photoblogography - Just some stuff about photography

New Medium Format film scanner

Reflecta throws out a lifebelt

in Film , Thursday, June 30, 2011

For those of us still in the Stone Age of film, and slide film at that, there’s a lot to worry about. Dwindling film supplies and variety, processing labs dropping like flies, and especially that day when the film scanner goes bleeeeeep-kerTHUNK. And then it’s Game Over, unless of course you’re willing to sell your soul to Hasselblad for a Flextight. The last (and first, really) wave of affordable, high quality medium format scanners from Nikon, Minolta, Polaroid and Microtek are fast approaching Lights Out. But remarkably, a potential saviour has arisen in the shape of Germany’s Reflecta. Although they’re probably not well known outside of Central Europe, Reflecta is a company with a long history. Typically they’ve made various low to mid-range accessories and devices, including slide projectors (I believe some Leica slide projectors were rebadged Reflectas) and cheap and cheerful 35mm film scanners. However, as the mid to semi-pro market collapsed, Reflecta has been cautiously and quietly edging upwards, acquiring a credibility-enhancing partnership with Silverfast on the way, as well as some encouraging reviews. Although the fact that they have practically no credible competiton must help. And now, well they’ve taken the major step of announcing their first medium format scanner.

And note, unlike any of it’s comparable predecessors it goes up to 6x12. It doesn’t appear to have a dedicated 35mm panoramic holder, but I guess one can be cobbled together.

On paper the specifications look modest. A DMax of 3.6 (I wonder how many people remember what that means) and an optical resolution of 3200dpi. Probably enough, and actually probably closer to the truth than claims of 4800dpi and similar, but not terribly exciting for the marketing men. But then it doesn’t need to be. It has no competition whatsoever, if you discount worn out overpriced eBay fodder.

From pre-release photos it appears to have a mechanism and construction similar to the Microtek / Polaroid 120 scanner, with a moving holder and fixed sensor, which is a pity. Moving sensor systems generally provide a much better platform for multisampling.

It is due to be available in July, but so far no pricing has been announced. I would expect something in the range of €1000, but I suppose it could be higher.

And will it be any good? Well, we’ll have to wait and see. But with the alternative being Nothing, I suppose the bar’s not set too high.


Tuscan Tips

Well trodden tracks

in Photography , Tuesday, June 07, 2011

I guess Tuscany must be well into the Top 20 most photographed locations in the world. The concentration of cameras is phenomenal, albeit nothing like the freak shows you get in places like Yosemite. The first time I went there, quite a few years back (they still sold film - proper film at that - in the shops), I certainly had all the well known cliches in mind.  There’s the Cypress Grove (on your right, heading south on the SS2 just outside of San Quirico d’Orcia, can’t miss it).

The Cypress Grove

Exhibit A: The Cypress Grove

There’s the Isolated Chapel (heading east from San Quirico, towards Pienza, over on the ridge on your right, although to do the Charlie Waite close-up shot you’ll need to take the farm track).

tuscan chapel

The Isolated Chapel

And there’s the vantage point over the Twisty-Road-With-Cypresses, which you can find by heading out of Montechiello towards Pienza and taking the first unpaved road on your left. You can’t miss the actual spot…

twisty road with cypresses

The infamous twisty road, somewhat drenched

And to complete your collection, you just need an early morning misty valley shot, preferably featuring distant ochre romantic farmhouse, and with all the pesky telegraph poles and power lines painstakingly edited out in Photoshop.  Best bet here is the road down from Castiglione d’Orcia, or the road over Le Crete Senesi, from Asciano towards Siena. But you’re going to have to get up painfully early.

misty hills

Misty morning, Le Crete Senesi, around 6am

E perfetto, va bene cosi. I’ve given away all the trade secrets, and you’re now a fully qualified Tuscan photographer. Of course, you get bonus points if you include poppies. I’m leaving that as an exercise for the student.

So, anyway, I was in Tuscany again last weekend, and although I wasn’t expecting to do much photography, I did have in mind that it would be nice to avoid the cliches, and to try to do something a little more interesting… back streets, people, details, close ups.  Of course it didn’t work. I did resist the Cypress Grove, but it was pretty tatty and the sky was dull and overcast.  But the rest, yeah, pretty much.

Detail shots take time and good ones need to say something about the bigger picture. It takes quite a while to get into the atmosphere, to relax, to listen to what a place is saying to you, and as far as Tuscany is concerned, I’m not sure that I’ve ever managed. But I quite like this photo. And I’m not telling you were it is, because I’m going back!

la fattoria

La Fattoria. Sunday, around 7:30am