Thursday, November 29, 2012

On The Square - With Fuji and Hasselblad

I watched an old Hasselblad go out today with a new shooter and reflected that he was very lucky. In my day you had to have serious money to buy a 500C/M to take square pictures and impress girls.. Nowadays the 500C/M has become passe and you need a gold Lunar with diamond shutter release button to achieve the same effect - and I'm not even certain the pictures are square.

Of course if you can afford to leave the girls out of the equation, you can get square pictures with one of the Fuji X series cameras. You just pop into the menu and order it to do your bidding. Or you go to the crop tool in whatever image editing program you use and ask for 5 x 5 or 1 to 1. This is fine but if you initially shot in 2:3 you needed to mentally compose for the square at the time you shot. I suppose the days of putting a couple of strips of black graphic line tape on the viewfinder or LCD screen are long gone - too simple and practical...

However you arrive at the composition and whatever you think of the aesthetics of a square format, you cannot deny that it has one advantage - you never have to try to tilt your camera to change the look - what you see you get. If you are using a fixed flash you never have to have a flipping bracket.

And where do you use the images? CD sleeves are the best thing I can think of - the day of the vinyl record album having been finished long ago. There are some on-lone publishers that do rather good self-composed books at good prices and they also do a good square publication. I tried one of these last year and was charmed by how easy it was once I discovered pictures in my collection that could be presented logically as a square.

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Crash Of The Titans - with Cullmann

I do hope my readers have seen this recent motion picture so that they can get the full impact of the bad pun. Otherwise it just sounds like I am clumsy in the studio. Still, bad as I might be I could not have done worse than the producers of the movie. It was so awful I asked for my money back plus interest when I left the theater. AND for the money that was paid out on the popcorn and the choc bomb. And the management agreed. Bring back the silent films, I say.

I am a firm advocate of firm tripods. If I want something wobbly and light that easily folds up for storage in a handbag I can buy a packet of Kleenex. For photo support I want something that stays rigid and put, in that order. Years ago I invested in an appallingly expensive French tripod that I regretted buying right up until I started taking digital images that involved multiple images on layers. Then I blessed the day. Were I still in the market for a definitive studio tripod today I would pitch upon one of the new Cullmann Titan models and match it with a Concept One ball or two-way head.

The basic legs of these tripods are heavy extrusions with a sector profile. The extending portion of each leg is trapped at the top with a lever - when you need to let the leg down to the ground you lift the lever and gravity whips it down. The lever is a very positive lock when you press it back in. As the bottom tube is the larger of the components you can let it slide down into water, mud, or custard without clogging the action. Of course after contact with salt water or other corrosive elements, Cullmann tell you to wash and dry the legs.

You can get the legs in two forms: the 935 with manual center column and  plain 3/8 inch stud on top or the 935G with a geared center column. Both columns lock positively with a collar star. The geared column is really, really nice for product shots on a studio.

Up on top I can recommend the new Concept One ball heads. They are large ball with a powerful closing force to keep the camera steady. They can be obtained with plain 1/4" screw and a circular platform  or with an Arca-Swiss type plate grip. Various plate sizes are available to accommodate different cameras and lenses. The spec sheets with the tripods mention that the whole assembly can rise up to 162 cm. plus the head and suppport 21 Kg. That should do for nearly anything in modern photgraphy.

If you are a video person check out the Cullmann TW90 heads. They perfectly match the legs and have very smooth pan and tilt with a sturdy lever and large handle. As with all Cullmann products they carry a 10-year warranty. I should not advocate carrying these tripods up a mountainside unless I was in the Royal Marines or a mule, but in a studio they will be perfect.                      

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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Going Like A Train - With Fuji

All Aboard this Sunday - the 2nd of December - at Shoot Photography -  for the Fuji Train. This is sort of like a sushi train but we don't put the little piles of fish roe and bright green jelly stuff on your camera - we train you how to use it.

Dr Michael Coyne will be the presenter for what is officially called the Fuji X Series Workshop 2012. He is a photojournalist and Fuji X Series Ambassador and will be showing how to use this form of camera for on-street shooting and photojournalistic essays. He'll be doing it hands-on too, and the participants will be out on the Oxford Street strip practising what he preaches.

You won't be doing it on an empty stomach - lunch is included in the $ 195  price - and you won't be left to puzzle your way through - Michael will be there to assist and to critique the results later. There will be pro reps from Fuji, staff from Camera Electronic, and lots of Fuji equipment to experiment on.

Ring to 9228 8232 or email Dana at to make a booking. If you like, call Saul on 0417-220-876 or book online with the Shoot website.

 As a fully-paid-up-with-my-own-money Fuji user - X-10 camera - I am delighted with this idea. The camera is exactly what I want for travel and I will be inundating you with holidays snaps if they give me a holiday...The other cameras in the series are even nicer, if bigger. Well, suit yourself, but you can't go wrong with Fuji.

I'm afraid you won't see me on the day as it is my 40th wedding anniversary and I wish to take a pretty girl out to lunch and the movies. You can see from the following picture that I am going to look my best...

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Dealing You A Fresh Card - Promaster

At last - something new in the shop to blog about. I was afraid I was going to have to put up a slide show of my trip to Fiji to fill the space - complete with the lamp blowing and the slides in upside down. You have been saved by the Promaster Corporation.

Promaster are a big-time manufacturer of many things photographic - filters, lighting gear, tripods, accessories....and memory cards. Today the first shipment of the cards arrived and have gone down on the floor.

We decided to offer two sorts of Promaster card - the SDHC size and the CF size.

 I have sifted through the box and separated the SDHC cards into two divisions - the ones referred to as "high speed" and the ones referred to as "professional". The "high speed" are marked as having a 366X speed. I believe this is around the 55 Mb/sec. They are presented in a single pack and on the back it mentions that they carry a limited lifetime warranty. We have them in 8, 16, 32, and 64 Gb size.

The "professional" cards are marked as 600X and a speed of 90 Mb/sec. They are also in 8, 16, 32, 64, and 128 Gb size, but the packaging is spectacularly different. The Promaster people have provided a silicon-sealed mini-box for the cards that is reminiscent of the waterproof card safes sold by other suppliers. These are universal safes that hold at least two and probably three SDHC cards in perfect safety. A real bonus for purchasing this card.

It would appear that the Promaster people also take a great deal of care preparing the card - the packaging states that the card has been sealed to protect it against water, shock, dust, fungus, rust, and extreme temperatures - possibly it is zombie-proof if that sort of thing is a concern to you. They state the warranty to be lifetime in this case, without qualifying the word.

This care also extends to the CF cards; I found "high speed" versions in 16, 32, and 64 Gb and was also pleased to see that the speed on these is 700X  - that's 105Mb/sec. When I moved onto the "professional"
ones I found 16, 32, and 64 Gb that are marked with 1000X - that is 150Mb/sec. That's faster than even I can write with a good fountain pen and a tailwind.

The armoured cases are also included with these premium cards and I note that you could pack two CF cards in there as well as two SDHC cards if you so desired. This is a good smart promotional move by the supplier - a real bonus for purchase.

The prices of these cards are attractive - we will be offering them in-store rather than on line but the come in at a very good point . You really owe it to yourself to call in and get some for the coming months.

Oh, while I remember - there are also a number of packs of the Micro SD cards here with an associated adapter that lets them pop into SD-size slots on regular cameras. This way the people who like to use the little action cameras like GoPro are also catered for. I see 4, 8, 16, and 32 Gb sizes.

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Monday, November 26, 2012

Smilin' Wide - With Sigma

Did goe to the Gillam Road industrial area yesterday and was greatley entertained - and was sunne-struck and flye-blowne...But true to the code of the photographer I got the images I went out for.

Having been alerted by a reader that there was to be a Sunday morning hot rod meet in this industrial area - a street with panel shops and wrecker's yards - I moseyed in the bright sun and was rewarded with a good selection of rods and some kustoms, as well as modern street racers. I was ready with the basic kit - D300 Nikon, 18-200VRII lens, and SB700 flash. I also took the Sigma 8-16 lens and for a very good purpose.

Have a look at the purple Cadillac -  pearl lilac with ghost flames. That's a big GM grin on the front of it taken with the 18-200VRII and it is dead in front with the SB700 lighting into the shadows at +0.3. This sort of lighting means that later in the process you don't need to start fiddling with shadows.

Now have a look at the red Chevrolet. Even a bigger grin, but this time look at the exaggeration of the headlamp housings out at the side. That's the Sigma 8-16 in operation, again with fill from the Nikon SB700. Love it or hate it, that's the effect you'll get when you step in close with something that goes this wide. I love it, and I love the fact that the Sigma doesn't fish-eye on me - the edge lines are straight. Mind you, finding a straight line on one of Harley Earl's designs is pretty rare.

Ah, but the explanation for the 8-16 is coming. One pont is that if you are forced into a short-shoot situation - like a museum, art gallery, or auto show where there is very little space to move between the rows of cars, the Sigma lens will let you capture the entire body. It pays to get into a position where you are not looking down or up, to prevent the distortions of foreshortening, and you may have to bob down to the floor to do this, but you can document the entire shape in the tiniest spaces.

The real reason I love using this lens is seen in the shot of the interior of - yet another - Chevrolet. Rodders do not want you to touch their cars - you can admire but do not sit inside them or scratch up the fabulous paintwork. Fortunately they are kind enough to leave the windows down at shows and this is the place that the Sigma 8-16 gets used. All you have to do is poke the nose of the lens carefully over the sill of the window and it sees the entire interior. In the case of Model A or Model T sedans that have not been chopped there is plenty of room to direct the SB700 flash into the car with either a Nikon or Lightsphere diffuser.

It gets tricky when you get to a chopped rod or kustom. I have found it best to de-mount the flash, turn it to "remote", and control it with the on-board flash on the D300. Then you can pop it over the window sill alongside the camera and get flashy without getting touchy.

If you were a person engaged in selling something that you wish to present as being grander and more spacious than it really is, this would be the lens to do it. It has been suggested that real estate photographers might do this but I cannot believe that this fine body of professionals would stoop to such tactics and we have the lenses in Canon, Nikon, and Pentax fitting in case I am wrong...

I am going along to the next FIAT owners meeting and make Topolino into a Bugatti Royale...

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Friday, November 23, 2012

Gamification In The Photo Industry - A Modest Proposal

An email came through today that wanted to us to go on a course dedicated to gamification. It was a new word - I tried to look it up. Webster's and the New English dictionaries were no help so I resorted to opening the hatch of hell and peering in. Sure enough - "gamification" refers to bringing game rules and concepts to other aspects of life. It spoke of engaging people's attention by making things fun.

Anyone who remembers standing in the rain on a soccer pitch while the school coach screamed at you has a pretty good idea of the sort of fun that games bring. It wasn't just the rain, and it wasn't just the soccer, because when we moved indoors to the smelly gym the coach screamed the same fun at us during basketball. I regret not being back in my home town as the dear old gentleman was buried some years ago and I wasn't there to do it. I would have screamed with fun.

But we must bring some of the fun of games here to the trade, and to do this I think we should capitalize upon the sort of team spirit and loyalty displayed by users of different camera systems - Nikon, Canon, Olympus, Fuji, etc, etc. We are going to go to Red Dot and get a set of colour-coded fly swatters and distribute them to the teams - 5 a side - and set them upon each other in a round-robin system. A whack on the body counts for 1 point  and a whack on the head counts for 2. If you knock the other contestant's glasses or hearing aid off you get 3 points. There are four quarters of five minutes apiece and in summer  we'll distribute orange segments at half-time.

I am hoping to interest some of the professional sports shooters in covering the event and with a bit of luck it may be included in the Olympics.

Note: No fouling of other contestants is permitted. If anything of this nature is observed the offender will be shown the 18% grey card.

The only sticking point at this stage is coming up with a suitable name for the game. I should be grateful for any suggestions from readers.

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A Whim Away - With The Fuji X-S1

Those of you out in the readership who are contemplating trips to Africa or Alaska to see the animals may wish to consider Kruger National Park and the Inside Passage. Those who merely want to see the natives can motor over to Mirrabooka...

But wherever you go, you will want to be able to capture the action without coming too close to it. thus many of you will come in looking for long lenses for your DSLR cameras - and we can sell you some very nice ones from Nikon, Canon, and Sigma - or you may come looking for screw-on telephoto adapters for simpler cameras.

I can tell you now that these latter devices, if they are still being made, are going to disappoint. They might increase your focal length a little but they will do so at the expense of the resolution - big time. May I propose to you an altogether different solution.

Move round to the Fuji cabinet and look for the Fujifilm X-s1 digital camera. It is the one that looks like a medium-sized DSLR with a rather impressive lens on the front, and a very good rubberized body covering. The ring grip on the lens is a distinctive striped pattern for a deep grip.

The lens stays put - it is not interchangeable - but at the fabulous focal range it does not need to. 26 X optical zoom. The equivalent of 24mm to 624mm in the old 35mm speak. That is more than enough to capture the antics of the bears and the lions. And the joy of this Fuji is that it has a very good image quality allied to all the fun fruit - the special programs that do motion panoramas and movies and special low-light shooting. It will macro into 7cm from the subject too. It is really a do-it-all camera in the traditional form but without having to change every second part.

You can get a real ever-ready case to protect it and spare batteries to drive it and score memorable photos when the next chap on the cruise liner is diving into his camera bag or backpack to try to get the perfect lens mounted. You'll capture the Grizzly bear eating the Mountie. By the time he gets it all together and pointed in the right direction the bear will be spitting out the hat and you'll have the picture.

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Pentax Pop One Out For The Holidays

Fooled me. I thought it was a new DSLR on the table. It turns out it was a new bridge camera from Pentax. I think our Pentax enthusiasts are going to like this one.

Bridge cameras are about the shape that the original digital cameras were - though from what I have seen on the net, the first digital camera looked like a big Hifi set on a rack with a lens attached. No, what I mean is that the bridge camera generally has a good-sized grip at the right side, a fixed lens that may or may not be a zoom, and a set of control knobs and buttons on the right side of the back. It is larger than a compact camera and won't drop into your pocket. As time has gone on they have taken on more and more of the functions of high-end digitals without needing to change lenses - modern bridge cameras are invariably fitted with zoom lenses.

This Pentax is named the X5. That has nothing at all to do with the range of the zoom lens - it is 26 X zoom. That is about a 22mm to a 580mm viewpoint in the old 35mm speak. There are 16 megapixels on the sensor - spread out pretty evenly. It does all the fun stuff like video, face detection, smile capture, and even pet detection. I know a lady who keeps pythons and rats (apart) and I wonder if the designers have provided for her.

Never mind - nearly everyone else will find some mode or program inhere to make their image work. And fortunately the manufacturers have retained the traditional AA battery supply for this camera - if you are nowhere near a power point you can still find AA batteries at every servo or supermarket.

The whole package will be instantly familiar to Pentax DSLR users - the control layout and menus are very similar to current practice. If you are looking for a lightweight solution for a trip or safari, and want to work in the easiest Pentax way, this is a good choice.

One tip. DO NOT, on any account, set the shutter sound to "3". Just don't.


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Would You Like Chips With That? - Hoodman

Did goe to a sales training course today and was greatley amused. Not that I do not find the daily round of consultations here in the shop a wondrous and nourishing experience, but it was an opportunity to learn new sales techniques and skills. I was particularly taken with the plan that involved perfecting the Vulcan sleeper hold and then using a portable vacuum cleaner to clean out all the customer's small change.

Apart from this the presenter pointed out that a well-known chain of roadside restaurants has made a fortune, if not a career, out of a simple phrase that they teach to their staff " Would you like fries with that?" I hope our North American readers will not be miffed if I tell them that local Australian parlance for these potato derivatives is "chips", rather than "fries" and there were heated arguments over a number of restaurant counters about the terminology. Here, what you know as French fries are called chips and what you know as chips are called crisps. Blame the English.

Well, anyway, when the restauranteurs invented that phrase they played to people's desire for complete happiness - subtly suggesting that while the hamburger might be supplied, it wouldn't be complete without the fries. Clever.

In our turn we are going to add the phrase to our camera sales but in our case there is a better logic. If you buy a new digital camera from us these days, hardly any ( read none) of the manufacturers supply a memory card with it - a card with a chip in it. You have to buy your own. Hence we will start asking whether you want chips with your sensor. Unlike the restaurant people we can be assured that if you don't get chips with it you won't be eating the camera - you'll have to come back in again for them.

IF you are the sort of good person who uses a camera with the big card slot -the CF card - and if your camera is young enough not to be coated with moss, then Hoodman have some amazing cards for you. These are the Steel 1000X we are always on about - 150 Mb/sec reading and 120 Mb/sec writing make for the fastest combo yet from this company. They have a lifetime warranty and are steel-clad for mechanical integrity as well as electronic safety. Nothing small about them - 16, 32 and 64 GB cards in stock right now.

I am mostly a diner at home, and have not been to many of the local roadside eateries. Is there another firm that has evolved a similar approach? And what do they ask?


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Bag Me Baby, Eight To The Bar...

As I type this posting our caring and sharing demon display designer - Melissa - is puffing past with the new shipment of Think Tank bags - approximately four metric tonnes of them. This accounts for the puffing.

This is a big day around here - Think Tank only come in at widely spaced intervals and when we can make the Big Wall 'O Bags complete it is a magnificent sight. It is also very good news for the people who are just about to set out on overseas or interstate photographic trips. Think Tank cope very well with keeping the expensive gear safe from the careless handlers at the airport.

Oh, you could destroy nearly anything if you tried, with the possible exception of a Viennese flak tower, but Think Tank go a long way past many of the lighter manufacturers in providing security against the attempt. I particularly like to recommend the Streetwalker series of back packs for people who really do need to carry DSLR gear in bulk on their persons, and the Airport bags for those who can get away with towed artillery.

These bags have deep profiles that absorb the larger DSLR bodies - particularly the ones that feature a battery grip or position at the bottom of the camera - and they can deal with most of the medium big zooms that professionals tend to carry. Their side-walls are thick enough to take a blow and disperse the force before it gets too far in. Their zippers are super heavy duty.

It looks as though this latest shipment contains most of the old favourites and a couple of newies:

1. Retrospective bags in a new Blue Slate colour - the same sort of rough fabric that we saw with the Pinestone colour. The Retrospective 5 is particularly good for mirrorless cameras and smaller rigs. If you wanted to carry a roscoe, a ham sandwich, and a Leica M9 for street shooting you might also look at the Retrospective 7 or Retrospective 10 - a little more interior space.

2. Airport Commuter -a roller with shoulder straps that fits in size between the Airport Essentials and the Airport Accelerator. This is for Pro DSLR, 6 zooms, and a 15" laptop. Presumably you can heave it into the overhead locker of an airplane, provided your back can take it. Perhaps there is a little pouch on the side for Nurofen.

Get in quick as there are a lot of Perth photographers who like these bags and some of this stock will sail away smartly.

Do like General Patton - Think Tank....

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Push My Button - Online.

During this last weekend I received an email and Facebook notice telling me the computer that controls our on-line shop had started to say " I'm sorry, I can't do that Dave." Apparently all the products disappeared. The technicians were set to work on it and it may have been restored by now. This is great - I believe their next project will involve the HINDENBURG and a tube of model airplane cement.

Imagine my distress last night when the news of the massive SNAFU of the Click Frenzy saga came through on the television. It was reported in the small spaces between the advertising for the steak knives and carpet shampoo on the shopping channel. But wait...there's more. Apparently this cyber version of The Great Train Robbery was meant to forestall a similar sale in America that is coming up. The local purveyors wanted to soak up all the money that the punters were set to fire across the Pacific. In the event they managed to fry the local circuits - that is if cyberspace still has circuits - and irk the unsuccessful bidders. Picture all those people sitting there with their credit cards out cooling in the breeze and no sound but the occasional cicada and a muffled groan.

I should not laugh - I indulge my Jones with on-line purchases of toy cars occasionally. And I am never unhappy with the results - my toy cars just have to look good, and they do, and there are no warranty issues to fight with. Just as well - how the hell one would enforce a warranty on anything when the seller is in Butte, Montana or worse is any one's guess. That is because the answer is that there is no chance. You shop online from North America, or England, or Uzbekistan, and you on yo' own.

Even getting justice and satisfaction from on-line shopping to our own eastern states is a wry question. You might be able to get it right first time or you might be able to get it right eventually or you might be able to sit there staring blankly at a screen. Remember that "closure" in any situation sometimes involves a door and your nose.

SO - I have decided to explain how to purchase things on-line successfully. Implement these suggestions and your life will be filled with bluebirds and chocolate cupcakes. Make sure you get the cupcakes away from the bluebirds before the little beggars eat all the icing.

Rule 1. Do not shop drunk. Friends do not let friends buy gold lycra bike shorts when they have been drinking.

Rule 2. Do not shop after 10:00 at night. The only products that can be recommended after this time are bottles of beer and the attentions of paid women, and these are better got in Northbridge.

Rule 3. If it has more than two moving parts be aware that they may not. If they do not, and you cannot make them do so, and cannot get anyone else to so do for free - you're stuffed.

Rule 4. Your brother-in-law can buy it cheaper and better than you can, and will make sure you know it. Deal with the pain.

Rule 5. If you wonder who is making money with all this business, look at the expression on the face of the man who owns the delivery firm.

Now - run to your computers, children. As Australians you have been trained to regard Americans with contempt. You express amusement and disgust with every aspect of their products, lives, and country - military, social, intellectual, you sneer at it all. This is your chance to show them up - wait until Cyber Monday..... and send them all your money.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Screen Time - With Epson And The WACC

Did goe to the Western Australian Camera Club meeting laste night and was greately amused.

I had been invited to spread gloom and blast the souls of the members on an exhibition night by judging their images. For a cruel man this sort of thing is better than being offered jewels in a casket, plus you can generally get a cup of coffee and a biscuit.

In the event it all worked out very well. I could hear weeping and gnashing of teeth as I criticized the projected and printed images and at one stage of the evening a chair was thrown at me out of the darkness. I cannot think of a lovelier complement, unless it were to be chased down the street by an enraged mob of photographers brandishing pitchforks and torches. Or monopods and speed lights as the case may be.

Aaaaactually - it all was very civilized. They had sent me a disk of the main images that were to be projected and I reviewed them two days before the evening  meeting, making notes of what I wanted to say and assigning the merit and prize winning points. Then they projected them onto a screen with a digital projector and everyone could make their own judgements.

How this banished the memories of slide shows of the 60's! Then it was the clatter of the poorly-constructed and poorly operated Braun Paximats or savagely cast Bell and Howells that filled the night, punctuated by the curses of the projectionist when yet another slide projected upside down - or by the audience when the slide gate and light flap failed and we were blinded by the full blast of a bare screen. And then there were the failed globe sagas. You hoped the new globe would fit and work but there was always the chance that whatever powers urge the SEC had sent to fry the first one would return to pop the second.

I think it is time to look seriously at the digital projector - Epson make some magnificent examples - and to recognize that some of our images may not deserve $ 15 worth of ink and paper and $ 250 worth of framing but they do warrant an evening's attention on a scale larger than A4. And you can accompany images of your holiday in Fiji with hula music, or gunfire, depending on who is in power this week.

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Friday, November 16, 2012

Not To Be Outdone - With Canon

Looks like it is money time in the Canon office - they have a sack of it by the door and they are throwing it at passers-by. They just hit a woman on the other side of the road with a with a bale of $ 20s and knocked her down...

Well, not exactly that, but it is pretty good nevertheless. Canon has just notified us that there are cashbacks on DSLRs starting today:

$ 100 cashback on 650D any kit.

$ 300 on the new 6D ( note that this isn't going to start shipping until the end of this month ).

$ 300 on the 5D and 24-105 kit.

If you are a printer person they will also be doing this for their high-end printers but we don't do Canon printers.

I think that the Canon people will be sending us some point of sale information for this shortly. I will blog it when I find out at what date the promotion ceases.


Trade In Bonus From Nikon - Official

Woo, someone's in the money. You - if you are quick about it.

Nikon Australia, the proper suppliers of Nikon cameras and lenses, have just announced a good trade-in deal for their customers.

Buy a Nikon D600, a Nikon D800, or a Nikon D800e from a Nikon Australia Authorised Reseller - like us, folks - and Nikon Australia will arrange for you to get $ 150 off the retail price of the D600 or $ 300 of the price of either the D 800 or the D800e.

That's a real saving and you don't have to go to the risk of dealing with uncertain private importing and loss of warranty. Nikon Australia warrants the cameras they have supplied in the proper Australian way. No argument security.

Of course there is the sensible proviso that you can only trade in one camera per transaction so don't arrive with a dumptruck load of old bodies and start shovelling them in the door.

Any road, the whole deal is on now and goes until the 31st of January 2013 - now is the time to come in and cut a deal. Be sharp.


Paper Pictorialism - a Modest proposal

Sometimes customers look at our collection of old large format monorail cameras on the top shelf and ask us what we are ever going to do with them. This is really a question that is turned 90 degrees from itself - the real question they should be asking is what are they going to do with them. Here is one modest proposal.

First - go to the library and get out a book on pictorialism. Steiglitz, Steichen, Strand, Kasebier, Baron De Meyer...the list of pictorialists goes on and on. Search the net diligently for a picture called "The Onion Field". Look for the portrait of J.P.Morgan. Flatiron Building at twilight. Linked Ring. Henry Peach Robinson.

Second - come down here and buy a monorail and a lens. Don't matter what kind of monorail and lens. Buy three double dark slide film holders. Buy a pack of Ilford Multigrade RC gloss paper.

Third -  go home and into your darkroom and cut the Ilford paper into 4" x 5" sheets. Load them into the double darks under a suitable safelight.

Fourth - out you go looking for beauty. Find it on a sunny day for preference and find beauty that will stay still for a while. You can define to yourself what it may be, but as your exposure is likely to be anything from one second to 5 seconds, you'll need to put the monorail on a tripod and work like the old-timers did. Deliberately and methodically. Expose those double darks progressively in the camera at whatever takes your fancy. Experiment with a yellow filter over the lens.

Fifth - back to the darkroom. Develop the Ilford paper in Multigrade developer, fix and wash it and let it dry flat. You now have a wonderfully detailed paper negative. It has darks and lights and texture. It cannot be deleted with a mouse click but mice may attack it - store it carefully.

Sixth - clap it onto the bed of an EPSON V700 scanner set to Domestic Scan and grey scale at 300 dpi. Scan it as a jpeg into your computer system and then start to work on it. Use whatever program you fancy - I favour Photoshop Elements 10 with Aliens skin plug-ins. Tone it to your taste, but do look at some of the tones that the original pictorialists used and try to do a similar thing.

Seventh - print and display. You may wish to lease small commercial premises and name them " An Australian Place" and exhibit these and other works of pictorialism. Try to grow a moustache.

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Travels With Fuji

Bless the lady who bought the bag yesterday - she was very pleasant to deal with and knew her stuff - she is going to make a dedicated journey to take travel photographs and needs to pack a lot of gear into a backpack. I do hope the one we dediced upon does what she needs and that she has a safe and productive trip. Most of all I hope she does not lean over sideways on a slippery road in the jungle because the weight of all the stuff in her bag is going to pin her to the ground - and I told her this as she went. We laughed.

I too am going to make a journey to take photographs but I do not intend to fall over, unless it is in the 1809 cocktail bar. I plan to take my Fuji X-10 camera in a small shoulder pouch and enjoy the freedom of movement and expression it provides.

See what happened when I went to Melbourne last year? Despite the Melbourne weather the pictures of the cars came out beautifully. Had I been photographing landscapes or horse races or people on the beach it would have been just as successful. I shall try my luck next time with just these subjects,

Did you want to do the same, I can cheerfully recommend this brand of camera. The jpegs are good enough to form the bulk of the output, with the proviso that if I need RAW work I can do it. The cameras they make have good ergonomics - or "eye-gonomics" as I call it. They have eyepiece viewfinders up at the left of the camera back and they can deal with bright conditions that would baffle the plain exposed LCD screen. As I have a nose, the fact that there is space for it to breathe alongside the body of the camera means that shooting is a pleasure. And the LCD screen stays free of nose prints.

Had I not had the X -10 in hand, and been delighted with it, I might have been tempted to the X-100 or the X-Pro 1. I am certainly tempted to the X-E1 camera and I am particularly curious to see how far it might be used to shoot into professional work once the 18-55 zoom lens kits come in. It wants only a little imagination and  some experimentation here in the shop to come up with a rig that would be reminiscent of the wedding tackle of the 1960's

We used Leica M2 bodies then with collapsible 2.8 Elmar lenses and Metz hammer-head flashes. I recall the Metz units had battery packs that we slung over our shoulders. Loaded the Leicas with FP3 or FP4 and focussed the Elmars at 8 feet and away we went. Singles, two-ups, four across, the groups...well the dear old M2's just kept blatting away at 1/60 and f:8. Day by day by day.

Now wouldn't it be sweet if the new Fuji X-E1 with the zoom lens and auto focussing and TTL flash was just as easy to handle? And we could plonk a Gary Fong Lightsphere over the flash head and it would all be balanced and fast and light and our old age would be wonderful?

I'd almost be prepared to fall over sideways for that...


The Ugly Pet Syndrome

We used to get lies, misconceptions, and innuendos from our companions and relatives. Since the advent of the internet we can now be supplied with these by authoritative strangers. It is sort of like having Monsanto send you a railway car full of chemical sludge for free.

Oh, did I just use a lie, misconception , or innuendo to slander Monsanto? Yep, I did. And while it got a laugh, I hope, it was neither fair nor right. I use lots of things in my daily life that have been developed or made by Monsanto and I think I have benefited from it. My jibe was just me trying to be smarty-aleck.

So it happens with a number of photographic manufacturers. Based upon net reports - in themselves based upon people we have never met doing things we have not seen them do - we retail common wisdom of how bad this camera is or how bad that lens is. Worse - we sometimes reverse the coin and trumpet as good what we have never tested. You understand, of course, that I am accusing you of these sins as I am blameless - pure as the driven slush, am I.

The labels that brought you to this page have all been slandered, or lauded at one time or another - Mr. Fuji, Mr. Pentax, Mr. Canon, and Mr. Nikon get plastered all over forums. Mr Polaroid is wandering about somewhere in history. Mr. Edsel and Mr. Lightburn...well, read on.

The Edsel that you see on the top of this column is in beautiful shape - it was on display at Big Al's Poker Run in February - a hot rod event that is purely delightful. North American readers will recognize it more readily than Australians but both groups will remember little about it except its bad name. That name and the apocryphal stories are generally all that people know about the marque, and it is decried. But really, it is just a  Ford sedan of the same era - late 50's - with a stylish grille. The factory line that made it was a Ford line and there was nothing really different about the engineering. It fell out of favour because of the styling then every tale that was told of it exaggerated a fault and the whole affair became a sales fiasco.

But it is still a pretty stylish 1950's road locomotive and it is something that the current owner is justly proud of.

Contrast this to the car that used to be sold down on Hay Street just past His Majesty's theater in the 1960's. The Lightburn Zeta. The Zeta was designed to be economical to make, run, and maintain. It was going to use the manufacturing expertise of an Australian washing machine manufacturer to blitz the motoring world. Look out Austin. Stand back Hillman. Run for cover Fiat. It DID use all the expertise of an Australian washing machine manufacturer - had it been dedicated wringing out your delicates, all would have been well - as it happened riding in one in traffic wrung out your guts.

In retrospect, I do hope that somewhere there is someone who has treasured one of the few Lightburn Zetas that may be left. I hope the little plastic bread box has been lovingly restored like the Edsel. If only the show future generations what Australians were capable of in 1966. I mean, they display stromatolites in museums...why not a Lightburn Zeta.

The final wrap-up of this column, and stop hitting me with a rolled-up newspaper, that there are a number of photographic devices, and programs, and concepts that get bad press in the electronic media. Most of what is thought of as common perceived knowledge on these subjects is flawed, if only because the people reading it have never tried the thing out. Here is where the on-line advice and the on-line shop go hand in hand. Electronic advice stimulating electronic trade in electronics. Sometimes right but oftimes wrong.

We're different here at the shop. The things we sell are right here. You can come in and set them off right in front of yourself and see what happens. You can run a card through the Flapoflex Digital 5 camera and see if the pixels match up. You can find out whether or not the flash actually works as the manufacturer claims. And you can ask someone real over a real counter about it. Of course the real sales assistant may be really confused too, but that just adds to the charm of the morning.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Worshipping At Strange Altars - With Stroboframe

I think we can all agree with Ms. Jane - see heading image - at some stage of the day. I favour the mid-morning service, myself.

But on our sales floor we have many altars - some are sent to us by equipment manufacturers with clever television sets attached to the top and captive video programs that show the wonders of whatever is stacked on the racks below. This is a definite advantage for some customers as it provides the visual stimulus to mental activity...and may eventually lead to them purchasing the product. To some extent these are infomercials in as far as they show the cameras in use and in another sense they are suggesting that the prospective purchasers will look like the brave and clever people in the videos. Just like on the shopping channel.

We didn't get quite so slick with the Stroboframe altar...errr..stand. It is just a workaday product with very little glamour and really only serves to make your photography more successful. You are unlikely to attract girls in bikinis or be sitting in the seat of a Porsche sports car while using these frames, though you might well be paid good money for taking pictures of the girl or car with them.

You see, Stroboframe really does one thing, and really does it well - it gets your on-camera flash off-camera and puts it right up above the centerline of your lens regardless of whether your camera is in the landscape or the portrait position. You get consistent shadows on faces and bosoms from the top front position for maximum beauty and minimum fuss. Shadows drop behind heads instead of across the entire group. Red-eye is a thing of the past, even with long lenses focused out into the distance.

Please note the above reference to bosoms. You can light a high neck dress or top from lots of positions and get an acceptable result, but when the model has a rack and it is exposed with a low-cut dress, you have to get the shadow down the cleavage absolutely right. If it is good it is lovely but if it is bad it is the first and only thing that viewers of the image see, and they will complain bitterly about it. Harsh shadows, angularity, hot spots all attract the eye and spoil the effect. Front top lighting with a little diffusion is the general key to success.

Stroboframe make brackets and frames for all sorts of cameras - they were really big in the 2 1/4 square and 6 x 7 days. Even the biggest and toughest of the 6 x 7 cameras could be accommodated and tilted sideways on a frame. You could fasten them to a tripod and then rotate them from vertical to horizontal without losing the central position. There is a wonderful adjustable circular rotation bracket that is available right now for DSLRs that does this even when you've got a battery pack under the camera. I highly recommend it for any studio worker. You can frame a shot then do it in the opposing framing with one flick of the camera.

One final note for Stoboframe. They make a quick-release mounting set that is perfect for most DSLRs. You get a mechanical block that attaches to your tripod head and a thin plate that screws onto the bottom of your camera body - or onto the footplate of a long lens. These then pop together or apart like other quick-release systems, but the real advantage is the fact that the plate IS thin. You can have it on the bottom of any camera or battery grip and still use the grip as per usual. It does not force your hand away from the grip.

Needless to say, I have this system on my Nikon D300 cameras, with grip and without. It is so simple to clip the camera onto either the studio or the field tripod for a quick solid shot - even if the Press-T flash bracket is attached - that I tend to use it a lot more than before. And I tend to have a lot more shots with no camera movement spoiling the image. Also note that in the studio setups that need consecutive shots with not a pixel moved - sometimes 4 of them for one image set - this bracket is tight and steady enough to let it happen, even if I have to refocus the lens manually.

Oh, in case you were wondering why the label links brought you here - we have altars for all these products on the floor. The Bargain Zone is resplendent with two coloured slat walls and some really arcane old lenses. Be sure to drop a coin in the plate when you visit.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

60 Minutes Loves GoPro

 Did goe to watch 60 Minutes on a computer link was gretely entertained.

The news feature filmers have discovered the GoPro system and are enamored of it - and why wouldn't they be. It is a perfectly simple way to record whatever people are doing in front of its stubby little lens - usually in bright colours and with a startling level of detail. The camera can survive a fair amount of water and shock and as it can be mounted on everything from a fighter plane to a broken femur, there is every chance that something eye-watering will eventuate.

They seemed to enjoy themselves using it to film surfing, bicycle riding, jumping off cliffs, and a number of other stunts. Apparently it has been used to film "sting "operations when television teams entrap their subjects, and they also admit that it has been used as a surveillance camera over forbidden territory.

One particular sequence seemed to involve a group of young men in the middle of a light plane crash - though from what I saw the chap in the back seat filming it was holding a different brand of small regular video camera. No matter, I suppose - the GoPro would have made equally good job as the Piper ploughed through the trees. I wondered whether anyone had been killed or injured in the crash but I don't believe the 60 Minutes reporters mentioned it - perhaps they did not know...

This is the closest thing I can think to what the wing cameras and gun cameras on WW2 fighter planes were: a fixed recording system that lets you see what is going on directly in front of you - with the provision to record it for much longer time than the short burst of a film camera. And as they are readily available to the public from many suppliers - us included - I think we can expect to see a lot more video from them in the future.

I suspect that a great deal of this footage, if that is the right term, may be classified as " Hey, look at what I can do!" stuff. And I also suspect that given this mindset, a good deal of it will also involve " Oh Oh Oh f*#+  OW OW OW HELP GET ME OUT OF THIS OW OW OW! and this is as it should be. Good sense rarely comes without being taught, and never at a cheap price. These cameras may well prove to be valuable stimuli to character reform in those users who survive.

I am particularly intrigued at the use of the camera as a surveillance device. I suppose it will depend upon the particular details of each case as to whether the video footage created will be legally or illegally useful, and I also suppose that by the time that surveillance machinery is thought necessary, any question of morality has been long answered...For myself, I am going to make sure than none of the little things are near me when next I rob a bank or engage in a torrid affair on a yacht. Either that or make sure that my hair looks really good that day.

The quote from the show that stuck with me was the one that said the GoPro name indicated that use of the camera would turn amateurs into professionals. Perhaps it will, but they did not specify into what sort of professionals. I am going to look very closely at the next anaesthetist, solicitor, or civil engineer I consult- if I see a baseball cap worn backwards, a Bali Chinese tattoo, or a GoPro the deal is off.


Vale Photographic Trader

When I write this blog, there is a pallet on the side of the screen that contains brand names like Nikon or Canon and other terms that apply to photography - I click whatever is appropriate for the post and it trumpets it out to the web searcher. Easy. This posting is tougher because ALL of the things on the pallet would have gone out.

You see, the subject of the post - The Photographic Trader - was a publication that dealt with absolutely everything in the imaging line. All the brands and all the processes historic or modern. It was a trade-and-sell sheet as well as an advertising platform as well as a focused magazine for collecting enthusiasts. Lots of good writers told the stories of cameras and camera makers of the past and posited new fixes and processes for the digital future. Not a few of the writers could cross over from one area of the discipline to another without breaking step.

I wrote a column in it and was delighted to receive payment each two months. Whether others were delighted to read it is another thing but I did ask the editor to print my page on absorbent paper so at least the budgie cage was taken care of for a few days. It was great fun to tell jokes to strangers all over Australia on a subject that I love - now that the magazine has ceased publication I will have to fall back on this blog to do it. That and stapling photocopy pages to strangers in the railway station.

I guess it was economics - perhaps the distribution system contributed to it, and perhaps the fact that all the reader advertisements were for free. I wonder what some of the regulars with big listings are going to do now - not that they seemed to change their stalls much from one issue to the next. Perhaps they will be taking bigger tables at the camera society swap meets.

I do hope that the people who run the meets, or are conducting darkroom classes, or have the arcane little sales and repair shops, ( that us? ) can find another way to let the public know what is going on. There is a vast connected web of photographic knowledge out there that won't be addressed by chain store kids. And there is a real comfort about getting a paper magazine in hand that you can peruse wherever and keep for future reference. I've got all my Traders and I'm keeping them.

Thanks Cole - we loved your work.

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A Pocket Full Of Clean - Lenspen

I  keep a lens cleaner in every camera bag I use, and as a result whenever I need to clean a lens or an LCD screen out in the field...I do not have anything to do it with. You see, I am nowhere near the bag when the gnu splashes mud on my lens. So either I spit on a handkerchief and scrape it off, or resign myself to shooting brown blurry pictures.

Things will change. The Lenspen people have put a display in the shop and I am going to get one or two that I can carry clipped into my pocket all the time. There are several sorts that they make - ones for LCD screens, or tablet screens - others for compact camera lenses and regular DSLR lenses. You can buy them individually or in a complete set, and they aren't expensive - $ 14.95 for singles ot $ 34.95 for the complete set.

They really do look like a pen, with a pocket clip and all - but inside the body there is an extendable soft brush for dust and a felt pad cleaner for the optical surfaces. It is impregnated with a fine carbon cleaner and is not damp - you never need to worry about dripping or wet spots. Between the two ends, you can cope with dust, fragments, fingerprints, and gnu mud.

Apparently these are the favoured product for a lot of videographers as well. Please pop one into your safari suit for your next documentary.You might get it in the daily gnus.


What's In D Or V? - Look And See

It is just about holiday season - and I don't mean candlesticks, mistletoe, turkey, and drunk relatives. It is just about TRAVEL holiday season. And we have just about the best idea we've ever had for it.

Make no mistake - this idea involves you bringing money to us and leaving it here. But in return you get to take one of the nicest cameras you'll ever see with you and the camera will have a very good time on vacation.

On to specifics - we've got two parallel deals going with the most prestigious brand in the shop - Leica - and there are real advantages for two classes of holiday traveler.

Firstly the elegant holiday maker - best hotels, best shops, best bars...drinks with little umbrellas in them, etc.These travellers want a small compact elegant Leica that will produce superb files. Something with a small flash and a 4 X zoom lens and a really bright viewfinder. These are the folks that will love the Leica D-Lux 5 and D-Lux 6.

The D-Lux 5 will give them an f:2 lens and the D-lux 6 will give them an f:1.4 lens - and an actual physical aperture ring round the lens barrel. They will both be supplied with Photoshop Elements and Photoshop Premiere Elements to allow for easy image manipulation, storage, and video editing. They will both carry the full 2-year Leica warranty. And they can also purchase some of the most elegant cases in the world to carry them in - see an earlier blog post on this site.

Money? $ 649 for the Leica D-Lux 5 and $ $ 999 for the Leica D-Lux 6. They are in-store right now so you can be prepared for the hols.

Now for the long distance traveler - the safari traveler. The 21-solid-hours-on-a-plane-with-your-knees-up-your-nose traveler. This is going to be the holiday of a lifetime, particularly when you step off that long-distance flight and vow never to do it again. BUT while you are there in the savage wilds of Africa, British Columbia, or Bradford, you want to see it all and bring back pictures of everything. You need a solid small camera that will give you a 24 X zoom lens and full video. Something that will record in stereo. Something that will not let dust into itself every time you change a lens.

You need either a Leica V-Lux 3 or a Leica V-Lux 4. With the first camera the wide open lens aperture goes from f:2.8 to f:5.2 and with the second it is a constant f:2.8. In technical terms that is very little difference, but if you are going into the heart of darkness - like the Congo or Prince George - you'll want all the lens opening you can get. ( If you are going to Edmonton you'll also need a bag of rocks to throw at the locals. )

But you get all the other bits with either camera - the stereo mic on top, the in-built flash, the electronic viewfinder as well as the LCD screen, the stabilization mode..and the Photoshop Elements and Premiere programs as well. And the 2-year warranty.

Price? Ha ha - fooled ya - Same as the D-Lux cameras. You'll pay $ 649 for the Leica V-Lux 3 and $ 999 for the Leica V-lux 4. And you can go on holiday amongst the lions and bears and bring back superb Leica pictures while remaining at a safe distance.

Nearly Final Note: The Adobe Elements pair are a really good idea for dealing with your still and video images - they are powerful enough to support profession work but simple enough to learn straight out of the box - indeed their automatic settings are really brilliant for one-click photo work. You can do darn near anything with them and they are supported fully by the Adobe people.

Final Note: Remember that 21 solid hours you spent getting there? It's 21 solid hours getting back. Enjoy.


Monday, November 12, 2012

Sun On A Stick - Lastolite

I came from a province in Canada where the sun only shines two times a year - and one of those times is in the middle of the night so if you get up late you miss it. It was so gloomy the grizzly bears were fitted with fog lights so they could find the campers in the dark.

Imagine my pleasure to find Western Australian weather. No more troubles with gloomy skies at weddings. All sunshine and bluebirds. Yeah - all sunshine until 1: The clouds sock in, 2: Those bluebirds are nesting magpies, and 3: The bridal couple want to be fashion stars. Not gas giants or dead dwarf stars either...

The bird problem is still with us, because you can't shoot them. So is the bridal couple problem, because you can. We can't solve these, but we can banish the clouds. Come into the shop and have a look at the Lastolite soft boxes.

I use a Nikon D300 with an SB700 flash on the top and a Gary Fong Lightsphere on top of that. It throws fill light in beautifully from the front if there is some form of main light coming from another direction. Here's where the Lastolite Sun On A Stick comes in. I put a Lastolite Ezy-Box softbox on a Nikon SB600 flash and this on the end of a Lastolite extension pole. My assistant, Igor, acts as the lighting man, moving as directed to throw main shots onto the bridal couple if there is no sunlight to illuminate them. He can functionin under eaves, trees, or railway bridges. Also inside dim old churches - the softbox light coming off the top of the pole is not too harsh in these delicate environments.

At this point I must record my wonder at being prohibited flash in one religious venue upon the grounds that it would disturb the sanctity of the affair. I privately reflected that the Proprietor of the church was  responsible for the entire solar system and everything out past that and so far kept the Sun shining without too much trouble...but then the mother of the bride had a series of short words with the minister and the objection was withdrawn. Remember that at your next wedding - if you cannot get the Royal Marines, get the mother of the bride.

Back to the light. The Nikon system of IR control for the outboard flash works well inside a building but might be fooled by high light levels outside. If this is a problem, look for one of the Pocket Wizard TTL control box systems - you'll never have triggering troubles. If you are a Canon user, remember that the new Canon 600 flash has an inbuilt radio receiver. However you do it, you get to control how intense the outboard light is from the camera position - as long as you and your light operator understand what you are trying to achieve you can get a real studio effect in the most confused light. This is a great way to cope with the dappled mess you find under trees and in Gazebos.

Small Note: In the dear old film days we tried this with a Radio Slave outfit and Metz 45 flashes and sometimes it worked. But I had to communicate the instructions to Igor across the void by means of hand signals and pre-arranged letters on the Metz flashes - it was all very crude. Now I can dial what I want from down the front and he just moves into position. It is really the secret to success for shots at receptions of speeches and dances, though surprisingly the frontal flash still looks better for the cake cutting.

Final Note: If you are a wedding worker who never intrudes into the sanctity of the ceremony and always stands off to the side with a 70-200 lens and falls into a gasping fit when the idea of flash is suggested....well fall over that way and don't get in my way. I have a flash and sharp elbows and nobody is going to get between me and bride. She is going to be illuminated if it kills her.

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Settin' By The Roadside...With Fuji

Settin' by the roadside on a summer's day.
Chattin' with my daughter, passin' time away.
 Lyin' in the shadows underneath the trees.
Goodness how delicious - jpegs are for me!

Apologies the Georgia militia - and the peanut industry. But I am really pleased to be able to report that the humble jpeg has come back into fashion - at least with the right camera and the right situation.

I went to the Hot Rod Show this year but as it was in Melbourne, I didn't fancy taking the entire Nikon D300 outfit with the extra Sigma lens and the flash unit - it is great gear and I have used it at our local shows with entire satisfaction but it has a weight and size penalty. As a traveller I want to go light and easy.

So I took the Fuji X-10 with me. I was new to the camera but not so new to photography that I made the mistake of trying to buy it duty free and learn how to use it on the plane. I got it a couple of weeks prior to the trip and figured out which settings I needed. At the time, there was no RAW support for this camera with the Photoshop Elements program I favoured - so I decided to set it on the largest fine jpeg setting available and resigned myself to just taking "record snaps" of the trip.

The operation of the camera seemed to be very easy and the screen displays at the back looked good, but it was not until I got home and whacked it onto the iMac that I could see that they were very good indeed. Even fresh on the plate with no extra fiddling, they looked like what I had seen on the ground, and more important, what I wanted to see. I had planned the finished results as my standard 9" x 6" print on A4 paper and the Fuji files are perfect for this.

Note to anyone wishing to use this camera or the fancier Fuji X-Pro1 or X-E1- Adobe and Apple now can decode the RAW information so if you want to go that route, by all means try it. I am willing to bet that the RAW and the jpeg results from the X-10 will be just about the same. On that basis, I am going to continue to set the X-10 on large fine jpeg for future trips.

Please also note that I generally don't advise people to use jpeg for some purposes here in Perth - specifically if asked about wedding shoots. I always advise people who have RAW on their cameras to resort to it - and then to make sure that they have the downstream processing power in their program of choice to break it open and present it for adjustment. In most cases the camera systems and computer systems will deal with a lot of the things better when the images have that one extra step.

Not to let too many cats out of the bag, RAW can cover a multitude of sins. I am not advocating sinning as a general sport, but occasionally I find myself making regrettable errors and it is nice to have a safety net. Yesterday I covered a wedding and as it was a bright morning the white balance on the camera could be safely set to "daylight". Then clouds came over and the wedding party moved under trees and the white balance was a bit better in the "shade " setting. All well and good, but when the guests and the sun came out again guess who forgot to re-set the white balance...Fortunately only for a dozen shots, and later on the recovery of that white balance was easily done in the RAW section of the computer program. Had I been shooting in jpeg there I would still have tried to recover the white balance but it would have been death to the skin tones and textures.

Please continue to use RAW with studio portraits and product shots. Also please continue to do custom white balances and shoot Macbeth cards and look at your results on a calibrated monitor when you haven't been drinking. But when you can afford to be light and cheerful, try jpeg.

PS: I figured out what pictograms mean on the camera. See the picture at the top of the blog - that's a 2011 Ford with the "retro" button pushed in hard.

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Travel Light with Gossen and Sekonic

You might think it superfluous these days to carry a hand-held light meter - what with all digital cameras containing their own light metering capability and never being wrong and always giving you perfect exposure every time. Oh, look, there's another flying unicorn...

Where was I? Ah, yes - the Gossen meter and the Sekonic meters. Got 'em both in stock and it looks like some people still use check flash exposures before they light the get the exposure right before the model stalks in and glares at get accurate exposure even when the matrix-all-over -whatever-you-want-Boss meter in the camera insists on something that looks horrible.

They buy the small light models and take them in their shirt pockets when they go bush with the panoramic or large format cameras. They pop them out at weddings before the bride arrives to see if the church is dim enough...and there are churches here in Perth that do dim on an industrial basis. You can generally tell from their contact sheets or presentation sites that the exposures are dead on...without having to be shot 15 different times with an air of increasing desperation.

Of course, if you want to sit up until 2:00 AM recovering your exposure on the computer, please do. I'm going to use an exposure meter.

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Friday, November 9, 2012

Something happened in the Japanese camera industry between the time I was a kid working in a camera shop and now - when I am a geezer working in a camera shop. The wonderful skill of encasing cameras has been lost. Or at least it has been moved elsewhere.

When we sold Pentax Spotmatics and Minolta SRT 101 cameras they were always accompanied in their boxes with a standard lens and a leather case. The cases were as sharp as the lenses. The leather work was precise, the fit of the case was tight, and the little details like plush lining and snaps or release fittings were top-quality. These ever-ready cases sometimes meant that the cameras were never ready, but at least they could travel slung around a sweaty tourist neck and protect the contents.

Nowadays you get the camera, a handful of cables and an opportunity to go try to find a bag that will fit the damn thing. This is a boon to the bag manufacturers like Think Tank, Lowepro, Tamrac, and Kata and to be fair when you get the right bag for your new camera it can be a beautiful and functional thing. And some of the tougher bags that hold pro bodies and lenses are really way better at protecting the gear than the old black leather ever-ready.

But elegant? No. The little ones can look like hooker's handbags and the big ones can look like upholstered apartment blocks. There are even ones that look like satchel charges. Oog.

All praise to the Leica people. The cases they sell - separately, it must be said - for the D-lux and V-Lux and X series cameras are superb - all that leather work was and should be. Their M series cases are still the epitome of the ever-ready and I would be willing to bet that the same could be said for S-series cases if there is such a thing. They may have been forced to give up their seat to a clown on the tram with the X-2 cameras that come in colours - apparently there are to be camera protectors, which I take to mean half-cases, in the same pop colours that grace the actual bodies. Let us hope that the the aesthetic is rewarding.

And Hooray for Fuji - I've got a leather case for my X-10 that is all I could want for retro style - and they do similar ones for their X-100, X-Pro1 and XE-1. Their straps are well-finished and the whole thing hangs right.

On a reflective note - perhaps the demise of the fitted leather case happened when the leather workers who worked in Japan retired. They would have been of a generation who worked in leather for military cases prior to '45 and would have been a boon to the camera industry after then. Let us hope a new lot of leather artists arises.

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P,A,S,M - The Signs Of The Times

As I drove to work today a gold car passed me by with one of those stickers in the back window that had the letter "I", a red heart, and a pictogram. You've seen them - "I Love Whatever..." The trouble with this one was the pictogram - for the life of me I could not make out whether it depicted a snail or a whale.

There was no clue from the rest of the car - it was a Mercedes. Had it been a Peugeot or a Honda I might have been able to figure it out. It did put me in mind, however, of the business of the pictograms on our digital cameras.

Somewhere on the outside or inside of every digital camera is the pictogram - it may show a face, or a mountain, or a running man...or a martini glass or a small dog. I've got one on the desk in front of me that has two pictograms of babies marked Baby 1 and Baby 2. If you have triplets you are out of luck...

What does it all mean? I can understand the running man - the camera sets a high shutter speed and plays along with the aperture until it gets tired of doing so. I can understand the mountain symbol - the camera sets a small aperture and you can get everything in focus including the mountain of dishes in the sink in the background.

But what the heck happens when you dial up the martini glass? Or the little dog?

I finally have to take comfort with the knob on the top that is marked with P,A,S,and M. These I understand.

 P means Professional and if you are getting paid for the job you are required to use this setting.

 A means Amateur and if no money changes hands you leave it there. ( Note: If you used the P setting for a job but the customer never paid the account, you have to go reset your EXIF data for all your files. We'll tell you how to do this in a later post.)

The M setting on the mode dial is, of course, Multicultural. It's not really considered polite to ask, but just look at your subjects closely and if any of them seem to be New Australians use this setting to be safe.

The S setting has puzzled a lot of photographers. A number of people have brought their cameras back to us and complained that they seem to be getting excessive pink in their images when they set the S on it and take pictures of track meets or motor races. Sillies - they didn't read the section of their camera manual that deals with this - S stands for Sleazy. Hence more pink.

I am also trying to cope with the little symbol of a waving hand. I do what the symbol says - I wave my hands from side to side as I take the picture but the camera just makes a buzz and a click and all the pictures come out sharp. I think it is broken.

But then so much of life is...

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Thursday, November 8, 2012

R U Happy? -With Tamron

We've all read the phrase - " Money back Guarantee " and then discovered that what we think it means and what the vendor of the goods thinks it means can be widely disparate. In some cases the money back guarantee is so hedged with conditions and disclaimers that you are really never going to see anything but the back of your money...

Not so with the importers of the Tamron line of lenses. They have come out and boldly promised that you can buy one of their new selected lenses and give it a good test run for 60 days. If you are happy, they are happy. If you aren't satisfied with it you can return it to them for a full refund.

When you buy one of these lenses:

Tamron SP AF 10-24 f:3.5-4.5 DII

Tamron SP AF 17-50 f:2 VC DIIXR

Tamron SP AF 18-270 f:3.5-6.3 VC PZD DII

Tamron SP AF 60 f:2 MACRO 1:1 DII

You go onto their website at:

You register the lens and away you go for 60 days. They are confident that you will be successful and pleased with the lens - and of course you also have the assurance of the regular two-year warranty. This is a sign of a company that is on top of quality control.



New Heros Have Landed

The first batch of the new GoPro Hero 3 cameras has arrived here in the shop.

This is the Silver Edition. It is equipped with the WiFi already inside - you can fire off the pictures you take to various devices and thence to the social media sites you prefer. It is compatible with external controllers via this and also can receive instructions from suitably-apped smart phones.

Of course it has all the good GoPro stuff - waterproof housing, several mounts and arms, and the ability to do stills and video at 1080p. You can do time lapse shooting until the cows come home, and see which cows snuck in late. The rechargeable battery inside it gets the power it needs form a USB cord from your computer.

Price hasn't changed much from the previous editions - though it must be said that with them you got a few more mounts included in the kit. If that's important, shoot on down here to the shop and pick up one of the Hero 2 models with the extra fruit included. Of course, if you discover new ways to use the GoPro Hero 3 you can still buy extra mounts from our accessory bar.

Remember that this is one of the few cameras that has the BGA seal of approval.


Free Stuff From Olympus

Free Stuff - and Discounted Stuff too. This a a major player in the little camera game so it's worth while looking.

The Olympus company sells the OM-D mirrorless camera - and it has proved to be one of the take-off best sellers of the year. Now they have increased the value with a $ 207 accessories pack for free. Buy the camera and get:

1. A proper Olympus designer leather camera strap.
2. A lined camera protective wrap for tucking it into your luggage.
3. A 15mm f:8 body cap lens. The ultimate travel point and shoot lensette for the person who wants to pocket the OM-D.

If your tastes run to one of the compact Olympus mirror-less cameras - like the E-PL5 or E-PM2 - then you can also get a freebie - they will supply you with a $ 129 value  FlashAir memory card. This is a wireless SDHC card with 8Gb capacity that can whizz your photos over to social media sites with iPhone, iPad, and Android devices.

You can find out more about this at

Okay- that's the free stuff - now for the business of a healthy 20% discount on Olympus lenses consider this. With the exception of the 12-50 Zuiko, the 14-42, 40-150, 12 LE Black, and 75-300 LE Black, you can get a whopping 20% back on OM-D and Pen lenses for the Micro Four Thirds system. They pay you, we don't - you claim it as a cash back. The offer is running until the 31st of January 2013 so you can score big for Christmas.

Thank you, Olympus.


You Shoot Two Shoot

The Nice Lady from Shoot Photography Workshops has dropped in a schedule for their upcoming affairs and you might like to get your skates on for the next two.

Sunday the 11th of November, which is coming up the end of this week - is a session of groping with Greg. Greg Hocking will be showing how to pursue low-light photographs in his 'Night Vision' landscape course. This is hands-on and eyes open and will extend into the darkness so that you can see what he does and how you can do it too. Remember Greg is REALLY one of the masters and has the awards to prove it.

Wednesday the 14th of November is devoted to a DSLR course from the boss - Simon Cowling - himself and it looks from his write-up to be ideal for people who have just purchased a set of DSLR gear but are unsure as to how to start with it - and how to get the best from it. I think he will be covering all aspects from settings, exposures,balances, and processing, but you won't be doing it all in one mad rush - it is a course that runs in 4 sessions.

Contact Simon, or the Nice Lady through the website at:

These are two good quick ideas - there's thee more between now and the 2nd of December and I'll blog them later


Canon Was Here...

The Canon company are conducting a contest for photographers. They have a red flyer here at the shop promising 75 trips in 75 days - if you spend more than $ 90 on any Canon products you go into the draw for holiday vouchers  - these look to be vouchers for a major airline and for an organized travel company. It is not a cheap affair - they are promising some $ 200,000 worth of these trips to photographers in Australia and New Zealand.

You'll have until the 18th of January 2013 to do your purchasing and the draws will be held daily - they started on the 5th of this month, though the little flyer does not say which trips are to be given away on which day. I shall be particularly interested to see where they send the persons who win on the 7th of December.

You see the advertising images and write-up on the front of the page show pictures of two places-separated by 75 years:

 One is of Times Square in New York City  - the new picture is in colour and is evidently pre-Hurricane Sandy as everything is lit up and dry. The advertising agency are a little bit myopic as they have also included a picture of Times Square but have failed to see that it has 1952 cars and a sign proclaiming a presidential win by Eisenhower. Atmospheric, but not quite right.

They got the second set right, though. It is two pictures of Waikiki Beach on Oahu. And right under the black and white illustration ( oddly free of big hotels ) is the line " Canon was here in 1937 ".

Well, you can bet they sure as hell were. Slung round the necks of surprisingly fit young Japanese men bicycling around the island on holiday. Taking lots of pictures- lots and lots of pictures...Schofield Barracks, Wheeler and Hickam Air Fields, Pearl Harbour, Ford Island...Oh, so many pictures.

Smart people, the advertising types. Sensitive. Thinkers, to a man. And inspiring. Give you all sorts of ideas for similar promotions based on air travel and optics. Why stop at cameras - why not involve major aircraft and instrument makers for real nostalgia. I can see it now - Bausch and Lomb or Sperry could offer a contest for purchasers of their sunglasses or electronic gear that entitles you to fly over famous cities - Ploesti, Schweinfurt, and Regensburg in the daylight or Hamburg and Berlin at night.

Or for those who want to travel in the east, there is always Tokyo after dark in April...or Hiroshima on a bright August morning. I can see a real boom in this sort of contest.

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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Canon - The New Sensible Shoes Lens

Whenever I use the phrase " sensible shoes " I get glared at by sturdy ladies. I don't know why, but they do glare - and they growl at me. It hardly seems fair as it is a very good description for a class of product - the sort of thing that Canon has just introduced.

The specs say it all - 24-70 L series lens means it covers a full frame. IS says it has an image stabilization system fitted. f:4 means that it will be light to carry, and with that IS system and the increased capability of the modern Canon camera, you will be able to shoot in light levels that formerly needed an f:2.8 lens.

This will be a kit companion for the coming Canon 6D camera. Perfect for most general purpose people and travel shots - I suspect many photographers will go no further than this lens for their vacation - unless they pair it with an equally light Canon 70-200 f:4 IS lens - and then they can smile and wave at their less fortunate companions who might be struggling with far heavier bodies and lenses as they slog through the swamps or up the mountain sides. The really unlucky ones will take their vacations in swamps at the top of mountains...with the children.

I can already hear the arguments of people who say that the out of focus areas will be more so with the 2.8 than the 4 - yes, but not all that much. If you are dedicated to out of focus, buy a 50mm f1.2 and go fuzzy big time.

For me, were I to use the Canon system, and were I to want general pictures on the full-frame sensor, I would sieze upon this lens. We hope to be able to put it within your grasp in the next lttle bit. We'll blog them when they arrive.

Be sensible.


It's All On Again, Kids - with Nikon 5200

Looks like the Nikon people are maintaining a firm commitment to the DX camera system. The recent introduction of the D800 series and the D600 camera might have taken the spotlight, but the new D5200 will re-focus attention on this format.

Hooray. I use the DX format for my work and I love it - and I realize that it is perfect for many, many users. I can see this camera forming the basis of a complete photographic outfit for travellers, families, small studio workers, and enthusiasts.

It is similar in size and shape to the D5100, but there are new features - stereo microphones for video recording, wireless connectivity to Apple and Android platforms ( with appropriate accessory ), LV real-time adjustment of art programs, big bright articulated screen,  and not the least - different colours available. Note the LV lever is up on the top plate next to the mode dial now.

This camera has the new Expeed III processor, so you get a good low-light performance - 100-6400 ISO as native speed with a boost up from there.

This is not a heavyweight body - it will be a perfect travel camera combined with either a light twin-lens kit or a short zoom. Users can expect quality results and the interchangeabilty of the Nikon lens system for future expansion.

We'll blog more when we know the price and availability.


--> Camera Electronic: November 2012

Camera Electronic