Monday, March 30, 2015

The Green Cross Of Focusness - With Fujifilm

As photographers - workers with light - we do seem to spend a lot of time standing around in dark places...

It used to be in a cave full of chemical fumes, like latter day Greek soothsayers. Some of us still do stand around in smelly caves full of Greeks, but they are generally pubs in Northbridge. At least they sell retsina...

We also stand around in dim theatres trying to capture dancers and singers in their natural stage habitat. The people who use Nikon D3s cameras fitted with f:0.95 lenses and who crowd right up near the front have it easy - their equipment easily goes up to ISO 5 billion and they can do what they like with the shutter speed dial. The rest of us have to ride the edge of darkness or blaze like a hundred suns all night.

Ielected to do the later - an old Metz hammerhead light and a Quantum battery pack meant I stopped action, got bright colours, and excited the resentment of everyone else in the hall. The light was no problem during the time the shutter was open.

It was during the run-up to the explosion that the trouble occurs. Shooting from the back of the hall, a 55-20 lens was necessary for framing - but the stage was dim, as most Perth stages are, and the dancers moved rapidly, as most Perth dancers do, and the lens wouldn't lock on focus - it is only an f:3.5 maximum aperture.

Thrown back upon my resources, I resorted to reading the book...and found that the remedy recommended was the AF-C position. It continuously tracks at about where the action is and snaps into the focus position as you mash the button down. It isn't exactly right all the time, but I'm married so I'm used to being wrong. It was certainly a better chance for focus than either the MF or the AF-S in these hectic conditions.

The downside is it used up lots of power as it was trying to focus all the time. Lucky I took spare batteries - the cameras that use this form of focussing can do marvellously if you know the trick.

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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Your Very Favourite Lens Is...

Gone. Gone forever. It has rolled off the roof, where you were taking pictures of the nurse's quarters, and fallen into a newly-opened bottomless pit that has appeared in your back yard.

What are you going to do?

This depends upon whether you had the foresight to purchase a Mack Diamond Warranty when you got the lens. If that was under three years ago you can breathe a sigh of relief.

Ring up the Mack people, tell them the sad news, and wait for them to send you a cheque for the replacement cost of another Very Favourite Lens. They are men of honour - if you have a Diamond Warranty you are covered for three years against impact damage, manufacturer defects, sand/grit damage, accidental or unintentional abuse, mechanical malfunction, and abnormal wear and tear.

You are still required to keep your gear secure against human thieves - they cannot really insure you against patently criminal activity. For that matter, neither can some police forces...

Well, philosophy aside, the prices are geared to the price of the equipment. here's a number of examples:

1. $ 499 and under.............................$ 99.00

2. $ 1999 and under...........................$ 399.00

3. $ 3999 and under...........................$ 479.00

Now like all insurances, it is a calculated bet. If you don't use it, they keep your money, and you have the satisfaction of having your Very Favourite Lens with you to squeeze and hold and...If you do use it they are down the price of a new Very Favourite Lens - not you.

Sort of a win either way.

Note, the Mack Warranty does not cover the sulfurous sinkhole in the back yard, or your fate if you also roll off the roof and fall down it. Consult your religious adviser about this one.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Mark I, Mark II, Mark III, Mark 567,900 and a half...

It has been a tradition for aircraft developed by the British that each successive  important development of a particular airframe has received a sequential Mark number. As the British are all classicists at heart, these numbers are written in Roman numerals. But eventually they ran out of paint, or space on the fuselage, or erks that could read Latin, and had to succumb to using regular numbers

Thus we had Supermarine Spitfires that went all the way up to Mk.47, but chickened out about the Mk. XXIV as far as the  numerical designations. Had the RAF employed curates, prelates, and bishops to maintain the aircraft they might have got up to Mk. XLVII and brought a bit of ton to the station...

Some camera makers have followed suit - we have Mk.II and Mk. III versions of a number of cameras, and even a Mk. IV from one proud oriental firm. Not a bad thing in itself, but combined with other designatories, the whole the starts to be an alphabet soup. A Flapoflex 1DXCS D3o,ooo Mk IVSP-K2 is a wonderful camera but the model plate hangs over the edge of the body and pokes in your eye...

There are times when I wish they would take a leaf from the modern Romans who label their excellent tripods with things like MK294A3-AORC2 or 755CX3-M8Q5.

It makes it so easy to find things on the storage shelves...

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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Instant Phenomenon - Fujifilm Instax

Did goe to a sales conference on the weekend and was greatly amused. Salesmen selling to salesmen is always a fun spectacle. And I like the fact that most of these conference places have bowls of mints on the table...I always wear a coat with big pockets...

Well, one of the topics that passed briefly was the Fujifilm Instax cameras and film. It would appear from what the retailers were saying that these cameras have become one of the necessities of life in Australia - a little behind air, water, and food, but in front of shelter and medical attention.

I am delighted - the Fujifilm company makes a good product in these modern instant cameras and their film is excellent - far better than that other instant product that we used to get in the 1970s, 80's and 90's. Fujifilm colours pop instead of flop, and they last as well - I know this from personal experience - there is a studio fish bowl full of test shots taken on Fujifilm FP 100C packs over the last 20 years, and the colours at the bottom of the bowl are as good as to ones at the top.

It would appear that the Fujifilm Instax cameras are big in the big retailers - they cycle through billions* of them each Christmas, and everyone else who wants to sell them needs to get their orders in early. So they do, and so we do, and you can snap away happily all bthrough the holidays.

The very success of the devices tells us that there is a reward that people feel from having a real photo in their hand. Seeing your face on a screen is all very well, and with a bit of care that image can be seen all over the known world - but we still treasure a picture of ourselves and our nan in a little frame on the bedside table.

Which accounts for the success as well of the Fujifilm Instax Share. It is a printer that converts a mobile device image to a real Fujifilm Instax Mini print. There are instructions with it that explain using the wireless transfer and help people to make the best use of whatever they have on their phone.

Of course some phones are better than old Nokia does not actually take pictures but if you press the right buttons on it, people will deliver pizza to your door. I have always accounted this an advantage over just taking pictures - I have Fujifilm X-series cameras for this task and they perform it well - but they would be poor instruments to make pizza with...

Mmmm. Pizza...wonder how close we are to lunch hour...?

* It might not have been billions. I was busy eating mints at the time...

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Keeping In Touch With Your Social Side - Samsung's Techno Marvel

Coming from an era when I took pictures, turned the roll of film into the chemist, waited a fortnight, then posted the resulting out-of-focus postcard print to my Auntie Minnie in Missoula...and it took another ten days to reach her by expensive Air Mail - well the business of the WiFi -equipped camera and the internet is just marvellous.

Now I can take out-of-focus pictures and have them on Auntie's screen in less than a minute. Her distress can be instant, rather than requiring a month to manifest itself.

One of the neatest contenders for this market is the Samsung NX3000. It has some surprising features that make it somewhat unique. Consider...

The battery is big and the card is small. That's an 8.85 Wh one you see - over double the size in my small portable camera. More shots - longer video shooting. The card is a micro SD size - quite common these days with the growth of mobile phones and action cameras.

The viewing screen flips up for selfies. Love 'em or hate 'em when you see 'em, people are still going to take 'em...this screen turns on a self-timer selfie circuit when you flip it into the vertical position and displays a 3..2..1.. countdown for the viewer. Just enough time to get your mouth set in a funny way.

The broadcasting of the image to your smart phone,tablet, or WiFi-equipped computer is made easy rather than hard. They have put the commands for it right up on top of the camera with a position of the mode dial and a dedicated "Mobile" button*. This is a great step from the business of putting plug-in modules in the side of a camera or trying to find all the commands inside a menu system.

The big three - the grip, shutter button, and video button have been positioned perfectly on this camera - no stretching or knuckle-busting to get the basic operation going. Together with the fact that the 16-50 lens has a good grip and the function button on the left means that this camera is likely to be held steadier than others of the same ilk - and benefit from sharper images as a result. Make no mistake - your hand, eye, and nose all need to be taken into account when it comes to using a camera. Cramp any of them and you will be unconsciously leaving the camera in the bag more and more...

And Auntie Minnie will be the poorer.

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Monday, March 23, 2015

Shake That Booty - With Epson Inkjet Printers

A scary tale with a happy ending.

I printed some business cards for myself over the weekend on my Epson R3000 printer. Those of you who have them know how versatile they are - digital art prints, plain parer documents, CD labels, etc. Well, you can also make some pretty nifty business cards for yourself with Pages - the Apple program that goes with their iMac products.

You need a stiffish sort of paper to do this. In my case I selected a box from the famous manufacturer " Whatever Is Left Over On The Shelf ". They make a lot of the paper around my place...I had the remains of a box of thick, rough paper that I had experimented with some years ago. Hated the look of the art prints on it but it would do for business cards.

As it was matte surface I needed to change the ink choice on the R3000. This is a series of deliberate commands - unlike the R3880 it does not automatically sense what is needed - you have to deliberately tell it what to do. Not unlike some teenagers...

The file went through the printer but the results looked foul. I ran a nozzle check and was horrified to find there was no matte black printing at all. I had visions of a new printer - ouch. But faithfully I started the cleaning cycle....and at each subsequent nozzle check more of the head squares reported for duty. At last they were all there - and the business cards were duly done.

This bugged me as the day before I had printed out some A4 pictures with no problem at all. How could a head clog completely in one day?

Aha. Then I thought - the previous day's printing was with gloss black, as had all the printing tasks been for the last 8 months. There was my mistake - while the printer was regularly exercising it's little electronic organs on all the other inks and I thought that all was safe, the MK had gone flat and stale. Indeed the spare MK ink cartridge that I keep on the shelf above the printer was getting on toward its use-by date. Time to print through it and the one in the printer to keep that line clear.

Nearly caught. Now I know I won't be caught again. Now you know - go print something with both types of black and make sure YOU'RE safe.

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Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Buy Now And Beat The Japanese Tax Man...Soundly...

Want the good news or the bad news?

Well, you get 'em both. Mind you, if you are nippy about it, you can avoid the bad...

The Japanese financial year changes in April. Why is anyone's guess - they haven't finished using the old one yet and there is still plenty of wear in it. perhaps it is like their motor cars - they change them regularly to avoid pollution. Perhaps they ship out the old financial years in sea containers to third world countries...

Where were we? Oh, yes - the bad news. They are hiking the prices on Nikon and Canon lenses. How high we don't know but if you want a bargain on some new glass for these cameras you would be well advised to hammer the piggy bank and come in here in the next two weeks.

Good news? We're pretty good for lenses right now.

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Time For Tamcash! Tamron Offer Cashbacks!

Tamron have decided to encourage the owners of Nikon, Canon, and Sony DSLR's with some money back in their hands. If you purchase the following lenses from now until May, you get cash back from them.

1. Tamron AF 16-300 f:3.5-6.3 Di II VC PZD lens - the sort of lens that you can put on your APS-C-sized camera body for universal use. Landscape? No problems. Groups? Yes. Sports? Easy. Wildlife? Don't mind if I do...

Purchase this with the Tamron two-year warranty and they'll send you $ 100 back. And you don't have to wheedle, argue, tap your iPhone, or know the owner of the business to get it...

2. The Tamron AF 28-300 Di VC PZD is also attracting $ 100 cash back. Come in and heft both lenses and see which one suits your style of shooting. The $ 100 suits ALL styles of shooting!

3. The Tamron AF 18-270 Di II VC PZD is also very nice - in this instance it attracts a $ 30 cashback from Tamron. Going to Africa for a holiday? Take this lens. And spend that $ 30 on another memory card!. Or beer. Or fly repellant.

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Monday, March 16, 2015

The Deserted World - Ten Stops Of Solitude

We all remember that famous picture of the Parisian boulevard taken at the start of the photographic era - wide, clean, deserted, with only a disembodied leg propped up on a box on one sidewalk...eery...

It wasn't an 1840's  zombie apocalypse - it was the extremely slow speed of the first photographic plates that required such a long exposure that every moving object failed to imprint upon it. The buildings and pavement did not move and so eventually made their mark.

 The detached leg belonged to a man who was getting his boots shined on the street. He had the foot on the bootblack's box long enough for it to be the first record of a person on a street. I daresay he went to his grave all those years ago without ever knowing his fame.

Nowadays it is also fashionable to stretch exposures to the breaking point - though modern digital cameras and film emulsions can not go down to the low sensitivity of those first metal plates. We need extremely dark filters to allow the technique to work.

The Lee company make them - so do the Kenko and the B+W companies. 8, 9, and 10-stop neutral density filters that you screw or slide onto the front of your lens to dramatically reduce the light falling on the sensor. If you camera will keep the shutter open for as long as you wish - and many of them will - you can experiment with cleaning the people out of the world.

You can't focus through these filters, and neither can your AF mechanism. Focus with the manual focus setting on your lens before you attach the filter.

You can't hold your camera steady for 20 minutes - zombie apocalypse aside - so put it on a good tripod. I use a Cullmann Concept.

You can't keep your finger on the button for that long either, so use a remote release with a locking mechanism or the "T" setting if you camera has one. Cable remote releases are most reliable. Mr. Hahnel is your friend.

Now this long exposure technique will soften water, clean out skies, and make trees into fantasy cotton wool balls. Waterfalls become veils of mist. Consult any amateur photography magazine of the last two years to see these effects...

And when all else fails, pick your time and place carefully....and you don't need a filter. Just put the camera on a tripod, make the panorama shots, and then hold hands and try to contact the living...

* Maylands on Saturday morning. They hope the water will stay there rather than seep back into the land they built those big houses on...

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Friday, March 13, 2015

Whole Lotta Snappin' Going On...Instax Film

Our warehouse prospecting team has discovered a seam of Fujifilm.

A rich horde of Fujifilm Instax Mini film in the economical twin-pack has come to light and the Instax cameras ( and Polaroid 300) that you gave or got for Christmas can start putting out party pictures again.

It's fresh so get in while the getting is good.

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Walking Through The Dark Streets - With Op/Tec

Street photography is a well-documented specialty of our art - the ability to slip unnoticed through the crowds and return with sparkling insights into the human condition. Also to get another 400 shots of the inside of your coat. Next time turn off the switch before you put it away.

Slipping unnoticed through the turbulence is a talent that some of us do not have. We stand out like sore thumbs wherever we go, and unless we disguise what we are doing, we never get candid shots. Hence the business of hollowing out a stack of books and secreting a camera inside - or like one client, putting it in a sports bag and cutting hole in the end of the bag. I believe his sentence will be completed in 5 more months...

A bit of help is the business of dressing down. Some of the people I see every day have this down to a fine art. They could blend in with any environment, and provided the wind was blowing in the right direction they would never be noticed. I think they could wheel a 16 x 20 Kodak Century Studio camera down Hay Street Mall invisibly. They need no help, save soap.

Others need to disguise their cameras. They put sticky bits of gaffer tape over the brand names and logos and try to make $ 10,000 worth of metal and glass look like a 1973 tourist camera. I am surprised at the lengths to which some of them go - as yet no-one has attached Mickey Mouse ears or a Hello Kitty face but it is coming.

If you are determined to carry and use a camera put it in a bag - specifically one of the Op/Tec bags. They are neoprene and you can cut a hole on the outer end for the lens to protrude through. They are the most nondescript thing you can imagine - I can't begin to describe how non-descript they are...and if you do imagine to attract the attention of the outraged mob, they'll form a soft protective cover for the camera while you take your kicking.

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Pack Up All Our Cares And Woe...

Here we go...cursing low...

No, that's not the way it was. Take the cardboard divider out and reverse it and put the woe on the right hand side. No, that was where the cares went. Take the stuff out and start again. What is this little plastic bag for?

Unpacking a new camera or lens is always an exciting part of working here. We are as big equipment geeks as any of our customers and we want to see the new stuff as badly as anyone else. But we pay a terrible price for this pleasure - we have to repack the box.

Packaging for safe transport is a real industrial and commercial science. The equipment we sell is delicate ( with the possible exception of some of the Olympus Tough cameras which  are second cousins to artillery shells...) and it needs to get to the client's hands undamaged. After that they can do as they wish - the invoice has gone through.

Packaging also has an economic aspect - if you get two more cameras into a carton for overseas shipping you can save that much more in the transportations charges.

It also has an aesthetic and, dare I say it, cultural aspect. Quite apart from the Gollum-like behaviour of some camera buyers, and the need to preserve every layer of packaging inviolate for their private deflowering...there is a pleasure to be had in seeing a well-packaged product. In this we are no different from the consumers of women's cosmetics or luxury watches - the wrapping is important.

That cultural aspect...well, consider that the Japanese people are masters of packaging and have traditions of careful paper and card folding. They now have CAD programs to further complicate their designs and some of the boxes that we get have such an interlocking maze of stiff card as to practically defy unwrapping. To be honest, the Olympus products certainly defy repacking, at least in any decent sense. Throwing the camera and cardboard and plastic back into the box and stamping on it is not decent...

Let me complement the Epson company for their packaging and presentation. Their big 'ol printers are in big  'ol boxes, and you might need help lifting it into the back of the Fiat 500, but once you are home, the things come out of he package and set up like champions. Really good instructions.

Well, you must excuse me. I have a box that contained 180 grammes of lens that needs to be repacked. Once the layers of card, wood, plastic, rubber. and titanium cast brackets have been successfully reassembled we can put it back in the storage shelf. We close at 5:30 and I hope to make it...

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Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Big Orange - Pentax K-S2

Orange Bottom, they've really got 'em
The Ricoh people are really hot  'an
They do that old Orange Bottom all of the day...

Sorry, I got carried away there. Or as Freddy Mercury said...

Orange Bottom cameras make the rockin' world go round.

The new Pentax K-S2 camera has an orange base plate. it is startling, but attractive. You can see it in dim conditions - like a studio. The rest of the orange-bottom device is red-hot:

20 megapixel sensor
no anti alias filter
clarity enhancement feature

Should be be a worthy and easy-to use new camera from Pentax and will use all of the great Pentax-mount lenses.

Hooray for colour.

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Stand Up For Your Lights! With Kupo And Promaster!

Studio light stands come in many sizes but only two types; too flimsy or too massive.

The former are usually cheaper than the latter but you tend to spend more money on them - they fail early and drop your expensive lights or backdrops onto the studio floor. Sometimes they drop your expensive lights or backdrops onto your even-more-expensive studio models and clients.

It is wise to remember the old studio maxim: Be prepared to either light carefully or to light out...for Queensland.

The too massive ones will not collapse on the customers nearly as often, but will take their toll when you try to move them up and down stairs. Chiropractors and physios love massive equipment, particularly if it has no handles or wheels to move it around. It is good business...

All the above said, consider the middle road for studio light stands - the "C"stand. It is a large and heavy device that has a standard 1'2" spigot on top, about 2.5 metres of height, and a set of three metal legs that can be splayed out at 120º each to secure it. The legs are different lengths, but finish up able to hold the central shaft upright - whilst tucking into the corner of the studio.

The central shaft unplugs from the legs for storage and handling.

You can get the stands in black or polished silver. The former is a help when you want to avoid unwanted reflections in a dark studio, but the latter is easier to avoid running into in that same studio. Walk into a lamp post at full-stride on the street and see what I mean.

Some stands are available with an adjustable boom arm that can hold a pretty substantial head and light shaper on the end. This can be the way to do product down-lighting when you want the effect to come from directly over the subject but do not have overhead suspension for the lights. Just suspend it over the set like a building crane.

Kupo and Promaster both make "C" stands that are well worth considering for your studio - you may not want to replace all your folders with them but there should be a space for at least one in the lighting setup.

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Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Doing It Right With Nikon

Few of us have occasion to shoot digital intra-oral photographs - but the few that do need to have perfect results.

Perfectionism is a philosophical concept, and you can sit under the olive trees and debate it as much as you want ( wine and cheese optional...) but once it meets with medical or dental practise the stakes rise. Patients demand perfection, the Dental Board demands perfection, and the lawyers who represent patients demand perfection. None of 'em could cut a cavity or pull a molar to save their souls, but they demand perfection in others...

So dentists need perfect equipment to make this perfection. They are slugged about two thousand bucks for the air handpieces, ten thousand bucks for the drill control units, and $ 3.50 for cheap British diamond burs. With a bit of care one burr can go for an entire year before the last diamond chip on it is whirled off into the patent's oesophagus and the dentist has to buy another one.

Occasionally dentists need before, after, and during photos of the work they are doing. Nikon make a state-of-the art macro lens - the 105mm f:2.8 AF-S VR Macro - and the R1 C1 Close Up Flash kit.

It's complex - no doubt about that - but it can be programmed to do the simplest form of point and shoot for intra-oral views. There are two flash heads in the set that are powered by internal batteries and a dedicated controller that slots onto the top of a Nikon DSLR. You don't need the battleship DSLR's either - the D 3200, D3300 sort of thing will work perfectly.

Set the controller to fire both flashes at 1:1 light ratio. Clip on the little narrowing prisms to fire the flash down the axis of the lens. Then put your camera on M, ISO200, shutter speed 1/250. aperture f:8. and manual focus. Approach the subject, ask them to open wide and say" Incisor". and press the button. That's it - one file perfectly exposed and generally in focus.

It is just that simple. The camera/flash combination can be kept on a side shelf in the surgery. Have the nurse pin the patient in a half-nelson and blaze away. Jpeg images can be emailed to other surgeries and if you take RAW images you can make sure of colour corrections. Plus you can Photoshop in nicer teeth if necessary - for some people it is better to keep the teeth and Photoshop in a prettier patient.

In any case, Nikon make it as easy as it is ever likely to get to produce the sort of perfect intra-oral views that you can bore people with at conferences. Nothing will ever put people to sleep as good as pink and purple histological slides projected on a large screen, but intra-orals and trips to Fiji come a close second and third.

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Sun On A Stick - Lastolite, Hahnel, Fujifilm, Ford

Why do we buy those glossy photo books from Amherst press that purport to tell us how to take fabulous pictures? The ones entitled " Boudoir Macro Photography Made Me A Millionaire " or " How To Pose Prawns and Shrimp"...

Because they are colourful and about 6 mm thick and cost just under $ 50 and promise to teach us something that we need to know. The horrid realisation comes to us later as we round the last corner of the book and come into the index: we knew the stuff already, all the book had was some pretty pictures, and our $ 50 is gone.

Thus my own emotions upon finishing a book that promised to unveil the secrets of attaching a speedlight to an extendable pole and synching it to a hand-held camera. The secret I really wanted to know was how the author got the idea past the publisher. 

But all was not lost - it encouraged me to go out into the front yard last night with a Lastolight extendable pole, a coiled TTL cord with two terminal blocks, the Fujifilm EF42 flash and the Fujifilm X-Pro 1 camera. The subject was the daughter's old Ford hunched in the dark.

A note before starting - me flashing speedlights in the front yard after dark has ceased to surprise the neighbours and they take no alarm from the discharges. Should you wish to do the same you may have to alert your own neighbours or at least come over my house to experiment. Bring beer.

Coiled cords are not featherweight devices - long enough to reach out to a fair distance for an angled fill or main light means there is a fair mass swinging between the camera and the top of the pole. You sway and lurch and if you were trying to do it in a crowd you would whack someone with the thing for sure.

If your speedlight uses an external battery you can run the cord up the pole but the link will need to be cordless.

Some cameras achieve this easily with a slave mode for the flash and a command mode for an on-camera flash. The Fujifilm X-Pro 1 has no in-built flash so you need to think about this. Ideally one might use two of the new Nissin i40 flashes to command and obey but then ideally one might wait for the promised Fujifilm new flash.

A smarter idea for me will be to pop a Hahnel Combi TL transmitter on the top of the camera and have the receiver sit under the EF 42 out at the top of the pole. The Hahnel items are pretty reliable and very lightweight. As they are rated out to 100 metres, they should have no trouble with a 2 metre distance.

It means there will be no TTL but a few test shots should sort that out. And it means that the EF 42 can fire into the lovely little Lastolite soft box for good skin tones. It won't do a thing for the Ford, but.

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Tuesday, March 10, 2015

New Flash Rental Flash

The new Profoto B2 kits are available for experimenters - the Rental Department here has  two combo's ready for hire:

1. Profoto B2 Off Camera Flash 250 Air 2 - head Location kit. This is to go out at $ 110 per day or $ 165 per weekend.

2. Profoto B2 Off Camera Flash 250 Air 1 - head To Go kit. this will be for $ 88 per day or $ 132 per weekend.

Sales supplies will be arriving later, but you can whet your appetite now with a rental.

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Monday, March 9, 2015

Experimental Weekend - A Note Of Caution

This has been a weekend of quiet experimentation in the dark room. Not the darkroom -  chemical work was laid aside some years ago and has not been picked up. The dark room that used to be the darkroom, but is now a not-so-dark room. I hesitate to say a light room for fear of Adobe's branding lawyers...

Right - level of illumination aside, it was a weekend of careful photo manipulation and posting on several websites. During which I gained an insight into what several of our customers have been saying - they don't want anything to do with photo manipulation and storage if it involves the cloud system.

I heard them say this but was ignorant as to the whole affair - a little questioning of other staff and of family members helped, but I still thought that the customers might have been making too much of a fuss about nothing - after all, the internet works flawlessly and all those servers and computers and experts would make sure that it all went

Well, no. Not for me this weekend. Starting with an attempted hack from overseas, a reset password for Facebook, then hours spent trying to re-connect the Wordpress blogs that I write to a Facebook page, then watching selected posts drop out of FB, then drop back in again, then lose their photos, then regain them...

It was interesting work resetting and reconnecting things but it used up hours of reading, clicking, retracing, etc. Had I experienced the same misery with Photoshop manipulation or the localised resizing and reformatting of photos that is be done with Aperture or Silkypix I would tempted to unplug the entire electronic web and get out the developing tank and trays...

The day was as slow as the internet was slow and as scattered as the various places that needed to be contacted. I suspect that cloud storage and accessing would have been impossible yesterday. which leads me to the point of this post: there are still a few programs available that are not cloud-based.

I see we have some Photoshop Elements 13, some DxO programs, and some of the Lightroom ones that can stand alone on your computer. I would encourage anyone who is at the same level of computer knowledge as me ( The I is on and the O is off, do not lick the monitor screen...) to think about keeping the photo manipulation in-box as it were rather than depending upon Telstra, Berkeley, and state of the atmosphere to make it possible.

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Friday, March 6, 2015

Too True To Be Good

Watching the photographic trade in action is somewhat akin to going to a Ringling Brothers circus. There are a number of rings in operation and a number of levels of presentation.

Lots of acts are going on at the same time - amongst them are jugglers, girls in spangled tights, high flyers, and dancing elephants. I myself function as a sad clown - as I get older I tend to need less and less greasepaint make-up to get the clown face right...

One of the constants of the business is the presence of  barkers. They used to stand outside the sideshow and draw the Rubes in with a megaphone and line of promises - promises that were ...nearly...fulfilled for the mere price of 25¢...a single quarter...why step right up...

Nowadays they loom out of the computer. I have been directed to look at one today by a customer's desire to have us match their price on a desirable compact camera. The advertisement that glows warmly on the monitor is for a price far below the Australian wholesale price. Promises are made and assurances are given and anyone reading the site would think that all was well. Anyone who did not read the words carefully...

The contact details are a postal box. The price offered is under real cost. The "local warranty" is undefined...but the price tells me that it will not be the manufacturer's own warranty - it will be an on-line promise. The testimonials are written with ever-so-slightly-different-than Australian English usage...

The only thing the thing doesn't do is pause, hiss slightly, and greet me with " Hello, I am from Microsoft and we have detected..."

P.T. Barnum would have been proud. Whether he would order a camera from them is another thing.

Step right up...

Note: I did some net exploration. We, our local real store competitors, our Melbourne real store competitors, and our Sydney real store competitors are all well within shot-fall of each other with the price on the item. We all get it from the Australian distributor and we all know we can rely upon that distributor to back up warranty claims. I own one of the items, I love it, and I can sell it with confidence.

Uncle Dick

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Killing Yourself Softly With Digital Photography

We try to provide helpful advice on a number of photographic subjects here in this column - a service to the profession and the trade...and all the rest. One of areas that may have been neglected up to now is how to injure yourself with digital photography.

Now we're not talking about harming your reputation with bad technique, dodgy subject matter, or dubious business practices - feel free to make your own way to perdition just as you wish. Be assured, you will have company on the road...

No. it's more physical than moral harm that we are concerned with here. And the news is not good - digital photography work is nowhere near as easy a path to destruction as the one with the older chemical processes.

In the dear old days you could poison yourself real good, real quick - if you were using mercury fumes or cyanide washes or ether vapour in the same space as a candle flame you could expect a prompt cessation to further care. Later on the black and white chemistry got safer but the advent of colour work with the organic solvents and dire bleaches and carcinogens brought the statistics back up.

You could also do wonderful things in a very short period of time with some of the early  electrical connections, safelights, pools of water, and metal workbenches.

When all else failed, you could fall over in the dark and pull the enlarger down on yourself.

Now in the digital realm it gets more chemistry. The computers are all sealed and earthed and you rarely use them in the sink with an inch of water round the bottom. You could swallow a lithium ion battery and harm yourself but it takes some doing. Hitting yourself on the side of the head with a 120-400mm zoom lens is difficult to do more than once.

Sitting in front of a monitor for 15 hours straight might be bad for you, but then so many people are trained to do this by their years of television that they won't notice.

Possibly the best result will be if you set the digital camera on a tripod and put it onto interval shooting and then link it straight to your Facebook account. Eventually your friends will get so sick of seeing you on their feed that they will band together to come round your house and beat you up.

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Hello, Old Friends - Ilford Paper

Well, this is nice. Ilford Multigrade darkroom paper in the economy pack.

Haven't seen the big 250 sheet box for some time - it is good to find that it is still with us. Like the Ilford Galerie Smooth Pearl and Smooth Gloss inkjet papers, this darkroom paper is sort of the standard of the industry - everybody can use it and everybody gets consistent results.

These boxes are  the 5" x 7" size - perfect for portraits and albums - and at 38¢ per sheet should make all our analog darkroom workers happy. Note we also have new boxes of Ilford Multigrade filters if your old set has faded.

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Thursday, March 5, 2015

Leica T Wide Angle Zoom

Unpacking this morning's delivery disclosed a delight - one of the Leica lenses for their T-system.

The lens is the 11-23 Super Vario Elmar T f:3.5-4.5 ASPH. it is a little larger in physical size than the 18-56 that you may have seen, and of course the front element has a pronounced curve - but not to such an extent that it precludes use of a slim filter.

Those of you still accustomed to think of lens angles as they applied to the Leica M series of 35mm cameras can envision this lens providing a variable focal length from he equivalent of 16.5mm to 34.5 mm. Landscape shooters, interior shooters, and those unfortunate enough to have large groups of people to photograph will appreciate this coverage. The lens won't make a large group of people behave or pose better but at least it will capture whatever they are actually doing with great resolution and contrast.

As usual, superb quality of construction and presentation. As usual, a Leica price...

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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

B2 Or Not 2B - That Is The Question With Profoto

There's nothing quite like a B2 arriving at night...

So last night we had a Profoto B2 plus pilot here at the shop for a demonstration of the new system. Over 50 photographers attended the session and the mission commander...Saul...gave us all a briefing about what it is and what it is going to cost.

The pilot - Stefan Gosatti - had taken the new equipment for a spin at a red-carpet affair, on a fashion shoot, and out to do twilight coverage of a sports event. He had examples on screen and printed out to show what the coverage and power of this new unit can do.

The flash is the even-more-portable off-camera flash solution from Profoto. They make a great battery-powered monohead called the B1 that can fire out 500 watt/seconds from an on-board lithium-ion battery. Heart-stoppingly short flash duration and takes all the big Profoto light shapers.

The new B2 is a battery pack system that supports the use of two small portable heads - much smaller in overall size than the B1 heads. Surprisingly, they have been moulded to still take the large Profoto light shapers....but the makers have also provided a new range of lighter-weight shapers and modifiers to match the portability.

Make no mistake - this is a pack system that you can carry round on your belt or shoulder all day but is capable of firing 250 watt/seconds - divide it between two heads as you like. It dials down to an incredibly small amount of light as well so it would be suitable for lab as well as studio use.

Okay - how did Stefan fire it? He used a Profoto Air TTL with his camera - Profoto can supply the Air TTL controllers for both Nikon or Canon DSLR cameras. If he had chosen the Profot Air without the TTL provision it could have been used on any brand of camera - I'm sure he would have been fine because he knows what light can do and how to set it for his results, but even he said that it was helpful in fast-moving situations to have the TTL to help out.

Note: we suspect other camera manufacturer's TTL system requirements will also be addressed in the coming months with Profoto Air TTL versions - don't know which ones but we'll find out eventually.

The heads have standard 1/2" light stand mounts or can be unscrewed from these for even smaller specialised applications. they are small enough to mount above the DSLR on an arm - this is the deal for he gunadrun event photographer. One head on 250watt/seconds is about 10 times the light of a speed light so you can work brighter in darker spaces...

The Profoto light modifiers for the new B2 are deliberately lighter than the studio ones - there is a new range of grid sets, barn doors, soft boxes, and beauty dishes. the soft boxes have been designed with integral diffusers and rods for very fast set-up.

Stefan found that he got nearly 200 shots from each battery charge - had he turned the power down on the lights the number of flashes would have been very much greater. Note that the charger will fill up the battery in an hour - and you can get a car charger as well if you need to top-up between jobs on the road.

My conclusion as a staff member lounging behind the counter was that the new flash is a clear winner in this class of photography. This in spite of my brand loyalty. It will become the standard of the industry for portable shooters.

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