All those teachers who used to give you 95% on a test – even though you had answered the questions 100% right – and who haughtily announced that no-one could ever achieve perfection – were right. Of course the thing that they did not tell you was that they secretly felt that their pronouncement was 100% right, but that’s getting into psychology instead of photography…
For the image making thing – photography – the same deal applies. Nothing is ever 100% right. There is always a flaw somewhere in everything we do – whether it be retail selling, shooting the picture, processing it, or presenting it. But we needn’t feel bad – there are ways to mitigate this.
a. Best equipment. As you get better gear, the results can get better. But the operation of that gear can be more and more demanding. The flaws get smaller, but the resolution of the equipment gets better and you can see flaws more clearly. It can be a tail-chase.
Nevertheless, buy the best gear you can afford. And don’t begrudge the seller their profit – it’s that profit that will keep them there for you when you next need them.
b. Seeing more flaws because the gear shows them more clearly? Get older. Your eyesight will deteriorate and between the floaters and cataracts your appreciation of the results will increase. Stop laughing. Its true.
c. Print smaller. A lot of the information that you pay big money to cram into a large file is discarded or smoothed over when you print down. This means that a lot of the mistakes get smaller. We’re not suggesting that you exhibit contact prints – as I once saw done in Melbourne at a Man Ray exhibition. A 35mm frame contact print of a locomotive – nearly unreadable – set into a 16 x 24 matt and frame does say something about you, but you don’t want to hear it…
The process of printing or displaying smaller can be taken down to 8 x 10, 5 x 7 or 6 x 4 quite legitimately. People can still see what it is that you’re on about without having to navigate through grain and flare – not unless you compel them to do that.
d. To cheer ourself up at this point, grab one of your favourite old negatives or transparencies and scan it at high resolution. Whack it onto a big screen, overlay a Photoshop gridwork, and grab a pad and pencil. Now count the dust spots, grain clumps, nicks, pieces of cat hair, and failed dye areas in the print square by square. When you finish and add up the impressive score, you can get your three dust spots on the recent digital image in perspective. Press ” S ” on the keyboard, steer the spot over the grey balloons and make them disappear.
The same cheerful philosophy can apply to the camera and lenses you are using. Google up ” weathered camera ” and see what some gear enthusiasts have done to perfectly good new cameras to make them look battered. It’s a window into the mind of the photographer. Yet they probably want the battered camera to produce that 100% perfect image.
Or Kharkov, if you wish…but the residents of this Ukrainian city would probably frown at you. It was the home of the FED camera factory that turned out Soviet copies of prewar Leica cameras to supply the local market. They started on this in 1932 and continued with variations until 1955. Then they started designing their own stuff, albeit influenced by their long history of making lookaleicas.
You may have seen some of these in the years after the fall of the Soviet Union – the basic FEDs were taken into small workshops and polished, painted, plated, engraved, and re-leathered and could emerge as straight Leica copies, esoteric ex-military models, or presentation cameras – all supposedly captured in WWII. Taken in is the operative word because the basic premise of the whole operation was to take in the suckers in the west or the orient who wanted a Leica for a bargain price.
I gather the con worked to some extent, though I can’t say whether there was much deception to it all. Leica collectors are pretty knowledgable people and there are any number of scholarly texts to instruct the enthusiasts. Perhaps most of the lookaleicas were sold as novelties and people knew that they were fake.
Well, rolling on from ’55, FED did make some new designs – this FED III is one of them. It was an internet buy but not from eBay – a straight listing from and English camera firm on their south coast for a brand new FED at a very inexpensive price. I had plenty of squandermoney at the time and wanted to see how much different it was from the Kiev cameras I had seen.
It works, and actually works well, if you remember that you are operating Soviet machinery. The interior bearings and parts will have none of the finish or durability of the German or Japanese cameras of the period. I suspect bare aluminium grinding away inside there somewhere but I am not game to unscrew a cover and look.
The light meter still works, and if you use a film that has a fair latitude, you may be somewhere in the ball park for an exposure. Remember that the sensitivity markings are likely to really be in Gost rather than ASA but do your best. The shutter speed setting needs a little care in getting the number lined up in the correct slot on the dial, but once you’re in, the shutter is fairly accurate.
The lens is the interesting thing. It uses the dear old M39 Leica screw mount, of which there are lots still going. It is a moun t that is almost bomb proof, and if the helix of a lens is still slippery and the aperture still closes, you’ll be able to use any Leica Screw lens on it. Beware of fungus, though as old lenses may have passed through the tropics many times before they ge to you. The 53mm f:2.8 Industar lens that came on the camera is sharp as can be but rattley in operation.
The styling is pure early 60’s and the barrel material is probably melted stukas but it is optically good enough to make a fine negative or transparency. It even holds up on an adapter for my Fujifilm digital cameras.
Is this sort of thing a viable way to go when you want to try analog shooting? Well if your goal is a historical experience – borscht and May Day parades – then go to it, Tovarisch. There are lots of odd Russian films on the market that are possibly fresh and probably not radioactive any more that would be a fine load for this camera. If your family portrait negatives come out double exposed with images of NATO air bases, you may have a film that has been used once already…
But if you want long-term reliability, this sort of choice is as sensible as shooting with a C3 Argus. You’ll never get what the whole of analog shooting can deliver. By all means use old FED, Kiev, Zorki, Practisix, Practika, or Exakta cameras if you wish, but use them for nostalgia rather than production.
I know you guys are in there. It’s no good closing the office blinds and hiding behind your desks. I can hear you breathing. Hard.
Look, all I want you to know is that we’ve got new competition and we’re going to have to do something about it.
See, I went to the local DIY store – you know the one – they’ve got a branch in every suburb and you can get drill bits and a sausage in a bun. I just went in to get some Gorilla Glue and MDF board because we’re having people over for dinner and I wanted to make lasagna.
Are you guys listening?
Well, it looks like they’re selling cameras now. It’s no big deal because they are mostly pine but if they get a foothold in the industry it’ll be disastrous. What if they introduce meranti and jarrah? Telephotos in teak? This is just looking for trouble.
So I want your go-ahead to start a campaign of sabotage. I’ve got a jar of wood worms at home that we saved from the last holiday dinner. I could slip into the local store and start to drill them into the wooden DSLR’s. They are discrete little beggars, and don’t make much noise at all – they could chomp through the entire stock in a week. And if they try to introduce underwater cameras I can get torpedo worms from the tropics.
Can anyone hear crying? I hear crying. Is it something I said?
It happened again. I got a request from someone to use images that they found on my website. They are delighted with them, and I am delighted that they are delighted….but now they want me to make more in the same style and I am in desperate trouble.
I can’t remember how I did the first batch.
This scenario plays out for all of us eventually, though it may not be at a client’s request. We might just stumble upon the photographic equivalent of the Lost Chord and then discover that there is no recipe to repeat it.
Actually, there is. If you look into whichever editing program you use, you’ll find that a section can be triggered that records the history of what you have done to an image. The adjustments, filters, and effects are noted down in some detail, and if you reproduce that menu, you can get to pretty much the same result. If you want to be even better at it, in Lightroom for instance, you can record all that you have done in the form of a custom preset in a special list.
There is no guarantee that one image will come out exactly as another was – given that there may have been different starting points as far as the raw image went – but you’ll be ever so much closer than just banging away on the sliders.
Note that there are any number of commercial filter sets and programs sold to alter images in LR or PS. These can be made by famous photographers who want your images to look like theirs…or just hopefuls who are trying to sell software. The canny student or enthusiast will spend time working out what they can do for themselves – if they find the Lost Chord they can then preset it and start on their way to their own fortune.
If you are a person who loses things because they have been stored haphazardly – consider that you have lost more than the goods – you have lost the timely opportunity to use them. Too often you’ve settled for making do with an automatic shot because you’ve left the accessories you could have used to do a fabulous job in the desk drawer at home.
Reform yourself before it is too late with sensible storage from Lowepro:
a. Memory cards
If your cards are sliding around the bottom of your camera case amongst the biscuit crumbs and old tram tickets you are going to lose them. You’ll pull something out and the gardens section of the Fosgood-Smythe wedding will come out with it and fall under the reception centre sofa. Try excusing that Mrs. Fosgood nee Smythe next day when she wants to see the proofs.
Guard your reputation as you guard those cards. Put them into a clean, zipped Lowepro Gear Up bag… put that bag onto your belt…and defend it with your life. Which it will be if Mrs. F is unhappy.
Storage and camera accessories are not all about mountain climbing and shark wrestling. Lost wedding shots are more dangeraous than that.
b. Yes, Mr Airport Man, I am carrying a mirrorless camera with a spare lithium ion battery and cables and a charger and here it is in this Lowepro case and no, it doesn’t weigh more then 7 Kg. Bite the next victim – I want to get to my seat and start in on the free champers. Or at least read the ditching card…
c. Are my eyes going again? That picture on the Lowproe organiser case…Oh, wait – that’s a translucent panel with an advertising card behind it. Phew.
And inside? Two padded cases that will hold pretty much all you can see in the Lowepro illustration. A clever person could pack enough for an entire holiday’s pictures in here, just plunk it down on the X-ray conveyer and walk straight through. Provided they didn’t scream like a destroyer siren when they went through the detector loop, it would be a very fast and easy start to that holiday flight.
I like Gumtree – the local swap and sell app that you can run on your computer, tablet, or mobile phone. I have it on my iPad and it’s the way I dispose of a lot of unwanted model or studio gear. And I have a secret when I use it – I can do good lighting for the items I want to sell… it makes them move faster.
Okay, there’s a studio with studio lights and scoop backdrops and a coffee machine… but it’s only the modelling lights in the studio flash that get used so I never try too dramatic a presentation. Basic illustration does the trick.
The trouble with basic illustration on the modern tablet/phone is the method of using it. Up until now I have struggled to get the iPad steady enough to ensure a good shot. It’ll focus well, and there is a zoom feature on the screen that is delightful, but the ergonomics of pointing it and poking the screen mean that I frequently poke it into a blur.
Enter Joby – one of our favourite fun-thinking accessory makers.
a. Microstands and Grip Tight clamps for mobile phones. Once you’ve either got a mini tripod or a mount for the regular studio stand or tripod, the troubles go away. The device can be positioned well and stand a very long exposure indeed. These things are tiny, in keeping woth your mobile phone.
b. The same thing for the smaller tablets.
c. Big-time Bingo for me. The full-sized iPad clamp that will attach to my studio stand. It will cradle the thing and then I can finally get some precision into the framing and shooting. This sort of thing pays for itself if you are going to be doing fast-replacement product shooting.
Note that it rotates for both vertical and horizontal orientation.
We cannot talk analog cameras without involving the Leica company – they are one of the very few makers of new film cameras. They are certainly the only manufacturer who has a new offering of absolutely professional quality.
You get a choice of two fresh ones – the M-A or the MP. They shoot the same lenses but with the M-A you’ll be on your own as far as judging exposure. Cheer up – many film packets have an exposure chart…
Their prices range from surprising to astounding and the lenses that you’ll want to add will also raise your blood pressure more than somewhat. But consider that these price tags will not be too much more than that of the better sort of digital camera and the workmanship and sturdiness of the Leica can far surpass the plastic offerings elsewhere.
They are long-term investments – anyone not in danger from a war can hardly wear one of them out in any serious sense in a lifetime of photography. They are repairable. They are adjustable. They do not feature dodgy lenses from other makers that trip them up a few years down the track. The M-A laughs at batteries because it doesn’t have any.
The price you pay for a Leica often proves to be an investment, rather than a cost, as many of them have appreciated in value over their working life. But it can be a stiff price to start with.
They are basic devices that contain surprisingly sophisticated things – the view through the optical viewfinder can tell you what the depth of field of a lens is as you peer through it – even though there is no image formed on a screen. The focusing can be faster than most AF systems and you’re doing it with your fingers and eyes. The film advance can be as fast as a digital.
The shutters are magic in their quiet precision – for years they were the only cameras allowed in US courtrooms during trials. They need adjusting at about the same intervals as a Rolls Royce engine…
But they can be daunting machines – people expect so much of them while remaining conscious of the money they cost. They are good traveller’s cameras but you want to keep your hands on one at all times when there are thieves about – they recognise that monetary value very well.
They can also be a portal to a whole Leica culture – carefully nurtured by the company and associated societies – that can sometimes remove you from your own critical facilities. You are asked to accept everything that Leica shooters do as being the ne plus ultra of the imaging world – and sometimes the images shown in the house literature don’t live up to this. The issues of LFI from the 1970’s and 1980’s can alert you. Modern day imaging is much better.
But be careful – when you start buying tee shirts with drawings of cameras on them you are on a slippery slope. Eventually you’ll find yourself seriously contemplating Leica salt and pepper shakers and Leica-branded fly swats…
I can remember a world without chargers. It also had nickel chocolate bars, Howdy Doody, and John Diefenbaker, so you can see how long ago it was. Since then we have, all of us, accumulated more devices and chargers than we can well use – and the only real solution to the way they have built up is to lose them. That is why we take holiday trips to foreign countries or to Melbourne.
We can lose them deliberately – a sack of old chargers worn under a loose jacket can be scattered from the top of an open doubledecker sightseeing bus. Or we can lose them inadvertently, as in a hurried checkout the morning after the night before. But lose them we will, and this is why Camera Electronic sells an inexpensive Korjo universal power adapter. It is cheap enough that you can afford to abandon it when you do a runner from the hotel.
If things are not as dire as that, consider the fact that so much of today’s equipment needs a USB port to charge up from. I joke about Melbourne, but there are some of the hotels there that have realised that the guests are power-hungry and have installed whole panels of USB ports in the bedside tables so that you can be all up and running by morning. I applaud this forward thinking* on the part of the big chains, but the little places will still need the Korjo. It’ll fire up four USB ports – that’s a phone, camera, powerbank, and tablet taken care of.
And you’ll need the Korjo whenever you’re overseas and you encounter the foreign electrical sockets. You may still be in despair in some of the London bedsits, as there are only so many plugs you can carry in a baggage allowance. Try living there in some of the older digs and see if you can listen to the radio without sparks…
Okay, fun over. The Korjo is a boon for the traveller – and if you are so unfortunate as to forget it as you leave, you will not have broken the bank. Can’t say that for some of the more famous branded products…
* If they put actual booze in the hotel cocktails, the town would be perfect…
If you’ve ever looked at a gun sight in a modern fighter aircraft you’ll probably have seen some form of HUD – Heads Up Display. It is a design that allows the pilot to aim his guns or missiles without having to bend forward to look into an eyepiece or squint at crosshairs or into iron sights. Most HUD’s are projected images or lights onto an internal screen in the cockpit that is linked to where the weapons are going to impact. The best ones have computer tracking and prediction for lay-off.
Well, we’re not generally shooting down MiG’s at Camera Electronic, and you may not be doing so out at your house*, but there are a number of times when we are trying to get a long lens to see a distant subject but we have no idea how to bring the lens to bear upon it. Air shows, wildlife, birds, and sport shots come to mind. We may have a great long lens that delivers crisp shots but we find ourselves waving all round the heavens while trying to track the subject and we rarely ever get on when the best shot presents.
This is particularly a problem for the users of the superzoom compact cameras like the Nikon Coolpix P1000. It has a lens that is the focal length equivalent of 3000 mm and if you’re trying to track grizzly bears or Bear bombers you are in deep trouble at the long end of the lens.
The Nikon DF M1 sight is designed for the P1000 and presents a clear HUD for the lens even at the longest setting. You can specify any one of three patterns of dot and circle in the screen and pick red or green as the display.
Then when you go to the long zoom you put the dot on the target and track it with the assurance that the 3000mm equivalent lens is going to be doing the same thing. Some people rely upon it as an entire sight and some just as an aid to get in the ball park – shifting their eye to the camera viewfinder once they are near enough.
I think every camera maker should have one of these in their lineup. Or at least make a lenshood with a metal gunsight and an eye post that you can put on the camera’s hot shoe. I could certainly use one at dance shows!
Note that Hasselblad used to make a gunsight for their longest 500mm lens that had crosshairs and a rubber ring in it for targeting. You felt like a flak gunner using it.
* Now my Little Studio is another matter entirely…
All our readers are keen photographers – even the ones who have not been doing it for very long.
Sometimes inexperience leads to frustration…how do you do something? Where can you get something? What does this button do? It’s great to be able to come into one of the Camera Electronic stores – Stirling Street or Murray Street – and talk to the staff. In most cases confusion can be cleared up and your photography goes on better than ever.
To bring this sort of opportunity to the readers who can’t get into town, this weblog column will start a regular ” Ask Uncle Dick ” feature . Readers can send in enquiries about any sort of photographic subject and an answer will be forthcoming here on the screen. If Uncle Dick himself can’t solve the riddles, he’ll find a staff member with the necessary expertise to do so. If you need to know where photographic flies go to in the wintertime, by golly we’ll send a junior staff member out there to hunt for them.
Of course enquiries about how to take tabletop photos of model airplanes or advice on how to be love-lorn will stop right on this desk…
Ah, but there is one thing – there are some questions that cannot be answered. Not embarrassing ones – we can always answer them. But there are things in photography that pass beyond the ken of even the experts. Cameras and lenses have sometimes been sent out by makers who cannot explain what they do, and we’re in no better position. Also we can’t really second guess the design decisions of manufacturers. Things is what they is.
However – if you have a real enquiry, the answer to which would benefit yourself, take heart – a good answer may help other people as well. Use the comments section of this column to send in your enquiries or just address a letter to Uncle Dick c/o our Stirling Street store and I’ll get to it each week. If you want to send a direct email enquiry that will eventually be answered here in the column you can also access:
Be aware that the spam filter is on pretty well all the time and I really don’t need Nike shoes, online gambling, or Russian brides.