Friday, April 28, 2017

Every Man His Own Fox Talbot - Paper Negatives

Do you have an abbey window handy? Do you have a top hat? Do you have a new Ilford Obscura pinhole camera kit? Well you too can be Henry Fox Talbot and be the envy of your friends at the camera club.

Okay, it is not quite the same as using glass lenses in one of HFT's famous 'mousetrap ' cameras and your finished product is not going to be made on salted paper but the procedure is similar and if you choose historical subjects you can give yourself a feeling for the past that digital work just does not provide. Sure, computer manipulation and plug-ins will deliver the calotype look, but actually going out there and doing a very long exposure provides the experience as well.

Just be prepared for foolish abuse if you opt to do it in Victorian clothing. Perth is not as sophisticated as it likes to think. Trust me on this...

Okay - why even think of this? Because paper negatives have a charm and an aesthetic all their own. And they are devilishly hard to achieve with conventional camera gear - even if you have 4 x 5 or larger film holders, a wooden field camera, and that top hat. Perth's bright sun can overpower most camera lenses looking in on standard photographic paper, even if the aperture is down to f:22. You need to be able to get extremely small apertures - f:248 for instance - to allow you sufficient time to open and close a shutter by manual means.

The shutter on the Ilford Obscura is a simple dropping flap. It has a closed position magnet as well as a open position one, so you need no fear inadvertently exposing the film or paper. When the camera is firmly screwed to a tripod, there should be no movement of the thing as you operate the flap. Of course, this may be very insignificant for an exposure lasting minutes, and when you opt to use the sheets of Ilford Multigrade IV paper as your recording emulsion, you will be spending minutes with the shutter open.

The exposure ISO of the paper is about .6. The calcu-later will let you translate this into a time, but realyy, give it a bit more time. If you have access to a sunny photospot nearb your darkroom you can profitably experiment to see just how long you need shoot to give a good negative.

Loading and developing paper negatives is a lot easier than doing film as you can do it under the light of a safelamp. Once you have the paper negative you can scan it in as a direct print and then press command/I on your image editing program and bring it up as a positive. From there you can calotype it to your heart's content.

The heading image is a paper neg of Perth from Heathcote taken some years ago with a conventinal lensed camera. I will try the same view with the Obscura and see what the results are like.

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Thursday, April 27, 2017

Camera Electronic Endorse New Camera From Flapoflex

The biggest news this season is the industry-shaking announcement of the team-up of Camera Electronic with Flapoflex Corporation...and the introduction of the Flapoflex Mini camera.

Here are the first images of the camera after it was handed out by Howard Frank. Let us walk you through the features:

1. Pure non-digital operation. Sharp eyes will spot the film rapid rewind crank and fast-wind lever. No more worries about charging batteries and corrupting memory cards with the Flapoflex.

2. Solid-state viewfinder system. We have not seen a viewfinder window this solid in years.

3. Compact dimensions. Micro 4/3, eat your heart out...

4. Helpful permanent branding on the lens cap and body.

5. Permanent lens cap. never lose it again.

6. Flash-free pentaprism.

7. Patented DeepSqueeze padding on all grippable surfaces. No finger strain.

8. Fashionable white/black/grey colours.

When people ask you what the Flapoflex Mini can do, we respond with " What can't it do? " While they are answering this we make a run for it.

Flapoflex did...

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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Shouldering the Burden Of Sony With Peak Design

I am going to risk it. I know the ice is thin, and the nerves even thinner, but here goes: another review of a Sony product. Or rather, a product that can be used with a Sony camera…

I have reported on Peak Design equipment before, and from the original mention some years back until now, my opinion of the brand has improved. I think it is because their design department have had better ideas and their manufacturing division has been able to translate these into good products.

The Original peak Design product we saw in Camera Electronic was a belt holder for cameras - a quick release clamp that enabled you to put a camera on your shoulder strap or belt and then secure it with a click of a button. The CE staff at the time all got samples to go away and try - I demurred  - the idea seemed uncomfortable. Whenever I tried it I envisaged disaster if I was not careful how I mounted the camera. Remember I’m the man who dropped a Leica M3 with a Summicron lens on it into a Melbourne drain. They have stopped letting me defuse torpedoes…

This is different - it is a lens holder designed to accept Sony - mount lenses on both sides of itself and then to lock onto a shoulder strap. Whether that shoulder strap is dedicated to a messenger bag or a backpack is immaterial - the clamp has a positive two-screw lock that cannot depart from it with out deliberate disassembly. You can also put the clamp onto a waist belt and depend a Sony lens from that.

It would be a blessing to a wedding or event shooter who needed constant access to a spare pair of lenses while a third lens was on the camera and who did not want to have to fossick around inside a bag while working the crowd.

Peak Design have been reviewed here before - their new bags are both elegant and practical. This accessory seems to be exactly in the same good line.

Mount is also available for Canon and Nikon applications.

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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Mikra 1/3 - And Why You Need One Now

The history of science is dotted with people who have said - “ What If? “ - and in many cases have levelled entire city blocks finding out. Photographers too, have uttered those words, but generally have only managed to blow the doors off the darkroom.

I have passed by the Leica 1F in the secondhand Leica cabinet for years - the one with the MIKRA 1/3 attachment on the front of it - with never more than a passing recognition that it is a camera that has been in service for years and has never actually been used all that much.

This is a camera that has been adapted for use on the eyepiece of a standard clinical microscope. I am willing to bet it lurked in the back cupboard of some university departmental lab since the late 1950’s and was rarely taken out. To turn around an old slogan - it’s had fewer shots than you’ve had hot dinners…

Well, the basic camera is a screw-mount body with no slow speeds, no finder, and a variable synchronising control. It could readily be adapted to modern life with a fast black and white film, a push in finder, and a screw-mount Leica lens - a collapsible Elmar would be perfect. Add a skinny bald Frenchman and you would have the perfect street combination…

But what does the MIKRA1/3 do? I coupled it up to an M39 / Fujifilm X adapter this seek to see. After all, if it is optical, mirrorless cameras let you see it straight away.

Well, as it was built to peer down the throat of a microscope and record the beasties that the researcher has on the glass slide, it is fixed to approximately an infinity focus. I confirmed this on an X-Pro1 out in the yard. The resolution is reasonable but the focus is out to about 50 feet. field of view looks to be about the same as a 50mm lens.

This suggested another experiment. Inside to the Model car table and a Greenlight Volkswagen T2 van. These are tiny things in 1:64 scale - observe the 10¢ piece. The establishing shot is taken with the standard 35mm Tokina macro lens.

The VW logo was taken using an old Russian 50mm Industar lens reversed onto the front of the MIKRA. No mounting - I just held it on there. Older photographers will know the trick of reverse-mounting of one lens to the nose of another to give macro results. In this case the Industar is wide open and the DOF is like nothing at all.

Stopped down to f:16, the Industar actually does have DOF. The picture of the headlight’s a seriously small slice of VW, and if you were a film shooter, you could get this on the Leica 1F. You just wouldn’t know you had got it until the results came back from Fitzgerald’s Photo Labs.

Sooooo - who’s ready for some retro fun out there? Neither the body nor the MIKRA are bank-breakers and whoever uses that Leica 1F will become the undisputed Kewl King or Queen of Perth photographers. And score the envy of every old camera club shooter that sees it.

PS: The downside is that you need to know what you are doing with it.

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Monday, April 24, 2017

Hands Up Muybridge - I've Got A Fujifilm Repeater...

Idling away on the South Perth foreshore one evening, I was trying to think of a use for the Perth skyline. I mean, they've taken a lot of trouble putting lights on the buildings and all and it seems only courteous to take some sort of notice.

Then I read further into the instruction booklet that came with the new Fujifilm EF X-500 electronic flash. The Fujifilm people make a reasonably good set of instructions and the flash itself is easy to master. The bit that intrigued me was the arrangement that could be made for multiple flashes.

You have three decisions to make via the page buttons and the scroll wheel:

a. Level of manual flash power.

b. Number of flashes that you want to fire.

c. Length of time over which you want to fire them.

Each one of the flashes will record as a separate illumination in the final frame while the background will keep burning into the image. If you want to capture the movements of the subject cleanly, you need a black backdrop...but anything else is pure art.

To work in South Perth at twilight you also need an open space that people do not intrude into. Short of laying perimeter mines, there is little you can do to achieve this. The world, his wife, and their relatives visiting from another planet will all walk back and forth behind the model. Some will walk in front. It is an exercise in restraint - on your part - because they ain't gonna be on theirs...

The results? More like Marcel Duchamp descending a staircase with his clothes on than I really wanted, but intriguing nevertheless. The rigid precision of the flash firing is probably going to be very useful for motion studies, but against an inky backdrop. The flash fires at lower powers if you command it to fire often or at small intervals - there must be some time required inside it for power to be built up in the capacitor, after all. But given the good high ISO performance of the Fujifilm cameras there is a surprising amount of light coming off the flash head.

The model is the beauteous and patient Jane Hebiton.

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Friday, April 21, 2017

Weegee Woulda Been Proud Of Joby

Arthur Felig was not a man to use compact cameras for delicate pieces of ethereal art. His batting record with still life bowls of fruit was woeful. I do not think he ever used a graduated neutral density filter at the seaside in his life.

Yet...he was the greatest blood and guts press the toughest areas of New York in the 1940's...and he used press cameras to do it. One shot, two shots, and then run for it. Run for the car to develop the film pack in the boot and then run for the picture desk of the newspaper.

Arthur...also known as Weegee...had no time for weak equipment, and if you are in the same frame of mind, Joby have just what you want - the Joby Pro Series Hand Grip With Ultra Plate 208.

Heckuva thing to sell - a complex metal casting to bolt onto the bottom of your camera and a rubberised grip to hold it with. I mean, cameras have grips already, don't they? Yeah, but not if you're Weegee class - big handed with tough assignments.

If you need to sling a flash from the left hand side of a camera instead of right in the middle, this is the deal. You screw on a Manfrotto double-thread adapter, a cold shoe, Joby's own locking arm, or any other connector to the top of that grip and the thing is going to stay there without coming off in ANYTHING.

You can pop the baseplate onto an Arca-Swiss mount all along the length. You can run a wrist strap or one of your camera stop ends onto the right lower edge of the camera as well as the upper right edge and sling the camera vertically like the old Leica M5. Metz provided this option for years with the metal bracket of the 45-series and it was a blessing. It would be even more so now when we want to keep that damned strap out of our eyes as we raise the camera for a shot.

If you've a mind to, you can attach the grip below the camera for a handle. Raise the thing above the crowd surrounding the murder victim, fire the flash, and run for it*. Weegee would have.

And if worst comes to worst,  that handle and the metal casting make a good mace. A lot easier to hang onto than the grip of your average DSLR.

* Popping a red-hot Press 25 at your pursuers while you leg it...

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Thursday, April 20, 2017

New Packs And Boxes - New Position In The Shop - Same Great Products

Here's a problem for shoppers: shop assistants...

Here's a problem for shop assistants: shoppers...

The answer to this is simple: we'll all blame the manufacturers...

We've all been to a supermarket to pick up a familiar packet of something; noodles, or cheese, or marzipan mortar bombs. And we've gotten increasingly frustrated at trying to find the goods in the myriad of products on offer. Whatever it is, it isn't where it was...the shop assistants have moved it, the rats.

And when we go and berate them, they point out that it is in exactly the same place that it always was. But the manufacturers have changed the packaging. No-one is really happy but the world goes on.

This is the case with the superb line of camera straps made by Black Rapid. We've been selling them for ages from a rack at the middle back of the Stirling Street shop in packets with pictures of happy owners on the front. If you have been circling the shop looking for these recently you will have become increasingly frustrated.

Now they are in the front between the Leica and Fujifilm and Olympus cabinets. And the boxes with the straps are ever so much more sophisticated now - a graphic designer has gotten to work on the packaging. This post is to alert you to the new appearance of several favourites; the Curve, the Hybrid, and the Street.

Still the same great flexibility, ease of draw, and security for your cameras and lenses, and particular stability for larger rigs - the bigger straps will not walk over your chest as you run about or draw the camera up and down.

Still the great favourite of photojournalists and street shooters. And pack shooters...

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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Financial Year Camera

With the new financial year rapidly approaching we are all staring down the barrel of the Law...the law that states that if the departmental budget is not spent by the end of June you get less money next year

As the calender ticks over we come up with implausible schemes to stock up on copier paper or send fact-finding missions to Bavaria. It all gets desperate and we are wheeling trolley's out of Officeworks stacked with anything we can grab. Well, this year we can short-circuit this...we can win outright at the start.

We'll just grab this titanium Leica M-P kit and gleefully clap on one of the lenses. We can choose the 50mm or 28mm focal length, depending on whether we want to just take a picture of of the accountant or his whole family.

We'll be sure to point out the fact that the titanium construction of the body makes it 3 ounces lighter and that the lenses are especially anodised to have the same shade as the body. And let him see the fitted titanium-finish back lens cap.

Mentioning that there are only 333 of these in the world...and if we are really ambitious, buying up all the rest in Australia...we'll then tell his wife that we're surprised that she doesn't have one by now. Is there a money problem? Oh dear...

I think we will do it right. Looking into the Leica Boutique we'll equip ourselves with a fashion bag as well. And a spare battery.

After all, 'tis the season to be frugal. And the price can only go up later...

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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

New Leica Cabinet Installed In Murray Street - Revolutionary Unique Design

Which is a blatant lie. It's a Leica Boutique cabinet - it looks the same as the Leica Boutique cabinet in the Stirling Street store. Which looks the same as the Leica Boutique cabinets in Tokyo, Singapore, Sydney, and probably every other major city in the world. Black MDF cabinet, red interior, red dot on top.

Leica are smart people - and I am not talking just about the cameras and lenses and binoculars...they are smart with their branding. They realised early on that they had a name that was worth putting on a banner and were careful to cut the banner the same size for everywhere and put it on the same pole. As a business strategy it is akin to a national government deciding on a flag and making sure that it is seen everywhere. It re-enforces loyalty, and in this case it re-enforces the sort of loyalty that the customers actually want to pay for.


Of course, each manufacturer has a characteristic colour combination, and you'll see that used in advertising and signage. The more adventurous ones have a bright colour that attracts the eye so that people snap to their displays in the shops. These days, they can repeat the hue on their packaging so that every discarded box becomes a free billboard. If they are bold they can make a logo physically bigger on the packaging or...gasp...on the product itself.

It can backfire...think back to the Minolta logo when it got all arty in the 1990's and people were hard pressed to figure out what it actually was...and that also meant that they were confused as to who Minolta were*. You can surrender to the blandishments of the design department a little too early.

It can be too conservative - harking back to the design styles of the film eras can be dangerous too. There is a major maker that has several logos in operation right now dealing with different divisions of their overall company that could look at this aspect - some of the brand presentation looks decidedly 1970's. It might be argued that the division of business that they are dealing with also harks back to the 1970's so the buyers of the goods would not be influenced by a modern logo. Perhaps this is the case, but I am glad to see that they have adopted a far more stylish nameplate for their newer cameras and lenses.

But they did not choose a bright colour combination. It will remain to be seen if their presentation can grab the casual shopper's eye.

Well, back to the Leica Boutique. The Murray Street shop walls are now complete and the stock that you see in there will be designed to appeal to the high-end buyer. I noted that the titanium M kit was there this week. Pick one up on the way home from the office...And there are no end of lenses that will be making an appearance.

One particularly attractive bit was on the island display - and you need not spend the annual budget of Brazil to buy it. If you are a Leica shooter treat yourself to an oversize shutter release button in one of a number of styles. They screw into the shutter button as it currently exists and make for smooth and comfortable shooting. I use one on a camera when I am doing waist-level shots at car show. I press it with my thumb and the shots are rock-steady.

* To be fair, a lot of people couldn't stop themselves from calling it " Minololta ".

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Monday, April 17, 2017

The Digital Shotgun - Or The Art Of The Bracket

A recent weekend spent playing with the new Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mk II showed me how useful it would be for macro work and studio product illustration. This column showed some of the ways that the focus bracketing and focus stacking features helped to tame the problem of depth of field. Kudos to Olympus.

Also, my foray to Jandakot airport showed their long telephoto lens and their superb image stablising systems making short work of long-distance coverage in bumpy conditions. Instant desire to own one...and a very successful DIY job done.

But like every successful DIY job, once the thing has been accomplished, you should put away the tools, clean the workbench, and throw away the rest of the pot of red paint that you bought to do the project. But we never do - we look around for something to use up the paint on...

Olympus have lots of buttons on their new mirrorless camera that attract the idle finger. One of them is the one that sets up bracketing - in this case art effects bracketing. One press on the shutter button and the device takes off into a series of interpretations of the scene, stacking them into JPEGS.
Hi-Key, Low Key, Dramatic Contrast, Sketching, Soft Focus, Hard Focus, Monochrome, etc. etc. I think there was Diane Sauce and/or Ennui there in the settings somewhere...

Here are some of the results. I offer them with no comment, other than to say they are well done. If I understood Art I would probably appreciate them more. If they remind you of the results that a bored teenager gets with a mobile app and Instagram, reflect that a bored retiree would be even worse.

There is a good side: If one of these artistic decisions accords with your own vision of the world, you are onto a winner. In that case the camera will do what you want to do consistently and will show you what the results are going to look like out there in the field while you are still shooting. You might be the sort of person who revels in vast long sessions of Photoshopping your images to produce the same effects - in which case we suggest that you shoot RAW and then beat the thing to death yourself. But if you just want it now, this Olympus feature is a good one.

Note: I am also guilty of two-hour Photoshop sessions with forays off into Alien Skin and Nik plug-ins to alter the images. I've got some corkers - but some of the best ones have far exceeded the history feature of the program and I cannot reproduce them again. At least if the Olympus camera gets you into the artistic ballpark, you'll have less smearing to do in the end.

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Friday, April 14, 2017

Part Five - A Messenger From Mr. Gladstone, Your Majesty.

As a new chum in Australia in the 1960's, I might have been forgiven for a little confusion as I watched the railway workers clocking on and off at the East Perth sheds as their shifts changed...all those big burly engine drivers and firemen and wipers - all carrying little leather doctor's bags? Could they all be part time physicians?

Well, the Gladstone bags I was looking at were carrying their lunches to the job and spare coal back home...and similar containers were going to work all over Australia at the time. It was the most elegant set of lunch pails I have ever seen.

The Gladstone - a bag that opens at the top and then is suspended by two sling handles or a central articulated handle - is also a standard for overnight bags and now for camera systems. It is the bag of choice for the discrete and discerning photographer who also wants to take sandwiches. In the case of the Barber Shop Medium Borsa bag, those are likely to be expensive sangers, as this is a pricey little Gladstone.

Okay, that thought out of the way, this is a beauty. It is blue canvas with dark brown leather trim, stitched in Italy  ( Ah, there's the price...) and lined perfectly. There's a protective top flap but a full-length leather-edged zip for access as well.

Look inside for an iPad pocket, a removable and reconfigurable camera holder, and a captive leather leash. I am again lost as to the exact purpose of the leash.

There's an extremely well-finished shoulder strap with leather shoulder pad.

I'd use it as a camera case here in Perth to impress the ladies and the clients and a one-night overnighter on the airplane to the eastern states to impress the airline staff. Don't try to impress the Camera Electronic salespeople because they are cynics down to about five inches under the skin.

One final thought - if you are the train driver for Le Train Bleu or The Orient Express this might make a nice lunchbox...

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Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Personal Pick - Part Four - The Missing Link

If " Missing Link " sounds a little dramatic, consider the way that your work colleagues show you the pictures of the weddings, sports carnivals, and car shows that they attend.

They pull out a $ 1000 device with a sctratched or broken glass screen on the front and a little symbol of half a battery flashing on and off. They frantically tap away at it and then swipe their fingers left, right, up, and down trying to make a 3 1/2 inch by 5 inch picture appear. Like as not, if it actually is found, it will have enough Instagram filters on it to look like an 1880 cabinet card, but you may not be able to see this before the little battery symbol winks out and the screen goes black. Then you can watch your colleague sitting in their car for half an hour until the phone charges up again.

In the meantime, you can look at an album of prints...

I am suggesting that either you need to come on down to the Murray Street shop of Camera Electronic and get a set of prints made on the Fujifilm printing system...or steer down to the third island stand in the shop and look seriously at the Epson SureColor SC - P600 and P800 inkjet printers. They are two of the very best ways for a serious enthusiast to escape from the dungeon of the mobile screen.

Don't get me wrong - I thoroughly respect putting pictures on a computer screen. As this column is getting typed on an iPad, the main computer is burning off belly-dance discs from a recent show. I daresay few of them will end up as prints. That is the ephemeral nature of the dance shot. But if ever I take a doozey, that one deserves to be at least an A4 print. I rely upon the Epson A3+ printer in my studio to do it, and frequently it does a great deal more. Enough images and some good paper and you have an exhibition.

The P600 most closely corresponds to the Epson printer I use - the A3+ size. If I needed to go up to A2 it would be the P800. Both use the K3 Epson inks for the same result on the paper. The,smaller printer uses smaller ink cartridges, which means a higher price per ml for the ink, but also means that if I do not print as extensively, I am not risking larger quantities that may go stale or flat. This is a real thing and whichever printer one chooses, it is wise to cycle it through with at least one print per week.

Note on the sign that there is a cashback and roll paper adapter on offer as special inducements. I have used an adapter and can report it as a successful when you want long banners or odd sizes of print. Otherwise there are good supplies of Hähnemuele and Ilford papers to suit every taste.

These days there are very easy connections possible between the printers and the computers. I use a simple plugged cord for mine but could have chosen a wireless connection instead. Networking is also available, if you don't mind someone else using up all your ink and paper.

I lock mine away.

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