INDEX

photoblogography - Just some stuff about photography

From Russia with love

albeit somewhat overdue

in Product reviews , Saturday, April 27, 2013

Well, well, look what DHL dropped off yesterday. A brand new Lomography Belair “Belairgon” 114mm lens, apparently hand machined from a solid block of aluminium by Zenith in Russia.

The packaging is quite impressive, and the lens is built like, well, something Russian. It’s quite hefty, and apart from back lens cap, which is standard Lomography low grade plastic sh*t, generally it gives a good impression. Very firm but fluid movement, well put together. Unfortunately, the companion viewfinder is of the same type as the standard Belair lenses, so absolutely hopeless. Actually, it’s worse, as for some incomprehensible reasons the hipster designers have coloured it some virulent shade of orangey-red on the inside, which reflects in the (dim and blurry) view. Awesome.

So, first impressions, without having actually used it yet, are of a lens built to a standard way above the body it fits on to. Next step will be to see if it can actually rescue the Belair by delivering some decent photos.

Personally I find “Zenith. Russia” far sexier than “Lomography”....

The focus scale is far more useful than the one on the plastic lenses. Due to the Belair design, there are only 2 aperture settings, f/8 and f/16, which is fairly useless. Coupled with the lack of any manual exposure setting, there is a strong element of chance with any Belair shot, which I suppose is what “lomography” is all about. But “spray and pray” gets pretty expensive when you’re dealing with 120 format film.

 

28mm

revisiting Ricoh

in Film , Sunday, April 21, 2013

I’ve been a long-time fan of the Ricoh GR series of cameras. This dates back to the late 90s, when I went into a shop in Central London looking for a replacement for my Minox GT, and was convinced by the salesman to try the then-new GR1 instead. Well, I was convinced, and duly took it on a tour of Venezuela, where it was scandalously mistreated (including being dropped in a river) and yet worked just fine. It also opened my eyes to the difference that a high quality lens could make, and was a major contribution to me taken photography a bit more seriously. A few years later it was joined by a GR1v and the two of them went to India with me. Eventually I gave away the GR1. I still have the GR1s, but it is fairly infirm. Ricoh introduced a digital take on the GR - logically enough, the GR Digital, or GRD, around 2004. I passed on this, but bought the follow-up GRD 2. Unfortunately, despite their very high build quality, in my experience Ricoh GRs, both film and digital, have never been all that reliable, and the GRD 2 carried on the tradition with the lens extension mechanism getting very unreliable when it was just out of warranty. Eventually I gave up on it, and bought the latest version, the GRD 4, which had a better sensor, faster lens, superb screen and sensor stabilisation.  It worked, until, largely due to brain fade on my part, it got stolen in Buenos Aires back in January. I doubt it found much interest from the fences. I was in a mind to replace it, but I couldn’t find one at a good price in this part of the world, and then the tempting Nikon Coolpix A came along.

But before I could succumb to temptation, I came across an Olympus XA for sale in a local market.

This, it turns out, was a stroke of luck in more than one way, because as well as reconnecting me with the joys of the XA series, it also saved me from spending a lot of money on a Nikon which I can now save for the imminent new Ricoh GR. While there had been some wishful thinking on various fora that a GRD 5 might turn up sometime, maybe towards the end of the year, the sudden appearance of a model that looks like it trumps the Coolpix A in every department, apparently for a lower price, is quite a surprise.

I also questioned if I really like shooting with a 28mm field of view, or if in fact I just like the fact that the GRs are wonderfully engineered and fit in my pocket.  After all, conventional internet wisdom decides that 28mm is for “street”, whatever the hell that is, or “landscape”. Well, I don’t really do street, and the only people who think that landscape exclusively means wide angle either don’t do landscape or make very boring photos. So, just to reassure myself, I had a go at resuscitating the GRD 2, and this has been partially successful. And I found a cheap secondhand Lumix 14mm (28mm equivalent) to put on the front of my Olympus PEN, for good measure. And I decided that yes, I do like 28mm, which really should not have come as a surprise.

So, in anticipation of a new Ricoh GR, here are some recent shots, all taken during lunchtime walks in the last week or so, with an old, battered and recalcitrant GRD 2. Hey, it still seems to work.

Drm 2013 03 27 0012798
Drm 2013 03 28 R0012812
Drm 2013 04 09 R0012815
Drm 2013 04 09 R0012817
Drm 2013 04 09 R0012818
Drm 2013 04 10 R0012823
Drm 2013 04 10 R0012826
Drm 2013 04 14 R0012829
Drm 2013 04 14 R0012830
Drm 2013 04 14 R0012840
Drm 2013 04 16 R0012845
Drm 2013 04 17 R0012848
Drm 2013 04 17 R0012853
Drm 2013 04 17 R0012861

 

 

 

1990 all over again

the roots of an obsession

in Film , Saturday, April 20, 2013

Many, many years ago, the first camera I ever owned - leaving aside an Agfa Instamatic I had as a child, which I barely remember - was an Olympus XA1, which I bought in Oxford St, London, when I was a University student. According to current internet lore, the XA1 was rubbish, but apart from the fact that it was all I could afford, it was good enough for me at the time. This set me off on the path towards becoming what I believe is called a full-blown Olympus fanboy - although there was to be a decade long Canon diversion in my future. Later, I bought an XA3 (slightly less crap) to take to the Antarctic, and it was the ideal camera to have at hand in the cockpit of the Twin Otter I spent most of my working hours in. Indeed, my team mate and pilot had an XA, which I coveted, although I probably was better off with the zone focussing XA3.

Anyway, both my XA1 and XA3 have long since vanished, but a few weeks ago in the local antique / junk Saturday market, which I very rarely visit, I noticed a pretty clean looking XA complete with flash. It was going for 37 Swiss Francs (about $40), which I was quite prepared to hand over, but in true Monty Python style the stall holder insisted on haggling me down to CHF 25, which was even better.

Drm 2013 04 20 EP32755

So, I bought a roll of Fuji Superia 200, which is all I could find at the time, and here are a few shots. I took a few frames for me to get used to the rangefinder and the exposure meter, but the camera doesn’t seem to have an y light leaks or other faults.  Not bad for the price.

Drm xa 0004


Drm xa 0003


Drm xa 0002


Drm xa 0001

I’m not that keen on Superia 200 - I think Kodak Portra 160, or Ektar 100, would be better, but I have to order those.  The real shock is that at least at 1-hour photo lab prices, processing a 24 Exposure roll of colour print film costs CHF 35 - more than the camera!

I scanned the negatives using Silverfast’s Superia 200 Negafix preset, but the results were very much on the cool side and nothing like the lab’s interpretation.  The Fuji Press 400 preset, on the other, was almost spot-on.  That’s one of the problems with scanning colour negative rather than positive (slide) - there’s no real reference point, and it’s all down to interpretation.

It’s fun using the Olympus XA, and the results are pretty good. But I’m not sure how relevant it remains in the digital age.

 

Antarctic panorama portfolio

12 of the best. Well, 12, anyway.

in Antarctica , Tuesday, April 16, 2013

I’ve just added a portfolio of 12 Antarctic panoramas to my photo galleries. The captions will need updating, once I can figure out where the locations really are. But that’s not terribly important. I really can’t say at this point if these area the “best” of the 200 or so candidates, but they’re a representative selection.  It really was that gloomy!

Snowhenge dot net  photography  other stuff

Now I can move on to the rest of the backlog…

 

Jackpot

penguin power?

in Photography , Sunday, April 14, 2013

I posted this image on Flickr on April 12, 2013.

adrift

At the time of writing, it has accumulated 5,356 views, 249 favourites and 53 comments, which is so far above my average rating it’s ridiculous.  I’ve been on Flickr since October 2006 and my 680 posted images have between them collected 27,263 views.  So either this is an absolute world class masterpiece, and everything else I’ve ever posted is, well, not, or it is an indication of just how unreliable social media popularity is at evaluating how good your photography is.

Now, this photo has been “selected for Explore”, the meaning of which I’m ashamed to say I don’t quite fully understand.  I’m not quite sure what Explore is, but apparently 27 of my photos have been in it - so, a hit rate of 1 in 25, which may or may not be good. But anyway, it does seem to raise visibility and sometimes popularity. Having said that, so does posting a photo from my Sigma DP2 Merrill, whatever the subject.

Perhaps it’s penguins, but then again I’ve post other penguin shots.

Anyway, at least it means that the few generous souls who regularly comment on my photos, probably to cheer me up, can take a few days off.  On the downside, I feel morally obliged to respond to all the people who’ve be kind enough to comment, write or “fave”, and so far that’s taken over 2 hours. Still, I’ve discovered some pretty good photos on the way.  Check out my own favourites to see a few of them.

I guess it will all calm down again soon enough.  It’s nice to feel popular, but I don’t think I could keep up that level of interaction for long.  I’m far too much of a miserable old git for that.

 
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