7Artisans 55mm f1.4

I’ve been keeping an eye on the 7Artisans lenses for a while now but only recently decided to take the plunge for one. Having researched the various options, I went for the 55mm f1.4, which on my Olympus equates to 110mm on a full frame camera. This moves me into a bit of a telephoto area (although pretty much the same focal length as some of my vintage lenses such as the Zuiko 50mm and Helios 44-2).

Anyone who might stumble across my ramblings on here will know that I like putting vintage lenses on my Oly. However, once the adapter is on the camera with an old, sturdy piece of glass…. it gets kind of heavy and cumbersome at times. So I wanted to get something in the 50mm area which would be a native lens - small, well built and light.

Both the 50mm f.1.8 and 55mm f1.4 looked good. But which one? Slightly different focal lengths and slightly different max apertures. Do I need f1.4? Hmmmmm…

My decision on the 55mm came down to this:
I don’t tend to need the f1.4 aperture but it’s there if I want it.
The 55mm was a little closer to my Helios which I’ve been enjoying working with recently.
The minimum focus distance is closer.

I think overall, it just seemed like a slightly more flexible lens.

7Artisans have now got a distributor in the UK, so no more need for buying over eBay. Service was excellent - good response to emails and quickly dispatched lens. The lens arrives in very nice packaging. This does not look like some a cheap lens and on first picking it up, it doesn’t feel it either. A nice solid, metal lump in my hand. A reassuring weight without being heavy.

One concern I’d had before buying was the aperture ring being clickless. A couple of my vintage lenses are clickless and they are too loose - I never know where my aperture is set. No worries here; the aperture ring is very nicely damped so you have to be quite decisive in adjusting it. And I’ve not knocked it whatsoever once set. The same with the focus ring - just the right amount of give to allow for quick, snappy focussing.

Just so you know, this review is not going to be overly technical. I’m not a pixel peeper. I’m more interested in making images than dicking about checking if the corners of a picture are perfectly sharp after zooming in 100x. That said, here are some shots before my thoughts on using the lens in the real world…


I’ll start by saying that I gelled straight away with this lens. It works really nicely for my style of photography.
There were some shots I missed my focus through not being used to the focus ring, but that’s just down to practice. Overall I was getting nice shots within an hour.

The colours look great. Nice and natural with good contrast. I usually shoot aperture priority and dial my exposure compensation down 1/3 - 2/3 of a stop and everything was coming out of the camera great. Once into Lightroom, I just added a little bit more contrast, sharpening and saturation to my taste and I found a lovely pop to the shots. If anything, it might saturate the greens a little bit; but nothing I couldn’t pull back a bit.

I’d not shot with an aperture as wide as f1.4 before but gave it a go to see what it could do. Depending on the subject, it is quite hard to nail focus perfectly when that wide. And even the shots which were shot that wide open and had a good focus point were a little soft. Not offensively so - still useable, I just wouldn’t be able to fool someone I had a £1000 piece of glass on the camera. It also has noticeable chromatic aberration at wider apertures. These were easily cleaned up in Lightroom, but were noticeable without even needing to zoom in. This is being picky, though. Because having an f1.4 lens at this price is not going to be perfect.

Stopping down to about f4 definitely solves all that, though. Like many MFT lenses, this is the sweet spot. And it looks gorgeous. Plenty sharp for me and with lots of character. This is where I really started enjoying it.

As a manual lens, it is definitely one of the easiest I have used for focussing. On a par with my Zuiko 50mm and Panagor 35mm. If I need to grab a shot quickly, is it as fast as autofocus? Probably not. But it’s a lens for taking a bit of extra time and effort to get the shot - something which is suiting how I’m shooting more nowadays. Compose, nail your focus and fire away.

I’m really loving this lens. It’s very much like a vintage lens in the way it feels to use and also in the picture quality. It’s not pin sharp like some modern lenses, but it allows me to capture natural images with character. It’s excellent. And a bargain at the price. Snap one up whilst you can.

Here are some more images….


365 Challenge - the halfway mark!

I’ve suddenly realised that today was a milestone in my 365 challenge. I’ve only gone and hit the halfway point!

It being a leap year next year (and me ending the challenge at the end of February), then the 365 challenge is actually 366 shots. So today’s image #183 is the milestone!

There’s been a variety of reasons I’ve gone for a particular shot each day. Sometimes something has just been asking for it out of many photos from that day, sometimes it’s the only shot I’ve got that day. Sometimes it has been an interesting face, sometimes it has just been an interesting composition.

I think this one falls into the latter category for me. It’s probably not my best photo ever but I like the old woman’s face (which is what I first noticed) with the sign above her. I also like her being framed by the window, the different textures within the shot and also the random face appearing on the left. I wanted someone to appear in that space and was quite pleased when it was just half a face.

This was on my trusty Oly Em10ii with my 7Artisans 55mm f1.4 lens.
Standing in the middle of the road.


Silbersalz35 - an update!

As all you millions who read this will know, I’ve been quite excited with using Silbersalz35 film over the past few months. It is bloody awesome.

But my favourite emulsion from my early tests was the 50D. And Silbersalz recommend overexposing by a stop. Which makes that a 25ISO film. Eeek.

Now, I like my history when it comes to photography (in fact, anything creative - I didn’t spend all those years at art school for nowt) and know that the old masters didn’t have the luxury of our modern high speed films, but those long exposure times do leave me a little bit nervous. I dont mind a bit of motion blur but…. I’m exposing at 25ISO!!!

I don’t tend to use tripods so a slow speed film means I’m wanting good light. This is why I’ve held out on using the 50D film properly until the summer…. but who can rely on the weather, eh?

Anyway, I thought getting a batch of four 50D films for my holiday in Spain would be a good plan.

I decided to use this batch of Silbersalz in my Yashica Electro 35GT. I’m still getting to grips with this camera so was unsure about how experimenting with film and camera at the same time would work but…. I shoudn’t have been worried.. It worked out bloody awesome! And it’s been a good learning experience for both camera and film…

The film is gorgeous. I’ve never seen a film with so little grain. And with the exposure latitude it has, I can do whatever I want with it and it still doesn’t get grainy. It obviously helps with Silbersalz making such good high res scans - they are exceptional, but the film itself is second to none.

As far as the camera goes… well, this is the first proper test for the Electro 35. I’ve used it here and there since I got it a few months ago but decided to dedicate it to the Silbersalz this time. And it looks great. I played around with precise focussing and zone focussing and this camera is just awesome. I might have to write a proper review when I get time, but for now…… the Yashica Electro 35 is a great camera and everyone should have one!

Anyway…. Silbersalz35 50D with a fantastic camera. I shall leave you with some results…



Wow. As the heading of this post says…. I’m four months in to my 365 challenge. I’ve been meaning to make much more regular updates than I have but… y’know… life, photography, and a crazy small man knock things for six!

Anyway, I’m still doing it. Some days better than others (which I expected). Some days have been a bit ‘meh… it’s the best I could get today’ whilst other days have given me a shot that has got in an exhibition! (More info on the latter when dates etc arrive in my lap!)

I’m 1/3 of the way into this and it has already changed my way of working. I'm definitely looking out for shots constantly; sometimes seeing a scene with good light and waiting for the right person to emerge into it. Or sometimes I’ll see something and think “that will work better in the right light… maybe I’ll check back later or tomorrow”. I’m still sometimes getting shots that are just instant things that I’ve noticed, but I think I’ve slowed down and got a bit more layed back about those too.

I’ve got over a bit of a ‘hump’ of worrying about getting my ‘shot of the day’. For example, one day I didn’t find much of worth to take a shot of. I can’t remember why - I might have been shooting on film and forgot about getting something for the project on my phone, or I may not have been in the right headspace, or just nothing worked right. These things happen. So I just reminded myself that these photos didn’t have to be of random strangers; they could also be about my life.

So I thought I’d get a shot of my beautiful little man just as he dozed off to sleep.
Most of the time I do sleeptime with my MiniMe. Sometimes it’s frustrating but most of the time it’s funny and ridiculous. And no matter how much I should be calming him down, it ends up with him honking my nose and me laughing my head off at him. Yeah, yeah… bad parent! But those kinds of funny moments get him to sleep and to look gorgeous like here… (yes, I am very baised!!)


Anyway, I’m digressing. What I’m learning is to just let go and just take photos of what occurs during that day. It may be something bizarre on the street, or it may be something daft at home. It all counts!

Another thought: through concentrating on monochrome, I’ve also noticed a difference in my colour photography. The colour work has become more tonal too. So there is a lot of change going on with what I do, which is very exciting for me!

Here are some faves from the recent past….


Night street photography workshop

On Saturday night, I decided to skip watching Eurovision and get myself over to Bristol to attend a night street photography workshop with Edo Zollo (organised by Wex Photo Video). I’ve not shot a massive amount at night and this seemed like a good opportunity to get some hints and tips from someone who is making some great work in the dark (I’d recommend checking out his work www.edlondonphotography.co.uk).

There were 13 of us in the group, all with varying experience in terms of how long we’d been shooting and also what kind of work we’d been producing. There were landscape photographers wanting to try something different, someone who was just beginning with their photography (although from what I saw they did have an eye for a good shot), motorsport enthusiasts used to working with long lenses, and a couple of us who were already used to more street-orientated work. So it made for a mixed bag of people.

After introductions and a natter over our kit and a drink, it was time to head out into the night.

Edo had been scouting out locations already and had found some dark alleyways around the Lewins Mead/Christmas Steps area. We were looking for capturing shadows and light - usually one light source and seeing what that gave us.

From the outset we were to try and get all our shots manually. No cheating with auto ISO, exposure and aperture. We were testing ourselves to get these shots old-skool. I did go a bit overboard and thought we were meant to be manually focusing everything too… and after finding out I was in the minority doing so, I thought I’d carry on just to make life interesting.

So I was shooting completely manually - ISO, exposure, aperture (which was pretty much on f1.7 throughout the whole shoot) and focus. It was pretty hard work in a couple of places to nail the focus in the dark, but generally speaking I got there.

One thing that surprised me was Edo saying to set our ISO at 400, maybe pushing up to 800. This wasn’t what I was expecting in such low light - I was just expecting to be at 1600 and possibly getting grainy at 3200. But I’m glad I went with his suggestion. Although some shots had a bit of motion blur, they did end up a lot cleaner and had more punch. Besides, most of my favourite photographers were shooting on film when the fast ISO that we’re now used to wasn’t available - and they somehow managed it!

I was using my trust Oly OMD EM10ii with the Panasonic 25mm f1.7. I did have my Pany 14mm f2.5 and Zuiko 50mm f1.8 in my bag but found they probably wouldn’t have been practical for how we were working. Thirteen of us in tight alleys meant I’d be further back getting heads in the way with the longer lens, and having to get up too close with the wider lens… which would mean getting in every one else’s shots constantly. Now, I’m probably guilty of getting to the front to get my shot quite often and am usually pretty mindful not to get in the way too much… but that wide lens would not have made me popular!

It was a fun evening, added to with some unexpected interaction from a lass from a nearby bar who came over to see what we were up to and then became our model for the next 5 minutes. Edo was excellent - very personable and making sure he went and chatted to everyone as we walked between locations. And I certainly learnt a few things, probably mainly on a technical level; shooting with a lower ISO for example is going to give me cleaner shots with more punch but is also obviously affects what I take a shot of. So if I’m doing that then I want a subject which is more static.

At the end of the evening we were to look through and find our five favourite shots to share. We didn’t actually get around to all sharing five, but I think I’ve narrowed mine down to these…


365 Challenge - Month 1

I’m now just over a month into the 365 challenge and it is starting to be quite a learning curve.

I’m finding that I’m having to get really creative with how I get shots, which is obviously part of the reason for doing this whole thing. But I don’t think I was expecting to be putting the work in quite so soon!

I’m not one for resting on my laurels and don’t like the idea of repeating shots, or the idea of a shot. OK, I’m accepting that some days are going to be easier than others, and some days a shot is not going to be as good as other days. But I still want to try and get a different angle on something, or a different technique.

I think I’m managing it so far. But it’s not easy!

The weather has been quite variable. There’s been some gorgeous, sunny days which has allowed me to play with shadows. There has also been some rain - which has made me think differently about things (whilst trying to prevent my kit getting wet!). I’ve also been out with one or two of my film cameras, which has mean me shooting some stuff on my iPhone. That’s been quite interesting - I’ve found I have a couple of nice shots from that.

Last week, I contacted Erik Witsoe, whose 365 monochrome challenge inspired me to do my own (see blog post from February). He’d said on his website that he was open to anyone wanting to contact him if they were doing their own 365, so I thought I’d pop him an email to find out how he worked through some of the tougher patches of creativity. And I got a very nice, detailed and swift reply from him with some great advice. It’s nice to find a fellow photographer who is not only making great photos but is also a lovely person and willing to give up some of their time like that. It’s things like that which keeps one inspired.

One of the things I took from Erik was to just keep trying different things. Not to always take it so seriously. I think I started out in a bit of a panic about having to capture something, whereas now I’m starting to relax into it a bit. Which means I’m actually just getting on with taking photos and enjoying the process more. After all, there’s always something else that might pop up around the corner that makes a great, unexpected shot.

Talking of which, one thing I have always wanted to get into and not been confident enough about is street portraiture (for want of a better term). And today, a perfect opportunity arose.

It was pouring with rain, and I’d been trying to get some puddle reflection shots. Just after I’d been doing so, I saw a Big Issue seller’s bright umbrella, camping chair etc in the rain. It was a nice splash of colour and I grabbed a shot. Suddenly, the Big Issue seller leapt into shot and posed for me - I wasn’t really happy with the couple of shots but said I’d be back in 5 minutes to buy one of his magazines. Luckily, when I got back (in even heavier rain) he had one mag left. So I bought it and had a quick chat as he packed up, asking if I could get another couple of shots. And he was quite happy to do so.

So, below is my first street portrait. His name is Anthony. He’s a thoroughly pleasant chap.
I’m not sure if it’s the best portrait ever (although hopefully I captured something about him) but it’s a start for me. Not just in actually taking the photo, but the whole idea of getting over that barrier of chatting to a stranger and taking their photo… and them being quite alright about it!


And here are some other faves…


365 Challenge - the first couple of weeks

Somehow the past two weeks have zoomed by and I appear to be in the thick of my 365 Challenge.

As I said in my last journal entry, my 365 Challenge has two rules: it’s all to be in monochrome and there has to be someone in shot that is important to the composition.

I’ll be honest: I’m finding it a bit trickier than I thought. Some days more than others.
This is for a couple of reasons….

Firstly, my rule of getting someone in shot. That in itself isn’t an issue, but getting someone in there which is important to the composition and isn’t just incidental makes things hard at times. There have been a couple of days when I’ve become very aware of not many people around, although a wander round town at lunchtime always seems to give a couple of photo opportunities. Added to that, weekends have been tricky - working in town means weekdays aren’t such a problem. But there’s less people on the weekends near where I live.

Secondly, sometimes finding the time to get some shots is harder than I thought. I usually shoot quite a lot but some days I don’t get anything. Now I’ve set myself a challenge I have to get something! But I don’t want it to be anything - I want good shots (even though I’m well aware that not every day of the year is going to bring something fantastic). And this past week has been hectic at work so I’ve often not had the time to get out with my camera.

However, I am finding that it is changing my approach to my photography already. I’m finding that I’m shooting with more sense of purpose and also noticing possibilities for a shot more than before. I’ve taken to hanging around in a spot for something to happen to make a shot work (see the puddle shot below) or scouting out a location (the guy on the rooftop - I walked round that building several times for a good angle), as well as my usual opportunistic shots.

The Flickr link to the 365 Challenge is here

These are some faves from the last couple of weeks….


365 Challenge

I’ve been thinking for some time about doing a 365 challenge but for various reasons have never got round to it. The usual reasoning (in my mind) is that I’ve wanted to start on the 1st January and do it for a whole year. And so it never seems to have happened.

Recently, I came across the work of Erik Witsoe who is capturing some gorgeous photos. And he has done a couple of 365 projects which started whenever he wanted during the year (See here for some loveliness). Which got me thinking that actually, it doesn’t need to start in January. I can do it whenever I please. After all, surely the very essence of a 365 project is to be doing it for yourself?

So, I decided that the 1st March was to be my start date. Which is tomorrow.

A couple of people have said to me that I take a lot of photos anyway, so why is this challenge? Which is a good question.

I think I want to use this exercise to focus my work a bit more. I want to be able to give a sense of story in one photo. I look at a lot of photography that is classed as ‘street photography’ and there is a saturation of shots which just show people on the street walking or standing about which don’t seem to have any aim. No context, no feeling of back story, sometimes not even interesting composition. I’m not saying my photos to date are giving Cartier-Bresson a run for his money, but I do strive to have something interesting within my shots.

But as with anything in life, I want to get better at it.

At first I thought I’d really try and restrict myself. I was thinking of having one film camera dedicated to the project where I could take only one shot on it per day. But even though that would probably get me better in some areas, I do still want to get some really good shots that I’m proud of! And if I’m restricting myself to just one shot then I can envisage getting a bit frustrated after a while, which is not the point of the project for me.

So I came up with some very simple rules for myself that should give the project focus and consistency without being too restrictive:

Firstly, I’m going to shoot all of it in monochrome.
Secondly, they all have to have someone in shot that is important to the photo.

Those are my only restrictions. I was wanting to add a third rule that the photo has to suggest some kind of story. But over the duration of a year, I’m not sure if that is possible. There are going to be days when the things I encounter out in the world don’t lend itself to suggesting a story.

So, just the two rules. And what I want to get out of it at the end is a sense of structure, some strong storytelling, and a lastng document of a whole year. Furthermore, I want to see that I have got more confident in getting in closer and more personal with subjects.

I’m quite excited but also slightly nervous, which is a good way to be with something like this.

Oh, and next year is a leap year. So it’s actually going to be 366 photos. D’oh!

(Flickr link to follow)