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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Leica M9 field test... panoramas and bokeh

Much has been said about the bokeh in photography. However, for those of you that still goes...huh? i will give a small description.

The word bokeh is a Japanese word meaning "blur" or "haze". It refers to the part of the image in front, or behind the sharp subject. In other words, the blurred area.
It has been discussed so much because the lens is responsible for this and we all know that the competition for the best lenses are pretty intense.
The bokeh is influenced by the size, shape and smoothness of the opening defined by the aperture (F-stop) blades of the lens.

The race are so intense because the "finer" the bokeh, the better. Photographers tend not to want "coarse" bokeh.
A fine bokeh is seen as smooth, circular shapes in this blurred, defocused area and are formed by reflections on shiny objects or light the lens pic up on the back-ground.
A coarse bokeh is seen as oval, pentagon or octagons shapes and is a direct reflection of the number of blades in the lens.
               Notice the smooth, round shapes of the light picked-up on objects in the background.
                                                      Leica M9 - F2.5 - 50 mm Summarit

Bottom line, lens manufactures have realized we as photographers wants smooth bokeh and this is more expensive to make,- why lenses are so darn expensive. But remember the golden rule,- spend more money on good glass and your images WILL improve. Good glass also lasts a lifetime where a good camera will definitely be outdated with-in six months. Look at the winning formula that the Leica company have on their M lenses,- you can still use every M-lens made since the start of production on the newest M9 and they still perform absolutely fabulous.

Back to bokeh. The best to see a bokeh is with the F-stop wide open,- F2.5 or lower. This is precisely one of the reasons why we who use the Leica M cameras are going so crazy over the Leica M-lenses! Some say you don't shoot a Leica M any other way as wide open,- to make maximum use of the bokeh.

My beautiful wife in the library in the Oyster Box, Umhlanga. Leica M9 50 mm F2.5, ISO 200, 125/s.

This 'Leica-look' is what are achieved when the Leica lenses are used wide open. The newest Leica lens has a maximum aperture of F 0.95!
This special look is what made the great masters like Henri Cartier Bresson so fond of Leica's.
When used correctly is will make your image 'pop', stand-out as the rest of the image will be rendered in the smooth, creamy-like bokeh.

The bokeh is also used in its lesser mode in advertising shoots. Especially when the shooter want to hold the viewer's attention on an object in the fore-ground but want the shot to relate to something in the background. In this instance the bokeh will be less blurred to see the background,- but more out of focus than the subject.

In this example, the blurred area is in the back-ground and the sharp object, which is the cups on sale is in the foreground. The viewer is shown the design on the cups, but at the same time reminded of the colorful, delicious deserts in the background for witch to cups will be used.
The shot was made with a Canon camera and Canon 70-200 mm lens at F5.6. The difference between this Canon lens and the Leica lenses can easily be spotted.

In this shot, with the same equipment and setting as the previous shot, the subject was put more to the back in the shot with the snack out of focus in the forefront. Both works well and keeps the eye on the subject with a 'teaser' also in the shot.

This is a nice way to show-off those nice postcard-i-was-there-shots. Some-one standing in the fare-ground with the Pyramids/Eiffel Tower/Lady Liberty in the back-ground, blurred, but still recognizable. :)
                                                I-was-there-image. Prague Castle. F5.6

What-ever your view, when you use the bokeh with the right effect, it will make a deference to your images!

Let's now go on to the M9 and the panorama field test i took the little guy out for.
Well what better way to do a field test than to take a few subjects, i mean kids, with. :)
So, my boy, two of his friends, all 12 years old and full of energy and myself, set out to a small Nature Reserve with a little rock hill that they suggested we climb.

As it goes with 12 year old boys, there was no taking it slow once we got there. They raced to get to the top first where slogans like 'slow-couch' was yelled at me from the top!

I was taking it easy, looking for interesting places to shoot.

As i said this was to be a test to see how the M9 handle panoramas. So using the technique in Monday's blog-post i made my first image.
I didn't want to start to big and did five images, F5.6, this is what it looks like; straight from the camera, just stitched together, no post production, around 100 MB j-pegs.

After making a few more i head for the top,- only to see this,-

                                                     Priceless! F2.5 ISO 80, 3000/s
We spend a few hours looking at bonzi's growing in the Reserve, exploring some cracks and climbing some rocks. While we did all of this i made a few images and was just once again blown-over by the quality of the M9!

Just look at the sharpness on this image! After it was converted to J-peg it was 54 MB!
Below is the image at 100% enlarged. Keep in mind that i decreased the file-size to 0.5 MB for the site.

Here is an image made from 8 shots from the top of the hill of a nearby shopping mall. Again directly from camera no PS done, 200 MB. M9 - 50 mm Summarit - F5.6 - 2000/s

We had a fantastic time and i spend some quality time with three marvelous young men. And with the final word also the final image of the day;
I have to say once again the Leica M9 is brilliant! I don't want to influence you in any way,- just go and hold it, play with it and GET it! :)

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