Friday, February 28, 2014

Amps Plus Ohms Times Faraday Minus One Over EZ According To Epson


Electricity is found in many electronic devices, but not when someone steals the battery. This fact has been borne home here time after time. I am starting to think we only have one battery and it is being used in a remote control toy race car.

This may sound cynical, but it points out the absolute dependency we maintain for portable sources of power. Where once we could make images with simple ingredients like iodine crystals, silver-coated plates, boiling mercury, and 30 pound cameras, we are now chained to a lithium cell, a charger, a wall socket, and Collie power station.

I am only a little encouraged - it is impossible to steal Collie power station, and difficult to steal the wall sockets...but every other blessed thing can vanish in an instant. The electrical myths that are recorded on the memory cards can likewise be edited out by accident as easily as by Aperture. Just record lots of irreplaceable images on a big card and wait for fate to come calling. Remember all those "recover your images" programs that exist? They wouldn't exist if they weren't needed.

There are only three ways to ensure the longevity of your artistry:

1. Back it up on a million discs, hard drives, and solid state drives and bury them in steel vaults all over the planet. Protect the vaults with passwords. Write the passwords down on a paper and stick it on your fridge with a magnet. Preferable a kitten-shaped magnet.

2. Print it on real paper with real ink. Epson paper, Epson ink. Let the ink dry and store the paper in a clean dry place.

3. Take a libellous or scandalous picture and let it out to You Tube, Flicker, or Facebook. Your career may die, you will die, the Rocky Mountains will eventually be as flat as the Nullarbor, but that troublesome picture will still be circulating as fresh and foul as when you posted it.

But that is a diversion. We were talking about electricity. In our little cameras we only need a very little bit of it for normal purposes but as the cameras get bigger and the functions get more complex, more electricity is needed.Eventually we reach the point where the functions overtake the capacity and the camera refuses to take anything ...but if it did it would be magnificent. At this point you need to turn off the SAT NAV espresso maker with the portable hay baler. Leave the face recognition on because as you get older you need all the help you can get.

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An Announcement From Nikon For Warranty Issues


I have received a message from Thomas in our repair department alerting me to an announcement from the Nikon company.

It concerns the questions that have arisen around the shutter mechanism of the Nikon D600 cameras. Some people may have experienced difficulties with oil contamination of the sensors in these cameras, and have had to refer to Nikon for warranty attention.

Essentially the Nikon company has said that circumstances may not necessarily gone to the advantage of D600 users...and that if owners do have issues with oil spot contamination on the sensor they can send it to Nikon to get the shutter replaced free of charge. Thomas says that our customers can bring them in to us and we can send it off to Nikon for them.

Here is a the rather complex web address that will link to the service advisory:

http://www.nikon.com.au/en AU/service advisory.page?ID=templatedata/en Asia/taggable content/data/service advisory notices/d600 service advisory&Category=service-and-support&Section=nikon-service-advisory

I hope this will be of assistance to the Nikon users - the cameras are excellent and the system is extremely successful. I use their cameras and lenses myself and have always been pleased with them. This should correct a small manufacturing glitch and let the D600 users venture out with confidence.

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M & M's. The Leica Cameras That Don't Melt Away - In-Store Now


Here's a cheerful announcement for the Leica Enthusiasts out there - and those who wish to start with the best rangefinder digital in the business.

Camera Electronic have stocks at present of both the silver and the black version of the Leica M body. This is the latest top-end body from Leica and is keenly sought amongst the high-end photographers. It is not a decision to enter into lightly...the Leica system is very extensive and premium quality. They are not throw-away purchases...you keep Leica and use it for decades.

I cannot say which looks more attractive, nor which colour choice reflects enthusiasm or professionalism, nor yet which one maintains a higher resale value. These are topics that the collectors can debate to suit themselves. Wise Leica enthusiasts will get both, just to be safe.

After all, it would never do to bring a silver Leica to a black Leica affair...or vice versa...and as engraved invitations sometimes omit to tell you which it will be, it is as well to have a second body available in the camera bag. Be prepared.

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NOW It's Hands On. Fuji X-T1


Came in early. Made sure the battery of the Fuji X-T1 was charged. Put on the 18-55 lens and popped around the place shooting. Some of the results are here on this post, though the nature of a blog picture can never show the entire quality of the file - it is too small.

Right now, I can't see what the RAW work would be like - this computer has too old a copy of PE to do it and Aperture doesn't support the X-T1 RAW file yet. This will be added, no doubt, in the next few months. Until then I would have to use one of the jpeg file settings.

This is not a limitation with Fuji. I discovered a long time ago with my Fuji X-10 that the jpeg files were so good that I didn't even bother to update to RAW work for two years. I could go to the car shows and shoot happily and just show or print the jpegs as is.


Of course, since I decided to get fancy and add to my fill-flash setup ( see previous posts ) I had glorious opportunities to stuff up the exposures....and seized those opportunities...so starting to use the RAW has proved to be a benefit. I can recover my sins gracefully in a darkened computer room with the door shut.


For the time being, I would shoot the X-T1 in studio in jpeg readily - I can see the results straight away and modify them with studio lighting. I would also feel perfectly confident in using it as a field camera dependant upon the camera's meter - it does a far better job of exposure than I do, as long as I do not try to help it out.

And Adobe and Apple will beaver away in the electronic background and one day announce that you can use their products with Fuji X-T1 in RAW.

Note, I suspect that you can use the Fuji RAW conversion in the camera right now on a picture by picture basis.


Please also note one ergonomic/design note. Like some Canon lenses for Canon cameras, Fuji X lenses for Fuji X cameras have a metal lens mount and the electronic contacts that are recessed slightly into the mount. Fuji have the advantage over Canon that there is only one type of mount - you don't get confused with red-dot or white-square when you try to mount a lens. Fuji have the advantage over my large Nikon in that the Nikon mount is filled with sharp edges and protruding levers and can be a bit crunchy when going on and off.

If I could offer one request to the Fujifilm company in their lens design, it would be to follow the lead of manufacturers who place a raised dot or other external indicator at the point where their lens mount engages the body. Just to be able to feel the orientation as you bring the lens to the camera. I suppose you could always sew a button to the lens with a strong bit of twine...I must try this with the shop lenses.

I'll let you know how I get on...

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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Very Nearly Hands On With the New Fuji X-T1 camera



Okay, we HAVE got our hands on the Fuji X-T1. As I type the staff are fighting tooth and nail to get a play with the new camera. I got two quick shots before it was whisked away, but at least I got to see some good bits.

One, the hand grip is perfect for the balance of the camera.

Two, the viewfinder is brilliant. Big.

Three, the classic front and back control wheels are exactly where your fingers need to find them for the operation of aperture or shutter speed.


Four, it looks as though the TTL control contacts in the hot shoe have been changed from those on previous Fuji cameras. There are four silver contacts plus a gold one as well as the central contact. This argues a new set of flashes coming. Hip. Hip. Hooray. Should this be the case, this camera will be the central pivot of a new professional system. I wait with bated breath.

Five, the inclusion of the tilting screen is welcome. Forget peering down through the gloom in the studio when you can pull the screen out and use it as a waist-level viewfinder.

Six, the focus assist button that boosts the center of the screen to allow you to focus is as precise as you could ask for. Beats the old microprism screen all hollow.

In short, an extremely desirable object. Watch out for our launch night when we get this baby in action!


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Long And Low At the Hot Rod Show - with Fuji and Nikon and Metz


The great experiment conducted over the six months regarding a camera for hot rod photography has yielded results. The Fuji/Nikon/Metz lash-up does pretty near everything that the Nikon/Nikon/ Stroboframe outfit did, and it does it easily enough that an old guy can carry it round in the sun all day.

If I am prepared to carry a second Nikon SB 700 on a little Manfrotto stand I can get great illustration of the front grille and the side panel of even the long cars. Of course, if you are dealing with something white like the '59 Impala you can get a lot more value out of those flashes.

How does this help you? If you are going to go out and climb Bluff Knoll with a camera kit bouncing in your backpack, consider whether you want that camera kit to weigh 3.5 Kg or 1 Kg. It's your back going up and it's your back coming down, and it's your back sitting in the chiropractor's waiting room...And those of you who have spent a fortnight on Ibruprofen and Voltaren can back me up...

Also consider whether you need to go to a shoot with 5 lenses. I used to do just this in the dear dead Hasselblad wedding days. Everything in the HB box including the 250mm tele lens in case the bride escaped and I needed to shoot her before she got over the horizon...My assistant, Igor, used to hump the bag and the tripod and the extra flashes and the film and the bag of rocks...( I never actually told him about the bag of rocks...) and never complained. Fainted occasionally, but never complained.

Eventually I discovered that I was using two lenses for the whole wedding. An 80mm and a 50mm, and the 50 only came out of the massive case for 5 exposures. I eventually rationalised the whole thing by leaving out half of the glass and most of the fancy little accessories. It freed up a lot of space in the case...for more rocks.

That is history - the Hasselblad outfit is long retired and recently sold, and the new owners can risk their vertebrae at their leisure. Weddings still need extra gear for back-up safety, but this can be hauled in a roller bag. Lithium AA cells power all three flashes and these are light weight. Igor looks healthier, and after-shoot processing is so much faster.

I still pack a bag of rocks but these are only in case the bride proves sluggish. And I never throw rocks at hot rod shows. Some things are sacred, you know...

Moral of this tale: Buy right, pack light, allow for wind direction when throwing rocks.

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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

A Wedding Puzzle...


I spoke recently with another person in the wedding business...in this case a celebrant. We compared cases and discussed what happens with wedding photography.

She mentioned that she was surprised recently to discover how much one of her bridal couples were to be charged for their photos. I assured her that the number she mentioned was not exceptional - one of our shop customers who also does weddings charges even more. In the case of our client and also, I suspect, in the case of the other photographers, the results are so beautiful as to largely justify the cost.

I was also encouraging to her in respect of the delivery times that were promised - well in line with efficient industry practise. All good.

What did surprise me as much as it did her was hearing that there might some reluctance on the part of the photographer to work with other people in the industry. I had never heard of this before. Perhaps I misunderstood...surely each person in a chain of service for a bridal couple  is their own operator and contractor. Unless there were personal problems surely professionalism would prevail.

Anyone heard of this idea before?

I did reassure my friend that she was one of the 5 essential people at a wedding - the bride, the groom, the two adult witnesses, and the celebrant. And that she was the licensed state official for the period of the event. All the rest of us are just peripheral to this, no matter what our advertising might say...

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Profoto Sun And Moon Lighting Special Offer


Don't say we aren't poetic around here. The sun and moon referred to in the title describes the special offer we have on right now of four single light plus reflector kits. The wonderful news is that they are Profoto kits.

If you are just starting out in studio photography but wish to commence with the best - to start building up a professional lighting outfit that will not be outpaced later in your career - this is your chance. We have for Profoto D1 heads on big sturdy LS-2 light stands for your main light, and a Profoto white/gold 32" reflector for the fill. This is the reflector so inexpertly handled in yesterday's post by the old guy. It is a very good reflector...

The D1 is the basis for all of Profoto's light shaping system - the attachments do not vary. It s triggered by standard synch cord, though later on you may wish to get one of their radio synch sets if you add more lights to the studio. The output is consistent, controllable, and convenient. The mounting structure of Profoto heads is superb - professional all the way and built for decades of daily use.

The Promaster LS-2 stand is large and tough and can go up to 2.8 metres. Plenty of height for a down light. Like the sun.

Four photographers will benefit from this offer, as there are four sets on offer. They normally have a price of $ 1342.........this is reduced to $ 1099 for these four sets.

Hop in for your chop pretty quick. The sun and moon will only be here a short time...


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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Hands Up With Profoto Reflectors


The heading picture has been provided by the Apalling Image Institute of Aberfan. It shows a balding man boiling his brain on a city street while trying to provide fill with a reflector. He has managed to achieve lack of focus, underexposure, and a telephone pole growing out of his head. All on self timer. It is a classic of its type.

You may wish to try this and to do it better. It would not be hard...the Profoto reflectors are particularly well-built and have been provided with double hand grips for control. Those of you who have tried to be lighting assistants out on Scarborough Beach when the sea breeze comes in with standard round reflectors will appreciate the difference. Like using a spinnaker...

You can get various combinations of these reflectors - silver, gold, and white - and they come in sturdy carry bags. No photo shoot should be without one. Just don't hire the balding old guy to operate it.

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Are You Infra - Ready? Our Repair Department Can Help


Thomas has asked me to remind readers of this blog and Facebook that Camera Electronic is able to convert an number of DSLR cameras to infra-red operation.

It will be a deliberate decision on the part of the camera owner since after it is done, infra red is all you can record on that sensor. But what a step into the universe! Infra red is an entirely different set of wavelengths from the ones that you normally use to see. Unless you are a Hollywood science fiction monster, you will never see the world in infra red...unless you photograph it.

Oh, wait. I'm wrong. Some of the WWII sniperscope outfits and tank sighting devices were infrared. Crude but somewhat effective. Certainly superceded by modern starlight scopes but they did exist. But back to Camera Electronic.

Ernest has a number of filters that cut visible light at various points and this means that once he has modified the internal sensor in your camera, it will be able to see and record what you cannot. The conversion costs a bit - ask the repair department for a quote - but the good news is that the best cameras for it are older types - ones that attract very little price in the secondhand market. You might have a gem in your camera closet that is no good for regular work but would be perfect for the IR.

Get set for black skies and white trees. And animals with amazing eyes...

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Monday, February 24, 2014

To Market, To Market To Buy A Fat Lens...


Did goe to the Photographic Markets yesterday and was greatly entertained.

The view from the seller's side of the table is different than from that of the buyer's. It reminded me of diagrams I have seen of the circulation of the blood - the individuals representing the red corpuscles drifting by. Occasionally pausing, and sometimes aggregating. Which is a nice way of saying acting like clots.

For the most part people are very nice. They look at the gear, hoist it round, put it down, move on. Or ask the price. I have learned to make a large sign with the price on it, so that we are both able to see it - it saves a deal of misunderstanding.

Of course, the nature of a market being what it is, some wish to bargain it down. I am not offended by this, though I generally pitch my prices low enough that this is not necessary. And I have learned to politely maintain my pricing...it works out well in the end. I have also learned never to offer anything that is not good value for money, nor anything that is unreliable. Better to throw it away at home than offer to sell it if it is going to disappoint someone else.

A couple of words of advice to those who would be buyers...you will get better reception for your bargaining if you do not attempt to talk down the equipment you are bargaining for. In the case of gear that has been personally owned and used by the seller, they understand it far better than you, and have at least some residual interest in it. If you pooh pooh it you are effectively criticising them...they may take umbrage.

Likewise do not try the old trick of bad ears...where you ask the price and then echo it but subtly alter it down to something that sounds the same but is 10% lower...hoping that the seller will be confused and agree. Particularly don't try this is you have a large printed sign in front of you...it won't work. Not even if you do it in a heavy accent.

When someone has no price tag on an item, you can legitimately ask "What is the price?" or " What will you take?". You cannot use this latter question if there is a printed sign - you would be asking the seller to start bidding themselves down while you stand back. By all means haggle -  but do your own haggling and don't expect them to do it for you.

Are you free to offer advice to other buyers while you are standing there on the buyer's side  about buying or rejecting something on offer? Yes, it is a free country. Of course the seller may then suggest that you are doing this for your own benefit, and raise suspicions of you being either a shill or vulture. If the feathers sound like they fit, be prepared to wear them...

All the above being said, the morning can be fun. The people who purchased some of my surplus equipment are intelligent and artistic people who will benefit from their purchases. I will benefit from the return of cash. We are both happy. And the coffee stall always has some very good home-made baked goods.

Baked goods are also necessary for the circulation of the blood.

Uncle Dick

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Friday, February 21, 2014

Dark Or Light?


It's been years since I owned a silver-coloured camera - the last one was a Pentax MX in the 1970's. It was a superb compact film camera and one that i can readily recommend to anyone who encounters it in the S/H market. I noted at the time that even then, there were no silver chrome Pentax lenses to accompany it - they were all black.

Years passed, all the cameras were black until I hit the Hasselblad 500 C/M and 553 ELX era. Chrome bodies both of them, and I noted that this was a wiser choice - the black-painted Hasselblad bodies of the period nearly always seemed to wear poorly. I daresay they were all the same inside, but the chrome looked better.

Now we have the Nikon Df in silver or black. Also the Leica M cameras. also a number of the mirror-less Olympus, Fuji, and Panasonic cameras. In some cases there are lens option to match the body colour. I am shortly to acquire one of the Panasonic Lumix GX7 cameras and have asked for the silver version in both lens and body.

Why? I don't contemplate taking it into such high sunlight that the silver would be required to reflect heat from the body - indeed next month may well see the entire opposite for me in terms of climate.

Am I not afraid of appearing to be an " amateur " photographer? No, no a bit. I will be a travelling tourist photographer with it, and travelling where a tourist would attract less interest than a professional. I will be seen, but not, hopefully, as a threat to public order. Just a tourist.

Likewise the choice of lens for the front of it. Now you can get marvellous micro 4/3 lenses for the Panasonic cameras but if you put a big long one on there the people you point it at may take exception. Intrusive is as intrusive does, so I am going to pick the 20mm f:1.7 Lumix and just wander about harmlessly.

The results from it should be marvellous - I've tested the combination here in the shop. If you are going away for the Northern spring or summer you should call in here and see if the same idea will suit you.

Note: Unobtrusive clothing is a good idea too. Forget the camouflage gear - wear quiet colours in quiet locations and loud colours in tourist traps.

Printed messages on tee shirts also bear a little thought...I remember being behind a young Asian man in the checkout line at the old IKEA store in Scarborough Beach Road while he was wearing a tee shirt advertising the Waffen SS and it was all I could do not to welt him one with the table lamp I was buying. I suspect he was completely unconscious of what it all meant...


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Hop In For Your 4 x 5 Chop


Users of 4 x 5 large format film will be rewarded by an oversight here at Camera Electronic.

We got in a little too much of the excellent Ilford Delta 100 sheet film in this format...and consequently would appreciate shifting it to gain room in the film fridge.

Users will know that it is the Ilford equivalent of the tabular grain Kodak T-Max film and as such gives a grain structure significantly smaller and sharper - the best way to think of it is as if you were using 8 x 10 film of the regular grain type.

Anyway, help us out here and we'll help you out - 16% discount on one box - 20% discount on 3 or more boxes. Offer good until we clear 'em out a little.

Ring Uncle Dick and he'll organise it.

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Application For Approval


It would seem that whatever we do in Australia requires approval. Not from ourselves, mind - that would be too easy. No, the approval we require is from the federal government, the state government and the local council. If we superadd membership in a religious faith, a marriage, and a football club we can get to 6 levels of interlaced compulsion. An ox in a yoke would feel freer.

When we elect to join a professional or amateur photography club as well, we find that we can be controlled not only in our artistic opinion, but in how we express it. Does our work not fit in the category required, or not please The Committee, we find ourselves cast into outer darkness...generally without a safelight.

It is a brave photographer who decides what they want and then produces it. And then shows it. And then has a cup of tea and a jam doughnut. And then doesn't stand on the bathroom scales to see if that was a good idea.

When you ask another for permission to own a revolver and to shoot it in the main street of town, that is one thing. When you ask for permission to make your own art, that is another.

Let and hindrance should be reserved for big things - not art. Art is too big for that.

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Sand Bags, Shot Bags, And Tea Bags


I bags being in the next photo shoot!

This whole Friday morning footle came about when one of our good clients called a moment ago to pick up some rental lighting gear for a shoot in the city. I must record my admiration for his packing ability - he got more in the boot of a Holden than I could fit into a moving van. I think he will be getting some of it out with a crowbar, but that is his problem...

He hired some sand bags to help stabilise light stands. A good idea if you are working in a wind or in the midst of a crowd of tourists. There is a lot of weight on the top of a light stand and if it overbalances... it comes down like a comet. If you stack the sandbags on the  legs you prevent this.

He also mentioned that he had a bunch of sandbags that used to be standard equipment in ambulances. After speculating that these would have been used to cosh the noisier patients...an unworthy thought...I realised that they were the same as the lead shot bag I used to encounter in operating theatres. It was basically a dead pad into which the head and neck could be pressed to prevent movements while the patient was unconscious. As I was sometimes applying pretty heavy force to those unconscious heads, it needed to be solid to resist. I'm happy to say that ALL of those heads eventually became conscious again. Sore, but conscious.

I note that there are also commercially-made bags for lighting situations that are empty with quick-seal flaps. You can carry them empty to a shoot and then fill them with sand, rocks, or whatever heavy at the site. A very good idea.

I have often wondered if there would be a good point in providing a head attachment that would go on the top of a standard 1/2" light stand spigot with three additional rings - you could guy the the thing to the ground if you were sending the flash head up really high. Nowadays the Suberp Profoto Air flashes have wireless adjustment as well as triggering so once it is up you could vary it to suit yourself without having to demount the guys.

Oh, and the tea bags are or after the shoot. White and one for me, thanks.

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Thursday, February 20, 2014

Creative

I used to think that the two most frightening words in the English language were singer-songwriter . They warned of long hours of despair and depression, generally emanating from Toronto or Seattle. We lived pretty near half-way between these two sinks and so we got our left-wing political rants and tortured love songs in stereo. I used to welcome the blizzards out on the prairies because they cut off communication.


Times have changed. We no longer have to fear singer-songwriters - we have to fear creatives. Video creatives, textile creatives, image creatives, and I can accurately report...history creatives. Yes. Create history. Stalin did, so can you. Pull up a keyboard and sit down.

For the purposes of this blog - selling lens cloths and tripods and macro lenses - we generally consider the video and image creatives. Some are professional creatives - they make images for pay and keep some of the money.The more successful ones keep more of the money and the real stars keep all of it, and they get it before they make the images. Sometimes in the dark I reflect that Jesse James was quite creative too, but I keep it to myself.

The amateur creatives create images with no pay. No, I'm wrong...THEY pay. The return for the money they spend and the time they use is a sense of enjoyment. And a sense of competiton. And blind unreasoning anger and jealousy...I've judged at camera clubs before and I've heard the sotto voce chorus from out there in the audience...

The artist creatives don't get paid. They don't get praised. They don't get listened to. They don't get published. They just create and stack their images in the electronic corner and carry right on doing it again. You can get 5 terabyte electronic corners these days for surprisingly small prices.

I cannot say which box is best. If you are locked into any of them and know it you will naturally become depressed...and start to write songs and sing them on the CBC. Please let me urge you to avoid this, if only for all our sakes...if you are locked into business try to do something for just you - not the client. If you are just a hobbyist, find a customer who will pay for something you do - even if it is just for getting you to go away. If you are purely an artist, try to get one of your pictures into a gallery, and not by sneaking it in under your coat and Blu-tak-ing it in the loo.

You will benefit and your skills will grow. And we can all get back to the blizzard.

Uncle Dick

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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Cube Of No Colour - Eat Your Heart Out Rubik



The littlest things can often be the most important. If you are searching for a way to increase the colour and exposure accuracy of your photos, Datacolor have a neat solution to start doing this in the field or studio.

Lots of people start their shooting sessions with a shot of a grey card. This may not sound as much fun as starting them with a shot of rye whiskey, but in the end it delivers a better result. They carry the image of that grey card through the entire capture and computer stage and then look at it on the screen. When they can manage to see the same colour on the screen as in their hand they are on target. If they can carry that through to a finished file or print they are home safe.

I am afraid that this is an over simplification, but it is better than just setting the camera to Auto white balance and hoping for the best. Hope delivers sometimes but never when you are home to sign for it...

Datacolor have made a small cube that has black, white, and grey panels on all six sides. It has a tripod socket on the bottom and a cord to hang it from a Christmas tree on the top. You capture it in your first picture and then look at it in the final computer image, just like the flat grey card - but in this case it is bathed in the scene light from 6 different angles.

There are two extra features that are unique - a silver ball on the top that will capture and display the brightest of the specular highlights that the lighting affords. You'll know what your white-out point is.

Like a Highlander on guard duty, you will also know where the black-out point is - there is a hole on one face of the cube that allows light in but never lets it out again. Like the ATO and your tax money...


In store right now, and the best bet for quick post-production time that I know.

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L'Arc de Tripod





" You weesh to buy ze bes' tripod in ze shop, Monsieur? I weell show eet to you, but you mus' unner stan' eet is not for jus'anyone. Ah, non. Thees tripod ees only for the mos' sophisticated and important people. No peasant need apply..."


The Gitzo company has always made the best heavy supports in the industry. I know Linhof used to bang on about theirs but Gitzo managed to get the stability with more style. And Gitzo have adapted to new materials and a new age and have poineered new concepts. None of which has anything to do with the tripod in the pictures.


This is a step back in time as the company has copied one of their classics of the 1960's and produced a repro travel tripod that recalls the film era. It has metal legs. It has metal castings. It has rubber feet. The ball head has a particularly smooth action and the classic Gitzo quick release plate. Note the metal parts are finished with the traditional hammertone finish. The whole is professional in the extreme.


But not heavy. This is a surprise to me as I have a Studex 5 from this same firm and it is so massive as to generate its own gravity. It does not move from the studio as I do not wish to ruin my back. The Gitzo here in the shop is light enough to take on any airplane and as you'll see it comes in the most elegant travel case that you have ever seen. Fitted leather with a padded shoulder strap.

Note, sophisticates - this is a rare tripod. Your friends will not have one, nor are they likely to be able to find one. You will be the envy of their eye, as well as achieving steady pictures.

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The Sacred Texts


Every religion has sacred texts - some are wrapped carefully in scrolls and put into velvet cases - some are bound into heavy books. Some are carved into the stone walls of temples. In our game they are either printed into little paper books or supplied on a CD.

Instruction manuals. Love 'em or hate 'em, you are eventually going to have to fish out the one that came with your camera or flash and read it...in many cases you will do this after the equipment has stopped working and emitted a puff of blue smoke.

Had you gone into the thing prior to this momentous event, you might have discovered how to avoid it. Most modern equipment will not self-destruct - you actually have to perform a series of incorrect things to blow it up. Of course if you are using a computer this does not apply - computers will wilfully throw themselves off the electronic cliff like expensive lemmings. They mutate when they are left to their own devices. And you can be sure that in a few months NO devices will work with them.

The dedicated reader of instruction manuals will discover that there are different levels of communication skill amongst the companies. I can genuinely praise Nikon and Fuji for their manuals, and Pentax are not far behind. The paper books you get with new cameras are plodding affairs  - not a lot of plot development and no dirty pictures to look at - but if you read them you will get all the facts you need to run the cameras. Sometimes the camera designers have been drinking at lunchtime but at least their sins are accurately reported in the books.

Not so with the instruction manuals of the Metz flash company. Their products are excellent - I have a handful of their flashes that have soldiered on for nearly 40 years and they still pump out the light. But the instruction manuals have been written by someone who was in command of the German army - possibly at Stalingrad. They are incomprehensibly complex for the pre-digital era, and worse once the shift to digital began. The only thing that saves Metz is the fact that the flashes can largely be left to work by themselves while you get on with it.

We've all laughed at Japlish and Chinglish advertisements and instruction books at one time or the other. Of course none of us write in Japanese or Mandarin to have our own mistakes seen. And the people in Japan or China would probably be more polite about it. Fortunately the writers of their technical pamphlets seem to be amenable to criticism as I have seen marked improvement in brochures from one year to he next. Mistakes now are nothing more than typos and have nothing of the howling humour of the 60's.

Will it get better? I hope so, as worldwide communication becomes more direct. For myself, I took as much instruction as I needed and learned a new skill from seeing Gary Fong show his light diffusers on video clips. But I still would like to have a book to carry in my camera bag if the equipment is complex. If only to provide tinder when I set the thing on fire...

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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Bastard File


I used to be embarrassed in shop class when the teacher talked about using bastard files. That sort of language was discouraged at home. I was careful not to use it in front of my mother.

Bless her, she is long gone. I am free to express myself when I edit pictures on the computer. And I do. Sometimes the family are scandalised and I have noted the occasionally the wife closes the door on the computer room when I am working in there. I just wish she wouldn't wedge it shut with a hammer...

Bastard files come in several varieties:

1: The ones that have a dynamic range of 56 stops. The low tones are so low that you can see nothing and the high tones are so high that you can see nothing. Eventually you lose interest and stop looking.

2: The noise traps. No matter what setting you have dialled into the camera these files have electronic noise. In the low tones, in the high tones, in the margin. Even the Exif data is speckled and grey. They look like someone has dropped them onto the floor and rolled them in kitty litter.

3: The Walking Dead. Files that have so little character or substance that the most attractive portions of them are the chromatic aberration. Many of them have been made using Big Stopper filters and many of them have been made by elderly Frenchmen.

4: The Fun House. Files so distorted that they could feature in a parliamentary enquiry. That lens that you bought at the Camera Mart for the low price was being sold for a very good reason...

5: The files that are supplied in the 18.5 - bit HOOTx format. This is a format devised by a graduate student in Nebraska that was briefly thrown out as freeware on the net in 1998 for a week. Before the narcs got to him. It surfaces like a dying Soviet submarine every few years and some fool converts normal digital data to it. and then throws away the normal digital data. No known program actually decodes it but once the files get into your drive they can never be removed.

6: The files that are all watermark. No actual image but entirely safe.

7: Commercial traps. The file that contains an opposing product to the one that you are trying to advertise. The kind of photo-bombng that spreads radiation.

8: Private traps. The thumb drive o' death that your mate gives you. Plug it in at your peril, but be warned that your mate has nursed a grievance against you for a long time and this may well be the opportunity to revenge it.

You must understand that none of this ever happened in the dear old days of film photography. We were pure and simple and never had fungus on our lenses. And none of our negative files ever got wet an smelly and mouldy. Wanna see some of my unicorn pictures?


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Monday, February 17, 2014

Cabinet Electronics


The shop is currently refitting. Unlike a warship, this is not being done in a dry dock - it is being done in a kamikaze attack. Thus you may experience a little delay in getting a response to a phone call or an email enquiry. At least until we throw the burning aircraft off the flight deck...

Please bear with us. It will get better. From the looks of the new cabinets that have already arrived ( and more coming ) it will get very much better. But just this week there will be a bit of confusion and language. The repair and rental departments are largely unaffected.

On the bright side, at least we have got rid of the rats.

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Friday, February 14, 2014

A Very Large Hen's Tooth


Saul has asked me to let you know that we have a very rare piece of glass in the shop right now. It is the Zeiss Otus 55mm f:1.4 lens in a Nikon ZF2 mount.

It is not hard to find it, as it is possibly the largest 55mm lens in the place. Possibly? It IS the largest 55 in the shop. That's a 5ยข piece in the photo for comparison.

Smooth as silk in the focusing. Totally precise in the aperture ring. Superb definition and colour fidelity on a Nikon camera body. Probably the ultimate in this lens focal length anywhere and Saul says they are super rare around the world.

We must be doing something right because this is the second one of these that I have seen - one of our professional customers has one in operation right now.

Yes, you can buy it, and no, you can't have it for a song. Not unless you are Dame Nellie Melba and have the entire chorus of La Scala behind you doing " Aida "...

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Singhing In The Rain


Here is a post for all our Sikh* photographers.

Have you considered getting one of the Promaster 72" white umbrellas for your studio? We have one in the shop right now and it is the most marvellous light shaper that you have ever seen. It is the BIGGEST light shaper you have ever seen, with the exception of the Redwing soft box we had a few years ago that needs a commercial scaffolding firm to erect.

People sometimes decry the humble umbrella, but when it is 72 inches in diameter it is not humble. It will throw massively soft light either as reflected or shoot through. It is not too heavy, though it will be necessary to consider the effect of wind if you are going to take it outside. Normally something this big in a stiff breeze has either Mary Poppins or a paratrooper under it...

If you cannot manage the full 72", we also have 60" and 45" sizes. Some of them are white and some are black/silver.

*And all those who are seeking to do good studio photos.

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Peek A Boo*




Some of our customers want to do it all. They want to go on holiday with a small camera that is feather-weight, but has a massive zoom lens and an on-board flash and a touch screen and video and art programs and real-time light adjustments and an LCD electronic viewfinder and they are adamant that they will pay no more than $ 699.

We accede to their demands. With the Olympus Stylus 1 camera. All of the above and a control ring around the circumference of the lens that can be programmed to do different things. Plus a sweet little folding lens cover that automatically closes on itself like a flower when you turn the camera off.

The real seller feature for me is the finger and thumb dial you see on the upper right hand plate of the camera. It really is in the perfect position for the right hand as you operate the camera - unlike some of the compensation dials found on competitor's cameras. As you wizzle it around between finger and thumb you can see the light change in the viewfinder or in the LCD screen at the back. Woo hoo. Actual help just when you need it. No more taking a shot and chimping it several times before you get what you want. Just dial and shoot.

Note that there are several function buttons that you can use to change the camer'as mind without diving into the menu.

Note* Peek A Boo is fun with toddlers but it is a lot more fun if you do it to business men riding on the train from Mandurah...

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Thursday, February 13, 2014

As Simple As It Gets


If you are a keen enthusiastic photographer who wants to know all the possible permutations of lens/camera/computer/tripod/boom arm/studio light/cut lunch as it applies to post-modern iconic parameters of existential thought, rack off.

I am addressing myself to today to people who want to take pictures and see them easily - good pictures of real life.

1. Get a Fuji X 100s. Or another Fuji camera - the X-A1, X-M1, X-Pro1, etc. Suit yourself if you'd like a zoom lens or removable lenses, or are happy with a perfect fixed focal length. I'm happy with the 23mm lens on the X100s camera - it equates to a 35mm lens on an older film camera and that just about sees the world the way I see it when I am just looking.

The X 100s is the kind of camera that you really CAN put on automatic - in this case by turning the aperture and shutter rings to 'A' and leaving the auto focus switch to AF-S. If you've asked it to adjust the ISO itself, all you need to do is look through the viewfinder and press the button. I do this when I am on holiday, and am rewarded with perfect records of what i have seen - and I am amazed that the camera sees it the same way. I can go into an art gallery to admire the paintings and when allowed to take photos, the photos look like the paintings. It copes with whatever the galleries come up with for lighting.

2. Get a Mac. If you haven't got a computer yet, get an Apple laptop or iMac. The people in Apple shops are helpful. They know their product.

If you are already using a Windows PC, carry on. Your comfort and skill with it will help you to succeed.

3. Get Photoshop Elements 12. I bang on about this program a lot because I have used PE  programs for years - all the way from PE 3. I am not a computer wizard, and do not need to be - the Adobe people have made the Photoshop Elements programs easy to understand and easy to remember. I started out doing things using pictograms to help me and have advanced to using keyboard shortcuts - the thing just flies along.

Here's a couple of examples of easy shooting last Saturday at Big Al's Poker Run. It is just what I saw and just what I want to remember. You can get on board with these products too - right now.



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Pardon My Pack Shot



I just thought I would get in an pre-empt the secondhand photo market that will be running on Sunday in a couple of weeks. Oh, I'll be there myself, but not with this sort of gear.


Lots of kids and starters want to develop film and prints in the old-fashioned way. Some of them will be at the photo market looking for he gear to do it with, and to be fair, they will find it. But they will find such a crazy mis-matched lot of things from other people's darkrooms that they may well become discouraged. As well, all of the gear will be used and offered on a caveat emptor basis. Not a big deal when you are looking at a set of print tongs, but certainly a consideration on other things.


Here's an alternative - A-P make a complete set of film and print tools for just this sort of customer - brand new. Tank, tongs, wiper, thermometer,  2 graduate cylinders, mixer, film clips, and trays round the back for $ 115.

You'll be able to do 35mm, 120, and odder ex-Kodak sizes. We have the chemistry you need and the darkroom printing paper as well. By all means circulate around looking for an enlarger...likely you'll find one.

Best of all - there are no cracks in this tank...and no residue from past processes to muggle up your first development.

Uncle Dick

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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Think Safety - Work Safely


Here at Camera Electronic we are committed to safety. We avoid alcohol, tobacco smoke, and soft drinks. We take daily exercise on our very own Stairmaster Model One. All day... Our computer screens have been fitted with crash bars so that when we punch them we do not damage our hands.

Other photographers would do well to take care in their studios and darkrooms. Of course the darkroom is somewhat of a rarity these days, and the colour darkroom even more so, but the chemistry in there can be savage. Half the stuff in a colour developing line will peel your skin off and the other half will kill you dead. But you end up a nice colour...

Turning to the studio, have you noticed that most of the light stands have tripod legs and are black? And they have heavy weights on the top - strobe heads and all. This is a perfect combination of circumstances to allow you to stumble into them in the dark and knock them over. The average amount of light emitted by a studio strobe is enough to render the painting of the stand legs black something of an overkill - wise people wrap some bright yellow or orange tape round the legs and the trunk of the stand so that it can be seen in the gloom. Not as cool and sexy but a whole lot safer.

Likewise the business of putting the rolls of paper up on holders above the subjects. You can suspend them with triple hooks and autopoles and such, but you would be wise to provide additional legs for those poles. If that puppy tilts over and lets three rolls of Superior paper onto the sitter from 3 metres up you got a lot of ' splainin ' to do Lucy. I had it happen once but fortunately we could just wrap up the body in the 11 metre roll of paper and leave it under a railway bridge...

Water on set? Electricity on set? 240 V ac electricity? Floor packs? Trailing wires? 24 -hour direct dial to the Coroner? All set.

Drone coverage of the wedding? Or the real estate? Unless you have someone from Omaha flying the thing, be aware that it may impact on your target. If person from Omaha is flying their own drone, you can definitely expect an impact on the target...

Is your flash working? Look into it and trigger it off. Now you know. You won't be able to see for an hour but at least...now you know. Use the time to stumble around until your shins find the edge of the table.

Like the outdoors? Pack 45 Kg on your back and clamber up the the top of Bluff Knoll. the Australian Association of Chiropractors has a pile of cards up there for you. If you like the water, you can balance on the edge of the rocks as the surf comes crashing in. The SES loves an afternoon out...Say hey to my nephew as they load you into the basket.






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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Great Deals From Shoot!


Hop to the phone and get yourself a bargain!

Jonathan Cousins from Shoot Photography Workshops has some specials for the coming Valentine's day - 20% off all photo courses if you book between now and the 14th. What could be more romantic!

As well, there is a 2 for 1 offer for the following courses:

Tonight's 1st Photojournalism course...11th of February

Astrophotography on the 15/16 February

Off Camera Flash Techniques on the 23rd of February

Please give Jonathan a buzz on 9228 8232 or 0419 956 878 and book in for a bargain.

Note: Planets and stars will be provided for the astrophotography course but only at night...

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The Last Puppy In The Pound



We sometimes look at the shelves here and wonder. First we wonder where we are going to put things. Then we wonder where we DID put things. Finally we wonder if anyone will ever buy some of the cameras.

The ones that cause bemusement are not bad devices - they have been purchased by us for sale and will do the job they are advertised to do, and in most cases do it very well. But some of them have been designed by manufacturers that were thinking well outside the trapezoid. With one eye shut. And a cheap haircut.


Unless the buyer is of the same mind, they can languish longer than they need to. Sometimes it is a case of a design that does not have what the competitors have, but sometimes it is just a product that has been wrapped in a strange body shape. It is wonderful that humanity can have such a variety of aesthetic appreciation, but a pity that it sometimes leaves the ugly puppy in the pound.


But there is hope. Every puppy has a friend somewhere. Look at the images taken at the recent Big Al's Poker Run show. Someone once loved the 1957 Hudson and someone still does - enough to have purchased it in NSW just this last year and to have brought it to WA. I don't think it takes pictures, though.


The moral of all this is come on down and look at the shelves. If you see something that appeals to you, for heaven's sake buy it. You might be the only one save the designer that has ever liked it - your reward will be the sense of style and whatever images it will churn out. And the admiration of the staff - always a valuable commodity.


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Monday, February 10, 2014

Solving A Printing Problem - Banding


Recently a client mentioned that they were getting a bit of banding on their prints and wanted to know what could have caused it - and indeed what they could do to fix the problem.



My experience is that there can sometimes be micro-clogs in the heads of the inkjet printers that stop the full spray from going through. Sometimes it is a distinct banding, sometimes just a vague lack of definition and/or depth of colour. it is most often seen in dark areas of the print.


The Epson printers have a wonderful set of tools to deal with this. If you suspect the effect in a print, you go into the printer menu and ask for a nozzle check. It will fire the entire set through in a small test pattern and if you see segments of colour missing your suspicions are confirmed.


What to do? Ask the printer for a head clean - it will shake and flush the heads with a bit of ink and then you can re-test. Most times the problem will be gone in one go. You can ask for 3 power cleans in a row, but you have to wait a little between each one so that you do not damage the head.


Most times, if you print one little print each week that exercises all the colours, you never see settling or clogging of ink. Please note that inks do have use-by dates and it is wise to heed them. they do not go mouldy, like the cheese in the fridge, but they can settle out particles.

Please note that is you are getting banding on panoramic photos taken with some of the newer mirror-less cameras you need to set your shutter speed a little slower and move the camera around more smoothly.


If you are getting banding on street photos you are to be congratulated. See attached photos.

Uncle Dick

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