Thursday, October 31, 2013

Fast Relief From Fuji - New Lens Just Arrived

Fuji X-series owners please crowd around.

The new 23mm f:1.4 lens has just come into stock. This is every bit up to the superb Fujinon standard plus it has direct mechanical manual focusing for pre0selecting your distance.

Street shooters in particular will appreciate this - they can estimate a distance, set it and then get a blazingly fast first shot. If they are discrete they can get a blazingly fast second one, too, and then run for it.

The historical focal length equivalence of this is 34.5 mm - classic wide angle and people viewpoint. It could well become the one go-to lens for travelling photographers. The fact that it also focuses as close as 28cm means that it can cope with table-tops.

Come in with your X Pro-1 or X-E1 and give it a go.

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Come In Here And Go Away...with an Olympus Stylus

Vacation season is almost upon us - or you may think of is as holiday season. I suppose the time off is the same but it depends on whether you intend to spend it being holy or vacant.

For those of you who want to be active and artistic I think we have a good camera to help you. Note that I say active - if you are going away somewhere it is always better to go away with as light a burden as possible. The principle is to go to the casino with a dollar in your pocket and come home with a thousand more - those of you who may have experienced the opposite effect are obviously entering and leaving by the wrong door...

But back to the burdens of pleasure - if you are flying you don't want to carry our entire store on your back - you want a camera that you can carry. Equally, you don't want to go to all the trouble to go to Upper Wazutoland and get ill and robbed and not come home with some good photos to reward yourself - you want a competent camera. The Olympus Stylus  XZ-2 is a good bet for both these reasons.

Basic specs include 12 Megapixels, 4 x zoom, an f:1.8 lens that will wide out to the equivalent of 28mm and full HD video. In addition you get the special programs that Olympus champion - diorama, film, soft focus, and grainy film amongst others. My favourite, because it closely equates to my own vision of life - is the Key Line Effect.

You get a guided panorama mode that makes your stitching perfect.

The layout of the camera also favours using it on a tripod ( Cullmann, Promaster, or Three Legged Thing come to mind...)with the LCD screen acting as a waist-level finder. I should use a black focussing cloth or a Hoodman screen shield to make this easier in bright light. If you switch the art filter to soft sepia you can make historic pictures even when there is no history. Like some of our newer suburbs - the civic architecture that has tilted up on the fringes of civilisation is truly worthy of soft sepia. At night. In a rain storm.

Now, cynicism aside, the XZ-2 is incorporating a lot of the processing power that Olympus pack into their mirror-less cameras, but in a compact form. Not that the mirror-less ones are monsters, but this camera is all in one. You can add a useful accessory if you wish - the  electronic viewfinder slots into the data bus at the top.

The thing that impresses me is the easy access for the programs - I favour manual myself, but that is because I like making my own mistakes and blaming others. Hey, it works at home...

If you don't want quite as big an Olympus there are others here that are equally good for travel - but someone will come and buy this one and make absolutely wonderful pictures.

Travel hint: Cullmann Magic Monopod. Steady pictures, steady video, useful baton for South American streets.

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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Self Portrait With Camera Box

Just in and just down from our receiving desk - the new Nikon D610 24-85 VR kit. The handsome gent seen reflected in the box top is not for sale but the camera and lens are.

This is the ideal Nikon do-everything full-frame DSLR and the lens is well suited to portraits, family and group pictures, tourism, and interiors. It is the sort of camera that goes on tour and brings back large files for award-winning club shooters.

Add a card and a filter and charge it up and go. Proper Nikon Australia warranty and a price of $ 3299 on our computer.

This is a great upgrade of the D600 and should be very popular with enthusiasts.

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Rental Mystery Man

Jason, our rental guru, is being all mysterious today.

He has just skootched by waving a small camera box with what appears to be the picture of a compact camera on the front. But he said it is a compact video camera made by Black Magic. How can this be?

Is he fooling with me or is this a new coup for the rental department? He said he is going to do a rental blog on Facebook so keep an eye on this and see what he is up to. I'll spy on him from here and report what I see...

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Putting Me To The Question

An old colleague came in to test out zoom lenses yesterday - he's thinking of some travel photography that might involve long-distance wildlife. Wise man - he hired out the lens he was interested in and tested it on his own camera. Then on to his own computer and he gets to see the results for himself. Better than any internet advice ever could be...

Ironic that, isn't it. Here I'm typing advice on the internet and you're reading it on the internet. But it is just advice - and you can make your own decisions far better than I.

But then he asked me a facer - he queried whether the new mirror-less cameras will replace the DSLR's that we all use. The answer is still circulating in my brain, and when I see him next I'll have to tell him yes. And no. And maybe. And maybe not. I'm not sure about whether I will be in two minds about being ambivalent, but I'll try to decide, perhaps...

No dang way that the mirror-less things will be used for bill-board campaign pictures unless someone decides to do it. Likewise they won't replace the DSLR for wedding or fashion work until it happens. At least the DSLR's won't be used as tourist cameras except by tourists.

In short, it is a long question. Each manufacturer will jostle for position with the pro market with the big devices, but the middle market has now got the option to go smaller and get just about as good a result. Quite frankly, if the end result that the photographer is going to make is always going to go onto a computer screen, there is a lot to recommend in the smaller camera systems. You have a lot less weight to deal with and a lot more chance to take the lens combo you need - indeed a number of the smaller systems have such advanced anti0shake systems as to obviate the need for tripods.

But if the image needs to be gotta make a huge file. And that means a large camera and large lenses. And you gotta know what you are doing. Or not, if you are me.

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A Camera For Plain Pictures And Plain Dealing

Welcome, Friend. How may I help thee?

You wish to take photographs of thy family, or thy farm animals? Of the Meeting House on Sunday? And you wish to do it decently, soberly, and in plain clothes? Of course.

Here is the camera for thee. The Ricoh GR. It has one lens only and that lens sees the world at the equivalent of a 28mm focal length. Thee can take pictures inside thy house by lantern as well - it has an aperture of 2.8.

So that there is no chance of dishonesty, the camera is fitted with an electronic level - your pictures will be level. They can also be made square if that is thy wish.

You may elect to shoot them in a number of jpeg sizes. Modesty being a virtue, many of the elect will elect to switch it to small and turn off the colour setting. If you wish to make a large picture, remember that the RAW setting and the 16 Megapixel APS-C sensor will permit good results up to A3+.

If you wish to make motion pictures to show the action of your favourite buggy horse, there is a full HD 1920 x 1080 video. You will need a fast SD XC I card to do this.

The appearance of the camera is modest and sober - no flashy chrome or colours to dominate others.

If you wish to examine the world in detail, it will focus as close as 10 centimetres.

We have a number of them for sale and we will deal plainly and fairly with thee - as will the Ricoh Corporation, who warrant the camera for a year.

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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

It's Just 3 Millimetres...

This is a post dedicated to the mum and dad photographers - the ones who do the family snaps and the holiday pictures and the wedding groups - after the pro has posed the bridal party. The people who take pictures because they want to see what is in the pictures - as opposed to the people who take pictures because they want to take pictures...

Not that we are knocking the latter - where would we be if hordes of us hadn't gone out on every Saturday afternoon and failed to find out where the pictures are...didn't stop us from getting new equipment and neither should it stop you.

But back to the modest family photographers. More often than not they like to take landscape pictures, and pictures inside the school assembly hall, and family groups. The one thing they need more than anything is a wider view of the world - and preferably one that is neither distorted, not expensive, nor hard to get. These are not customers for the widest fish-eye or the exotic rectilinear that costs as much as a TV set. These are the customers for the kit lens.

Canon makes two good options for Mum and Dad - the EF-S 18-55 f:3.5-5,6 IS II and the EF-S 15-85 f:3.5-5.6 IS USM. The first is kitted with a number of the entry-level bodies and the second comes out with the 7D. Of course they can be put on any small-frame EOS Canon, just as you please.

The real eye-opener is when you compare their viewpoints - as you'll see in the images. That 3 mm difference in the wide-angle viewpoint makes a world of difference in what you see. Of course there is a difference in the longer end - 85 mm vs 55 mm but I'll bet in most family circumstances that wide 3 mm will be more useful than the long 30 mm.

Of course there is a cost - greater weight and higher price - but this can be spread out over a long time - Canon lenses keep their value - and it would be great to see more pictures making more mums and dads happy.

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Oh My, Eeeeeee! - The OM-D E-M1

I always wanted to own an M-1. I was never able to locate a Leica camera of this name and every time I asked for an M-1 Garand I got funny looks at the police station. It has been most frustrating.

My prayers are answered - the Olympus company have introduced their flagship micro 4/3 camera body with this model number. I can now take perfect pot shots legally...

Gavin, our Olympus expert, has been testing the new body - as have a number of our customers who pre-ordered this new camera. His verdict is a resounding Yes. When I asked why...

The number of configurable controls that have been put on the outside - apart from the pro-quality front and back thumbwheels  - that allow the user to program the thing to their particular workflow. Note on the images the two front panel buttons, the two Fn buttons, and the video button that is assignable as well. There is a two-way switch just near the eyepiece that switches you into two menu streams, and even on the left hand end - where the film rewinder used to live - there are two rapid access buttons.

I noted that the on-off switch has returned to the traditional Olympus location at this LHS. Gavin was noncommittal about this but I like it - less chance of knocking the thing and turning the camera on just before you put it away...

Another great ergonomic decision also lives in the center of the mode dial - there is a lockable button that will allow you to set the mode and then not knock it out of alignment with your thumb. You can free it and spin it as much as you want but if you want it locked it will stay put.

The section of the camera that gets artistic...the art filters and the retouching...seems amazing. he showed me the watercolour mode and it is charming - pastel and freely flowing. There is also a section that builds up multiple exposures side by side for a story-telling effect. I thought that the "instant-film-like" section that puts an image into a heavy paper frame and then writes a date under it was good for social photos.

The good part about this report is the bit where I tell you that we got 'em in stock now. Like, you bring us money and you take one home. Today.

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Monday, October 28, 2013

No Need To Rend Your Garments Over Rental

I was delighted this morning to be introduced to Thomas - our new staff member who will be working in the rental and repair department. He has been seeing what we do and has been in conference with out IT man. I think Jason will also be delighted as the pressure of the rental department has been intense these last few weeks.

Rental is a good idea for a number of reasons for a number of people. Photographers who don't have enough money to afford to buy decent equipment can stump up enough for a rental...and if they get paid for their work they might be able to become buyers rather than renters.

Other people are flush enough for normal gear but have no reasonable excuse that they can make to their bank or their spouse for a lens that costs $ 7000. They can justify a weekend with the rental.

Yet others really do contemplate one of those once-in-a-lifetime take your breath away and leave you eating cabbage for a year purchases but do not want to leap into the volcano without being absolutely certain - so they rent their heart's desire several times before buying it. I have a feeling that there are a number of marriages that have been contracted on the same basis...

Finally, there are the photographers who are travelling on someone else's dollar. Pro's. They don't want to schlepp a giant lens through the airports of Australia so they rent one when they get here and save the backache. They bill the client.

Doing a rental is pretty straight forward, though your wouldn't believe the computer flow that we need to do before it spits out a receipt. You'll need ID, and a deposit and, of course, a booking for the gear. Phone Jason or Thomas on 08 9328 4405.

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A Money-Making Opportunity On The Road

I couldn't put my finger on it yesterday, but I think I have it now - what was wrong about the British Classic Car Day at Pinjarra.

Don't bristle up - or don't Bristol up, as the case may be - it wasn't the cars, or the raceway, or the visitors, or the enthusiasts, or the food, or the fly-over by the Aero club. It was one of the stall holders who missed out on a good thing. As it happens, he was the chap with the photo business booth.

He did a good job of setting out his booth - a mini studio and advertising for all the services that he provides - weddings, glamour, commercial, portrait, etc. And he had signs and a computer  and printer and a soft box set up and a chair to sit in. And no customers.

I sympathised with him - I've been in precisely that position at other field events where the photo business wasn't what they came out for and the punters walked by as if I didn't exist. Indeed, we had that happen a couple of times when the shop sent out a sales display - at least I was getting paid overtime for that one - overtime and all the lizards I could eat. But the chap at Pinjarra might not have had lizards, so his day would have been long and hot.

The thing that hit me today was he was trying to sell the wrong thing to the wrong people - he had no need of that stall at all, either, unless it was to house a busy minion tending the printer. You see his customers weren't the farmers lurching by unheeding - they were the enthusiasts out in the center field with their cars. He should have been out snapping cars and owners.

I did. Got some great car pictures for my personal blog. Could have posed any number of proud Poms with their cars and passed out my professional card - and would have likely got a number of orders for prints or image files. Didn't, because I went there for my own purposes, but the market is definitely there.

People who spend money on their cars want recognition of their cars and themselves - they have their own audience of other enthusiasts at these things but in most cases that are not good enough photographers to organise good record shots of their vehicles. They ALL secretly long to be on the cover of Classic Cars or 4WD Driver or Car Kulture Deluxe and if you provide them with images that are based upon this idea you have a winner.

The same might be said for boating enthusiasts - remember that yachties may easily forget the ages of their children but they can nail to the day the time they bought the fore-deck wing for Saucy Sue II. If you can stand them, they have money.

Airplane enthusiasts might be the same, but getting to meet them is tougher than the car people. they have to be where the airplanes are and anything that aviates is hemmed round with regulations. Research your venues before you try.

As for me and the chap at Pinjarra - we will be wise little photographers if we get a good little portable field flash rig ( and I do ) and some good cards ( and I don't ) and go schmooze the drivers. Automotive ego ain't a bad thing!

" What do you mean you can't make a decent dashboard, Man. Make it out of wood - we'll tell the buyers it is a luxury item. That stuff doesn't grow on trees, Y'know..."

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Man Conquers Sun - Pictures To Follow

A few posts ago I showed photos taken at the Vauxhall Car Owners Day and whinged about the sunlight. They were taken in the broad light of noon and had the unpleasant sort os shadows that obscure detail. Of course, when you are looking at Vauxhalls that can be a blessing...

Warned by this, I went out to take photos of the British Classic Day at Pinjarra Raceway yesterday. I knew it would also be out in the open in full sun - and thought out a different rig to tackle it.

Where the first foray had been with the trusty Fuji X-10, yesterday saw a run with the equally trusty Nikon D300, Nikon SB 700 flash gun, and Stroboframe PRO-RL flash bracket. And a hat.

Well, Pinjarra did not disappoint - smelly oval, smelly cars, and smelly owners. ( Horse poo, petrol leaks, and sweat...doesn't get better.) Broads sun and enough fill bouncing back off the freshly mown infield to act as a partial reflector. And the SB 700 to fire into the rest.

The Stroboframe rig lets you do landscape or portrait with a quick flip of the camera while keeping the SB 700 way up the top out of trouble. The flash can be angled down 30º to drop onto closeup subjects. No lousy shadows crossing the subject to break a good line.

The great part about day shows is you can run the ISO low and the flash fills beautifully. No fiddling with reflectors and diffusers either - belt it out. The subjects are colourful enough to repay the bright light. If you are going to be worried about reflections on the side of the car you can always throw a handful of dirt on it...

Note also that many owners at car shows open the bonnets of their prize vehicles to show off the wonderful engines. In the case of British cars they open the bonnet to show off the wiring and gain the sympathy of the crowd. I always like to stay for the ceremonial burning in effigy of the designer of the Lucas electrical system - one year they tried to set it off by electricity and we were reduced to rubbing two boy scouts together...

Boom boom.

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Friday, October 25, 2013

Big 1000 - The Blog Post That Turns The Corner

Social media is like social disease - everyone has read about it, hardly anyone has seen it for themselves, and no-one wants the old-fashioned treatment for it. The little umbrella...

Writing for it requires a combination of Charles Lamb and Woody Allen; serious essay and one-liner. Plus a dash of Ansel Adams - plonkingly complex technical advice clothed in  art. It is an exhilarating experience when it goes well but very sad when there is nothing inspiring here in the shop. That is also when it becomes most dangerous - you start to think on a tangent and pretty soon the irate customers start beating on the windows with rocks.

We have a company slogan: " We Love Photography." and by-golly we do. Everyone here on the floor is a photographer and we actually do what we talk about  - in most cases with the stuff we sell to you. It is the best way for us to get knowledge - if we can do it we can show you how.

Sometimes we can show you how not to do it, as well. Every one of us has approached a job at some time and shot it in the best way we could and had it look like a horrible mess in the end. Sometimes we have been consultants for other people doing the same thing. This sort of experience is wonderful, particularly if you survive and the warrants expire.

Are we doing better than the anonymous writers on the forums? I think so - in the end we can actually demonstrate the gear in front of the customer, and even if we need to have a shop-huddle to all figure out how to make the device work, at least we all learn.

We are always asked which camera or lens is best. The answer is, of course, yes. Or no, depending upon the prejudices of the questioner. Some people really do want advice - some just want a fight. Quite a few want a place to eat their lunch when it rains. In the end, we ask as many questions as we answer, and sometimes the customer actually does their own answering. Then we can argue and eat lunch.

It is fun, the business of selling cameras. Not as much fun as social disease, but you don't get itchy in awkward places in hot weather.

Uncle Dick

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Tick Tack Toe -The Business Of Feeling

Never mind the quality - feel the width. Boom boom.

Those of you with Linhof Technorama cameras may grin now. Widely. Now back to the regular digital camera world.

Never mind the specifications. Pick the damn thing up and see if you can find the shutter button with your finger. If you can't see it from behind, ask someone to look from the front and give you hand signals - like steering a tank onto a transporter. if neither of you can find out which bit sets it off, set it down and move on.

Are you right handed or left handed? If the former you will be able to operate any camera easily - if the latter, give up all hope of photography. Since the demise of the Exakta, you have been cast into outer darkness. This is one of the meanest of decisions in today's electronic world. All that would be needed is a simple electric switch on the left to fire the shutter - even if it did double duty as some other control for the right handers. Maddening, isn't it - you can get more left handed can openers and shotguns than you can simple little cameras.

Okay, say you can use your right paw... is it a big mitt or a little one? This is important because a number of the more fashionable mirror-less cameras are made for Asian hands. You may be trying to hold it with 2 or three of your fingers excess to requirements  and your fingertips might be pushing three controls at once every time you try to operate it.

Try the thing to your eye. If you can't do this because there is no eye-level viewfinder, go outside and let the sun fall directly on the LCD screen. Can you see anything at all? No? Go get one with a viewfinder. Now, when you are peering through the finder, where is your nose going? If you want to spend your holidays with your nose smashed flat you can either do it on the back of an LCD screen or go for a sparring partner with Danny Green. You choose. Alternately choose a Fuji or Leica camera that lets you see through a finder on the northwest of the camera body and leaves space for your nose at the end. It can make a difference.

Are you going to change lenses? Somewhere on the body will be a button that releases the lens so that you can bayonet it off. Some of the designers have put this button in a concealed or stylish place and you may have to search for it. If the lens needs more than two movements to remove it,  you risk catching it in mid-change and dropping it.

Where is the tripod screw socket? On the underside, one hopes...but after that there are a number of options. Central is good - off-center means you cannot rotate the body for panoramic pictures quite as well. way out at the end of the baseplate is pretty horrible, but it is traditional for a couple of cameras.

And one more test. Do you want to use a camera that has an in-built flash? Is it going to be one that pops up over a central pentaprism? Does it lock in place? The reason we ask this is the fact that some of these flashes are used to control off-camera speed lights and they turn off as soon as they are folded. The danger is if you wear a hat with a brim while shooting in this manner, your hat brim may push the flash in and turn everything off. It can puzzle the most expert user.

Please note we have not commented at all about the usability of the cameras for video - about whether the focussing and zooming is smooth and whether basic camera handling is easy or starts to make alarming noises on the microphone.

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Smoking Hot Fresh From The Rumour Mill

Never mind the Canon rumours. Never mind the Nikon rumours. Never mind the Fuji, or Olympus, or anyone else's rumours. They are nothing, now that the Flapoflex Rumour mill is up and running.

Flapoflex goes far beyond speculation about a retro-styled camera - Flapoflex cameras are retro all the way through, from the glass-like substance used for the lens to the sensor overlain on genuine mahogany, harvested while the Philippines were still Spanish. Style that ravished them in the Gay Nineties can still set hearts aflame. Flapoflex remembers the look! Flapoflex remembers the feel! Flapoflex remembers the MAINE!

There is no portion of the rumour market that Flapoflex does not serve, from the persons who want more supposed bokeh than their brother-in-law to the tourist who may or may not be going to Asia, Africa, and Alaska in two days time. If you want the latest fantasy, before anyone else gets it, un-touched by human hands, at a price that is less than the internet, look to Flapoflex. At Flapoflex we invent the future...we just never bother to file the patent application.

Now a lot of kill-joys point out on the other rumour sites that their respective companies experience delays and setbacks in camera production. Tidal waves, Allied bombing, roach infestations...these have all been cited as reasons why people cannot have what they want when they want it. Sometimes we suspect that these epidemics and devastations are nothing but a made-up excuse for lack of management expertise. I mean, how hard is it to organise a new camera in a cloud of radioactive dust? I mean, really...

Flapoflex adopt a different attitude. We refuse to supply what you want but we do not hide behind the weather or the economic situation. You don't get what you want because WE SAY SO. It is good for your character. And it is good for us, too. If we keep you continuously dangling on the line with hints and mock-ups and mysterious advertisements, you will be far more receptive to the next model of the Flapoflex that we bring out with the LCD screen that is 0.2 mm larger on the diagonal and hinged to the right to catch you in the eye. 

Hey. That's a rumour. Are ya hungry, boy? Are ya? Sit up and beg...

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Thursday, October 24, 2013

Yee Hah - Prepare To Engage PC Force Fields

I searched in vain for my old Washington Redskins sweat shirt but it appears that the PC police have beat me to it - either that or the moths. It was a long time ago and a long way away...

Likewise I am going to have to get moving if I hope to pick up a 1:18 model of the Dodge driven by the Dukes Of Hazzard in authentic livery. The last time I saw on in the hobby shop there was an orange sticker over the Stars And Bars on the roof and I fear even this might have been banned as the flag has been declared as offensive to people who declare things offensive. Sad, this, as it will mean the annual bombardment of Fort Sumpter will be a colourless affair.

I am also privately worried that many of the dearly-loved images, symbols, and icons of photography will be removed as well. Our fake nazi-era cameras made out of old Fed chassis will lose their inscriptions. The Lomo cameras will have to be rebranded, as their trade name sounds close to a word that is used for abusive language. Actually, Lomo is abusive language just on its own...

Of course, we have been saved from the disgrace of Kodak. Also Wittnauer, Bausch and Lomb, and a number of other American firms - all those criminal emblems long gone from the photo scene. The British Ross lenses - root cause of so many innocent casualties - have been impounded. Charges are, of course being laid. Also eggs and bricks, but not by chickens.

One of our staff members pointed out that some of the DSLR cameras have cross-patterned AF points on their focus screens and that they do face recognition...uncovered faces...male and female...we went very sombre at that and agreed never to sell them again. We know trouble when we see it. Or don't see it. Or are not supposed to see it.

Hard to say where it will all stop. The breakfast food companies are already marketing boxes of unpleasant flakes under the brand name "Cereal Offender". We can purchase politically-approved neckwear made by the Kempi Tie Company. Even pipe bands are losing their traditional precision...marching to the beat of diffident drummers, as it were.
I would care if it weren't quite so dangerous.

Round The Houses Again

Nothing like a fine spring day and a 40 year-old Novoflex accessory that has just turned up at the back of the shelf to get the blood singing. As I take aspirin, it sings in a thinner voice...boom,boom.

No, take a look at the rig. The bottom is a Novoflex turntable that you can still get and the top is a Novoflex focussing rack that was made in the 1960's . It would be unfair to show youthese xcept for the fact that you can get a modern version of this from Novoflex right now. The tripod is the Copter from Cullmann.


To take full advantage of the panoramic feature on my beloved Fuji X-10. This allows fast and dirty panos at 120º, 180º, or 360º but since it allows precise central rotation in the vertical axis, the panos stay quick but come up clean.

The Fuji has the tripod socket offset under the camera - the macro slider allows me to recenter it over the vertical axle. I levelled the rig on the top of a convenient rubbish bin ( Oh we are sophisticated in Stirling Street...) and spun the camera as directed by the internal program. Perfect pano.

Note that you can change the direction of rotation for the actual shooting. I realised this after the fact - look at the hideous distortion of the cars in the 180º shot.

Note also that you can do this sort of thing with the Panomatic but you might have to do a bit more setup.

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Flame Wars - Picking An Internet Photographic Fight


Oops, sorry - I had my elbow on the shift key there. Todays's topic is the delicate art of the flame war - specifically as it applies to photography. Those of you who are skilled already may sit in the coffee shop until the next class. The rest of you - LISTEN UP!

The first rule of the internet war is there is no first rule. The internet allows you to be as rude as you like to anyone with no fear of retaliation. If you use a pseudonym or anonymous  or just photocopy your backside and submit it as an avatar you are allowed to insult, traduce, and appall the entire connected world. Of course a great deal of your audience is composed of teenagers sitting in Mum's basement, and they are going to be able to post snide comments all day long, but persist and you will eventually be able to reach the photographers out there.

Select one who has been adventurous enough to submit some images to Flicker or another site, and who has mentioned the camera system they use. Cut the images to pieces and condemn them as a fool for using whatever equipment they own. Insist that the opposition camera would have been much better. Sneer in print. USE CAPITALS TO OFFEND!!!!

Technical note: The team pairings for camera fights are generally Canon/Nikon and Panasonic/Olympus. Leica/Fuji is also a good one. Hasselblad is hard to call out but I suppose the other medium format jobs like Phase One might be invoked. Cross -exchanges are also possible but start to be a bit silly when the Linhof/Lomo brigade get started...

You do not have to be right. You do not have to be logical. You need never have owned the equipment referred to. Indeed, you need never have taken a photograph in your life - the point of it all is to argue. You may be forced by your chracter to go through the rest day in a haze of kindliness and harmony but while you are on the Flapoflex Rumours Forum you can be a hellion.

The beauty of the old Dell in Mum's basement is that unlike a camera club, no-one can see you and scoff at you - and unlike a photographic shop, no-one can press you to buy something. It is photographic criticism without guilt and guilt without photographic criticism. Win.

Heading image: Melbourne Hot Rod Show.
Trailing Image: Sydney giant block of chocolate.

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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Snapping On The Road

In Texas, you can get a permit to carry a revolver in your car. Likewise in Nevada and Montana.  Unfortunately in Perth there are a series of picayunish laws that make this difficult. The best you can do in your car is have a compact camera in the glove box and a Chuck Berry CD in the player.

I suggest you do, because you never can tell when a picture will roll by. It might be a woman wrapped up in snarling dogs or a cyclist riding wrong-way through 4 lanes of the Freeway or, as you can see, replacement wheels for shopping trolleys being conveyed along Leach Highway early in the morning.

Do not endanger your life by trying to set up a tripod and a view camera in he front seat of the car as you go along. It is useless to spot-meter the scene and calculate the Zone-System exposure between lights - even slow moving trucks go faster than Ansel Adams ever did.

Get yourself a Fuji X-10 or X-20, a Canon G15 or G15, or one of the fine Nikon or Olympus compact cameras. You can eschew the viewfinder because you should keep looking forward as you are driving but set the thing to about 400 ISO, AF-C and programmed exposure and then just blaze away. Today's cameras will do far more than ever before and you could be rewarded with some REAL street photography.

BTW: If you are a passenger keep your arms and legs inside the car as you snap. No good winning a photography award if you don't have the hand to receive it...

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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!

Pardon me appropriating the title of a very bad motion picture for a blog, but it really does express a great deal of the emotions involved in photography today.

Photography has always been faster than most other forms of visual expression - with the possible exception of Niepce's pewter plate, you could always make a photograph faster than you could paint the same scene. Also you could be faster than a sculptor doing a portrait in marble, even if you had to wait for the mercury in the darkroom to start boiling...

And it has gotten faster. Wet plate, dry plate, film, and digital all have sped up the photographer - and now the pressure is on to go even faster. Take a picture and send it to your computer and then send it on to the world on a social site. Measure your times in seconds and then shave those seconds down. Faster. Faster.

It's great to get fast relief if you are taking antacids and great to get a fast response if you are dialling the cops during a robbery, but do we need such an accretion of velocity when it comes to beauty? Are we rewarded better if our happiness hits us like a mallard A4 engine? I don't think so.

Think of the pictures that make you feel good - or the scenes that you see in real life. Think of the people who enrich you. Do you demand that they provide instant pleasure, fulfillment , or happiness? Chances are you give them a bit of time and you enjoy the process as it occurs.

Perhaps it is time to slow down plant a garden, and then smell the roses - and take pictures of them as well.

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Monday, October 21, 2013

Round The Houses With Cullmann

The panoramic photograph seems to have been to be the soupe du jour - or is that the suppe di anno? Whatever, everyone was doing them them last year. As a number of manufacturers make wonderful equipment for the specialty, we hope they do them next year as well.

The heavyweight star of the panoramic brackets is. of course, Manfrotto,. The MH057A5 head is magnificently equipped for horizontal or vertical panoramas with a great deal of precision and repeatability. It can accommodate the largest lenses that one might choose and has adjustable click stops to let you take your exposures rapidly. It is super-engineered and so heavy that if it fell on you from a tall shelf, it would kill you.

If you wish less risk but almost the same expense, I recommend Novoflex products. They are also engineered but with elegance and style. They are also lighter.

These used to be the two choices for the big player, but now Cullmann has come out with a design as well. The Concept One system from Cullmann has a similar precision turntable that bolts on to the stem of many Cullmann ball heads. I should mate it to the 6, 7, or 8 series - or onto the dedicated Concept One heads. The big ones are BIG, so do come in and find one that matches your equipment.

The Concept One mounting plates are Arca-sized and I note that they make a corner mount that allows you to mate up two of their longer plates to make an L-shaped bracket for vertical mounting. Neat use of the existing equipment.

One final note - for simple panos with little cameras try the Panomatic and for even simpler ones use the Fuji X-10 and X-20 in the SP mode - there are 120º, 180º, and 360º settings and all you do is spin around slowly. In the case of the 360º one you spin around until you fall down...

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Not Too Proud To Learn

Sometimes it pays to pay attention. I found this out this last weekend.

I was asked to take series of family group pictures and as there were to be 10 people involved, I knew that my little studio would be strained to do it. Not that the little studio is a bad place - I have Elinchrom lights and shapers to deal with lots of different situations.  I use a Nikon digital system now and am very pleased with the resolution and colour rendition it provides ( particularly since I coordinated the in-camera white balance with the actual output of the lights and the Adobe Camera Raw section of the computer - I now get what I expect...).

But it is a little studio. I can do fighter jets and motor cars and ships at sea, but the Superior paper roll is still just 2750 mm wide. Some of the groups I take are 6 or more people and they tend to flow over the edges. I can composite and retouch but once they go past the edge of he paper it all gets time consuming.

So - I purchased a book by Matt Koskowski on photo compositing. One chapter was devoted to precisely the situation I was facing yesterday. And Koskowski was very specific on how he solved it - fixed positions for the subjects, light, and camera. Fortunately I practised the technique the night before using myself as  model and on the day it all worked like clockwork. The selections and final assembly were a breeze and as soon as I figure out exactly how I want the shadow to fall I can complete it. I hope the family won't mind if I give a preview.

Note as well: Big-name exclusive fashionable studios and the international award-winning legend mentors may wish to turn away and sip their hemlock cocktails now. I am going to suggest that small-name photographers with little studios that aren't exclusive at all might benefit by taking a leaf out of North American books. ( For the chronically anti-American amongst you, pretend that this is all Canadian...). Small studios there make a good ( Canadian) dollar out of high school graduation photos, Christmas card photos, and Halloween photos. Call it corny, call it trite, call it what you will - I call it money.

It might be difficult to get a chance at school pictures here in Western Australia - big firms have this sewn up and they do a good job of it. And it is a tough business - dealing with battle-hardened primary school teachers and their ravening hordes of children. I should not take it on with a Gatling, myself. But there may be high school yearbooks and senior classes who would welcome off-site studio shots of their graduating classes. If you are prepared to apply a little taste and a lot of patience, they can be the highlight of the school year.

Likewise Halloween. Throw yourself around like a pig in a fit if you will about the North American tradition of trick-or-treat, but if you advertise Halloween photo sets and then stock up with skulls and spiders and bats from Toys R Us, you can do a lot of good in October. Heavily gelled lights and photoshopped moons and graveyards are the go so don't hold back on the schlock - your customers will love it.

Christmas images for cards are a good idea, but don't get stuck with dong the cards yourself - provide good templated images on disc to the customers and get them to have the printing done by a commercial firm.

You'll end up with a lots of props to store, but take heart - the seasonal holidays come back each year and the corny props never date. And you can make pie out of the Jack-o-Lantern on the 1st of November...

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Friday, October 18, 2013

Another Stellar Landing By Hasselblad

The You-Tube phenomenon of people un-boxing equipment as entertainment has a certain charm. I should dearly love to see them unpack some of the stuff that lands in this shop - in particular products from the O corporation. I think they spring-load the cameras and accessories so that they spring out of the cardboard and can never be put in again...

Not so the latest offering from Hasselblad - the Hasselblad Stellar with mahogany wood grip. Here it is peeled layer by layer through the packaging. The box is undoubtedly the most luxurious container I have ever seen. It deserves a place in a museum.

The camera also looks wonderful but I have stopped at the sealed stickers over the screen and lens. The new owner, whoever they may be - will want to dig them off with a pen-knife themselves. Camera people are like that and who are we in the trade to deny them their pleasures.

It is not the camera for the masses - unless the masses are packing money bags the size of Volkswagens. It is the camera for the connoisseur. Bring your wallet and knife and come see us.

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