Why Is Image Quality Important?

Seoul, 2012
Seoul, 2012
Seoul, 2012

Dear friend,

It seems that we as photographers have this overly-obsessive fascination and obsession with “image quality” — through how sharp our images are, how well “bokeh” renders, the depth-of-field or “3d-ness” of images, how much the colors “pop”, or things such as “micro-contrast” (not even sure what this is, but I hear it mentioned a lot).

But my main question is this: why is image quality important— and is it important at all?

Published
Categorized as Equipment

Review of the Fujifilm X-Pro 2 For Street Photography

Selfie with the Fujifilm X-Pro 2
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Selfie with the X-Pro 2

Okay, I just got off a 16-hour direct flight from Dubai to San Francisco. Yeah, I am pretty jetlagged (slept last night at 7:30pm, woke up today at 1:30am). Anyways, I am starting to power up with a coffee at Philz in Berkeley, and wanted to share some (very brief) thoughts on the Fujifilm X-Pro 2 for street photography.

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Categorized as Equipment

Review of the Fujifilm X70 For Street Photography

The new Fujifilm X70: the body of a Ricoh GR with the guts of a Fujifilm X100T
The new Fujifilm X70: the body of a Ricoh GR with the guts of a Fujifilm X100T
The new Fujifilm X70: the body of a Ricoh GR with the guts of a Fujifilm X100T

I’m currently here in Dubai, and had a chance to check out the Fujifilm X70. TLDR; the X70 is a compact digital camera with the same sensor as the Fujifilm X100T, and a 28mm f/2.8 (“full frame equivalent”) lens.

Published
Categorized as Equipment

“Henri” Neck Strap (Mark II) & “Henri” Wrist Strap

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Dear streettogs, I am very excited to announce the new edition of the “Henri” Neck Strap (Mark II). This new version is made from a darker-leather, similar to the color of dark mahogany wood or a good cup of coffee.

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Categorized as Equipment

More Megapixels, More Problems

Stockholm, 2015
Stockholm, 2015
Stockholm, 2015. Film Leica shot on Tri-X pushed to 1600

Dear friend,

It is 7:20am in New Orleans, and I just downed a “Miss Tracy’s Addiction” (Double espresso, Cayenne pepper, Thai coconut milk) at Addiction Coffee and I’m feeling good. Had a nice chat with Dave, the barista here, and ready to do some writing to share with you some ideas.

Just as a random note, I was thinking about this article for the last day, and woke up super-early for you (6:30am after sleeping at 1am), because I felt it could be of use for you.

I’m currently staying at an Airbnb with my friend Todd and Neil, and Chris (new friend, who is also a workshop participant at my week-long street photography workshop here in New Orleans). All three of them have the new Sony A7RII (the 40+ megapixel monster), with Neil and Chris bringing both of them.

Disregard Differences, Notice Similarities

Amsterdam, 2015

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I’m still afflicted with GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome). I want new shit all the time. I’m always dissatisfied with the technology I have (smartphone, tablet, laptop, camera, espresso machine) as well as my car, clothes, standard of living, quality of my food, etc.

What causes this constant treadmill of dissatisfaction?

There is a disease that Nassim Taleb calls “neomania” in his book, Antifragile. It’s probably my favorite modern book (I’ve re read it about 5 times, cover to cover). The concept of neomania is that we love the new for the sake of the new.

For example, whenever the new iPhone comes out, everyone instantly becomes dissatisfied with their old iPhone, and want the newest and greatest. And they forget how happy they were when they bought their “old” iPhone, and how slick and advanced it was when it first came out.

This is a psychological problem, that Daniel Kehnnamen explores in his book, “Thinking fast, and slow”. The problem with humans is that we notice differences more than similarities.

For example, when it comes to digital cameras, we always point out the differences (megapixel count, body style, sensor) rather than the similarities (all cameras take photos at the end of the day). The difference between a Canon and Nikon is negligible at best, but people always want to separate themselves from “others.” It is sort of a tribe mentality, which is sad. At the end of the day, we are all photographers. Who gives a shit which cameras we use? It especially pisses me off when Leica shooters look down on Fuji shooters. Probably like how guys who wear Rolex watches look down on guys who wear Seikos.

So I have a new mental heuristic (rule of thumb) that I’m trying to follow: ignore differences, and pay attention to commonalities.

For example, we always make differences in terms of places we live. I always complain of living in Berkeley instead of San Francisco. But at the end of the day, they are more similar than dissimilar. They both have huge commonalities (hipster coffee shops, hipster people, good restaurants, a downtown area you can walk around). But I’m always dissatisfied because I feel like I’m “missing out” not living in SF. It’s the whole “FOMO” idea (fear of missing out); that I’m missing out on the “street photography scene” in SF by being stuck in Berkeley.

Similarly, there is always a debate of film vs digital. Honestly at the end of the day, just shoot whatever makes you happy. Film and digital do have differences, but at the end of the day, they’re far more similar than dissimilar (you make photos either way).

The same applies to cars. There are people who compare Nissan with Toyota and Honda, and people who compare BMW vs Mercedes and Audi. But people always focus on the tiny differences, rather than the commonalities. And at the end of the day, a Honda Civic isn’t much different than a Porsche 911 (they are both cars that have four wheels, are made out of metal, and take you from point “A” to point “B.”

We can also point out the same in fashion. Is there really a difference between wearing Nike sneakers versus Adidas sneakers? Or a difference between Louie Vuitton and Coach? If aliens came to earth and saw us humans comparing the differences, they would think we’re fucking idiots (which we are).

Even a huge debate (iPhone vs Android, or Mac vs PC); they’re much more similar than dissimilar (regardless of what fan boys want to say). I used to be so dependent on my MacBook Air, but when I got it stolen in Paris a month ago, I bought a cheap Windows 8 tablet laptop. Sure there were some small differences between them (I prefer the Mac), but I was still able to get all my work just fine.

So as a practical tip whenever you hear about some new camera rumored or being released, don’t ask your friends what’s new about it. Ask them: “What is similar about it?”

Another thing I think about: no matter how cool or slick a new camera may seem, one day (generally 2 years) it will seem outdated and shitty.

For example, whenever I see an old iPhone 4, or even an iPhone 5 it looks so tiny and outdated compared to the iPhone 6. Whenever I see older MacBooks (not Air versions), they look like they’re from the stone ages. Even when I see old Leica m9s, I remind myself of how much I lusted and craved for it. But now it looks so dated compared to the new Leica M240.

Do we really need more megapixels in our cameras, bigger sensors, better image quality, faster autofocus, high iso performance, and image stabilization?

Isn’t it incredible that some of the best photos taken in history were shot with ancient cameras (manual focus), with low-Iso film (iso 25-100), tiny viewfinders, and other limitations? In fact I think that these limitations of technology forced photographers to be more creative (to start using a flash, shooting in good light, or mastering their equipment). Whenever I hear someone complain that their camera is grainy at iso 6,400 or that they moan that their camera isn’t “full frame”, I want to slap them. Similarly, we complain that our cameras and equipment is too big and heavy. Have you ever tried to carry around a medium format or large format film camera?

Don’t get me wrong, I bitch and moan all the time. I think new cameras with new technology will help me be more creative. But the truth is having less technology in your cameras will force you to be more creative (I think the best photographers often shoot manual focus and with outdated film cameras). The more limited you are by your camera technology, the more you’re forced to be creative. It is a “creative constraint.”

I’m so damn picky with coffee too. I only like hipster espressos. But at the end of the day, coffee is more similar than dissimilar (caffeine is caffeine).

Same with food; I eat to live, I don’t live to eat. I need to stop wasting time on Yelp and Trip Advisor trying to find a new restaurant to “entertain my palette”. I need to realize at the end of the day, most restaurants are more similar than dissimilar. And who you decide to eat with is far more important than what or where you decide to eat.

I’m going to try being less picky in my life, have fewer preferences, and be grateful for what I have (rather than wanting the new, and better).

God grant me the serenity to appreciate what I have, and not bitch and moan about what I don’t have.

2 Lessons Tennis Has Taught Me About Photography and Life

SF, 2015
SF, 2015
SF, 2015

Dear friend,

I want to share a story with you. It is an important life lesson that I learned from Greg Lowe, my tennis coach from high school.

Okay let’s start from the very beginning. I was a sophomore (or perhaps freshman) in high school (Castro valley high in California), and I heard that there were tryouts for the tennis team. I’ve always (kind of) been interested in tennis, as my parents would play (or at least they had some old rackets in the closet). I remember as a kid, looking at these (unused) rackets in the closet, and wanting to pick it up and learn.

So anyways, I go to these tennis tryouts, and fail miserably. I can’t hit the ball to save my life, and I realized that I was out of my league. Some of these kids were able to hit the ball with so much beauty, form, and elegance — adding fancy topspin to the ball, able to serve without even looking, and pretty much dominate without even trying.

Dejected, I thought I would never be a good tennis player. How could I catch up in skill to all of these other guys, who had all these fancy tennis lessons (which were pretty fucking expensive)?

I don’t remember the details, but one of the assistant coaches (Greg Lowe, a retired police chief), offered the students who didn’t make the team, “Hey guys, if you want to improve yourselves and perhaps make the team next year, meet me at the courts this Saturday at 730am, and I will give you free lessons.”

At first I thought, “fuck yeah”– I would be able to get free lessons, work hard, and prove myself by making the team. I thought it was the opportunity of a lifetime, and I thought everyone else would jump on this offer.

So anyways on Friday morning, I peel myself out of bed at 7am (really early for a high school student), and made it to the courts by 730am. I was surprised to see that there were only about three of us in total. I thought to myself, “where are all the other kids, why aren’t they taking up this amazing and generous offer that coach Lowe offered?”

Anyways, long story short, Greg Lowe trained us for that entire summer. There only ended up being around three of us in the long run, but through that summer I was able to hone my skills, work hard, and (without fail) make it to practice every Saturday morning, no matter how much alcohol I drank the night before with my friends. Funny story; there was one day that I was sleeping in on Saturday morning, and my friend (also another guy getting tennis lessons with coach Lowe) threw rocks at my window to wake my ass up.

Anyways, I end up making the team, and through the years, worked myself up from having zero skills in tennis, to being #1 varsity doubles on the team.

There were a lot of lessons that coach Lowe taught me about life through tennis, which I want to outline in this letter to you.

1. You don’t need an expensive racket

The first thing that shocked me from coach Lowe was that he played and instructed us with a wooden racket. It was a really old thing, I never had seen anything like it. While all of us young guns were obsessed with getting the newest and greatest tennis rackets, our coach instructed us with this super heavy, tiny headed relic from the past.

Yet the thing that surprised me the most was how fluid he was with it, and how hard he could hit the ball with it.

Funny in photography, we call it “gear acquisition syndrome” (gas), in which we think that our lack of photographic ability is because our cameras and lenses and gear aren’t good enough. Yet they have the same exact thing in tennis, where a lot of amateur tennis players think that they’re not improving in their tennis, because their racket isn’t expensive enough. Apparently this also happens in all other sports, like basketball (you want to wear expensive Jordan shoes), in cooking (you want expensive knives), in golf (you want more expensive clubs), etc.

So when I started off in tennis, needless to say I was pretty shitty. I always thought to myself at the back of my head: “If I only had an expensive racket like Andre Agassi” or if I had that new Head, Prince, or Babolat racket, I could hit the ball really hard and be a really good player.

But regardless, without fail, my coach taught us with the wooden racket, and showed us how hard you could hit the ball (even with a really shitty racket).

He always tried to remind us: it isn’t about the racket, but your form.

Now thinking back at it, it is an important life lesson that I have applied to my photography and life in general.

In photography, I say this a lot: “Don’t worry about the camera and gear, the most important thing is your eyes and how you see the world.” I’ve said it so many times that it seems so cliche and a fucking chore when you hear it; but it’s true. And it is a constant reminder I need to give myself (I always make excuses about my photos not being good enough, saying that my camera isn’t good enough).

Don’t get me wrong friend, I am still afflicted with GAS in photography. Although I am currently down to one camera and one lens (film leica and 35mm lens), I still crave for more. There are days I daydream about getting a Leica Monochrom, or daydream about fictitious cameras (like digital cameras without an LCD screen), or buying medium format cameras, whatever. I am not satisfied with what I have, but I always goad for more. And why is that? Because I somehow think it is my gear which is holding me back creatively, and if I suddenly had new gear, I would become “re-inspired”. But it is a bunch of bullshit, it is actually limits and constraints that forces us to be be more creative (they call it a “creative constraint”).

The same philosophy goes in life. We think that we can’t start our own business because we don’t have enough money. We think that we can’t ask that beautiful person on a date because we don’t have the looks. We think that we can never cook a decent meal because we have an ill-equipped kitchen. We think that we can’t become great painters, movie directors, or musicians because our equipment (or tools) are holding us back.

But remember; even a wooden racket can help you become a great tennis player. Similarly in photography, even a smartphone can be a more than-sufficient tool for photography. In life, make the best use of what you have, rather than seeking some external thing that you don’t have in order to be creative.

Recently, Cindy and I are embarking on a challenge (which is really difficult); don’t buy anything new for a year.

So far the challenge has been really difficult. I constantly want to buy new shit (and I know I don’t really need it, but still am tempted). But the funny thing is that in knowing that I don’t have the luxury of buying new things, it forces me to be more ingenuous and use what I already own and be more creative.

“Hunger breeds sophistication.”

So for example, I currently don’t have a laptop. I got my 11” Macbook Air stolen in Paris 1.5 months ago, I recently donated my Windows 8 Tablet/Laptop to a friend named Anne who is going to donate it to charity to teach kids in a developing country to program, and all I am left with is the iPad Air I had chilling at home. I have a “in-case” keyboard attachment thingy, and a bluetooth Apple keyboard that I use wirelessly (which I am using right now to type this up).

Before my “don’t buy anything” challenge, I was tempted to stop by the nearest Apple store (there is literally one in just a 20-minute walk from my house, on 4th street in Berkeley), and buy a new Macbook 12” retina (or a 13” Macbook pro). But because I made the decision not to buy something new, I tried to think to myself; how can I best use this iPad to be creative?

First of all, I tried to approach the whole “via negativa” philosophy that Nassim Taleb shares in his book, ‘Antifragile‘ (trying to remove as much as possible). So from the iPad, I have removed all superfluous apps that I find unnecessary. Currently the only apps I have are the ones that are not standard is Dropbox and Google Chrome, and IA Writer Pro (best minimalist writing app for both iPad and Macbook in my opinion). The benefit of having no extraneous apps or fat? I have fucking extreme focus; I am not distracted by anything else. And trust me, I am the most easily distracted person I know. I am a pigeon, I see something shiny, and I instantly lose focus.

But anyways, I first did feel a lot of frustration with the iPad– after all, I was limited. In the west, we are taught to not have any limits, to have ultimate freedom– the freedom to buy anything you want, the freedom to do anything you want, and the freedom to continue to accumulate extraneous things.

But the limitation of the iPad has helped me focus on one thing; just writing. So the limitation of my equipment and tools has ended up being a huge blessing. Rather than installing all these new “productivity” apps (in a ‘via positiva’ approach), removing unnecessary apps (in a ‘via negativa’ approach) has helped me be more creative.

So let us not bitch and moan about the lack of tools, money, cameras, financial security, opportunities, hometown, whatever hold us back.

In tennis, a simple wooden racket will suffice in becoming a great tennis player.

In photography, a simple camera will suffice in becoming a great photographer.

In life, having a little money is sufficient to living happily and contributing to society as a whole.

As I was writing this, I have also come to a little “mini-epiphany”; for the next year (at least until I move to Vietnam), I will put away the Leica and will practice what I preach; to just shoot with a simple camera (digital Ricoh GR). The camera is very affordable (less than $600), and while not “cheap” — I think if you own a laptop, live in a “developed” world, have access to the internet, clean water, whatever– you can afford it.

One of the big criticisms I get is that “Oh, Eric, it is easy for you to say ‘don’t worry about the camera’ when you shoot with a Leica.”

And that is true; I need to eat my own cooking, and not be a hypocrite.

Thank you coach Lowe for teaching me the beauty of playing tennis with a wooden racket and not being obsessed with my racket (all throughout high school, I played with a mid-range racket, which helped me make to #1 doubles on the Varsity tennis team). So similarly, I will make a vow of simplicity by also “downgrading” my camera to something really simple; the Ricoh GR.

So friend, I know it is really fucking hard not to be tempted by all these new tools and gadgets. I am a sucker to consumerism too; whenever I see advertisements, visit the mall, or see friends with more expensive stuff than me, I get instantly jealous. This is why nowadays I don’t surf the internet, I don’t read blogs (only paper-back books), I don’t watch television (I don’t own one), I don’t read the newspaper (“to cure yourself of newspapers, spend an entire year reading the news from last year” – Nassim Taleb), I don’t read magazines (90% of the content are just advertisements), I don’t watch movies (sneaky advertisement placements are abundant in films now, or they tempt you to buy expensive cars, clothes, to be fancy), I don’t (to the best of my ability) associate myself with rich people (or else I get jealous of their material wealth). Ultimately I try to avoid situations in which I will feel temptations to buy shit, feelings of inadequacy (comparing myself to those richer than me), situations where I want more than I already have (“keeping up with the Jonses” in America).

Happiness isn’t about accumulating more; it is learning how to be content with less.

So whenever you feel that your camera, gear, lifestyle, or whatever is inadequate– ask yourself,

How can this limitation help me be more creative? How can this limitation force me to step outside of the box, and try to find out novel ways to be more innovative? How can this limitation be a positive?”

Let me flesh out some more ideas:

  • Benefit of shooting with a shitty camera (you only end up shooting when the light is good, which is sunrise and sunset, and you ultimately make better images than just shooting in shitty light with a high-end camera)
  • Benefit of living in a boring town (you force yourself to be more creative with boring subject-matter, and you’re more likely to create unique bodies of work that have never been shot before)
  • Benefit of not having a lot of money (you don’t use money as a crutch, and try to fix all your problems with money, which never works)
  • Benefit of not having a lot of free time (you don’t squander the little free time that you have. If you only have 1 hour of free time a day, you fucking squeeze out every ounce of that free time, very much like how you squeeze the last drop of lemon juice from a lemon. Even if you only had 15 minutes of free time in a day, think of how you can use that time to shoot (during your lunch break), how you can write, read, or do something that nourishes you creatively).
  • Benefit of being old (you are wiser, have more life experiences, which can help you be more creative and innovative with your art. You also realize your own mortality, so you don’t waste your time pursuing money and other extraneous things in life, but to ‘live everyday like it were your last’).
  • Benefit of being young (the world is your oyster, you have no kids to take care of, no spouse to feed, and you can just “YOLO” and do exactly what you want to do in your life. Nothing is holding you back).

I can blabber on on and on; but rather than blaming your external conditions and situations for not being creative or living the life you want to live, think of how you can use your limitations in your life, and make it into a benefit and positive.

Let us eschew fancy high-end rackets; and praise the simple, wooden rackets.

2. Never miss a practice

Another important life lesson that I learned from my coach was this: never miss a practice.

One of the most difficult things in tennis is to master a serve. It is one of the most complex movements, which require fluidity of the shoulder, turning of the hips, and it is one of those things that if you don’t use it, you lose it. You need to practice you tennis serve every single day if you want to improve. You can practice it every other day if you don’t want to lose your ability. And anything less than that, you will totally lose your ability to serve, and have to start again with scratch.

Similarly, I went to practice with my coach every Saturday, no matter how cold, no matter how early, no matter how tired I was. I always had to show up; and it is one of those things that getting there is the hard part, but once you’re there, it is quite easy. Kind of like going to the gym. Peeling yourself out of bed, and getting to the gym is the hard part. But once you’re there, doing the workout is quite easy, and after the workout, you feel great and you think to yourself, “What was so difficult about that?”

The same philosophy goes in photography. I do believe that it is important not to go a single day without shooting (if your goal is to improve your photography). I don’t think it is necessary to shoot everyday for the sake of it, but I do believe that the eye and your creative vision is like a muscle; you either use it or lose it. If you were an astronaut, sent into outer space with no gravity, your muscles eventually atrophy from non-use. This is also what happens to people in the hospital who all they do is lie down for months on end due to an illness. Their muscles weaken, they can no longer walk on their own, and they have to rebuild their strength from scratch.

It is often hard to find the “inspiration” to shoot everyday. But then again, do we need “inspiration” to eat food and drink everyday? No. Why not? Hunger is a pain, thirst is a pain, and to eat and drink is a necessity.

But for you, is being creative and making images a necessity? Do you feel physical and mental pain when you go a day without shooting?

Remember, at the end of the day your goal as a photographer (and human being) is to make images that please yourself, and to ultimately be happy. Like the famous Greek saying: “Know thyself” — try to know who you are as a photographer. Are you the type of photographer that needs to shoot everyday to stay creative or fresh? Or are you the type of photographer that instead of shooting everyday, perhaps you can look at photo books everyday, or find inspiration from other photographers?

So regardless if you shoot everyday or not; I challenge you to never go a single day without being creative, and challenging yourself either artistically, emotionally, or physically.

Conclusion

These are just 2 (of the many) points that I learned from my coach from tennis that I have applied to my photographic and creative life. Try to keep these 2 things in mind:

  1. Disregard the equipment
  2. Don’t miss a day of practice

I think if you practice these 2 things on the daily, you will become truly great in anything you pursue.

Farewell my friend, and I wish you all the best. You have no limits, only the limitations you put on yourself.

Love,
Eric

Written from 5am-7:20am, another beautiful day in Berkeley. Started off the day with a v60 pour-over with some Ritual coffee beans, but I am starting to realize that I don’t know if I really like pour-overs. They take far too long; I prefer the quickie of an espresso.

Related article

As a companion to this article, I recommend reading the article: “The Beauty of Creative Constraints“.

Reading list

  1. Just finished reading “The Cynic Philosophers” which is a fucking incredible read. The “Cynic” philosophers were the predecessors of the “Stoic” philosophers, except that the Cynics were even more manly and mentally/physically tough than the Stoics. The Cynic teachings can essentially be distilled into the two concepts: 1) “Know Thyself” (live a life true to yourself, not of others and 2) “Deface the Currency” (fuck money, disregard fame, fortune, and disregard popular beliefs; seek what you think is the ‘truth’ in life).
  2. Starting to re-read the free Aphorisms of Nassim Taleb, full of wisdom, insight, and wit.
  3. I’m thinking about re-reading the Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson. A rare insight into a man who was so passionate about his life’s goal, that he fucked everything else. He knew that he had cancer and was going to die soon; so he didn’t waste a single day of his life. One of my favorite quotes from Jobs, let me break it down:

a) Never forget that you will die, it is a great decision-making tool:

“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life.”

b) Fuck external expectations, and don’t worry about failing. In the end, thinking of death makes it crystal-clear what is important in your life:

“Almost everything–all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure–these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.”

c) Never forget that you have nothing to lose, so follow your heart:

“Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

d) Spoiler alert; we all die (eventually), but know that it is a necessary part of life:

“No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet, death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it, and that is how it should be, because death is very likely the single best invention of life. It’s life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new.”

So go out, shoot, hug a loved one, express gratitude for the life you live, be grateful that you’re still alive, breathing, and able to enjoy “heaven on earth.”

Review of the Harry Benz “B” Strap

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So I met Harry Benz when I was in Toronto. My buddy Adam Marelli (probably the most knowledgeable guy about composition and photography) introduced me to him.

I shot Harry an email, and we met at a bar in Toronto in the evening, when I was teaching a workshop there. He came in, cool clear glasses, tall guy, with tons of enthusiasm.

I have never met anybody in my life so enthusiastic about camera straps and leather making. The man was a true artisan. He makes all of his straps by himself, and doesn’t skimp on quality. He put in all these tiny touches that I would have never noticed or appreciated; like how he uses water buffalo for leather (the toughest yet softest leather), while others use simple cow leather. Not only that, but he’s made the straps thicker around the “O” rings to prevent scratching of the camera, whereas other people just put in cheap pieces of leather.

He was also generous enough to make me an “a la carte” strap by measuring my neck and camera, and getting it to fit me. I got a nice brown leather tint, and two simple lines drawn through it. Classic, simple, and minimalist, my favorite style.

I’ve been through so many straps over the years. Honestly it’s the nicest leather strap I’ve ever used. As I’ve used it more, it has gotten even softer and more molded to my body, and it is even easy to switch from having it dangle around my neck (to wrapping it around my wrist).

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Ultimately I’ve discovered I prefer neck straps over wrist straps. Why? It’s easier to drink a coffee and text on my phone when I have a neck strap, whereas a wrist strap can get in the way. Also when taking a piss, it’s annoying to always put away your camera in your bag (instead of just slinging it diagonally across your body, and facing the camera from your back). Don’t worry, I never get any “splatter” on the camera ;).

Anyways, my heart goes out to Harry. He is a hustling one man team, not making a huge profit on these straps. He barely has any time to market his straps, so I wanted to help a brother out. After all, what is more inspirational than seeing someone dedicate their entire soul, time, energy, and effort into creating a one of a kind artisinal product?

At the end of the day, a strap is just a strap to hold your camera. But it comes down to having something that suits you the best.

Luigi makes great straps too, but Harry’s straps are much more affordable, and feel more sturdy in my opinion.

Harry also has given me a wrist strap which is beautiful and minimalist to try out. Unfortunately I haven’t had the chance to test it out yet, as I’ve been loving the neck strap so much.

At the end of the day, I would recommend his strap if you shoot with a Fuji, a Leica, or some other micro 4/3rd camera, and if you like leather (and want to look like a trendy hipster with all these other leather goods). Don’t get it if you have a big ass DSLR or any other heavy camera.

So support Harry and continue to let him live his dream of making the best possible camera strap, especially for us street photographers who are suckers for new accessories for our cameras. No but seriously, it’s a damn sexy strap. It’s comfortable, fashionable, and functional.

You can pick up a vintage brown “B” strap for $140. It’s not cheap, but trust me; it will probably be the last strap you ever will need to buy.

But if you’re strapped for cash, don’t buy it. Save your money and remember to buy books, not gear.

“Letters from a Recovering Camera Addict” Step 1: Admission

Seoul, South Korea.
Seoul, South Korea. Last week.

This article is written by Josh White, originally posted here. The views posted here are his and his alone and may or may not be shared by the website as a whole ;)

Hi.

My name is Josh and I’m an addict.

No, I never did drugs. I don’t smoke. I hardly even drink.

I’m addicted to something more pricey than any of those. I’m addicted to cameras.

Any kind of camera. I don’t discriminate. I don’t care anymore if it is expensive. I don’t care if it is new. I don’t care if I’ve tried it before. If it is out there to be bought, I probably want to buy it.

I get angry at other addicts. This stems from a strong denial of my affliction. Stems from the inability to admit my own flaws.

Some say there isn’t anything wrong. This ISN’T an addiction. I’m here to say, they are wrong. Addiction by definition is the inability to stop a habit.

There are many symptoms. First, the morning coffee. The coffee, a different addiction, is just a means to sit in front of a computer and feed. The first thing you may check is ESPN or the news. That makes the addiction feel less real. Next though, the reality of it.

The next part depends on the “drug” of choice. Maybe you go directly to the newest gear news. If you prefer the old stuff, you check used shops for their newest posts. I used to be the prior but have migrated towards the later. “Wow, that is interesting” or “I took one of my favorite pictures with one of those.” The starting thoughts to a chain of events leading to getting a fix.

At this point, “you” still don’t feel there is a problem.

“I’m just looking..”

At work during free moments you check forums or reviews. Listen to other addicts talk about why they needed that fix. If you’re like me, you look at the old photos you took with the current “mark.”

“I remember when I took this. I really loved that camera…”

Other people need to latest and greatest. They aren’t the nostalgic type addicts like myself. They can forget the past easily because it will never be as good as the future. I was like this before. I remember the feeling of not wanting to use my current because I knew I would get the newer. The “lame duck” mentality.

“What if I take the picture of my life with this? How can I get something else then?”

This leads to another problem. Hoarding. The inability to let go because at some point something may be needed. Some day, you may want to fondle or hold. I’ve never really been a hoarder, but addiction is unpredictable.

Justification. The crux of the matter.

“If I only had that camera I could take the shots I want.”

Weirdly, that thought is very rarely followed by:

“I wonder how I can take interesting shots with the camera I have?”

At least not in the mind of an addict.

In our hypothetical day, the addict will then spend the rest of it daydreaming about what they could do with the new camera. They will dream of the inspiration. Somehow, when looking at forums and reviews they don’t seem to see the negatives. Either that or ignore them.

Finally before the day is over the website is checked one last time. Some small part of your brain wants it to be sold.

Not because you want the addiction to stop but because you want it to continue.

“It wasn’t really that good anyway. Tomorrow, there will be something better.”

Seoul, South Korea. 2014.
Seoul, South Korea. 2014.

When I look at my favorite photographers, there is something interesting about them. For the most part, they have a very specific style. Their photos have a “look.” They have a clearly defined “feeling” to their photos. Something that isn’t easily explained aside from with another hypothetical situation.

I open flickr and I see a photo without the name because, I am of course at work and the browser window is minimized. Even so, I know right away that photo was taken by Junku Nishimura ( a friend from Japan and probably one of the best contemporary street photographers in existence). I don’t need his name to know the photo is his.

People will argue this point. Most of the people that argue will be addicts. I know because I did so myself. They will say that if you have a style you can take photos of that style with anything. This is true, on some levels, but not all. Not because of specifications or technical details but because of the vision of the artist. Their camera is just their tool. It is a method to expose a frame. A medium on which to capture.

Anyway, I digress. I am slowly recovering. It is hard, I still fall back into the routine of addiction. Maybe I will always be an addict. In fact, I think I will be. I just want to learn how to deal with it better. I NEED to. I want to be proud of the work I’ve made and want it to be consistent. This addiction doesn’t allow for that.

So, I’ve decided to start with the 12 steps. 12 steps of my own invention. Consider this, step one.

Admitting I have a problem.

Step 2 is maybe the first on the actual road to recovery. A pact. A pact to use one camera and one lens for a year. 365 days. More on this tomorrow.

Tokyo, Japan.
Tokyo, Japan. 2011.

Josh’s blog.

Josh’s flickr.

Josh’s twitter.

Josh’s instagram.

Review of the Leica Q for Street Photography

leica q

Leica has just released one of their most ambitious cameras yet, the new Leica Q. Long story short: full-frame sensor, 28mm f/1.7 uninterchangeable lens, macro functionality, compact body (slightly smaller than Leica M), electronic viewfinder, and 35mm and 50mm crop modes, and $4,250.

Personally I think the camera is an engineering marvel. Solid, well-built, thoughtfully constructed (from a photographer’s standpoint). Also it would be ideal for street photography, as it has a focusing tab (ideal for zone-focusing), and blazing-fast autofocus (as fast if not faster than the Fujifilm x100T). Furthermore if you’ve ever wanted a digital Leica, it is more affordable than a Leica M (as the Leica Q comes with a lens as well).

The size is actually not as “compact” as you think it is. I only found it slightly smaller than the size of my Leica MP. The weight is also pretty solid– I liked how it isn’t as heavy as a Leica M, but it still feels solid and substantial in the hand.

In terms of handling, there is a new indentation (similar to a “thumbs-up”) which makes it very easy to handle. I think the camera is awesome in all regards– the only thing that will deter buyers is the price.

In short, the Leica Q is almost like the “rich man’s” Fujifilm x100T. I think if you have disposable income and really find the features of the Leica Q to be helpful, I’d say go for it. Otherwise, I would personally pick up a Ricoh GR and save the rest of the money to travel, buy photography books, and invest in education.

If you’re interested in the camera, check out the two videos I’ve done with the Leica Q:

First impressions of the Leica Q

Review of the Leica Q with bigheadtaco

So what are your thoughts about the Leica Q for street photography? Worth the money, or overpriced? Would you get one? Leave a comment below! 

Video Review of the Fujifilm X100T for Street Photography

I recently put together a “real-world” review of the Fujifilm X100T for street photography (which you can read here). I also wanted to record a video of some of my thoughts of the X100T (I really like it), and some of the settings, functions, aesthetic differences of the camera. In my opinion it is the best “bang-for-the-buck” camera for street photography on the market right now, and a great companion if you want to upgrade to a smaller body.

If you have any other questions about the camera, leave a comment below and I will try to reply to as many as I can! For those of you who have the new X100T, how do you like the camera?

How to Overcome the “Tyranny of Choice” in Street Photography

Too many cameras= more stress (not all my cameras btw)
Too many cameras= more stress (not all my cameras btw)
What happens when you have a diet too high in GAS (not all my cameras btw)

I have a problem. It is definitely a “first world problem”.

I currently have too many cameras in my house. This is what is sitting on my shelf at the moment (all the cameras I own):

  • Leica MP
  • Hasselblad 501c
  • Fujifilm x100T
  • Ricoh GR
  • Contax T3

Too many damn cameras.

Review of the Fujifilm X100T for Street Photography

DSCF1890
Dubai hotel lobby selfie with the Fujifilm X100T

Disclaimer: I was given a free Fujifilm X100T for this review.

It is a beautiful Sunday here in Dubai, and it is my day off “work”. I arrived last Wednesday from London after 2 weeks of teaching workshops, and I ended up doing a few workshops for Gulf Photo Plus (a photo organization in Dubai). I had a great time teaching the workshops here in Dubai, and also ended up shooting a lot of personal photos for myself (around 5–6 rolls of medium-format Kodak Portra 400 on my Hasselblad and a Mamiya 7 I borrowed from my friends Imraan and Mo.

In Street Photography, The Smaller the Camera, the Better

Photo slightly related: Minox Spy Camera of Grant Loxton
Photo slightly related: Minox Spy Camera of Grant Loxton

Recently for my trip to Stockholm, London, and Dubai I brought along my Hasselblad 501c and 80mm lens (and about 20 rolls of Kodak Portra 400 120 film). I had been shooting a lot of medium-format 6×6 photos back home, and I had the natural gut feeling to bring it to my trip and make some photos. But at the same time I’m glad I brought along my compact 35mm camera, the Contax T3.

If Your Photos Aren’t Good Enough, Your Camera Isn’t Expensive Enough

Detroit, 2013
Berkeley, 2014. Shot on a smartphone.
Berkeley, 2014. Shot on a smartphone.

The best camera in street photography is the most expensive one.

If I gave myself advice in street photography if I started all over again I would tell myself, “Eric, buy yourself the most expensive camera out there for street photography. You are a newbie and not very good at shooting street photography. You are nervous. You don’t know any technical settings. You are afraid. You aren’t inspired. You don’t have any good work. Buying a really expensive camera will make you great.”

A Guide on How to Shoot Street Photography on a Film Leica (or Rangefinder)

My Leica MP
My Leica MP
My Leica MP

I know a lot of street photographers who have gotten into film recently, and have recently invested in film Leicas (specifically Leica m6’s). I wanted to write this guide to share everything I personally know about shooting on a film Leica based on my 3 years of experience.

Disclaimer: I am not a Leica expert, nor do I claim to be. But I will to share some practical tips and insights about film Leicas and how to shoot them on the streets.

Review of the Fujifilm x100s for Street Photography

Manila, 2014

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Disclosure: Fujifilm gave me a Fuji x100s for this review. I haven’t been paid to write this review, and will try to make it as non-biased as possible. Also there are Amazon affiliate links included– so if you order the camera or any other product from my link, it will give me a small percentage.

Fujifilm recently hooked it up with a x100s— and I took it on a test run throughout Manila and have been using it the last few weeks. Below is my review of the x100s for street photography and some of my thoughts on the camera.

Fashionable and Functional: Review of the Kawa Pro Strap for Street Photography

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Eric’s Note: We were given a Kawa Pro Strap for free to review for the blog. A.G. DeMesa, a talented photographer and writer based in Manila writes his thoughts about the strap in the review below. Expect more stuff coming from him soon ;)

On Straps

A.G. DeMesa: A strap is what physically attaches a photographer to his camera when not using his hands. It lets the photographer carry the camera and take it to places where he needs to. Therefore it is important for a strap to strike the perfect balance of comfort, robustness, and durability. In addition, speed is also a factor in street photography wherein we clock long hours in the blistering sun anticipating that photo. There are many makes and models that are available in the market that fulfill the criteria but I’m pretty sure none of them is as beautiful as a Kawa pro gear strap.

Real-World Review of the Fujfilm X-T1 for Street Photography

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Disclaimer: I was given the Fujifilm X-T1 as well as a 23mm f/1.4 Lens, a 27mm f/2.8 lens for free from Fuijfilm. I am not getting paid to do this review, and will try my best to give an un-biased opinion as possible. But note that because I was given to it for free, I will probably be a bit biased (either consciously or subconsciously). But after shooting street photography with the X-T1 for a week in Dubai, below are my experiences with the camera.

Published
Categorized as Equipment

Video Review of the Fujifilm X-T1 for Street Photography

When I was here in Dubai for Gulf Photo Plus, the guys from Fujifilm were generous enough to give me a new Fujifilm X-T1, the Fujifilm 23mm f/1.4 (35mm full-frame equivalent), as well as the Fujifilm 27mm f/2.8 Lens (~40mm full-frame equivalent). I shot with it everyday for around a week.

Overall I like the camera a lot and would highly recommend it (superb image quality, great form factor, and responsive). Some downsides are that the AF isn’t as accurate and quick as other cameras (like the Olympus OMD)– although it is a huge improvement from the X-Pro 1 and x100s. Hope this improves with future firmware updates.

I have a in-depth text-based review coming, but in the meanwhile– check out my video review above. I talk a bit more in-detail the near features of the cameras as well as more in-depth thoughts on how I like it in street photography!

Review of the Leica D-Lux 6 for Street Photography

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About two months ago (before I was going to embark on my Michigan to LA road trip), Chris Moore and Shirley DeSilva from the marketing division of Leica lent me a Leica D-Lux 6 to test out on the streets (thanks guys!).

I have always been a huge fan of compact cameras– for their weight, size, and easily portability. I think at the end of the day, I prefer having smaller cameras for street photography– as I generally end up carrying them with me everywhere I go (whereas my bigger cameras of the past tended to stay home and collect dust).

So how is the Leica D-Lux 6 for street photography? Read on to see my thoughts.

Small is Beautiful: Review of the ONA Bowery Bag

Christine from ONA was generous enough to give me the Bowery Bag to test out and review during some of my travels the last few months. I put it through the rounds, and find it to be an ideal situation for street photographers who want a smaller bag to hold their Fuji, Leica, Micro 4/3rds, Compact, or small DSLR. Check out my review above!

How to Be Grateful For What You Have

The "rate race" in business is the best example of the "hedonic treadmill" in action.
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Someone will always have it better than you.

We are always tempted by what’s new. We want the newest cameras, the newest cars, the newest computers, the newest smartphones, the newest tablets, and more.

When does all this madness end? In this article I share some of my experiences succumbing to “G.A.S.” (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) and some techniques I have learned from the philosophy of Stoicism to overcome it.

Review of the Ricoh GR for Street Photography

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Self-portrait with the Ricoh GRD V in Detroit

Disclaimer: I have been provided a Ricoh GRD V (no strings attached) from Pentax-Ricoh. However I will try to keep this review as un-biased as possible.

Update: The new Ricoh GRD V (Version Number 2) is out, which is essentially the same camera with Wifi and some other minor changes. If you’re interested in the Ricoh GR, I’d just pick up the older one (unless you need the wifi setting).

Disclaimer aside, I think this is currently hands-down the best bang-for-the-buck digital camera for street photography currently out there right now. I love the compact size, the superb image quality and high-ISO performance, as well as the ergonomics and handling. It has been traveling with me alongside my Leica MP as a second shooter — and the camera seriously kicks ass.

While I still prefer shooting with film at the end of the day, it is an amazing camera and I highly recommend it to all street photographers who want a smaller alternative. Keep reading for more of my thoughts on the camera.

Also note I don’t really care for spec sheets and technical aspects, so I will keep this review as practical as possible for actual usage on the streets.

Street Photography Camera Game-Changer: The Ricoh GRD V

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The new Ricoh GRD V (or just the “GR”)

There are a few cameras that make me excited. The Ricoh GR-series are one of them.

Ricoh has an almost cult-like following in Japan (and all around the world) for its compact size and versatile functionality. In-fact, Daido Moriyama (one of Japan’s most famous photographer) uses the GR-series cameras exclusively (he used to shoot black and white film, and now digital GR’s). Frankly, I haven’t met a single street photographer who doesn’t like the camera.

What to Consider When Buying a New Camera for Street Photography

Istanbul-1

On my flight from Dubai back to the states I just finished an excellent book by psychologist Barry Schwartz titled: “The Paradox of Choice.” In the book, Schwartz addresses the following question in Western society: Why is it that people are getting more miserable when the amount of choices we are given goes up?

I am sure we have all experienced this problem. Whenever we go to the grocery store and want to pick up a box of cereal, we are given hundreds of options. Whenever we go to buy a new car, there are so many different companies, models, and options to choose from. Not only that, but when it comes to buying cameras we are given so many choices in terms of what type of camera/sensor (Full-frame DSLR, ASPC-sensor, Micro 4/3rds, Compact, etc) as well as a choice of lenses.

Schwartz gives solutions in the book in terms of how to deal with the over-abundance of choice and stress that it comes with. I have found this advice to be invaluable both in terms of my everyday life and when it comes to photography/buying equipment. I hope these tips help you, as they have very much helped me.

For this post, I have also included some new photos from Istanbul that I shot last year.