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Old 15/07/13, 15:38   #1 (permalink)
malland
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Default M9 Colors at Night — Best Way to Shoot High ISO?

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Generally, since I got my M9-P in late-February, I've found that I really like the color rendition of the M9. I also like a lot the colors one can get at night when there often is mixed lighting. Perhaps the M9 color rendition is, as Thorstein Overgaard writes in his blog, is the result of Leica and Kodak having used the Kodachrome color model in design the sensor assembly for the M9.

Naturally, for night shooting the first inclination is to shoot the lowest ISO possible but, as night subjects can be lit very differently, you can find yourself having to change the ISO often. Pictures Nos. 1 and 2 below were shot at ISO 800 and ISO 1250, respectively. The exposure for No. 1 is fine, but No. 2 can could have been shot at 1/60 sec instead of 1/125 sec, which would allowed me to shoot at an ISO 640 rather than the ISO 1250 that I used. However, I was walking in a very dark street and wanted to get the shot off into the open-walled beauty parlor quickly before the configuration of the four people in the picture changed, which meant that I didn't think I would have the time to change ISO and shutter speed — as indeed proved to be the case when I shot the next frame of the same scene. Street photography is a dynamic situation in which there often is no time to change settings. Also, at night, when the subjects may be lit by lights of different type, from different directions and with different intensity, the desired exposure may also change quickly and frequently and sometimes be difficult to determine.

There is another way to shoot higher ISO at night that "douglas3f" has written about several times. Also, Ron Scheffler pointed to to a technical article by Jim Kasson, which shows on the basis of tests that the signal to noise ratio is better for the M9 if, when shooting above ISO 640, the exposure is "pushed" in post processing rather than increasing the ISO in the camera. The advantages are as follows:

1. There is less noise when pushing exposure in post-processing than in shooting at speeds like ISO 1250 and 2500 in the camera.

2. As you're shooting at ISO 640 all the time, there is no need to keep on changing ISO, at night in the type of scenes below, would require changing from ISO 640 to 800, 1250, 1600 and 2500 —and back — frequently; in reality doing this in camera would mean that you often wouldn't change ISO and would often end up exposing at the higher ISOs when not necessary.

3. When pushing the exposure in post-processing, you need only to push the minimum necessary, which means that often you end up using a lower effective ISO than you would had you shot setting the camera to, say, ISO 1250 or 2500.

4. When shooting higher ISO set in the camera there is less dynamic range, which means that hitting the right exposure is more difficult. In comparison, when gradually pushing up the exposure in Lightroom the image will usually have better exposure. On the question of how to expose when shooting at ISO 640, you can start with what the exposure would be at ISO 640 and if the aperture is too large for the depth of field that you want, or the minimum shutter speed is slower than you need, you adjust these two settings to to a point that will require the least pushing when processing. Actually, this is a good way of shooting for the type of night street photography in the pictures below because measuring or estimating the "correct" is difficult with the in-camera meter or even a separate spot meter; and you cannot use an incident light meter because it would mean walking over to the main subject to take a reading and then walking back to the shooting position, which for obvious reasons does not work for street photography.

Two more points. On white balance, I don't try to to neutralize the white balance completely but leave some of the color shifts that are visible in the skin tones because this looks more what you actually see at night as subjects take on some of the color of the light they are lit with; the thing is not to overdo this, which again comes back to the Kodachrome look that is possible to achieve easily with the M9. Second, nn noise, Thorsten Overgaard's in his review of the M240 wrote, "One of the reasons CCD looks so film-like is that the noise pattern is completely randomised. On CMOS it is uniform and you can always notice the fixed pattern of noise imprinted on the image. A CCD sensor has grain like film and it moves in the same way as film grain." Ron Schefller responded with the following in a discussion on another forum:
Quote:
I don't believe CMOS is less random in noise quality than CCD, rather it depends a lot on the individual camera/sensor. The biggest problem might be underlying banding characteristics that subtly become more obvious as files are pushed in post. The M240's sensor appears to have this problem as do those from the Canon 5DII and 5DIII. Banding can be a problem with the M9 too, but might not be strictly a sensor fault, rather a result of complications involving interference within the entire electronics system. My old CCD sensor Canon 1D also had banding problems…It's only a guess, but one difference that might lead him to this conclusion is how low ISO noise is suppressed in the M9 vs. M240. My feeling is the M9's low ISO files always show fine luminance noise while the M240's seem a bit cleaner and more in-line with what one sees from other current cameras. It's possible the sensor software for the M240 and other CMOS cameras apply some noise reduction at all ISOs that results in a somewhat less randomized looking noise structure for some observers?
Below are the pictures: in No. 3 and onward, there is an indication of how much I "pushed" in processing. In the Bangkok Obvious [WIP] there are forty M9 color photos, of which twenty are shot at night. Comments, both positive and negative, are welcome.




No. 1 | Summilux-50 pre-ASPH | ISO 800 | f/2.0 | 1/60 sec

Bangkok




No. 2 | Summilux-50 pre-ASPH | ISO 1250 | f/4.8 | 1/125 sec

Bangkok




No. 3 | Summicron-28 | ISO 640 pushed pushed 2.15 stops | f/2.8 | 1/125 sec

Bangkok




No. 4 | Summicron-28 | ISO 640 pushed 2.4 stops | f/2.0 | 1/60 sec

Bangkok

—continued in next post...

Last edited by malland; 15/07/13 at 15:40.
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Old 15/07/13, 15:39   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: M9 Colors at Night — Best Way to Shoot High ISO?

No. 5 | Summicron-28 | ISO 640 pushed 1.95 stops | f/2.8 | 1/90 sec

Bangkok




No. 6 | Summicron-28 | ISO 640 pushed 3.2 stops | f/2.8 | 1/90 sec

Bangkok




No. 7 | Summilux-50 pre-ASPH | ISO 640 pushed 2.5 stops | f/2.0 | 1/180 sec

Bangkok




No. 8 | Summicron-28 | ISO 640 pushed 2.25 stops | f/4.5 | 1/125 sec

Bangkok



—Mitch/Bangkok
Bangkok Obvious [WIP]
Eggleston said that he was "at war with the obvious"...

Last edited by malland; 15/07/13 at 16:02.
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Old 15/07/13, 18:23   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: M9 Colors at Night — Best Way to Shoot High ISO?

Sound advice IMHO!
This is more or less how I shoot the M8 at night; Trying to stay at base ISO or below/at ISO 640 then PP the midtones up, keeping black down in Adobe Camera Raw.
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Old 15/07/13, 22:38   #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: M9 Colors at Night — Best Way to Shoot High ISO?

Staying at a low ISO and pushing it in post is a great strategy if one can work with the shutter speeds that are incurred, obviously you are able to, Mitch.

Sometimes with all the wonder cameras out there that can see in the dark and shoot fairly clean to the stratosphere, it becomes lost that lower ISO is the best way to better IQ. Look at the DR graphs as they track from low to high ISO. Lots of reason to keep it low if you can.

A lot of landscape shooters I know could care less if 6400 is now a stop cleaner than it was before, they'd love a native ISO 50 or 25 rather than another step higher that's usable.
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Old 15/07/13, 22:57   #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: M9 Colors at Night — Best Way to Shoot High ISO?

Interesting article and I like the shots on the flickr stream. I am though seeing a lot of mottling in the shadow areas and maybe I would do a bit more with sliders (maybe a drop to the shadows and high lights) in the basic panel in Lr 4 or 5 and again some noise reduction may help. Well done
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Old 16/07/13, 04:27   #6 (permalink)
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Default Re: M9 Colors at Night — Best Way to Shoot High ISO?

Quote:
Originally Posted by mrware View Post
Staying at a low ISO and pushing it in post is a great strategy if one can work with the shutter speeds that are incurred, obviously you are able to, Mitch.

Sometimes with all the wonder cameras out there that can see in the dark and shoot fairly clean to the stratosphere, it becomes lost that lower ISO is the best way to better IQ. Look at the DR graphs as they track from low to high ISO. Lots of reason to keep it low if you can.

A lot of landscape shooters I know could care less if 6400 is now a stop cleaner than it was before, they'd love a native ISO 50 or 25 rather than another step higher that's usable.
Actually, four of the shots are at 1/125 sec, two are at 1/90 sec and two at 1/60 sec, so I haven't gone down to the limits of shooting handheld. I could have tried 1/30 sec and 1/15 sec...

Quote:
Originally Posted by viramati View Post
Interesting article and I like the shots on the flickr stream. I am though seeing a lot of mottling in the shadow areas and maybe I would do a bit more with sliders (maybe a drop to the shadows and high lights) in the basic panel in Lr 4 or 5 and again some noise reduction may help. Well done
Thanks for the kind words. In No. 5, I wouldn't drop highlights further, as that would make the fluorescent lights look unnatural. The shots with the highest effective ISO — No. 6, pushed 3.2 stops, is effectively ISO 6,144 — have both Luminance and Color Noise Reduction. Also, in No. 5 the ground is mottled in reality, as it's simply rough bitumen. My feeling is the shadows are already very dark and don't need further darkening, as the street that they were shot in is narrow and very dark, except as lit up by shopfronts or stalls. In any case, I usually move the LR5 Black slider somewhat to the left when I move the exposure slider to the right. Ultimately, the real test of these pictures would be, not from looking at them at 100% view on the monitor, but how they will look in prints. Although, I have not printed any of them yet, a view at 50%, in my experience, does give a reasonably good indication how a print will look — and these look fine to me.

To be clear, I am not saying that cleaner high ISO would not be a good thing but there are two caveats: firstly, to get the type of night look that I like there might be a need, for many shots, to reduce the exposure in post-processing; and, secondly, I don't know whether, for example, the M240 (after a firmware upgrade and better profiles), would produce the color rendition that I like from the M9.

Of course, the whole point of this thread is that one can do high ISO night shots with the M9 and that the results can be good. However, there hasn't been much interest in this thread. Could it be that most M9 users simply don't shoot much at night and are really not that interested in high ISO?

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Bangkok Obvious [WIP]
Eggleston said that he was "at war with the obvious"...
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Old 16/07/13, 05:57   #7 (permalink)
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Default Re: M9 Colors at Night — Best Way to Shoot High ISO?

Hi Mitch,

Thanks for sharing. I shoot pretty much with the same settings that you do although I usually hover around 1/30-1/60 at f/2 on my 35cron to max the exposure sometimes at the expense of blur. Reason being that I try not to push in post especially when the image is in color. Which implies that I look for shooting opportunities where I wouldn't have to push in post so much. It can be limiting but I just live with the constraint.

M9 is fine. But I wouldn't mind upgrading to an M240 and keep the M9 for the 35cron (and put the 21super elmar on the M240). Maybe when both demand and supply stabilizes if and when.

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Old 16/07/13, 07:37   #8 (permalink)
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Default Re: M9 Colors at Night — Best Way to Shoot High ISO?

Raul, f/2.0 and 1/60th works in No. 1 above at ISO 800 with the Summilux-50 and, with a 35mm lens, there would be some more flexibility for getting the depth of field one may need — and of course more so with the Summicron-28 that I like to use. While I understand that you limit yourself to shots that don't need pushing, I feel that there often is no problem, given the aesthetic that I want, with hee look of looming darkness and the rapid fall of light (whose intensity decrease in proportion to the square of the distance from the source).


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Bangkok Obvious [WIP]
Eggleston said that he was "at war with the obvious"...
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Old 16/07/13, 08:06   #9 (permalink)
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Default Re: M9 Colors at Night — Best Way to Shoot High ISO?

Here are three more with the Summilux-50 pre-ASPH shot without pushing, at ISO 1250. I find that it's much more difficult to shoot with a 50mm than with a 28mm in this deep darkness when lit by neon lights, as in No. 7 above or No. 11 below: when there is a bare fluorescent bulb surrounded by darkness blueish light "bleeds out" (for want of better words) from the bulb and often ruins the picture; with a 28mm bulb that bluish bleed area, as in No. 8 above, is usually smaller and much less noticeable. Nevertheless, it's worth trying with a 50mm lens because the results can sometimes be very good. Come to think of it, I'll add No. 12, shot with a Summicron-28 (at ISO 640 and pushed 2.1 stops), which shows that, if you "close up" a plane near to the subject in the back, the picture will not look more as if it were shot with a 50mm lens than 28mm wide-angle lens. Incidentally, my favorite of all of these is No. 3 above.



No. 9 | Summilux-50 pre-ASPH | ISO 1250 | f/3/4 | 1/125 sec

Bangkok




No. 10 | Summilux-50 pre-ASPH | ISO 1250 | f/3.4 | 1/125 sec

Bangkok




No. 11 | Summilux-50 pre-ASPH | ISO 1250 | f/2.8 | 1/125 sec

Bangkok




No. 12 | Summicron-28 | ISO 640 pushed 2.1 stope | f/2.8 | 1/125 sec

Bangkok



—Mitch/Bangkok
Bangkok Obvious [WIP]
Eggleston said that he was "at war with the obvious"...

Last edited by malland; 16/07/13 at 08:09.
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Old 16/07/13, 11:17   #10 (permalink)
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Default Re: M9 Colors at Night — Best Way to Shoot High ISO?

Surfers night Pano photo - Geoff Hopkinson photos at pbase.com
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Old 16/07/13, 12:26   #11 (permalink)
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Default Re: M9 Colors at Night — Best Way to Shoot High ISO?

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Nice work and findings Mitch. I really like the colour palette in these. It's my preferred palette I like to work with. Blues, Greens, Teals. I'm a fan of flouro lighting and use it a lot in my work for it's tonality and colour and softness. I agree about leaving the colour too. Anything digital or post related, I am a believer in never removing, only 'easing' and only what is required.

Hope you continue exploring the series.
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Old 18/07/13, 11:56   #12 (permalink)
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Default Re: M9 Colors at Night — Best Way to Shoot High ISO?

Here are four more night pictures made with the Elmarit-21 ASPH, which handles the bright lights very well. These are also shot at ISO 640 and pushed as required. For this type of lighting one can handle most anything at f/2.8 and 1/30 or 1/60 of a second. My favoriteby far is No 13.

I must say that I am disappointed that that there hasn't been more discussion and views on this thread: from all the LUF postings complaining about the high ISO capability of the M9, I thought there was real interest in high ISO and night shooting, but that doesn't seem to be the case.



No. 13 | Elmarit-28 ASPH | ISO 640 pushed 2 stops | f/2.8 | 1/90 sec

Bangkok




No. 14 | Elmarit-28 ASPH | ISO 640 pushed 0.35 stops | f/2.8 | 1/90 sec

Bangkok




No. 15 | Elmarit-28 ASPH | ISO 640 pushed 0.25 stops | f/2.8 | 1/90 sec

Bangkok




No. 16 | Elmarit-28 ASPH | ISO 640 pushed 0.35 stops | f/2.8 | 1/90 sec

Bangkok



—Mitch/Bangkok
Bangkok Obvious [WIP]
Eggleston said that he was "at war with the obvious"...

Last edited by malland; 18/07/13 at 12:00.
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Old 18/07/13, 12:51   #13 (permalink)
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Default Re: M9 Colors at Night — Best Way to Shoot High ISO?

i must say I really like the way you handle colour to convey atmosphere. It would not fit my style - I tend to neutralize the shots more, but I can only say it works quite well.
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Old 18/07/13, 15:32   #14 (permalink)
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Default Re: M9 Colors at Night — Best Way to Shoot High ISO?

Straight out of the camera, the M9 produces terrible noise at anything over 640. HOWEVER. The present noise lends itself very nicely to reduction, particularly using LR4 or above (and contemporary photoshop versions).

I had no quibbles shooting at ISO 2500 as long as I remebered to apply some careful noise reducton afterwards.

TRY THIS:
1) Shoot an image at ISO 2500 (but make sure your exposure is spot on).
2) In lightroom, go to DETAIL and set every value to 30, (except radius, which you leave at 1.0)
3) Voila.

If you dont believe me, take a look at the two 100% crops below. The secret is to kill the troublesome color noise and leave the un-troublesome luminance noise.
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File Type: jpg noise2-001.jpg (115.4 KB, 3205 views)
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Old 18/07/13, 15:40   #15 (permalink)
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Default Re: M9 Colors at Night — Best Way to Shoot High ISO?

Quote:
Originally Posted by skinnfell View Post
The secret is to kill the troublesome color noise and leave the un-troublesome luminance noise.
Two more samples.

As you have already demonstrated, the M9 produces excellent colors for night-time shooting. This goes to show that the M9/ME can still hold its own, IQ wise, four years after introduction.
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Old 18/07/13, 15:42   #16 (permalink)
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Default Re: M9 Colors at Night — Best Way to Shoot High ISO?

I'm very impressed by the Lightroom colour noise reduction tool. You can crank it up full and it has almost no adverse effects on the image (not so with the luminance noise reduction) and eliminates most of the M9's inherent colour noise issues. Also spot use of the moire tool is very good too at times although this one does need some care in use. The Luminance noise reduction is also very good too.
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Old 18/07/13, 15:59   #17 (permalink)
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Default Re: M9 Colors at Night — Best Way to Shoot High ISO?

If I really want to do good noisereduction I go to Photoshop and make two copies in ACR, one with the minimum acceptable noise reduction and one with the maximum (see the FAQ for the settings). In PS I make a layer mask, and paint in the amounts of noisereduction needed locally, using different intensity brushes. It takes time, but the results can be very good.
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Old 18/07/13, 16:23   #18 (permalink)
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Default Re: M9 Colors at Night — Best Way to Shoot High ISO?

Quote:
Originally Posted by skinnfell View Post
...I had no quibbles shooting at ISO 2500 as long as I remebered to apply some careful noise reducton afterwards...
Quote:
Originally Posted by skinnfell View Post
...As you have already demonstrated, the M9 produces excellent colors for night-time shooting. This goes to show that the M9/ME can still hold its own, IQ wise, four years after introduction.
skinfell, your illustrations of color noise reduction in Lightroom are compelling. But what is your reaction to shooting at ISO 640 and "pushing" in post? Post #1 above list the advantages that I see in doing that as opposed to setting a higher ISO in-camera: these include less noise; usually better exposure, given that the room for error is much less shooting at ISO 2500 instead of ISO 250; and that, in keeping that camera at ISO 640, will result in generally using a lower "effective ISO" because one pushes only as much as needed. Had I set the ISO in-camea, for Nos. 14–16, I would have shot at ISO 1250 if not ISO 2500 — and it turned out that for these pictures I only needed to push 1/4 or 1/3 stops. On the other hand for No. 6, I pushed as much as 3.2 stops, which means an effective ISO 6,144, which is, of course, beyond what can be set in-camera. It seems to me that all the advantages lie with using ISO 640 and pushing in post.

Now, the other conclusion, for me, is that the M9 does more than "hold its own" after four years. While I'm still an agnostic as far the color rendition of the M240 in concerned, and not inclined to spill either ink or blood on this question, I am still skeptical whether (after a firmware upgrade and an improved Lightroom profile) it will be able to produce the type of color rendition that I like in the M9: my feeling is that, at best, it may come close after a great deal of processing effort. It may turn out that my skepticism will be proved wrong, but I must say that the color rendition that I see coming out of M240 — even in cases where photographers have posted examples of "good color rendition" — does not, for my taste, match that of the M9.

Generally, from what I had read about the "M9 problems at high ISO", I didn't expect that I would be able so easily to produce high-ISO color rendering and IQ that I liked — but I hasten to add that my starting point may be different from many others in that I like the "grain" of the M9 at ISO 640.

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Bangkok Obvious [WIP]
Eggleston said that he was "at war with the obvious"...

Last edited by malland; 18/07/13 at 16:28.
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Old 18/07/13, 18:55   #19 (permalink)
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Default Re: M9 Colors at Night — Best Way to Shoot High ISO?

Excellent information / results - and yet another reason to skip the 240

I feel like a dolt not thinking of it. A great learning moment and reason to keep checking in on the Forum.

Thanks!!

I'd been lugged around 5DM3 at night - now no need, can't wait to try it tonight!

5DM3 will become exclusively video for my purposes...
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Old 18/07/13, 19:09   #20 (permalink)
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Default Re: M9 Colors at Night — Best Way to Shoot High ISO?

sblutter, funny, I also had the reaction, "why didn't I think of it?"; but it's really not obvious that exposing at lower ISO and pushing can result in better image quality — it takes the tests and technical explanation by Jim Kasson, linked in post #1, to make us "see the light". Not sure, though, that this necessarily makes for another reason to skip the M240: it may for me, but some people like what they're getting out of that camera.

I'll be interested in your results and how you think the color rendition compares to that of the 5DM3.

—Mitch/Bangkok
Paris au rhythme de Basquiat and Other Poems [download link for book project]
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