Friday, January 30, 2015

The Industrial Spy On Holiday

Okay, that's a bit dramatic. I'm not an industrial spy as such. I'm a guy who works in a camera shop who goes to other people's camera shops when I am on holiday in Melbourne. Not so much evil as sad...

I do it for several reasons; to see what their trade is like, to see if they have access to equipment that we don't, and to wait inside out of the rain until the pub opens. Occasionally I purchase some token to see if their POS system throws out sparks and vile language like ours does. In case you are wondering, in some cases, yes it does.

It is not always the camera shops - I do haunt book stores and hobby shops and keep an eye on the mechanics of trade there as well. I noted last week that one hobby store is just converting over to the POS computer program we left two years ago. Prior to that they apparently used and abacus and a bag of beans to do the accounting. I should be nervous about the abacus but I envy them that sack of beans.

Some of our competitors have the same windows we had a decade ago - and the sort of window that you see in shops on the Ginza; crowded, dark, and confused. Even the premium brands are accorded little respect in this sort of setting. I am happy to say that the corporate designers who helped us to a better display have done us a service.

Mind you, some of the competitors devote too much or too little space to things that we know do or don't move. This is as much a legacy of what their premises once were as anything - They are probably always scheming to streamline things, much as we are - but there is only so much re-arranging you can do. As an aid to moving stock I have always advocated setting up a Roman catapult in the back car park and lobbing cameras and lenses at passers-by but I find the management here to be strangely conservative...

I note that most of the camera shops have gone out of books - either realising that art and photography bookselling is a difficult enough task when you are a specialist store or finding that the information goes out of date too fast. Knowledge and talent doesn't age but printed camera books can only pursue the internet forums at a run.

Fortunately the pressure of innovation has not extended to Young and Jacksons. Same old place, same old product, same old picture.

Uncle Dick

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Pot 'O Gold - The End Of The Rainbow Here In Stirling Street

Faith and Begorrah! The Little People have visited us...and left us piles of gold!

These are far more valuable than ordinary piles, and not nearly as itchy. These are piles of lenses, teleconverters, 35mm film cameras, and flashes made by Sigma and Pentax.

If you have ever sat worried about your inability to purchase a 1.4 X AF teleconverter for the Pentax system you can put your fears to rest - we have made adequate provision for you and your children and, quite possibly, your children's children. If the pile of Sigma 1.4 x teleconverters that we have in the special bin here shifts sideways and engulfs the customers we are going to need FESA and we'll all be in the national news. In short...we have teleconverters...

We have them cheap. Like all the other items in the Pot 'O Gold Sale they are $39 apiece.

I note in one of the bins that there are Pentax-branded lenses, as well as the Sigma ones. There are lots for Pentax mount, some for Minolta and Canon and one for Nikon.

There is a whole separate bin for Sigma cameras and Sigma-mount lenses. All new, but older stock. Students can pick up real bargains here.

Note: There is also a vast pile of soft cases for 35mm cameras that would suit most mirror-less cameras. These cases are $ 5 each.

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Thursday, January 29, 2015

Another Month, Another Cash Back Bonanza From Nikon

If you didn't buy a barrow-load of Nikon lenses before Christmas, now is the time to wheel on in. The money part is good.

Nikon is extending the idea of cash back until the end of this month on the following cameras and lenses:

1. Nikon D3300........................................Cashback of $ 50
2. Nikon D5200.......................................Cashback of $ 100
3. Nikon D610..........................................Cashback of $ 100
4. Nikon 1 AW1.......................................Cashback of $ 100
5. Nikon AF-S 14-24 lens.......................Cashback of $ 150
6. Nikon AF-S 24-70 lens......................Cashback of $ 150
7. Nikon AF-S 70-200 2.8 lens..............Cashback of $ 150
8. Nikon AF-S 80-400 lens...................Cashback of $ 200
9. Nikon AF-S 200-400 lens.................Cashback of $ 500
10. Nikon AF-S 35 1.4G lens..................Cashback of $ 100
11. Nikon AF-S 58 1.4G lens..................Cashback of $ 150
12. Nikon AF-S 85 1,4G lens..................Cashback of $ 100

That's a pretty good clean dozen products to offer, and as always these are pure Nikon Australia stock - you get all the benefits of dealing with the correct official importer.

The Nikon notice for this offer said that it goes from now until the 28th of February. You buy from us and claim through their on-line facility and it all goes swimmingly.

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Go Away With Adam Monk...And Come Back Again

What do Cambodia, Bhutan, and Iceland have in common - apart from really bad songs in the Eurovision Song Contest? They have Adam Monk.

Well, they have him, and a dedicated band of photography tourists taking an insanely large number of images as they tour the various areas. All under the aegis of Adam who can make sure that they do not go wrong - and that the images they bring back will have a proper professional quality.

Photo tours are not a new thing - Francis Frith was taking pictures in Egypt in the middle of the 19th century, and photojournalists are always going somewhere and trying to get to the center of a riot ...without being beaten up.

Fortunately, we can assure you that no-one gets beaten up on an Adam Monk tour. Cold and hot, yes...wet, yes...bug-bitten,yes, but that's about as far as it goes. And the places you go and the sights you see are ample compensation - you get to do the photos you always dreamed of with the sort of professional help that you've always needed.

The Cambodia tour is in July.

Iceland in August.

And Bhutan in November.

Contact Adam on  and discuss which one you'd like to go on. Or go on all three and fill your hard drive.

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Back In the Saddle With Mathias Heng

Looks like we get a good day on the 7th of February - one of our favourite Leica photographers will be visiting the Shoot Photography Workshop and conducting a workshop.

The 7th of February is a Saturday and the workshop runs between 10:00 AM and 4:00 PM. Cost of attending is $ 299 - there will be light refreshments and lunch included in that price. The workshop will be limited in numbers so if you are a Leica fan, get your booking in now.

Mathias will be showing some of his recent work from Japan and discussing his methods of using the Leica M system. Of course, it is not all just sit and listen...after lunch Mathias will be taking participants on a photographic assignment from 1:00 to 3:00.

All you need is any Leica M camera and one lens. If you don't have these, please notify Camera Electronic staff on registration and they will provide a kit. And if you are an attendee, there will also be special prices for lots of components of the Leica M system. Good chance for good value.

One final thought - the day before - the 6th of February - Mathias will be here to sign copies of his new book: FINDING HOPE. He'll be here between 5:30 and 6:30 for that so if you'd like to attend, give us a ring here at the shop.

In any case, contact us here for the main workshop and we'll make sure you get on board.        

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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Some Flashy Deals With Elinchrom

I love writing advertising copy for this place. I get to use all the corny old tabloid headlines as they are appropriate to the products advertised. As yet, I have not been able to incorporate WAR ENDS! in 100-point black bold at the top of the sheet, but I am still hopeful...

Coming away from that, here's good news for anyone contemplating some studio or portable flash to give them a little more oomph than speedlights...Elinchrom has a series of deals for January and February that will put money back in you pocket and new gear in your hands.

We've just gotten the tear sheet for the following:

1. Purchase any Ranger Quadra Lithium-ion 2-head set and get a $ 500 cashback from Elinchrom.

2. Purchase any Ranger Quadra Lithium -ion 1-head set and get $ 300 cashback from Elinchrom.

3. Purchase a bundle offer with ELC 500 or 1000 set and get a free 44cm beauty dish with dedicated grid.

4. Purchase a bundle offer with the D-Lite RX 4 To Go set and get a free Spyder 4 Pro.

5. Purchase a bundle offer with the D-Lite RX 4 To Go set and get a free SpyderCheckr 24 and a SpyderLensCal.

6. Purchase a bundle offer with the D-Lite RX One To Go 3-head set and get a free Spyder 4 Pro.

7. Purchase a bundle offer with the D-Lite RX One To Go 3-head set and get a free SpyderCheckr 24 and SpyderLensCal.

8. Purchase a bundle offer with the BRX 500/500 To Go set and get a free Spyder 4 pro.

9. Purchase a bundle offer with the BRX 500/500 To Go set and get a free SpyderCheckr 24 and a SpyderLensCal.

All of these things work good in themselves and the combinations of them is even better. Hop in for your chop.

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Monday, January 19, 2015

No Flash Permitted

Every photographer's had that awkward moment when someone comes up to you just before you start a job and announces that there will be no flash. This is no problem if you are going to shoot a car show in the Swan Valley at midday - see previous blog post  - because you WILL have light. But bob down the road to St. Grubby's church in the park and get told that you'll have no flash and windows the size of postage stamps...and here comes the the bride...

The  church problem was solved by having the bride's mother savage the vicar, but one cannot always enjoy oneself like this - sometimes we have to suck it up and put away the flash.

Case in point was a dance show this weekend - the big school theatre where it was held had stage lighting, but it was way up in the rafters. Some additional towers were put on the stage - but again these were modest output. The lighting equation would have been pretty well unsolvable had I been using regular sorts of films or regular sorts of digital camera. Dancers move fast and you can't do long exposures.

Fortunately I found out last show that the Fujifilm X-E2 could go to 3200 ISO without coughing - and this time it went to 6400 with acceptable shadows -and a DR of 400%.
As well, the Auto white balance nailed the mixed stage lighting very well - as soon as it went through Aperture 3 or Lightroom all the jpeg files fell in place.

I noted that this does not seem to be the case with other images posted from audience members - they have been forced into some pretty grim colour. Presumably the results are from smaller compact cameras or older digitals that don't quite have the newer circuitry or capabilities.

I reflected at the time that Nikon pro users would have been as well or better served in the same circumstance - the low-light capabilities of the D3, 3s, 4, Df, and D750 are justly lauded. 'Course they would have been hauling heavier iron than I was and that does make a difference if you're holding it for 3 hours or are lazy...

So the conclusion is, get Fujifilm, or Nikon, or plead for permission to use flash. Or bring the bride's mother...

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Kodachrome III At The Car Show

Those of you who are feeling the chill of winter settling into your bones would be well advised to visit the Swan Valley on any Sunday in January. The open areas, the reflective grass, and he lack of wind will serve to concentrate the heat for you. Should you be out in the direct rays of the sun at 12:00 you will get the full benefit. As it was, yesterday the mad dogs and the Englishmen were sitting in the shade with cold drinks while the rest of us - the car enthusiasts - strode manfully round the paddocks and fried.

In my case it was all science - I was trying out the new Classic Chrome jpeg setting in my Fujifilm X-E2 camera and seeing if I could get the camera and the Fujifilm EF 42 flash to adequately cope with the contrast glare. Those of you who follow this  shop blog or my own " Here All Week" blog at will know that the Fujifilm X-100 cameras and the EF 42 flash are well able to do the mid-day shoots, but this time it was the turn of the X-E2.

The Classic Chrome was a gift from Fujifilm in a Cristmas-time firmware upgrade. Together with interval shooting and control from my iPad ( Which works quite well.) it is an addition to the insides that you can put in yourself.

Classic Chrome? Well, they already have some film-simulation settings in all their cameras that replicate Fujifilm transparency films pretty well - Provia, Velvia, and Astia are in there if you look for them. I don't think they are going to say the K word for legal reasons, but quite frankly that is the look that is coming out of this setting - and I am prepared to cheer them on.

I have decades of Kodachrome and Ektachrome slides in my library - as well as Ansco, Ward, Sears, Agfa, Ferrania, and Perutz films. Some started out well but have gone all manky - the Agfa are worst for fugitive dies. Some started out horrible and have stayed that way - Ansco and Ferrania come to mind. Some have started out well and remain so to this day - The Kodachrome slides are still colourful and accurate. Surprisingly, so are the cheapies I got from Montgomery Ward in the 1960's - Pure luck, I suppose.

Point is, I have direct examples to compare the new files to. I think that Fujifilm have done us a signal service in this upgrade as it means that we can recreate the 60's look digitally.

I am not saying it is the most accurate look at colour - it never was. It deals with contrast differently than standard digital outputs. Colours can be muted in some segments of the spectrum, and intense in others. Shadows can be well handled but some highlights can blow - well, that is what what Kodachrome did and what everything does in the Swan Valley on a summer Sunday. No cloud + white car tops + chrome bumpers = blowout. Boom. If you want to avoid this bring your own cumulo nimbus and park it over Midland.

Into retro? Try Classic Chrome. I love it - I love it a lot.

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Friday, January 16, 2015

The Bigger Spoon - A Tale Of Autofocus with Fujifilm X-E2

One of the interesting things you can do with some modern mirror-less cameras is change the size of the AF area to suit the subject you are dealing with.

On my Fujifilm X-E2 I can press the AF button to display the little green AF rectangle and then steer it around with the multi-controller buttons  - much like Pentax, Nikon, and Canon users can do with their respective systems. Good to do if your subject is not dead-centre.

What you can also do is press and twirl the little control thumb wheel just above the multi-controller and watch the green AF rectangle get bigger and smaller - it is selecting more of the sensor to use as the AF measuring pad as you do this.

Why do this? Well, if you have a subject that has intense contrast and detail, you can use the smallest size of rectangle and get sharp focus...but if your subject is dimly lit or lacking in contrast you would be waiting a long time for this small rectangle to work.

Push, twirl, and make it bigger. The camera will have more information coming into the focusing circuit and will lock onto focus faster and better.

The bigger spoon in the title is just this - if you go to dinner with a bigger spoon, you get more stew. Grab the AF info with a bigger box and you get more stew...

Can you tell this post is being written close to lunchtime?

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The Death Star And The Wookie - The Revenge Of The Røde

When we saw the wind screens for the new Røde Stereo VideoMic X we were transported to a galaxie far away...

This is seriously stylish sound gear for serious video enthusiasts.

The microphone shoes onto the top of DSLRs or video rigs and locks solid with a milled ring. No wobble or flop on the main metal body of the device - the decoupling elements are with the two condenser capsules in the X/Y orientation. Needless to say, these are carefully -matched and they run out to balanced XLR outputs.

Okay, it is broadcast quality. And as sturdily and precisely-built as a gun breech. It will last  - probably better than the camera it is attached to - and it is definitely tougher than most video makers I have seen.

There are attenuation and curve settings by switch on the back panel. And the Røde designers have made their greatest improvement ever - they have made the battery door easy to pen and close. Don't laugh -'twas not always so...

This microphone has a Red Dot award for 2014 and  Good Design award.

It would be equally welcome in the Empire and among the Jedi.

PS: Please don't send the lawyers after me. Mr. Lucas. I have paid to see all your films.

Uncle Dick

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Getting A Good Signal - Flash Triggers For Right Now

I'm proud to say that I was using a radio-link flash trigger in my studio 20 years ago. Prior to that I was using a black cable strung between the Elinchrom lights and the camera stand - I was using it to clothesline myself in the dark.

I never managed to pull over an entire light or camera stand with this but I did manage to wrench a PC socket loose from a DSLR. There was language...

The radio link I purchased to prevent this sort of thing happening is fairly big and crude. It takes two different sets of batteries and is large enough to obscure the shutter speed dial of my mirror-less camera when plugged onto the hot shoe. Last Sunday it served me notice that the time had come to think of a new one. The sequence of events was interesting - see if this sort of thing happens to you - you might be in the same boat as I.

Shooting away... after about 15 minutes, the shutter fired but the flash didn't. The open flash button on the radio sender lit up but nothing else happened. Then it would come good for a couple of shots.

Then one shot came along had a perfectly exposed top with a dark black bottom, and the following shot had even more dark further up the frame. Finally one frame was entirely black, even though the flash had fired...

At this point of time I had to wonder if the camera synch had packed up. I wound back the shutter speed to 1/4 second, fired, and got good exposure. Advancing up the shutter speeds toward the nominal top synch speed of 1/180 sec was fine until I got to 1/180 - the blackness crept back... to a different extent.

Out with the hot-shoe block and the dreaded old wire synch cord. Everything synched perfectly from 1 sec on up to 1/180 sec as per normal. The conclusion I drew is that the twenty-year old radio trigger set is developing intermittent flaws in both timing and contact. It is time to look at a Pocketwizard, Promaster, Hahnel, or Elinchrom radio trigger set. They work pretty well, and are a darn sight smaller than the current devices.

I don't think I could face the PC cord again. Not with my face...

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Firmware Updating For Fun And Profit

I am fortunate in using cameras from a manufacturer that takes care of their customers well past the point of sale.

Every year or so, Fujifilm announce improvements to their operating systems or specifications - some of these become the salient features of fresh cameras and lenses. New customers stream into the shop, purchase the equipment, and go out and have fun.

The wonderful thing for me is not the new gear, but the fact that Fujifilm issue some of those same improvements for equipment that has been in the hands of the users for several years. I benefit greatly from this - I use an X-10, and X-100, and an X-E2 that have each had several firmware upgrades and each of them is a better camera for it.

Last night I pulled the new upgrade for the X-E2 body off the Fujifilm site on the internet, loaded it into an SD card, and let the camera do the internal computer magic for 90 seconds. I now have their new Classic Chrome mode for jpeg photos and an interval timer release inside the camera. And I can do better AF/MF switching on some lenses. All for free - absolutely free.

In the past I have sped up  and reconfigured the other cameras with their own updates and again ended up with better cameras.

The cynical amongst you might say that whatever I am doing should have been done originally in the factory but that does not take into account the idea of finding minor faults and correcting them before they become major ones - a process that is of great benefit. Indeed, had this been done the HIRYU might still be afloat...

Apart from that, it does not take into account the development of entirely new features and their refitting - the Classic Chrome for instance. Again, to take a naval analogy, think of the air search radar sets available in 1940 and in 1945...

Users of other brands may or may not be served as well as I have been - in any case they would be well advised to look up the websites of their respective manufacturers and search specifically for firmware upgrades for their model camera. Many of these do exist, and nearly all of them can make the cameras better, if correctly applied.

Folks, if the Old Film Guy can do this - so can you.

PS: One caveat: There is nothing that makes you feel better than coming into the shop and spending money on a complete new camera system with all the lenses, flashes, and accessories. We have cash registers ready...

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Thursday, January 15, 2015

It Never Happened - But We Were Absolutely Prepared Anyway

As the owner of a perfectly good set of digital cameras and lenses ( Fujifilm, as it happens.)
it might seem foolish of me to complain of what might have been in other times. Let's face it, when the photography world rolled round from silvered plates to glass sheets to flexible films to little weeny electric sensors there were a lot of things that could have happened, but didn't.

The two I mourn were the film cassette-shaped digital converter that was promised and the cheap 4" x 5" digital sensor.

The first came out as a mock-up and set of promises at an America photo and electronics show and got into the American photo press at the time. Apparently it was going to allow us to make digital cameras out of our 35mm film cameras. It sank without a trace and none of the lifeboats have yet washed up on shore. Our senior technician has assured me it would never have worked but that is little comfort - I WANTED it to work.

The promise of a cheap digital sensor for the 4" x 5" studio camera was also mooted at the time. We were told that things were set to become cheaper all the time in an exponential curve and that oriental manufacturers would ride in with a $ 25 sensor back for the Linhof and we would get 5000 megabyte files for free...Yeah, that happened big time. Let me show you the unicorn  pictures I took with the free plastic prototype that came in the Wheaties packet...

It is no different in the car world. That automatic plastic road that had the jet car with the bubble top in which I was scheduled to zoom to work while playing cards seems to have been mysteriously delayed - I do manage with a Suzuki Swift on Berwick Street and I pass my time dodging cyclists and wandering pedestrians.

I think the debt of gratitude that I owe to the advertisers of future marvels is starting to accumulate interest...

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Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Big Bag - Little Bag - Lowepro Bag

This post is addressed to the Asterix and Obelix camera users...the photographers who are going to carry next to nothing or nearly everything.

I make no judgments - I have been in both categories in my time and benefitted and suffered in equal amounts. Some shoots needed one shot with one camera and some needed five hundred with five. The trick was to predict which scenario would play out and  provide myself with the gear appropriate to the occasion.

The big ones seen here will suit the pro or am going out with a number of bodies, a number of lenses, and a number of accessories. The backpacks are proof against the vilest of weather and the roll-around can resist many, if not all, indignities in the cargo hold of an aircraft. They mean that whoever has hauled them to the job will have a studio-worth of choice to work with.

There is a price to pay. They are big. Loaded with gear, they are heavy. Assess the condition of your back and knee joints before you go...because you'll know where they are after you come back...

The little bags are for compact cameras - in one instance for the tiniest pocket cameras and in the other case for the slightly larger style with bigger sensors that is becoming popular now.

You might wonder at the idea of a case for a pocket camera - surely a pocket is the place...well, pockets are full of lint, and keys, and coins, so you need a protector even there.

Can you do a good job with a small camera? You know you can - and the craftiest ones of you out there will know when to opt for just that level of gear. Just don't tell the client that you did it easily - they might begrudge your fee.

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Repainting The Shirley - Or Why You Need A Spyder Checkr 24

We're very lucky down here at 230 Stirling Street - someone built us a test target across the street years ago and we have been using it to compare and contrast cameras, lenses, and filters ever since.

It has a broad face of different coloured panels and thin lines placed both in the center and at the margins - you can determine resolution, distortion, and chromatic aberration easily. It is front-lit in the morning and back-lit in the afternoon.

Sometimes there are human figures displayed to enable you to check portrait bokeh - and occasionally a drunk starts kicking in the phone box in front of it so you can practise your street photography skills as well...

Well, we are going to have to recalibrate it - as you can see the painters are in and there may be changes to the reflectance and chroma of the surfaces. This may take some time, and in the interim we may have to resort to that Datacolor Spyder Checkr 24 targets to do the same thing.

Actually, the Checker 24 is a good thing to take everywhere you go when you shoot. Pop it into the lighting that you are going to use and snap a shot at the start of your photography. Then when you are done, snap another. At home, when you are looking at the files you can tell whether the lighting changed and whether you are going to have to make changes to the balance of the files somewhere in the middle.

The Checkr 24 is small enough that you can dump it into any camera bag - if it saves having a client howl that you did not get the red right, it is a lifesaver.

PS: Aren't the portable cherry-pickers a great idea for painters? I want one of the ones on crawler tracks and I don't even like to do painting!

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Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Fell Off The Back Of A School...Canon Bargain

If 12 people have got $99 and need pocket digital cameras they would be well advised to come in and see us this week.

We've got a small batch of Canon IXUS 145 cameras that were destined for a school order but it never eventuated. In black, as befits dignified scholastic instruments, they feature 16 megapixels and an 8X zoom lens.

There is a little on-board flash  and a 28mm -equivalent wide angle lens. Complete with battery, charger, little strap, and complete Canon warranty.

You'll have to buy a memory card for it, but these are also inexpensive - photography never got cheaper!

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The Darkened Theatre - A Viewfinder Debate Between OVF And EVF

At the risk of opening the valve on the geek tank and being inundated with internet expertise, I'll raise a question that presented itself recently.

 It was in a darkened theatre with some pretty exciting lighting on the stage. The occasion was a dance show and the organisers requested no flash photography.  Being restricted to the maximum aperture on my mirrorless-camera lenses wasn't too bad as I had a close view of the stage. The f:1.8 and f:2.8 lenses let in enough light with a high ISO.

The real problem came with framing the image - the camera body was a Fujifilm X-E2 . It has a very bright and detailed electronic view finder that seems to see deeper into the gloom than I can. Fine to use but one's eye becomes used to the bright image and then when you take it off to change setting on the camera or lens in the can't see zip...the dark adaptation has entirely gone.

Using the LCD screen would have been wrong as the glow of it would have disturbed other patrons.

In the end, I resorted to peering over the top of the X-E2's hot shoe, pointing in the general direction, and hoping for the best. It all worked out, but left the impression that it should have been done differently.

Perhaps the optical view finder of the Fujifilm X-Pro 1 would be a better answer - sure, it has illuminated frame lines within the OVF but these are bound to be less overpowering than the full bright EVF screen. And there is always the EVF on call with a touch of a lever.

I suspect that the X-Pro 1 might be the best professional answer - sort of a bright horse for a dark race...

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Rental Retro Revival - Two Nikon Gems In The Cabinet

I normally do not feature secondhand or ex-demo gear here on the blog....but this is different.

As you know, we cycle through rental equipment periodically at good prices, and with the full and correct warranties. Thus you can see some pretty good-looking Nikon and Canon gear at the front of the shop every so often. Now is one of the times.

The items that particularly caught my eye were the two Nikon Df camera bodies that have just been set out. The Df is the retro-styled full-frame body with the comfortable hand grip and full manual controls out in the places where they were during the film era. But the innards are pure Nikon digital, and cutting-edge too. You can customise the controls to operate  the way you want to and be sure of absolute resolution and noise handling. It's that good.

Do yourself a favour and come to look at them - best bargains so far for the year!

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Monday, January 12, 2015

Mirror-less Need Not Be Bag-less With Sirix

With the increased interest in mirrorless camera systems we have come across a problem here in the shop - some of the traditional camera bags are just wrong for them. Either made for DSLRs and too big or made for compact purse cameras and too small. and the shapes could be all wrong as well.

Well, we've got a new line in Sirix bags that may go some way to addressing this. They are labeled as a mirrorless snoot bag and a compact zoom case - but they really come down to day bags for a tourist to take a mirrorless camera, a spare card, and a battery.

As usual, there are straps and belt loops and a small rain cover buried in the design. They are padded, and well-made. And they are cheap - $ 22.95 and 24.95.

No excuse now for hauling your Olympus in an old handkerchief or relegating the new Panasonic to the toe of a footy sock. Show a little class - buy a bag.

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Curing The Group Portrait Blues - With DXO

We all love doing group portraits. Not.

Whether it is an undisciplined family group at a party, an overly-disciplined regimental portrait, or just wedding guests gathered around the wreckage, the shoot can be difficult to do, and the results patchy.

The family party is composed of people who will not obey - the relatives and children. They will be difficult to marshal into one area, will insist on changing places continuously to gain precedence, and will never ALL be looking in the same direction.

The regiment or ship's company CAN be compelled to sit or stand in order - correctly - and can be ordered to all look toward the camera with no-one making Indian feather fingers. But you won't be the one doing the ordering. For that you need the senior warrant officer. Contact him early on, do as he says, and he will deliver the goods.

The wedding group includes the bride and groom and their parents - who are paying you to be there. Put them in the center, expose so that they look good, and let their relatives fall as they may.

All this said, there is one problem if you have a large group to photograph that spreads wide in front of your lens - you will be forced by the geometry to use a wide-angle lens and that in turn will force you by the nature of optics to get distorted faces on the outer edges. Faces that started out round end up flattened like pumpkins. Grins become maniacal.

If you can get the group to curve round you like the horns of a buffalo, you can reduce this. If not, try getting one of the DxO Viewpoint 2 programs - you can plunk it into a number of Adobe photoshop programs - both regular CS. PSE, and LR, as well as Aperture 3.

It will perfectly correct the distorted faces at the edge of the frame without narrowing to ones in the middle. If you have jiggered up architectural shots it will straighten and correct the distortion. You'd be surprised just how much better this makes even studio shots when you are using extreme wides but have let you camera deviate from the horizontal ever so little...

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The Vintage Season Starts - With Fujifilm

We are just about to launch into the vintage car season with the Australian Day Vintage and Veteran display in Melbourne. This is held in the main park just over the Princes Bridge and is preceded by an all-cultures street parade from the Town hall. For those who attend, I can recommend the corner opposite Young and Jacksons for a good photo vantage point. Watch out for the band and colour party*, the Japanese dancing ladies, and the Indian Seniors.

The park will be full of cars, and the car owners will be full of information. If you ask a question, they will tell you far more than you need to know...but the vehicles are all pertinent to Australia and there is a history worth hearing about each one.

Food and drink is served, dancing and singing is going on, and there is very little of the boganage that clouds other venues. Everyone is having too much fun. The RAAF even saves it's fuel money for a year and sends an aerobatic team to fly over and do an Australia Day salute. Many of them make it back to the air base before they land...

If you would like to go to a car show here in WA, there are a number each year; Big Al's Poker Run, The WA Hot Rod show at the Showground, The Pingelly British Car Day, Oakover Retro show, Hot Summer Night, Gillam Drive, and no end of vintage iron out on show in Hyde Park at various times. The local enthusiasts are as dangerous as their Victorian counterparts - ask one question and you may never get away...but the cars are a delightful subject at any time.

Take a Fujifilm X-100 series camera and either a Fujifilm EF42 or a Nissin i40 flash. It will let you do perfect fill flash in any conditions. Take a floppy hat and suncream to allow you to work in the glare. Take a leather riding crop to whip the crowds back when they interfere with your view of the cars.

And send in some of your car pictures. They will always receive a favourable response from us.

* The ADF colour party and band is the one up the front with the national flag. The Falun Gong colour party and band are about 3/4 of the way along the parade with the jingling johnny. You'll love the swastika on the jingling  johnny...

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Friday, January 9, 2015

Sun Power Battery - Sirix

If you are a person who uses your tablet, mobile phone, or other modern communication device a lot, you will eventually run out of electricity and place to recharge it. Then you will either have to revert to smoke and drum signals or find some more juice.

Here's the answer - a solar-powered storage battery that can feed the volts out through normal and mini-USB ports. In from the sun, out to your phone - how cool is that!

Still won't pay for the credits on the phone and still won't protect you from the rexting pests, but at least you won't be out of touch.

The basic battery in there is a Li Polymer type that contains 5000mAh. It will let out 5VDC from the two USB ports at 1A. the solar charging is done at 5V and 200MA.

You get three cords and a carabiner with it. All in a rubber-coated brick. With an LED torch built-in.

Now you're even more independent on holiday.

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Thick and Thirsty with Permajet

Before you write in to complain that I have singled you out for abuse, let me say that having a pint of beer is perfectly alright with me. 3 or 4 are fine. I find that after the 8th one people get argumentative...The thirsty I was talking about was for printer ink.

As for thick, I meant of the 310 gsm weight of the latest Permajet paper that has gone through the Epson 3880 here at the shop. It was the Portrait Velvet 310 from a test pack. We needed a stiff substrate for a presentation certificate and this seemed to fill the bill.

Like all thicker papers, it does have a little curl inherent - I make sure that before it goes through an Epson I gently flatten it out at the corners with my fingers. It is not a fault in any of the paper - it is related to the temperature and humidity at the time.

I also make sure that I reset the platen gap on the printer - from "standard" to "wider". There is little, if any degradation of the resolution on the printed image, and the extra space makes sure that there will be no overstrike of the head.

The best place to run thicker papers into an Epson is the front feed tray. It has a straight path for the paper to go and does not impose any bend on it. You need to be sure that there is enough space behind he printer for it to run back into when it loads and the receival shelf fully extended at the front.

OK - that said, and the laptop telling the printer that you want to use the front tray, you can press the button. I did an out flowed perhaps the nicest matt-surfaced print that I have ever seen. No flaws on the surface and perfect colour.

One superb certificate in one print. No waste.


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Fongarein, Fongarehere, Fongaregood

All Hail The Mighty Fong!

This universal diffuser claps onto the font of any speed light flash to diffuse the light and fill it into the shadows of your picture.

No more Panda Eyes on your bridal portraits and no more couples caught like rabbits in the headlights at parties. Soft fill in that goes out to the edges of an interior - but doesn't burn out the main subject.

The new universal velcro strap secures it to any flash - I know because I just got up from the laptop right now to try it on a new Nissin i40 - and you have a far better fill than could be obtained with the little box diffusers.

We've got a stack of them in store right now.

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The Triumph Of The Will I Or Won't I...?

The Temptation was always there. Whenever it threatened to go away, I made sure it stayed, and provided new reasons to give in to It...

You know how it goes. I found a spare $ 1000 sitting in the back pocket of my jeans when I went to put them in the wash, along with the Coles voucher that saves 4¢ on petrol. Rather than wasting it on housing, groceries, or medicine, I decided to buy a new piece of photographic equipment. The only difficulty was deciding what to get.

Should it be a new camera or lens? A new tripod? A new monitor? A new printer? Or 250 monogrammed lens cloths? Oh the decisions, the decisions...

Would it be a good idea to put a down payment on something really, really expensive and then put the jeans back in the closet with a $ 50 bill in the back pocket as seed? Maybe more will grow.

      How about an overseas holiday to take award-winning iconic images of Kuta Beach.
Or a domestic trip to Margaret River to take award-winning iconic images of the underside of a table in a winery. Well, I was really torn now...

Then it came to me - I knew. I knew. Perfect. An action camera, a long bamboo pole from Bunnings, and a trip to the dunes out the back of Swanbourne Beach. The images might not be award-winning but By Golly they were iconic.

Uncle Dick

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Thursday, January 8, 2015

A Good Idea For Eyes With Hoodman

This is better than a poke with an eye with a burnt stick. 23.8 % better.

You don't want to know how we measured that was a painful process, I can tell you...

Nevertheless, these spectacle frames by Hoodman are the business for a number of eyeglass-users:

1. Photographers who use a bare eye in their viewfinder but do not wish to be continually removing their glasses as they shoot. they just rotate the lens upward out of the way while photographing and down afterwards.

2. Ditto those people who shoot rifles. The fore sight on a rifle can be a long way from the back sight and you can find that you need correction for the different accommodation powers of different eyes. Sometimes it seems almost impossible to see everything clearly and sometimes the view changes from month to month. These spectacle frames may help you to go from sight A to sight B very easily, but if you get older expect  something to be fuzzy somewhere...

3. if you are a model-maker who finds that you can do finer detail painting with your bare eye, but need to see the rest of the workbench with glasses, get a pair of these frames and repair to your optician. Your scale models will thank you.

4. Ditto the sewing lady and the stamp collector. The frames are very well finished and the crucial hinge is strong and precise. Select lighter plastic lenses from your optician if you want the most comfort.

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Well, Hush My Mouth With Beseler

Yes, it's real.

A Beseler Cadet II enlarger.

Yes, it's new, sealed in the box. Yes, you can do 35mm enlargements in your darkroom with it. If you buy it from us we'll give you a free set of Ilford Multigrade filters and an easel to use with it.

If this seems like a pretty retro advertisement for a store that is crammed full of digital cameras and accessories, bear in mind that there are still dedicated film workers out there and people who would like to experience the art as it once was.

No-one as yet has come in and asked for daguerreotype plates ready-made or a jug of mercury but we would not be the meantime consider turning your bathroom into a press darkroom. Your family will love you for it.

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A Proper Footing For Canon And Nikon

Don't be a slew-foot - be a screw foot. With Cullmann.

Okay, you've seen the big new lenses from Nikon and Canon that have substantial foot mountings under the balance points of the lenses. Wonderful idea - it lets you mount them onto substantial tripods and then get steady long-distance shots.

You've seen the new tripods from Cullmann - the Concept series. The 625 and 628 in particular will be of interest to the owners of the larger lenses. What they may wish to consider is an additional little purchase that can really improve the performance.

The removable plate you see on the left in this photo is the one that comes with the smaller Cullmann Concept tripods - the longer one on the right comes with the bigger units. If you get one of these to match your large lens, purchase one of the smaller ones at the same time. The model number is OXC 380.

Take this smaller plate apart - remove the circlip and pop the stainless steel out . Open the rubber lock on the larger plate and slide the screw in.

Now secure both of these screws onto the underside of the Canon or Nikon lens and attach it to your tripod.

With the clamp of the Cullmann head levered down tight, you will find that the lens does not slew out of the plate, and is much more secure. Save the small plate for the future.

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Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Bulk Is Back - Bounce In And Buy Big! Ilford!


 After interminable questioning from the retro film enthusiasts, we how have good stocks of Ilford HP5 ( 400 ISO) and Ilford FP4 (125 ISO) bulk film.

These are fresh 100ft. ( 30,5mtr) rolls of 35mm filmso that you can load your own cartidges cheaply. No excuse not to fire off that motor drive now!

In the fridge down the back.

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Australia Day Is Coming - Buy A Tripod

Where's your patriotism? Did this country become great without the tripod? Of course not! Now do your duty!

Ahem. Just trying out my Sam Kekovich mask. It seems to work - I feel like a lamb chop.

The real point of this is to suggest you come in and get a tripod for Australia Day. If you are going to go shoot surfers at sunset with a six hundred millimetre lens you might consider a heavy-duty model from Manfrotto, Cullmann, or Gitzo. But if you are just going to capture the fireworks with a mirror-less or small DSLR consider a small tripod from Velbon, Inca, or Haldex.

We got 'em - stocks in for the Christmas rush. They're inexpensive - $ 50 - and they're light to carry. But they have a surprising steadiness with these smaller cameras and are compact enough to pop into the boot of your car - and stay there forever.

Bonus: they make useful fighting tripods if the bogans watching fireworks on the foreshore get out of hand. Do take your camera off the top and put it away in a safe place and then just get out there and wade into them.

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Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Pursuant To Our Previous Communication...With Nissin

This is the only time in your life when you will read good news that starts with " pursuant to our previous communication...".

Yesterday I tested out the Nissin i40 flash with my Fujifilm X-10 here at the shop. Today I gave it a further wring-out in Stirling Street in bright sunlight. Make no mistake about that - Western Australian sun is bright and hot, as you'll have found out yesterday.

The sun plays hell with exposures when you need to get detail into deep shadow areas - hence the use of fill-flash for this time of day. The Nissin i40 has a setting called Slave Digital that takes its command from a digital camera's on-board flash. You set it up for whatever power you want and then hold the flash out to wherever you think you need fill from.

But does it work if the camera's flash is just a dinky little thing and there is an overwhelming external light? Wouldn't that be the worst possible scenario? Well, have a look.

Even in the toughest test the i40 responded. In the past I have had to cobble up shades and put slave flashes in improbable positions to get communication, but this one just goes off when wanted without fuss. And I know that if it will work in Stirling Street at 10:30 AM in summer, it will work every blessed where.

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Retro Is As Retro Does...Are We There Yet, Leica?

I have long struggled with the word "retro" in modern culture - in particular when it is applied to photography. I think I am expected to know what it means, but at my age I can't remember...

Actually, I can remember far too much. The clothing styles of the 1950's and 1960's exist in my wardrobe and are regularly worn - to the horror of the family. Whenever I see "retro" clothing styles I compare them to the actual garments and laugh - modern versions are nothing but cartoon sketches.

Likewise with lots of images that crop up in magazines and on the net. Unless you replicate the lighting and add a great deal of digital overlay, you can't quite get it - Instagram is not enough. You might get close with Alien Skin Exposure, but you're still going to have to have to know what the original looked like to know how far to go.


If you really want the retro experience, the Leica company are your friends. They have been making cameras for 101 years. They have been at the forefront of the 35mm market for 101 years. They have pulled so far away from the rest of the trade with 35mm rangefinder cameras that they are the only ones out there.

They still make the Leica MP. 35mm rangefinder camera. Classic M mount. Classic lever winder and rewind knob. Aperture ring, shutter speed dial. Flash shoe. Tripod screw socket. And you have to know what you are doing every inch* of the way. When you do, you are rewarded with the best retro photography experience available yet in this century.

It will cost you. If you are a Leica enthusiast you know that this will be the case, no matter what the gear is. What you have to realise is that it will cost you time, study, and social skill to succeed:

1. You need time to purchase the film, load it, figure out the exposure, focusing, and framing. You need time to take the film for processing or ...gasp...process it yourself. You need time to decide what to do with the negatives or transparencies and then to do it. it is time well spent.

2. You Need To Know. There is enough Leica literature to fill a library and you need to read it. You also need to talk to other enthusiasts. It ain't on television - you've got to read.

3. You need to develop a deep and meaningful relationship with your processor and printer. If they don't know what you want, you won't get it, and if you don't know what you need to give them to get that result you won't get it. See no.2. above.

What do you get by going retro? Bragging rights, in some circumstances. A haunted look at other times. When you get really into it you'll need to explore the question of dressing the part.

Come to my house. I got this wardrobe...

*Inch. retro.

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Shut Dat Shutter

If you have a mirrorless camera - like the Fujifilm X-E2, The Olympus E-P5, or the Panasonic GX-7, you can conduct an interesting experiment.

Set the camera so that it will fire the shutter with the lens off. Put it to manual, and the shutter speed to 1/60 of a second. Take the lens off, and look into the open mount as you press the shutter button.

What the heck was that!? It was the shutter snapping into place, opening for 1/60 of a second, then snapping shut again, then opening up. If you had put a cigar end in there you could have cut it off...No, no, no - that was just a joke. Don't do that. Smoking cigars is bad for you and even worse for shutters.

The point of this exercise is to show you where the shutter is. It used to be tucked away decently a the back of the camera body just in front of the film plane* or hiding coyly behind a swinging mirror - now it is up the front ready to be broken.

Reduce the chances of this - now you've done the experiment, don't repeat it. If you are going to clean your own sensor ( Questionable decision ) don't leave the camera on ( Bad decision) and then press the shutter button ( Terrible decision ). Repairs are profitable but only for the repair shop - not for you.

If you are concerned about dust or smudges on your sensor past what the little cleaning program of your camera can cope with, bring it in to our repairs department. We can do it well, quickly, and without busting the shutter.

* Was a PRU Spitfire considered a film plane...?

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