Monday, October 31, 2016

Personal Magnetism For the Speedlight Shooter - Mag Mod

Dang. Someone invented the better lighting mousetrap - and now presumably are having to resurface the pathway up to their door in anticipation of increased traffic.

Mag Mod have finally made a set of speed light modifiers that are worth using. The secret of their appeal is no secret - they have unique shapes and they attach to the speed light flash guns easily.

Note: easily. Also firmly. Firmly, as in use them in the rough and tumble of professional shooting and not have them fall off. And no more velcro bands or sticky tape panels.

The basic unit is a rubber adapter housing that stretches over the head of your speedlight. I used a Fujifilm EF-42 but I daresay the ban would go on any Canon, Nikon, Sigma, Olympus, Leica, or Nissan flashes just as easily. It's a darned sight tighter than any velcro band ever was.

On the outer edges of this band are imbedded small but powerful magnets. All the accessories that stick to the front of the adapter do so by means of their own magnets - so the things stick together fiercely. I tried to wobble the assembly apart by thrashing the speed light around in my hand and did not succeed in dislodging it one bit.

Okay, what can you stick on the front?

a. Basic 40º grid. Add another on and it becomes 20º. Add a third and it goes to 20º. Add a third...

b. A gel holder. They make sets of polycarbonate gels that last far better than the thin things on velcro. Colour correction or wild creatives in different sets.

c. A dome - looking like a soft goldfish bowl, and lighter than competing said bowls, it makes an instant bare-bulb look for diffusion. It's got a holder slot for those gels we mentioned so you don't necessarily need to stack the gel holder on too.

d. A big white rubber scoop. You swivel the flash head up and clap on the scoop. Some of the light goes out the back and fills the shot - most of the light goes out the front and illuminates the subject.

Coolest feature is the fact that Mag Mod have included two sets of magnets on the scoop - you can rotate the flash head of your speed light 90º to the right, attach the scoop looking forward, and then just swivel that head up and down as you move from landscape to portrait orientation. This looks like wedding and event shot heaven.

Here it is in operation out on the road:

e. The attachment that looks like the shift lever boot from a 1965 Pontiac or an Art Deco plumber's plunger is really an adjustable snoot. Fold the sections in and the area of illumination grows larger - pop them out and it becomes smaller. Be prepared for silly comments from the crowd.

Now there is more coming, and we'll detail it as soon as it arrives. Think Tele-Vorsatz and wide-angle panel and gobos to start with.

The strobists amongst you really owe it to yourselves to come in and see the Mag Mod.

See the Mag Mod range online on the Camera Electronic website here

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Friday, October 28, 2016

Seriously Tripod

Seriously tripod. Seriously light. Seriously Gitzo.*

The travel tripod is a major division of the photo accessory world - thank goodness. People have recognised that they need the sort of support that a tripod brings to their architecture, travel, and landscape shots. Even with the mind-boggling stabilisation systems on board modern cameras (Ask the Fujifilm, Nikon, and Olympus reps about this next time they have a demonstration day in the shop, but be prepared for a full lecture...).

People still need the tripod for the 1/2 second to 1/2 hour exposure. And if they are going overseas they need to take something light to do it with.

The Gitzo tripod you see in these pictures is probably the best light tripod in the world. It has positive twist locks on the carbon fibre legs. Also reversible legs, an extendable centre column, and two position stops on the legs. The head is probably the slickest casting you have ever seen and the ball that revolves in it is freely adjustable for friction - but when it is released from constraint it is the smoothest turning one I have ever felt.

There is a wealth of good thinking as well. The triangular shape of the quick release platform is not just an attempt at art deco Gallic style - it is shaped that way to allow the legs to fold in tight when it is closed into travel configuration. Some other tripods from some other manufacturers fail in this area - I know because I own one - and the legs tend to jam out when you try to put it into a bag.

The finish and fit on the head is also of such a high standard as to suggest art as well as utility. Go for utility by all means but please your eye at the same time...

* The bottom line is that it is expensive. If you are pinching pennies pass further down the car. This tripod is intended for the people who need or want the best and can afford it. They pay now and never have to buy it again.

Note: I used a Gitzo Studex IV tripod to take the pictures of the Gitzo travel tripod. I'll never buy another because I simply can neither fault it nor wear it out. At my age, it has prettier legs than I do.

See the full Gitzo range on the Camera Electronic website here.

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Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Effect Of Colour

We all know the theories of colour as it is used in flat art work - warm colours advance, cool colours recede. Purple indicates distance in landscapes. Pink is reserved for Mme. Pompadour and Jayne Mansfield. Yellow is the colour of insanity, etc. etc. Whole semesters at Art School are given up to trying to define terms like "Puce" or "Taupe".

For that matter, some of the best brains in the country are kidnapped each year and chained to desks in advertising agencies where they are compelled to invent new names for spray paint colours. "Boogalicious Burgundy" and "Semipalatinsk Sludge " were two that won awards.

Colour is used to sell cameras...even when the absence of it is the only thing on offer. First it was generations of photographers who saved all their pennies for colour slide film...and watched the colour slide right off it as time went on - and then it was digital shooters who paid extraordinary amounts of money to buy cameras that could only shoot in black and white. I'll bet a few of them have since spent their evenings hand colouring in the files from the black and white camera...

The Fujifilm company has had a distinct advantage with their penetration of the instant-camera market; most of their offerings have been budget targeted and have been moulded in various plastics. They have been able to incorporate colours right into the basic body. Colour experimentation is certainly possible - thus our two star cameras today:

The Pink Surprise. Those of you who have seen Peppa Pig on television cartoons may well be struck by the resemblance of the camera to her. The Japanese makers might find this an awkward comparison, but Japan loves animé and kid's cartoon characters anyway so they won't mind selling cameras on this basis.

The Grape. This is one of the richest colours in the Fujifilm Instax range. It suggests luxury and imperial splendour, inasfar as a plastic camera can be either imperial or splendid. It has all the basic Instax features of 10-pack film loading, automatic exposure, adjustable focusing, and in-built flash. It pumps out colourful and sharp little hand-sized instant prints. And you can be darn sure that you are the only person in the firing line at the international press conference for Mr. Trump or Mrs. Clinton with a deep purple camera.

See the Instax Mini 8 in store at 230 Stirling St or online.

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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Time Draweth Nigh - Murray St

The time fixed for the refurbishing of the new premises at the corner of Murray Street and Queen Street is reeling out and the finish date approaches. You may assume a reasonable level of panic and powerful language. Camera Electronic wants to present itself well and win new hearts as well assist constant clients.

I can report that no skeletons have been uncovered on the site. No Roman coins, English kings, or unexploded aerial mines. Also no endangered native species, so the WA Department Of Saying No can stand down - it's just a shop and we're just going to sell cameras...

We're going to sell a pretty good selection, and the lenses to go with them. Some central shops in other cities try to find clients amongst the tourists - I have poked about lots of competitors in Japan and Singapore as well as the eastern states of Australia. In some cases the stock seems to have been selected upon a very...well...modest basis. If you are a person who has just rocked up and your point and shoot has died, they can help - but if you need a more competent device or some sort of arcane part, you are out of luck.

Same way with the advice and information offered. I will confess that I have not been above going into competitor's premises in Melbourne and Sydney and asking slightly off-axis questions to see what answers were given. In most cases I heard the same sort of replies I would give, and all was well. In a couple of cases the sales pitch was strange and in one case it was probably only applicable on planets where they do not have air. I am blessed with the ability to keep a straight face and to sprint really well for a short distance...

Well the CE staff are the CE staff, and they know what they are about when it comes to photography. Everyone on the floor is a photographer and they all know the value of accurate thinking when it comes to planning a job or a holiday. With all the different systems available, you can be sure of finding at least one staff member who is experienced with the equipment you are considering  - seek them out by asking who would be best to deal with, then shamelessly exploit their knowledge. Believe me, no-one is offended if you really want to know something and they really can tell you.

Note: Shoot Photography and the current Camera Electronic aren't shifting premises - we will still remain at 230 and 232 Stirling St. Stay tuned to our emails and social media for Camera Electronic Murray St opening day and opening hours!

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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Here, Kitty, Kitty...

They say you can sell anything with cats and kittens. Well we're about to see if that's true. 'Cause we're going to sell foam rubber bags full of tigers.

The actual products, apart from the Schleich tigers, are Lens Coat BodyGuard camera cases. The one with the closed back is a straight BodyGuard while the one with the clear plastic screen cover at the rear and the Velcro flap on top is the BodyGuard Compact CB.

I said foam rubber but I should have said neoprene wet-suit material - that is what this amounts to. The bags are precision cut, assembled, and properly edged. They are designed to enfold cameras while leaving the front of the lens free for operation. You select which size fits your picture box and go from there. In the case of the Plain BodyGuard it wraps around a camera without a neck strap but the BodyGuard Compact CB is pierced at the right spots to pass the camera strap through.

The basic idea of the BodyGuard is to wrap around a camera in your luggage or your pocket to prevent hard objects from damaging it. You are expected to take the camera out of the pouch to use it, but if you were in a desperate hurry you could probably turn it on and fire it by feeling the controls through the neoprene. It would certainly muffle the sounds of the shutter.

The Bodyguard Compact CB is a different proposition. Once you mount your Canon G 7 to G 16 in it, or your Fujifilm X-T10, or your Panasonic micro 4/3 camera with the straps through the bag slits, you leave it in there as you shoot. LensCoat have put a generous flexible clear plastic back on the case and a smaller version on the top surface that allows you to see the shutter or mode dial on the RHS of a camera.

There is also a velcro'd flap up top that pretty well matches the position of the hot shoe on many mirrorless and compact cameras. Leave it shut for the most part but flap it up when you attach your speed light.

There are also two slits in the sides of the pouch that allow you to reach in and change memory cards or access the in/out panel of USB and video sockets.

This is the sort of case/pouch/whatever that allows you to move through crowds, caves, or bramble thickets with no damage to your camera.  Even if it swings about on your neck or shoulder strap there is enough neoprene around it to cushion the blow. It is precisely the sort of thing that I was trying to make for myself three weeks ago with sheet neoprene from Clarks rubber. My design failed miserably - this one succeeds.

Let's face it, folks...the day of the ever-ready case in leather - with three accessory boxes attached to it - is dead. They don't supply 'em any more because they don't make 'em any more. And you wouldn't be caught dead struggling off a Boeing in Bali wearing one. But the need for protection is still there, and we need imaginative solutions like the LensCoat ones.

PS: The tigers say Hi. They're from Claremont...

The Lenscoat Closing Down 50% off online sale is now on! Visit

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Monday, October 24, 2016

Huzzah For The Troops - Huzzah For The Photographers

A spring day out is an occsion to be treasured. A spring day out at Government House seeing how the ruling class lives even more so. And an opportunity to review the troops should never be missed.

Thus the pictures you see on this morning's blog. Perth on a sunny day can be brutal as far as contrast in lighting goes but the readers of this column are old hands at modifying this with fill-flash or seeking shady spots to shoot. In some cases the strong shade and light is exactly right for a shot evoking the era - witness our cigarette card of the Pensioner Guard . If you had gone to the open day as I did you could collect the entire series without risking your health...

Okay, that was the entertainment - here comes the commercial. A Fujifilm X-E2 camera with the 27mm f:2.8 lens was used to take all the pictures. An EF-42 flash was attached and set to +.5 fill ratio. The entire compass of technical skill needed after that was to point the camera at the subject and press the right forefinger. The reward was files that needed no fiddling.

Which did not stop me fiddling, of course... I am like you - you would fiddle with the WB slider and the shadow fill and the exposure even if it was perfect. I went further and added the effect in Alien Skin Snap Art 3 that made a watercolour of the Pensioner Guard. And the lettering. Hey, this is photography and you and I and the entire staff of Camera Electronic love it.

We're not alone. The cheerful tourists are a Fujfilm couple - She's an X-E2 with 18-55mm lens and he's  an X-T1 with a 27mm lens. We cheerfully agreed upon it as a perfect choice for the day. SO nice to have someone else re-inforce your prejudices...

The great thing about this is that you can grab the cameras right now at a very good price from Camera Electronic ( ooh, that means you'll be getting the X- E2s for even more fun ).

Fujifilm Australia is also offering cashbacks on lens purchases for the next couple of months. Perfect timing to add a new one to your camera bag or clap it onto a new Fujifilm body. Hop to it while spring is still here and the outdoors is still livable.

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The Gambol With the Gimbal

Never gamble with your gimbal when you gambol with the sambal...the deer that is, not the hot sauce. You're on your own with the hot sauce.

The product today is mechanical, rather than optical. It has no glass in it, but several moving parts. It is second cousin to a gun mount, but not nearly as noisy.

The underslung gimbal mounting  - also known as a Wimberley mounting after one of the many makers - is a form of suspension for specialist use in photography. Shooters who want to use long telephoto lenses and who need to follow the movement of wild animals, aircraft, racing cars, surfers, or field sports players will be interested. It is the answer to a number of their needs.

At this point let me introduce an analogy that was explained to me when I asked about the differences  flying helicopters as opposed to fixed-wing aircraft. I was asked to think of a large imaginary bowl in the sky - hemispherical and slippery.

The fixed-wing aircraft rides inside this bowl. If it is up on the inside surface of the a bank, turn, or climb - and the pilot lets go - the plane runs down the inside of the bowl and settles into a stable position on the bottom.

The helicopter rides on the outside surface of an inverted bowl. When the pilot takes his hands off the controls the helicopter falls down over the outside of the bowl. The pilot needs to fly it all the time.

The operator of a big, long, heavy telephoto lens mounted on a ball head tripod is in the same position as the helicopter pilot - the lens is either held up all the time or locked in position. It is unstable. Gravity is trying to take it off centre.

The underslung mount is generally on a tripod, but when an unwieldy lens is mounted, natural forces cradle it at the bottom of the arc of swing on the mount - it retuns to a stable position. It is much less fatiguing to watch and wait with it.

This example of the underslung gimbal is by Promaster and is a marvel of economy. It is heavy and precise enough to stand the long commercial lenses, however it has smooth damped action as it swings about. It is like operating a good gun mount.

Like a gun mount, it has marked divisions on the turntable and on the horizontal axis. I can't really say why they are there because most photographers would not fire their cameras to instructions from a director, but perhaps they are there because it looks cool. The mounting platfom rises up and down to accommodate different lenses and there is a channel grip at the bottom of it that is stated on the box as " industry standard ". They really mean Arca -Swiss but they don't say it because I'll bet their lawyers warned them off.

The whole assembly is well made and would be a good alternative to a ball head or three-way for the nature and outdoor shooter.

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Friday, October 21, 2016

Just A Light Wipe Around The Edges...With Icelight 2

I'm glad I'm not a cynic.

If I was, the appearance of the Icelight 2 light painting wands in the shop would have led me to conclude that the people who manufacture them are fans of Star Wars movies...and that they know the photographers who buy them are also fans.

It would explain the metal caps on the top and bottom ends of the lights and the on/off and level control buttons in Star Wars terms. I would have this mental picture of photo assistants doing light sabre duelling with these $700 wands during coffee breaks at the studio. I can hear them making "Whummm - whummm - whummmmm" sounds and speaking like Yoda. Right up until one of them hits a studio light with the aluminium casting end of the wand and the whole place starts to look like the Death Star...

Actually, on serious consideration, the aluminium ends of the wand are drilled and tapped for 1/4 threads and it means that they can be bolted to tripods or studio stands or slung from overhead booms. There is some practicality there.

The rest of the design is explainable in photo terms swell. The on/off switch needs to be thumb-operable as you have to turn the wand on and off easily multiple times when you move around the subject...putting it as a slide switch in the base of the handle section would have been easy but ergonomically wrong.

Likewise the power up and down. As you move around you have a limited time and need to be able to run the intensity up and down in the dark by touch.

The kit in the shop had several freebie bonuses; a tungsten-light corrective sleeve that covers the emitting part of the tube, a car charger, and a two-way 1/4" threaded connector. All good stuff. Available separately, but also in stock is the clip-on set of barn doors that restrict the light spread - These may be more useful for the light when it is being used in a fixed position and may approximate a strip light in effect.

For me, the classical use of the strip light is in motor car photography - the light painting that is done with these devices is often seen in professional illustration of new cars - the sleek lines and contours are particularly well suited for what the wand can do - especially if the paint is a metallic one. As everyone seems mad for dark colours, you need some time to build up an image, and there can be a fair bit of wiping about with the wand to get it to go where it looks best.

 Cameras that allow for display of additional layers of light during long or multiple exposures...Olympus does this...let you see what is happening as you go. If you need to take multiple exposures and blend them into each other, a sturdy tripod and a quiet subject are necessary. And you need dark about you to do it with the greatest precision - though some ambient light adds location to the image. You can sometimes incorporate it while you are painting, or deliberately add it at the end of the process.

Here are some Little Studio experiments with the Icelight 2. First, outdoor shots with a metallic car and the ambience of the riverside:

Then an indoor shot with a plain studio background:

A portrait shot:

It is the sort of device that challenges and stimulates. If you get two of them the Force will be with you...and if you try to use them like traffic wands down on the flight line at the airport, the Federal Force will be with you in record time...don't say you weren't warned.

Thanks to Chelsea Bunz AKA the Absinthe Fairy, and Albert the Alligator...the green Suzuki.

The Icelight is available in-store at 230 Stirling St, Perth

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Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Travel Trail - Part Three - You're Going To Like A Panasonic Camera...

This is the camera that I would travel with...if I were travelling with a Panasonic camera. That's a personal value judgement and you're entitled to ask why - and then to make up your own mind. But here is my rationale for the Panasonic Lumix DMC- LX100:

1. The camera is all in one. No interchangeable lens to lose, no entry of dust or contaminants to the sensor. No cleaning. It is small and neat. It attracts little attention*

2. The lens is a Leica lens. Superb resolution and contrast. Aspherical elements so there is very little chromatic aberration - that is the killer defect of some other lenses for me and puts me off them. This one has no CA that I can see.

3. The lens has a true focal length range of 10.9 to 34 mm. This means that it has a chance of a very wide depth of field for landscape shots...and also for macro shots. The 35mm camera equivalent in the lens is 24mm to 75mm. That is classic landscape without distortion to classic portrait.

4. The lens will open up to to f:1.7 or f:2.8. That's low-light enough for most tourist shots w/out flash. It will stop down to f:16 and there's where the DOF becomes wonderful!

5. The sensor is 4/3" MOS - that's the same a Micro 4/3 size without the interchangeable lens to worry about. It cuts the world into 16.84 megapixels so there is plenty of resolution for A3+ prints....and I'd even test it out to A2...

6. It has an image stabiliser system - as it is small and light it needs something to keep it on track besides my shakey ol' hands.

7. Did I mention the close-up - goes down to 30cm at the tele end and 3cm at the wide end. I can take any details of cars or cannons that I want.

8. In case I want a flash there's a standard hot shoe and I can put a TTL flash on there.

9. 4K video recording for moving pictures. I have no idea what this is. I don't watch TV. I look at still pictures.

10. 4K video recording from which you can extract still pictures. Aha! Now I see where I could use this. I shoot a burst of frames of a Galapagos turtle streaking by and select the best one that is in focus. Interesting.

11. RAW/ JPEG and it's covered by my Adobe editing programs right now.

12. Eye-level viewfinder for the sunny days.

13. Direct control of aperture and shutter speed on traditional dials, with the option of a fast click off into aperture priority or shutter priority. This, camera makers, is the way it should be...always...

14. Quick external option for format change. This is a dangerous switch for the uninitiated as they may move it to a position that limits their results later on...and not realise they have done it. I shoot 3:2 mostly, but shift to 9:16 for big groups and 1:1 for some events where I don't want to be rotating the camera all night.

15. WiFi. I don't use it often, but when I am travelling I do like to fire some images back into the tablet for blogging. If I can do it without card shuffling and extra adapters, all the better.

So there. That's why I would travel with this Panasonic LX 100. As you see I travelled out to Jandakot to see what it did on the runway.

* I attract enough attention in other ways. That steam-powered destroyer siren was a darned good idea.

See the Panasonic LX 100 on the Camera Electronic website 

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Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Travel Trail - Part two - Micro 4/3 In The Hand

The first of our Panasonic Travel Trail cameras was small but capable - our next candidate gains a little in size, but introduces you to a whole system of photography - it is a photo trail you can follow for years...This one is the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX85.

Panasonic Micro 4/3 system cameras have lenses that clip on and off - you can choose from a wide variety of different ones for specialised or general tasks. And you can use lenses from other micro 4/3 manufacturers - they have all come to agreement on that.

The other great advantage for this camera is the increased size and capability of the sensor 4/3 " Live MOS with 16.84 megapixels. Together with increased processor power this gives increased detail and resolution and you can blow your pictures up larger.

As with the smaller Panasonic camera, it has the 4K video recording and can also benefit from the post-focus selection system when you take a fast photo burst in 4K.

You'd like Wifi? It's in there. You'd like to control it remotely with your smartphone or tablet? There's an app for that. Want the convenience of a touch screen? Touch away - the GX85 screen responds instantly.

If you would like to work close to the ground with a macro lens - and Panasonic make some beautiful close-up lenses - you can flip the screen out flat like an old-fashioned waist-level finder and look down without getting down. I use a camera with this feature all the time at car shows to get a natural angle on the vehicles while standing. You are not inconvenienced and are much less conspicuous in a crowd.

The lens that you see on this camera is the Panasonic Lumix G Vario 14-140mm f:3.5-5.6 Aspherical lens with a powered image stabilising system.  It has nearly the same angles of view as the lens attached to the DMC-TZ110 but a greater heft - well, it needs this as the sensor is larger. It is also a perfect overseas travel lens and tourists with this attached never need to undo it throughout the trip - no letting dust and bugs into the camera.

Of course once you are home, the sky is the limit with Panasonic lenses -from fisheye to extreme telephone and some of the fixed prime lenses have a very advanced performance in low light.

Note that this camera has an extendable flash tube that pops up from the top housing of the camera when you press a button. Good for macro and for adding highlights to faces that are close to the camera. You can plug into speed lights or any sort of studio flash you fancy with the top hot shoe.

Okay - more space needed to carry this camera, and more weight to haul. This is balanced by later detailed pictures and the chance to use different lenses. The hand grip is also larger and easier to use. You choose which side of the compromise you feel best on.      

See the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX85 on the Camera Electronic website here

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