Monday, December 5, 2016

The Urge To Share Just Got A Little Stronger - Nikon KeyMission 170

Weblog columnists are a bit of a menace - I know - I write three of these things every day and I would shy away from myself at cocktail parties. I'd be afraid that I would either start riding a hobby horse to dominate conversation or that I would be secretly watching me to see if I could get some copy for the column...

It's not bad character - it's the desire to share that does it. And this desire to share is the basis of the action-camera photographer's work. They want you to see what they are doing. And to be fair, sometimes it is worth looking at.

If you are an action person you now have the new option of the Nikon system action cameras. Today's blog is for the Nikon Key Mission 170. Make what you will of the name, the actual camera is a remarkable thing. And that said at a point where we have seen action cameras for years by other makers.

The Key Mission 170 is basically box-shaped, but does not need an additional bulky housing to waterproof it down to 10 metres. It is good to go out of the box. The makers do provide an protection lens for underwater hazards, though, so they may know more about the dangers you are going to get into than you do...

The camera is remarkably easy to use in the field. Two buttons on top - one for stills and one for video. three buttons at the back to navigate the menu system. And a separate hand controller to let you separate yourself from the device if you are at another point of the surfboard, yacht, or sailplane.

The necessary waterproof door with big yellow seal has twin locks clearly defined by orange warning panels - you should not be able to mistake what is happening and open the back at the wrong time.

There is a dedicated ball head mount and a snap-off release that glues to flat surfaces. I should not wonder if there were not other mounts in the offing - these sort of cameras generate ideas.

There is an integral LCD screen on the back you can see your results while you are still out there and make sure that you are bringing back the footage you need.

You'll be able to do real-time seamless sharing of your experiences too, with the Nikon SnapBridge 360/170 app that will be available for iOS and Android. The camera does a variety of video types, including 4K.

Note that the case construction of these little cameras is superb, as is the quality of the optics.

Now there are more new Nikon action devices in our stores. We'll be featuring the next one soon. In the meantime come on down and see what they look like - summer is coming fast and the water calls...

Nikon KeyMission 170 is at both Camera Electronic stores. 230 Stirling St and 2/324 Murray St, Perth. See our extended December trading hours here

See the Nikon KeyMission 170 on our online store 

Friday, December 2, 2016

When Professionals Go Bad

We're not really into click-bait here folks. Really we're not...

Professionals rarely go bad. Very few of the working photographers of Western Australia become train robbers. Hardly any turn to counterfeiting bus tokens. None of them have become ministers of the crown...yet...

But they do occasionally lose their way when it comes to operating their equipment. And we do not meant to be cruel in saying this - we've all been confronted with complex command pathways in modern digital cameras. We've all powered up only to discover that some inadvertant setting has the camera doing unexpected things. NOT the things we want...

The mark of a true professional is that they rise above the panic that this creates and do one of several things:

a. Fix it immediately with four jabs of the MENU button and a look of cool disdain.

b. Fix it eventually with thirty-four jabs of the menu button and some shocking language.

c. Put it away in the bag and pull out an identical camera and lens set correctly and carry right on.

d. Run for the exit.

To which we may add a fifth possibility:

e. They come into Camera Electronic, confess frankly that they are flummoxed, and ask one of the staff for help in resetting the wretched picture-box.

I am not ashamed to say that I adopt e. as often as I need it, and so far it has worked out well. Everyone here knows something different and we get a chance to see the new gear as soon as it arrives. We are camera geeks as much as you are, and are prepared to press every button on the thing to see what it does. By the time you need to know how to get ourself out of trouble, we will have been in that trouble already and can show you how to recover your dignity. We are also prepared to ring up the appropriate wholesalers and distributors and make ourselves look silly on your behalf.

Note that we also recommend c. as a good idea in most circumstances. No-one should go out on a job that is important with just one set of gear and an air of optimism.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

The Practical Impractical - Or Using The Fujifilm X-70

I looked at the Fujifilm X-70 some time ago from a seller's point of view - the sleek appearance, the specifications, etc. Trying to push your urge-to-purchase buttons, but without charging up a battery and seeing if it would actually do the job. Today I took that extra step.

My experience with the Fujifilm system grows as I add new lenses and bodies to the X system...but one thing has remained much the same for a long time. I have an original X-100 camera that is the daily shooter throughout the town and has gone on holiday with me many times. It is the camera du jour for many of my trips to car shows, together with he EF-42 flash from Fujifilm.  The basic reason is that it has a leaf shutter that allows me to use high shutter speeds in sync with the flash in sunny conditions.

The X-70 also has this sort of shutter. It can sync perfectly well all the way up to over 1/1000 of a second with no complicated behaviour on the part of the flash. You can balance ambient lighting with fill flash easily. The only awkward part of it might be the physical size and balance of the EF-42 and X-70 combination

The other two advantages of this camera over others in the X-series lie with the 18.5mm focal length of the lens and the fact that it is a fixed optic. 18.5mm on an APS-C sensor approximates the view of a 28mm lens on a full frame camera. Not too wide as to distort groups unmercifully, and wide enough to get a medium car in frame from a close distance. Remember my propensity to take car shots...

The fact that the lens is fixed on means there are no intervals when the body of the camera is open to ingest dust particles. I do not have to present it to the techs for a swabbing-out every three months.

Note that there is an wider-angle supplementary lens for this camera that widens it to an equivalent of 21mm in full-frame terms. A little wide for me and certainly prone to perceived distortion.

Okay. We know it looks cool and sits cleverly in the palm of the hand, but does it take car pictures? Does it take details? Can it take model car pictures? Can it trigger a studio flash system? Is the lack of a fixed viewfinder a hindrance?

a. Yes. The sensor is 16.2 mega pixels - better than the X-100 and that is plenty good enough. The new processor and new film simulations are all working well. 18.5 mm is wide enough for a crowded car show or a suburban carport.

b. Yes, it takes details. I pushed it into the model plate on the Suzuki and it kept focusing far closer than I imagined. No special programming was necessary to go in there - it just worked.

c. Yes, it is good in the studio. The trick is to set the tiny little on board flash to commander mode and dial the ISO down to 200. Then with the aperture on f:16 and the shutter speed on 1/250, that little flash contributes hardly at all to the scene in front of it, but cheerfully sets off the slave sensors in the studio lights - they do the exposure. You might want to select a manual focus point or just let the machine run the auto focus on a nearby object.

The detail is actually better at a close range than that of the X-100 lens.

d. Is an eye-level viewfinder necessary? I would have said yes before the advent of the tilting LCD screen. Now, whenever I use a camera with one of these, I tilt it out flat and peer down into it as if it were the waist-level finder of a medium-format film SLR. Works for me.

Note that this LCD screen is also touch-sensitive. You can fire the camera by poking it. As yet I can think of no reason to do this, but there are always new situations. I'll suspend judgement on it.

As I have more cameras than arms at present, I will continue using the other cameras, but the ease of operation of this one leads me to hope that the next iteration of the X-100 series will also have a tilting screen. That would be perfect!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Your Camera Bag For The Next 20 Years...Lowepro

We all have possessions that seem to be immortal - they never die, no matter what we do to them. I have kitchen implements that my grandparents used in the 1920's - they still cut meat and potatoes today at our house. They are not antiques, relics, or heirlooms. They are tools to help us eat.

The same might be said about the Lowepro Nova 1 bag that I used for an overseas trip in 1995. It's still there in the camera closet, storing a Nikon film camera system. It is as tough and functional now as it was then, and I dragged it over two continents.

Well, here's the new digital equivalent - the Scout SH 140. It's designed for a mirror-less camera and a couple of extra lenses - or one lens and the big travel adapter you need to access overseas electricity. You are going to be able to drag it across those same continents - they don't change - but it'll be lighter on your shoulder.

The shape is smaller than the old Nova 1. Not only are the camera bodies and lenses smaller than the SLR of the film era, the volume needed to carry their recording medium is drastically reduced. I used 10-packs of Kodachrome 200 film and the space needed for 360 shots amounted to 960 cu. cm.
These days you can pack 2452 images of the same quality into 1.54 cu. cm.

In practical terms you can make 1,528,519 pictures with the same amount of space. This means you have a chance to get three images of Trafalgar Square that look good...

Okay, joking aside, the interior of the Scout is configurable for whatever you want to carry. The quilting is cosmetic but the plush material is kind to cameras. There are nooks and crannys to dispose of cords, cards, and batteries. You can haul it out of the hotel for a full day of shooting without feeling as if you have been asked to invade the Falklands.

Note as well that you need not carry sad-looking surpus gear - the buckles and fasteners are top-notch and have been plated to look good. For those of you who are concerned that it looks like a camera bag, that is because it is a bag that is designed to carry cameras. When you are tourist carrying a camera you look like a tourist carrying a camera and no amount of camouflage will convince the petty thieves that you are a penniless local. Make other arrangements for your security*.

The bag will last far longer than your enthusiasm for travel. When you bring it home you can gut it and use it for local shopping. You can put seedlings in it and plant them out. You can carry 12 guage shells in it. You can use it as a tool carrier - it's that tough.

Whatever you do, it's going to be around the house for 20 years. Might as well figure out a good use for it. Lowepro are good value.

*An experienced courier, a sturdy monopod, and a derringer will do the job. I depend upon halitosis and a maniacal grin...

See the Camera Electronic Lowepro online store here

Uncle Dick

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Bargain Alert - Dawn Patrol

This is an extra late-night bonus weblog post for Tuesday, the 29th of November. The heading picture shows what was happening in the Stirling Street store this morning at about 11:00.

I recognise the activity. The staff are either setting out a stack of Cullmann tripods for a once-in-a-lifetime clearance sale or are constructing an anti-aircraft mounting for a Lewis gun. Given that this is one of centennial years of WW1 either conclusion is possible.

If you need a tripod for your DSLR or mirror-less camera at a bargain price, or would just like a shot at a passing Halberstadt you should repair to 230 Stirling Street early in the morning and get in while the getting is good.

I use a Concept 622T tripod with my Fujifilm outfits and it has been one of the best purchases of my digital career. I note there are some of them in the stack and also some of their heavier brothers. No idea what the prices are likely to be but they are going to go and the people they go to are going to be happy.

Up And Down The Aisles - Camera Electronic's New Shop In the City

Before we dissolve into a festival of pack shots I thought it would be best to give you an overall look at the new premises that Camera Elelctronic will be using to supply Perth City people with the best in photo gear.

You can find the place near the corner of Murray and Queen Street in Perth - just past the Bohemian and the Moon And Sixpence pubs along the railway side of the street. Head on up toward the fun end of town.

Well the shop colour is the elegant black,white, and grey that you saw when we changed appearance in Stirling Street. The signage is the same as Stirling Street, so if you found us there, you can find us here. And we're here a lot of the time.

Looking into the shop, you'll see that it has two main aisles:

And there are side cabinets full of equipment - all organised into separate brand names and types.
You can shoot professionally, artistically, or comfortably with the cameras and lenses that we sell.

Here's the look from the working end of the shop. This is the position the staff occupy as you come in the door waving your credit card...Do not be concerned - they have been trained to sell you things and take your money. All is well...

And remember that these are professionals. They have years of experience in photography. They can carefully analyse your needs and recommend the best choice of equipment and the best procedures for its use. They can help you without getting bogged down in technicalities.

And sometimes on a good day they can answer the telephone successfully. It's for you...

Camera Electronic now open at 2/324 Murray St, Perth.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Press The Button, Max!

I used to be a dentist and a rifle shooter. You needed a steady hand for both sports, particularly if you wished to do them on the same subject at the same time. You could go for the trifecta and attempt to thread a needle as well, but few people went in for that sort of thing...

On the photo side of things, we have long been enjoined to use some form of steadier to fire off our cameras. If we are trying to get the ultimate sharpness that the sensor is capable of, we need to shoot without moving the camera.

We use tripods, and in the Little Studio, I use a studio stand, to hold the apparatus firm. I turn off the VR or OS or VC mechanism. And up until now I have been connecting a mechanical cable release or electric switch to the Fujifilm cameras and shooting that way after I presumed that all vibrations had died away.

Today I conducted an experiment with one of the quieter Fujifilm cameras - the X-100 - to see just how much improvement is to be had. I used a bare finger on the release button, a soft release pad on the shutter button, and a mechanical cable release. The conclusion is that the cable release is no better than the soft release.

If you have a solid tripod or stand, the action of a finger shot is no worse than the complexity of the cable release. There is always the option of engaging the self-timer in the menu at 2 or 10 seconds and letting vibration damp down in that interval. I do like the soft releases in hand-held shooting, and also find them to be valuable in the studio.

Where an electric switch release is a blessing is when you need to be over near a studio flash holding a flag or a gel to modify the light at the time you release the shutter. You can shoot the electric switch with one hand...or stomp on it on the floor...while the other hand(s) are engaged. Just don't expect to be able to do the exact same thing two times in a row.

Note, your camera needs to have a threaded release button, like a Leica or a Fujifilm to be able to take the spigot of the soft release. Flat finger pads can have something glued on the top to spread the load but this is do-it-yourselfery.

PS: I still shoot the occasional tooth out of someone's head but this is only to amuse the children at Christmas lunch.

Note the UD photo-tip - the plug for the electric release is a tight fit in the camera and it's hard to grasp it for removal. The tape wrapped around the end means it pulls out easily and safely.

Uncle Dick

Friday, November 25, 2016

Okay Guys...Or Second-Guessing The Market

I'm not in the loop of CE management as far as what gets purchased. And I'm not in the loop of CE management about what gets sold, either. Frankly I'm grateful that they still let me in the front door and I get the occasional cup of coffee...

Which means I was delighted to see the presence of an official CE coffee machine at the new Murray/Queen St. shop. Note the We Love Photography mugs.

In my first visit to the new shop I noted carefully the choices that had been made regarding some lines of equipment. Of course you will always get the big players - the Nikon, Leica, Sony, Fujifilm, Canon, Olympus, Pentax, etc - but it is the choices of what to stock for the other bits that is interesting. I looked at what was there and tried to see into the minds of the management - why was something chosen for the shelf?

a. Tripods. You'll see from the quick shot that we have essentially three shelves of tripods and monopods. I see Gitzo, Manfrotto, and one Velbon. The Gitzos are the high-priced ones, the Manfrotto more economical and the Velbon the low end. They are ALL not big tripods - in fact three of them would qualify as traveller tripoids. There is a sprinkling of video gear there, including one video moonopod. Here's how I read it:

The shop caters to pros as well as amateurs - and some of the pros need big things like that video monopod. They can get that at Stirling Street but they might need it at a time when Stirling St. is closed - hence it is wise to keep one unit in the city. The Gitzo gear is expensive traveller or high-end customer...and some of these may work all hours on St. Georges Tce. and can't get out to Stirling St.

Manfrotto tripods are a standard of the industry as far as design so nearly everyone else from tourists to city workers can be accommodated with one model or the other. Manfrotto are a no-question sale.

And the little plastic one at the bottom? Well, you never can tell when a traveller's luggage will disappear and if their tripod goes with it they need a fast, cheap replacement here in Perth.  That could well be the emergency pack for photographers right there.

b. Bags. I see the in two divisions - style and utility. The various hanging leather and canvas ones in the first photograph are intended to look good as well as protect the cameras - in some circumstances the appearance of the camera case is more important that the gear it contains - people have been judged on externals more than you'd think.

The Lowepro bags in the second shot are the workhorses of transport - people can load a whole holiday's worth of equipment in them and haul it through the world with some hope of geting it home in one piece. I know - I've got a ratty old Lowepro Nova1 that did just that and it was precisely the right blue nylon choice for the job. It looked like exactly what it was but it rounded the world twice.

c. The Hahnel rack. When you want to control flashes or cameras remotely and you need to do it with radio signals rather than light pulses, Hahnel should be one of the first brands you look at. The designs are sturdy, use standard AA batteries, and do not depend on you having WiFi, apps, passwords, or strange computer commands. They are a simple as they can be and they work every time. Good choice for the trigger market.

Okay, so far I think the management has thought it all out well. You may agree, but then you may have also different needs. I didn't get to see all of the shelves - perhaps you should pop in there one day this coming week and see for yourself. I'm going back when they have a bag of coffee beans.

The new Murray St store is now open at 2/324 Murray St, Perth.
The Stirling St store remains open at 230 Stirling St, Perth.
For opening hours, see here

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Olympus PEN E-PL8 - Part Two

Here is a touching story about a camera - the new Olympus E-PL8 - and how it made all the gardening that I didn't do worthwhile.

The last post about this camera extolled the folding geometry of the LCD screen - how it not only can lay out like an airline food table, but also fold up at a 45º angle and then down under the camera body for selfies.

I will assume that people have all tried that by now and have discovered the truth about their self portraits...something is wrong. They are not nearly as good looking in the finished file as in the bathroom mirror. This is not a fault of the camera, nor of the person modelling for it. It is a defining characteristic of all portraits that are sketched, painted, or photographed - they are good for the most part but there is always something wrong with the mouth...

Well, moving on past the pit of self-realisation, we can take the camera out into the garden. Western Australia in springtime is one big garden - everything that needs to bloom when there is a little water left in the ground does so now, because it knows that the place is going to dry up in a couple of months. It's bloom and pollinate now or never.

As a result, the wildflowers go mad out in the do many of the tour companies and horticultural photographers. There are bus, 4WD, and car trips everywhere to see the fields in colour. Some enthusiasts take massive macro rigs, extra lights, artificial screens for backdrops, sun shades, and big botany books. I tend to think that the ones who go out with a camera like the Olympus E-PL8 and an umbrella do the best. They can move through bush areas with minimal fuss and carry their gear far further afield. And look at the results:

Note: the flowers seen here are wild. In as much as I have not pruned, weeded, sprayed, trimmed, or fertilised anything, what you see is what decided to develop itself. The roses might have had a little help from the wife, but the orange vine flowers are volunteers at the studio and manage their own affairs. I am grateful.

All images JPEG straight out of camera and the camera straight out of the box. All factory settings. No adjustments - I'm a tourist - what would I know? I'm a blooming fool...

All images JPEG, straight out of the camera, with no alteration of the dials from the factory default. It is pure point and shoot straight out of the box - as our target tourist might do. The focusing was done by the camera by the simple action of pointing to the subject on the LCD screen - fast focus and snap for the exposure. The vine flowers are in shade and the roses are in cloudy bright.

See the Olympus PEN E-PL8 on the Camera Electronic website
230 Stirling St, Perth
2/324 Murray St, Perth

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Olympus PEN E-PL8...Part One

If you touch me there again, I shall screen...

And while you struggle with that, I hasten to add that I am talking about the new Olympus Pen E-PL8 camera. It is the first of the Photokina 2016 items that has come to the Little Studio for review - and it is a delight.

The announcement at Köln this year has already been seen on some YouTube clips and Facebook pages, but it makes a considerable difference to what you feel when you hold the camera in hand. It is very solidly built for a mirror-less camera and gives an immediate impression of quality. The kit you are seeing is supplied with the 14-42mm f:3.5-5.6 EZ zoom lens and is targeted at general users and travellers. And flower shooters. And jeweller shooters...

Aww, let's face it - it's targeted at you.

The tech sheet is impressive; 3.0" LCD, 16 MPxl, 3-axis image stabilisation, 81-point AF, 100/25600 ISO, full HD video, etc. Those of us with a bent for figures will be well served by the official Olympus Australia web page for this camera - it has a full list of the specs. Those of us with a bent forefinger that is itching to try the camera out will just charge up a battery and charge out of the house...

But have to get into it first. Olympus have always been keen packers - they employ origamatic skills to find how to ship delicate devices in cardboard boxes with a minimum of plastic foam. I think it is a case of self-discipline for them, or a contest in the factory. Of late, they are making it easier for the customers to actually get into the darn box, and we are grateful.

The target audience may not read the instruction booklet that comes with the camera. With that in mind, the makers have preset the thing to an intelligent setting and put as much basic automation as they have to work. The tourist can clap the lens on, the battery and card in, and head out of the motel door within the first hour...and bring back excellent results. The more sophisticated photography readers can wander for days in the art, special effects, and manual settings and get results that are nearly as good.

Note the march of progress as evinced by the LCD screen design - it is the main view-finding and aiming mechanism for this camera and has been taken to a sophisticated level to do so. It swings up, out, back, and down under the body and makes the lens' view available at the front of the camera. This is to enable the photographer who is taking a selfie to see what they are doing.

Better yet - as the camera has haptic control - ie, a touch screen - and you can see that selfie image from the front as you grip and grin, you get precise narcissism. The addition of pathos, bathos, art, or angst is entirely up to you - the E-PL8 will capture it faithfully. It will also deliver it to your smart device - phone or tablet - through Wifi if you want to bedevil your friends with the images.

Should you wish to be an eye-level shooter, you can also purchase an Olympus electronic viewfinder that slots into the hot shoe and gives you what the lens sees...indeed, as it is a mirror-less micro 4/3 camera it gives you what the sensor sees.

But how does what some people might think as an entry-level* camera perform out in the field? Read our next weblog column.

* Entry level? Entry into a world of sophisticated design...

See the Olympus PEN E-PL8 with 14-42mm lens on the Camera Electronic website
230 Stirling St, Perth
2/324 Murray St, Perth