Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Humbrella

The humble umbrella. Gene Kelly danced to stardom with one - apparently under a rain of diluted condensed milk ( It showed up better in the Klieg lights on set...wonder what the sound stage smelled like a week after the filming?) and they have featured in French films and Japanese paintings for centuries.

They also feature in some of the smaller ready-made flash systems. The Elinchrom company make a number of two-head kits that feature theses light modifiers. They are inexpensive, easy to carry, and foolproof.

Strobist kits also carry them - you are enjoined by the makers to fire your speed lights into them and reflect the light onto your subject as a wide, soft illumination. By and large they work every time.

The heading image is possibly the laziest product shot I have ever taken, as I did not move from the editorial swivel chair to do it. It shows the rack we have dedicated to Promaster umbrellas. These have a standard diameter shaft ( As opposed to the slightly smaller Elinchrom umbrellas) and are suitable for all sorts of studio monoblocks and speed light brackets. You can get quite large ones - up to 72 inches.

There is quite a variety of construction as well - the basic black outside is standard but you can get the interior with a white or a silver finish. The white has a softer illumination - the silver harder and more specular. There are shoot-through umbrellas that are a very soft modifier and some that amount to a soft box. Admittedly it works backwards as you fire your flash into it away from the subject and depend upon the reflective surface and a diffuser panel inside the umbrella to spread the light.

Best of all with any of them is the fact that you can go out to a job in the field with them collapsed and rolled up and then erect them in a second when you are in position. Soft boxes are never this easy - you either have to assemble them on he site with much bending of arms and puffing and cursing, or take them assembled in the car. They never fit easily in any car...

They are cheap, compared to soft boxes. If you have a need for soft light anywhere I can readily recommend one. In store now.

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Monday, December 23, 2013

Moving Right Along - With The Panasonic Lumix

This advertisement is the right price - we have just made sure of that!

The Panasonic Lumix GX-7 is a beauty of a mirror-less camera - it is one of the best handed cameras in this sensor size - the controls fall to your fingers without strain and the multi-angle viewfinder and LCD screen mean that you can operate it in any position - close to the ground for macro flowers or high above your head for event shots.

The files it produces are clean and clear - it handles low light very well.

It takes all the micro 4/3 lenses from Panasonic and other manufacturers. And here is where this deal gets sweeter. We have the perfect family party and tourist lens for it  -the Panasonic 20mm f:1.7 lens.

Today and tomorrow we have four of these camera body/lens combinations available - silver body and silver lens - with all the accessories for a snip price of:

                                        $ 1189.00

The lens alone sells for $ 450 so it looks as though this is the bargain of the day. We're trading until 5:30 today and until 3:00 tomorrow. Ring us up with the credit card and secure one.

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A Christmas Carol And We all Go To The Dickens...

Whet the knife and boil the oil
Someone here has screwed up royal.
Grab a throat and twist it tight
The advertisement is not right.

If you read the newspaper today you may be astonished to see that 24-70 mm lenses from Canon and Sigma are at an all-time low price. An eye-poppingly low price. An unsustainable send-us-to-the poorhouse price. It is not just a clever marketing ploy by devious minds. It is a monumental proof-reading mistake by tired minds. The first casualty of Christmas 2013.

This is in the true Australian tradition of something coming seriously adrift around the 25th - you'll remember the ILLAWARA and the Tasmanian bridge and Darwin and the cyclone and all the bushfires. Well, this is the Camera Electronic Christmas disaster.

Don't contribute money to the Red Cross for us - no-one is homeless yet. We are about to have a couple of days of irate phone calls but we are trained in how to handle these; we burst into tears and howl like husky dogs. It seems to work.

The REAL PRICE of the lenses:

1. Sigma 24-70 lens    RRP $ 1049    Christmas Special $ 744

2. Canon 24-70 lens   RRP $ 1699     Christmas Special $ 1222

Apart from the advertisement passing 4 proof readers...(!)...we do apologise for the inconvenience to our customers. It is just a mistake, not a deliberate piece of meanness.

We reserve that for our relatives at the end of Christmas Day...Ho Ho Ho.

Kindly Old Uncle Dick

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Saturday, December 21, 2013

Hark The Herald Tribune Cries " Come In Here And Buy, Buy, Buy "

With apologies to Tom Lehrer…but it is the last Saturday before Christmas and it is traditional that you come in to the shop and buy something. We would prefer that you ask for photographic equipment but if you insist on hammers or plates of liver, we will do what we can to oblige…

It is also traditional in Western Australia to panic when it comes to the holidays. People look forward to one day of the year when the shops are shut and calculate that they will not be able to get bread or milk and rush out and empty the shelves and service station tanks…and in this spirit we would like to remind you that we will be shut from 3:00PM on the 24th until after New years. So rush in here and empty the shelves - you never can tell when you will wake up in the middle of the night and need a telephoto lens. Play it safe - buy several.

Merry Christmas from Uncle Dick

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Friday, December 20, 2013

Santa Was Never Like This - Until He Started Drinking Floor Polish

Every now and then you get out past where the buses run, as Kinky Friedman says...and Camera Electronic is no excepton. We hire a lot of people and occasionally we get more than we bargain for. We hired a sales floor manager thinking that all we would get was a guy who could talk cameras...and ended up getting a world champion.

And not just any old world champion. Never mind your bicycle racers or boxers or cricket teams. We got the World Champion Santa. We really did.

David Downey is his name and it apparently took him three years to work his way up to the Arctic circle and put on the red coat and the hat with the bobble for Australia. But he blasted all the other Santas off the ice and took the championship.

You can see him in action on the ABC television station on Monday the 23rd at 10:30 AM in a program called " World Champion Santa". It is kid-safe to watch...as opposed to " Bad Santa" with Billy Bob Thornton, which is not.

Remember that you must all behave yourselves when you come into the shop - Santa knows when you have been naughty and when you have been nice and these days he works in close collaboration with the USAF out of Omaha. There is a vast difference between a reindeer and an armed drone.

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Coming Soon To A Computer Near You

I opened the emails at home this morning and found an advertisement for an antique sales company. I do not buy antiques but I opened it anyway - it turned out to be from some firm that is trying to sell antique photographic gear at auction - or what may purport to be an auction.

I like antique photographic gear - I could look at it all day. Sigh... I DO look at it all day...Either at home in the studio or here at the shop - there it is. I have no desire to augment the collection but still I looked at the list.

One item on offer was a Spirograph. The blurb said that it was similar to one in the Smithsonian Institution and that it was expected to fetch $ 10,000. I am glad that I was not eating at the time I read this as I would probably still be cleaning cornflakes off the the computer screen right now....Reading further I saw a long address in Chinese at the bottom, leading me to the cynical speculation that there must be someone who thinks that the Chinese people are either seriously rich or seriously stupid.

Then I remembered Nürnberg and a visit I made to that city in 1995. I wandered through the business district, pretzel in hand, and passed a camera shop. In it were a vast collection of ex-Soviet cameras and 50's film cameras at eye-watering prices. It was a nice set of premises until you considered the premise that the owner - Boris  - was trying to sell the unworkable to the unwitting. I think he must have succeeded because he pops up in eBay all the time doing the same thing from Germany, and has lately established an outpost in Hong Kong. I can only presume business is brisk, but I cannot say whether this makes me happy or sad, nor for whom...

As it is, I shall pass on the $ 10,000 Spirograph. If there is one in K-Mart for $ 9.95 I might be tempted as the swirly patterns that they make can be quite lovely. I wonder what would happen if you put it on a Wacom Intuous computer tablet and traced up a storm. It would probably look like some of the computer-generated patterns you get as screen savers. I wonder if you could use it to draw a picture of Boris?

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Is It Just Me Or Does It Seem Purple In Here?

The Macbook Pro that this blog is written on has a program inside it from the Datacolor people to help it keep the colours accurate. Every month it pops up a little window to tell me that it is time to reset the laptop. If I ignore it, it keeps reminding me - every time I turn on the laptop. It is like the still small voice of conscience. As we have been busy at home I have not bothered...

Looking at the heading image, I am starting to think I might make time...

For those of you who suspect that you might be in the same boat - you know; the one with the water coming over the gunwales and the sharks gnawing at the stern - perhaps you should come in and get a Datacolor Spyder for yourselves.

They do three models and they are not expensive - the top models calibrate all sorts of computers and monitors in all sorts of situations.

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Thursday, December 19, 2013

Grandma's Camera

It is no sin to get older and to have grandchildren. Nor is it wrong to want to have thousands of pictures of them plastered over the house and the internet. It is, however, a dreadful and terrible thing to make those pictures look bad. Nowadays there is no excuse for the out-of-focus image with heads lopped off and the colour gone to mud. Modern cameras can do better than that...

But we older folk sometimes are not entirely up to the minute with the latest technology in cameras. We remember film and the simple camera that coped with outdoor pictures - the family gathered on the front lawn or at the dinner table. We pointed, shot, and let the chemist deal with the rest of the problems. The resultant prints went into albums and on the refrigerator and we were happy.

Well, take the chemist out of the equation - Heaven knows that we'll be seeing enough of them with our swollen, itchy, or leaky bits...we don't need them to be the arbiters of our images as well.

The camera that does it automatically, easily, and with clarity is the thing we need. If there are only one or two buttons to press, all the better - but we must have clean files on our computers or to give to the mall printer so that the grandies look like we think they look. Olympus has one of these that is perfect for us.

The Stylus SH 50 is small enough to be convenient but big enough to be easily grasped. It is precise and fast - press the button and it does the business right then. There is a long zoom lens in case the grandies are at the beach and a wide-angle lens in case we are on holiday  and get to the big scenic lookout. There is a flash that lets us take indoor images perfectly.

It does do video - just point and shoot. The video has good clear sound - in stereo. And it has a priceless asset - there is a shake-reduction device  it that operates no mater how we hold it - if we have a bit of a tremor it does not matter - the camera will smooth it out.

Best of all - it is on special now until Christmas at Camera Electronic for $ 314 complete. Just add a memory card and start shooting.

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Yule Be Sorry To Miss Out

Christmas time has come, By Golly
Scourge the kids with boughs of holly.
Pie the mince and tree the balls,
Here comes Microsoft scamming calls.

Nose to tail along the Freeway
South or North it matters not
Honk your horn and raise your finger
It's still and dead and bright and hot.

Xmas lunch with all the rellies
Hoping for prawns? You joke my dear -
The kids have eaten all the good bits
Content yourself with bread and beer.

Back again at end of even,
Bloated, sleepy, red, and sore.
New Year's Eve looms like perdition -
Then we do it one time more.

You can fight against Christmas ennui by buying yourself a gift - you'll see a CE special advertisement somewhere on your computer soon. Don't stint yourself - the prices have come down and you can treat yourself to something to make up for the ties, potholders, and shapeless sweaters that will be under the tree.

None of this will make up for the trip on the freeway to see your relatives but at least you'll be able to take good pictures over the summer holiday. If you get a camera like the Fuji X-series you can take wonderful selfies on New Years Eve before the fights break out.

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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

New Bags In Stock

It has been a morning. Two giant boxes full of Billingham bags have arrived and I have been plastering on the price stickers. As soon as they are bar coded they should be good to go - and Billingham are one of the best of all bags for going.

I've harped on the lightness and convenience thing before - Billingham meets these requirements easily, as well as being good enough looking to pass for a fashion bag - if you are fashionable. They can be small enough for mirror-less cameras or big enough for full DSLR systems and are designed to be reconfigurable whenever you need to shift to a different load of gear.

Best of all, they are a long-term investment. They have leather trim and brass attachments and heavy twill straps so that they age well. You might change your camera or lenses...and you do...but you need never change your Billingham.

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Monday, December 16, 2013

Fear Of Heat

I noticed that some of the shops in town were deserted last Saturday - and this was two weeks away from Christmas. Even accounting for the effect of on-line shopping and suburban shopping centers, this seemed odd. Then I stepped out into the sunshine and realised what it was all about.

West Australians have become afraid of their own sunshine. Back in 1964 when there was Elvis and Lightburn Zeta motor cars...the automotive equivalent of dinosaurs...I walked down the same section of Hay Street wearing a baseball cap - and was laughed to scorn for trying to shield myself from the sun. All the other kids were trying to be bronzed ANZAC heroes and I was trying to stop from burning. I should imagine a number of those bronzed epidermises are floating in formalin in jars right now...

Back to the heat - innumerable emails and Facebook posts squalled about the heat and traded dire predictions on the actual number that would be reached. It was fun to repost them with an extra 3º each time and read how bad people were gearing themselves up to feel. Perhaps it was a good ploy - I scared them out of the shops and off of the trains I was going to use and I got served first.

Does this have any application to photography? Yes - Australians in summer are sometimes as housebound as Canadians in winter...and some of the same alternative forms of photographic work come into play. Table top photography. Copy work. Indoor portraiture. Interior studies. Nudes. Things you can do with the air conditioner on.

Please also consider your poor old digital camera, simmering all by itself in an all-black professional finish. If you leave it on the parcel shelf of your car when you go into the casino all day you'll see what your luck will bring after sundown...

Likewise remember that real photographers dress in black - like Johnny Cash. So pile on those layers before you stand out on the beach. Wool is nice - burlap is better. You'll know when it is time to go home...

Finally remember that your computer also generates heat - particularly if your computer room is insulated to hold it in while you do your post-shoot editing. You'll peel off layers as you work and eventually look like a crew member in a Japanese submarine.

Note: Camera Electronic has two air conditioners and a water cooler going right now - you're safe to visit us.

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Thursday, December 12, 2013

That Damn Wall Is Back

Last year you will remember that we constructed the Great Wall of Olympus on the shelves behind our sales counter. We had a solid barrier of Olympus micro 4/3 cameras in boxes on sale.

 For months we could not get to the items on the shelf  - in fact we think one of the smaller staff members got trapped behind ir. There were noises and cries for help. They got fainter as the days wore on and eventually stopped. It was along about that time the smell started...

 But that was last year, and we have moved on. New shop fit and all. But...the damn wall is back.

This time it is Fuji X-series cameras and Panasonic Lumix cameras. As you can see from the photographs we have X-E1, X-M1, and X-A1 cameras piled in one section - and X-20 cameras piled in another. The Panasonic section is stuffed full to the top with Lumix G7 cameras. They are all looming over us and if they fall no-one is safe...

You can help prevent a terrible tragedy. Come in and buy a camera or two and take them away on holiday. Have a good time and take wonderful pictures. And let us get through to the filter shelf without having to use an assault ladder or a HIAB.

Fuji X-E1 with 18-55 lens....................................$ 988

Fuji X-M1 with 16-50 lens..................................$ 998

Fuji X-A1 with 16-50 lens....................................$ 711

Fuji X-20 with 7.1-28 lens...................................$ 668

Panasonic Lumix GX7.......................................$ 998

Please note we also have camera bags that replicate themselves in dark corners. Buy one and help cull the breeding stock.

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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Smaller And Smaller

I am always amazed at the degree to which the Japanese designers of cameras succeed in miniaturising things. You see, I remember the Mamiya camera company's efforts in the medium format field and how they seemed to get bigger with each passing year. I do remember camping in the lee of an RZ67 for a week in inclement weather and was grateful for the shelter.

No such shelter from the Panasonic Lumix GM camera and lens. It is a micro 4/3 camera that has been reduced to he smallest compass yet. I will not say the smallest size possible as they will take it for a challenge and then the next one will fit in your nostril. No sense poking the extremely small bear.

As it is, this one is a beauty. Metal body, micro 4/3 mount, 12-32 lens. touch screen, 680 mAh battery, 2 custom channels, and Wifi built in. Stereo mic for video.built-in flash. makes BLT sandwiches. No, surely that can't be right...

Well, anyway, have a look at it. A real pocket beauty.

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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Battery Sergeant

A few nights ago one of our photographers was using a very good little flash to assist his nighttime shots. He got great results but I could tell he was frustrated with the time required to recharge the flash between shots. I wasn't surprised - the flash only operates on AAA batteries. It is s great little unit but it is asking a lot of small cells when you flog them through a series of shots.

I find something of the same with my main portable flash - the Nikon SB 700. It fortunately uses AA batteries and I can put lithium cells in it, but even here there is a real problem of the cells getting hot as they discharge and somewhat slowing down. In the middle of a dance show I have to eject one set and let it cool on the floor while a fresh cold set go it. Granted you can get 600+ flashes from a set of batteries but you have to juggle things.

I was struck by a thought about the design of the guns and the type of battery. Would it not have been better for the manufacturer of the flash gun to make it take the same sort of rechargeable lithium cell that goes into the cameras? I am thinking of a flat pack like the EN-EL series of batteries. Then a photographer could keep a large set of charged cells for both camera and flash and quickly slip them in or out of the flash body.

This would have the advantage of selling more rechargeable lithium cells - and not losing this business to the general battery manufacturer. And of adding the sale of a charger to each flash gun.

Admittedly, that would have provided the general public with yet another opportunity to leave a charger in your hotel room when you check out. And another aftermarket sale for us...

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I have been puzzling about the new Zeiss lens that has just arrived in the shop - it is the 55mm f:1.4 Otus lens. It is a magnificent thing and the write-ups from the world's photographic press seem to say that t is the uncompromising best for this focal length and the Full-frame cameras it will serve. The example I photographed for the blog is the ZF 2 mount for Nikon.

It is a big lens - no doubt about that. See the coin placed for scale beside it - that is a 5¢ piece. The weight is commensurate with he size. The focus ring movement is perfect - smooth and evenly damped. The engraved markings are a little bit startling as the bulk of the operational ones are in bright yellow. It is, of course, T* coated.

We have not had a chance to shoot with it, but will try to do so at the earliest opportunity to check out performance.

But back to the puzzle - why on earth would the Zeiss people name a large standard lens after HMS OTUS - an "O" class submarine? is it a leftover from the U-boat days? Is there a naval enthusiast in the marketing department? If we buy more of them will we have a wolf pack?

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Monday, December 9, 2013

Dinner Of the Camera Party

With profound apologies to M. Renoir...

What do camera people do when they are not standing behind the counter at Camera Electronic? They dine at the Duckstein Brewery in the Swan Valley, of course. This is the holiday season and with Christmas coming up we all repaired to the Duck to recruit the tissues and revive the mind.

Aside from testing the malted waters...and I can particularly recommend the Dunkel...and the sauerkraut, we indulged in that most sporting of pastimes: shooting people. I hasten to add, for the benefit of whatever spy agency monitors this blog ( Hey! to Langley...)that we used Fuji cameras and flashes for the task.

I used the X-10 and Dom used the X-Pro 1 with the EF-X20 flash. His pictures came out better than mine but that is because he did not get served his Dunkel as quickly as I. I'm satisfied, though, as I have good souvenirs of the night, quite apart from the deadly hangover and the lump behind the ear where the barmaid hit me with the litre stein.

The trick was - Dom was using the flash and I was relying upon an extreme ISO and a steady hand. I did mention the Dunkel, didn't I? The flash and the circuitry in the Fuji were able to sort out a perfect front exposure while leaving some of the back light to imprint behind thee main subject. Make no mistake - that is the real secret of party and event photography.

Never mind light from three separate directions and diffusers and assistants and artspeak - you need a clean clear front flash or at least a clean bounced flash with a little front card light to get the best out of faces. If you can get some background light and colour, so much the better. You are looking for good grip-and-grin with couples and foursomes - after that you can plan out epic shots with your three assistants and a Klieg light.

Fuji does this - I can get good selfies if I pop up the flash at 200 ISO and set the thing on P. Dom can get great G&G with the EF-X20. If you are using one of the X100 or X100s it is even better - the whole thing is self-contained and you can instruct the camera to fire whenever it thinks it knows what you want to do better than you do.

The perfect Dunkel camera...

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Friday, December 6, 2013

We Are Getting There Splendidly

Please disegard the expression on the face of our staff member, Mr. Doudakis. He is practising to be the Parthenon in a fog - grim, grey, and Greek. He is really as delighted with the progress of the new Leica Shop as rest of us.

The basic structure is up and we are setting out stock onto the shelves. Leica have an amazing range of cameras, lenses, and accessories. Their binoculars are superb - there is an entires section devoted to them at the right of the shop. We have also made provision for the pre-owned Leica stock in some very elegant show cabinets.

There will be much more coming - drift in occasionally to see the new stock go up. If you want you can buy some...just sayin'...

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Thursday, December 5, 2013

Another View Of Art - A New Sigma Lens

It is a bit bold to attach the term " Art " to a product. Of course if the product is a tube of oil paint or a brush or a chisel and mallet, you can see the connection. Yet...you can use oil paint to do the walls of the bathroom and a mallet and chisel to split a jaw, and there are no awards given for either achievement.

Still, Sigma have applied it to their new 24-105 lens and signalled it with a silver "A" plate on the side of the lens. Call it what you will, the lens is another addition to the new mount style that indicates their best products. You will have seen the mount style with their 35mm f:1.4 lenses and the 16-35 f:1.8 - solid, smooth, and heavy. Remember as well that the 16-35 is a star performer according to DP Review - the whole darn test chart seemed to be blue...the highest resolution and lowest chromatic aberration. Let us wait for the DP results on this one...

Steam in pretty quick to have a look at it - it is likely to go out the door in the rush up to Christmas. It will, of course, have the two-year warranty that Sigma are proud of.

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Seeing Is Believing - Updating Works

A couple of days ago the national trainer for the Fujifilm company visited our shop and took us in groups for sales training. It was interesting to see the new components in the X-series cameras explained - the question of the new X -trans sensor in particular. He was a great speaker because he finally explained the real cause of moiré patterning in images and the various means that have been adopted to deal with it.

He was also a great speaker because he showed me how  to update the firmware on my X-10 camera. It was done in about 3 minutes and the difference it has made in the operation of the camera is magic.

I also took courage to re-jig an another Fuji X camera and watched it go from good to great. See the images for this post. The hot rod was taken with my standard package of Nikon D300s, 18-200 lens, and SB700 flash on a Stroboframe rig. Note limited depth of field that is just enough to get the car in.

Now look at the Fuji image - the '49 Mercury. It is under different conditions - a bare studio set and some studio lights. There is less contrast as the light source is huge.

There are some similarities - the sensors in both cameras are APS-c size. It was flash exposure so the shutter speed was about 1/250 second - no movement.

The lens focal lengths were different - 120mm for the rod and 23mm for the Mercury. The f stop for the rod was f:22 and for the Mercury, f:16. This is the smallest stop the 23mm lens can do. Of course they are both going to be affected by diffraction, but unless you sacrifice DOF by sticking to f:8, you are going to have to deal with it.

Or not - if you buy the new Fuji X-100s. There is a special computer program in it that specifically targets areas that are spread by diffraction while preserving the portions of the image that are not so afflicted - the result would be dramatically sharper resolution in the picture. I don't know, because I am still using the older X camera, but the new guys are going to get world-beating results.

Note also that the update added the capability to see "focus-peaking" in the LCD screen. It is the enhancement of the in-focus portion of the image with a black or white rime. It is evident even in small areas and allows you to get a sharper manual focus than you could do with a bare eye. I could "walk" the focus back from the headlight of the car to the front of the windshield to maximise the depth of field. Beats peering into a small viewfinder in the dim focusing light of the studio mono-blocks.

My honest conclusion is that it is an image as good as or better than that produced by my regular studio tabletop rig. Provided I want to point of view to be that of the 35mm lens on an older film camera, it is ideal. If I wish to replicate the 50mm on an old film camera it will still have to be the Tokina 35 macro - if I want wider views the Sigma 8-16 will be needed. At least I now have and excuse to have another camera!

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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

NIKON - A New Landscape

 The shop is in a turmoil. This is not new - we import turmoils and sell them at good prices. We can service turmoils. We trade in secondhand turmoils and give three month's warranty on them.

Major changes to the cabinetry - and Nikon is the first off the blocks with a new display. Please look at the images - these cabinets are super sophisticated and wonderful to play with. You can open them without a crowbar. Or drawing pentangles on the floor...one day they are going to get stuck and we won't be able to get them open - I'm just hoping none that none of the staff are in there at the time. It will be like watching a dove in a Bell jar...

No - there are good things in there - look at the new binocular selection from Nikon - and look at the new Nikon 1 system camera on display. And there will be more to come as time passes.

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