I've been attending the Cinequest 2018 film festival since Wednesday and still haven't gotten back to reading Tim Mulholland's article, although I did skim a little further into it. I'll get there eventually, I guess.
Meanwhile, I've been taking the bus and walking to those events that are located in downtown San Jose and taking the train for those events located in Redwood City. Walking a lot, carrying a very minimal bag with me that has nothing but my Cinequest passes, wallet, keys, iPad, L16, et al in it. And shooting quite a bit for me ... I've made about 300+ exposures with the L16.
Some comments regards shooting with it:
- I think it's one of the most invisible cameras I've worked with in street situations these days. Most people seem to perceive it as just a big smart phone, a very few actually notice that it's pointing at them, and then they're curious rather than defensive about it.
- A couple of the latest L16 firmware features make it much more responsive and quick to work with (like the one that now allows a quick tap of the power button to put it to sleep and wake it back up without having to go through the lengthy boot-up). The new focusing algorithms are hugely improved on speed, shutter responsiveness is worlds better. That said, it's not in the class of something like the Leica M on shot to shot responsiveness (nor do I expect it to be). It's just a little laggier than the iPhone 6 in my perception, but its ergonomics are so much better it's hard to see the difference.
- Power consumption seems fairly economical in every day use: I didn't charge it up specifically when the film festival began and I've only charged it up once since but that was when it was still showing over 50% power remaining. Two days of being on, making photos, being used to review photos, or in sleep mode, and it still shows more than 70% power remaining. That's not bad for a device running 16 cameras, display, and Android OS with WiFi turned on.
- Taking photos at all kinds of focal length settings and in all kinds of light, of static and dynamic subjects, I'm pretty amazed at the L16's versatility for such a small device, and I'm occasionally quite amused by its foibles and failures. For instance, a simple static shot of the light rail train moving past at 1/140 sec produced some of the wonderful old "tilted rectilinear distortion" that large focal plane shutters produce on moving rectilinear-sensitive subjects (like racing car wheels at speed), probably to do with read speed from all the cameras or something similar. The L16 shutter lag has its usual downsides when shooting people and expressions, although setting it to 3 frame or 6 frame sequence capture helps on that a little bit (at the expense of a lot of additional data collection). All of these negatives can be turned into positives creatively, or worked around. The ability to lock and hold focus now is very useful when doing street photography!
- One interesting 'failure' was a long shot at 150mm setting in the dimness of the theater during a Q&A with some high school student short films. The young people were all standing in a row and I turned on the flash. Well, between the long focal length setting, the dimness, the noise, and the flash being on, all of them have a particularly ghoulish appearance as the flash being in the center of the lenses reflected straight back off their retinas giving all of their faces and evil lighted eyes look. It's kind of funny, because the situation was very upbeat and these kids were really very exuberant and happy with all the praise and applause being thrown their way, trying to look thoughtful and respond seriously, but they look like a little row of zombie vampires considering their next attack.
- The photos the L16 makes can be beautifully textured and detailed, but it is quite variable in that regard depending upon the scene, the illumination, the focal length, and how its various software processes integrate all those individual cameras. If you hover around using 28-35mm or 70mm focal lengths most of the time, you get the most pixels and the best shot at premium quality.
- I haven't seen too much of a problem with chromatic aberration or flare, but it does occur occasionally. Like with any other camera, avoid situations that cause it, turn on CA removal in your image processing, etc. One problem I find with the L16 that seems to be exaggerated compared to other cameras is simply that it's difficult to hold level and square on to a subject to minimize distortion on the viewfinder LCD. I workaround this by shooting a little loose and using the Lightroom 'Lens Correction' and 'Transform' menus to correct things when the scene requires them.
My workflow so far:
- Capture as best I can with focal length, exposure, and focus where I want them.
- Start Lumen, transfer images to computer.
- Make quick gross corrections where needed with.
- Select all and export to DNGs.
- Import DNGs into Lightroom and render final.
Once I have the images in LR, if I see an opportunity where making the focus zone shallower or whatever makes sense, I reopen the original .LRI files in Lumen and make adjustments, export those files again to a "b" version DNG, and import those into Lightroom for rendering.
Lumen is the weakest part of the picture taking and processing workflow at present, for me. Not because it doesn't work or is so terrible at what it does, but because what it does is somewhat limited and it is pretty slow in its operations ... particularly exporting. It's just clumsy, which is why I minimize my time using it by using batch exporting, only doing further rendering adjustments when needed, etc. I'm sure it will improve.
Overall, however, using the Light L16 is a pleasure once you get past the initial learning point of how to hold it properly, what the controls do and how they are significant, etc. It's so small and light for its capabilities, I tend to be grabbing for it rather than my other cameras at present: My photography, right now, is a second fiddle to the film festival, or the bicycle ride, or the motorcycle ride. That doesn't mean I don't take it seriously, it just means that I'll trade off some things so that it's not in the way of my enjoying the other things I'm doing.
When I switch modes and put the photography work first ... Well, then it depends on what I'm after as to what equipment I'm going to grab and deal with. The Light L16 presents a different set of capabilities and image rendering compared to my Leicas, or my instant film, or my medium format film, or my pinhole cameras, or ... well, you get the idea I'm sure.
With luck, I'll have time to post some photos again by the end of the week.