Friday, April 29, 2016

Eyeing The Fish On Dry Land

There have been a number of photographic equipment manufacturers in the past who have made what are termed "fisheye" lenses. I can recall seeing examples from Olympus, Nikon, Canon, Tokina, and Rokinon in my time at the shop. Doubtless there have many others - even down to Saga or Spiratone who made a fisheye adapter that we all bought in the 35mm era.

Did I include Sigma in that list? I should have, because they have made a number of these...and this week we have one to play with in the studio.

It is a 10mm f:2.8 DC version that is intended for use on an APS-C sized Nikon. I'm testing it by means of a Kindai adapter and a Fujifilm X-E2 camera. This is not as cumbersome as you might think - the adapter has an aperture control ring that allows you to make exposure changes on Nikon G lenses. It is not marked with conventional has 0 to 7 on the control ring but you quickly learn to count down from whatever the maximum aperture is and anyway a check of the LCD screen shows you whether you are on the right track. Fortunately the Fujifilm X-E2 has a provision in its control menu that lets you see clearly through the finder or on the screen even if you are stopping down. You can watch the DOF advancing as the numbers climb.

So, what do you use a fisheye lens for, anyway? I have no blessed idea. I never did know, even when I had the Spiratone fisheye lens screwed on the front of a Pentax 55mm Super-Takumar. I did the obligatory big-nose picture of a friend and made the headlight assembly of my old Renault 10 loom out of the picture - like I had seen in the photo magazines of the time - and then ran out of ideas. Doubtless if I had had occasion and permission to shoot straight upwards inside the Dome of St. Peter's in Rome or St. Paul's the view of the lens would have been invaluable.

Likewise I can see it as a novel establishing shot for any other imposing environment - church, cathedral, cavern, missile silo, etc should the opportunity present itself. Or produce and image that is hip, funky, swinging, or whatever the buzz word would laud, in other circumstances. A bold advertising photographer might record a product photo using one, but would have to be fast on the feet to sell it to the art director and the client - generally they tend to favour undistorted views of their sales items.

Landscape? Well, yes, but you do get to a point where the wide but distorted view becomes repetitive. Likewise use during sporting events or crowd affairs. Once seen, a fisheye picture impresses itself on the memory in such a way that it is really unnecessary to do again.

But. But. But...

But that impression can be as essential to making a visual point as a punctuation mark can be to a written description. It is not the period, nor comma of visual punctuation - it is the exclamation mark! In some cases it is several of these!! AND THE NEXT SENTENCE IN CAPITALS!!!!

You can't write a letter or email like that all the time, but you can wake up the reader occasionally with something unexpected. That's the fisheye lens.

Note: Apparently it is possible to use these lenses to construct virtual reality images but the computer has to do a great deal of electronic heavy lifting in some cases to cope with the distortion evident at the edges of the images. Be warned.

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Thursday, April 28, 2016

Sigma In The Theatre

In the theatre and in the dark - that's where I see this new lens from Sigma. And believe me, here in Perth we have dark theatres. The operating theatres in the hospitals are all pretty well lit, but after that it all gets pretty dim...

Back to the lens - if you are in the position of recording a stage performance you are likely to be restricted by for things:

a. Permission. You need it  - you can't just lob out with the DSLR at the next performance of "Die Fledermaus" and stand up in the middle of Row B and start blazing away. They will grasp you by the collar and throw you into the street - a particularly awkward thing if the theatre is up a flight of stairs...

b. Position. You can't stand up in Row B because the people in rows C, D, and E will draw pistols on you. You'll be restricted to a position further aft or down the sides of the venue. If the performance is so poorly attended that you can indeed stand up in Row B with nothing but silence behind you, is it worth recording the stage? Decide that for yourself...

c. Silence. While this is primarily the province of the camera, we have still heard some other lenses that focus with the sound of a battleship turret traversing. No good. You need to be quiet and you need to have a lens that will be so too. This does not apply during performances of Arab dance music, rock bands, and Wagner. In these cases you are prohibited from firing off siege mortars but pretty much everything else is masked by the din from the stage.

d. Light. This is necessary to see what is happening on stage, but Perth stage designers and lighting technicians are frugal people - they only use as much as is necessary. If there are pretty girls or Disney characters on stage you might get some colour but if it is just Ibsen or Shaw these can be played pretty much in the dark and they pretty much are.*

Thus you need to gather all the light you can for photography - and you need a camera that will get the ISO numbers up into the nosebleed range as well. Fortunately these are becoming more common these days and Canon and Nikon buyers can get some pretty hot cameras right now. And hotter ones coming, too.

Still, it is nice to have a big aperture lens, and here is where the f:1.8 of this lens comes in. The 50mm to 100mm range is also just perfect for side and back-of-house shots. You may want to attach a tripod - there is a rotating tripod mount ring for this purpose and thankfully it has smooth click stops at the horizontal and vertical points.

You'll also appreciate the provision of a raised white index dot at the point of mounting - I would assume that the Canon-mount version of this lens would have a raised dot as well. It allows you to feel for the correct meeting position of camera and lens in the dark if you need to change things. Some lens makers omit this and it is a real curse trying to index things by feeling the back of a bayonet mount or diving down under seats to see by the light of a pocket torch.

Please note that other photographers might appreciate the fast nature of this lens - field sports shooters who work under lights - nature photographers who might be in the gloom of a forest or bush area - surveillance workers who need to see at dusk. All would benefit.

Please also note that the new designs and finishes of Sigma lenses are really top-notch. There is no reason to regard them as anything but truly professional optics - backed with a two-year warranty.

This new lens is available right now in store and from the on-line shop. I have to give it back but you don't...if you buy it.

* I'm not really complaining. It's restful there in the dark.

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Wednesday, April 27, 2016


I called into the shop yesterday to place mousetraps on the toilet seats and as I was waiting for the ladies loo to be vacated, I got to chatting with one of the professional photographers who was standing at the rental counter. I noticed he was taking out a set of studio mono lights - a very good quality item.
The odd thing for me was I remember him taking out these same mono lights with various light modifiers all last year, and, I think, the year before. Weekday rentals mostly and some weekend rentals. Lotsa rentals...
At this stage of the game I am not at all certain whether or not his rental charges have equalled or surpassed the price of the lights when new. If so, I think he has sort of shot himself in the foot.
Rental of professional equipment is a wise move for many reasons - not all of them financial.
a. If you cannot afford the gear to do the job, but have enough money to rent it for a day or so, do so.
b. If someone else is paying the an actual client...go for it. The cost of doing it is buried in the fee you charge.
c. The gear is sound, and working, and you have the guarantee of the shop on this.
d. The gear is up to date - clients who base their buying decisions on your gear will look more favourably on you.
e. If the gear breaks down and it is not your fault, you are free of the worry of repair costs.
f. You can rent exotic stuff that you'll never need more than once in your career. No storing junk in the studio shelves.
But the whole system breaks down if you have spent more on getting it out than you get back for the job or if you find that at the end of the day you have spent far more renting than buying. Plus each rental and return is two trips into the shop from your working location - time is money. Rental is also  bond and insurance money paid out. You have to have that money tied up at each rental. And you can't take the rental stuff out of the state, either.
Now I've rented a lens or two in my time, for specific jobs. It was good, but I must say I was glad to give it back. It showed me that I did not want to buy it...and that negative was a good positive from a business angle.
So where this post is going... is to drive you to the rental counter for certain, but to get you to do some figuring...if you really like the stuff you rent, consider buying it. In some cases you might get some of the rent back in the purchase price.

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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Wrestling With An Octopus

I was put in mind of this analogy when photographing today's product for the column. It also had certain features of trying to hang out wet washing upside down or put a toddler back into a play suit. There were more things to do than could be done and new surfaces kept emerging. I think it was invented by M.C. Escher...

It's the Aquatech All-Weather kits for cameras and lenses - the professional version of the simple plastic bags that people use in winter. The AquaTech ids far and away more successful and versatile, however, and is really the only answer for extra-long and extra-expensive lenses.

The cover goes down your right arm, over the camera and lens, and draw-strings closed at the front. The basic kit gives you perfect cover for a DSLR or mirror-less camera with a standard zoom lens and then there is also a longer supplementary cover for medium telephotos. A separate kit goes for this longer lens cover straight away but I daresay there are extra lens covers that you can add at any time.

The construction is thick nylon cloth with water-protected zippers and a hood over the back part of the camera that goes close to your face. An additional sealed eyepiece means even if water leaks down you it cannot get into the camera.

In short, there are enough seals and snugs at all points of exposure to ensure that you can get your picture without damage. of course, a UV filter at the front of the lens is necessary but you know that already. You can go out into " What the heck am I doing this for? " weather with thousands of dollars worth of camera and lens and come back with thousands of dollars worth of camera and lens...
The difficulty I had was trying to make it look like a sensible package on the table - in the end I just gave up, shot it from several angles, and will leave it to your imagination.

In-store right now, or go to the on-line shop and order it. Aquatech make all sorts of protective gear for photo work but they cannot tell you what you are doing this for...

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Monday, April 25, 2016

Bag Day

Today was slow in the cutting-edge-of-technology-game-changing-electronic-marvel-of-the-century-business. On the good side, so far no earthquakes. Taking advantage of this, I have balanced two bags on a studio seat and taken some pictures.

The first is an F-Stop case that is intended to compress a whole field assignment's equipment in one case - a case that you can heave into an overhead locker and not trust to the loading crew. It is labeled as the F-Stop Pro ICU Large.

Note that this really only applies if you are carrying out your assignment with a mirror-less system. Fujifilm, Olympus, Sony, Nikon, and Canon pros can take notice. The case will not hold big long wildlife lenses for full-frame DSLR but these come with their own cases and native porters anyway. Just remember that if you are compelling someone to haul your 2000mm f:2 lens up mountains and through deserts covered in thorn bushes, "Bwana" is not a term of endearment...

Coming away from that, I have decided to see what amount of mirror-less gear can go into this thing. Thus, I seem to have succeeded in fitting in 2 camera bodies, 4 lenses, a flash unit, an off-camera radio system, a card and battery case, a spare battery, an iPad and charger, a camera battery charger, and a hip flask full of Coruba rum. There is still space for a deck of marked cards and a Mars bar. And it is light enough not to attract attention shuffling down the aisle of the Boeing.

Note that with a change in emphasis and a little shuffling, one could pack one of the long Fujifilm or Olympus lenses into this bag easily.

Pretty good going for a rip-stop nylon case with infinitely variable compartments.

Second star is from Lowepro - the label says Viewpoint CS 40 and shows a picture of the bag holding a GoPro, control box, Joby Gorillapod stand and download cable. Fits in neatly.

I fitted a wideangle lens, extra battery, cable release and spare card. With a Fujifilm camera slung onto a Cullmann  Concept One 622T tripod, all I should need would be a beach and a sunset. No hauling 45Kg of gear through the bush, thank you. As it has belt loops at the back, no hauling a shoulder sling either. My kind of webbing...

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Friday, April 22, 2016

Another Two Stations Heard From

Yesterday's column hinted that there will be some delay for a major camera manufacturer in the delivery of promised cameras because of the recent series of earthquakes in Japan. Today I see their largest rival clocked in with a similar press release - but in this case reassuring us that they were good for stocks for the next two or three months.

Not so good for some of the component subcontractors who were in the shake area - they are assessing what impact this will have on the overall supply situation this year. One of the major component manufacturers has suspended production of sensors at a plant that was within the affected prefecture. And they make sensors for a lot of people...

Again, and this is from someone who is always buying things, the best advice is to get your wallet out and purchase now, while stocks are in the shop. An this isn't just earthquakes in Japan - this is also life in Perth.

Perth has a peculiar set of retail circumstances that may not be repeated anywhere else in the world ( I believe the closest retail model that matches Perth is Churchill, Manitoba in polar bear season. That and the stage play " Sweeney Todd "...). We need to recognise this and act accordingly.

We are at the end of the world - or at least at the end of the retail world - just before it resets itself and starts up again half-way across the Indian Ocean. Things arrive here when they arrive - like standard gauge railways and winter fashions. They stay on sale for as long as they stay - sometimes for decades and sometimes for minutes.

You cannot see an item for sale one week and tell yourself that you'll come and get it in a fortnight. Perth does not work that way. If you come back in a fortnight it is frequently gone and the sales staff will tell you that there will never be another one. Sometimes this is because no-one can re-order something that has sat there since the Menzies era, and sometimes it is because the manufacturer has broken up the moulds and tools and is off on another tangent. The basic message is the same; when you see something you want or need, get it RIGHT AWAY. Good or bad, it may be the only chance you ever get.*

Sitting on your money is all very well if you want flat money - because that is what you frequently get. Also flat images and a flat life. Spending a little to get into the modern photographic game can pay off handsomely, and I would recommend to to all the readers. I shall be doing so myself and expect to get an increased low-light capability. You can too.

* This applies to book shops particularly. Lose an opportunity and it is lost forever.

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Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Daily Dredge

I trawl the bottom of the camera trade harbour every day looking for items that can be turned into weblog posts in this column. Amongst the discarded boots and old tuna tins, I find snippets of news from manufacturers and their wholesalers, American review sites, the rumour and geek sites, and our local competitor's advertisements. Some of it is distinctly suspicious, while other items are so blatantly bland as to suggest a trainee intern is clocking up time on the press-agent's computer.

The rumours you can all get for yourselves, and you can involve yourselves as deeply as you wish with the fan-boy fights on the various forums. They are a good way to keep up your level of rage in between camera club meetings. And they have the advantage over club meetings in that while you cannot actually strangle anyone when engaged in an internet argument, you do get a better class of coffee and biscuit at home.

The manufacturers can sometimes be cagy in their announcements but are often candid about what is really happening back at the factory. You can expect some delays in new cameras because of this latest Japanese earthquake - one factory has frankly admitted this today as some of their subcontractors are located in the affected areas. Our sympathy to them and people would do well to wait patiently rather than pester retail and wholesale outlets every week to see when something will arrive. Delayed items will get to Australia eventually, and in the meantime there is nothing to stop people from either continuing to use what they have or buy the items that are in the shops right now. The wise buyer does not delay lest the delay be extended by further bad fortune...

The American DP Review site is a good one and is pretty well organised to analyse new cameras and lenses. They'll do a preliminary report on something when it first hits the trade show circuit, then a hands-on, and finally an in-depth review. These latter exercises are detailed enough to let any sensible person make a clear decision about the equipment...but they cannot tell you whether you will like it, or succeed with it, any more than they can tell you what your breakfast oatmeal will taste like or whether you will stick the spoon in your eye.

Some trade snippets that come through are genuinely helpful - like a note a few days ago telling us that there is to be a new repair agent for Epson printers down in Rockingham - a boon for the Southrons.

Looking at adverts from other places can be annoying if they have offered something just pennies under our shop price and you know that the number is all that prospective clients will look at. It becomes interesting, however, when the offerings are either way, way above the normal CE price, or way, way below it. The first suggests that somebody wants to keep their hand in the game but don't have stock to sell - the second that they have just had a container-load of something delivered and are stacking the cartons in the toilet - they will sell low to gain some room. I ponder on this stuff but leave the major financial thoughts to the management.

Then there is the gossip about prominent Perth photographers...about the one who...ah, but you now that already...

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Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Indelible Watermark

A while ago Fujifilm Australia sent out an email message to tell people how to share their images responsibly. I was frightened to read it as I was worried that they were going to ask me to be responsible for something - and I have managed to avoid it for so many aspects of modern life. I pay taxes and have stopped counterfeiting government documents and rarely run people down on the road, so what more do they want?

Well, it turns out that they are just advocating watermarking your images so that they cannot be stolen. This may be a problem for some photographers, but I have noticed that mine are rarely taken. Even when they are, they are returned in better condition than when they went and one kind soul even pinned a five-dollar note to my collar and said that he hoped my eyesight would recover.

Putting the watermark in the dead centre of the image and making it complex and intrusive seems to be the key advice. This is to make it hard to remove. It is also the key to making people looking away in disgust in the first place - if something looks ugly, it looks ugly, and unless your intention is to make tee shirts for the adolescent market, you are probably better not going down that road.

You can't watermark an idea, and you can be darned sure that there are photographers out there who would be better than you at realising your vision once you give them a hint. It's happened with innumerable television and motion picture plots - even the supposed geniuses of the Monty Python crew were not above pinching things out of books that they probably thought would never be seen. They were wrong.

I have been told that there are computer programs that make it impossible to steal an image from the internet and do so with a simple 13,000 line HTML text that anyone can learn to type. What could possibly go wrongggggg@j^ VV 2 gtkksw,mswp[-cvoe.

In the end, I would merely publish and damn the thieves. Put your name on the thing if you dare and hope that at some stage of the game someone will see it. Keep the raw file with all the data on it in your own records - never send that out. You can always refer to it when the person who steals your image gets a lawyer to write a threatening letter to you.

On a related note - isn't it interesting these days when we get a request or demand from clients for raw files in addition to other formats? Or the final working file that is used to produce a custom print? I cannot remember ever being asked for the negative, transparency, or darkroom printing notes and.or masks in the analog printing days. One sent in transparencies for block making but that was on the basis that someone paid you for the transparency and they could go make blocks and you could go buy groceries - a very good exchange.

I've had the ask a couple of times in relation to studio shoots and once after doing computer work for an image that the client submitted. The studio shoots were paid for and I judged that the use of them was such that there was never going to be any likelihood of further sale of images from them - and in spirit of friendliness relinquished some of the files. If they show up in any altered form I will show the originals and let the viewers make their own judgement. In the case of the computer work I flatly refused - it was asking for work unpaid and I stopped picking cotton for Ol' Massa when Lincoln freed the slaves.

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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Talk To The Hand

If you are worried about people who give you funny looks - or throw things at you in train stations - then this column is not for you. We acknowledge your sensitivities and will not compel you to put yourself in the public firing line. The rest can crowd around and settle down.

The days of writing down your exposure details for each test shot you do have gone. No more scraps of paper or grubby notebooks. No more stubs of pencils. You can reserve these for writing down locomotive numbers - the digital age has put all the data you will ever need right there in each file you create. And there are any number of editing programs that will show it to you on demand, together with international conventions for copyrights, naming of files, technical details, and hot dates. It is an age of information overload and you are expected to shoulder your share of the burden.

But there are any number of things that the camera does not record...and that you may really wish to know later. Things that you would be wise to note down as they occur. Things like atmospheric conditions, location information, details about who is in the picture, or what kind of car it is. What you had for lunch and the waitress's telephone number. You need a personal assistant to do this - or you can personally assist yourself. ( Heaven helps those who help themselves, and particularly at a smorgasbord when they bring out the fresh prawns...)

So. Try one of these for size. Olympus personal recorder. Size of an old mobile phone or a cheap dollar candy bar. Records over 800 hours on a 2 GB micro SD card. You talk discretely into it and then play the thing back to yourself later to get the information. Heck, you can sing to yourself in a Charles Aznavour accent if you want to and listen late into the night. You'll get a seat to yourself on the late night train, I can tell you...

Or turn the thing on in a Uni lecture and doze - play it back later and make notes. Send it to an 8:00 in the morning lecture or staff meeting and let it listen for you. Beware; when the lecturer or team leader looks up and sees only one person in the room, frantically pushing the "record" button on 15 of these suckers while smiling nervously, you'll know you are in for trouble.

In short, it is a portable memory that can go with you everywhere. If you are going to engage in nefarious doings, do them quietly, as this Olympus recorder is quite sensitive to the surroundings. It may be just the thing you need to prove to someone that they really did say what you say they said. Olympus will not get you out of a fight but they will give you the evidence to sustain one.

Speak into the hand, please.

Now, Camera Electronic has come across a number of these dangerous devices and would like to sell you one at a bargain price. Come ask the sales staff and they'll go upstairs and bring down a selection. Go on. You'll either get yourself a very useful adjunct to daily life or a packet of trouble beyond your control, and either way it will be interesting.

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The Last Big Thing Is The New Good Idea

If you are allergic to cynicism, switch off now. The next couple of paragraphs are going to make you itch. If you can stand it, read on.

Any sales network makes money for itself by selling you things - which you know perfectly well. In many trades this can be a seasonal or annual effort - look at what the clothing fashion people do to you four times a year - and think what the automobile makers try to do with yearly model changes and annual sales. If you've lots of money and the psychological need for novelty then all is well - you suit the trades and they suit you.

On the other hand, if you want to, or have to, be careful with your money you are not quite the market that the manufacturers seek...first off. The wise factories will realise that you are in the majority, and produce goods that match your buying power - the unwise will produce top-price items but then wonder why the boxes need so much dusting on the warehouse and shop shelves.

In any run of cameras there will be three types of goods; The Next Big Thing, The Current Big Thing, and The Last Big Thing. The technical abbreviations for this are NBT, CBT, and LBT. { NBN is different and no-one yet quite knows what it stands for... )

Any rate, the NBT is always coming. You can count on there being a NBT with more certainty than you can count on sunrise. That's where the big-money will be looking, ( oddly enough it is also where the no-money looks...) and no specification will be overlooked, as long as the number is better than the CBT. As no money is needed to speculate or pontificate, everyone can spend up hypothetically and be an expert.

The CBT is actually here. It works, at least well enough to get in the shop door, and with a bit of luck well enough to get out the shop door as well. Some people will purchase it to use, some to brag, and some to merely possess it. No matter - it is the current state of the art at the current going price.

The really interesting area is the LBT. It might be superseded by only months, but the mind of the public in many cases has set up a prejudice against it that blinds them to the true worth. The camera, lens, or other accessory may produce brilliant results but as they are older results...

This is a shame. People neglect perfectly good equipment on the basis of fashion or novelty - and they forget that they are getting equipment to make images with. Which brings us up to the camera and lens in question - the Olympus OM-D E-M5. Micro 4/3 mirror-less system camera with a Zuiko 12-50mm f:3.5-6.3 macro lens. I suggest that this would be a very desirable acquisition for the sensible photographer - in particular because Camera Electronic have quite a number of them and the prices have been reduced to an attractive level.

Why? There is an Olympus OM-D E-M5 MkII currently sold that is quite wonderful. At a higher price...

This camera and lens are perfect for close-up workers who wish to carry lighter loads - no bellows, no extension rings, no giant bodies. Results that enlarge to A3+ superbly. Convenient touch-screen controls as well as full manual dial wheels. The ability to shoot full HD 1080 video with an electronic-zoom lens for steadiness. A myriad of interesting image-modifier programs built into the camera for different scenes. And a fantastic image stabilising system. In short - fun to use and excellent results.

And for the people who have other Olympus lenses or other micro 4/3 instantly-useful spare body.

Here are some results taken around the newly-opened British-American gas station in Wet Dog, Alberta. Note the precise focusing and the increased depth of field. Micro 4/3 may be one of the best compromise formats for macro work that there is. Note that these are hand held.

As usual - we say come in and see, or ring up our sales staff to discuss these cameras. The bodies are also available with other Olympus Zuiko lenses and kit combinations.

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Monday, April 18, 2016

The Never-Ready Case

Well, that's what we used to call 'em. And we cursed them and flapped about with them and broke them and threw them away for years.

But we still carried them about - and we still expected every Japanese camera we bought to have one. By and large, every one did. And then the age of digital came and...

And now you get a wonderful camera in the box you buy. With a battery, charger, computer cable, silver metal triangle rings, a strap of sorts, and an instruction book. In some cases you get a lens cap or a CD with software on it. But you don't get a never-ready case.

I can't say quite why, though part of it may be the demise of the Asian leather workers who used to stitch the things. Or perhaps the herds of camera case cattle have disappeared. Or the fickle hand of fashion has finally branded them so inexcusably amateur and unkewl as to exclude them from the market. Possibly all three - except for the fact that we can still get them, we can still use them, and By Golly, in some cases we still need them!

Every manufacturer of note still does supply the NRC in some form - even if it is just a half-case that snugs around the body of the camera. Some of these cases are exquisitely made of exotic leathers and carry inspiring prices. Some are well-designed. Some are just as bad as ever they were.

The half-case deserves special notice here - it is the photographic equivalent of those gloves with the fingers cut off the ends. There are few people who really need those gloves - professional ticklers or snipers are the only two that come to mind - but they have been made to look clever in motion pictures and advertisements and people seem to buy them. Perhaps the machinery that knits gloves has worn out and only goes so far down the fingers...

The classic NRC has a leather flap on the front over the lens. This was nearly always embossed with some sort of identifier for the brand. Zeiss Ikon and Kiev made them of pressed leather cups, other people of stitched cylinders, and Praktica tried to get away with a moulded plastic bucket. Yes, you may say " ick " now if you wish. The lens section was a compromise between protection and size - the smaller ones made the case so much easier to sling round. But then you had to dive into a separate leather box for a lens hood when the time came to shoot the picture. Good photographers were also good jugglers.

The essence of the NRC, apart from the frustration engendered when you put the camera into portrait mode and the flap swung around over the lens, was the close fit and protection it offered. You could carry a camera over a shoulder and not look like a Guy or a Post Office messenger. And the better NRC's from the better manufacturers made a status and fashion statement of their own. Together with the bad language when the front flap fell off, it set you apart.

For the retro adventurer in the Sony, Olympus, Fujifilm, Leica, Nikon, and Canon game, we recommend that you come and talk to the staff at the shop. There are a number of alternatives made right now - including Promaster -  to get you back into this sort of camera carriage. You'll have to look out your own safari suit, however.

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Friday, April 15, 2016

New Settings - New Performance

Firmware Update Day, folks!

And this time it is not the Fujifilm corporation providing you with a little electronic gift - this time your benefactors are the Nikon Australia people and the Leica people.

The photographers who are currently using - or are considering - the Nikon D810 and D810A cameras will be cheered to know that there is a firmware update available now for these:

For the D810 you can progress from version 1.10 to version 1.11 while with the D810A the version goes from 1.00 to 1.01. The main issue dealt with is an improvement when the camera is attached to the Nikon WR-R10 wireless remote controller that is running firmware version 3.00. Now the cameras will respond properly.

Here is the internet information to set you on the track:

Now the enthusiasts and collectors using the Leica SL will also be delighted to take on board their new firmware update. It will be bringing the camera up to version 2.0.

You go to their Leica website to gain the new material, but you'll find a number of improvements: new AF points, faster focus, direct exposure compensation available on the top wheel, and an extended range of shutter speeds. Would you believe 1/16,000 second? That's nearly fast enough to catch our cat from the time it gets in the door until it gets to its food bowl...

More: further improvements to JPEG images, white balance, video, and the focus peaking function. Altogether a good thing to do.

Registered owners of this fine camera system can log into the Leica Owner's Area at:

They can download the free firmware or take advantage of the opportunity to have the camera brought up to date with the free update service offered at Camera Electronic.

The nicest thing about free firmware updates from whichever manufacturer you follow is that they act like little electronic charges into the photographers brain, as well as the camera. New things that the cameras can do seem to drive the shooters out and into the sunshine or rain to try it all out, and new picture ideas multiply.

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Thursday, April 14, 2016

Coyne Collecting - A Seminar To Treasure

I hope the subject of this column doesn't mind me using his name as a headline - I'm actually talking about Michael Coyne, the internationally renowned photojournalist. No disrespect meant.

How could I - the man uses the beloved Fujifilm cameras to document diverse cultures around the globe. He's lectured before here at our own Shoot Photography Workshops and that was worth hearing. Now he'll be holding a seminar at the Central Institute of Technology later this month to tell more.

We still get a look in - and you can look in as well - as there will be an exhibition of his prints at the Shoot photography Workshops - 232 Stirling Street right next door to the shop - from the 18th of April to the 29th of April. It will be seen between 8:30 AM until 5:30 PM on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Fridays. It'll be well worth a viewing, particularly if you go along to see Michael at Central TAFE. The name of the seminar is " Capturing Humanity ".

Well, what will you hear at the seminar? The background briefing and inside story of historic moments - including his recent tour of Fukushima in Japan. Consider that he's been shooting assignment photos in over 20 countries and any number of sticky - and non-sticky - situations. There's a lot of stories and a lot of insight for the photographer who also wants to observe mankind.

The seminar will be held at the main lecture theatre of the Central Institute of Technology on Wednesday, the 27th of April. It starts at 6:00 PM and goes until 8:00.


AIPP Member                 $ 65.00
AIPP Student Member    $ 45.00
WAPF Members             $ 80.00
Non-Members                 $ 95.00

There is a booking site on the web run by the AIPP - Please click over there or give them a ring to see about going.

Mr. Coyne is well worth listening to - and if you are a Fujifilm user, his insights into how our favourite cameras operate in the field are priceless.

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Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The Hot Photographer

Perth's entry into autumn via a heatwave - and didn't we all just love it when it got over 40º... raised the question about what we should do ...when it gets above 40º.

As householders we should go inside, turn on the A/C, get a cold drink, and read a book - or type a weblog column. As photographers we should get get out there and capture the blazing sun, sticky asphalt, and overbearing UV. Nothing should stop us from being artists, including the car steering wheel being at welding temperature. I mean, what are oven gloves for anyway? If suffering for art is required, Perth can provide the raw material.

Well, art is all very well but artists at 40º plus are not a pretty sight. The wisest amongst them will adjourn to the darkroom to develop film or the not-so-dark room to work on their computer files. The very fortunate will disappear into the studio and decide to do something with chiaroscuro - something that doesn't use tungsten lights turned up high.

Here is where Camera Electronic come in. Lighting the studio with a lot of heat and electricity is okay in winter but summer needs a smarter solution. If you can get away with a smaller set of studio strobes, both the temperature and the cost go down. Studio flashes do have modelling lights to let you see approximately where the final illumination will go but once you know that you can turn them off and work just with the momentary flash. And fortunately the more modest mono-blocks draw very little electricity and do not heat up the  body of the flash in the stand-by mode.

I can say this with confidence, having bought one of the tiny ones myself - The 125 W/S Elinchrom RX One. I got it to serve as a hair light, and it does that job admirably when slung from a rail above the shooting area. Small, light, but with the standard Elinchrom bayonet fitting that takes all the other light modifiers I own. It even has an integral fan for hot weather.

I did not realise how useful it could be until I took it off the ceiling and put it on a boom arm over the shooting table. It is so light that it can be supported by a very simple arm, and no counterweight needed. It has an in-built radio trigger that responds to the Skyport transmitter on the camera and I need not remember to attach a separate receiver. And best of all, when the power is buttoned down from a higher setting it has an auto-dump circuit that reduces the resultant initial flash.

I have been progressively more impressed with the lower-power Elinchrom units as time goes on - the 500/500 W/S setup that was used with the film cameras gave way to a 250/250 W/S standard and now I am down to 125 W/S for individual product illustration. It means that I feel people can look at the D-lite 2 sets with as much enthusiasm as the D-Lite 4's for small studio use.

When Perth swelters, that has to be a good thing.

Elinchrom D-lite and Rx sets are available in the Camera Electronic Stirling Street shop and in the on-line inventory too. Don't forget to get some additional light shapers and some spare globes.

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Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The Round Of The Staff: Ricky

I pester the CE staff members each week - for the look of the thing I pretend it is to gain useful information to pass on to the customers via this weblog column - in reality I just like to pester and they are convenient...

First nervous cab off the rank was Ricky, our formerwarehouse and stores manager. If new things came in they generally hit either his desk or that of Jennifer in the receiving and dispatch area. Today did not turn up much past the Op/Tech Small Rain Sleeve.

The larger versions of these have been a staple product for years - they slip over DSLR cameras with longer lenses and protect them from showers of rain. Like this smaller version they have a draw string closure at the front that you can snug around the lens hood and a flexible hole at the back that you can fit around the eye-level viewer of your camera, if it has one.

If you are just using the LCD screen at the back of the camera then the plastic of these sleeves is clear enough to give you a fair sight through it anyway. And there is an extended sleeve that goes downwards from this so that the hand holding the camera stays dry as well.

The smaller size is aimed at the mirror-less and compact camera users.

The price is pretty compact too - you get two of 'em in the pack for $ 9.95. That's good cheap insurance against water damage to your camera in a sudden summer storm. You can see thm in-store or order via our on-line shop.

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Monday, April 11, 2016

Photographic Education For Dummies - the Idiots Guide To Successful Shooting

Well, you've finally recovered from reading the digital photography magazine from the newsagent. The last HDR picture of psychedelic auroras in Aberystwith Gorge has been seen and you've had a Bex and a nice lie down. It is time to decide whether you have learned anything. Well, you've learned not to open a British photography magazine in full sunlight without putting on the RayBans, haven't you...?

Now as for any actual help with your own photography, well that's another question. The DVD about how to open layers in Photoshop Elements 6 is good but it's 11 minutes you will never have back in your life. You can feel confident in doing it, and if you get the next 15 part-works from the newsagent you will be able to close them again. Knowledge is power.

Is there anything you can do locally to increase your skill? Yes there is. You can go to TAFE, a number of universities, or some studios around town to take courses in photography. The uni and TAFE are a fair commitment and are generally aimed at turning out junior professionals to replace the ageing ranks of senior professionals. It's not as grim and Darwinian as it sounds - the old professionals get a pretty good opportunity to exploit the young professionals along the way. " Come and shoot for me." is roughly equivalent in economic terms to cat food smeared on the trigger of a bear trap. The cub photographer smells it and....

Cynicism aside, there is the opportunity for private instruction. I once tutored a young chap in portrait shooting in the Little Studio and I'm happy to say no-one was maimed. I will not attempt it again as I have a shorter temper these days. Fortunately there are other people who are better instructors and other venues more central.  The Shoot Photography Workshop next door to Camera Electronic is a case in point.

It looks like they are going to run regular courses with regular teachers. I have one of their flyers before me detailing the next three months and it looks as though they are having lectures and workshops that address the shooting of food, fashion, and stars - the astronomical sort.

The fashion, food and astronomy are to be dealt with by people who really do know what is needed for technical and commercial success...because they are successful technicians.  They are not a simplistic DVD trying to teach you how to suck digital eggs.

The best way to find out the details is to contact Shannon at Shoot on:

or on the

or just phone up to 9228 8232

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Friday, April 8, 2016

The Swedish Undra Maskin

Well, start going to the gym. Do your curls and upper arm exercises. Practise lifting heavy weights. Because the Swedish heavyweight is back.

Not Ingmar Johanssen - or Ingmar Bergman - or even Ingrid Bergman - we mean Hasselblad and the new H6D. The bigger medium format digital camera.

A new electronic email ( as opposed to the old steam ones ) went out today alerting Camera Electronic customers to the appearance on the world scene of this new camera. The press release for it is the only thing seen at present but it promises some pretty interesting things:

a. A bigger, more divided sensor. 100 megapixels to capture things. 40mm x 53mm sensor size. This is a considerable advance over the previous size and a jump ahead of their competitors. looks as though they are doing a 100C and a 50C version.

b. 4K video capture.

c. A new processor inside.

d. Raised ISO  - up to 12,800 now.

e. USB 3.0 connections.

f. Dual cards - CFast and SD.

g. The .3FR.JPG format. No, I don't know what they mean either, but it's their press release...

h. WiFi connectivity.

i. 15-stop dynamic range.

j. A touchscreen LCD and new display.

K. An orange shutter button.

I've included the last feature because it is the only bit that I can afford - no notes yet on the Australian price but I've googled up the New York price and fed it into the currency converter program and I privately suspect that you would not get any change from a $ 45,000 note on this camera. Not surprising seeing the specs and the heritage of the device, but I suspect that it will be government money or high-end advertising studio money that buys it.

Mind, you, one Powerball and I will be down at the CE front counter pestering the staff...*

*Actually, I pester them plenty, but an order for a complete new Hasselblad H6D outfit plus extra lenses and a spare pair of trousers would raise the game to the second floor.

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The Spur Of The Moment - With The New Fujifilm

Finding myself sober and dressed, and in Camera Electronic, and no-one making use of the new Fujifilm X-70 camera for the moment, I clapped a card into it and shot out the door.

I then shot up the Suzuki, the street, and the skyline. Then the staff. If this was Georgia you'd have heard about it in the news, but as it is just Stirling Street and the only reports heard are good ones, you can relax.

The little X-70 was fitted with the supplementary viewfinder to make for snap shots. The viewfinder is the Albada type and is fitted with two sets of markings - one approximates the view of the unaided lens at the equivalent of 28mm focal length. The other delineates the view when a supplementary lens is screwed onto the front of the camera - it widens things out to an equivalent of 21mm.

The results were every bit as good as I expected - the ease-of-use of the X-100 series of cameras combined with the fast focus of the X-T10. And the Albada finder was brilliant and clear - you don't get absolute framing but it is glance quick in use.

As with the X-100 series I would thoroughly recommend this camera for tourists, art gallery shooters, and car show enthusiasts. The standard lens should be perfect for most capture, and if you needed more fill flash than the little tube provides, the hot shoe is fully TTL- operational with Fujifilm flashes.

I was honest. I put it back in the cabinet.


The X70 and all it's accessories are available now from our online store.

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Thursday, April 7, 2016

The Stolen Camera

One of the sorest points on the photographic world is the business of stolen photographic equipment.

In 7.8 years of shop work I saw little of this - there were really only two times when I saw that we encountered stolen gear, and fortunately the police were right there to help sort the thing out. But I note from Facebook and other internet sites that theft of photographic gear from houses and cars is rife. It is no joke, so don't look for the usual level of irreverent humour in today's column.

House breaks are a real feature of everyday life. I've had my house broken into once...a terrible feeling, and a financial loss. Fortunately some insurance recovery eased the money side of it but there is very little that makes you feel better about the invasion of your home. It caused me to think out increased physical security for my photo gear and also to institute a security scheme for my digital photos. Fort Knox it's not, but it should stop loss from the average level of suburban intrusion.

Car thefts are even more devastating - coming as they might when people are vulnerable - tourists leaving their cars at well-known sightseeing destinations as they go away for hours. Thieves know these sites, realise that their victims will be away from the cars for a considerable period of time, and break windows with impunity. Note that this doesn't have to happen away up north or away down south - I've seen cars broken and rifled in suburban RSL car parks while people were inside at a function.

The conventional wisdom says to leave no goods visible from the outside to tempt the thieves. It does not address two things; tourists frequently have cars packed with goods that cannot be stowed...and thieves will break cars windows and rifle contents even if nothing is visible. I suspect they lay in wait, observe when goods are shifted into boots and under seats, and then proceed with a lamentable efficiency.

It is certainly one of the reasons that the firearms regulations in WA have had additional provisions - people must be able to lock firearms into safe containers in vehicles as well as at home. I used to shoot muzzle loading long arms - rifles and muskets - and I'm afraid I'd be debarred from the sport if I had to rely upon my current tiny car to transport things to the range.

But...perhaps it is an indication of one response that tourists could make to the theft problem. I note that even in my little Suzuki Swift that there is a space under the rear parcel tray that could be literally armoured and deadlocked to contain photographic gear. A great nuisance, I might add, and a considerable expense, but do-able. If I were a travelling photographer liable to leave my vehicle in lonely places, I would consider it. It would not stop a broken window but at least would not yield anything more of value.

Note to Camera Electronic customers: Talk to the staff about professional photographic equipment insurance. It is a specialist field and possibly expensive, but then so is so much of our beloved gear.

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Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The Curious Case Of The Dark Grey Filter

Those of us who use cameras to take pictures in the bright noon sunlight get what we deserve - brilliant colours in the main subjects, overexposed skies, and deep shadows under overhanging objects. These overhangs can be eyebrows, noses, lips, chins, and bosoms. And that's just on cars - people are worse...

Well, it comes with the climate, and some days the climate picks people up and beats them against the lamp posts. It is different in cloudier or hazier places - if you have an atmosphere that you can stack for use later it will cut out a lot of the sun and diffuse the rest so that shadows are naturally filled in. In some cases it is a real boon to the outdoor shooter who deals with close and medium subjects. But for the Western Australian at 12:00 we need some artificial fill.

Reflectors are a good traditional idea - people can carry them, erect them. position them to advantage and bounce the ample sunlight pretty well where it is needed. Camera Electronic sell a variety of them from dinner-plate size up to Insanity-On-A-Frame size. Lastolite, Promaster, and Glanz are three brands to look for. You'll need a spare hand or two to use them to best advantage.

If you don't have a spare hand, you can fire an electronic flash from the camera position to do the fill. The business of balancing it to match or run slightly under the prevailing light is the tough part - tough even though TTL mechanisms in camera and flash take out a lot of the mathematics. But as the WA sun is bright and frequently cameras cannot go under 100 or 200 ISO, the exposures at synchronising speed frequently demand an f stop of 22 or even smaller. That's a tough ask of the average small electronic flash - you'll see professionals going the expensive step further of taking out field mono-block strobe heads to try to match or overpower old Sol.

The users of the  Fujifilm X-100 series of cameras or any others that use leaf shutters can cope better, as these cameras will synch their shutters up to 1/1000 and thus the aperture needed is wider  and the flash has a chance to supply enough light. But what of the mirror-less cameras that have focal plane shutters? 1/180 synch at the best and that means f:16 at noon.

Well, help is on the way - we mentioned a press release for a new Fujifilm flash later in the year. Re-reading the DP Review spiel says that it will have a high-speed synch that will up the speed, lower the f stop, and pump out more light as well. We can only hope that this promise is fulfilled because the chance of friendly and controlled cloud cover in WA in summer is pretty darn remote.

Note: Cheating by putting an ND8 in front of the lens and imagining that you have dropped the ISO by three stops is like pulling yourself up by your bootstraps.* If the TTL circuit is activated in the flash it just thinks it has to pump out three more stops of light and you've adjusted nothing. The circus trick only works if you have a manual flash out there or one of the old film types that depends upon its own thyristor to quench. Whether you do it or not depends:

1. Upon whether you own an old pre-digital flash or one of the new ones that will avoid TTL.
2. Upon the amount of tootling and fiddling you are prepared to do to add more light into the fill. Consider the fact that even the most basic image editing programs allow you to boost shadow exposure...
3. Whether you can be bothered to stand there and do the photographic version of high-school algebra before every shot. I know people who do, and do it gladly, but then I know some pretty random people...Hey, Guys...

And a sop to the management. Guys and gals, you CAN buy Profoto and Elinchrom units that will pump out more light than you can use. All it needs is money, and the gear is easy to use. If you want to do this lighting you need this gear. Come in and talk to Dom or Carlos. They know, you know. Also see our on-line shop.

* And I am prepared to admit that I tried it. Hell, I tried sea slug at a Chinese banquet and lived. How much dumber could anything be...?

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Tuesday, April 5, 2016

How To Expan Your Mind

That's not a typo - there are no "d's"in Expan when Manfrotto make them. And you don't need "d's" - the apparatus is perfectly functional as it is.

The EXPAN 046 drive is Manfrotto's way of slinging the large rolls of paper or vinyl backdrop material between two supports. They are imaginative in this - there is a single hook for direct attachment to the top of a standard light stand or you can attach multiple hooks to a 035 Super Clamp and control out two or three rolls.

Studios who regularly move from white through grey to black for fashion, portrait, or product shots will appreciate the triple hooks. It is the work of a moment to run one up and another down. The users of vinyl backdrops will have to be aware they are heavier than the paper and will need to be taped more firmly to the cardboard core before full unrolling.

One thing that new users of the paper rolls do not realise - they become brittle with age. If you lay out a roll of paper for a long enough period it will start to tear at the edges and at the front. This can be minimised if it is always on an Expan holder - up and down for years. If you can keep the models' dirty feet off the paper, all the better.

For the adventurous and well-heeled, Manfrotto also make an electric-drive version of the Expan. You operate the rolls up and down from a digital control box at the side of the studio. Pure genius.

Note that it is indeed possible to change all three rolls of Superior 2750 roll paper on an Expan outfit by yourself - you need a step-ladder and a methodical approach but it is not hard. Where you store the extra rolls is another matter.

Please also note that it is possible to use Manfrotto Expan components to put a backdrop up in such a way that the heavy rolls of paper are near the floor and loop up and over a cross bar at ceiling level. A little more trouble to rig initially but the changing of the rolls is easier.

Also note that sometimes muslin backdrops can be rolled up on empty Superior cardboard cores, so save your next one after you use up the paper. Takes a bit of practise to get the muslin on it evenly.

Manfrotto are about the best manufacturer of studio gear there is - at least of gear that is readily available in Perth. You can count on the equipment to do exactly what it says it is for and if you are at all imaginative you can get it to support new ideas in ways that the maker never thought of.

Manfrotto never goes astray.

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Monday, April 4, 2016

One Of These Things Is Not Like Others

Oddly enough, all of these things do the same job - when inserted into the appropriate cameras they all take 250 images.

In the case of the Canon 250 shot magazine the camera you will need is a one of the F1 film cameras with a 250-shot reporter back. None for sale new, of course, and very few made when they were new in 1971, but you can always haunt ebay or Boris...You'll need a 100' roll of film to charge it, another 250 shot cartridge to receive the film, and a darkroom to get the stuff spooled up. It might be a good idea to go speak to the pro lab to see if their processing machine will cope with the length of the film you use. All up, figure about $1800 minimum for your 250 shots. Plus negative sleeves...

The 35mm cassettes will go in any 35mm camera so you might luck out there. Pick up an old compact for $ 80 and add the film...$ 90...and the processing...$ 125...well you'll be a lot better off for your  250 negatives. You'll only spend $ 295 for negatives.

Of course if you elect to get a new small compact camera and the 8 GB card you can also set 250 shots for about $ 209...but you can keep on snapping after that - the card will hold a lot more shots. They'll be in colour, but most computers will let you see them in black and white and you can even invert the image files if you are a freak for negatives.

I haven't costed out two and a half tablets of artist-quality drawing paper and a handful of pencils but I'll bet it is about the same price...if you draw in negative you'll need more pencils.

Note: the 250 shot magazine is a second hand item, but the Hoodman memory cards and the Kodak T-Max film are both new and readily available in-store or on our online shop.

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Friday, April 1, 2016

Shady Business In The Leica Cabinet...

Standing in the shop one day idly throwing gravel at the staff to while away the time, I found myself bemused while looking in the Leica cabinet.

Of course everything in there was pristine - Leica insist upon this standard of presentation in their shop displays and frankly, for the price asked for the equipment, this is fair enough. You could hardly expect the latest SL or Monochrom cameras to be piled up in end-of-aisle wire baskets. But what struck me was the variety of lens hoods hat Leica put on their cameras.

Now some other equally reputable manufacturers have designed their lenses in different focal lengths to have the same front diameter and bayonet lock, and as a consequence have found that that several lenses could share the same lens hood. Of course, the extremes of focal length and aperture mean that there are especial ones for some lenses. But when they can double up. they do.

Two big makers of DSLR cameras make a large variety of their own glass, but have dedicated lens hoods for each one. The sales staff bless the manufacturers who pack a hood in the same box as the lens - it makes it so much easier to supply than trying to find two separate packages...particularly if the factory has not bothered to state WHICH lens hood is needed on the box...

Leica sometimes package the thing you need in the box, sometimes compel you to buy it separately, and sometimes fasten it onto the lens permanently. This last variety is the most useful - you never lose it and you can deploy it without searching around in a camera bag for it. Look at the lens hood for the 90mm Summicron M retracted and extended - good design.

The wide angle hoods with their characteristic cutout on the northwest corner are that way to allow you to see through them when mounted on an M-series body with optical finder. Even here you can see a variation with a front baffle plate.

The most surprising of the modern hoods is the one fitted to the Vario-Elmarit SL 24-90 lens. They've gone for the most shading possible in the centre section while having to open out for the edges. If there were to be a front lens hood hat, it would be best made of neoprene to accommodate such an odd shape.

 Equally odd, though this is a shape made by other makers such as Fujifilm, is the square snout fitted onto the Summilux 28 of the Leica Q. I admire it, and find it effective - I use the same shape on the Fujinon 35 and 18mm lenses - but have discovered that it is finicky to cap off out in the field - and a shape that is difficult to attach a front cap to in any case. The rubber hood hats from Op/Tec are by far the best solution to this.

Last but not least is the dear old squeeze-the-childproof-buttons of the classic Macro Elmar lens hood. These were common in the Leica hoods of the 60's and 70's and apart from the weight of the thing, were probably one of the best designs ever made. You could uncap, reverse, attach, and juggle these things in the dark or hanging off the side of a dreadnought with ease.

For all sales information or general know how please come in and see our freindly staff .

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