Thursday, October 20, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

12. Eye-level viewfinder for the sunny days.

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

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

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

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

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

See the Panasonic LX 100 on the Camera Electronic website 

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Travel Trail - Panasonic Part One - The Silver Style

Today's Travel Trail brings us one of the more stylish of the Panasonic compact cameras. Those of you who have an eye to fashion may wish to look closely at the shape and colouration of this...

The Panasonic Lumix DMC TZ110 box says "Silver" but that is a kind of inadequate description for what looks very much like a two-tone titanium finish with a red accent stripe separating the different colours. Of course you can get these cameras in black, but the appearance of this on is so appealing that it rivets the eye instantly. Will we ever get past black boxes completely? No - but this is a good start.

The camera is the type that has a fixed zoom lens and provision for eye-level viewfinder as well as LCD screen viewing. For the tech-conscious it has a 1" sensor and 20.1 megapixels MOS sensor. The lens is a 10 x optical zoom that gives you the angles of view from the classic (35mm film classic) 25mm wide-angle to 250mm telephoto. This instantly identifies this as an overseas travel camera.

Why? Because you need a long lens for Alaskan bears or African lions. And for surf shots closer to home. Of course you can take anything with the telephoto and bring it in closer, but the traveller who wants to do the world circuit with the least encumbrance of gear is the person for this camera.

Now remember that you can also shoot night time, parties, restaurants, family, and an amazing number of Australian travel photos with a smaller camera like this. The fact that you are carrying that much zoom power in pocket or purse means you are never caught wanting when something develops.

On a more serious technical note, the camera shoots 4K video - the current standard of excellence. It is literally a one-button process. The fact that the camera can shoot 4K means that Panasonic have also been able to do something rather magic - they have made arrangements for small bursts of recording that take different focus points during action sequences that let you go back later and select the exact peak of focus. Here's where the sports people faced with a moving object will cry with joy -no more missed shots.

Of course Panasonic have included a number of fun programs in the mode dial - panorama, miniature effect, picture effects, etc. Macro, stabilisation and WiFi are all included. Quite frankly, this camera and a small tablet are all you need for a world trip, and that is two pockets and a space in your luggage for the charger (I pack mine in my spare pair of shoes...), a spare battery, some cards, and a "I don't speak your language" app on the tablet should do it. If you get taken for a rich tourist by the look of the camera you'll have to talk your own way out of it.

PS: That's a no-joke Leica zoom lens made by some serious Panasonic workers. I know- I saw 'em being made.

See the Panasonic Lumix DMC TZ110 on the Camera Electronic website 

Monday, October 17, 2016

Dumbing Up On Sunday Afternoon

Have you ever been bewildered by photography? I'm going to make a candid confession - I have -  many times. The first encounter with a camera that required me to set the focus, aperture, and shutter speed and then advance the film and count how many shots I'd taken was a daunting one. It was at high school and there were girls watching and I was terrified of appearing to be an amateur fool.

I've conquered that fear now and have become a professional one. People consult me for fool lessons. I could fool for Australia in several fields...and I have also conquered the fear of complex cameras. I readily whiz dials, push buttons, poke screens, and pinch and swipe with the best of them. At any one time I have 18 different criteria set on my cameras  - they function like Norden bomb sights.

But just now and then I succumb to an attack of the dumbs and want to do the least amount of thinking and controlling that I can. A Sunday trip to a car musem with the Fujifilm X-T10 gave me a chance to try out a new level of non-control. I switched on the AUTO lever.

This is a lever set under the shutter speed dial to allow the camera to take over nearly all its own functions and decisions. You cannot tell it to do much of anything in the way of ISO, shutter, or aperture and it will only agree to give you JOPEG images. But it shuffles through an amazing variety of pre-set program decisions to give a good result with no more than pointing and shooting.

The excuse Fujifilm gives for this is the idea that you hand the camera to spouses, children, or lesser mortals when you want a picture of yourself in front of the scenery. As you are not there to be fabulously technical, the lesser mortals have just one button - it is presumably all they can cope with. A very condescending lever...

Well I descended all afternoon and I am delighted with the results. I did put up the on-board flash of the X-T10 to fill some of the shadows, and I did make use of the fold-out LCD screen at the back for waist-level and floor-level shots but pretty near all the rest was just between the X-T10 body and the 27mm f:2.8 pancake lens. The percentage of keepers and usable illustration shots was over 90, and the only real danger for me was having no lenshood on the little lens.

It was good enough to encourage me to dumb it for more of the Camera Electronic equipment reportage events I do. Speed, discretion, and handiness are of prime importance for these things since any delay means that the snacks are gone before you can get to them. And I suspect that there will be a number of other cameras out there in the mirror-less or compact range that also have hidden control positions on their mode dials that allow them to run on autopilot very well.

Let " George " do it.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Your First Step Into The Studio

Do you remember your first studio? It was the lounge room, wasn't it? Or the patio, or the shed, or the corner of your bedroom...You had a camera and you had a flash, and you were going to conquer the world.

You solemnly read all the photo magazines, studied the lighting diagrams that involved five 1500 watt strobes and a cyclorama, and tried to figure out how to do glamour with a pack of alfoil and sheets of cardboard. Gaffer tape was a minor miracle until you took paint off the wall and were banned from using it.

If only you had had access to the Phottix double umbrella strobes kit, you would be on the cover of the Rolling Stone today...

Okay, back to reality. If you have at least one camera, one flash, and one means of triggering it from a distance, you can still dream. You'll do better if you find a shapely Hollywood starlet and a fabulous bedroom set and an editor hungry for sensation, but at least you can count on the Phottix people - they have made you a starter umbrella set that is beauty.

Boxed well, as is becoming the norm for modern suppliers, it contains a sturdy carrying case with handles and shoulder strap - suggesting that you will be taking this kit out onto location rather than leaving the bits sitting in the wardrobe. It's not that heavy and the Hollywood starlet may help you carry things into the bedroom as well. You might as well dream.

Inside, you get two photo umbrellas - a silver reflective and a white shoot-through. deploy them as you will for their different effects upon light.

They are held by a cast-metal articulated bracket that can sit on either a 1/2" standard light get one of these in the kit...or on the 1/4" thread of a tripod. the bracket is made in such a way that the flash you will use can go onto a universal holder and be directed back into the centre of the reflective umbrella or out through the centre of the white one. I have found with most of the speed light flashes that it is best to deploy the integral diffuser on the flash to spread the light into the corners of the umbrella.

So what will this do to the starlet? Give her a big soft light source to smooth skin, round the features, and get big highlights in the eyes. If you are so advanced as to deploy two flashes or one flash and a reflector as well as this umbrella setup then you do not need my advice on how to take glamour pictures.

But just remember: Do not shoot for exposure and do not let the raw files out of your hands. Hollywood starlets or not...

Phottix in store only at 230 Stirling St.
For all other items:

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Mag Mod In The Theatre

We have been privileged to get the use of the Little Theatre stage while the company is resting - production of their next drama will be commencing in October. Their stage is being used for prop storage and construction at present so we could borrow it to illustrate the Mag Mod range of light shapers. Here are the ones we spoke about earlier in our weblog column:

a. The basic magnetic attachment strap - fitted here to a Fujifilm EF-42 flash. Keen spotters will see the folding stand under the flash - a promotional item from a firm that used to make photographic equipment...Kodak.

b. The gel holder - here with a cyan gel in place. Note that the soft dome also has a gel holder slot integrated in the base.

c. The basic 40º grid. Stack as many on as you fancy.

d. The flexible snoot - this is the position that produces the tiniest dot of light.

e. The soft dome. A bare-bulb look.

f. The white scoop. More light out the front as well as around the room.

The only disadvantage seen so far with these marvellous modifiers is their tendency to stick together like mating squid. Those magnets are super-powerful. In the plus side, the modifiers can be whacked onto a metal surface like the product table frame or the studio fridge and they stay there perfectly.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Action Stations - Flank Speed - Part Three

Now that we have gone through the normal, sensible, mundane action camera mounts, we get to the  special stuff. The mounts that they won't sell to minors. The mounts that you need a note from and MD, an MP, and a JP to purchase...

A. The Hand-Wrist-Arm-Leg mount. GoPro The Strap. This is the sort of thing that the Mississippi prisons department straps onto the road gangs when their chains are in the shop for service. Either that or this is the mount for use in all-in wrestling. No matter which end is up you can still attach a camera to it.

B. The Sportsman. GoPro Sportsman Mount. If you absolutely have a need to attach an action camera to a rifle, a bow, or a fishing rod, this is the squeeze clamp that will do it. I have no idea what you will do with the resultant footage. No, don't tell me.

C. The Chomp - GoPole (in store only). No, I am not making that up. That is what it says on the box. It is a rubber mouth guard with an action camera mount attached to it. You fix the camera on it, start it up, and grip it between your teeth. Part of me wants to see what happens next, and part of me - the bit that used to be a dentist - wants to look away. To be fair it does have rubber grippy pads inset into the main body to give a firmer grip, and it is probably washable. 

Nevertheless, I should not advise sharing it with other enthusiasts...

I suppose this is a way of getting coverage without fixing the camera to a helmet, but the possibilities for injury are mind-boggling. I am sorry to say I can see this being tried out on a football field.

D. The Rig - GoPole (in store only). This is actually very good. It is a lightweight versatile video rig that has provision for two action cameras on the bottom level, two monitors or lights on the top, and three shoe mounts as well. There are tow sturdy handles and they are drilled for starter switches or cable releases. It would have application far beyond the action camera for sport and press work. I am looking at it seriously for this sort of thing. There are other video cages out there, but this one is light enough and cheap enough to actually be useful.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Action Stations - General Quarters - Part Two

This is getting quite exciting - you can tell who's going to be the first in the movie queue for the new Tom Hanks movie starring him as a destroyer captain. I hope I don't get thrown out of the cinema again.

Well, to business. More action camera mounts to be considered. In this case we move to more of the non-action mountings:

A. The tiny tripod mount by GoPole (in store). This is one of the ancillary accessory manufacturers who has cottoned on to the standardisation of the action camera mounts. if course there are mounts from the makers of the cameras, but it never hurts to browse around the shelves for the other stuff.
This mount is quite light and doubles as a small hand-hold for the cameras as well as the tripod.

B. GoPole SceneLapse 360 Degree Time Lapse Device - The Rotating Mount. Now we're getting somewhere in the gadget stakes. This is a mount designed to be paired with one of the specialised functions of an action camera - the ability to shoot interval shots over  along period of time.

We've all seen the videos that are constructed of individual shots that might have been separated by a second or longer - up to half a minute- that seem to compress time and to speed up the world. You can see traffic whiz past, the clouds scud over the sky, and the stars turn in the night. They are fascinating. If you use the extra-long recording  ime you can make a video of a teenager getting off the couch on school holidays and see actual movement...

Well, this mount is a clockwork turntable that allows you to see the world as a panorama taken with the interval timer - it has various divisions  marked round the barrel and will spin 360º in one hour.

I can see an opportunity for surveillance work with this.

C. Three Way Grip - Arm -Tripod (in store). This mount is a bit of everything as the diagram on the packaging shows. There seems to be eight different configurations that allow you to either set the camera onto a surface, hold it out at different angles, or let it swing around unexpectedly and smack you in the eye.
As it is made by the original manufacturer, it will perform these operations with precision. You have been warned...

Monday, October 10, 2016

Action Stations - Man The Cameras - Part One (GoPole)

I suppose in today's social climate that should really read "Human The Cameras", but I am hoping that we can get through the post before the flood of protest closes down the weblog page. Here goes.

The action camera craze burst upon the photographic scene like a bombshell a few years ago. Perhaps we should say- in view of what people do with them - that it burst like a ligament or a medical benefits claim. However you look at it, it has been successful in capturing the imaginations of the public. More and more of the little cameras record more and more of the world.

The makers of the original  action cameras were smart designers - they came up with a mounting system that was light, stable, and easy to attach. They went further - they made it universal. This had not been done in the design field since the 1/4" tripod screw socket supplanted the 3/8" socket in most modern cameras. It far outstripped the teams who devised different lens mounts for the SLR and rangefinder cameras of the film era - and who have given them on as legacy to their digital descendants.

The makers of the first action cams may have been serving themselves with their desire for standardisation but they ended up serving their customers and their competitors, and they served them right.

As a result, there are more variations of mount for the action cams than you can shake a crutch at. Bikes, helmets, wrists, foreheads, chests, poles, tripods, car windows, etc, etc...After three years I thought that they had run out of places to stick their cameras. I was wrong.

A. GoPole Grenade Grip. Good if you need to assault a trench by throwing your action camera at the enemy. I should imaging that if they get around to filming " Storm Of Steel" or " All Quiet On The Western Front " yet again, this is exactly what they will do.

B. GoPole Bobber. For the diving enthusiast who will be filming in the surf and expects to get turned over like the washing in the Kelvinator - and is going to need to let go of the camera to save them self. The camera should have enough buoyancy to ride up through the surf and be carried inshore to be dashed to pieces on the rocks.

C. GoPole Reach (14-40 inch extension pole). A little like the Grenade, this has just a little more length to allow you to lift the camera up above the crowd at the fist fight to capture the action. These are available in several lengths and some even have adjustable extensions in case you are behind tall people and you are not...

D. The Control Grip (in store only). Some of the action cameras can be controlled - unlike their users - by remote means. There are little boxes that send out radio signals to the camera. This grip is one of the extendable ones that also provides a waterproof housing for the controller. 

I'm afraid that I have to admit that I see the camera on the end of this grip rising up out of the water like a submarine periscope and looking around. But then I saw all the Pink Panther and Revenge Of The Nerds movies when they were fresh...

Da dum dadum, dadum, dadum, dadum , dadum dadum, da daaaaaaa...You can hum that all day if you wish.