Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Technical Writer Wanted For The Glue Company

No special skills needed - it's a cut and paste job...

If you have a Facebook feed or other social media connection you'll have had any number of people passing on information from others by simple means - they have pressed a hashtag key or a forward button and flooded the computers of their friends with another political meme or picture of a cat riding a motor mower.

It is the civilian version of what used to be the rip-and-read radio news service that interposed itself between you and a teletype machine. It kept you up-to date, but generally the date was July 8, 1959. Still, it was better than waiting for the newspaper to be thrown into the rhododendrons at 5:00AM next morning, particularly if the news was not what the editor or the owners of the paper wanted you to read...'cause then you didn't read it and never even found out that you didn't read it until much later.

Nowadays we instantly read, hear, see, and possibly taste darn near everything over the computer and a juicy news story will be available over dozens of feeds...but if you look carefully, the dozens of feeds are all saying the same thing. Because most of the writers of the various posts are sitting down by the teletype machine with a pair of scissors and a pot of glue.

It's the same for the technical photographic writing. You may see a dozen reviews of a new camera or lens but eleven of those will say the same thing because they have been derived from a press release or product sheet. It is only No.12 that has anything new because in many cases only No.12 has actually had the camera in hand and pressed the shutter button. Don't be too cynical about the other 11 - there may not have been enough of the new cameras in the country when the call for a tech report came out and the writers have just had to wing it.

You can have confidence to a certain extent in the eleven other reports. If they have not been typo'ed too badly you will get the basic information you need. But if you want to really find out the valuable bits, look for that twelfth piece. It is only the people who have handled the equipment* that will be able to let you have a human view of it.

And then come down to the shop and pick it up and form your own assessment. Judge as carefully as you might, and remember that you are as free to have a good opinion about new equipment as to have  a bad one.

*Sometimes with sticky fingers.

Images: farming on a small scale at Cannington Showgrounds.

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Tuesday, May 2, 2017

The Slowest Light In The World

We are told that light goes at 299,792,458 metres per second. That may be so when there is company present but I can assure you that when you are using a pinhole camera the stuff travels considerably slower. While you might get your ordinary photography with a digital camera in half a second the pinhole camera will require most of the day.

The reason for this is simple: the digital camera opens up to a maximum aperture of f:1.8 and uses an ISO of 6400 - the pinhole camera opens up to f: 248 and uses an ISO of 100. If you opt for the paper negative you have an ISO of 0.6 and if you put a yellow filter in front of the thing you have an ISO of peanut butter. As far as making pictures, choose smooth or crunchy...

Okay, this is not as bad as it seems. The Ilford Obscura camera will not take racing-car pictures at Wanneroo while the cars are circling the track, but it will take pictures of them while they are in the pits. And with a bit of management the pit pictures will be free of human interference. The camera system will also be suited for landscape shots on cloudless days, dreamy sea pictures, and interior long as you can stay inside for an hour.

The calcu-later* kit that comes in the pack enables you to see what the equivalent shoot time will be for the Obscura compared to the results from a standard light meter. Those people who do not have an old hand-held meter can always use the screen readout from their digital camera to tell them what the standard exposure for a scene is - and then you can dial it onto the converter. But be aware that the converter dials are not corrected for reciprocity failure.

This is a phenomenon that occurs when you are using really long exposures - the recording medium gets less sensitive the longer the time is extended. A rough rule of thumb for the really long ones will be to double what the calcu-later says. Most pinhole shots benefit from longer exposure.

Of course the whole business happens on a tripod. In the case of the Obscura, though, as it has a flat bottom, it can be placed on any solid surface for the duration of that exposure. You set it, open the shutter, and read a book until the time comes to close it. In case of a dull day, I recommend you start on " War and Peace " and go on to reading a comic if you finish before the camera is ready.

You might laugh at this ( and you might laugh now, thank you...) but even with f:16 lenses and 400 ISO films in medium format cameras I remember leaving shutters open for 20 minutes to record projected images on a screen in a darkened studio. Literally set and forget.

A question from the readers; " What exposure times do you use  if you are using studio flash? ". I don't know, but as I have a studio flash outfit and tabletop models that will not move, I intend to find out. The trick will be to use multiple pops of the strobe system to lay more and more light onto the emulsion. I intend to use a digital setup to tell me what would be successful with a standard lens and then convert it with the calcu-later. I'll bet that will also need double the number of pops...

* Pun, John, pun...

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Monday, May 1, 2017

20 Square Inches Of Trouble - Sheet Film

No apologies for the inches, children. It is what the adults use to measure photographic surfaces.

Even if we do give in to buying inkjet paper in A4, A3 and A2 sizes, we still get boxes of 6 x 4 and 5 x 7 from Ilford. And we measure print sizes in 8 x 10, 11 x 14, 10, 12, and 20 x 24 as well - it must put the wind up to the bureaucrats in the EU standards Department something chronic.

We also measure one of the standard sizes in the industry for sheet film as 4 x 5 inches. Europeans tried for years to make this into 10 x 12 centimetres but it never really took off - people still think of 5 x 4 or 4 x 5. 20 square inches of sensitive emulsion to put into the new Ilford Obscure pinhole camera - for good or ill. There is a 10-sheet box of it included with the kit - Ilford Delta 100 - a tabular grain film of excellent tonality.

Note: you can also get Ilford HP 5 and Ilford Delta 400 film in 4 x 5 packs from the regular fridges at the Camera Electronic shops. They are the larger 25-sheet boxes.

The convention of sheet film is familiar to all the old hands - but newbies to large format need to remember that the sensitive emulsion side of the film is TOWARD you when you can feel the film notches on the right hand top corner of the film. You will feel, rather than see them as you will be in total darkness for this loading and unloading procedure.

In the case of the Obscura, as soon as you are sure it really is entirely dark, open the box, locate that upper right notched corner, and lay the sheet into the large of he two boxes. Then drop the smaller box into it and press until the magnets catch. You are loaded for ( extremely slow ) bears. Unloading is the reverse of the procedure, and you can make use of the three-tray spare film box that came in the kit to hold your exposed film for processing later.

Now 4 " x 5 " is a little bit larger than the sensor on the average digital camera or mobile phone....and records a geat deal of information. The pinhole of the Obscura may be laying in a slightly soft image, but it will be laying a lot of it in there. If you were to make a contact print of the resultant negative - provided it was a good exposure - you would be amazed at the amount of detail that has been captured. If it is a bad exposure, you will be struggling to see anything.

The best hint I can give with the end result is for people who have good scanners like the Epson V700 or 800 series. You'll have a sheet film holder in your standard Epson kit and can easily translate a negative to a digital file. I do it all the time using the " Home " setting in the software. There is plenty of detail captured from the sheet negative.

Users of sheet film who develop their films with traditional developers like Rodinal have sometimes bemoaned the grain structure that it produces. Scanned work in small sizes exhibits none of this problem and the contrast of the grain is excellent. Remember that you can also use Kodak Portra sheet film for colour work and have it developed at a professional lab.

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Friday, April 28, 2017

Every Man His Own Fox Talbot - Paper Negatives

Do you have an abbey window handy? Do you have a top hat? Do you have a new Ilford Obscura pinhole camera kit? Well you too can be Henry Fox Talbot and be the envy of your friends at the camera club.

Okay, it is not quite the same as using glass lenses in one of HFT's famous 'mousetrap ' cameras and your finished product is not going to be made on salted paper but the procedure is similar and if you choose historical subjects you can give yourself a feeling for the past that digital work just does not provide. Sure, computer manipulation and plug-ins will deliver the calotype look, but actually going out there and doing a very long exposure provides the experience as well.

Just be prepared for foolish abuse if you opt to do it in Victorian clothing. Perth is not as sophisticated as it likes to think. Trust me on this...

Okay - why even think of this? Because paper negatives have a charm and an aesthetic all their own. And they are devilishly hard to achieve with conventional camera gear - even if you have 4 x 5 or larger film holders, a wooden field camera, and that top hat. Perth's bright sun can overpower most camera lenses looking in on standard photographic paper, even if the aperture is down to f:22. You need to be able to get extremely small apertures - f:248 for instance - to allow you sufficient time to open and close a shutter by manual means.

The shutter on the Ilford Obscura is a simple dropping flap. It has a closed position magnet as well as a open position one, so you need no fear inadvertently exposing the film or paper. When the camera is firmly screwed to a tripod, there should be no movement of the thing as you operate the flap. Of course, this may be very insignificant for an exposure lasting minutes, and when you opt to use the sheets of Ilford Multigrade IV paper as your recording emulsion, you will be spending minutes with the shutter open.

The exposure ISO of the paper is about .6. The calcu-later will let you translate this into a time, but realyy, give it a bit more time. If you have access to a sunny photospot nearb your darkroom you can profitably experiment to see just how long you need shoot to give a good negative.

Loading and developing paper negatives is a lot easier than doing film as you can do it under the light of a safelamp. Once you have the paper negative you can scan it in as a direct print and then press command/I on your image editing program and bring it up as a positive. From there you can calotype it to your heart's content.

The heading image is a paper neg of Perth from Heathcote taken some years ago with a conventinal lensed camera. I will try the same view with the Obscura and see what the results are like.

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Thursday, April 27, 2017

Camera Electronic Endorse New Camera From Flapoflex

The biggest news this season is the industry-shaking announcement of the team-up of Camera Electronic with Flapoflex Corporation...and the introduction of the Flapoflex Mini camera.

Here are the first images of the camera after it was handed out by Howard Frank. Let us walk you through the features:

1. Pure non-digital operation. Sharp eyes will spot the film rapid rewind crank and fast-wind lever. No more worries about charging batteries and corrupting memory cards with the Flapoflex.

2. Solid-state viewfinder system. We have not seen a viewfinder window this solid in years.

3. Compact dimensions. Micro 4/3, eat your heart out...

4. Helpful permanent branding on the lens cap and body.

5. Permanent lens cap. never lose it again.

6. Flash-free pentaprism.

7. Patented DeepSqueeze padding on all grippable surfaces. No finger strain.

8. Fashionable white/black/grey colours.

When people ask you what the Flapoflex Mini can do, we respond with " What can't it do? " While they are answering this we make a run for it.

Flapoflex did...

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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Shouldering the Burden Of Sony With Peak Design

I am going to risk it. I know the ice is thin, and the nerves even thinner, but here goes: another review of a Sony product. Or rather, a product that can be used with a Sony camera…

I have reported on Peak Design equipment before, and from the original mention some years back until now, my opinion of the brand has improved. I think it is because their design department have had better ideas and their manufacturing division has been able to translate these into good products.

The Original peak Design product we saw in Camera Electronic was a belt holder for cameras - a quick release clamp that enabled you to put a camera on your shoulder strap or belt and then secure it with a click of a button. The CE staff at the time all got samples to go away and try - I demurred  - the idea seemed uncomfortable. Whenever I tried it I envisaged disaster if I was not careful how I mounted the camera. Remember I’m the man who dropped a Leica M3 with a Summicron lens on it into a Melbourne drain. They have stopped letting me defuse torpedoes…

This is different - it is a lens holder designed to accept Sony - mount lenses on both sides of itself and then to lock onto a shoulder strap. Whether that shoulder strap is dedicated to a messenger bag or a backpack is immaterial - the clamp has a positive two-screw lock that cannot depart from it with out deliberate disassembly. You can also put the clamp onto a waist belt and depend a Sony lens from that.

It would be a blessing to a wedding or event shooter who needed constant access to a spare pair of lenses while a third lens was on the camera and who did not want to have to fossick around inside a bag while working the crowd.

Peak Design have been reviewed here before - their new bags are both elegant and practical. This accessory seems to be exactly in the same good line.

Mount is also available for Canon and Nikon applications.

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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Mikra 1/3 - And Why You Need One Now

The history of science is dotted with people who have said - “ What If? “ - and in many cases have levelled entire city blocks finding out. Photographers too, have uttered those words, but generally have only managed to blow the doors off the darkroom.

I have passed by the Leica 1F in the secondhand Leica cabinet for years - the one with the MIKRA 1/3 attachment on the front of it - with never more than a passing recognition that it is a camera that has been in service for years and has never actually been used all that much.

This is a camera that has been adapted for use on the eyepiece of a standard clinical microscope. I am willing to bet it lurked in the back cupboard of some university departmental lab since the late 1950’s and was rarely taken out. To turn around an old slogan - it’s had fewer shots than you’ve had hot dinners…

Well, the basic camera is a screw-mount body with no slow speeds, no finder, and a variable synchronising control. It could readily be adapted to modern life with a fast black and white film, a push in finder, and a screw-mount Leica lens - a collapsible Elmar would be perfect. Add a skinny bald Frenchman and you would have the perfect street combination…

But what does the MIKRA1/3 do? I coupled it up to an M39 / Fujifilm X adapter this seek to see. After all, if it is optical, mirrorless cameras let you see it straight away.

Well, as it was built to peer down the throat of a microscope and record the beasties that the researcher has on the glass slide, it is fixed to approximately an infinity focus. I confirmed this on an X-Pro1 out in the yard. The resolution is reasonable but the focus is out to about 50 feet. field of view looks to be about the same as a 50mm lens.

This suggested another experiment. Inside to the Model car table and a Greenlight Volkswagen T2 van. These are tiny things in 1:64 scale - observe the 10¢ piece. The establishing shot is taken with the standard 35mm Tokina macro lens.

The VW logo was taken using an old Russian 50mm Industar lens reversed onto the front of the MIKRA. No mounting - I just held it on there. Older photographers will know the trick of reverse-mounting of one lens to the nose of another to give macro results. In this case the Industar is wide open and the DOF is like nothing at all.

Stopped down to f:16, the Industar actually does have DOF. The picture of the headlight’s a seriously small slice of VW, and if you were a film shooter, you could get this on the Leica 1F. You just wouldn’t know you had got it until the results came back from Fitzgerald’s Photo Labs.

Sooooo - who’s ready for some retro fun out there? Neither the body nor the MIKRA are bank-breakers and whoever uses that Leica 1F will become the undisputed Kewl King or Queen of Perth photographers. And score the envy of every old camera club shooter that sees it.

PS: The downside is that you need to know what you are doing with it.

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Monday, April 24, 2017

Hands Up Muybridge - I've Got A Fujifilm Repeater...

Idling away on the South Perth foreshore one evening, I was trying to think of a use for the Perth skyline. I mean, they've taken a lot of trouble putting lights on the buildings and all and it seems only courteous to take some sort of notice.

Then I read further into the instruction booklet that came with the new Fujifilm EF X-500 electronic flash. The Fujifilm people make a reasonably good set of instructions and the flash itself is easy to master. The bit that intrigued me was the arrangement that could be made for multiple flashes.

You have three decisions to make via the page buttons and the scroll wheel:

a. Level of manual flash power.

b. Number of flashes that you want to fire.

c. Length of time over which you want to fire them.

Each one of the flashes will record as a separate illumination in the final frame while the background will keep burning into the image. If you want to capture the movements of the subject cleanly, you need a black backdrop...but anything else is pure art.

To work in South Perth at twilight you also need an open space that people do not intrude into. Short of laying perimeter mines, there is little you can do to achieve this. The world, his wife, and their relatives visiting from another planet will all walk back and forth behind the model. Some will walk in front. It is an exercise in restraint - on your part - because they ain't gonna be on theirs...

The results? More like Marcel Duchamp descending a staircase with his clothes on than I really wanted, but intriguing nevertheless. The rigid precision of the flash firing is probably going to be very useful for motion studies, but against an inky backdrop. The flash fires at lower powers if you command it to fire often or at small intervals - there must be some time required inside it for power to be built up in the capacitor, after all. But given the good high ISO performance of the Fujifilm cameras there is a surprising amount of light coming off the flash head.

The model is the beauteous and patient Jane Hebiton.

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Friday, April 21, 2017

Weegee Woulda Been Proud Of Joby

Arthur Felig was not a man to use compact cameras for delicate pieces of ethereal art. His batting record with still life bowls of fruit was woeful. I do not think he ever used a graduated neutral density filter at the seaside in his life.

Yet...he was the greatest blood and guts press the toughest areas of New York in the 1940's...and he used press cameras to do it. One shot, two shots, and then run for it. Run for the car to develop the film pack in the boot and then run for the picture desk of the newspaper.

Arthur...also known as Weegee...had no time for weak equipment, and if you are in the same frame of mind, Joby have just what you want - the Joby Pro Series Hand Grip With Ultra Plate 208.

Heckuva thing to sell - a complex metal casting to bolt onto the bottom of your camera and a rubberised grip to hold it with. I mean, cameras have grips already, don't they? Yeah, but not if you're Weegee class - big handed with tough assignments.

If you need to sling a flash from the left hand side of a camera instead of right in the middle, this is the deal. You screw on a Manfrotto double-thread adapter, a cold shoe, Joby's own locking arm, or any other connector to the top of that grip and the thing is going to stay there without coming off in ANYTHING.

You can pop the baseplate onto an Arca-Swiss mount all along the length. You can run a wrist strap or one of your camera stop ends onto the right lower edge of the camera as well as the upper right edge and sling the camera vertically like the old Leica M5. Metz provided this option for years with the metal bracket of the 45-series and it was a blessing. It would be even more so now when we want to keep that damned strap out of our eyes as we raise the camera for a shot.

If you've a mind to, you can attach the grip below the camera for a handle. Raise the thing above the crowd surrounding the murder victim, fire the flash, and run for it*. Weegee would have.

And if worst comes to worst,  that handle and the metal casting make a good mace. A lot easier to hang onto than the grip of your average DSLR.

* Popping a red-hot Press 25 at your pursuers while you leg it...

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Thursday, April 20, 2017

New Packs And Boxes - New Position In The Shop - Same Great Products

Here's a problem for shoppers: shop assistants...

Here's a problem for shop assistants: shoppers...

The answer to this is simple: we'll all blame the manufacturers...

We've all been to a supermarket to pick up a familiar packet of something; noodles, or cheese, or marzipan mortar bombs. And we've gotten increasingly frustrated at trying to find the goods in the myriad of products on offer. Whatever it is, it isn't where it was...the shop assistants have moved it, the rats.

And when we go and berate them, they point out that it is in exactly the same place that it always was. But the manufacturers have changed the packaging. No-one is really happy but the world goes on.

This is the case with the superb line of camera straps made by Black Rapid. We've been selling them for ages from a rack at the middle back of the Stirling Street shop in packets with pictures of happy owners on the front. If you have been circling the shop looking for these recently you will have become increasingly frustrated.

Now they are in the front between the Leica and Fujifilm and Olympus cabinets. And the boxes with the straps are ever so much more sophisticated now - a graphic designer has gotten to work on the packaging. This post is to alert you to the new appearance of several favourites; the Curve, the Hybrid, and the Street.

Still the same great flexibility, ease of draw, and security for your cameras and lenses, and particular stability for larger rigs - the bigger straps will not walk over your chest as you run about or draw the camera up and down.

Still the great favourite of photojournalists and street shooters. And pack shooters...

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