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When I began taking photography seriously many years ago, one of the first lenses I used was a humble 50mm f1.8 that came with my OM1n. Being new to the realm of SLR photography I wanted to capture sweeping wide angle vistas. I became immediately dissatisfied with my 50mm as it produced images too ordinary, too boring. Within weeks it was replaced with a 28mm lens that instantly gave my pictures the drama and impact I was looking for, and I was soon pushing for wider and wider effects that lead me first to 24 and secondly 21mm lenses.

One thing that 30+ years of photography has taught me is that there is no such thing as the perfect camera bag. During this time I have used, abused, collected and disposed of so many different types of bag that I no longer easily remember them all. I think I must have a weakness for them as when I attend a camera show, or visit a shop, I find I gravitate towards the bag section in search of the perfect item. The worrying thing is that I still do this in the feint hope that I have missed something over the decades, or that a manufacturer has introduced the holy grail of bags that will end my (and others) search.

My favourite image viewing software program is FastStone Image Viewer 4.6. It is simple to use, offers easy to use image manipulation controls (although I prefer Lightroom for processing images) and handles most RAW file formats (including Adobe DNG). On top of this, it is available free to download (for home use) from http://www.faststone.org/, although donations are accepted to help toward future development costs.

It seems rare today for a camera to come along that looks like it is designed by a photographer and not a by a consortium of IT orientated experts. Most cameras are bristling with buttons and their menu items allow users an almost infinite amount of configuration. Enabling/disabling some of the options can be frustrating to say the least, and having a copy of the manual close to hand is almost a pre-requisite in the early weeks of ownership.

It is into this world that Leica's X1 was born, its Spartan appearance making it stand out from the crowd. It is a beautiful example of minimization, devoid of all unnecessary controls and built to simply take still images.

One of the greatest photographic pleasures in life is to see a well exposed, well projected slide and more so, if it is an image that you have created yourself. I have been using 35mm slide film for decades now, both professionally and personally, and my enthusiasm for it has remained constant. There is nothing like receiving a box of transparencies and holding them up to the light for the first time. In this world of binary data, a slide is something so tangible – almost magical, with almost a feeling of a bygone age.

I write this occasionally glancing down at my desk, at a small box of yellow and blue with a ‘best before’ date of October 2013. And I realise that this could be the last batch of Ektachrome E100G I am likely to be able to get hold of. The news came, early in March 2012, that Kodak was discontinuing all of their slide film. Bad news for me, as I have used Kodak’s E100G, E100VS and Elitechrome EBX exclusively for many years. Kodak assured us that there are sufficient supplies of film to last several months, but I have noticed that stocks are already exhausted at some of my suppliers.

My biggest problem when starting out with post processing digital images was that of sharpening. I simply could not seem to strike a balance that for me, exhibited the right amount of sharpening without too much destruction. I guess this, and other post processing routines are down to personal preference; what I consider being enough will not be to everyone’s personal taste. Me? Well, I like my images to be ‘film like’ in their appearance, and the right amount of sharpening is fundamental to achieving this result.

My main post processing software is Lightroom 3.5 or 4.0 (the sharpening examples given below are relevant to Lightroom only), depending on what computer I am working from.

For my first PhotoArk Blog entry, I thought I would take a brief retrospective look at an old friend and favourite, the Olympus Zuiko 50mm f1.2 Lens. Long out of production, and expensive when new, it is one of my all-time favourite lenses of any system and format. For those that are not familiar with the OM System lenses, they were designed with true portability in mind and this large aperture lens is no exception. Stand this optic next to similar offerings from other manufacturers of the day, and the genius of the OM System’s chief designer, Yoshihisa Maitani, really shines.