Allen's Blog

Posts tagged ‘Zeiss’:

Old Friends, New Perspectives (or: From Exoskeletons to ExoLenses)

Over the past weekend, I had a long catching-up phone conversation with my friend of several decades, former assistant, and great photographer Jock Pottle, who now lives in North Carolina. A few years ago, I wrote in this space about Jock and his Digging Man series of illustrations…

Jock Pottle: Free Me

I still think the conception and execution of Digging Man are truly unique and the finished works are absolutely phenomenal. I also wish I had a connection to the art director of The New Yorker because that is one publication (among many) where the fit would be perfect. Hope you visit his site and agree.

Anyway, after our phone chat, Jock emailed this photo. For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out how it was done, although that may just speak to my lack of imagination at the time. Can you figure it out? (If you prefer to believe it’s simply one of the great photobombs of all time, I won’t try to stop you.)

Jock Pottle: grasshopper

On to another matter… Earlier this year, during our annual trip to the NAB show in Las Vegas, I spent time at the Zeiss optics booth. As always, their lenses for virtually every format in motion picture, television, and still photography continue to be at the pinnacle of optical design and manufacture (just look at this “sliced Zeiss” they had on display). Over the past 50 years, I’ve used Zeiss lenses on almost every camera I’ve owned and many of those I still work with.

But here’s the reason for this bit of unrestrained fan mail: I discovered that Zeiss has designed a series of three accessory lenses for the iPhone. Not one of those cheap 3-in-1 clip-on lens sets you’re probably aware of; think of these as prime optics (they certainly don’t come cheap.) The brand name on the lenses is Exo and you’d do well to check them out at exolens.com. I carry the iPhone 7, and the inherent macro capabilities of the phone’s camera are really impressive. However, mounting the Exo Macro-Zoom lens (with its integral diffuser) takes iPhone macro shooting to a whole new level.

There is a range of options for mounting the lenses to iPhone models going back a few generations. I use the case with a threaded screw mount into which each of these lenses mounts. The wide-angle and portrait (2x) lenses are just as impressive… here are some before-and-after demos of each:

This is as good a time as any to invoke the old adage that any professional photographer has used to answer a question asked hundreds of times — “What’s the best camera?”

And the answer, true now as it has always been — “the one you have with you.” And since I always have my iPhone at hand, it’s what I rely on every single day.

NAB Show 2016: LEDs Everywhere, But What of Their Quality?

With the 2016 edition of the NAB Show now receding in the rear-view mirror, here are my observations on the path our industry is taking.

As always, we flew to Las Vegas to support our colleagues at Dedolight as they demonstrated the innovative lights they’ve worked to bring to market this year.

Dedolight NAB 2016 Booth

This was definitely the year of LED lighting overload. There must have been at least 20 times as many companies showing broad source fixtures as last year, most of them no-name Chinese manufacturers just jumping on the LED bandwagon with no understanding of, or regard to, the quality of their products’ output. In fact, they do have appeal for the “fix it in post” crowd of shooters.

NAB 2016 LED mania 1

NAB 2016 LED mania

It’s a mindset that’s frustrating to those of us who care deeply about lighting for television and motion pictures, and who devote so much of our efforts to perfecting lighting as an art form. Teams from Dedolight, Arri, Mole-Richardson, and Rosco work very hard to develop the lights that advance the state of the art. It’s slow, difficult work, but it translates into money well spent when you see the results.

Dedolight News 2016

Dedolight catalog 2016

So it was rewarding to see the Dedolight booth filled with visitors day after day, everyone eager to discover all that’s new and to have a chance to talk with Dedo Weigert himself (when he’s not being interviewed).

Dedo Weigert interview NAB 2016

Once again, the use of DSLRs in production continues to rise, now being challenged by micro four thirds cameras. I’d even say most of the video production taking place at the show was based on the latter format. And here’s where another of my favorite companies comes into play — Fotodiox continues to expand its range of lens adapters so that just about any lens can be mounted to almost any camera body.

Fotodiox lens adapter rings

Beyond being beautifully conceived and finished, these reasonably-priced products mean that favorite optics can have a whole new life. I have an ancient Leica 90mm f/4 Elmar which the legendary Marty Forscher custom-adapted to my Nikons 30 years ago. Used wide-open, it is a remarkable portrait lens, and now is equally superb (although with an effective focal length of 120mm) on my Fuji X-E2.

Zeiss lenses at NAB 2016

And it’s just as amazing to see the range of lenses that Zeiss is producing with DSLR platforms in mind. True, the prices are sky-high, but again, it’s unfair to complain too much; in a production environment where Nikon and Canon cameras are being used for everything from commercials to feature films, the economics, speed and output quality for most shoots is a match for massive, far more costly production cameras.

Red drone at NAB 2016

As for drones, which only a few years ago were out of reach for most individuals, they too keep getting better and cheaper. Watching coverage of the violent floods and storms happening across the U.S., they have unquestionably changed news-gathering. Can’t quite bring myself to buy one, but the thought of being able to have a drone in hover mode over the tennis court and watch a sobering post-match replay is tempting.

Nanuk cases at NAB 2016

Nanuk Nano cases at NAB 2016

Finally, a shout-out for Nanuk equipment cases from Canada, particularly their Nano series. I first saw this company’s products at the PhotoPlus show in New York last year and was really happy to see them at NAB.

The latching system is innovative and very secure. The Nano cases, in a range of colors and sizes, can’t be beat for storing accessories and location must-haves. I own and have used Pelican products for many years and think they are fine, but in my opinion, the Nanuk cases reach another level.

Can’t leave without some dining recommendations, for whenever you may be in Las Vegas —

I have no interest whatsoever in big name restaurants on The Strip, regardless of who the chef behind them is, but after a long day of work here are two that you might not find on your own:

Chef Marc’s Trattoria on West Sahara is as good a Tuscan-style Italian restaurant as I’ve ever eaten at… period. Feast your eyes on some of the dishes on their website, and then find a way to get yourself in front of the real thing.

For ramen and other traditional Japanese noodle dishes, Monta has been a favorite of mine for several years. Again, visit their website, make the drive to Spring Mountain Road, and enjoy some of the best ramen you’ll find outside Japan.

Lastly, just in case you’re driving to Los Angeles from Vegas (just under 300 miles), here’s a handy tip, based on the laws of supply and demand: fuel up before you leave. Gas was about $2.25 in Las Vegas, but 100 miles west, in the desert… well, let’s just say mountain lions weren’t the only predators out there.

Gas in the desert