Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Downside Of The Touch Screen

People love touch screens - whether they are on tablets, smart phones, or camera LCD screens, the public cannot seem to get enough of them. They poke, tap, swipe, scroll and twirl all day. The images open, close, expand, contract, and disappear forever.

I very nearly hate the touch screen.

When I use it on my iPad it gives me none of the tactile feedback that the standard keyboard does. Each stroke I make as I write this tells me that the wireless keyboard has registered my entry by a small sink and tap feedback. Even if I am not looking at the screen as I type...and I frequently am not...I know something will be up there when I do. In the case of the iPad I have to watch each stroke on the screen to make sure it actually happened. Note that in neither case can I guarantee that the word will be correctly spelled - that's a separate process of proofreading later.

When I tackle a phone with a touch screen it is worse, because the phone has smaller dots on the screen representing the qwerty keyboard. The dots are smaller but my fingers are the same size. The spelling worsens.

On the back of a camera the LCD touch screen might be thought a great advantage. If it has usable icons, perhaps. If it has symbols that need to be translated by a Swiss psychologist I am in trouble - I would do far better with a dial or a menu.

The really annoying thing is when the slightest touch of finger or nose on that screen triggers it off. You get to be very wary of it when it continuously shoots before you are lined up.

But I must not be too negative...after all this is digital, not film...the touch screen on a swivelling LCD is an elegant thing in a studio. The camera is frequently mounted on a tripod or camera stand and the user has both hands free. The screen may be tilted up to save the photographers's back from being tilted down. if the camera has provision for touch screen focusing the lens need not be disturbed - the careful alignment of a scientific or advertising shot cannot be thrown off at the last moment.

If the manufacturer allows the camera to be controlled remotely from a tablet with the same touching, the whole exercise becomes fun. You still set it off inadvertently but you feel that you are being a techno-geek while you are doing it.

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Monday, May 30, 2016

When The Airplanes Are Hiding...

I was all set to snipe at the RFDS aircraft as it came over our house. I had clipped a Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 55-300mmf:4-5.6 G ED VR lens onto my Ray-Qual adapter and mounted the combo on my Fujifilm X-T10 camera. The sky was clear, the sun was up, and I needed a shot for this weblog column.

Just my luck - no-one in the bush was sick enough this morning to need a transfer to Jandakot. No RFDS plane. I even tried baiting it by putting out a pile of bandages and Dettol...but nothing.

Fortunately a local Willy Wagtail obliged by cleaning his wing-pits while sitting on the neighbour's iron-plate fence and I was in a good position to spy on him.

For that matter I could have spied on the people who live up the end of the street - some 250 mtrs away. The lens is that good. They are are pretty quiet lot up at the end of the street so there is little point in observing them...but I could.

The Wagtail was a bonus, but no surprise. What did astonish me was how well the 300mm end of this zoom lens did on the roses in the garden. Granted you are not at macro distance from the blooms, but you still get a pretty close-in view and the resolution is good. Of course you need a small aperture for depth of field but that is just the number game of optics anyway.

If I was a Nikon DX shooter of field sports, aircraft shows, car races, horse races, close surfing, or large animals, I would unhesitatingly choose this lens for my DSLR. As I was using an adapter I lost all AF and VR activity...the price you pay for fiddling around with mixed systems...but at least the RayQual adapter was able to make the aperture work. A Nikon shooter would have far more control in far easier a manner.

The would be a very fun lens with the D7200 or the new D500. It might even be worth waiting for the RFDS or the neighbours to do something scandalous.

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Friday, May 27, 2016

The Ins And Outs Of The New Nikon Flash

The new Nikon SB-5000 flash has just been demonstrated at Camera Electronic and there is an example of it in the big yellow cabinet. Here are a few of the external clues to the internal values:

a. There is a new connectivity for standard flash synch - the pc socket at the side of the camera teams that studio users and people with older cameras will be able to trigger this flash in the Automatic and Manual modes.

The advent of the hot shoe was a wonderful advance for on-camera shooters but in some instances means an extra equipment link for the off-camera people. Of course now that the new radio trigger flashes are so efficient, people forget that there are long cables that will do the firing as well. These are particularly valuable in areas that may have high shielding or radio interference. You can't beat good old hard wire.

b. You need more power? You need power for a longer period? You've got a battery pack that clips on your belt? Welcome the new provision for power input on the front of the SB-5000 flash. A dedicated one-way plug is available for this.

c. Would you like to use it as a wireless R/C unit? Yes, it does that, with suitable cameras.  And you don't need a degree in electronics or graphic design to access the controls. that big LCD screen presents all the options as you select them.

d. You need a medium size unit? This is medium size. look at the body shape compared to the SB-700. Just about the same bulk. Look at the flash tubes - here zoomed forward to the widest setting.

We'll be bringing more news of this professional-quality unit for Nikon shooters as the weeks go on - and include some examples of jobs shot with it in the studio and the field. Be sure to come down to Camera Electronic with your Nikon camera to test it out ( that's always a sure-fire chance to see what you get before you get it...) or order one on-line from our online store.

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Thursday, May 26, 2016

The People Behind The Cameras

I have just seen a feed from the Fuji Rumors site (Why is it not Fujifilm Rumours...?) that tells of the retirement of Mr. Hiroshi Kawahara - the Fujifilm manager who first conceived the X-100 camera and who has done so much for the design of the X-series. You can google over there and read it yourself - it is quite interesting.

Apart from the fact that I like and use the products of this company, the article was interesting for the fact that it points out how little we know in the consumer world about the designers and technicians who make the products we use. I am sorry to say that up until now I had no idea who would have been the architect of the cameras and lenses - indeed still know little of the rest of the team...and it is the same for each of the manufacturers.

The occasional trade factory trip to Japan or Germany is wonderful, but you can only meet a few people. Just as well - they need to be busy about their designing and manufacturing and have little time for rubbernecking tourists. Yet the tourists want to ask questions and give ideas.

The problem is not so much that the important people are hidden, but that they are anonymous. We have no George Eastman or Victor Hasselblad to communicate with. And it is hard for the people who do not speak or write the Japanese language to interchange meaningfully with those who do.

So? So perhaps the advertising and liaison people in each big manufacturer should encourage websites and interest groups like Fuji Rumors as much as possible, but also find an official factory figure to take over the role of communication as well. We're well served here in Western Australia from Fujifilm, Canon, Nikon, and Olympus who send regular visitors but perhaps a factory connection that is direct would also be a good idea.

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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

" How Many Batteries Do I Need? "

How many pockets have you got?

The question of batteries rarely concerned us in the old film days - at least for the little people. The mechanical shutter and the finger-powered film advance worked pretty well all the time and no electricity was needed. Adding a selenium light meter to the mixture still avoided a battery, but as soon as the CdS and later cells were incorporated and we got electronic shutters and motor drives we started to have to be cagey about on-board electricity.

We started to have to look for 22.5 volt batteries for flash guns...similar ones for Polaroid cameras...D cells for Graflex flash guns...and then a whole raft of cells for the early strobe systems. Victor Hasselblad introduced us to a small blue-coated stack of nickel cadmium cells for one of his cameras and they were NEVER happy batteries.

Well, things are now digital, and batteries are a fact of life. We get lithium-ion cells with every camera we buy and if we are wise we grab an extra one from the accessories rack to go with the new kit. Of course they are re-chargeable items - that is part of the appeal of digital photography - but the amount of juice that any given camera takes is variable factor and sometimes you need more than one battery to have reasonable working time.

A case in point is my own dear little Fujifilm X-10. It works well, but the small battery fitting in it poops out at about 200 shots. If I am going for a full day's shooting at the car show I need to take 3 batteries. If I were a car show shooter with a big Nikon D3, D4, or D5 DSLR I could expect about 2000 shots on one battery and would not need a spare for the day*.

Here is where the user of the big pro DSLR has it over the user of the mirror-less camera in most instances - the battery on the bottom grip of this kind is larger and goes longer - or it repeats the battery in the camera and thus doubles the life. But the whole assembly is heavier, so there we go again with the pros and cons.

That's the new Pentax K-1 in the pictures with the accessory battery grip on the bottom. Well-proportioned for a larger hand and all the controls you could decently want scattered on the top and back. A rumour on another site says a new grip for another camera may well have two batteries plus the one in the camera - 3 altogether - makes lots of electricity but adds extra weight. We'll wait and see if the rumour site is right.

* but I'd take a spare for the day because I am the nervous type.

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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Big Camera For The Big Picture

Well, I saw it.

There it was in the Fridays Studio last night - Monday as it happened - the new Hasselblad H6D camera in both 50 megapixel and 100 megapixel versions. And a table of Hasselblad lenses that fit onto the camera. Also a setup with a computer, projector, and two professional strobe lights with soft boxes. All it needed was a very patient young woman as model and a professional fashion photographer to wring the new camera through its paces.

Well, he'd actually had a chance to have a go before the evening's presentation with some fashion shooting and was able to shows some of the results - large prints on the walls of the studio with amazing sharpens in the details. As the 100 megapixel camera is the industry leader at present for this sort of resolution, we had the privilege of seeing the cutting edge without getting hurt.

This new evocation of the Hasselblad HD system has added any number of conveniences and improvements - an improved range of ISO settings, 4K video, dual card slots, increased dynamic range ( 15 stops!), and a thoroughly better LCD screen with touch control.

Things is faster with USB 3.0 throughout and they have even taken to such of the fashionable modern improvements as the Q button - you get 8 vital functions displayed on that LCD screen at once.

One of the Camera Electronic staff questioned me about the size of the sensors - it turns out that the 50 megapixel model runs to a 33mm x 44mm sensor while the 100 megapixel variety has a sensor that is 40 mm x 54 mm. This is quite reminiscent of the 645 sized sensors of the film era A16 backs.

The new lenses for this class of camera have also been updated to include a faster 1/2000 second shutter speed and the flash shooters will be delighted to see that the X - synch speed can go all the way up to that top speed. Daytime flash fill could not be easier.

The photo demonstration, with the patient young lady, went well, as the ability to dial down the overexposures using the dynamic range was amply demonstrated. The camera is best suited to Phocus software...in this case the 3.0 version...though output can be sent to any number of other formats. Even rather harsh direct flash could not phase the system, and the obvious speed of the camera in processing the RAW files enabled the fashion shoot to flow very swiftly. Apparently the new tethered cable has a great deal to do with this - the simple fact of being more flexible and better connected makes a workflow difference. There is probably a fair bit of wireless capability there as well since they spoke of sending images to iPads while studio shooting is going on.

I think the high speed capture of the device is also at the top of the market, if a video that was shown is anything to go by. I was rather distracted by the photographer's use of cans of paint thrown in the air to make patterns of colour...spectacular, and possibly artistic, but probably the messiest use of a studio I have ever seen.

Let's hope the Fridays Studio never has to undergo that sort of cleanup...

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Monday, May 23, 2016

Aviator Goggles For The Drone Flyer

Don't expect fashion in this column - you won't be wearing a leather coat and a RayBan's for drone flying. You'll be lucky to score a giggle hat and a worried expression - and no-one will be shouting " Chocks Away ", " Tally Ho ", and " Wizard Prang " when you stack your expensive machinery into the side of a bus.

If you're flying it with straight visual control you are in much the same position as any of the R/C airplane types - peering into the sky trying to see what altitude, attitude, and wind reaction is going on at any particular time. Good luck with that...I have memories of crashing balsa wood all over the place in my youth. Model airplanes move in three dimensions up and down, side by side, and fore and aft. Their pilots also move in these ways but they add the additional dimensions of fear, expense, and regret.

But back to the drones. Some of the civilian ones may be fitted with cameras rather than 20mm cannon and these cameras can send images back to the operator - this allows them to see what the drone sees - effectively putting the pilot in the driver's seat of a plane that has no seats. The images that come back to the ground can be received by smart phones and pads with appropriate apps.

Well and good, but anyone who has ever tried to see the screen of a flat smart phone or pad in glaring sun knows that it can be nearly impossible to pick up details. And if you are busy operating the radio control set with both hands you have no way to shade the screen. Until now.

Hoodman have brought out a set of hoods and accessories that will blank off extraneous light from iPhone 6. iPone6+, iPad Mini, and iPad Air devices. The hoods attach by various elastic straps and velcro pads to firmly grip the screens - no falling off in the heat of the moment if your flying style involves a lot of body English.

You're not restricted to just one style, either- if the shorter hood is not doing the job for you there are extension packs that velcro on with padded edges so that you can push your face right down in there and no extra light gets in.

If you need to poke away at the phone or pad screen there are cut-aways and elasticised panels that let your fingers into the dark. You may look like a bit of a robot attached to your control panel and screen but at least you will have the best view of what the drone is seeing and that has to give you better control.

You can buy the individual parts to fit iPhone 6 and iPhone 6+ as well as the iPad Mini and iPad Air or you can elect to get them as paired kits. The all go under the moniker of Hoodman Drone Aviator and they are all very well made.

They are in stock right now at Camera Electronic or you can order them through the on-line shop. good insurance for that vital flight.

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Friday, May 20, 2016

Letting Him Loose

C.R. Kennedy recently equipped Bob Lichfield with a new Pentax K-1 camera and several lenses so that he could make a professional's assessment of it. He was itching to buy one so the choice of tester could not have been better.

He took the camera out to Whiteman Park to capture the low morning light and the kangaroos. The results, as shown at the Camera Electronic launch night on last Thursday week, were nothing short of spectacular. Extremely sharp and well-coloured with minimal noise. Heck, I couldn't see any noise at all. not surprising with a full-frame sensor like that and a new processing engine.*

But he pointed out that there is a great deal more inside that camera than he was able to elicit in the weekend he had it. He did nature shots, landscapes, architecture, stitched panoramas, and one astro shot with it but had to confess that the only way to succeed with that was to read the manual and pester the State manager of C.R. Kennedy.

Did pretty good for a weekend - but then he has the advantage of a long career in professional photography and the Pentax system. Also did pretty good to admit to needing the instructions - so many times we think that we know all about our gear and blunder on for years missing out on the best performance. I will candidly confess that I used my Fujifilm cameras for a couple of years before buying a Rico Pfirstinger book with clear advice on how to boost performance...but if I had read the included manual with all my Fujifilm cameras I could have been there in the first day! Dumb me.

I would love to be a tester for cameras. I mean an official one with a badge and a whistle and a dinner pail. I have hinted as much to lots of firms but you'd be surprised how fast manufacturer's representatives and wholesale agents can move when they are nervous - haven't caught one yet. I still have my application in to Rheinmetall Borsig to test FLAK guns so there is still hope.

* I'm still waiting for some camera maker to bring out a new digital with a 1950 Ford flathead V8 in it. Buy it in  minute...

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Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Two Card Shuffle

Or " How I Learned To Save My Hide ".

Many modern cameras come with two memory card slots incorporated in the body. This is no mean feat in some cases - if you are going to use the larger CF-style card it has a certain bulk and the volume of the rack into which it slides uses up a fair bit of the inside of the camera. Were you to design a camera with two CF card slots it would need be a larger body...and by and large the ones that do, are. These can be viewed as professional devices and professionals carry heavier weights.

Then there are cameras that have a hybrid style - they have a CF slot for that size and an SD slot for the smaller -sized SD, SDHC, and SDXC cards. In some cases I think that the designers might have started with one of the larger bodies and just used what was a CF bay plugged up for SD. No real overall reduction in body size.

Finally, we have the cameras what have two SD slots - and here the rack structure can be smaller and they can fit in with smaller body sizes. This can be a real selling point if people are trying to reduce bulk and weight in what they carry or if they have smaller hands. I often think a number of cameras have succeeded or failed on their body feel without the prospective buyers really being able to say why they liked them or disliked them.

But two cards - what do you do with two cards? You confuse yourself, if you're not careful, but you save yourself grief if you are clever. Two cards can:

a. Record the exact same thing in exactly the same way. Two RAW images or two JPEG images at the same time.  If you do not trust that one card will do it, or know that you wish to put one card away physically for safe storage while the other one is re-used. Or if you know that one would be confiscated by the border police...

b. Record the image in RAW on one and JPEG on the other. This is the case where some cameras have the second slot for a much more faster card. It means that your camera might be able to cram things into the two slots - SD for JPEG and XQD or some other fast card for the RAW - and get an overall faster firing rate than trying to put both file types into one card. If you need speed you do strange things.

c. Record video on one and reserve the other for stills.

d. Record in sequence. All the previous options have been predicated upon parallel recording - if you elect to make it serial, you can carry twice the memory capacity in your camera. This is a matter for philosophical debate if you are trying to cram an entire trip onto only the memory cards in one camera, but becomes a matter of technical necessity if you have a camera that is going to be posted up somewhere to record time lapse work for a long time and need a lot of memory.

It will pay any photographer who gets a new camera with dual slots to sit down and read the factory manual about the numbering and distribution of the files. Indeed, if there is an aftermarket book - like the Rocky Nook series by Rico Pfirstinger who deals with Fujifilm cameras - that can also be a wise purchase. There are lots of options in what you do to the files that can make a difference to how easy they are to work with in the future.

I recently opted to do the wrong thing, after years of doing the right thing, and ended up shooting a fresh job with image numbers that duplicated earlier numbers - I must have poked the wrong setting while camera fiddling. It means that unless I renumber the new job I encounter occasions when the computer can't decide which of the two identical numbers I want and stops until I decide.

Note: the new Pentax K-1 has dual slots for SD-size cards as does the Fujifilm X-Pro2 and the designers have in both cases been wise enough to put the compartment for these around on the right side of the camera. In practical terms this means that if the cameras are locked onto tripods and need a card change, you can do it without unbolting the whole darn thing. This is no small advantage  - I wish I had it.

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Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Tilting The Screen

Older members of the readership will remember the 1980 movie " Flash Gordon " with the fight between Flash and the hawk men on a tilting tabletop. It was a pivotal point in my life...pun intended... as it was the first concrete illustration of the university education system I had ever seen. I still have Flash backs...

Well, university aside, the tilting tabletop is the best way to understand the new LCD screen mechanism on the Pentax K-1.

We've seen LCD screens in various forms since the inception of digital photography and they have gotten bigger, brighter, more detailed, and more useful all along. A few years ago they started to move - makers attached them to panels that swung out to the side of the camera. Then the panels were made to swivel at the same time and eventually they got to the point where they could go from being turned into the body of the camera to pointing straight forward.

Not content with this, other makers made the screens tilt - up, down, and eventually right forward again. It was all very good, but it really was only a help when the care was held in the landscape orientation - if you went to portrait position you still had to peer sideways and wonder.

An aside. Old Hasselblad and Rollei photographers like me can peer sideways like owls. We had to do it with the waist level finders on the old film cameras and we've developed the knack. Still makes us look silly, though.

Okay. Pentax have taken a leaf from the makers of some monitor screens and attached the LCD assembly to the back of the new K-1 camera with four struts. This means it can go in far more positions for viewing without being stuck out of the side of the camera on a flimsy plastic swivel. You can sight through it in portrait mode without twisting your neck off. No small advantage in candid photography and an absolute godsend in tripod work in a studio. Note: once it goes to the end of he swivel arms it tilts up even further.

I get the feeling that Pentax designers are human beings who take their own pictures in real life with their own design of cameras. And they pay attention to how their own hands work and how they feel. Let us all applaud them with our hands.

Then let us dive this hands into our pockets and fish up a wallet. This camera is in the shop right now - come play with it or order it on-line.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Round The Dial Roulette On The New Pentax K-1

The last few years have seen camera makers send their designers on divergent paths when it comes to the interface between the customer and the device.

In some cases nearly all the operating controls have been hidden inside the menu button, in others they have been spread out on a touch screen, and in a third instance have been relegated to levers. But nothing beats a good old fashioned dial - particularly if it is well-marked and a decent size. If it has firm click stops and a sturdy grip you can confidently fly the machine in all weathers.

Well, digital Pentax cameras have always been pretty good in this respect - their external knobs meet all the right criteria. The latest full-frame digital camera is the Pentax K-1 and here are a few of the control areas that illustrate how clearly Pentax see with the eyes of their buyers.

a. The main mode dial. Standard PASM and then Pentax's specialty - the variable ISO settings; Tav and Sv. Note as well the full Auto ( though why on a professional camera like this one...)*.  But look at the wealth of options there are with 5 custom channels. For some photographers these would be all they ever changed for their different interests. Also note the lock button.

b. The fun specialty dial. Oh dear goodness what you could do with this one...

 HDR explains itself, but you would still be well advised to look in the manual to see what they think you are going to do before you do it. Some love the look and some hate it, but it is actually useful for some technical illustration.

BKT is bracket. Again good for tricky light conditions.

CH and Cl are your continuous shot speeds

 ISO is amazing as the camera goes up past the 200,000 mark. Bob Litchfield said he was notorious for always shooting at 100 ISO but would feel confident running to 800 with the Pentax K-1. Betcha it would go very well a long way higher - check out DP review's test shots.

+ and - are for when you can't decide...no, these are the exposure compensation factors you can dial in.

The white dot is right there and until I get a camera to play with it will stay right there.

WiFi is self explanatory. Or should that be selfie-explanatory...?

Crop controls the use of DX lenses on the FX camera - you can put 'em on but the camera only uses part of the sensor to record. It will automatically indicate what is live in the viewfinder.

Grid lets on a series of guide lines to scold you when you get your horizons crooked and your verticals divergent.

SR Shake Reduction. And in this camera there is a lot of that - 5 axes arecovered, including roll.

c. The Usual Suspects. This is the main under-thumb back panel with discrete button wheel and a joystick button above it. More and more cameras are giving the shooter this sort of tiny thumb navigator rather than compelling them to move AF points with the main wheel. They can shift while the camera is at their eye.

Pentax have recognised  that with a camera of this size the grip of the user is going to have to be firm...which in its turn means that the tactile control available to thumb and forefinger to operate fore and aft wheels is necessarily a little rougher. Try it yourself gripping the mouse of your computer - as you tighten up you have less fine motor control. This in turn means that the control wheels must be larger and well-ribbed to engage with the fingers. Thankfully, they are, and adjustment when the camera is to the eye is easy.

Any way you look at it, the new Pentax K-1 is a DSLR for grown-ups.

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Monday, May 16, 2016

Pentax K-1 In The Deep Dark Woods...

Night time. Deep in the dark woods. Dank, dripping foliage. No moon. No stars. No lights from a lonely farmhouse. No car lights. No camping torch. A black stygian abyss, devoid of comfort. And what is the Pentax K-1 photographer doing?

Changing lenses. Easily.

Thank you Mr. Ricoh or Mr. Pentax for finally doing what needed to be done a long time ago - putting working lights on a camera. This is a blessing for all the people who have been out in the wet bush darkness or down the back of a theatre trying to change lenses or find the controls on a camera by the light reflected off a black cat.

The Pentax K-1 assist lights let you find the cable release socket, the lens release button - and the dot on the mount to align things to, and the memory card slot. You can feel the switch to turn the camera on and then the menu can light up and you are away.

It sounds corny and simplistic and crude, but it really is important in dark situations to be able to do the basic things that make a DSLR system work. And you can't change lenses while holding a torch with one hand, and two lenses and the body with the other - not and keep the inside of the blessed thing clean.

As Bob Lichfield pointed out at his talk on Thursday, the Pentax K-1 also has a feature called Astral Tracker. In combination with the GPS system built into the camera it allows the machine to recognise stars and where it is when it sees them and then use that information to allow the pixel shift mechanism to cope with the movement of this stats when the camera is set firmly on a tripod. It sounded both complex and simple as he described waving the camera around out in the dark but the result certainly showed resolution and artistry.

The other blessing for the nocturnal is the increased sensitivity of the sensor/ processing engine combination for this new camera. The computer engine is the new Prime IV and it will coax a sensitivity of 204,800 ISO out of the camera. For all practical purposes this means you can take a picture anywhere in the man-made dark and most places in Natural dark. It would make the glow-worm caves in new Zealand into a disco palace.

Focusing at this low light levels has also been taken care of as the camera will go to -3 EV with effective auto focus.

Final note: When you get to the other end of the illumination scale and you're out in the icky sunshine and you can't see the screen for light, there is a quick solution, Pentax have put a dedicated switch on the outside of the body to let you adjust the LCD screen brightness. Good thinking - if it was just a menu item you couldn't see the menu to adjust the screen because of the light.

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Friday, May 13, 2016

Waiter, Bring Me A Pentax K-1...

And a side order of D-FA lenses too, please...

The New Pentax K1 was here for us to see at last night's Pentax Launch at the shop. As you can see from the pictures, interest in it was widespread.

Well, that has always been the case - as far back as the days of the dear old Asahi Pentax SV and Sla, Pentax fans have been loyal and since the cameras were always good value for money, there have been a lot of fans. When the Spotmatic hit the market like a bombshell in the 60's people discovered that there could be style and grace in a camera design as well as technical ability. Such would appear to be the case right now.

The K1 is the first of the Pentax full-frame DSLR cameras - that's 24mm x 36mm on the sensor - and they have aimed it carefully at people who want to work to the maximum sharpness with their photography. Here's how:

a. The sensor itself is larger than hitherto. Twice the area.

b. The sensor has no anti-alias filter to smudge the resolution. For those who worry about the appearance of moiré patterns in this case, Pentax have incorporated a small pixel-shake mechanism as an optional setting that can eliminate this.

c. For the people who are prepared to use the Pentax K-1 on a tripod and trigger it with a cable release or the self timer, there is the facility to take 4 pictures of the same scene while the sensor shifts ever so slightly. These four pictures are then combined in-camera to yield far higher resolution - up to 36.4 effective megapixels.

d. For the people who are taking pictures where they cannot use a tripod, there is a 5-axis anti-shake mechanism to damp down the effect of movement. Up to 5 shutter speed levels can be improved. Even the difficult movement of roll can be compensated for.

e. The smudginess that comes from diffraction on lenses when they are stopped down past about f:10 is a problem for tabletop and landscape shooters - Pentax has incorporated diffraction correction algorithms for a number of their lenses. Sharp edges, finer detail.

f. Ditto for the image distortions that are inevitable with some designs of lens - again some Pentax lenses can have this ironed out automatically in the camera's electronics. Result? Straight lines where straight lines are needed.

Now it may be some time before this columnist can get his mitts on one of the cameras and a suitable Pentax D-FA lens to do some field or studio testing, but he will do so AS SOON AS HE IS PERMITTED* and will publish the results. If sharpness is your game, keep reading.

* In the meantime talk to Bob Lichfield who has the ear of the Pentax people. He has it in a small box in his desk.

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Thursday, May 12, 2016

You Don't Have To Be Grim

Or grey, or gritty. You can be good - and you can have a good price, too.

Just saw a small stack of ex-demo Tamron lenses sitting on the back counter on Monday night. They're that good prices and are the now modern style Tamron - very sharp. Wide zoom, long zoom, macro...

Wonder if they'll be there tonight or if all the bargain hunters will have snapped them up. Perhaps you'd better go down and see...

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Selling You - To You - For A Price You Can Afford

If the idea that you are a marketable commodity is a little startling, consider this; you buy things every day that are the essence of other people. Clothes, perfumes, wines, air compressor valves...all the items that make up the world are in some form the people who made them. When you buy a camera or a lens you buy quite a few people in one package - and if you buy one of the Japanese packages it is likely to be packed extremely well.

There is a dark side to this thought - you may think you are buying what you want to buy, but in reality you are buying what the designers and manufacturers want you to buy. That is all they offer. With the exception of the Leica bespoke camera section, you can't rock up and put in an order for your very own special gear - indeed you can do more of this at McDonalds than you can with camera equipment - you take what they make and the only choice is the combination of choices that are ready-made.

Okay - where DO you get to buy...you? If the gear is all ready-made off the rack what part of photography is made to measure? Answer; education.

You know what you like. You know what interests you. If you are lucky, you know what you know and what you don't know. If you can admit this to yourself, and want it to change, we can sell that change of you... to you. Wow.

Shoot Photography Workshops. It's not Uni and it's not TAFE and it's not your local camera club. Unlike the first it does not swallow up months of your life - unlike the second it does not put you in the company of career-seekers half your age - and unlike the last it does not subject you to people trying to beat you in a photo contest every month. It is a unique window into knowledge without pressure.

Every quarter something is offered that would suit a rank amateur - equally, every quarter there are offerings that would suit the rankest of professionals...basic courses, advanced courses, specific courses, and mist-vague artistic courses are there. The premises are conveniently located so that you can come and kill time in the shop between lectures. There is coffee, tea, soft drink, and decent biscuits.

There are lecturers who know whereof they speak. In some cases they are working professional photographers who have been going at it for years and have not starved yet - a good sign that they know what they are doing. There are enthusiasts who know technical subjects to perfection - you would be horrified to have them attach themselves to you at a barbeque but in the context of a lecture theatre they are brilliant. Get the newest information or time-honoured techniques and benefit.

It costs - Lord knows it costs - but so does every worthwhile thing these days. And it doesn't cost the earth. Shannon is the lady who runs the place and she is available on the web at :


or on the telephone at:

9228 8232

and as the schedule and menu of knowledge is always changing, we suggest you call her up and watch the computer.

Note: My personal experience with one of the Shoot courses was very good - it took three weeks ( one evening per week ) and it equipped me to handle one of the image-editing programs for my computer. I've never looked back - this was enough to make paid professional work easy and possible.

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Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The Product Table Or How I Learned To Love Under-Lighting

There are very few occasions when you see light coming up from under a subject in real life; some discotheques in the 80's had light panel floors, you can see it in the classical footlights at the burlesque theatre, and when you open the hatch of hell there is a sort of a lurid glow that comes up. The effect can be quite unsettling.

It is stock in trade for Disney artists and illustrators of fantasy and science fiction when they want to make a subject look evil.

But it is also a very valid technique when you are trying to illustrate products for advertisements. In many cases the art director wants the viewer to see all parts of the subject evenly lit for either sales appeal or technical illustration. In some instances this is difficult to achieve with the classic hard/soft light or even with a light tent. No matter where you place the lights, the thing always has a shadow around the bottom bits.

Enter the light table. A support for the subject that is sturdy enough to bear the weight, but either transparent or translucent to allow light to flood up from underneath. There are several ways of doing this for small subjects:

1. The Lastolite company makes a plastic light cubicle that erects with metal rods and provides a space above and a space for a studio strobe below to flash up through the floor of the photo tent. It is big and cumbersome enough to set up to make it a semi-permanent installation, but it really does do what it purports to. I would equip it with three mono-block lights to tackle any catalog item that you could fit in the cube.

2. The dear old film light table. These are made by Metrolux in Melbourne and you can get them in A4 and A3 size. The acrylic plastic surface is about 3mm thick and will hold a considerable weight. The boxes contain a circular fluorescent light that can do an even job of illuminating the underside of the subject, but you've got to accommodate the colour temperature of this to whatever you are illuminating the top bit with. Fluorescent can be tricky...

3. The Bunnings Steel Shelf solution. Bunnings sell any number of cheap modular steel shelving systems. Think $16 per upright and $ 12 per crossbeam and you can make a good product table for $ 64. Add on either glass or acrylic for the top and you are ready to rock. You don't get the light tent or cube up the top but you can get these from our shop  - Promaster and Glanz make them all the way from 40 cm sq to 120 cm sq. Not having a light cube also allows more contrasty lighting.

It is simple to put a mono-block flash down below the table on a small Manfrotto floor stand pointing straight up. I mount an Elinchrom light there and pop a Minisoft 44 beauty dish on it. Then a bit of trial and error...or in my case trial, error, bad language, and more trial...and you are there.

The series of pictures of the 1957 Ford Skyline show the progression from no under-lighting to full effect. The last picture also shows the look of holding a fill card near the subject to throw a bit of the under-light back. In all cases there is only one other Elinchrom light with a wide reflector doing the main lighting. In other words, this is a technique that even enthusiasts with a two-light Elinchrom D-lite kit could use.

For the people who want to make catalog illustrations, this technique goes one eye-catching step above the standard light cube - those who deal in glassware and jewellery will find it particularly useful. Catch an eye - sell a product.*

Remember, Manfrotto, Elinchrom, Glanz, Promaster, Metrolux, and Lastolite products are all stocked by Camera Electronic - and you can get them through our online shop as well.

* or catch an eye and give it to the cat to play with...

PS. The model in the green light is not evil. She is a very nice person. So is the Ford Skyline.

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