This year I had the opportunity to attend CP+2019 in Yokohama, Japan on February 28th and March 1st with Shawn Zheng from BenQ Australia and Jeremy Daalder from ImageScience, Melbourne (my preferred provider for high-quality printing and colour-critical support). My personal choice for a colour-accurate 4K monitor with a broad colour gamut is BenQ’s SW271(Adobe RGB instead of the smaller sRGB colour gamut that most monitors are only capable of displaying). BenQ offered me the opportunity while visiting CP+2019 to field-test their very affordable SW240 monitor (less money than an FE 1.8/85mm lens) together with the kit that makes this monitor portable. BenQ are referring to this workflow imaging solution as Accurate Colour On The Go or ACOG. I wanted to use their ACOG to test a ‘capture and edit’ workflow on a model shoot at a Japanese Temple in Tokyo. The final result is the lead image used in this blog post. It certainly makes a huge difference to be able to use a full-size high-resolution colour-accurate monitor to be able to discuss the creative concept, composition and final editing using Lightroom and Photoshop CC, rather than having numerous creatives standing around a small laptop screen (or even worse – the back of the camera). I discuss how the image was captured and composed at the end of this blog post. The workflow was filmed by Gordon Lien of G&W design in Sydney and the movie should be available later this month. I envisage ACOG is destined to become a powerful, and affordable, tool for creatives who are not prepared to compromise on image quality when working on location. With its colour accuracy and broad colour gamut it is an ideal tool to both asses colour critical work as the creative process unfolds and then complete aspects of the post-production workflow while still on location.
Note > It still amazes me how many keen amateur photographers and emerging professionals invest tens of thousands in premium quality cameras and lenses and then view and edit their work on poor-quality monitors that compromise the rich quality their gear is capable of capturing. The rich detail basically remains hidden from view in the files they are trying to edit. For the price of no more than Sony’s E-Mount kit lens they could, instead, view the rich detail on an SW240 and, for a little more of an investment, they can buy a premium quality 4K version from BenQ’s SW range. It also is astounding that many photographers discuss ‘Colour Science’ or the different colour renditions by choosing to use cameras from different manufacturers, when they are viewing these colours on monitors that are simply not displaying colours accurately. Everything is a compromise until a photographer decides to colour manage their workflow. A colour accurate monitor is an essential piece of this workflow. For a greater understanding of a colour managed workflow you can download this free eBook: https://www.markgaler.com/product/colour-management
First stop at the show was the BenQ stand (right at one of the entrances to the show). BenQ were showcasing their extensive range of colour accurate models and their portable SW240 kit which is currently in development. This monitor can be wheeled to the location in its hard case and the monitor can then be mounted to the lid of the hard case or a separate light stand or tripod when on location. The monitor is powered by a portable battery pack and just waiting for the creative and photographer to hook their laptop computer up to start reviewing images as the shooting commences.
Sony at BenQ+2019
I was also keen to visit the Sony stand to see the newly announced FE 135 mm F/1.8 lens that was on show for the first time. I am a big fan of short and medium length telephoto primes (I own both of Sony’s 85mm primes and they both featured in my Top Ten Sony Full-Frame E-Mount Lens movie). I have also completed a positive review of the Batis ‘Native E-Mount’ 135mm f/2.8 lens. I am keen to see how the new 135mm stacks up against the SAL 135 F/1.8 ZA A-Mount and Batis 2.8/135 E-Mount lenses as this will most likely be a lens that becomes a key player in my personal Alpha lens lineup.
Sony’s stand was perhaps the biggest at CP+2019 and Sony provided a shooting station and two models so attendees could try out their new 135mm f/1.8 GM lens. Although lighting conditions were less than ideal my first impressions of the lens were positive. My biggest fear was that if Sony went for a f/1.8 aperture (rather than an f/2.8 aperture like the Zeiss Batis) the lens might be too heavy. At 950 grams or 2.09 Ib it is 40% heavier than the Batis which weighs in at 614 g (1.35 lb), but is lighter than the manual focus F/2 Zeiss Milvus 135 (a lens designed for DSLR cameras) which weighs in 1123 g or 2.47 lb or the Sigma 135mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art Lens (1130 g or 2.49 lb). Ultra-wide apertures are very nice … but they do come at a price (primarily weight). When working close for tight head-and-shoulder portraits, choosing to shoot with an aperture wider than f/2.8 can result in a depth of field that insufficient to get both the eyes and eyebrows sharp. Where the 135mm focal length comes into its own is when shooting half, three-quarter or full-length portraits at the maximum aperture. This will result in dramatic figure/ground separation and result in the background being reduced to a pleasing and non-distracting bokeh. The 135mm f/1.8 GM may offer a lighter alternative to the FE 70-200 f/2.8 GM (0.5 kilo or 1.3 Ib’s) while offering a one-stop brighter aperture.
Also being showcased by Sony at CP+2019 was Animal Eye-AF. Attendees could use a Sony A7RIII and wide aperture prime to test the feature that is will be available via a firmware update for A7III, A7RIII and A9 users in the middle of the year. Although only being tested on mechanical cats at the show, the feature is now more than just a promise if Sony are willing to let its customers try this feature out under controlled conditions.
CP+2019 also provided attendees with the opportunity to take home a limited edition FE 400 F/2.8 GM …keyring. Perhaps the biggest buzz at CP+2019 (aperture from Sony’s free keyring) is the arrival of full-frame Mirrorless cameras now being made available by most of the leading camera manufacturers. I can’t help thinking, however, that Sony has a very clear lead in this field with its 31 lens lineup and the fact that it is still the only company that is offering fast and reliable AF tracking in the full-frame mirrorless offerings. It’s good to see some competition but I feel Sony is not going to give up its dominating presence and technological superiority in the near future. The new object tracking that was available to field test using A6400 cameras at a shooting station on the Sony stand this also serves to demonstrate that Sony is about to broaden the AF performance gap over its competition.
Location Scouting in Yokohama
As well as attending the CP+2019 show I was able to explore and scout suitable photographic locations in and around Yokohama.
This proved to be a fabulous location for anyone interested in the Street or Architecture genres.
I am still reviewing the FE 24 GM and this is exactly the type of image that is reinforcing why I need this lens in my kit. Although it is a wide angle lens it is still able to achieve figure/ground separation when you use the f/1.4 aperture. The gardens were a delight and a small respite from Yokohama city which is really just an extension of greater Tokyo.
Seems odd to visit Chinatown while in Japan but the colour here was fabulous and gave me lots of opportunities for urban street shooting and character portraits.
Tokyo Temple Shoot
After collecting the BenQ ACOG system from the BenQ stand we made the journey from Yokohama to Tokyo and proceeded to the Asakusa Tera Temple in Tokyo. After finding a suitable location (away from direct sunlight and the far from the madding crowds) we met our model, Zhang Yue, who we had organised to be dressed in a fabulous red Kimono (this would highlight one of the advantages os using a wide-gamut monitor). The lenses I chose to use at this shoot were the FE 100 F/2.8 GM and the FE 55 F/1.8 ZA. I am currently testing the FE 100 F/2.8 GM lens for the second time since its launch and it is a lens that I am contemplating adding to my personal lens collection. I feel a lot of Sony users overlook this fabulous portrait lens because they don’t quite understand the attributes of owning an STF or ‘Smooth Trans Focus’ lens. Although the lens is marketed as having an f/2.8 aperture, it’s widest stop on the barrel of the lens indicates a setting of 5.6 T. Essentially what this means is that you are shooting with the depth-of-field of f/2.8 but the lenses light-gathering properties is similar to shooting with an f/5.6 aperture. In order to achieve perfect bokeh the lens needs to sacrifice a little of its light transmission to the sensor. The 5.6T is its transmission value (T-Stop) which is why it reads 5.6 T rather than F 5.6. Some photographers may be put off by the idea of using a lens that loses two stops of light at its widest aperture, but in reality this does not result in any significant workflow issues. At apertures of f/8 and smaller the lens behaves exactly like a regular GM prime lens (incredibly sharp). The image above is captured at ISO 200 while working in the shade and without using any flash lighting. The huge advantage, however, to using an STF lens is the unique and silky-smooth bokeh this lens provides to the discerning portrait shooter. An ultra High-Definition gallery of images captured with this lens can be viewed here: https://flic.kr/s/aHskUx8Rsh
The Final Concept
The final concept was to shoot the model twice and then quickly composite the results using Photoshop CC on location to make sure we had the image ‘in the can’ before moving to the second locations. This would allow us to showcase more aspects of the Kimono and also create a small narrative component to increase the viewer’s interest while showcasing the value of using a large colour-critical monitor on location. For this project I decided to use a workflow called ‘Fixed Position Compositing’. The capture and compositing workflow is outlined in my Tutorial section on this website. Fixed Position Composite Tutorial. The camera is essentially mounted to a tripod to maintain precisely the same angle of view between different shots and the exposure is kept consistent by using Manual Exposure mode on the camera (this keeps the compositing quick and painless). Typically I would consider using Manual Focus as well to maintain the same focus between component shots, but in this instance I decided to use Eye-AF and make sure the model was positioned at approximately the same distance from the camera in both shots so the background had the same focus. In consultation with Shawn Zheng and Jeremy Daalder we decided on the level of exposure for the ambient light (minus one and two-thirds of a stop) to render the background a little darker so the correct flash exposure on the model would make her pop from the background. Lighting was kept incredibly simple by using a large portable hand-held diffuser and hand-held HVL-F45RM fired remotely using Sony’s Wireless Commander mounted to the Multi-Interface shoe on the camera. I think some photographers may be surprised to see how a small hand-held flash can provide enough light to be the primary light source (even when diffused through a lighting modifier) to illuminate a 3/4 length model shoot at a low ISO. The advantage to working light in a public space, however, meant that we managed to go unnoticed by locals and officials for the duration of the shoot. In this location I wanted to shoot with a wide f/1.8 aperture (to blur the background slightly) but the ambient light was a little too bright to achieve underexposure of the background f/1.8 – even when the ISO was set to 100 and a shutter speed of 1/250 second (fastest sync speed) was selected. In order to achieve the desired -1.7 underexposure, in this instance, a photographer can either elect to use High Speed Sync (HSS) or use an ND filter on the lens to reduce the amount of ambient light. Although HSS is a viable option on the flash system being used (HSS enables a higher shutter speed than 1/250 second to be used to further reduce the ambient exposure) I decided to use an ND8 filter attached to the lens. The ND8 reduced the ambient light by 3 stops but the flash was still more than up to job to evenly illuminate the model. An ND4 filter would have proved to be the perfect density for the required -1.7 underexposure at ISO 100 so the one-stop darker ND8 required the camera’s ISO to be raised to 200.
This image was edited and uploaded to Flickr using the Adobe RGB (1998) Colour Space. To fully appreciate the colour in this image it is best viewed on a colour-accurate broad-gamut monitor (one with an Adobe RGB Color Gamut) such as one of the SW range from BenQ. To find out more about BenQ’s range of colour accurate pro-grade monitors in Australia go to: https://imagescience.com.au/products/monitors/benq-monitors
I would like to thank BenQ Australia and ImageScience in Melbourne for their kind support for this project.