We drove the A Class 250 e: another milestone in plug-in hybrid mobility…

Mercedes is joining the plug-in hybrid trend on the road to zero-emissions driving. It does this with the third generation hybrid drive under its celebrated EQ Power label, with the future-oriented commitment so typical for the brand. Indeed, wonderful times are ahead, so it appears. This A 250 e promises indeed formidable economy and emission values: combined fuel consumption 1.5-1.4 l/100 km, combined CO2 emissions 34-33 g/km, combined electrical consumption 15.0-14.8 kWh/100 km.

All so wonderful, but of course under the condition that you use its plug-in capacity. Otherwise, it is just a zesty petrol engined compact Mercedes with good performance and road qualities… but one which gets you home no matter the distance!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Electric Charging stations are an absolute must…

Indeed, plug-in hybrids are very much OK if you can charge then every day at home or office. If this is not available, Mercedes helps. Via its “Mercedes me Charge”, you can optionally obtain access to one of the world’s largest charging networks, with over 300 different operators in Europe alone Thanks to its navigation system, Mercedes-Benz drivers can find these stations easily and can gain convenient access to the charging stations via the Mercedes me Charge card, the Mercedes me App or directly from the car.

No separate contracts are necessary for this: apart from simple authentication, customers benefit from an integrated payment function with simple billing after they have registered their payment method once. Each charging procedure is booked automatically. The individual charging processes are clearly listed in a monthly invoice.

The car: top performance…

The A 250 e is fast. We can say, almost superfast. What to think of 6.6 seconds for the sprint from 0 to 100 km/h, and a top speed of 235 km/h? You can drive it in E-power only mode, and even then its electric 75 kW motor will push it to 140 km/h. So with everyday charging, you have a lively E-car under your right foot which is more than powerful enough to give you genuine driving pleasure combined with “zen” electric smoothness.

But if you are faced with an immediate longer trip, with no time to find charging stations for your empty battery, the 1,33 litre four cylinder gets eagerly to work. It smoothens out on the autobahn, otherwise it lets you know it is there, but then with a pleasant touch of sportiness. It develops 118 Kw/160 hp at 5500 rpm, and its 250 Nm torque starts at 1620 rpm, which gives it plenty of punch in the lower and mid rev ranges. Oh yes, total system power is 160 kW/218 hp, and system torque is an impressive 450 Nm.

Charging a breeze…

A lithium-ion high-voltage battery with a total capacity of approx. 15.6 kWh is ingeniously packed in the car. It sits under the rear seat and can be charged with alternating or direct current. A corresponding vehicle socket is located in the right-hand side wall of the vehicles.

This means that the compact plug-in hybrids can be charged at a 7.4 kW Wallbox with alternating current (AC) within 1 h 45 min from 10-100 percent SoC (Status of Charge). For direct-current charging (DC), the battery can be charged from 10 – 80 percent SoC in around 25 minutes.

So if you are a (mostly) urban driver, plenty of charging opportunities!

Driving the A 250 e exclusively on E power in urban situations is the thing to do. If the battery is empty, – it’s useable range is around 55-60 km on a charge – the willing petrol engine gives you plenty of zest, but not the supersmooth progress we have grown accustomed to in our own hybrid Lexus for instance.

Gearchanges by the 8G-DCT dual clutch transmission are noticeable at slow speeds and smaller throttle openings, and economy is in these circumstances what you can expect from a solid Mercedes with a sporting engine. In short urban errands, anything between 8 and 14 litres/100 km could be your sort, but luckily once on the open road the engine gets really into its stride and consumption hovers between 5,5 to 6,1 liters when cruising at legal cruising speeds.

Drive programs to choose from…

But there is more. With the launch of MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience) the previous plug-in operating modes of all EQ Power models have been converted to so-called “drive programs.”

After 52 kilometers, the battery is empty, and the earger 1332 cc four cylinder gets to work… but for better urban driving economy, you are well advised to plug in and prefer e-power!

These new drive programs are “Electric” and “Battery Level”. Maximum e-performance can of course be had in “Electric”. The combustion engine is then only engaged if you floor the throttle. In the “Electric” program, the energy recuperation strength under braking/decelerating can be selected via paddles behind the steering wheel. The paddles on the steering wheel enable the selection of five different recuperation levels (DAUTO, D+, D, D- and D–).

Comfort, ECO and Sport modes are also available.

So you can give priority to electric driving, or choose more dynamic driving in combined drive mode or give preference to the “Battery Level” i.e. the combustion mode to save electric range, for example.

Mercedes remains Mercedes… and more about its future plug-in strategy

When looking at chassis, bodywork, cabin amenities and finish, the good star always tells us a beautiful story. The new A Class scores top marks here. Excellent seating position, ergonomics, MBUX, or Mercedes-Benz User Experience, comfort, handling, looks and practicality, everything is there.

Looking at the future, the new plug-in hybrids of the S-, E- and C-Class with electric ranges of up to 50 km in accordance with NEDC are now more than a year with us. In the C- and E-Class, Mercedes-Benz is the only manufacturer to combine the diesel engine with plug-in technology, offering this set-up in the Saloon and Estate versions of these two model series.

This year, about 20 model variants will have the plug-in layout… so the good star is indeed well plugged in!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Photographers’ note: All photos were taken with our big Nikon DSLR, which amply shiws in the crispness and balance of the images…

Rediscovered camera’s

Corona times at home are very useful to take stock of what one actually owns. Doors of hard to reach cupboards are opened, shelves are inspected, boxes from earlier moves are unpacked. And long forgotten gems appear. Just read with us this (very) happy tale…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

It all starts with a Leica.

My father used it for the Summer Olympic Games in Montreal. This was back in 1976. He procured himself this Leicaflex SL with a Leitz Canada Summicron 1:2 90 mm lens. I found it back in a box stored in an upper cupboard. My father had used it intensively, but luckily everything was still in working condition. The shutter functioned, the camera back opened without a hitch, the film pressure plate, everything OK.

The letters “SL” stood for “Selektive Lichtmessung” or “Selective Light Metering” and indicated explicitly that the Leicaflex SL was capable of through-the-lens spot metering, contrary to the earlier Leicaflex Standard, which relied on an external metering cell. The SL’s meter reads a limited area of the image corresponding to the coarse microprism zone on the viewscreen.

Well, everything on our camera was almost OK, as there is one very important element missing around the shutter release knob: the shutter speed dial. Maybe the camera had been dropped, and the circular ring to select the shutter speed was gone. So it sticks invariably to a shutter speed of 1/2 second. Can it be repaired? Who knows. It appears that Leica is not servicing this model anymore. Leica does no longer support R-system cameras. The company recommends to send cameras to Paepke-Fototechnik in Düsseldorf for any repairs. We will contact them soon, and when Corona times are over, we will make a trip to Düsseldorf…

Another hitch is that the mercury cells that supplied a constant 1.34V to the metering cell do not exist any more. We will also ask the Paepke-Fototechnik people how we can work around this…  

Apparently the SL was produced until 1974, when it was replaced by the Leicaflex SL2. More soon when we contact Paepke-Fototechnik!

The Hasselblad 500C

Another gem we re-awakened from its box was the Hasselblad 500C. It has the Carl Zeiss 2:8 Planar lens and is still in very mint condition, and, as far as we can see “on the dry”, in perfect working order. We will start to use it soon, with one caveat however, and this goes for all the analogue film camera’s, my darkroom is in my house in France, and in Corona times, we are still not allowed to cross the French/Belgian border at the moment of writing…

Then there are the two Mamiya’s 645. One with a classic viewfinder, and one with a prism viewfinder and built in light meter. One has the standard 80 mm lens, the other one the wide angle 55 mm 2.8. They are still as brand new and of course in perfect working order. There is also a 250 mm telelens to complete – literally – the picture.

Another analogue camera waiting on the shelf for better times is the Nikon F100. It sits there with a standard 50 mm 1,8 Nikon lens, is also mint, as new and also just waiting to be used again. It just needs batteries to get cracking.

Now we come to some (almost) forgotten digital camera’s. We recently used a lot our Fujifilm X10 with the Fujinon 28-112 mm equivalent F2-2.8 lens, a compact gem of a camera we really happen to like very much, especially in street and social event photography.  This is an exeption to the camera’s shown in this report, this one has never been “forgotten”.

Unfortunately the camera won’t shut down when one clicks the lens barrel again in the “off” position, and will continue to function for 2 minutes. This of course shortens battery life dramatically, so we bought a spare battery and keep the camera going when touring, visiting museums and the like.   

One camera we thought we had lost however is a Fuji Finepix “S”4200, a 14 mp cropped sensor “crossover” camera of yesteryear we would say, with a quite creditable 24 x optical zoom lens. It is not ideal at high ISO – far from it – but then again it is versatile with its zoom lens. The sensor of the Fujifilm 10X is quite in another league, we must admit. This camera cannot produce any images in RAW, the only option apparently is shooting in Fujifilm Finepix standard color, chrome or b&w. You can boost its ISO to 6400, but then things get quite horrible. OK, in B&W there is still something to be done, but nowadays your average smartphone outclasses it… But, as said, we found it again, and will – for the sake of it – put it again through its paces to see what it still can do in modern times, when we have our next test car, for example. We will compare the results with the much more modern Sony A 5100, which we will then use alongside it.     

 

We – last but not least – got the Sony A 5100 again out of its box, we bought a Nikon adapter for it so we can use our Nikon glass on it, but even with its 16-50 mm standard lens it is a quite good performer. It is also an excellent vlog camera, but more about this later…Note that this last photo was taken with the Fujifilm Finepix S4200, at 200 ASA, quite creditable indeed as one knows that all the photos of the other camera’s are taken with the Sony A 5100…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Miami wheels…

Noblesse Oblige: a Rolls Royce is the car for shopping at Worth Avenue in Palm Beach…

Before Corona hit our shores, we went in February to Florida to soak up the early sun. Undoubtedly this proved to be a wise choice, as at the moment of writing, we are still not allowed to travel. We visited Miami and made a drive to Key West, in a rented Nissan Altima. A very comfortable mount with a well pulling and smooth 2,5 litre 188 HP four cylinder petrol engine coupled to a soave CVT transmission. This CVT performed well, raising the revs gradually following the push of your right foot, and restraining fussy revving even when you accelerate full throttle. Once above 4,000 rpm, it will make crisp upshifts.

With lots of support from the power steering the Altima is very easy to steer, stable and comfortable, and offers lots of room for its occupants. An ideal, and stylish travelling machine, which left little to be desired.

On Florida roads, the usual pickups abound, but there is a lot of room left for supercars and European (noble) brands. Indeed, Florida is the realm of the well to do, and also one of the states with a 56,14 % majority of foreign brands in its total car market. It counted in 2018 some 7,6 million registered vehicles. California is actually the top car state with not less than 14,6 million registered vehicles, and a foreign car market share of 64,9 %.

Go in the posh shopping and hotel areas of Miami beach, and you will see it is the home of Lamborghini’s, Maserati’s, Mercedes, BMW, Porsche, Range Rover, Bentley, Rolls Royce. Many buyers of the noble European brands opt for SUV’s as well as cabrio’s and coupés.

On the road, big SUV’s and pickups from American and Japanese brands abound, with the open Mustangs being frequently seen too, as well as Chevy Camaro’s.

Every now and then an American built classic meets you, as a fifties or sixties open Ford or Thunderbird. Indeed, Cuba is not far away…

Of course, there are the Cinquecento’s. We saw a new one on Miami Beach, and a vintage or “classic” Cinquecento used by a Sicilian Ice cream vendor…

Also a two decades old SUV was totally sculpted in sand, if there ever was a beach car, this is the one…

We just let you enjoy the photos here, and dream with us of these sunny shores and their nice cars…

Hans Knol ten Bensel       

Announcing 110 year Alfa anniversary with a video…

The dynamic PR people of FCA Belgium created a new video to keep in touch with current customers and future prospects in Belgium and Luxembourg, a few weeks before the official celebration of the brand’s 110th anniversary.

To have a look at this new video for sports car enthusiasts who look forward to taking the wheel of their Alfa Romeo again in optimal living conditions, just click https://we.tl/t-hGoEXfwzUA

The video footage was shot on the streets of the Principality of Monaco, which also serves as a prestigious setting for the F1 Grand Prix and where the brand’s latest publicity campaign was shot for the new Giulia and Stelvio MY202. The new models Giulia and Stelvio are equipped with new exclusive content: dynamic driving becomes a real driving experience.

Prices for the New Alfa Romeo MY2020: Giulia from € 34,900 (€ 33,746 in Luxembourg) and Stelvio from € 39,990 (€ 38,668 in Luxembourg).

Stay tuned for more Italian car news soon…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the Skoda Superb Scout 2.0 TSI 200 kW DSG 4×4: stylish panache and sportiness…

Whatever the wheater and road conditions, this Scout is your ideal companion…Shot with our second hand Olympus in bad light conditions, ISO 400, F 6,3, 1/125 sec.

Classic recipes will always stay superb. This top end Skoda literally embodies it, and its badge tells it all…

It was a unique and refreshing experience to sit behind the wheel of this well engineered break and enjoy to the full what a modern, state of the art combustion engine can accomplish in combination with an equally top notch DSG gearbox . Push the starting knob and your ears already enjoy the humming sound of this thoroughbred four. This engine excels in smooth refinement, panache, pulling power and efficiency.

The rest of the drivetrain is up to the mark. The DSG seven speed box is alert, smooth, and always puts judiciously the right gear forward. The 4 x 4 drive consists of the state of the art Haldex system. Typically, 96 % of the total power is directed to the front, improving fuel efficiency. Depending on the road conditions, the electronic sensors redirect power to the wheels that have sufficient traction. The Haldex AWD has been seen on the Octavia since about a decade, but this is the first time it is coupled to a DSG gearbox.

This Superb has personality…

OLYMPUS E-510, ISO 400, F 5,5, shot at remarkably low 1/15 of a sec at 70 mm equivalent, showing how the image stabilizer does an excellent job…

This is a car with character. Inviting you to experience its punch and performance, yet remaining docile and refined in urban driving. It will respond beautifully when you push your right foot a bit further down, but will not protest when you subject it to endless stop and go traffic.

OLYMPUS E-510 F 5,5, ISO 400, 1/10 sec and 54 mm equivalent. Amazing sharpness due to stabilizer…

Performance leaves nothing to be desired. 200 kW or 272 HP see to that. It sprints from 0 to 100 km/h in merely 5,7 seconds, hurtling further to a top speed of 250 km/h. Pulling power is abundant over a very wide rev range, with 350 Nm being available between 2000 and 5400 rpm. Almost supercar performance, which is matched by excellent handling. This Superb will not protest when you decide to take it through its paces on winding roads, the judicious set up of the suspension clearly shows. Of course, the VW group and also even more Skoda borrows from a massive engineering and last but not least sporting rally experience of their cars, and they really know how to set up a decent handling car.

OLYMPUS E-510, ISO 400, F 4,9, 1/40 sec.

The straight line stability is also excellent, and high speed driving in this Superb is a relaxing affair.

Last but not least, the brakes are of course also up to the job.           

…and is immensely practical

Of course, fuel consumption is very much in function of how much power you use. Drive this Scout with some restraint, and it will quite naturally reward you with reasonable consumption figures.

OLYMPUS E-510, F 5,6, 1/20 sec at 65 mm equivalent. Image stabilizer working hard…

The manufacturer quotes 9 litres/100 km in urban driving, and this is easily surpassed in the region of 11-12 litres when the distances are very short and the engine has not reached its operating temperature. But keep the throttle openings small and the DSG will faithfully choose higher gears and keep the revs (very) low, and then this Scout will chalk up creditable figures. On the open road, the picture looks a lot brighter, with the manufacturer quoting 6 liters/100 km. On average, we reached 7,5 liters/100 km, with mostly relaxed driving.

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But as said, this Superb Scout is immensely usable. Not afraid of open terrain, it will transport five and their luggage.

OLYMPUS E-510 CAMERA, ISO 400, F 3,7, 1/13 sec.

And, in the good Skoda tradition, boot space is plentiful. From 660 liters to 1950 liter. Head room and leg room for the rear passengers has also to be experienced to be believed.

OLYMPUS E 510 CAMERA, ISO 400, F 5,6, 1/50 sec.

Of course, driving assistance systems and infotainment are up to scratch. The central display can be ordered from 8 up to 9.2 inches, and the top of the range Columbus system, found in our test car, offers 3D navigation, Skoda connect, gesture control and Wi-Fi hotspot. We enjoyed the Canton sound system too…

OLYMPUS E 510 CAMERA, ISO 400, F 5,6, 1/80 sec.

Besides the usual driver assistance systems, like lane assist, adaptive cruise control, practical items include 2 USB ports in the front, 2 USB ports and 230 v socket in the rear, inductive charging of your phone, just to name a few. Then there is the cooled glove box, space for 1,5 liter bottles in all the doors, and space also for your coloured safety vest…

Conclusion

OLYMPUS E-510, ISO 400, F 5, 1/30 sec.

A formidable, sporting companion, this Scout, on all the roads you may take to any destination in this wide world. It has a formidable combustion engine, and one should not forget, this is what more than 90 pct of us all still drives. It certainly has its evident merits, if only one considers the CO2 footprint of making large(r) batteries, and depending on what car you need for your lifestyle and driving habits. It is beautifully built, solid and reliable, well equipped, offering tons of space. It looks (very) good too, and its sporting panache could put a (broad) smile on your face for a very long time…actually, every time you take its wheel, for years on end.

Hans Knol ten Bensel  

We drove the Mercedes E 300 de Estate: hybrid cleverness under the good star…

The Mercedes E 300 de is stylish and versatile hybrid. The photos here are shot with our second hand Olympus SLR E-510, f 7.2, 1/160 s, 200 ASA. Up to scratch!

When the oldest car manufacturer in the world goes hybrid, you can expect the best. Indeed, they use the adage in their marketing language: “the best or nothing”. And they use it…not for nothing. This we could experience behind the wheel of a sleek E Class estate, where under the hood the well proven 2 litre 4 cylinder diesel is married in hybrid fashion to a powerful electric engine. The result is indeed the (very) best of both worlds. Impressive to say the least. Just read further…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

The Mercedes engineers and strategists put their heads together and had a long hard look at what a Mercedes hybrid in today’s world has to be capable of in order to respond to the needs of its clients. It is well known that the E class sedans and estates with the good star are driven frequently at long(er) distances, and therefore the diesel engine is a (very) logical choice.

Diesel and E-power are closely married under the bonnet…

It is also a fact that this hybrid Mercedes has to be “city proof” for years to come, and therefore has to be able to drive quite reasonable distances in the city centre on lively E-power. So the choice was obvious: the well proven 2 litre four cylinder 191 HP diesel engine known from the E 220 d is also adopted here, but now alongside it is a 122 HP electric motor, which delivers more than enough zest with its 440 Nm torque.

One can monitor the energy flow on the screen…

The diesel unit doesn’t lack pulling power either, and has an impressive 400 Nm of torque. Both engines do not develop their maximum power at the same time, but nevertheless total maximum system power is not less than 302 hp and 700 Nm. You understand that this means excellent performance: your are catapulted from 0 to 100 in 5,9 seconds, and top speed is 250 km/h.

Hybrid power the Mercedes way

But the true panache of this Mercedes is the completely effortless way this performance is delivered, and the excellent comfort it offers to its inhabitants, whatever the distance travelled and the quality of the roads encountered.  

The virtual instrumentation lets you choose between displays… we liked this futuristic the most.

A reasonable action radius in urban E driving is therefore a must, and with a 13.5 kW battery Mercedes has done what is needed to achieve this. According to the altogether realistic WLTP cycle, this E 300 de can drive on E power over a distance of about 50 km.

When you charge the battery while driving, consumption goes up, here to an average of 7,5 litres/100 km, whilst gaining 3,9 kWh/100 km…

We did not quite achieve this with the heavier estate version, but came very close indeed. This means that in practice it is quite possible to meet even the strictest urban LEZ standards for years to come, as you can drive solely on E power.

But that is not all. With the push of a button on the central console, you can select between drive modes, and besides «E mode» and «Hybrid» you can opt for “E-save” and “Charge”.  

This means you can also opt to keep the battery charged at a chosen level, or even (re)charge the battery partially or fully while driving, so that you can build up enough charge to drive later a chosen distance on electric power in the city. Very clever, this absolute versatility. On top of all that, the efficiency of the diesel engine lets you chalk up very reasonable consumption figures even during this battery (re)charging on the move, staying for instance in open road driving conditions between 6,5 and 7 litres/100 km. This is about 1l/100 km more than in non-hybrid driving, which you achieve when opting for “E-save”. Of course the hybrid mode will still improve this fuel consumption, but it costs you Kilowatts…  

  

The fuel consumption varies evidently with the use of the plug-in function, and indeed it is in practice quite possible to use this E 300 as an urban electric car in a short distance scenario with frequent plug-in recharging. A neatly placed plug at the right side rear end of the car makes this recharging a breeze. In these driving circumstances, you hardly use the Diesel power, and therefore your fuel consumption will be very low.

CO2 Emissions are as low as 41 g/km, according to the WLTP cycle.  

Creature comfort

The E class Mercedes has built itself an enviable reputation as a comfortable and spacious long distance runner, and here only superlatives are called for. The suspension is set up slightly firmer to cope with the 300 kg additional weight. Very good stability is the result, with hardly any noticeable drop in comfort levels. This E Class will still excel in ironing out those frost ridden roads…

State of the art infotainment and driving aids.

The state of the art digital instruments and panoramic infoscreen across the dashboard are now becoming a hallmark for the three starred brand, as well as the commands on the steering wheel. The host of driving aids are also setting industry standards.

The steering wheel commands have state-of-the art ergonomy…

Our Mercedes came with Parktronic, an excellent head-up display, 360° camera, speed limit assistant, adaptive cruise control, collision prevention assist plus, PRE-SAFE intelligent anticipation for accidents, you name it. Of course adaptive headlight beam assistant is also provided.   

You are also pampered in the cabin: our test car came with the Burmester Surround sound system, Keyless Go, Easy pack electro-hydraulic rear boot lid, Premium ambiente mood lighting of the interior, a panoramic sunroof, and your eyes are spoilt in the AMG line interior with panels of open-pore ash wood and last but not least an analogue clock.The seats in Artico Leather and Dyamica black microfibre have 4-way adjustable lumbar support, and not to forget the dashboard surfaces are clad in Artico leather.  

Luxury: an analogue clock on open pore ash wood

GPS and GSM antenna’s are present, Apple Car Play and Android Auto as well as inductive charging of your phone is also included.

The exterior is also adorned with an AMG line package, with a matte Disegno Selenite grey Magno paint, which suited the test car very well.

Unsurprisingly, this puts the all-in price tag of our test car well above 70.000 Euros excluding VAT, but let it be said that a standard, reasonably well equipped E 300 de Break can be had in our country for 56.700 Euro (excluding VAT) at the time of writing.

Conclusion

A very impressive hybrid, which lets you enjoy E-propulsion just where you need it, in urban traffic. On the open road, you are to enjoy the smooth and frugal Diesel power, and this is one of the good reasons you drive a car with the good star. Of course this hybrid is all the more useful and appropriate when you include a fair share of urban driving in your motoring life.

Olympus E-510, F 10, 1/250 sec, 200 ASA

The Mercedes is a quality car built to the most exacting standards with legendary robustness and longevity, designed to move you over short or long distances in comfort and safety, and this is exactly what this break does.

On top of that, it is well styled, roomy and practical. Need we say more?

Hans Knol ten Bensel   

Photo comments: we used our “new” second hand E-510 Olympus with its standard zoom lens for these shots, and as you see, the results are quite up to scratch… See the presentation of this camera in our columns… This shot was taken with our Huawei smartphone.

We took our Olympus E-510 DSLR to Bologna…

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As we announced, we packed the Olympus along on its first mission, reporting on the clever 500 and Panda Mild Hybrid.

Taking shots in the beautiful town centre of Bologna with its truly stunning historic buildings and its people was a boon for this smooth operating Olympus.

We just show you here the results of the photo sessions. The 10 megapixel sensor of the Olympus did an excellent job, and with the noise reduction engaged, the photo quality was outstanding also at higher ISO values.

To be on the safe side, we took also the compact Canon along, which we still used by the way for the driving and presentation shots at the Fiat press conference. We were also not sure the battery of the older Olympus would hold, as we bought the camera “as is” and we didn’t know whether this original battery would have enough stamina and staying power. Now we know, after a good week without recharging, it does!

The Olympus proved surprisingly well up to the job. All the photos shown here are without any colour or contrast correction, shot at 0 exposure compensation. We show you here the portrait photo of two students of the Bologna Law faculty, who were celebrating their graduation, hence the laurels in their heads… The picture was taken at 54 mm focal length (35 mm equivalent) stop F5,shutter 1/60 and ISO-400 sensitivity.   

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We also climbed the world famous Bologna Asinelli tower, which is not less than 97,2 meters high, and you need to climb not less than 498 steps… Here the Olympus 14-42 mm lens coped very well with high light contrasts in the staircase, with very little lens flare, and the in-built image stabilization did its job as here the shutter speed was as slow as 1/3 of a sec, with ISO-400 and 28 mm focal length (35 mm equiv.)

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Arrived at the top of the tower, we took a shot of the rooftops through the grilles, with the evening setting in rapidly. Lens opening F 5,3, again a slow shutter speed of 1/15 sec, ISO-400, 70 mm focal length, 35 mm equiv.

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We stayed at the Art Hotel Orologio, situated in a traffic-free area overlooking Piazza Maggiore square and Bologna’s historic center. The photo was taken early the next morning, F 4,3, 1/40 sec, ISO-400 and focal length 42 mm, 35 mm equivalent. Tonal values and contrast were well contained and balanced.

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Last but not least we took a photo of the tower of the Palazzo d’Accursio (or Palazzo Comunale) from our hotel room window, which we then in post processing converted to b&w. There is still some detail in the shadows, as you see. High contrast is well mastered. This palace once formulated to house major administrative offices of the city of Bologna. The building is located on the Piazza Maggiore, and is the city’s Town Hall.

Besides its functions as a town hall, it also houses the Civic Art Collection, with paintings from the Middle Ages to the 19th century; there you find also the Museo Morandi, with the works by Giorgio Morandi; and last but not least there is the Biblioteca Salaborsa, the town libraries.

The photo was taken with ISO set at 100, F8, 1/160 sec, focal length 62 mm, again 35 mm equivalent.

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Finally a street shot of some illuminated texts spanning over the streets, F 4,9, ISO-200 and taken at 1/50 sec, focal length 54 mm (35 mm equiv.) The building to the left was under restoration and therefore clad with a protective canvas.

The Olympus showed now already what it can do with the 14-42 mm lens, next time we take the telelens through its paces!

Stay tuned!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Is it worth to buy and use an older digital camera?

We bought for barely more than 100 Euros a pristine Olympus E-510….

We are using regularly our faithful Canon G 9 X, which has now shot thousands and thousands of pictures and is still soldiering on fine.

But then, what if it breaks down on an important photo shoot? Is a cheaper but sturdy backup not useful? Bringing along the big Nikons or Canons is not always the practical answer either, so we were looking for something just a little bit more compact. We love the “sturdy” touch and feel of an old school SLR however, so when we stumbled in an Antwerp photo shop on an older  Olympus E-510 with two lenses, we took a closer look.

The camera body and lenses were looking immaculate and pristine, totally “as new”, with all the controls working smoothly. Also the lenses moved smoothly in their barrels, no traces of use on the focus rings, no grease or dirt, just nothing which betrays any unloving previous use. Also the base of the camera body had never seen any rough surfaces, as it was totally scratch-free.

The asking price for the camera body with both lenses and their lens hoods was some 129 Euros, and this convinced us to risk this purchase. We also have a fairly good range for the two lenses, 14-42 mm and 40-150 mm respectively. One has to multiply the focal length by two to get the 35 mm equivalent. This means we have a focal range of 28 to 300 mm, which is not bad for this price.        

In good Olympus tradition, the camera body is compact , and for its day and age, it had some impressive specifications. It features sensor cleaning, image stabilization in the camera body (using Gyro sensors to register camera shake, with supersonic wave drive motor then moving the image sensor to compensate) , and the rear electronic screen can also act as a viewfinder, a special feature then, now of course totally common on our cameras.

The focus and exposure modes are impressive, the 10 megapixel 4/3 type Live MOS sensor is quite OK and after taking some convincing test shots we decide to take it along on our next photo assignment to Bologna, where we will drive the Mild Hybrid Panda and 500.

Just stay tuned to have a look at the photos of our “new” bargain Olympus soon!

Hans Knol ten Bensel  

Alfa Romeo exhibits dramatic photos of a “Long Drive” with the Stelvio at the Brussels Sablon…

It is the dream of many: take an iconic thoroughbred for an extended Gran Turismo tour or “Long Drive” through the most beautiful roads and cities of Europe and take some stunning photos as a timeless memory of the car amidst the scenic places and landscapes on the tour…

This is just what celebrated photographer Frederik Herregods did, on a “Long Drive” of 7.000 kilometres behind the wheel of an Alfa Romeo Stelvio 2.2 JTDm 180 pk Super, magnificently sprayed in « Verde Visconti », with matching beige leather interior with wooden inlays on the dashboard and door panels.

Frederik Herregods has to travel a lot, and along with the mission of attending the presentation of the B-tech versions of the Stelvio in Turin, Frederik needed a media car to photograph a rally with supercars organised by the Royal Automobile Club de Belgique (RACB). This would take him through different legendary cities like Bormio, Andorra, Carcassonne, Toulouse, Montpellier, Arles en Saint-Tropez, en finally Brussels and the Zoute Grand Prix, held from 4 to 7 October, where Alfa Romeo is present every year.

The idea came, together with the dynamic PR people of Alfa Romeo Belgium, to wrap this in a project “The Long Drive”, where the car could be extensively tested on its reliability and economy, and in the meantime illustrate this with lasting photos.

The result can be seen in an exhibition held until March 17 in the 9Hotel  Sablon, a premium boutique hotel which has been opened only three years ago in the heart of Brussels.

We had a long talk with the hotel management at the opening of this exhibition, and were very impressed by the outstanding quality of the personal service and the unique artistic design of the hotel and its rooms.

The management organises regularly photo exhibitions, so it was only logical that the exhibition was held here. The visitor can even book a special personalized room Alfa Romeo « The Long Drive »… need we say more? We invite you here to have a look at the photos taken by your servant at the opening of the exhibition…

Practical info: Address: 9Hotel Sablon, Rue de la Paille, 2 , 1000 Brussels. Exhibition runs until March 17.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

 

 

The Abarth 124 shines already in 2019 with a FIA R-GT Cup Win in the Monte Carlo Rally…

Whilst we are driving now the stunning and totally impressive Abarth 124 GT, the news reaches us that the 2019 racing season began with success for Abarth in the FIA R-GT Cup in the Monte Carlo Rally, where the Abarth 124 rally driven by Italians Enrico Brazzoli and Manuel Fenoli reached top position.

This makes the Abarth 124 rally again the GT to beat in its category, having won in 2018 with Frenchmen Raphael Astier and Frédéric Vauclare who can be considered the world championship of this category… Just read on and look at the photos!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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