications.

The added control comes with having tactile knobs (which have gentle clicks as they are turned) to turn when changing controls such as exposure, contrast, colour temperature and so on. You have so much more fine control on making either small tweaks, or turning the knob at speed and making large changes to the onscreen slider. It allows you to do all of this whilst keeping your cursor where it belongs, on the image itself and not constantly moving in a frenzy between processing controls, brushing and so on. The second huge boost for control is having the main control dial allowing you to change brush size and feathering size, again without needing to move the curser off your photograph and onto the processing modules to the right. This lets you brush on precise masks when working, giving you much more control and also allowing you to do this efficiently and not constantly taking the cursor or your concentration off the area you’re working on. It helps you keep a flow, which is not only much more efficient, but much less irksome and creatively rewarding, during long editing sessions. Creativity should flow, unhindered. 

Customisation

After much procrastination, I realised the company’s own settings for LightRoom Classic, generally suited me just fine. I used the pages in the control set as they were, but with use, started to change out some of the buttons for ones which suited me. On a page like the Presets, I removed all the existing presets and instead added all of my custom raw presets, which were already saved in LightRoom. The Loupedeck software interface is a joy to use and very simple. Just drag and drop. That’s it. The Loupedeck CT is updated live as you make changes, so as soon as you switch to your software, you’ll see the remapping and relabelling has already been done; you’re good to go. Very elegant and very simple. The possibilities are also pretty endless, so if you have extremely specialised needs, you can customise to your heart’s content. 

The Loupedeck software and the first page for Lightroom’s Library, with a few of the buttons swapped out for my needs.
A page with my custom raw presets.

In Use

In use, the hardware gives you the physical buttons, dials and touchscreen buttons, as mentioned. You also have two segments on the screen which label the six smaller dials, so one instantly knows what they are mapped to do. Swiping this same screen, takes us to the next page, which different dial operations and touchscreen buttons.

The CT also has an amazing main dial, in the lower portion of the unit, positioned centrally. This offers super precise control to change values or movement. The genius part though, is that it also has a circular display in its centre, which displays a plethora of functions, depending on what software, module or page one is on. Did I mention this is a touchscreen too?!

As for the touchscreen’s virtual buttons, to keep with the tactile nature of the unit, each press has a haptic feedback alongside a generated sound, so in use, one is assured of having pressed the button.

This is an extremely useful design. If for example when in the Develop module, one press on the touchscreen button ‘Basic Panel Wheel’, brings up on the circular touchscreen, all the processing sliders, in the same order as they appear in LightRoom. You can swipe up or down, from one to the next and if you decide to make a change, you just turn the main dial clockwise or counterclockwise. Then swipe to the next and so on. Elegant, fast, simple and precise, without taking your concentration away from the photograph, rather than having to constantly look to the onscreen slider and move your cursor there to change a value and have your eyes darting back and forth as you change a value and then look to see the change on your picture.

So, as well as cutting down on physical fatigue of hand and digit, it also helps hugely reduce eye strain, as one doesn’t have to constantly keep looking at various panels, sliders and the image itself. Whilst a quick edit now and again won’t result in much fatigue, add a large shoot with several hundred pictures and this fatigue quickly adds up. Now multiply that by a couple of times a week and in no time, you can have either have fatigue and eye strain, or you can choose to just have precisely edited and processed work, done comfortably.

So, is it all good news?

Well, the unit is expensive. The cost reflects the build quality and its ability. Whether it’s good value or not, will probably entirely depend on if one realises it’s true worth or not. Anyone who has ever used a similar product to aid in faster, smoother and less fatiguing workflow, will immediately realise its extra abilities and see its value. Those who are still struggling with just their trackpad and cramp, may need to research this a little more. I remember many years ago, well before Loupedeck was around, forward thinking colleagues were getting musical MIDI interfaces and programming them to move sliders in LightRoom. No where near as elegant, but it was the start of realising that we needed a better solution for longer editing sessions.

With use, familiarity kicks in and muscle memory begins to form, allowing very fast use, switching from Library tool sets to Develop tool sets, swiping to get to secondary pages of control dials and touchscreen buttons and so on. Being a tremendously capable and thus complex machine, does mean to get the most benefit, one just has to spend a little time with the CT. As mentioned, it works straight out the box; simple. The more time spent though, the more you realise just how much it can do. So whilst the learning curve is not steep at all, exploration and mastery of just how capable it is, will take a couple of weeks of use. My advice would be to just dive in and get started. It comes together quickly enough. 

I found that without really noticing, I’d transitioned from looking and hunting for a function I wanted, to just doing it. I’d liken it to learning to ride a bicycle or drive a car; suddenly everything just comes together and rather than thinking, you’re just doing. 

Loupedeck CT at my Apple Mac workstation. London, UK. April 01, 2021. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

Final Thoughts

Based on how well my Loupedeck+ has performed over the last two years I’ve used it and based on the build quality of the CT, which feels much more substantial and solid than the Loupedeck+, I have no hesitation in thinking that the CT will be a good investment as a piece of professional grade, daily use equipment, which will last many years. 

Taking into account just how customisable it is, means that the software with which we use it, in my case mainly Adobe LightRoom Classic, the unit will adapt to changes or new controls introduced during updates to these programs. Remember how Adobe brought out the Texture control? Brilliant tool, but the Loupedeck+ couldn’t physically have a labelled slider, so had a programmable dial reprogrammed instead. With the CT though, as it’s so highly customisable, I don’t foresee any such issues. It will just adapt, with keys and dials just remapped to accommodate, along with a nice graphical label showing exactly what’s what. 

Weighting up all these variables, including the price of the unit, I conclude that it will be an investment very well made. Cutting out fatigue, cramps or strain, whilst allowing a faster workflow with more precise control over processing, makes it a great product. It’s a no brainer in reality. So, whilst an expensive peripheral, my experience is that it’s not overpriced and considering the workflow and health gains, it’s actually of good value.

Working efficiently and without fuss. Our tools should never get in the way of our creativity, which must flow unhindered. The Loupedeck CT has done just that. Let me work without being aware of it.

Never Ending Storage Needs

The OWC ThunderBay 8-Bay Enclosure

With the constant need for more storage, when my current storage got down to a few hundred gigabytes of free space, the time came to expand. I was very happy to spot that OWC had brought out a new 8-bay solution, which I had somehow missed. So I ordered the OWC ThunderBay 8-Bay Enclosure to expand my photographic and video storage.

OWC ThunderBay 8 Thunderbolt 3, 8 Bay Storage Enclosure. August 28, 2020. Photo: ©Edmond Terakopian

I’ve been using various OWC external storage boxes for many years now. My current storage for my picture library (including video) was residing on a four bay ThunderBay box, filled with WD 6Tb Enterprise class hard drives. These were all left as individual drives, connected via Thunderbolt 2 to my Mac Pro. Once the fourth drive was down to a few hundred gigabytes of free space, it was time to plan ahead and upgrade.

OWC ThunderBay 8 Thunderbolt 3, 8 Bay Storage Enclosure. The lockable front cover has been taken off, showing the 8 drive trays. August 28, 2020. Photo: ©Edmond Terakopian

Before I continue, a few explanations on why use multiple drive bay enclosure boxes, over getting individual external drives. In a nutshell, its to keep things nice and tidy. Declutter. With a box storing 2, 4 or 8 hard drives, you only need one electricity plug and one connection cable to your computer, not 2, 4 or 8. It also means that my entire picture library is always available; many colleagues have to unplug and plug in various hard drives to try and find more historical work. Lastly, the constantly attached library also means that Cloud backups can happen fully and properly.

OWC ThunderBay 8 Thunderbolt 3, 8 Bay Storage Enclosure. With the thumbscrew undone, the drive tray can easily be slid out. Here, the new 8Tb Toshiba hard drive has been screwed into the tray, ready to be inserted back. August 28, 2020. Photo: ©Edmond Terakopian

The ThunderBay enclosures aren’t hardware RAID boxes, but give you an option of using SoftRAID (a software RAID, available in two versions) by OWC. It’s not something I personally use. All my drives in my ThunderBay enclosures have always been used as individual drives (I do use hardware RAID 5 in other enclosures as backup boxes). These individual hard drives are then backed up to my RAID 5 box using Carbon Copy Cloner, backed up offsite manually (per assignment) and also backed up in the Cloud automatically, using Backblaze. Incidentally, that Backblaze referral link will give us both a free month of Cloud backup, if you’re a new customer.

OWC ThunderBay 8 Thunderbolt 3, 8 Bay Storage Enclosure. I always add a label to the hard drive (make sure never to cover any holes on the hard disk’s case) and also onto each individual tray. This makes future upgrades or swap outs easier and fool proof. August 28, 2020. Photo: ©Edmond Terakopian

Once the OWC ThunderBay 8-Bay TB3 Enclosure arrived, I simply shut down my Mac Pro, took out the four hard drives from my previous ThunderBay 4-bay enclosure, installed them in the 8-bay enclosure and added the fifth, new drive. Each drive screws into its own drive tray using the supplied screws. After some research, I also decided to try a Toshiba Enterprise class hard drive for the first time. I opted for the Toshiba 8.0TB MG05ACA Series SATA Interface Enterprise Class Hard Disk Drive, also available from OWC. This leaves three bays free in the box, for future upgrade needs. It’s an extremely elegant, practical and future proof solution for one’s never ending storage needs.

OWC ThunderBay 8 Thunderbolt 3, 8 Bay Storage Enclosure, next to (on the left) an OWC ThunderBay 4 Mini enclosure, which houses 2.5” SSD drives. All the drives have been fitted, leaving thee vacant for the future and the unit is plugged in. Being a TB3 enclosure, I used an Apple TB2 to TB3 adapter, to allow it to work with my Mac Pro (Late 2013 model). August 28, 2020. Photo: ©Edmond Terakopian

Something worth thinking about, if your current storage involves multiple external drives, with a spaghetti like tangle of cables. If you’re not worried about warranties, you are extremely careful and are happy to take the risk (there is always risk present in doing anything with the innards of computers and related equipment) is to physically transfer those individual SATA hard drives into a ThunderBay box. Declutter and become more efficient. The intelligent design also allows 2.5” drives to be used.

Clockwise: OWC ThunderBay 4 Mini, ThunderBay 8 Thunderbolt 3, G-Technology G-Speed Shuttle XL (in RAID 5 configuration, used as a backup) and my Apple Mac Pro (Late 2013). August 28, 2020. Photo: ©Edmond Terakopian

However, the best option would be to transfer the data onto new hard drives. I tend to swap out hard disks every 4-5 years, as they all have finite life cycles. Also it means that as hard drives increase in size, the physical number of drives needed is less.

OWC ThunderBay 8 Thunderbolt 3, 8 Bay Storage Enclosure has individual LEDs for each drive. August 28, 2020. Photo: ©Edmond Terakopian

Lastly, always backup your work. You need everything on at least two physically different drives, but ideally three. One set being kept in a geographically different location. Ideally, a final layer of safety would be a Cloud backup.

My previous OWC ThunderBay, 4 Bay Storage Enclosure, which has now been retired. August 28, 2020. Photo: ©Edmond Terakopian

OWC Aura Pro X2 SSD Preview

The OWC Aura Pro X2 1.0TB NVMe SSD Upgrade for the Mac Pro 6,1 (Late 2013)

The Mac Pro (Model identifier: MacPro6,1, late 2013) is a frustrating machine in some professional environments. On the one hand, it’s a genius piece of design, with a radically revolutionary cooling system which works wonders, very quietly, in a form factor which is truly unique.

The Mac Pro (model MacPro6,1 – late 2013) with the outer case off, showing the standard 256Gb Apple SSD. August 27, 2020. Photo: ©Edmond Terakopian

On the other hand though, it’s an extremely limited machine that allows for extremely little internal expansion; something which frustrates many professional users, myself included. Around five years ago though, I had to take the jump and reluctantly got a middle specced machine. My two previous Mac Pro machines had been the affectionately known as the cheese grater chassis. Hugely expandable, with four internal hard drive bays, several expansion slots and dual optical bays that many, including myself, converted to housing SSDs. However with the need for more video and larger raw files, the time came and I got my Mac Pro (3.5GHz 6-core Intel Xeon).

I these expandability terms though, the 2013 Mac Pro though, is extremely limited. One of the big problems is single internal hard drive; in this case, a blisteringly fast NVMe SSD, which is tiny in physical size, and unless you have sizeable funds, is also small in capacity when bought from Apple.

I made do with the built in 256Gb SSD for around 4 years. Moving my Desktop and Document files to my iCloud kept things manageable, but I could only ever have around 22Gb of free space, which would occasionally fill up with cache files (no idea from where, as everything configurable was always assigned to an external SSD attached via Thunderbolt 2 for scratch disk purposes) and constant system messages telling me to clean up my Macintosh HD. Super frustrating, a time waster when on deadline and impossible to do as there was nothing to throw away or configure differently.

I’ve been a huge fan of OWC, having used their various SSDs, RAM and external drive boxes for probably over a decade. In fact, this very machine’s RAM was upgraded as soon as I bought it from the standard 16Gb, using the 64.0GB OWC Memory Upgrade Kit.

The OWC Aura Pro X2 1.0TB NVMe SSD (heatsink attached) for Mac Pro (Late 2013) with some of the supplied tools. August 27, 2020. Photo: ©Edmond Terakopian

In the end, my frustrations pushed me to looking into upgrading my Mac Pro 6,1’s internal, Macintosh HD, SSD. After a few days of thought, I realised the sweet spot, both for usability and financially, would be opting for the 1Tb size. I also decided to go for the kit, which includes an external case called the Envoy, to house the Apple 256Gb SSD and use as an external drive. So I headed to OWC’s European shop and ordered the Aura Pro X2 SSD for Mac Pro 2013 1TB Kit. The other capacities available are 240Gb, 480Gb and 2.0Tb.

The Apple SSD has been removed and the OWC Aura Pro X2 1.0TB NVMe SSD for Mac Pro (Late 2013 – on the right) is ready for insertion. August 27, 2020. Photo: ©Edmond Terakopian

As with everything from OWC, all the specialist tools you need are supplied, along with superb instructions on their website. Upgrading the SSD is very straightforward and most should be able to do it. One crucial thing to check is that you’re running macOS High Sierra 10.13 or later. This is an absolute must, as with High Sierra onwards, the firmware of the Mac Pro 6,1 is updated automatically, which will allow for support of the OWC SSD.

Although I have a Time Machine backup that runs constantly, for extra safety, I formatted a Samsung T5 SSD and made a fresh Time Machine backup onto this (you can have multiple Time Machine drives). I also got another external drive and using Carbon Copy Cloner, cloned my Macintosh HD. Always better to be safe!

As with anything computer related, switch everything off and never touch any part of any circuitry. The static charges that we can build up can fry circuitry, so take your time, be careful and don’t touch anything that’s a circuit or a connector. Once the outer case is remove, you simply unscrew the one retaining screw for the Apple SSD and slide it upwards and out. You need to carefully attach a small heatsink onto the OWC SSD to allow it to cool properly. Whenever attaching a heatsink, its always paramount to make sure you don’t touch the surface of the chip, to ensure it’s clean of any grease or debris. This allows the heatsink to adhere fully and properly, aiding in removing heat to maximum efficiency. Then install the OWC SSD card (firmly yet gently, making sure it’s seated completely in the socket on the motherboard), secure it with the supplied retaining screw, put the outer case back on, lock, attach your cables and you’re almost ready.

OWC Aura Pro X2 1.0TB NVMe SSD for Mac Pro 6,1 (Late 2013) is fitted and the retaining screw is in place. August 27, 2020. Photo: ©Edmond Terakopian

I opted to use the Time Machine backup on the Samsung T5 to restore my Mac onto the new OWC SSD. On power up, I held down the Cmd-Opt-R keys until a startup screen appeared. Then formatted the drive using Disk Utilities to APFS. Once done, I chose the Restore From Time Machine Backup option. Chose the Samsung T5 as a Restore Source, then chose the new OWC SSD as the destination, which I had named Macintosh HD in Disk Utility on the previous step and clicked on Restore. There are full instructions for formatting the OWC Auro Pro X2 SSD and the various ways of installing or restoring your data on the OWC website. With every step, you have a helping hand. Just make sure you make a couple of backups as I did, as a safety and peace of mind measure.

I went off to get some dinner, but I think in under an hour the “new” Mac was up and running. As always after a restore, you may need to log back into a few things, but apart from this, everything was running smoothly and perfectly.

OWC Aura Pro X2 1.0TB NVMe SSD for Mac Pro 6,1 (Late 2013) is fitted and the retaining screw is in place. August 27, 2020. Photo: ©Edmond Terakopian

I’ve been using my Mac Pro with my new 1Tb OWC Auro Pro X2 SSD for thee days now. I haven’t switched off the machine and it’s been purring along, speedily and without any errors or space issues. With the mightily impressive new Mac Pro (2019 model, MacPro7,1) being so ridiculously expensive and priced well out of the single creative professional’s budget, many of us will be looking at upgrading our current machines to get more out of them. Apple Macs have in my decades of experience, shown that they work well for many years; much longer than one would expect a computer to work. However with more demands from us with bigger raw files, heavier bit rates and ever larger video pixel sizes, our machines need the occasional boost.

Even with the upgradeably challenged form factor of the affectionately called Dustbin Mac Pro, changing simple things like the SSD and upgrading the RAM to 64Gb (128Gb is possible, but from my research for most workflows won’t bring much if any improvements over 64Gb – your needs may vary though, so do your research), can bring a new lease of life and usability. Plus, it comes with a five year warranty. Its a no-brainer!

EddyCam Camera Strap Review

Ergonomics. Speed. Megapixels. Focal Length. Aperture. All considerations we photographers make when choosing a camera and lens. All very important considerations, of course.

Then out in the field or in our studio, we put our carefully chosen equipment to the task of helping us create the photographs we envisage, either by observation of the world around us or from the creative concepts within. You reach for your camera at that critical moment, as the juxtaposition of life becomes perfect or your model gets into their groove, yet is slips off your shoulder, you fumble, get a grip, raise it to your eye and that fleeting moment has disappeared and you’ve missed your picture.

EddyCam Edition 35mm in cognac brown camera strap with natural contrast seams, on my Leica M10-D, Leica brown leather protector case and Leica 50mm Noctilux ASPH. London, UK. July 18, 2020. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

If you’ve never worked as a photojournalist, wedding photographer, street photographer and so on, that may seem like a tad of poetic license, but anyone working in a genre which requires fast reactions, especially when working with multiple cameras, has been there. Especially in these genres of photography that involve a lot of moving around, often with two, sometimes even three cameras, for long periods of time. As mentioned, photojournalists, wedding photographers, street photographers, to name a few disciplines, will all know this feeling; cameras that slip off your shoulder not only become very frustrating, they do make you miss a picture. Sometimes as a journalist, you find yourself running (either towards a breaking story or away from an unfolding danger) and cameras which slip off the shoulder aren’t only frustrating, but will slow you down as you need to keep adjusting.

The thousands you spent and the days you agonised over camera and lens choice, don’t reach their potential as the camera slipped when you reached for it. Or as you’re running around a corner during a speedy walk about by a politician in a rush to get back to his office and away from his constituents, and the camera slips off your shoulder and pendulum actions itself into a brick wall (something I’ve personally ‘enjoyed’ doing, many years ago!). Or the tiredness setting in as the cameras on your shoulder or your neck become uncomfortable and you get sweaty, the fatigue and discomfort soaking up your creative energy and stamina for working.

EddyCam Edition 35mm in cognac brown camera strap with natural contrast seams, on my Leica M10-D, Leica brown leather protector case and Leica 50mm Noctilux ASPH. The leather end pieces and the nylon connection straps are sewn five times with special thread, which guarantees a high tensile strength. London, UK. July 18, 2020. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

All of this is down to one simple choice. Your camera strap. It’s the simple accessories we spend less time considering that can make our lives easier, more comfortable and fruitful, or frustrating, fatiguing and non-productive. Simple accessories like memory card wallets, battery holders, small bags for cables and adapters, and of course, camera straps.

I have to admit of never really looking at EddyCam before. I had noticed the company on my periphery, but as I had discovered UpStraps more than a decade ago, I wasn’t really interested in other camera straps. UpStraps gripped my shoulder like nothing before. Ugly, inelegant but absolutely practical, with a big chunk of rubber. Very uncomfortable on the bare neck though, but this had been my choice, along with my colleagues’, for a long, long time.

On assignment with the EddyCam Edition 35mm on my Leica M10-D. I hadn’t yet got the Edition 50mm Shoulder straps for my Lumix cameras yet and they’re still on UpStraps. Edmond Terakopian on assignment, covering the clapping for carers, in appreciation of the nurses, doctors and staff at the NHS during the COVID 19 pandemic lockdown. Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, Fulham Road, London, UK. May 28, 2020. Photo: Jeff Moore

Purely through an exploration based on aesthetics, I started to have a look around online, for a new strap to compliment my Leica M10-D. I’d got a very elegant and practical Leica leather half case, in brown, and wanted to see if I could find a nice brown leather strap for it. The huge issue being that it had to be practical. It basically needed to stay put on my shoulder, be comfortable on my neck and the fashionista in me also wanted it to look good with my Leica combination. I had previously, years before, been through the fashionable and unpractical straps made by various purveyors of beautiful, yet unpractical straps. Google and YouTube then brought me to EddyCam.

Leica M10-D with 50mm Noctilux ASPH in a leather Leica half case and cognac Eddycam Edition 35mm leather camera strap. London, UK. June 29, 2020. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

When I saw the Edition 35mm cognac brown version, it seemed to tick all the boxes. Strangely, the first thing that immediately caught my eye and made me look at the strap as a serious contender, was the double X pattern stichting on the leather end pieces, which connect the main elk leather strap to the webbing. This was craftsmanship and manufacturing which was clearly made to last, and made for real use. There are so many beautiful straps with a couple of stitches or eyelet connectors, that make me wince in horror at the thought of them coming undone and my camera crashing to the ground whilst on assignment. This however, was properly designed, for heavy use in the field, by photographers who want to use their cameras as opposed to photograph their cameras on cafe tables.

I also liked the notion of an un-padded leather strap, which meant it would be soft, easily wrapped around the wrist and comfortable in use. The shape of it also showed that it should stay comfortably on the shoulder. The website stated “The patented lines, created together with orthopaedists, are so formed that you can easily carry it on your shoulder, around your neck or diagonally”.

The Edition 35mm In Use

I’m pleased to say, the orthopaedists clearly knew their stuff as did Edlef Wienen (Eddy), the brains behind the product. It came as no surprise when I later found out that Eddy is a very keen photographer of decades and also an avid hiker. I’ve found when something is conceived and created from passion and experience, it truly rises to a different level.

I have to admit to never having been aware of elk skin, so when I read the EddyCam straps are made from this, it did make me ponder. The company’s website states “Elk-skin is one of the thickest leathers there is – very sturdy and almost indestructible. At the same time, almost no other leather is as fine and soft as elk-skin”. It does seem a contradictory reality, but after receiving the Edition 35mm, it clearly is so. Extremely soft, but very tough too. The contrast stitching and two tones of leather, along with the high end webbing straps, which still remain malleable, even down to the coated and rounded stainless steel clips, just ooze quality.

Packed for my next assignment. Lumix S1 and S1R with Lumix S Pro 16-35 f4.0, 24-70mm f2.8 and 70-200mm f4.0 in a MindShift PhotoCross 15 backpack. Leica M10-D with a 50mm Noctilux ASPH and 35mm Summilux ASPH FLE in a ThinkTank Photo Retrospective 5 shoulder bag. All cameras on Eddycam straps. London, UK. June 10, 2020. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

One wonderful aspect of the strap is also a little bit of elasticity, which translates into more comfort when worn. Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t bounce, but it gives it a little of suspension by stretching roughly an extra 2cm along it’s entire length. A Leica M10-D is a small camera, but it’s solid, so weigh’s more than one assumes. Add a Leica 50mm Noctilux ASPH and you’ve got some heft. I’ve found wearing this combination either around my neck or on my shoulder, has been supremely comfortable and crucially, non slip too. I’ve walked the streets for hours, when documenting the COVID 19 lockdown, or photographed clapping for carers outside a London hospital, working inside a church when services resumed and always found my camera stayed on my shoulder, remaining comfortable. When worn around my neck, against bare skin, it also always remained extremely comfortable.

It’s one thing making a beautiful and elegant strap; it’s a totally different thing making a strap which is practical and usable in real life scenarios. EddyCam has managed to combine both these things. In a career spanning 31 years, I’ve never found any strap which achieves both these qualities.

The Shoulder Range

I was so impressed by the Edition 35mm for my Leica, that I started looking further into the entire range. I wanted a strap for my Lumix S1 and S1R. When on assignment I’ll often work with two cameras. One with a Lumix S Pro 70-200mm and the other with either a Lumix S Pro 24-70mm or 16-35mm, depending on the assignment. My search led me to the Edition 50mm black on black Shoulder version.

EddyCam Edition 50mm, black on black Shoulder version camera strap, on my Lumix S1R and Lumix S Pro 70-200mm f2.8. London, UK. July 18, 2020. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

The bigger and heavier S Series needed a slightly wider strap to spread the load more as well as a little padding. The materials on this edition differ slightly too; Finnish elk skin on the outside and Mongolian yak leather on the inside. The yak leather brings even more grip. As a result, it’s not as soft as the elk leather, but certainly not abrasive either, nor as uncomfortable as rubber against the skin, so whilst the S Series cameras usually reside hung on my shoulders, around the neck things didn’t become uncomfortable. One could also of course flip the strap over for a softer feel.

Hours spent on assignment, indoors, outdoors, worn on top of various materials of shirts and jackets, all resulted in one universal outcome; comfort and grip. The camera just stays put. The strap grips very well indeed, is extremely comfortable and just wide enough without being too wide, so easily packs away in a camera bag.

EddyCam Edition 50mm, black on black Shoulder version camera strap, on my Lumix S1R and Lumix S Pro 70-200mm f2.8. The leather end pieces and the nylon connection straps are sewn five times with special thread, which guarantees a high tensile strength. London, UK. July 18, 2020. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

I had one reservation before getting the 50mm shoulder version though. As the straps are ergonomically shaped, my worry was that it may not work with my camera mounted with a 70-200mm. With longer lenses, I often turn the camera so the prism is pointing inwards (always on my left side so the shutter isn’t accidentally pressed when it rests on my side). This way the longer lens points downwards rather than outwards, which makes moving around easier and the lens is less prone to bash into things or people. The yak underside has so much grip though, that to my joy, I found the strap works on either shoulder, regardless of the direction it’s facing (although a little better when carried properly as the ergonomic curve helps it rest better). Also, the benefit of having elk on the top side means that if you want to carry your camera diagonally across your body, you can twist the strap so the elk side is in contact with you, meaning you can comfortable slide the camera from your side, to your front and shoot. As before, there’s a tiny bit of elasticity in the strap; it’s much less than the Edition 35mm, but does move a tiny bit, around 1cm along it’s entire length, giving you a little bit of suspension. Lastly, the internal natural rubber padding, which is just right as it’s not too thick, makes the strap sit extremely comfortably, even with a heavier professional body and longer lens, even for extended periods of time.

I also got another strap from the shoulder range, an Edition 35mm black on black Shoulder version for my Lumix GX9. This is identical in size and shape to the Edition 35mm cognac brown version, but has the yak leather on the underside for that extra grip, but lacks the rubber padding of the wider Shoulder versions. I really liked using this version of the strap too and my observations on its performance are as above.

EddyCam Edition 35mm, black on black Shoulder version camera strap, on my Lumix GX9 and Leica DG Summilux 15mm lens. London, UK. July 18, 2020. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

Value

We get the “free” included camera straps in the box with our cameras. Often with bright branding, that from a distance screams “photographer here”. Often with little comfort and very little grip. We also have a range of truly awful straps on the market from various manufacturers, which should be avoided at all costs. There are also several other manufacturers which make a range of straps extending from beautiful to practical. These qualities being mutually exclusive though.

EddyCam is the only manufacturer which I’ve used which has practical elegance, seemingly as an unspoken ethos. It goes further though. Absolutely comfortable, supremely grippy and phenomenally well made. Every aspect, from design, thoughtful choice of materials and production, means this is a first rate product. This is manufacturing at it’s best, realising the concept of design through practical experience and expertise in the field.

Looking at the market, the pricing is nearer the top end. The question is though, is it expensive, or is it good value for money? Having used these straps on assignment and personal work, for over two months, I’m absolutely certain that there isn’t a better camera strap for my needs. I’m also certain that these straps will last for decades. Through several camera changes, easily.

I used to use Nikon burgundy (with yellow stitching) wide camera straps back in the days of film. These were expensive, but lasted many camera changes and I still have them on my Nikon FM2 and F3, over 25 years after purchase. I’ve also used the same UpStraps for well over a decade. Comparing these two straps with my EddyCam straps, I’m absolutely certain the EddyCam straps are the best made and thus will easily outlast them.

When you make this realisation, the cost of the straps becomes extremely good value. In the heat of the moment though, when you reach for your camera and it slips from your shoulder, making you fumble and end up missing that picture, that’s when you will wish you bought that EddyCam.