Monday, December 24, 2012

Stuff Your Stocking - With Op/Tec

And you can stuff your bag as well - and your suitcase. That's the kind of blog this is. Fearless.

It used to be a worry around Christmas time that you would wake up on Christmas morning to find a shapeless black mass in your stocking at the end of the bed. Either a lump of coal or Whoopi Goldberg...Well, you can rest easy this Christmas - Op/Tec have a wonderful alternative.

If you are going to be flying overseas you can sometimes be tempted to put your camera gear into your suitcase - to save room in the overhead locker for your bottles of duty-free gin or volumes of Proust. I've tried it with the camera wrapped up in layers of underwear and socks and gaffer tape. Do-able, but messy and woe betide you if someone official opens the case a looks at that sort of parcel. They'll come and get you and I can hear the snap of the latex gloves now...

Far better to invest in an Op/Tec neoprene camera case. These fit snugly over a wide variety of cameras, from small amateur compact to big professional bodies and zoom lenses - even some with battery grips attached. You can pack the camera in it inside the case and even if the whole lot goes to Rio while you go to Riga, at least it will arrive intact.

You can also beat the crowds when you have to carry the gear slung around your neck. If you do so with a bare lens there is always a sticky finger in the crowd that will get to your front element. If you have a lens cap on it will fall off. ( Humboldt proved this in the 19th century...) If you have a lens hood on as well as a lens cap you might as well buy postcards as it will be too much trouble to dig through it all to get the lens open.

 The answer is the Op/Tec Hood Hat. They are a deep neoprene cover that snaps over the lens hood and grips while protecting from impact - and snaps off just as fast for the shot. They come in various sizes and there are really humungous ones for the wide-angle lenses with the big petal hoods.

If you want to completely encase the lens while you are carrying it, you can also get deeper lens bags from the same firm. One colour - black.

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Friday, December 21, 2012

Deader'n A Maggot - with Drobo

There can be few more heart-stopping moments for a digital photographer than seeing nothing on the screen of your monitor - even when it is just the disappearance of a small icon.

I worked away for a small time this morning on my iMac before I thought that I needed a file from deep storage - I use a Drobo storage system. I looked to the space that normally has the little black icon and it was blank. So I opened the desk drawer that contains the Drobo - and the characteristic green and blue lights on the front were not alight. Cold and dead.

I did not panic. I moved the plug of the 12V 7.5A power supply box to a different socket behind the desk. Cold and dead.

I did not panic. I tried that same socket with a desk lamp. Light.

I did not panic. I unplugged the Drobo and the power supply and brought them into Ernest here in the shop. He applied the voltmeter probe to the end of the cable from the power supply. Cold and dead. High five - the failed part was the cheap one- the power supply. Thank you SEC... The data was safe.

I shall obtain another power supply today and will be up and running this evening.

This scenario has a happy ending but in the past some of my cold and dead episodes did not. I purchased El Cheapo portable hard drive units from chain stores and entrusted images to them. Fortunately just before they went to electronic heaven they made enough of a rattle to alert me and I was able to save the data just in time. The big hard drive units in the Drobo can take a great deal more than the little flat packs and fortunately the Drobo analyzes the state of the storage constantly and will alert me if one of the drives is funny - I have set the criteria in the Drobo dashboard to press this information on me whatever I am doing.

In addition, should I manage to fill the Drobo to capacity in its present form, it allows me to dramatically increase the storage by just plugging in bigger drives while it re-distributes the contents. I think it will be safe for a good long time.

But it will all depend on giving it the 12V and 7.5A. I no complain - I am going to get out of this easy.


Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Christmas Portraits - With FlashBender

Here it comes - the Christmas party with the relatives. You are the one with the camera and for good reason - you know what you are doing with it. Your portraits will be the ones that people will want copies of for the album. You are the torch carrier for all the great photographers of the past. Daunting, isn't it?

Well you can dodge out of it by buying an Air Pro and sticking it on the wall and start drinking early, or you can accept the challenge and get the DSLR or mirror-less camera out and do a decent job. If you want to get a bit of advantage over the point and shoots on the day, think about taking a little strobist gear with you. You'll be doing studio-quality between the vol au vents and the turkey and you won't have to break into a sweat.

Here are two kits from Rogue - the people who make the FlashBender reflectors. The Master lighting kit has a little more in the way of reflectors and gels but the whole outfit packs into such a small space that you will not hesitate to cart it with you. Both the Master Kit and the Portrait Kit benefit from the use of off-camera flash control so users of Canon and Nikon are ready to go as soon as they configure their flashes, Pentax people may need to add some cords and Olympus users can get wireless transmitters as well.

You essentially get main light, fill light, and hair light accessories for your portable speed lights. If you have stands and brackets, well and good. But with FlashBenders you can do a great deal even if your speed light is just sitting on the little foot that you get in the packet. That diffusion panel is great, and makes a soft box effect in an area so small that you wouldn't credit it. Small size is the go at Christmas dinner as there won't be a great deal of room, or cooperation.

The gels are interesting. You'll have to make up your own mind whether you want to see your family in Technicolor or not, but even if all you want to do is correct for the lighting in the room, FlashBender give you and extensive set of correcting gels as well. Look at the lineup on the ( admittedly appalling shot of the back of the) packet. I plan to use Follies Pink on several of the rellies as it so clearly captures their character.

These kits are inexpensive - still three trading days to Christmas so still time to grab one.

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Your Ticket To Fame - With Air Pro

Actually that is three tickets. One is for 15 seconds of fame and one is for 3 hours in the E.R. and one is for another 2 weeks in the Orthopaedic ward.

You see these are those sort of cameras. You saw the '60 Minutes' report on on of their competitors - the Go Pro camera - and you rushed up in regiments to purchase it - so much so that it sold out. It was a media coup for one company but really the television company should have mentioned that there are a number of other makers of the same sort of thing; the camera that can be clipped onto a moving object to record the moment when it meets a stationary object. In glorious HD video, colour, sound, and bad language.

The ion Air Pro - in this case the Air Pro Plus kit comes with any number of temptations to disaster. Helmet mount kit - bike mount kit adhesive mounts, etc. There are kits designed to be fastened to surfboards, kayaks, and manned torpedos. Should you wish to attack the TIRPITZ in Lofoten Fjiord you can do so and replay it at home in the lounge. You can fasten the thing to the wall of the reception centre at a wedding and capture the reception punch by punch. Your only limit is your imagination, and several Commonwealth laws.

Pardon the laziness of a pack shot to give you some of he details of the kit - and please be aware that further models of this camera system can be had that are already fitted with the Wifi mechanism - we watched our trade representative use it here in the shop yesterday to send signals directly to his iPad. I believe there are also arrangements to send the signals to something called and Android, and presumably also to the old Pong machine in the pub.

It is a sturdy camera, and seems a little more organised than its rival. he housing is in itself well waterproof and the operational buttons for single still shot or starting the video are up on top in an intuitive position. I cannot say if the streamlined shape of the housing is better for an active user but it looks as if it would take less skin off the operator during the crash.

There was also another thing that we noted for the users of the Wifi-equipped model; they could send an initial signal to their iPad to see what the camera was seeing before they tightened the bike or helmet mount - thus getting the view they wanted before setting off.

The shape of the housing also suggests the front of a Sidewinder missile, leading to the natural* desire to put it on the front of something with an Estes engine. Or not. * My nature, not yours...

In store right now and you can watch the video of the cameras in action as well.

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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

BIG NEWS Blog - New Nikon Lens Here Now!

This is as hot as 20 minutes ago. Mike just handed me a Nikon D600 equipped with the NEW 70-200 f:4 VR AF-S G ED lens.

This means we've got the new 70-200 f:4 full frame lenses in stock - and one in rental so you can take it out for a test drive. It is the perfect companion for the D600 as it has a lot less weight to carry than an f:2.8 lens and the new ISO capabilities of FX and DX cameras make it possible to use it nearly anywhere.

It snaps into focus at all focal lengths with a great deal of precision - it is not a noisy grinder of a lens either - you can hear the tiniest of clicks as the VR mechanism locks into place. As it is f:4 the barrel diameter is also quite manageable in the hand. For unobtrusiveness I should be tempted to leave off the lens hood, though I know that is a bad decision out in the sunshine. You might well be able to manage it inside a structure.

 This looks like a lens that will go to a lot of weddings and dance shows. And possibly a fair few sporting events. It is neither so large nor so flashy as to attract the notice of officials or hoons so you might be able to get it into more venues. The image quality is very likely to be superb - I'll let you know after I rent one out and give it the business.

Note on the side of the control panel that you can limit the focussing travel if you do not want it to hunt too far between subject distances. A time saver at some events.

Best of all is the weight. Nikon have elected not to use lead as the construction material - it is delightfully light for its size.

In shop - right now - Muster up your courage and you wallet and come on down.

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Have Youse Guys Got...Hahnel and Inca and Hoodman

"Have youse guys got a charger for my camera? And a plug-in thing to go to the computer? I need one by Friday 'cause I'm goin' on holiday."

Sometime in the future when archeologists are digging down through the strata to find evidence of civilisation here in Australia they are going to run into a thick layer of digital camera chargers and computer cords - lain down by people who put them in a very safe place - a very safe place indeed - or who leave them on the nightstands of hotels all over the country.

This is evident from the number of enquiries we get each day for their replacement. With the exception of the Flapoflex company, who have foreseen the problem, all other manufacturers are well behind the times. They supply one each of these articles in the new camera boxes. Flapoflex has realised what their customers are capable of and have decided to supply a sausage of chargers with each Flapoflex digital camera - rather like a machine-gun belt. You lose one charger and just rotate the next one into line.

For all the rest who are using Nikon, Canon, Pentax, Olympus, etc. we have decided to keep in two universal charger systems. They are made by Inca and Hahnel and feature adjustable charging blocks that can be plugged into either the 240 volt mains or a 12 volt car lighter system. They can trickle electricity into AA, AAA, and many other cells, They cope with most Li ion batteries from digital cameras and they have little sensor circuits built in to make sure you can put the batteries in the right way. They cost about $ 69 and are brightly coloured - so that you can see them before you check out of the next hotel room...

As for losing the computer cord, well good. Buy a Hoodman or San Disk card reader and be done with it. Your files will transfer safely into your computer at a much faster pace than ever they would with the computer cord and there will be no risk of confusion into the card from the camera fighting with the computer. And best news of all - we have lots of them so you can leave them in the hotel room for the next user...

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Monday, December 17, 2012

Thinking Inside The Box - With Zero Image

One might be forgiven for thinking that if a product is named Zero Image that it would not be much use in photography. Nothing could be further from the truth - Zero Image makes some of the funnest gear in the shop.

Look at the heading photograph. What looks like a small wooden jewel casket with brass fittings is actually a fully-functional camera. It is running in parallel with another famous product on the market at present in that it too does not need to be focussed. It is in focus all the time.

The wooden box is a pinhole camera made by Zero Image. It operates on 120 roll film, colour or black and white, and the sun. Or the moon, if you are very patient.

The camera has a perfectly good shutter, and a very precise laser-cut aperture, a smooth winding mechanism, a simple film indexing system, and no lens at all.

The focussing is done by the tiny aperture - it is effectively f:235! That means an enormous depth of field, gently soft edges to some bright areas, and a very long exposure time. The camera is fitted with a sturdy brass tripod screw on the bottom and you will need to use it for nearly every shot you take.

The exposure in bright West Australian sun for a 400 ISO film would be somewhere between 30 and 45 seconds. I've done this for years on all sorts of stock and if you can keep the subject and the camera still you can get some very interesting photos. Those people dedicated to long exposures blurring the sea or waterfalls might care to load a 50 ISO film into it and blaze away. Actually it is more of a very slow warmth in those cases...

The camera has provision in the back to work the 120 film as 6 x 6, 6 x 7, or 6 x 9 format. The indexing of the film is the good old sliding shutter over a red window at the back. Crude and sophisticated all in one.

Please note the elegant revolving dial calculator at the back that allows you to imagine up an exposure in the field. This is one camera that rewards careful mathematics.

Please note that the Zero Image people have also sent us a 35mm version of this camera.

It has a provision for a cable release attachment and a wonderfully steam-punk levelling bubble on the top. All you need are motorcycle goggles and a top hat to complete the look.

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Friday, December 14, 2012

A Most Magnificent Idea - A Canon Masterpiece

Please prepare yourself for superlatives as well as some arithmetic.

Saul has asked me to mention that there is a Canon lens for sale. Not a surprising thing in a Canon stockist...What is surprising is the nature of the lens and the price. A Canon EF 800 mm f:5.6 L IS USM lens is available now through our shop as a pre-owned lens. The lens is exceptional and the opportunity to become the next user is now that does not arise often.

The lens is the most expensive regularly-produced Canon lens. It has garnered reviews that place it at the top of Canon's technical achievement. It can, by its nature and cost, only be appreciated by a small  number of professionals and artists, though it will be desired by all.

The best succinct description of the lens as well as an account of its use and the necessary structures that are used to support it is provided by Denis Glennon. He has used the lens extensively and can speak to its merits. I have reproduced the notes he sent to us below. My apologies if they seem small but this is a recalcitrant machine.

The Canon price for this magnificent lens is $ 13,985 new. If you are still breathing, exhale now and settle down - the lens that we have to offer is $ 11,750. You can see it here at the shop and I'm sure Saul would be delighted if you do. It is simply one of the most amazing pieces of glass in the place. If you are a birder, lionist, or sportista, this is the pinnacle of ambition.

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Thursday, December 13, 2012

Out Out, Damned Spot - With Visible Dust

The heading image of this post is a rare photograph - it is a super-macro-micro shot of the sensor surface of the Flapoflex 8D camera form inside the camera on a fine day. You'll see all the individual elements of the sensor there - the Flapoflex 8D has nearly 10,000 pixels available for use on short notice - and you will be impressed at the cleanliness of the images.

This is because the Flapoflex camera is equipped with an effective cleaning system. Once a week a little man climbs over the surface with a hose and brush and gets out the bits of dirt and leaves that blow in. Birds can be a problem in the spring but Flapoflex are bringing out a catadioptric lens to solve this. It has a real cat attached.

Those of us who cannot get our hands on the Flapoflex 8D but are working with lesser marques like Nikon, Canon, and Pentax must be satisfied with their provision for sensor cleaning. At various times in these cameras the sensors are shaken, or minute puffs of air are wafted past them to dislodge motes of dust. In some cameras there is a little sticky strip at one side intended to trap these loose particles. If it is like the bottom of our toaster, these particles will eventually build up until they catch fire or are eaten by mice.

All well and good, and in the case of the major players, the cleaning mechanisms seem to work to a certain level. Unfortunately here in Western Australia we manufacture dust for export and some of our product is very good dust. So people who change lenses frequently will end up with spots on their sensors and grey dots on their images. Then they need professional help.

It is available here at Camera Electronic at short notice in the form of Daniel and Ernest who clean sensors to a very high standard indeed for $ 55 on a DX sensor and $ 77 on an FX sensor. If you have been using your camera as a snuff box they can also clean the other bits but the price will mount up with each task attempted. This professional cleaning is far and away the best idea for professional cameras.

If you are caught out on the road with impossible spots  you can resort to two products - the Photographic Solutions emergency swabs in 1, 2, and 3 size - these are coded for use on different sensor sizes. You get 4 swabs pre-moistened and sealed in packets, and if you follow their instructions you may be able to wipe the horrors off your screen in the field.

If the spots are less adherent or you do not wish to risk scratching your sensor screen with a physical wipe, you can try one of the static brushes from Visible Dust. These are battery-powered units that fling themselves about to pick up a static charge and then let you draw it gently over the sensor to attract the dust motes by magic. It won't lift rocks but it will pick dust up, You do NOT turn on the motor while it is in your camera...

Ernest is philosophical about the dust cleaning - when I asked him how often it should be done he said whenever it became too distressing for you. Some photographers who deal with dense patterns or dark subjects may never have noticed anything amiss for years, while others with clear skies or studio backdrops to photograph might react to each single mote. If your images show consistent spots, hairs, or dead insects, bring it in and get the pro-clean.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Advice For The Damp - Olympus et al.

A simple set of thoughts for today - when you set out to get a camera, set out your thoughts first. A sheet of paper and a pencil is all you need - make a list of what subjects you are going to want to picture. Ask yourself how big those pictures need to be. From these two simple criteria, you can get into the general stream of enquiry that will lead you to success.

You might be a putative portraitist, a budding botanical photographer, or even have a leaning to learning landscapes. ( That uses up my ration of alliteration for the month... ) These are all catered for with any number of cameras. Come buy one.

But if you are determined to go down to the sea in ships, or boogy boards, you need an entirely different class of device. And you will need to be prepared to accept some of the restrictions it places upon you.

If your camera needs to be waterproof, it can certainly retain the ability to carry a zoom lens, but it cannot carry a zoom lens that pokes out the front. You must be content with about 4X to 5X zoom at the most - everything must happen inside a waterproof panel that is flush with the front surface of the camera. You must also accept that the camera may not be able to carry a large flash tube set above the lens as in DSLRs. Underwater cameras are generally small, at least in the consumer models. It may be that the military ones used to take regimental pictures of the submarine service are much bigger, but then they are paid for with government money.

You will get certain advantages looking at the underwater cameras - they will generally be somewhat shockproof due to their tough construction and they may well be resistant to cold as well. If you are a person who will be popping in and out of hot and humid to cold conditions, you will also be happy to know that condensation will be less of a problem.

A number of manufacturers have good ranges of these cameras - I have seen Olympus, Nikon, Canon, and Fuji examples of this class and they are all very appealing. In all cases they have silicon seals to prevent water ingress at the battery door and you must be careful to keep these seals pristine clean to ensure the watertight integrity.

Please note, if you are determined to haul your Canon 1DX or Nikon D4 underwater, it can be done to a shallow depth with a Dicapac WS-1 housing for a modest price or to a frightening depth with a custom-built dive housing. The custom-built housings are the province of specialist firms and are generally priced like a king's ransom. If you are diving seriously, the first expedition will be into your pocket.

Please note that the consumer cameras are also perfect for above-water use in sandy or corrosive atmospheres, like family Christmas parties.

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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Through A Glass Darkly - With Lee, et al.

We are frequently consulted by clients as to how the can make people disappear from their images. Apart from the convenient suggestion of using Sarin or the services of the Ton Ton Macout, we also have a series of technical exercises that can be done with equipment available here in the shop:

1. If it is just one person in an image, erase the offending individual with the content-aware eraser in Photoshop Elements 11. This brush looks around the image and draws inspiration from whatever the subject is standing next to and then repeats this in a convincing manner to replace them. It is surprisingly effective - I made light fittings and an entire Volvo prime mover disappear from a wedding shot by these means. Fun wedding.

2. If it is a larger area that needs to be depopulated, mount a very heavy neutral density filter in front of the lens and let the shutter stay open for a very long period of time. All the movers and shakers in the picture will be gone. Of course you will also have movement in clouds or water but this can be a great aesthetic result as well.

3. Lure the people away with a promise of something for free - or scare them away with the threat of something for free.

Okay, look at the heading picture. Lots of manufacturers are onto this need - B+W make a 1000X graufilter that is 10 stop. Kenko make a filter that they refer to as ND400 that is effectively 9 stops. Lee make a square filter for their own holder system with the delightful name of The Big Stopper. This is also 10 stop but that is such a great name that it is the one that sticks in people's minds - we just wish that Lee were more efficient in supplying it to our shop as people sometimes have to wait a while for it. Note that you can also get a very deep blocking of light with the Kenko R72 Infrared filter but this is entirely different as an effect from the more predictable one of a pure ND. It can be extremely interesting but funky.

You could stack ND 8 filters together to achieve considerable darkening but you'd be adding glass surfaces to degrade the resolution. Decide yourself if this is a good idea.

Oh, while I remember it - you can also do this by going with a good old paper negative in a good old 4 x 5 camera with a good old red yellow filter in front of an f:128 lens but this would require you to be both good and old. I have managed only part of the equation...

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Monday, December 10, 2012

A Manly Colour For Manly Men - Think Tank

Someone today mentioned that the new range of Think Tank Retrospective bags did not have a very manly colour...I was taken aback, as I had seen the Slate Blue bags in 30, 20, 10, 7 and 5 size on the shelves alongside the Pinestone and Black bags but hadn't thought about it.

Now that I have, I am not sure exactly what a manly colour come in various colours, from sort of a pasty ivory white up near the Arctic Circle down through various tints of pink and brown until you get to the equator - then they can be very brown indeed and in some cases almost black. Along the way you get sort of an all-over red in Arizona and Montana and a sort of spotty red and white in Killarney. I did once see a green man in England, but I suspect it was just paint for the tourists.

Is slate blue sort of weak and wishy washy? The RAF, USAF, RCAF and RAAF didn't seem to think so when they ordered up their uniforms, and the USN used to paint cruisers that colour. Perhaps they just got a special from the tailors or paint shop and didn't want to say anything about it.

How about the greenish sort of colour that Think Tank call Pinestone? The closest thing I could find in the colour charts seems to be a sort of clothing colour that the used to call Feld Grau. It seems to have been popular with the German army, though perhaps it was adopted because they ran out of lederhosen. I am no expert in these things.

Black, now there's a manly colour. Black pudding, Black Prince and little black dress - after all, if Coco Chanel wasn't manly, who was? Plus it doesn't show the stains from the mascara.

Well, enough with the colour. I'm going to hitch up my peach scarf around my lavender angora sweater and take some pictures of the Think Tank Retrospective 30 in Slate Blue. It has heavy fabric and discrete stitching and does not look like a camera bag at all, even when it is full of gear. Look at the strap there and the heavy quality of the buckle. It might not be manly, but it certainly is sturdy.


First Fruits From The Kata Tree

The big yellow Kata stand is up in the shop and the new bags are blooming on it. It has been a little time since we have had such a variety of this product and in the interim, the Kata people have added some very useful products.

The following is my own take on two bags as the perfect answer for two problems:

1. The photographer who takes a Canon G1X or G15 - or a Fuji X-10, or an Olympus E-P3 on holidays wants a protective case that does not weigh a tonne and does not take up the entire cargo hold of the airliner. Thus the Kata ZP6 DL bag is the best recommendation for them. This is a light but padded bag - with rip-stop cover so that you can safely stow it amongst the knives and coshes in your pocket as you board the plane - and fitted with a draw-string tie that can serve as an impromptu belt. The case is perfectly sized and is bright yellow inside. This is more than just brand recognition - it lets you find black photographic equipment in the recesses of the bags much more easily. Kata feature it throughout their range.

2. The more ambitious photographer who is looking to house a consumer's DSLR kit like those available with the Canon 650D or Nikon D3200 and who knows that they may well need to clap on the longer zoom lens while still carrying the shorter zoom with them will welcome the Kata ACCESS 14PL bag. This is an ambitious little container that has three expandable panels - one on each side and one on the bottom - to let you have a place to store the lenses and accessories you will be shifting as you work with the kit.

If you're caught in the rain, there is a raincoat included, and the shoulder strap is particularly broad, stable, and comfortable at the top of the loop.

Rip-stop nylon cover again, and bright yellow inside. Clip and zip secure on top and you can zip up the bottom panel for a smaller profile.

All in all, well thought out bags.

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Friday, December 7, 2012

Call To The Colours - with Pelican and TLT

I once complained about the dull nature of photographic products intended for professional use - black everything and trying to be desperately discreet. Even put up a cartoon about it - scroll through our Facebook page and you'll find it.

Well, the bright yellow Kata stand that went up today seems to have attracted more colourful birds. Look at the anodized colours on the Three Legged Thing tripod - there is no structural advantage to the blue head with the bronze quick-release plate but it certainly looks cool. And how clever of TLT to incorporate their initials in the actual rubber pad of the plate.

Have a look as well at the rainbow of colours on the Pelican cases. I can understand the basic black and the bright yellow and orange - these would be perfect for high-visibility workplaces or dim studios. Also for Antarctic explorers to keep their sandwiches inside out on the ice.

I can see the khaki model being some form of camouflage in a desert.

But I'm stumped as to the silver colour. Air Force? Stage crew for Liberace? Any thoughts, readers?

The blue one is sheer exuberance. I like it and I think it would make a fabulous lunch box.

More to the point is this picture - it is a good old Pelican square box - a 1300 case. there are three levels of foam in it, two of which are pick-and-pluck so that you can accommodate different sets of gear. Have a look inside there - that's a big old Canon camera with a zoom lens. Once it is snuggled in there and the silicon rubber-sealed lid locked down you can bid defiance to rain, rivers, dirt, and baggage handlers. You can chuck it into the back of a ute and bump it out onto the roadway without any danger.
Pick the right size and you can put it aboard the people section of an airplane...but realistically you can also consign it to the cargo hold and they can stack artillery shells on it.

If you have not treated your gear to a Pelican case you are not getting the best out of your travels. I use a big roll-around one to store and entire studio set in and when I need to stand out from the crowd I crawl up on top of it and do just that. It is that tough. Note; I weigh 68 Kg but I have ambitions to weigh 69Kg after Christmas dinner.

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" My Teacher Told Me..." Shoot Workshops

During a sales consultation yesterday a client corrected me about a number of things - in particular the relative merits of two brands of lenses versus a third brand. We had the items in hand on the counter and I had examples of images taken with the lenses printed on A4 sheets of paper - they were images that had been taken by me and selected as good examples of the points of view and resolution that the lenses produced.

We looked at the images under a clear light and to me, they looked fine. However, the client mentioned that her photography teacher in another country was not pleased with two of the lens brands and judged them to be no better than "old clothes". It seemed a very powerful way of ....of...well, of not telling the truth at all. We were looking at the truth, but as it did not accord with the teacher's advice....

Does this sometimes happen with the advice that people get from internet pundits? Are all the reviews from great and small to be distrusted, as opposed to what we can discover in our own time using our own hands and eyes? Is there a happy medium between reinventing the entire photographic process ourselves and blithely following "Fried Bread" or "Mr. Snxxx" on an internet forum?

Yes. I would suggest to anyone who wants to find out what to do, why to do it, and how to do it that they contact Simon or Dana at Shoot Photography Workshops. They are right next door to our shop at 232 Stirling Street - you can send an email to them at

or give them a bell on 08 9228-8232

I did a course with them last year on a computer-related subject and found it excellent value for money - and incorporated the information received into my own workflow with success. The joy of it is the information is real, not just glib phraseology, and the reality of what they say can be backed up by reference to the actual equipment here in the shop. We are happy when clients bring in cameras to test lenses, or lenses to test cameras, or memory cards to test the whole shebang - then you can see for yourself.

And if you want to, you can wear old clothes while you do...

PS: Do you like the photo of Melbourne at the top of the page? The chap on the internet assured me it was Melbourne and he should know because he's on the internet.


Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Naked Leica - With Earnest

Oh, I can hear the whirring of the search engines with that title - but read on and you will be rewarded.

Or Chief Service Technician, Earnest, has shown me a frightening sight. He disassembled a III-series Leica camera at the request of a client and tackled the task of completely rebuilding the heart of the camera - the shutter mechanism. It is work worthy of a surgeon.

Leica cameras have focal-plane shutters and in the days when the III series were current, those shutters were made with cloth curtains. This was a specially rubberized material attached to the drums and springs of the mechanism with cloth tapes. You could look at the parts and distinguish fine stitches as well as well as glue that kept it together. Not surprisingly, time has taken its toll of these shutters and the one presented to Earnest had long-since ceased to be workable.

Aha. But Earnest has some stock of the original material and access to some of the tapes - and he has an intimate knowledge of the cameras as well. Thus he was able to tackle the task of disassembly and re-manufacture of the cloth curtains. See the attached images.

The business is slow, as the tapes have to be glued to the drum and this means that he has to wait for the drying before the next stage, but as it slowly goes back together one of the classic Leicas comes back to real working life.

This is good news for the owner, who had been discouraged in other repair shops, and good news for  people who might be facing similar restoration work. Take heart - Camera Electronics and Earnest are on your side and can help!

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The Tripod Apocalypse - with TLT

I note these days that everything is an apocalypse. It doesn't matter whether you are selling books, television programs, or politicians - every presentation has an apocalypse in it. Even bibles seem to feature one - I guess it gets the younger generation interested in religion. I wonder if there are vampires and zombies in there somewhere?

Well, we here at Camera Electronic are not behind the times - we are behind a number of other things, mind...We have decided to stock a range of tripods for the modern apocalyse photographer - the Three Legged Things.

That is the real name - Three Legged Things. They are marketed by an English firm, based upon the design of a French firm that was taken over by an Italian firm. I believe they are actually manufactured by a Chinese firm. Thus the actual tripods are quite good, even filtered through some pretty strained marketing.

You see, the English firm has decided to name the products after rock stars. I have the " Brian " on the editorial desk right now - I think there is an " Eric " dowstairs. Presumably somewhere there are Johns, Pauls, and Ringos....The old wooden one made form ukeleles is the " George " and you can puzzle over that at your leisure.

The tripods look a great deal like folding travel tripods from G---o, but fitted with Arca-style heads and release plate systems up the top. They are of the twist-lock leg variety and the one here on the desk is a good light carbon fibre type. The startling part is where the makers have elected to turn a coloured anodizer loose on the parts - the triangular metal yoke for the legs as well as the column platform are gold colour, while the ballhead lock knob and the quick-release plate is bronze colour. I passed another tripod on the shop floor that had blue and red.

They are being sold with a tough little cylindrical tripod case - rendered indiscreet by a label that declares that it comes from Stagsden and  that it is equipped or cursed with chicken lips. No, readers, I am not making this up. My imagination is not up to this level of invention - I merely report.

Love them or hate them they are good products as such. They should go some of the way to satisfying the constant request for tiny tripods to support vast lenses and cameras. If you set one up at the next camera club  nude-macro-landscape night you WILL be noticed.

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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Panorama Made Easy - Lenspen and Fuji

Well, that is an unusual combination - a major camera manufacturer and a firm that makes cleaning supplies - but bear with us and you'll see.

I bought a Fuji X-10 earlier this year and took it away as a tourist camera - thoroughly pleased with the results of shots taken in the normal 2:3 aspect ratio in all lights. If you can stand looking at my hot rod photos come in and see the results here in print form in the shop - you'll see that the Fuji is a very capable performer.

One of the bells and whistles parts of the X-10 is a panorama feature. Basically, you tell the camera whether you would like to take a 120, 180, or 360 degree photograph - then you follow the screen prompt to turn yourself and camera around evenly in a small period of time and the camera stitches it all together into a panorama. It really DOES work, as evinced by the picture heading this post. I do not claim art, as I have not yet got my head around seeing the world as a panorama, but I am going to start looking.

It pays to keep your horizon level, as this stops the bowing in the middle or the world sliding off the edge.

Please note that there also seems to be a setting to do vertical panoramas but I am not courageous enough to use it yet.

If you don't have a Fuji X-10 but do have another small digital camera, may we suggest the Lenspen Panamatic Plus accessory. It is a turntable that goes onto a tripod with a bubble level to keep the horizon straight and a click stop mechanism to let you expose successive shots with your camera around in a circle.

It is supplied with software to allow your computer to stitch these pictures into a panorama file as long as you have overlapped each view enough to give the computer information to go on. It is surprisingly accurate, though if there are things happening throughout the frames there may be a few anomalies in the final spread. You are advised to take your camera off of automatic exposure and set one constant manual exposure setting for the series - this will lead to a more natural sky image.

Please note that Adobe and a number of other software makers have incorporated similar stitching programs in some of their image-editing products. My Photoshop Elements has provision for quite accurate stitching in several perspectives, though I note that my ability to add extra frames is limited by the capacity of my basic computer. I can do three big frames easily but five strains it.

The Panamatic Plus kits are available right now in our shop for your Christmas holidays.

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Hair's A Darn Good Idea - From Glanz

If you don't like puns, go look at cat videos on YouTube. We do puns here - Dad jokes as well - it is a form of pun-ishment.

Okay, we noticed a rival shop has put out some useful studio light sets in their flyer this week and one of our salespersons remembered that we have several of the same sets sitting up in our storeroom. Ever keen to whale the tar out of the competition, we have set them out on the floor and priced them $ 50 cheaper than the other guys.

You've got to be fast, because there are only two complete three-head kits available - plus a single head kit. They are the Glanz 160 Di kits - three heads per kit with a radio trigger included, stands and umbrellas, in a fitted carry case. Variable power, variable modelling lamp, charge signal, hard wire points and IR trigger if needed. 160 w/s per head.

Perfect for a small portrait or product studio - combine this with a Glanz light tent and you have a catalog illustrator's dream setup for a very cheap price. The 160 Di kits are $ 450 complete.

Soooo - why did I include the other manufacturers in the labels for this post? They are pretty prestigious firms and they make fantastically good big studio flashes....Well, the Glanz 160 Di heads have a wonderful property that recommend them to users of these other systems - they are light weight and just the right sort of power for a hair light. You could boom these up or suspend them from a backdrop stand easily without straining the system and they could stay up there permanently.

You don't need three hair lights? Buy the singleton kit. You got two friends with studio ambitions? Buy the three-head kit between you and split the cost - you get a hair light, a stand, and an umbrella for $ 150 then, and you can toss a coin for who gets the big old carry case.

Now - how would you grid or flag off that hair light...? I would look at some of the Rogue accessory grids at the front of the shop - or a Honl snoot.

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Hoodman Again - Fast

Well, that was a revelation. I took home a Hoodman CF card yesterday and plugged it into my camera. I was expecting a slight increase in the speed with which the information flows into and out of the card - particularly as I also took home a Hoodman 3.0 card reader.

What I got was blazingly fast downloading of raw images. I had not realized that my previous cards and reader were on quite a different speed level. I am not sure what I will do with the free time that I now have - previously occupied with thumb-twiddling while I waited for images to go from the card to the storage robot - but whatever I elect to do had better be fast because these cards certainly are.

I noted as well that there seem to be some new Hoodman loupes in the shop. These are developed from the very popular 3.0 Hoodloupe but incorporate some new features:

1. Bigger screen size catered for - these new "32" series loupes  fit up to 3.2" LCD screens.

2. New attachment point for the loupe. Hoodman have incorporated a standard 1/4" tripod screw socket at the bottom of the loupe. They intend this to be hooked into a platform for the DSLRs - now you'll have to watch this space for news of the attachment bars as they become available - as yet Hoodman have not settled on exactly the pattern they wish to issue. For myself, I will probably pop out into my home workshop and bend up a bar of aluminium and drill a couple of holes in it, but rest assured that you'll eventually be able to get a commercial bracket from Hoodman.

3. There are two loupes - the H 32 which is similar to the Hoodloupe 3.0 - and the CH 32 which is collapsible. Takes up about half the space when not in use, and if you have it mounted on a bracket ( see last paragraph) you can likely leave it on as you use the regular eyepiece. We'll experiment - you can too.

Hoodman are fun. They found a market for their original idea in everybody's experience of LCD screens pooping out in bright light and they have used their imagination in giving us useful accessory devices. I am thrilled to bits to have a faster and bigger card in my camera and as the card is warranteed to give much longer life than other commercial cards I can feel safe leaving it in there as the primary memory storage.

And for those who are puzzling at the heading image - we needed a van to deliver the supplies of silver plates and nitric acid to the daguerreotypist studios here in Perth. Fortunately this new one appeared and we snapped it up. We shall be retiring the pack mule - well not exactly retiring. He's entering federal parliament for a local electorate and we expect great things...


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Hola! - Shirtless Ones With Lytro

We have good news for those photographers who have lost their shirts on the Melbourne Cup! Camera Electronic and Lytro to the rescue.

For everyone who buys a Lytro Light Field camera between now and Christmas, there will be a free Lytro polo shirt. No more will you be unfashionably bare - plus you can take great pictures!

The Lytro people have just sent through a note about new features for the cameras - all sorts of things can be uploaded and programmed into the cameras, including the ones currently out in user's hands. Now you get:

1. Perspective Shift - the camera acts as a tiny little macro stereo camera - as you shift the mouse on your Lytro image you can see back and around your subject and it looks as if it is standing from the background. This would be magic with close-ups.

2. Living Filters - a whole series of fun diffusion, vignette, and selective colour filters to give your Lytro shots art and life.

3. Manual Controls - if you want more than just an automatic view of the world this is the section for you - in particular if you intend to combine your artistry with the Living Filters. This blows that other mobile phone app out of the water. Plus remember your Lytro camera won't go off in your pocket and disturb everyone in the movies....

Please note we have Lytro bags and tripod mounts in stock now.


Good Italian Design - With b-grip

That's not a typo, folks. The box says b-grip and there are no capital letters. Never mind the graphics, however - the product is excellent.

In the past few years there have been a plethora of camera carriage systems that suspend camera bodies from various parts of photographer's bodies. I've seen chest mounts, waist mounts, and dragoon strap mounts. There have been mounts for knapsack slings and Sam Browne belts. Padded neckstraps with extra cushion straps and under-the-arm secret agent styles.

But in many cases they forget that once a heavy lens is mounted, the camera gear takes on a whole new physics - Quite frankly some of these rigs have a mind of their own. You go east and they go west - or worse, set up a pendulum action.

b-grip have recognized this and made a waistbelt system that is designed to actually control a camera with a zoom lens. Look at the picture of the basic platform - see the long base under the front of the camera platform? That sits against the leg when the camera and lens are depended  from the belt and stops the gear from rotating away from the vertical. This is particularly useful if the hotshoe of your camera has a flash and a Lightsphere II diffuser mounted on it - AKA wedding tackle. If you need to tie the rig to the leg, like a pistol holster, there are two anchor points moulded into the bottom of it. Strap that sucker down...

You can lock the quick release plate onto this platform so that it doesn't jump out, and you can also purchase a standard tripod mount to take that quick release plate - a complete system for the operator to hop from tripod to hand to belt.

Have a look at the swing-out foot that comes forward from the quick-release plate - this has been designed to allow you to place the whole assembly down on a tabletop for selfies. Neat, eh?

As well, they have made up a similarly-configured side strap that you can mount on your camera for the quick-draw sort of wedding shot. I wonder if they spent some time watching spaghetti westerns...

None of this is expensive - $ 79.95 for the basic waistbelt and platform - $ 49.95 for the handstrap system.
That's just a fistful of dollars....You can be good, or bad, or....

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