Friday, September 23, 2016

Get A Grip Week - Day Four - The Box Of Boxes - Leica


A note for Leica collectors: The colour of the cardboard box in the heading image has been artificially boosted toward the yellow end of the spectrum. There is no need to rush out and add another set of grey cardboard boxes to your current collection...it is not a new variant.

Well, inside the grey outer casing is a silver inner box:


And inside the silver inner box is a guarantee card, and instruction book, and a new address card - Leica have built a new factory:


And buried at the bottom of the box is a bottom of a Leica camera - a baseplate that has been designed with a grip attached - and a number of unique features:





Let's get the target sorted out first - this grip is intended for the Leica Typ 240 - The Leica M/MP.
It replaces the baseplate that normally covers the bottom of the camera - the big black wheel in the centre screws into the base of the camera body instead.

The grip has things not seen on lesser machines; a USB socket allows pictures to be transferred off to external storage devices and can allow camera control from a computer - there is a DC-in socket to draw power via an adapter - a synch socket allows external flash firing, and an SCA connection allows TTL interface with a suitable flash. It's a lockable socket too.

Good? Well, if the finish of the paint is any indication, perfect. Leica M's are a heavy camera and their metal-bodied lenses are also weighty. I should like the feeling of security that this grip would give with the high-speed lenses. But I'd still keep the neck strap on...despite the fashionable finger loop accessory that they also sell.

See the Leica M Handgrip Multifunction (Typ 240) on our online store here



Thursday, September 22, 2016

Get A Grip Week - Day Three - Fujifilm Boxes On


Retro is as retro does - and if that isn't as fatuous a statement as you are likely to read in a camera column...read on. It gets worse.

Fujifilm struck a real chord with the digital camera-buying public a few years ago when they brought out a retro camera. It's not rude to say that - the Fujifilm X-100 series of cameras have been deliberately styled to look and feel like cameras from the film era. Those of us who used film cameras can relate pretty nearly instantly to them as far as ergonomics go.

We get to touch a shutter speed dial, an aperture ring, and a focusing ring. We get a mechanical shutter button - They're even retro enough to take a mechanical cable release. We get an optical viewfinder, an electronic viewfinder, and an LCD live screen.

But we also get a pretty small and somewhat slippery camera body. I won't say that it is likely to squirt out of your fingers like a buttered squid, but you need to have your digits in the right place to operate it. If they are big sausage fingers you can be fighting for space. Enter the X-100 series grip:



It's a chunky monkey all right, with enough hand grip to allow to to pretty well let go of the camera with the left hand for good. The camera has got a fixed lens that is very compact. Even with an additional lens hood or filter holder, it is never going to overpower your right wrist like a long zoom would. If you are the sort of shooter who favours a wrist strap instead of a neck strap, this is the ideal way to secure the camera.

Note that it is cut out for card/battery replacement without being disturbed, and the bottom of the grip incorporates an Arca-Swiss rail fitting.

Now suppose you have decided to get the newest of the Fujifilm cameras - the X-T2. Can you be accommodated? You can:



Here the emphasis is on practicality rather than just accessorising for the sake of spending money in a camera shop (not that we discourage this...). The 18-135, 55-200, and 50-140 lenses are all substantial devices - they contain a great deal of heavy glass. They can twist a camera out of your right hand very easily, and it is awkward. This grip strengthens your chances. I also noted that the 1/4" screw was captive on a C-clip, though the battery door is accessible and the X-T2 has the card door on the side of the body anyway.

Please note that there are grips for the X-T1 and the X-E1 and 2 series as well.








Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Get A Grip Week - Day Two - Olympus Discovers the Grip

I realise that there will be camera historians reading this column who will take umbrage at the title - they'll be able to find lots of Leica and Contax and Exakta grip designs that have been sold long before the current Olymopus digital camera grips. Okay - I'll modify it for you:

Get A Grip Week- Day Two - The Grip Discovers Olympus

Olympus have always known where their chief marketing points are, and for a great deal of the time that they've been selling 35mm film and micro 4/3 digital cameras one of them has been the size of the apparatus. Olympus cameras are made compact - they contain all the good ingrediants, but they are small in the hand.

Good if you are a person with a small hand, as many of the people in the land where Olympus comes from may be. Targeted design. But the target shifted overseas decades ago, and much of the rest of the world has larger hands. This is not a problem - this is an opportunity - an opportunity to sell an accessory.

Grip One:


This fits an OM-D E-M5 camera. The shooting button is surrounded by an adjustment wheel to spread what you can do further away from the top plate of the camera. Literally, there is a bigger hand piece for the camera. But it also has provision for the attachement of a further grip, containing an extra connected battery and controls that in turn allow you to turn the camera on its side for portrait orientation.


That's why you see a connection of the electrical contacts through the bottom of the grip as well as the top. Clever marketing, because even if you are a landscape shooter you get to buy something for your money.



Grip Two: 

 

This one matches a micro 4/3 mirror-less camera that is on the more basic level. Basic, but equally small, and needing a grip boost if it is not to turn in the hand. 

 

The grip has an unusual feature on the lower level - a slide switch. Pull it and... 


And it comes apart. I can only surmise that you are meant to leave it attached for most of the time and then when you need to change batteries you trigger it off rather than screw it off.

Grip Three: 


This grip suits the new Olympus Pen F micro 4/3 camera - the one that looks like a rangefinder. It's been made with the recognition that more and more photographers are standardising their camera support systems to include the Arca-Swiss quick release fitting. The rail at the bottom of the grip is Arca-Swiss fitting, though they do allow you to second-guess your choices by also including a standard 1/4" tripod screw. 


Note the open frame to allow for battery changing. Also note the allen-key screw head - this grip is designed to stay on permanently. I am speculating about the hollowed out portion of the casting at the left of the camera...being the fiddler I am I would make a small cover for this that would hide a couple of spare SD cards.

We'll return to the Olympus company at the end of the week...

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Photokina OP


Just monitoring the net in my jammies...

Looks like we are going to have the pleasure of a Fujifilm medium format camera and a line of lenses dedicated to it. Think in terms of a larger version of an X-T2 and you'll get the shape.

A new OM-D EM1 MkII is in the offing as well, Very fast and packed with processor power.

Metz have made a compact TTL flash for a number of the systems - the M 400. Metal hot shoe foot - you beauty!

Three new Sigma lenses - an 85 1.4 Art, 12-24 Art, and 50mm f:4 Sport. WooHoo for the 500...

New Olympus Pen E-PL8 as a fashion and entry-level shooter. Brown leather variant with silver lens looks nice. Their new 25 f:1.2 Pro lens looks nice too, but on an entirely different plane of existence - the biggest little lens you've ever seen, and touted to be perfect. A prime the size of a medium zoom.

A new Sony a99 with 42 megapixel sensor.

A screen and a half of new Panasonic cameras.

And a "Concept Car" camera from Hasselblad. Looks vaguely like the old 500 film series but has a lot of new thinking on it. Fun to look at, fun to contemplate.

And there'll be more as the day goes on. Oh to be in Köln now that the camera fields are blooming...

Looking forward to the management's report when they return - hopefully with a carton of pamphlets from all the trade stands. You can do a great deal of reverse speculation with an advertising pamphlet from a trade fair - they often are prepared in advance and the advertising department doesn't talk to the engineering department so you can read up what might have been as well as what may come. The staff at the trade show are there in the middle with the public in their face and the facts as the actually are...

Heading image: They're nice jammies.

Get A Grip Week - Day One - The Murky Past

 

This is the week when you get a firm grasp of getting a firm grip - when you go from the ridiculous to the sublime and then back again.

We promise ridiculous, and the heading image might suggest it, but if you were shooting a medium format TLR camera 20 years ago, you would have a different opinion. Because TLR cameras were made to be particularly hard to operate...and that was deliberate.

Think I'm joking? Pick up a Rolleiflex and hold it in your left hand. See how your finger falls on the shutter button? And your right hand holds the film winding handle? All good? Now focus the camera...

Yeah. Gotcha...

You might just get away with a Minolta Autocord or Flexaret with the focusing lever under the lens stage, but you're still going to be juggling things and I'll bet you'll eventually drop it in the mud...


Now try attaching it the camera to this ( no-name ) grip from the 70's. The big base takes the square base of the camera. The big hand grip lets you hold it firmly and the hand strap firther re-inforces the steadiness. There's a flash shoe - admittedly plain but then the flashes of those days used PC synch cords. Unfortunately the cable release that feeds out from the bottom of the grip is missing but that was the ideal way to trigger the camera - from a mechanical trigger under your finger. Focus, wind with one hand, shoot with the other. Then take your films to the chemist and wait a fortnight...

Oh, and look at how neatly the thing folds into itself for storage in the big leather camera case -the one with the paisley strap. 1970 was good.

 
Okay, joking aside, this grip is well thought-out. Like the Hasselblad grips of the same period - and the equally smart right-handed Bronica winding handles - it balances the camera function wisely between two hands and lets the shooter function far better than with a bare camera. And that is what the digital grips you'll see later in the week do for modern times.

Side note: The Rollei TLRs only made ergonomic sense when you did as Mr. Franke, the owner of the Franke and Heidecke company, did. He suspended the TLR from a neck strap off substantial lugs on the side of the camera, held it out in front of himself with his stomach, and then had both hands free to twiddle the focus and winding controls.

Next post: Olympus grips everything in sight!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Photokina 2016




Here it comes, folks. The biennial German trade fair, Photo Kina, for all things photographic. Clatter down off the fire-step into the dugout and hunker down...expect gas...

If you are an fan of the forums and the rumour sites you will know exactly what the new gear coming out will be - and I'll bet you have debated it at length at your camera club... championing the brand name or system that you own over all others whilst covertly calculating how much you'd get as a trade in if you swapped to something else. The answer to that is simple; not enough. But that won't stop you...

If you have wangled a leave pass and a European plane ticket and a fold-up cot in the corridor of some German hotel, you can be off this coming week to the show with the gleeful anticipation of a dose of jet lag, beer lag, and sore feet at the end of it all.

The smug superiority that you used to be able to exhibit when you came back is a little dimmed these days as most of the big exhibitors hold press conferences that go world-wide in a flash. You won't be able to bring back secret world-shattering news as it will have preceded you by days - but you can bring back brochures, pamphlets, trade samples, souvenir pins, throwaways, and as many images as you can cram onto the cards in your cameras. Also gastro and scammed credit cards, so beware.

Cameras? You're going to take three - one for just happy snaps, one for serious work, and one for insurance in case the others fail. This will involve taking three chargers and leads and an enormously complex plastic plug that almost fits into continental light sockets. You will lose two of the chargers and one of the cords, but that damned converter plug will remain with you for the next 15 years...

One thing to consider: for years you have puzzled at the instruction manuals that are packed with the cameras and at the way they use English. You have wondered whether the people who write them can actually speak English at all. Well, you're about to find out. If you have some spare time and can find a person who speaks Greek, you might take them along to the trade stand of a Chinese manufacturer who is trying to sell at a German trade show and get them to ask a technical question in their native language. It's mean fun, but it's still fun.

Note: All of the above is powered by a strong sense of jealousy on the part of this hack writer. Perhaps in two years time...

Our directors are on the ground at Photo Kina this week so see all the news on the Camera Electronic Facebook page as it rolls in!

Friday, September 16, 2016

One Day With Ken Duncan OAM...


And that one day is going to be Friday, the 7th of October. He's going to be at the Pan Pacific Hotel - 207 Adelaide Terrace, holding a one-day seminar to help Western Australians understand their digital cameras and - to paraphrase his own advertising - to make something very simple out of something that might have seemed hard work.

Ken's a landscape person - Oh, Boy, is he a landscape person - and the landscapes he has captured are the wide views of Australia. Limited edition prints, published books, calendars, cards, DVD's, and even jigsaw puzzles. He is an honourable jigsaw maker - he gives you ALL the pieces in the box...

Well, he's coming to Perth to present a seminar that will help nearly anyone who takes pictures. Really - anyone from pro to amateur to family snapper. The main poster for his seminar lists the topics and there is a good mix of what you need to know and what you need to do - and also the candid inclusion of what you DON'T need to worry about. Bless us, thus is just what the Camera Electronic sales staff and management want to see - a man who loves photography as much as we do.

Well, he's got some good backup - makers of the famed Lumix range of digital cameras and lenses, Panasonic are the event partner and we're going to be the exclusive retail partner. We stock Panasonic here at Camera Electronic and we know how good they are for taking landscapes - that's one at the top of the column taken on a Panasonic Lumix GX-7 with a 20mm lens. Some people have said it looks a little like Japan...

Well, more good news from Panasonic - one person at the seminar will win a Panasonic camera valued at $1099. And there will be more free give-aways - goodies, discount vouchers, tools and tutorials.

You won't starve or parch either - morning tea, lunch, and afternoon tea are included in the $249.75 seminar fee. Please don't ask me where the 75¢ comes into it because I have no idea...

But goodies aside, what you REALLY want to get is what you really will get - Ken's expert advice on what to buy, what to set, what to look for in a picture, and how to capture it. It doesn't need to be award-winning landscape panoramas like he does - it can be people, places, events, and objects just as easily...and easily is just how Ken wants you to do it. Come along and be charmed and instructed all at once.

The link to go to to book for this day is: https://www.trybooking.com/BookingEventSummary.aspx?eid=200588

If you key in CAMELEC as you are checking out you can get a 10% discount off the ticket price.

Now, go and do two things - go book that ticket and then google up Ken Duncan OAM and press the "images" button on your browser...

WOW, Sir! Those are really some pictures! Wouldn't you like to find out how he made them look so good?

7th of October is the day to find out...



Thursday, September 15, 2016

Freeing The Bird From The Nest


Awwww. that sounds so romantic, doesn't it. This should be a meme on Facebook with tiny bluebirds and hearts...instead of a camera shop blog trying to sell you stuff. Well consider the following.

The German, Japanese, or Chinese makers of digital cameras vie with each other for your money. They're not allowed to waylay you at the ATM and demand cash at gunpoint, so they do it by making better and better equipment - and convincing you that you need to buy it. That's also my job - trumpeting the goods.

 When the design departments of said firms think up cameras and lenses they know they need to work well and they need to do it right out of the box. The slightest hesitation or glitch will see the buyer move off to another brand. No names and no pack drill...but camera enthusiasts will remember some of the times when things did not go well in the last few years...

But they do want them to give good performance up front. So they design the cameras with factory default settings that will do it for you about 85% of the time with no further input. Charge the battery, insert a card and format it, and the little optical bird can pretty much sail out of the nest and fly straight away.

Of course there will be areas where pushing the buttons and ringing the changes will make things better for some people - and there are no end of sources of advice for this. The internet, books, camera club meetings, and photo seminars can all be mined for inspiration. Workshops and courses run by Shoot Photography Workshops are potent schools. You gradually learn what controls will do what for your own needs. And then you overdo it...

Don't be ashamed to admit it. We all overcook the egg sometimes. We start changing settings based upon the criteria of several different advisers and pretty soon our images are out beyond where the streetcars run. If we have done this gradually we may actually forget what the real image is and start to see reality as somehow lacking. We think that Heaven has been a bit skimpy with the colour or contrast or sharpening or focus or whatever and in our efforts to improve it we go completely off the boil.

Thank goodness for the design departments, because they understand us. They provide the Prodigal Photographer with a way to come back to reality - they have a "reset" button in the set-up menu. It generally throws out all our wireless and returns the camera to factory defaults...and to that 85% success platform. The bird is back in the nest.

If you have a camera in which every single control, from the lens release button on the front to the beer tap on the back, has been tweaked out of position I suggest you make this experiment:

a. Take a series of pictures - 20 or so of a wide variety of subjects in different lights.

b. Write down or take a screen shot of all the settings as they exist.

c. Find the "reset" button and press it. Go back to factory defaults.

d. Take those 20 pictures again, and then compare the results on your computer.

d. I won't say that all of the images will look better at factory setting, but I'll bet a few do...

Then be brutally honest with yourself - are the fancy tweaks and weird settings really improving your work? Is it time to give the design team their due and working with their recommendations?

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Photographic Slipstream - Weblog Columns Of The Past



I have just been reviewing this weblog column for the past 6 years. I did it by means of the historical record over on the right-hand side of the page - and I've come to some conclusions about it:

a. I really did write a lot of columns, didn't I?

b. Some of them were pretty naff, weren't they?

c. A great deal of the product promotion is irrelevant now - goods overtaken by other goods and fallen into the disused portion of our camera bags.

d. The people promotion still holds up - mainly because the people we introduced as professional or enthusiast photographers really can do the business well.

e. Nothing lasts forever. Not only do cameras and lenses wear out and computer programs fall into disuse, but whole businesses can disappear. There's a couple of postings that feature other camera stores that have since shut.

f. I noticed the postings introducing the new look for the shop - the grey paint job. The paint job is holding up pretty darn well - evidently the painters did a good job and selected good paints. They would be a good firm to employ for domestic work too...

g. I made a joke about full-frame mirror-less cameras. The manufacturers made full frame mirror-less cameras. I made a joke about a medium-format digital mirror-less camera. Hasselblad made a medium-format mirror-less camera.

I am going to make a joke about a brass-mounted faux-wood 1840's-style digital camera on a wooden tripod and see what happens...

h. The management never really censored any of the posts, even the ones that had to be typed with rubber gloves and a clothespeg on the nose. I think they were brave men.

The business of telling people about photography is both easy and tough - easy in that there really does seem to be some new little topic each day that can be introduced - tough in that most people know more about the subject than I do. I really only get away with it by virtue of the fact that no-one  knows everything about everything and I can find little novel tit-bits to show. I am just running along with the pack and scooping up stuff as I go.

The other consideration is that when we find something out, or say it, or do it, it can be swept away in a very short time by the advances of science or commerce. New products, new processes, new prices...we fly along and the old goes out into the slipstream and is gone in an instant. This is a great comfort to a person who makes mistakes because these can go away just as fast.

Bit worrisome, though, in that list of past posts that the Blogger mechanism provides. A couple of the readers of this column will probably go through them to see if they have gotten a mention...in some cases they have.

Ooh, I hope the time I named names won't come back to haunt me...

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

One Owner - Never Raced Or Rolled ...


I wouldn't be selling it except I'm going overseas...

Well, before you rush me with offers I have to confess that this pristine Rolls Royce does not belong to me. It is in the possession of a chap named Bill. He let me photograph it at Cannington but made me promise not to touch the paintwork in case I left any fingerprints on it.

I can respect that, as I have seen some terrible things done to vintage cars in Melbourne when the Australia Day crowds start fingering the Fords and smearing the Simcas. I would not have the nerve to exhibit a veteran or vintage car in the RACV show in the park because I have seen how invasive the spectators can be.


Well, back to my car shoot for Bill. I scoped out the car the day before the shoot and took some preliminary shots in monochrome - just the on-camera flash tube that pops up over the lens on the Fujifilm X-T10. I selected the 27mm F:2.8 lens as the most convenient one for this sort of work - I am going to look at the new 23mm f:2 WR when it arrives.

Good shots. Good record shots, but somewhat flat - even for monochrome. So on the shoot day I opted for the Fujifilm EF-42 lens with the new Mag Mode mushroom dome diffuser in front of it. The real secret of getting modelling, light and shadow, was the use of a TTL cord from camera to flash.


I was able to see the car in the tilting LCD screen at a convenient angle, and then use the flash in the other hand to rise up above the scene  and let light fall naturally. The roof of the building housing the car was a long way up and would not have been a good bounce reflector so I opted for the hand-held light.


A two handed shoot is not much fun if you have a long lens on the camera - the moment of force generated by the 18-135mm f:3.5-5.6 WR is such that you can hardly hold the camera body steady as you work. But anything that is physically smaller, from the 60mm macro on downward to the 27mm is a breeze. You can also make use of the camera strap braced agains the back of your neck for even more steadiness.


I would also particularly recommend that users of the Fujifilm X system look into the film simulation settings in the menu and seek out the PRO Neg Hi setting, if you have it. I can get it on three of my cameras and I must say it looks as though it is finally the way that I see colour. I still like Classic Chrome for the retro look, but PRO Neg Hi cuts it for nearly everything else.