Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The Long Lens Inside - the Saga Of the Fujifilm Continues

If you read most of the photographic press that deals with interchangeable lenses for DSLR and mirror-less cameras you'll see much the same recommendations about choices. It's not conspiracy - it's sensible agreement. Being photographers we are free to be neither sensible nor agreeable - and sometimes it pays off big-time.

The books all talk about long lenses being the sensible choice for motor sports, surfing, field sports, wildlife, and aircraft photography. I've not gone in for a great deal of these subjects, but when I have the advice was good. You need long focal lengths to bring in lions and Tiger Moths - you also need bright light. Anything less is going to be a failure.

Oh yes? Well what if you get an assignment to take pictures at a Halloween dance show in Fremantle -at the Fly By Night hall on High street. That's a picture from the mezzanine balcony at the head of the column. Great place to prop up during a performance as you are in no-one's way, but a long way from the stage...Note: The establishing shot is a Fujifilm 18mm f:2.

Enter the Camera Electronic Rental Department and the 100-400mm Fujinon zoom lens - the big boy in their lineup. Widest aperture is f: 4.5-5.6 but it has a dynamite optical stabilization circuit inside and an extremely smooth focus. The support shoe and rotating ring are also super-professional.

I bolted the lens onto a Manfrotto 234 monopod tilting head and in turn supported that with my Manfrotto carbon fibre monopod. Sitting on a chair up there in the gods at the Fly meant that I was stable and the lens was too. I could even grip the monopod with my knees if I needed to busy my hands elsewhere and the whole assembly stayed upright. I love tripods in the studio but am starting to love the manfrotto monopod more when I am out an about - so much less hassle but still great stability.

Okay, it's dark in there, and the stage lights are good but still not the same as sunlight. ISO up to 6400 on a Fujifilm E-X2 is as high as you want to go, but fortunately it was high enough to work. Really fast dancers blurred, but slower ones came in well. And the transition from landscape to portrait orientation couldn't have been smoother - I just kept the lock knob turned off and rotated at will all night long.

The job was a lot of fun - Halloween brings out the theatre in people and if they are good actors, singers, and dancers to start with it is all that much better under stage lighting.

Note: If you've got a job that needs long coverage think about talking to the Camera Electronic Rental Department. They've got faster lenses for other systems as well, or if you would like to try the latest and best from Fujifilm, ask to see the X-T2 with this lens. You could even add a teleconverter to push it out to 600mm.

Performers, Nina, Richell, and Jenier. Thank you for a great night, ladies.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Cocktail Hour Vs Happy Hour In The Camera Store

We are not going to suggest that the clients of Camera Electronic should come in to buy stuff in a sozzled condition - far from it. It has been done, mind, but it was not a pretty sight to see. And it is hard enough getting the sales staff down off the top of the cabinets with a hockey stick at the best of times.

But there is something to be said for the concept of the cocktail hour consultation. Pull up a shaker and I'll explain.

Cocktails are made from a mixture of things - liquors, essences, fruits, mixers, etc. They can be very complex or very simple - provided the ingredients are good, they nearly always succeed. Okay, the pickled herring martini was a general failure but we still sold some in Holland...The point is to get good stuff to start with and mix it judiciously.

And in the camera trade? Well, give some serious thought to mating camera bodies to lenses and flashes. Your tastes and needs may be entirely different than those of your neighbour, and just as you might like a martini and someone else might do better with a Manhattan, so your optic mix muight be different. Here's your ingredients:

Canon bodies
Nikon bodies.
Sony bodies.
Olympus bodies.
Panasonic bodies.
Sigma lenses.
Tokina lenses.
Samyang lenses.
Zeiss lenses.
Nissin flashes.
Metz flashes.

And note - I didn't even mention the fact that the body makers have a full line each of their own lenses that fit their bodies...

Also note that I didn't raise the question of Leica cameras and lenses, or ditto for Fujifilm.

Or the adapter drawer full of possibilities.

Ask your bartender...err...sales assistant for a taste recommendation and try out  a number of combinations. You need not be frightened to mix and match - there are any number of combinations that work well.

Oh, Happy Hour? When the drinks are half-price? Well think of the cash-back offer periods that the manufacturers institute as the closest thing to this. Wait if you wish, and you can score some good savings. Or sip your way with a new lens or two while you are waiting. We are prepared to put coasters down under the telephotos for you...

Friday, January 20, 2017

Touched By Human Hands - The New Leica M10

We are not immune from the magic down here at Camera Electronic - we get just as much of a thrill with the unboxing of a fresh product as you, the customers, do. When the product is absolutely new,  is the latest offering from and industry leader,  and has just arrived by special delivery it is an especial moment.

Today the product was the new Leica M 10 camera body. The chap tasked with opening it and putting it on display was one of our chiefs - Saul Frank. And the occasion was literally less than a half hour after it had been delivered.

The specifications are on Leica's website. They are on our website. They are long and illustrious, but there are a few main points that we could tell just from looking at the camera:

a. It is slimmer than heretofore in the Leica M Digital range - about 3-4mm difference. The body shape is much more reminiscent of the M-series Leica 35mm film cameras.

b. There is an external ISO adjustment dial that has been positioned in the same place that used to hold a rewind crank. It is a locked dial - to free it for adjustment you pull it up against a detent. Note the red ring to tell you it is in the variable position. When you're done, snap it back down..

c. The battery is slimmer - says Saul.

d. The strap included in the kit is proper full leather. Leica logo impressed into it and all...

e. The LCD screen is way bigger than the previous M-series screens. The viewfinder eyepiece is larger.

f. Leica have continued the characteristic ID mark on one edge of the hot shoe.

The internal improvements in resolution and processing are all in the official spec. pages. Pore over them daily, but do make some time to come in and see the new body in the shop. The one that you see here is for display only for the next 3 months but more salable stock will be arriving next month.

You'd be wise to email or phone some money in now - $ 500 secures a pre-order against a body price of $ 9700. There will be others wanting it as well, so be snappy.

There will also be an after-hours Leica introduction party here at 230 Stirling Street on the 8th of February - a Wednesday evening from 6:00 to 8:00. Go to our Facebook page and look it up, or if you are on our regular email list, be sure to check it over for details.

Note: Saul's hands were clean and careful. The Leica M10 is in perfect shape. And it is a perfect shape.

The Paper Shuffle - Part Five - The Oriental Connection

Are we allowed to use the word ' oriental ' any more? Probably not, if someone somewhere wants to make a fuss. But they are probably busy right now writing savage political memes for Facebook so I'll just go ahead and use it.

The object under scrutiny is a packet of twenty sample papers from the Awagami Factory in Tokushima, on the island of Shikoku in Japan. About as oriental as you get...

The papers in this packet are referred to as washi - a style of paper making. It would appear that there are a number of trees and bushes, as well as rice, wheat, bamboo, or hemp, that can be called upon to contribute fibres to the process. This is reflected in the wild number of choices in this packet - choices that I am assuming can be duplicated when you order a specific paper in a specific size from the shop.

I noted at both Stirling Street and Murray Street that there are stocks in hand of those larger sizes.

Okay, some of these are things that might look like papers from western manufacturers - but some are  exotically eastern. You must decide whether your images are such as will be enhanced by the textures. The sample packet gives you a chance to see, but it is one chance per surface - there are 20 sheets there. Fortunately they are identified with an indexed sticker on the back of each sheet to let you know what you are handling and which side to print on.

The unfortunate part of this is that you may have to download some exotic profiles, and you may have to exercise your imagination whilst doing so. Presumably you cannot actually break your computer or printer while doing this...

So here is the list. Be patient. There are 20 sheets in there. I'll not comment on each one - just look at what their surface is doing and make up your own mind.

Here are a few clues to help you decode the names of the papers. 

Unryu: The IJNS UNRYU was a Japanese aircraft carrier that was torpedoed by USS REDFISH.  

Kozo: Tissue paper.

Inbe:  A clan in Japan. Like a clan in Scotland but fewer beards and skirts.

Mitsumata:  An unattended Japanese railway station.

Bizan:  A mountain near Tokushima.

Bamboo:  Self explanatory.

Bamgoo:  Like bamboo but stickier.

The Awagami Factory people point out on the back of the packet that these are papers made with natural materials and the result you get may be affected by this.

Do come to one of our stores and buy a sample packet of these papers and go home and try them. The thin ones will let the image through to the other side of the paper and the thick ones will impose their own patterns on your image, but somewhere in between there must be art. We can only benefit from your experiences, so bring the results back and show us.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

The Paper Shuffle - Part Four - Rough Justice

Life is not all smooth and sleek in Dassel, Lower Saxony, and neither is it in the Hahnemühle factory. At least not in the division that makes the Matt Fine Art - Textured inkjet paper.

I don't know if the firm chops down chunkier trees or employs rougher workmen, but the results have a rugged charm all their own. Prepare to pick your way through a plowed field of paper. Mind your ankles.

Holy Moley, Batman...that is one rough surface. A definite lay and pattern to the Albrecht Dürer and enough texture to break any image into a pastel drawing effect.

Okay, if Dürer was a German artist who made etchings düring* the Renaissance, who was Torchon? And why did he draw on something that looks like the side of a barn? Turns out a torchon is a French tea-towel, which explains this surface perfectly. Is it too silly to suggest that you should print pictures of French food on this paper?

German Etching suggests monochrome images with sharp delineation and serious subjects. My experience with it was tempered by bad language and the realization that paper has a mind of its own - a mind that can be changed by heat and humidity. It can also be bent into shape to counteract these tendencies.

William Turner was a Romanticist landscape painter and I am wondering if the naming of this paper may unconsciously lead to photographers utilizing it for images that feature rain, steam, and speed. Will they be committing images to preset plug-ins with brush strokes. Will they turn the Gaussian blur up to 139? Of course we will...

Museum Etching is similar to German Etching but not quite as edgy. If you print a fair amount of your output on this paper - and it is available in quite large sheets - you can invite girls up to see your etchings. I did, and it just shows you what my social life is like. They came up and wanted to see etchings...

There is no disguising the cloth pattern evident in the Monet Canvas sheets - it would be an ideal choice for the sort of art image that one wraps around wooden frames for wall display. Hahnemühle themselves make kits to allow this sort of thing to be done. The kits are very good value and if you can put good colourful images on them you can sell them for a good price. Then you'll be in the Monet...

Not every image suits a rough surface, and not every printer will handle these papers. You need one that can be set so that the paper moves in and out of it on a straight, flat line. You may need to bend or steam the papers to get them to obey. But the artistic effect on the right image is magical...and when you get the trick operating right you can produce print after print the same way.

* I cannot be fürtive about it. I like the ümlaut key. It's fün to üse... 

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Paper Shuffle - Part Three - The Smooth German Connection

Hahnemühle are historic papermakers from Dassel in Lower Saxony. With a lot of small creeks ( " bachs " ) running through the place and forests nearby, it has proved to be a good location to make woodpulp and paper - they've apparently been doing it since 1584.

Currently there is a wide selection of papers that have been turned to the inkjet printing application from the company. Camera Electronic have had them for years and supplied some very special surfaces in large flat sheets. As well, there are rolls avaiable for the larger inkjet printers.

The Hahnemühle sample books have always been amazing things - exotic surfaces and extremely well-printed images that make you jealous. As well, they produuce a number of sampler packs to let people assess the things for themselves...but therein lies a problem. What are you supposed to be looking for and how will you know it when you see it?

Add to this the artistic question of what image suits which paper and you have a pretty wide field of speculation. I'll admit to buying a pack of Hahnemühle paper a few years ago based upon the name of it and a mistaken assessment of my own printing skills...and disappointing myself. But the story did have a happy ending - I eventually found which of my images would suit the surface and got the last 5 sheets of the packet to print perfectly.

Well, here's the smooth surfaces under the examining lens. Remember that these are all matt and will need the matt ink option - plus they will not quite get to the black of a gloss surface. But they are stylish and marvellously sturdy - a print on the 308 surface has a really impressive feel.

See the lay of the Rice Paper?

The 220gsm and less emphasised texture of this Photo Rag Book & Album means that you will be able to pack more pictures into the album and any text printeed with the image will be easy to read.

Bamboo. It is not necessarily a surface dedicated to Asian images...but the classic look of misty mountains and clouds would be well-suited to this broken surface. The disruption of it would probably suit rural images with natural shapes better than urban ones with man-made straight lines.

Ah, here we go for that technical image. The Photo Rag Ultra Smooth is 305 gsm but does not raise as many irregularities on the surface and would not disrupt fine detail.

The classic Hahnemühle fine art paper, Photo Rag 308 is often seen with the big roll printers. It supports some of the best landscape art in this state as well as commercial portraiture. See how it breaks the light just that little bit more than the Ultra Smooth?

Disregard what your screen or my camera shot might say - this is a noticeably whiter paper than the 308, as wll as picking up a little more weight; 310gsm.

I cannot say what this Daguerre Canvas looks like with an image because I have been told that my printer will not print canvas. I've been told a lot of things in the past few years but gone right ahead and done them anyway. I'll tel you what happens on a future post...

And that is the idea of these sample packs.They're A4 with two sheets of each surface in the parcel at a bargain price. You could do far worse than just getting a pack, going over your pictures for suitable art, and putting them through your printer. Hahnemühle have the profiles on-line, and they will be necessary, but that is easily done.