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Epson RD1: what a10 yr old camera taught me about happiness

Discussion in 'Leica M Forum' started by rbelyell, May 4, 2014.

  1. rbelyell

    rbelyell SC Top Veteran

    819
    May 14, 2013
    NY Mtns
    personal journeys are boring. what redeems some is their intersection with our own interest. mine is learning about photography, and within that, trying to find the best balance for the enjoyable use of manual focus lenses that yields smile-inducing results. if youre interested in those two topics, read on!

    im a simple guy at heart. i like the interaction gained from looking through a viewfinder, framing a scene and focusing a lens. in fact i derive my most pleasureable 'user experiences' from that interplay. problem is that i have not been able to replicate that essentially film experience with digital. ive tried lots of solutions from lots of manufacturers: fuji, olympus, ricoh gxr, apsc, m4/3 blah blah blah. and ive achieved some fabulous resulting images from each system over many years.

    but truth be told, in spite of these great images ive nonetheless gone from system to system like some camera nymphomaniac. why, oh why? can i never be happy? is it that i really dont want to be happy? what is it in me that prevents satisfaction when my equipment rewards me with lovely picture after lovely picture? surely, there is something wrong with me, deeply, in my soul...

    turns out there is. and not surprisingly it brings me back to the deeply soulful enjoyment i get from simply looking through a viewfinder, framing a scene and focusing a lens. and it took a ten year old camera to bring me back to the future.

    FRAMING A SCENE

    turns out i dont like anything that stands between me, what i see and my ability to capture it. i didnt realize how unhappy i was not having that until i got the rd1. what i did realize was that i hated evfs blacking out or freezing after a shot (gxr m), i hated multiple framelines distracting my line of sight (rangefinder cams), i hated bright light obscuring my view by washing out my evf. the rd1 has a 1:1 optical viewfinder with single framelines. big, beautiful view, lightproof, no distractions, no blackouts/freezing, plus i see whats outside the scene so i can determine if i want it in the scene. honestly, you do not understand what a 1:1 view means to you in real life if youve not experienced it. amazing.

    FOCUSING

    this has been my biggest dissatisfaction with systems heretofore. i dont like peeking--i find it distracting as these damned dots are all over my screen obscuring my view of reality. red dots arent reality. my scene is reality. and i dont like the magnification regimen of having to press a button, leave my composition, focus, press a button, recompose and shoot. opportunity after opportunity lost. life moves on, it aint waiting for me to press buttons. plus, often my eyes just arent good enough to get it right.

    the rd1 has a simple, accurate, fast method of focusing that never obscures my scene, never requires me to leave my composition. that the view is 1:1 and not say .68 like an m8, and has a single vs two sets of framelines, makes everything larger, unencumbered, easy to see and thus quicker and accurate to focus.

    RESULTS

    this is by far the biggest eye opener. at 6mp, and with me being a confirmed, unabashed pixel peeper, i really couldnt be more pleased with the images. theyre sharp, pretty well saturated and both color and b&w have lovely tonal, filmlike qualities. even at 1600, i am more than happy with what i see. i'll put these up against the gxr m i used for years, and still hail for its results. but the rd1 is eons more fun, more 'involved' and puts up many less roadblocks in use than that fine camera. heck, i'd put the results i get with mf lenses up against the xpro i used for a month, then sent back. and its certainly as good as what ive gotten from m4/3 from the ep2 until today with my epl5.

    NEGATIVES

    you wouldnt use a hammer to make a milkshake, so no one tool can be used in all situations. the rd1 has flaws. first, the rewind lever is gimmicky and dopey, but more importantly it gratuitously interferes with recording any type of movement photography. that bugs me. alot. there are framelines for only 3 FLs and there absolutely needs to be a fourth for using a telephoto lens, anything in the 75-90mm range as it tops out at 50mm. thats just not close enough for many outdoor situations. that bothers me. alot. it has zero metering control, its metering is off (mine by around 1 stop) and is intentionally off-center. that bothers me, not alot, but some. its 1600 top iso is naturally limiting; thats life. for lowlight, i use another tool. its not at all 'stealthy'--its bigger than most digis and its shutter thwacks solidly and loudly. if i want stealth, i use another tool. battery life, card limitations, i dont care about so much.

    EPILOGUE

    so the rd1 taught me that yes, i can be happy manually focusing a digital camera! it taught me that i was not in fact a camera nymphomaniac. turns out i was looking for more than great images, more than analogue controls. i was looking for a communion between these and viewfinder/ focusing bliss--an optical experience that didnt obscure my scene or force me off my composition. i found my manual focusing happiness here at epson; i hope you find yours.

    iso 1600 summarit 50@f2.8 do you want better than this?
    p23467031-5.

    can you get sharper than this biogon 35@f2.8?
    p841374171-5.

    great color
    p1022363399-5.

    p961082687-5.

    p903240649-5.

    and wonderful b&w tonality
    p20737670-5.

    and again at 1600, this time biogon 35@f2
    p911374873-5.
     
    • Like Like x 14
  2. porchard

    porchard SC Veteran

    343
    Feb 24, 2013
    Devon, UK
    I've never owned - or even handled - an R-D1, but I completely understand your thinking here. In fact, I dare not even think about handling an R-D1, because I might just like it too much... and then I'd find myself owning yet ANOTHER camera. :frown::wink:
     
    • Like Like x 1
  3. pdh

    pdh SC Legend

    Jan 2, 2011
    well, quite.

    The time someone looks at my photographs and says "Oh wow what a sharp picture with such low noise" is the time I know I've wasted my time pressing the shutter release
     
  4. stillshunter

    stillshunter Super Moderator Emeritus

    Nov 5, 2010
    Down Under
    Mark
    Tony,

    This was so genuine and genuinely a great read. I'm with you all the way here and is why I shoot film, to get that feel with my old Leica Barnack - love the 1:1 VF clipped to my 'hot' shoe - a shame it's only for 50mm.

    Out of interest (not that I'm looking for a little Epson or anything :blush:), with the RD1 are the three framelines for that focal length lens or the equivalent? So, for example, are the 50mm framelines for a 35mm or 50mm lens?
    - oh how I tire of the equivalency ;)
     
    • Like Like x 1
  5. rbelyell

    rbelyell SC Top Veteran

    819
    May 14, 2013
    NY Mtns
    thanks all.

    mark: the rd1 has a lever for using actual 28, 35 and 50mm lenses. the framelines each calls up is adjusted for the 1.6 crop factor to 45, 56 and 80mm.
     
  6. ajramirez

    ajramirez SC All-Pro

    Jul 9, 2010
    Caguas, Puerto Rico
    Antonio
    Tony,

    I understand what you mean perfectly. I feel the same way about shooting with the Leica M9P. The view through the OVF is a joy and rangefinder focusing is quick and effective. I have had mine for a little over two years now, and save for a momentary desire for a M 240, no camera introduced since has tempted me.

    Keep enjoying your RD1.

    Cheers,

    Antonio
     
    • Like Like x 1
  7. SnapDawg

    SnapDawg Rorschach Test Pilot

    649
    Apr 18, 2014
    Canary Islands
    Ken
    Just back from a portrait shooting for a friend with mainly a 90mm Contax G Sonnar on the NEX-7 via Metabones adapter and focus peaking. My friend was happy with the results, and I truly enjoyed shooting in all-manual mode like back in the day but the one thing I've been really looking forward to is shooting my OM-2 in the streets of my new home and the alchemic ritual afterwards. It's really been a while ...
     
    • Like Like x 1
  8. Landshark

    Landshark PhotoDog

    Jul 15, 2010
    SoCal
    Bob
    Funny but these topics remind of the brief time I spent on the watch forums, many there believe that a manually wound watch, brings one closer to their watch than an automatic and quartz ones have no soul. Now I own both automatic and manual wind, honestly I do not feel any closer to my manual watches than I do to the automatic, just more annoyed, when I forget to wind them.

    Maybe I have just been shooting for too long but I have a hard time relating to the desire of shooting with a 10-year-old digital camera. For someone who shot film for so many years the transition to digital was not an easy one, on two fronts.

    First was the non natural capture experience, in the early days, the cameras were slow, slow to respond, slow to focus, slow to write, slow to refresh, just overall unpleasant to shoot with. I am talking the high end pro stuff here; I hated those Kodak DCSs, Canon and Nikon cameras. I have to admit even the changes to AF, Aperture or Shutter preferred Auto Exp, motor drives, in camera meters, high quality zooms and now mirrorless have all been a long progression and adjustment.

    Then there is the subject of IQ, all of the early digital cameras were horrible, noisy, off color, strange banding, you name it they were bad. But that was the beginning and has I switched completely to the digital darkroom, scanning all of my film, things started to get better to the point where I only need to shoot film was for that very rarely needed different look that either is only on film or a particular camera.

    Which brings to where I am today, I have a very large collection of cameras that I used to use and even larger one of cameras I like to look at but will never use.
    I have fond memories and appreciation for the cameras in my collection but when it comes to capturing images today I want the latest and best tool to capture the image I want. Even though there are specific ways I want my camera to function, I do not want to think about that function when I am shooting, I want as little in my way of capturing the image as possible. I also want very little to go wrong when shooting, extra functions that get activated by pushing an inconvenient button or dial. Maybe this has to do with the amount of years I have spent shooting for a living, but I find I have less fondness for the process than the final image. That being said manual focus, limited low light capabilities, lower resolution chips, limited optics or the use of “legacy glass” have little interest for me. They just get in the way of my image capture process, not enhance the experience.

    A couple of years ago I rewarded my self with a camera I always wanted and invested in a Nikon SP system, love the old rangefinder cameras, the workmanship, the style the feel but at the end of the day, I just do not shoot them. All the times I have owned a medium format camera, I have rarely shot with one for fun. Although there was a time when I shot quite a bit with view cameras, but always more with a 35.

    On the other hand I do relate to the idea and feel of tactile tools being part of the journey, just not with photography anymore. For example I love to cook and own a food processor with a number of attachments, I never use it because I love prepping, chopping and slicing by hand with a very sharp custom made Japanese kitchen knife. To the point where I now own quite a number of them, using a different one for the cutting function it was designed to do best. I also do not cook for a living that may just have a small part to play in this.
     
  9. Luke

    Luke Super Moderator

    Nov 11, 2011
    Milwaukee, WI USA
    Luke
    that would be my preferred way of focusing as well. But I use stratospheric ISO regularly, so I'll keep waiting for for an RD2 with a modern sensor.

    There is no perfect camera so one needs to find the best compromise for one's own pleasure. Glad you finally find yours, Tony.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  10. Jock Elliott

    Jock Elliott SC All-Pro

    Jan 3, 2012
    Troy, NY
    That was a great read and very nice images.

    I love the phrase "camera nymphomaniac," and I wonder if sometimes we aren't all like mad carpenters: "I cut this board three times and it's still too short!"

    With regard to your 6 megapixels, you may find this website interesting: http://6mpixel.org/en/

    Cheers, Jock
     
    • Like Like x 1
  11. stillshunter

    stillshunter Super Moderator Emeritus

    Nov 5, 2010
    Down Under
    Mark
    Jeez Bob you sound like a prime candidate for wet-shaving…another of my hobbies :blush:
     
  12. Landshark

    Landshark PhotoDog

    Jul 15, 2010
    SoCal
    Bob
    The only problem with that is I have a had a rather large beard on my face for a very,very long time so I did not have to shave:dance2:
     
    • Like Like x 1
  13. rbelyell

    rbelyell SC Top Veteran

    819
    May 14, 2013
    NY Mtns
    thanks guy. jock, thank you for the site.

    PNIEV: yeah, the focusing is mechanically the same as leica m, but the experience is different in two, to me, significant ways. first the view is 1:1, which is what you see naturally--you can shoot with both eyes open if you like. the m8 is .68, which to me makes it harder to focus. second the vf only shows one set of framelines per lens while the leicas show two. again imo, this clutters up the screen and is very distracting. on the other hand the leicas are more flexible in the lenses you can use with native vf framelines.

    as for 10 yr old cam, the only issues are sensor and fixing. i agree its taking a chance if it breaks, but so is the much more expensive m8. as for sensor, if i put these pix up and said they came from an xtrans very few wouldve known the difference. the fact that its a ccd vs the omnipresent cmos is a huge plus to me personally.
     
  14. Landshark

    Landshark PhotoDog

    Jul 15, 2010
    SoCal
    Bob
    First, blow them up and it becomes obvious, second does it really matter. If you are happy that is all that maters for your use. But if one needs higher resolution there is no way the old chip can keep up. For I would rather lose resolution in post than not be able to get it in the first place.

    On a side note can someone here explain to me the thrill of manual rangefinder focus. I have been shooting for a very long time, my first real camera was a rangefinder, but it was soon replaced with a Nikon F, which back in those days when my eyes were not so old, I focused on a ground glass matte screen, no micro-prisms or split screens. I always found them distracting to composing and capturing the moment. The matte allowed me to focus anywhere on the screen, none of the focus and then compose that focus aids make one do. I shot that way all the way, with all cameras 35, medium format and view cameras all the way up until AF became fairly reliable. Now with the ability to put the AF spot where ever I want I fell like I almost have the same freedom in shooting that I had when I started out, only quicker and more accurate.
     
  15. rbelyell

    rbelyell SC Top Veteran

    819
    May 14, 2013
    NY Mtns
    probably no one can explain it. i use AF, and 24mp, in my rx1. i enjoy shooting it for a variety of reasons, but connection between me, my equipment and the scene is not one of them. and i enjoy the results alot. 24mp vs 6? obviously no contest. and the rendering leaps off the screen. and again, if your reason d'artre is to blow up and print 16x20, obviously you want more mps than less. but my personal experience as a pixel peeper who routinely magnifies to 100% on screen, i havent seen that big a difference from the rd1, the gxr m and the x100 on pix taken at base iso. for pure IQ, that shot of the dog by the water i'll put up against any 16mp out there. yvmv.

    if you dont enjoy manual focus thats ok, i dont think anyone can or should explain that opinion away. you either feel more connected by it to the process or you dont. no right answer. my entire premise for this thread was the pleasure i personally derive from that experience and why.
     
  16. Landshark

    Landshark PhotoDog

    Jul 15, 2010
    SoCal
    Bob
    I guess what I was trying to say is how does manual focus connect one more with the shooting experience.
    Take the shot of the dog as an example, most dogs move a lot, being very attentive to their surroundings. Manually focusing that shot means one is giving the dog more of a chance to move and lose that point of focus. Seeing that beautiful animal through the viewfinder is the thrill for me.

    In the end for me cameras are just tools to capture what I thought I saw, if the camera does it better, faster, more accurately and more conveniently, then that is the camera that will give me the images I want to make. On the other hand it does not really matter how one gets there, if you are happy with your choice cool.
    I am just curious how one makes those choices
     
  17. Luke

    Luke Super Moderator

    Nov 11, 2011
    Milwaukee, WI USA
    Luke
    Bob.... aren't you the same guy who prefers to use a beautiful handmade Japanese knife to an automatic food processor? :wink:

    And I'd bet your sweet sports car has a manual transmission despite the fact that state of the art automatic transmissions will likely get you through the course a little quicker.
     
  18. Landshark

    Landshark PhotoDog

    Jul 15, 2010
    SoCal
    Bob
    Luke right on the knives, fishing, 75% on cooking equipment, 30% on wine(like the new world more than the old) but on the car nope I love my dual clutch paddle shifting transmission, it is faster and smoother than any straight manual I have ever driven. I would not go back unless I have too.
    With the cooking even though I do not use a food processor I have been known to use a pressure cooker and will occasionally break out the Sous-vide equipment:eek:

    Forgot one last one I know I should play them, I have a good turntable and cartridge but I just keep playing mp3s instead of the LPs or even the CDs
     
  19. Luke

    Luke Super Moderator

    Nov 11, 2011
    Milwaukee, WI USA
    Luke
    And on the rare occasion I play tennis (my knees just don't like it very much anymore), I like the feel (and the challenge) of playing with an old wooden racket (I have no illusions that they are superior to modern rackets....I just enjoy the experience more).

    There are just so many different ways to "experience" photography (or anything else for that matter) that one tends to find the one that appeals most to them and then they can't imagine how anyone else prefers something else.

    Now I want to listen to an LP....where did I leave my stylus cleaner? :rolleyes:
     
  20. rbelyell

    rbelyell SC Top Veteran

    819
    May 14, 2013
    NY Mtns
    yup. like i said, theres no wrong answer to a non-debate. its a 'feel' thing, like when you fall in love with someone, you cant really describe it, though i tried my best in OP. you either feel it or you dont.