Monday, March 31, 2014

Clear the Decks! Rig For Borders! Evenly-spaced Borders!

We've trundled out a special rack and sign at the front of the shop - you'll see it as soon as you walk in the door. It's a big cardboard dump bin that we are going to refill each week - with something new each time.

We're talking overstock here, and bargains, and combo deals. Good stuff, and the kind of equipment and material that you need, but at a great bargain price. You get 'em courtesy of our new shop fit and the fact that we are running out of space to rack things up. If we sell it we don't have to stack it.

This week's score is 200 sheets of Ilford paper for the price of 100. You buy an A4 box of 100 Ilford Galerie Smooth Pearl for $ 85 and we throw in a free box of 100 sheets of the same paper in the 6" x 4" size.

Print big for yourself and then make some postcards to keep the family and friends happy. You win either way as Ilford Smooth Pearl  is one of the best general-purpose inkjet papers made.

Special goes for a week. Don't miss out.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Cold War Heats Up - With Kodak

Relax - no need to go into the fallout shelter just yet. The Russians are only annexing their neighbours and we don't live that near them. Just don't go investing your superannuation in Lomo camera shares....

Actually, I am not sure if it is the increase in international tensions or just a clever ploy by Rochester to get money from the government, but I note hat there is a new aerial film format being introduced later this month. Apparently digital imaging from near-space just does not have the resolution that film can provide, so they are going back to flying over  potential targets and photographing them with regular cameras. The RB36 has been mooted as the best platform.

Of course these are not just "regular" cameras - they need to have a big format to pack all the information in. Thus the new film format. Rumour has it they use colour negative film, but I don't know what emulsion.

I've asked a friend who works at Corrigan AFB if he can get me a roll of it to test out. I am not quite sure if my Linhof monorail camera will take it, but this sort of opportunity is too good to miss. I'll report whatever success when the film arrives.

Uncle Dick

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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Adapt That, Sunshine!...With Fuji And Sigma

Having watched one of my workmates go through a little fit of adapting strange and horrible lenses to his mirror-less Olympus camera...with all the resulting distortion and confusion that you could predict, I vowed never to follow suit. The Olympus lenses he had were wonderful and the old lenses from the back of the drawer were terrible.

Then I got a Fuji mirror-less camera that would accept X-mount adapters, and visited a camera shop that had adapters for it and of course I bought one. I am nothing if not inconsistent - constantly so, in fact.

All seems to be well. Western civilisation has not fallen any further than the Crimea and they still make beer in breweries, so we may be able to carry on. But the adapter business is starting to make me nervous. Not on the question of resolution or  distortion - more just a worry about the physical forces that are called into play.

Any time you stack a long lens onto the front of a camera you have to think how you are going to support that lens. This applies equally if you are coupling up an adapter as well as a lens - there is a strain on the lens mount. Okay if you are cradling the lens and taking the weight there - the camera body just goes on for the ride. When you have to attach the body is where it gets bad - the moment of force on the big lens can be fierce, even if the lens has a short focal length.

Good adapters would have feet like telephoto lenses so that they could become the fulcrum point. The one I bought doesn't, and if I am going to clap the Sigma 8-16 lens on the front of it with the Fuji X-E2 on the back, I am going to have to figure out how to balance the assembly - I don't want to ruin the tripod mount on the underside of the body.
This sort of thing is probably catered for by Manfrotto or Velbon but I have a feeling that it is also amenable to a little shopping at Bunnings.

You can get a lot of camera accessories at Bunnings, and power tools as well. If you go on Saturday they also serve sausages in a bun. Which might just work for the Sigma 8-16...

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Monday, March 24, 2014

Time To Upgrade With Datacolor

The first time a horse kicks you in the shin you notice it. If it goes on long enough you get used to it and dodge as best you can and then just tend to limp about. But the thing still rankles - and eventually you tire of the sport - generally before the gee does. At this point some citizens haul out a large betsey and old Dobbin is consigned to the glue factory.

So it is with electronic gear. The first glitch is frightening and causes concern but after you discover that you can "cure" it by turning the thing off and on again or banging the side of he box, you tend to just carry on and let it happen.

So it was with my old Datacolor Spyder 2 Express program in the iMac and Macbook Pro. It worked fine for 5 years and then occasionally it would hang up at the last part of the calibrations sequence - the screen would go sort of pinkish and I would have to run it again to get it to go straight through. One day the second run did not cure it and I needed a third one...kick, kick, kick...

Out with the electronic roscoe. Removed the Spyder 2 Express and installed a Spyder 4 Express in its place. All has become better. The new program works efficiently and already recognises what it must do without having to be repeatedly told.

One can only assume that there is a finite life to software, as there is to horses.

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Like Peas In A Pod - With Fuji

Are all mirror-less cameras the same? Are the systems really identical - like peas in a pod? Can you buy one camera and use other lenses? Should you get a body here and the accessories there? How many forums should you read at any one time before your brain explodes?

To give you a quick series of answers; no, no, yes, no, none.

There are at least 6 mirror-less systems that I can think of and only two of them share similar lens mounts. With a bit of a fiddle and two trombones you can adapt some of the other maker's lenses to some of the other maker's bodies but you always drop some of the maker's automatic features...and you frequently pick up optical distortions that make the whole thing an exercise in futility.

While I love to hook up unlikely combinations of optics and sensors - after all I work in a camera shop - I have come to the conclusion that in general you really should stick to the lenses on offer from the particular manufacturer of bodies you have chosen. The exception to this rule would be if  Zeiss offers a lens for your chosen lens mount. These are likely to be very good lenses indeed and you will be asked to trade many potatoes for them.

All the above leads to the subject of this post: the new Fujinon 10-20 lens for their X-mount cameras. Fujifilm are forging ahead with the APS-C sensor cameras - the new X-T1 being hot at present - and they needed to supply a wide angle zoom for the landscapers and interior shooters. The 10-24 will give the same angle of view as a 15-36 would on a full-frame camera, but with a fast autofocus or focus peaking on suitable bodies.

Note: The focus peaking really does work well for manual focus in a studio situation - it makes it easy to see in dim conditions when you are dead on for focus. It also costs a few potatoes but is well worth it.

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Friday, March 21, 2014

Get Outta Town With Panasonic Lumix GX-7

We sometimes poo poo the programs that major Japanese manufacturers put into their consumer-oriented cameras. You know - the miniature effect or the star filters or the forced HDR. Kid stuff, Mum and Dad concepts, nowhere near as sophisticated as we hot shot iconic international superstar mentor legends can be before breakfast. Poo. Poo.

Well, I have decided to keep my poo to myself in the future. I was given a Panasonic Lumix GX-7 camera to use for a recent trip to Japan - also courtesy of the Panasonic people. We went up on a Wednesday evening to the top of the Roppongi Hills Tower to see Tokyo at sunset. Fortunately it was clear - heavy weather set in the next day and the heading image shot would have been impossible.

The windows are big - wide and tall - and crowded with tourists looking to see that last flash of sun and the "blue moment" just as it sets. They are packed all along the windows of the observation deck. Fortunately they are small people and I am tall. And I have long arms. So it was easy to swing out the LCD screen from the back of the GX-7, angle it down, and raise it way high up over the rest of the shooters.

The camera was set on one of the special art settings - called "dramatic" or something like that. It was dead set easy to shoot and the picture you see here is just a jpeg straight out of the box. No big computer time. No colour changing by me.

Okay. Perfect setup and timing, luck of the draw. Good special program for this sort of thing. Whatever did it, I am happy  with the result and can readily recommend the camera to anyone. It was a delight to use.

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No Need To Be Koi About It - Use A Polariser

The Japanese fish in this picture are pretty contented. They live at the Asakusa Temple in Tokyo and are cared for in the ornamental pond - there are a number of signs warning people not to feed them, so I suspect they are sometimes too well cared for. No matter - they are spectacular and friendly. Perfect subjects for a picture.

Except when the skylight blocks out the surface of the water. Then you see whatever is bouncing off that surface. It is the same with shop windows and other shiny surfaces.

Answer is, and always has been, to use a polarising filter on your lens. The older types were known as linear polarisers and did a very good job of seeing down into water surfaces. The newer types are called circular polarisers and may be a little less effective in actually penetrating the surface, but do give a more accurate light meter reading. The Circ Pol's are the ones most often supplied for modern digital cameras.

We've got 'em from Kenko, Hoya, Promaster, and B+W. They are not as cheap as UV filters - never could be - but they are a pretty essential tool for landscape and marine photographers. Useful, too for correcting colours under trees in open sunshine - you can lose the blue fill from Western Australian skies. particularly recommended for bridal work in these circumstances.

Studio? Well there are times when you need to see into things and these can help. You can also use them with sheets of polarising film and studio lights if you are going to copy glossy or textured flat art work. a little more complex than just twirling it in front of the lens when you are out at the beach, but essential to capture the true colours of some canvases.

Note for newbies: Either put a UV on the lens or a Polariser. Not together. Too many glass surfaces, and sometimes you start to unscrew the UV when you think you are turning the Circ Pol.

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Thursday, March 20, 2014

Oh Oh....Here Comes Olympus - With Luke Thompson

Every so often Camera Electronic gets a hankering for a fun outing. We try to find one of the major equipment suppliers to go along with the idea and then we advertise it and see if the photographic public will get in on the game. We've been to zoos, race tracks, and country shows. Apparently yesterday we went to the skateboard park and then went mad.

That is the only conclusion I can draw from the set of images that Gavin Carvallho dropped on my desk. A few of them are shared here - the image of one of our senior management figures lying on his back on the ramp of the skateboard park while another person rockets over him on a board has to rank as one of the more unusual sights in recent years. We have the view of him from boot level, and also from under the jumper - Howard sat under there with an Olympus camera and a fish-eye lens. Nothing if not game, Howard...

The evening was organised by Olympus Australia and  helped along greatly by Luke Thompson, one of the experts of the sport. He is a former sales staff  member here at CE and a successful photographer and skate boarder in his own right. I cannot tell you whether he has broken anything over the years doing the jumps but I am willing to bet the odds for it. Nevertheless he knows the biz and knows how to capture it to the best advantage on  Olympus OM-D cameras - it would not be unrealistic to describe these cameras as perfect for this sort of light-weight and durable sport coverage. They are small enough to be easily handled in the flurry of activity and do not intrude. The files they generate are fully-professional.

Looks as thought the jumper did not hit Howard, and the other demonstrations down the ramp gave the assembled photographers some spectacular chances. Gavin noticed the edge of the ramp is reinforced and shaped with a steel edge. I was looking at that and calculating the sort of damage it would do to a set of teeth or cheekbones...hmm...perhaps I changed careers too soon. Money to be made there...

Note to photogrphers: Whenever Olympus need to really bring us the best advice about their products they sent Quent from the eastern states. If you need to know something, collar him at the next Olympus event - he won't steer you wrong.


A Thursday Night Party - And Friday Morning After

I was not here. Dang. I wish I could have been here. But then I was there
where I wanted to be anyway...

Last Thursday evening saw a promotional night here at Camera Electronic for the Fujifilm X-T1 camera. This is the new flagship camera for Fujifilm that uses the X-series sensor and combines it with a top-quality professional system body.

As is the wont round here, there was food, drink, new cameras, and a guest speaker - Megan Lewis. I note that she has a wonderful eye for people capture as she has left one of her hard-bound books here; "Conversations With the Mob". She photographs widely in the indigenous community.

The Fujifilm night also featured bargains on cameras and lenses - Saul has saved me a flyer of the offers that were available on the night - and I have had a chance to compare it to the Fujifilm price I saw at a camera store in the Ginza last Friday morning. The heading image is the window shot I took, though I suspect that this was considered bad manners in Japan - certainly another store along the street had some nasty little signs scolding English-readers for attempting to record the prices.

This seemed a little harsh to me - people here ask prices all the time and then dive into their mobile phones to try to find a cheaper price to wave in our faces. We accept it philosophically. At least they are waving the phones at us instead of breaking off the conversation every three minutes to discuss the noodles in the food hall...

But back to the prices in Japan. Once I got back and looked at our specials and did the Yen conversion I realised that we were just as good value as Japan. And if you bought from us you got Fujifilm Australia backing up a legal warranty. I suspect this might very well be the case with other manufacturer's goods as well. The money and safety moral here is to shop locally.

I might also say that the camera stores and departments in Japan are fun and noisy, and in some cases as crowded as our floor, but sometimes they do not have any more stock than we do, and some of their stock looks decidedly...decidedly...well, let me just say that I know where the world breeding stock for really, really BAD camera straps is, and it takes a strong man to look on it without blenching. I had to sit down and ask for a glass of water.

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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Light Up My Life With LEDGO

As you can see in the picture of the Shinkansen pulling into Yamagata station last week, even the highest of tech needs a little light some time - particularly if it is going to slug it up through the snowy passes in the twilight. Those are pretty powerful lights. There are deer in the woods in the Japanese mountains and salarymen in the centre of Tokyo and they both leap onto the tracks...

You may never be confronted with the same problem at 250Km/h but in case you are, have you thought of attaching one of the LEDGO LED light panels to the top of your digital camera? They run off standard AA batteries and Sony rechargeable Li-ion batteries. Those aren't included in the kit, but they do supply a hot-shoe mount and a set of colour-corrected diffusion panels to cope with different forms of ambient light.

You can do video easily because they are silent and stills because they are really bright. The adjustable dimmer in the back will let you match the level of illumination to perfection.

Only $ 145 for single panels and they are in stock now.

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Monday, March 17, 2014

Baka Gain

I am home again, and not permanently damaged. There was a point on the flight via Japan Airlines when I wondered if I would be able to unfold myself and walk again but the crisis passed. The trip taught me a great deal:

1. I shall be tolerant of those who do not speak my language. They were of me, and we managed well.

2. Bad language, entitlement, impatience, and greed have no place on either side of the sales counter.

3. Karaoke is the name of a volcano that exploded in the 1880's...

4. There are only 6 Suzuki Swift motor cars in Japan. All the rest are in Australia.

5. Camera store prices in Japan are no cheaper than they are here.

6. You can screen print Hello Kitty on anything.

7. No fish-flavoured drink is ever good. Cocktail or smoothie, it is just wrong...

8. When in doubt, smile. When in trouble, run.

9. Piety does not equal holiness does not equal morality.

10. Beer vending machines in the street do not make for drunken public orgies. The potential for bad behaviour is in the purchaser, not the vendor.

11. Japanese dogs do not bark. They are too polite for that. They raise their eyebrows at you...

12. It is not necessary to duck under hotel door lintels in Japan, but ship's deckheads and hatch coamings are another matter.

13. Follow the tour guide with the flag, lantern, or fish. Follow your own tour guide.

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Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Quicker Shot For Slow - Moving Objects

I set my new Lumix GX-7...a gift from the Panasonic medium burst speed on the drive button today then carefully turned it off. I am sure it would do fine burst shooting, but I have never yet managed to get the stop-motion that I wanted with any automatic shooting with any camera. Even the studio monorail - a 4 x 5 Linhof is kept to individual shots. It just seems to capture the moment so much better than the dozens of images that a motor drive produces.

The resultant shots of the Asakusa Temple in Tokyo worked out very well, though you'll have to see what I mean when I get back. If I set the camera on single shot and manually preset the focus, it is lightning fast when it comes to capturing the stret scenes. In the case of today's shooting the temple did not move fast, nor did the statues of the Buddha, and as far as caring whether I was taking pictures...well every other local tourist was doing just the same. So no need for the silent mode.

The GX-7 is phenomenal when it comes to fast street work as it is configured to fit very snugly into the right hand and with the tilting LCD screen it is easy to grab a snapshot in any situation. It seems to be somewhat weather resistant as well, though I would not care to exercise it in a downpour. It survived a trip on Tokyo Bay in a floating restaurant at about 15 kits with a quartering sea. Close to the dumbest use of either a boat or a digestive system that I have ever heard of...

Tomorrow we try it at the art museum!

Uncle Dick


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Warm Welcome In A Cold Climate

I came from Canada so I know snow. In Western Australia I have succeeded in avoiding it, but here in Japan it is still running rampant north of Tokyo. Today's visit to Yamagata was done though a pretty good covering of it, and I take my hat off to the the technicians working in the Panasonic lens factory up there for keeping on moulding lenses and barrel assemblies despite it.

The next time a customer comes in telling me their lens isn't sharp I am going to throw them out the door. The technical and the production workers who staff Yamagata go to enormous lengths to produce perfect products and have enough checks and balances to make sure it happens.

They are also human beings who have company break rooms, notice boards, and a company photo contest going at present amongst plant employees that proves they are either wonderful or terrible photographers. I've seen the prints!

Uncle Dick


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

More Than Meets The Eye

If you are looking for pictures this week, you'll just have to be patient. The picture library that is easy to access down at work doesn't open from an iPad in Tokyo. They are good pictures, and I'll be boring the pants off you with them soon enough.

I was a little concerned at the plan for this morning when we were shown through the Panasonic Centre here in Tokyo. They said it wouldn't cover cameras and wasn't that why we are here? Well it turns out there is a great deal more that Panasonic want us to know about their company and the company plans, past Lumix cameras.

Not surprisingly, Panasonic are into the electricity game big. And from the looks of the transmission lines and massive display of light in this town, they are not alone. What makes them unique is that they have decided to become the world leader in energy conservation and CO2 reduction. They have more than just plans - they have built an entire smarter town that is due to start up next month with the goal of saving, generating, and storing the electricity far better than now. They are selling complete systems to new - home buyers that make and store the stuff and supply it even in the case of natural disasters. Japan has a number of these, though at least they have been spared federal politicians from Canberra.

We got sort of an Intourist lecture but we also got to see some pretty cool stuff. Vacuum insulating packs that are 1/4 the thickness of conventional foam insulation. 4K television screens and 4K laptop displays that are tough enough for a construction site. Houses that turn lights on where you move and when the light dims - indeed they can supply smart lights for councils to turn on and accompany walkers after dark.

Not every post is a winner. There was a TV screen untended to be attached over the top of a bed to provide an artificial skylight that looked like you,d either get seasick watching it or it would fall down on your nose. Likewise the Eco-car that you are supposed to be able to bring right inside your house because it has an electric motor and lithium-ion batteries. Yeah, right, and I'll have a white shag-pile rug under it...

Good tour, however, and they look to be serious about cleaning up the act, so good on them. Tomorrow we go to the lens factory on the Bullet Train way up-country. I'll keep you posted.

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Okay, it's a sacred mountain. A sacred volcanic mountain. That means full of lava,right. That means heat, right? So why is it so cold...

The roller coaster theme park was nice if you wanted to wait three hours in a line of Japanese teenagers for the chance to lose lunch. I opted for a warm cafe.

Japanese trains are clean and fast. And you get some funny expressions when you strap-hang on the top bar...

And then there was the cabaret nightclub with the giant Boeing B-29 that flew over for the finale above the dancing girls. Folks, I can't make this stuff up. I really can't.

Uncle Dick

Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Busman's Holiday

I am typing this blog from a room in the Grand Prince Hotel, New Takanawa. Which seems to be located in Tokyo. I am not on the run from the law - the kind people in the Panasonic company ran a sales contest for the Panasonic Lumix GX 7 camera and have brought 40 Australian camera salespersons on a trip round Japan for a week.

I cannot give a real opinion about Tokyo because we arrived at sunset and the trip from the airport to the restaurant and hotel was made in the dark on a crowded road. I must say, for an airport freeway, it ran remarkably smoothly. There is a trip to Fujiyama tomorrow on a bus so I'll be able to comment more on what I see? Suffice it to say you won't get around with a Tom Tom and a UBD here - the streets are well, made but totally confusing. there are plenty of English signs to help and the people are friendly, but do not lose the tour guide.

As part of this trip, I was presented with a new Panasonic GX 7 camera and a 20mm lens -and a memory card which I will fill up pronto. I sneaked a charge of electricity from and obliging power socket at Sydney airport in the passenger lounge and was able to get a few pictures straight away. The Panasonic is impressive in the iA mode with an ISO limiter put on it - I was able to point and shoot jpegs that look as good as anything I do when deliberately working. I'm bringing them up on an iPad to see what they look like big, but keeping the card filled to download at home. I'm only away for a week so I can just fill cards.

The choice of the 20mm was deliberate. The camera is a good ergonomic package as is but the short lens mount makes it just that more convenient for travel. Okay, I can't get close ups teleshots of Fujiyama but there are likely to be some good wide views out near the place.

And one final cheer of support for the designers of the charger power supplies- the things run on 110 - 240 volts these days and as long as you have a travel adapter to physically get into the socket here or in Europe, you can get power. The dear old dead days of Western Australia power that ran 210 to 270 volts whenever it decided to take a holiday...meant that when we brought things in from the US or Japan there was always a chance that we could have an electrical explosion when we in cautiously plugged them in. I saw items purchased in Aden that the seller assured the migrant were perfectly adapted to Australian current. Yeah, long as the Australian current was 12v DC...Kerboom.


Friday, March 7, 2014

Oh, Here. Look.

No sense describing an exclusive design product when We have cameras and the internet. here's some fast shots of the new Leica 100-year anniversary camera and the G-Star Raw camera as well as just a few of the colour examples for the binoculars and the X-2 cameras.

There are more in the sample swatches.

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Whole Lotta Leica Goin' On

No post from me yesterday because we were busy preparing the shop for and important event - the official opening of our new Leica boutique shop-within-a-shop.

In case that sounds complicated, it really means that we have a dedicated Leica section here at the front of the shop that has been designed and manufactured by Leica to showcase their product. Now we have a lot more of their products here with us right now and can service the needs of the Leica enthusiast and professional with real style.

Style is a lot of it - we saw the new 100th-year anniversary camera introduced here last night and a wonderful range of colour-coordinated Leica cameras and binocular sets. The former has a special logo engraved onto the Leica D-Lux 6 and a silver lens assembly while the latter are yellow, blue, beige, name it and if Leica can catch it and skin it they can likely cover your camera with it.

The other fashion device is the G-Star Raw camera - again derived from the Leica D-Lux 6 body but with an entirely different covering and body colour. It has a very cool bag included as part of the assemblage.

There was German sausage and beer, German sparkling wine, German cider, and a very pretty blonde model for the photographers to test the cameras out on. There were speeches from the Camera Electronic and Leica managers. The new 100-yeqr camera was announced and shown, and the national manager for Leica was able to remind us of some of the most iconic images of the twentieth century that were taken with Leicas.

Side note: If you once thought that Leica was sort of a staid old-guy's toy sold by staid old guys, you can put that thought firmly out of your mind. The company here in Australia and in Germany is running young and thinking young. Big things coming. When they come, they'll come here to our red and black boutique!

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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

I Pressed The Print Button, But Why Does It Look Like That?

It looks like that for any number of reasons:

a. It is an autochrome. Made up of dyed grains of starch bound onto a glass plate. With an autochrome any image is a good image and if it has survived the last 100 years without cracking or fungus you have a museum piece.

b. Your print heads are clogged. Run a nozzle check on your epson printer. if the little pattern of checking squares has missing segments, run a head clean cycle. Check again and repeat if necessary. Eventually you will have a full checking pattern and a clean print.

c. You have got a massive imbalance between what you see on your computer screen and what your printer is being instructed to do. Have you calibrated the monitor screen lately? if not, try one of the Datacolor Spyder range of monitor calibrators. Do it regularly.

d. Is your printer confused as to who is in control? Have you given it double instructions with your image programming fighting with the in-built printer control. Choose one. Turn the other off.

e. Is your printer aware what sort of paper you've dropped in it?  You could probably print on sultana bread toast if you set the printer head high enough, but would it make a baby portrait look good? Be sensible with your paper choice and load the appropriate profile into the printer before you start. If in doubt, stick to the manufacturer's own paper.

f. It's your eyes. Visine in each one and a night's sleep. If your image in the mirror in the morning looks as bad as the print, see your opthalmic specialist. If he looks as bad as the print, you may have to be content with life as it is.

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Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Famous Wildlife Photographer To Visit Perth

In May of this year photographers in Perth, Melbourne, and Sydney will get an opportunity to hear one of the most diverse and celebrated natural history photographers in South Africa.

Shem Compion owns South Africa's premier photographic safari company, and has been succeeding in this difficult field for over 15 years. He's published 5 best-seller books and is working on more right now.

This is a chance to get real expertise from a leader in the field. He is to come to Australia associated with Iconic Images International. There is more information available on the web, so Goggle up Iconic Images International and follow on to their site. I believe they even have a short film available for this.

If you would love to try a photo safari you cannot be in better hands than Mr. Glennon.

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Big Boxes O Bargains This Week With Ilford Paper

Those of you, and us, who use Ilford Galerie Smooth Pearl paper for a standard image carrier will be gratified by the March Madness Sale that is going on this week here at the shop.

In addition to big discounts on cameras, lenses and equipment, we have dropped the Ilford Galerie Smooth Pearl paper considerably. Thus:

A4................ 1oo-sheet box........................................$ 59

A3+.............. 25 +10 sheet box..................................$ 47

A2.................25 sheet box...........................................$ 82

This is a super-cheap way to get good printing paper. Already the boxes are flying out the door and this is just the first day.

Please note that while we call it the March Madness Sale we ain't going to be crazy for the entire month. Sanity will prevail after this coming Saturday, so get in THIS WEEK if you hope to score a bargain.

After Saturday we will chew through the straps and escape.

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X-E2 - Picking The First Fruit

It has recently fallen to my lot to possess a Fuji mirror-less camera. It is not the first camera of this brand for me - I also use a Fuji X-10 and a Fuji X-100 - but it is the first one that has an interchangeable lens.

It features the new X-trans sensor, and the literature promises great things in terms of resolution and freedom from distortions. I ventured out yesterday to test the camera and to compare it to the others.

At the start, I have to say that the images were taken on jpeg rather than a RAW setting. My current operating system does not support an update of the Photoshop Elements to decode this new RAW. Nor does my Aperture program - but I am not too worried, since I know that the jpegs that come from the Fuji X series are nearly long as i do my job and get the exposure right.

Of course if the scenes I take are evenly and brightly lit I can just trust to the matrix metering in the camera to deliver the right settings. Putting the shutter speed and the aperture ring on "A" and just letting them get on with it is totally successful. But I'm a awkward soul - I deal with subjects that are brightly coloured, reflective, and parked in appalling light. Cars are fun, but the lighting isn't.

To defeat this problem, I use a rig made of a Nikon Sb 700 flash, a flash bracket, and whatever camera system i have at the time. Sometimes it has been big film cameras, sometimes big DSLR cameras, and sometimes a small Fuji. The flash on the fuji bodies can be switched to command an external flash and I just dial up the power I want on the SB 700. I also run an outboard SB 700 on a small Manfrotto stand.

Yesterday's cars were veteran and vintage - a majority of which have solid colour paint schemes. This is good - metallic paints can be a pain to photograph as they send back troublesome hot spots from flash. I set the X-E2 to the bog standard settings and blazed away. You cannot say to start with what custom settings might be necessary for each new camera in each category of subject, so it is better to start from a central point.

In the event, I think I will dial down the saturation for car shows in the future - the dull-coloured cars are helped, but if the owner has decided to paint his Maxwell red the result can be a little Mexican...This will also apply to belly dance and Bollywood shows as the dress designers generally turn their colour control to "9" and throw the knob away to begin with.

I noted that there was little need to invoke unsharp masking for the images from the X-E2 in Photoshop. the jpegs seemed as sharp as needed straight up. Indeed there was very little PShopping done to the whole shoot - as long as I dialled the SB 700 anywhere near the correct fill ratio the results were ready to crop and save.

I will experiment next with the X-E2 at a belly dance hafla in April. You get to see the results so make sure you are over 18!

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Camera Electronic