This section discusses the photographic aspects of the "Diarama" website and eBook as well as photography in general
|Analogue (wet) Photography|
|The Red Spot|
|Contemporary Digital Cameras|
|The Canalscape Trophy|
The photographs within this website and eBook are mainly sourced from my photographic archive which currently is approaching one hundred thousand images. They were taken mainly by myself, the earliest of which dates from 1967 plus some beautiful glass plate negatives dating back well over one hundred years. There are also images sourced from the Internet. My own photographs were taken on many types of cameras ranging from 5x4 large format, 6x6 and 6x9 medium format and 35mm as well as scanned flat copy.
A scan of a beautiful, 100 year old glass plate negative of Lumford Cottages, Bakewell that is in my photographic archive
Some of the more recent photographs are high quality digital images taken on my FujiFilm Finepix E550, FujiFilm Finepix S9600, Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ6 (possessing a Leica lens) and Leica D-Lux 3 cameras. A few images which were "frame grabbed" from my digital camcorder or taken on my mobile phone have found their way in as well (such is the march of technology)! The technical quality and subtlety of some of the images cannot be appreciated when reproduced here due to them having to be resized for the Internet.
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My Photographic Beginnings
The first camera that I owned was a Kodak Brownie 127 that was a present given to me by my brother Jim when I was a child. I used the camera for family photographs but not for "serious" photographs and very few images survive that were taken on this camera. This was replaced a few years later by another 127 camera... a Ferrania which possessed simple aperture, shutter speed and focussing controls. It also and had an accessory shoe and sync socket allowing use of a flash unit. When I was growing up my brother had (and still has) a keen interest in standard 8 ciné photography. Needless to say his interest rubbed off on me. Consequently, I was weaned (photographically speaking) on Bell & Howell Sundials, Autosets and Moviemasters, Eumig Mark S and DLs, Bolex C8s and 18-5s. My brother has an extensive collection of Bolex ciné cameras and projectors (of which he has nearly every model) as well as a good selection of Bell and Howell equipment.
My first camera... a Kodak Brownie 127...
... followed by a Ferrania 127 with simple controls
Bell and Howell Sundial, Moviemaster and Autoset Standard 8 ciné equipment
Bolex C8 and 18-5 Standard 8 ciné equipment
My first ciné camera was an old Bell and Howell 605C Sportster and although it had a three lens turret only had a standard and telephoto lens fitted. I only had a couple of accessories to start off with... a Minnette exposure meter and a simple tripod which I hade in metal work at school. The tripod was a pain to carry as the legs did not fold! Jim was a member of a local ciné society; the "Double Run Ciné Group" (after the way that standard 8mm film was exposed twice in the camera, later to become the "Wirral Movie Makers") and at the age of 14 I became the Club's secretary. I made many films including an award winning twelve minute film entitled "Briquette" which told the story of how house bricks are made starting with the clay being extracted from a local quarry to delivery of the finished article. The film featured a synchronised soundtrack that was initially recorded on a Fidelity Playtime reel to reel tape recorder (borrowed off Jim) before transferring to magnetic stripe complete with a commentary (part of which which I can still recite today and starts... "The first step in the brick making process is to obtain the clay. In this case it is done by bucket excavators"). This subject was chosen due to a school visit to the location that captured my imagination. To learn more about this and my interest in Local History go to "Wyre Heal - Footnote" in the Local History section of this website.
Me Perched on top of Eric Knowles' Vauxhall Victor for the 1968 Wallasey Gala Procession
(Photograph - John Lomax)
When I left school I got a job in the Photographic Department of the large Co-operative department store in Birkenhead. This gave me more money to spend on equipment and one of my first purchases was a second-hand Fi-Cord 202A reel to reel tape recorder (which required fourteen AA Duracell batteries) and a Beyer M119 microphone (supplied complete with a wooden storage case and XLR plug).
Yours truly in the Birkenhead Co-op Photographic Department - note the framed Widescreen Centre plaque to the left of the film shelves
(Photograph - James M Wood)
The Fi-cord 202A portable reel to reel tape recorder
(Photograph - www.vintagerecorders.co.uk)
Beyer Dynamic M119 Microphone
My old Bell and Howell 605c was replaced by an earlier model fitted with a trio of British Taylor, Taylor and Hobson lenses and featuring a critical focuser above the winder. It was later followed by a Bolex B8LA (similar to the one used in a recent L'Oreal TV advertisement) and an ancient Bolex H8 all fitted with beautiful Swiss Kern Yvar and Switar lenses. The projectors I have had were a dual gauge Eumig Mark S 709 (modified with Eumig DL condenser lenses to increase the light output). This was followed by a prototype Standard 8 Silma 250S not normally available in standard 8 format, capable of accepting 800 ft spools and fitted with a Kern Hi-Fi zoom lens and a Bolex 18-5 also fitted with a Kern Hi-Fi fixed and zoom lenses. I was quick to discover that working in the photographic retail trade had many advantages - including being friendly with the reps who sometimes came across unusual pieces of equipment such as the Silma 250S. I had connections with other societies such as the Widescreen Association and the Institute of Amateur Cinematographers (of which, my brother is a Fellow and retired Northwest Regional Chairman).
Bell and Howell 605c Standard 8 ciné camera fitted with three British Taylor, Taylor and Hobson lenses
Eumig Mark S 709 dual gauge sound projector
A Silma 250s and Bolex D8LA similar (see above) to those I once possessed
The Paillard Bolex logo - best seen on black leather
A Bolex C, B or D8LA used in a recent L'Oreal TV advertisement
An example of a "round base" Bolex H8
Quite a few of the films that I made were in 2 : 1 widescreen (not Cinemascope which had a aspect ratio of 2·66 : 1... too much for Standard 8 in my opinion). This involved fitting an anamorphic (or squeeze) lens on the camera and after processing the same lens was fitted to the projector to give a projected (un-squeezed) 2 to 1 aspect ratio similar to today's 16 by 9 widescreen video format. In the photograph above, the Bolex B8LA I am holding has a Delrama prismatic anamorphic lens fitted to it. My father made a metal adapter that screwed directly onto the f 1.9 Yvar lens fitted to the Bolex B8LA. I later used a Bolex Möhler which was perfectly matched to the Kern lenses and did not possess 1·5 stops light loss of the Delrama (or the annoying mark on one of the front-silvered prisms). This came with a purpose-made adapter to fit Bolex lenses and the Bolex 18-5 projector had two small studs forward of the lens for the projector bracket to fit directly without interfering with the lens's focussing just as long as the Bolex Hi-Fi zoom lens isn't fitted as the extra length fouled the bracket. Also on the 18-5 photograph will be noticed a plastic blanking plate to accommodate the extra third sprocket (which mine was fitted with) for the later version of the Bolex Sonorizer sound stripe unit that never made it into production.
A young me complete with Bolex B8LA on a ciné club outing to Lake Vyrnwy in 1969
(Photograph - James M Wood. Note the "Delrama" widescreen lens mounted on the camera lens)
The Delrama prismatic 2 : 1 anamorphic (squeeze) lens
An example of the wonderful Bolex Möhler 2 : 1 anamorphic (squeeze) lens
Close-up of the Möhler mounting bracket (forward of the lens) and the third sprocket blanking plate on a Bolex 18-5
As mentioned earlier, I possessed an early Bolex H8 (fitted with the external frame counter and Surefire Grip) but I would have liked an H8 Reflex or even one converted to Pan-8. This was basically an H16 with a masked gate with 8mm claw and "pull-down" mechanism which would give a widescreen image without having to resort to anamorphic lenses. There was also a Pan-16 format which was similar in concept but used 16mm stock (which had half the number of perforations as Standard 8mm) but had a two-step pull-down on the claw to allow for the smaller frame height. Projection was by similarly converted 16mm projectors such as the massive and heavy Bolex S321 which unfortunately did not come with the fork-lift truck required to transport it!
A beautiful late model Bolex H8 Reflex RX3 complete with the Rexofader auto-fader device and 36 EE Vario Switar zoom lens
The gargantuan Bolex S321 16mm projector (minus fork-lift truck)
By this time Super 8 had replaced Standard 8. My first Super 8 camera was a Hanimex Synchrozoom (made by Nalcolm) and featured a shutter release combined with the zoom control and a remote control socket for my Fi-cord 202A reel to reel tape recorder. The lens was a Shinkor zoom (emanating from the legendary Shinkorhara Dairy... allegedly the world's largest manufacturer of milk bottles). It did not give good results and was not in my possession for very long. It was replaced by a Bell and Howell Autoload featuring an unusual "T" shaped pistol grip. I was not impressed with the results from this camera either so I gave Fuji's Single Eight format a try. The camera was a Fujica P300... a beautifully designed reflex camera featuring a fixed focus short zoom lens. The results were excellent but the Mylar (similar to nylon) based film stock was impossible to apply magnetic stripe to and pre-striped film had to be bought which was extremely expensive. It was difficult to splice and tape splices had to be used which caused a momentary drop-out of the soundtrack when a splice passed through the Mark S 709's sound head. Dixons' "Prinzcolour" Super Eight film was made by Fuji and suffered the same problems.
Hanimex (alias Nalcolm) Synchrozoom
Super 8 Bell and Howell Autoload (note the unusual "T" grip)
Fujica P300 Single Eight camera
The equipment I desired was a Beaulieu 2008ZM or Bolex 160 Macrozoom camera complimented by either a Heurtier P6-24 (non-standard sound/frame separation and nearly as heavy as the Bolex S321 16mm projector) or Bolex SM8 sound projector - the latter a badge engineered Silma 250s, were well out of my reach financially and in 1970 ciné film prices had started to rise phenomenally to £2 for four minutes of process paid Kodachrome 25 standard 8 ciné film (£27 today).
Dream ciné equipment - Bolex Macrozoom 160 camera and a Bolex SM8 Projector...
... and a Heurtier P 6-24 and a Beaulieu 4008 ZM
Consequently, I defected to still photography although I did keep my Bolex C8, Möhler widescreen lens, Weston Master Two Cine Exposure Meter and 18-5 combination... the latter's A1 17 8volt 50 watt lamp replaced with a much needed Quartz-Halogen conversion. Even so they were rarely used as by this time I started to have a greater interest in still photography and started to take colour transparencies instead.
The beautifully simple Bolex C8
Weston Master 2 Cine Exposure Meter
After a few years at the Co-op I moved to Dixon's in Liverpool then the financial inducements of Industry beckoned and I left the photographic retail trade, but always kept in touch with latest equipment and developments although I did briefly return in the early 1980s when Jim was manager of the Photomarkets UK shop in Liverpool. Not so long ago I was reminded of my time at Dixon's when I went to the then new Jessop's shop in Liverpool for A3 photo paper. The shop had relocated from Williamson Street to Lord Street and their new location was, many years ago, the same shop that used to be Dixon's' Branch Seventy where I once worked. Sadly, Jessop's went into administration but the brand name has been resurrected by Peter Jones... the entrepreneur from BBC's "Dragons' Den". Even so, unfortunately there is no longer a shop in Liverpool.
A photograph of me whilst working at Photomarkets - Liverpool in 1981
(Photograph - James M Wood)
I still have a couple of cine cameras in my camera collection but I leave that aspect of camera kleptomania to my brother... Jim; who has examples of nearly every Bolex standard and super eight camera and projector. I do have a video camcorder though... a Panasonic NV-DS60B-S that records onto the Mini DV tape format but it doesn't get much use due to my usually using one of my digital cameras to capture what little video I take.
Panasonic NV-D560B-S Mini DV Digital Camcorder
Paillard Bolex were bought out by Eumig in the 1980's who subsequently went bankrupt when the Deutche Bank foreclosed on them after the ill fated Polavision instant movies affair. The Bolex name has been resurrected by an American company who have just announced the Bolex Digital D16 video camera. Details are sketchy but this retro-looking unit features a Super 16 sized HD image sensor, interchangeable "C" mount lenses (I have even seen a photograph on the Internet of one fitted with a Kern Switar prime lens), with a three lens "C" mount turret as an option, a very familiar looking removable pistol grip, dual CF card slots and a DNG (video equivalent of Raw) file output. Although not yet in full scale production the future looks promising for a name whose reputation is embedded in the history of cine photography but at an estimated cost of $3500 when released in 2013 only professionals and rich amateurs would be able to afford it.
A pre-production photograph of the Bolex Digital D16 video camera
(Note the familiar looking pistol grip)
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Analogue (Wet) Photography
Prior to my defecting to still photography, my first proper still camera was an Ilford Sportina Rapid that used 35mm film loaded into special "Rapid" cassettes giving sixteen square exposures from each cassette. This was followed by a Rank-Mamiya Ranger full-frame 35mm coupled rangefinder camera (Jim recently came across an excellent example, bought it and gave it to me as a present which takes pride of place on the shelf displaying my camera collection). For taking photographs indoors or in low light at first I had (and still have) a Minnette flash with a fan-style folding reflector that took PF1B bulbs or AG1B bulbs with an adapter. I graduated to a Kako Model F electronic flash unit which was one of the first electronic flash units I had seen. It had a guide number of fifteen with 100 ASA film and a fresh set of Mallory Duracell MN 1500s gave about thirty flashes. Even so it served me for many years until I bought a Unomat 5000 which featured automatic exposure, a hot shoe and was rechargeable.
My Ferrania 127 was followed by an Ilford Sportina Rapid
My first "proper" still camera... a Rank-Mamiya Ranger
Kako Model F electronic flash unit
Rondo Colormatic 35mm Compact
My first SLR was a Zenit 3M
Yours truly in 1968 complete with Zenit 3M and Rank Elektra CDS exposure meter
(Photograph - James M Wood)
After the Mamiya Ranger followed such masterpieces as a Rondo Colormatic 35mm compact with auto exposure accompanied by a Zenit (or Zenith) 3M - no instant return mirror, Zenit B (basically a 3M with an instant return mirror and leather finish) and E (a B with a built-in but not coupled lightmeter) all with f2 Helios pre-set diaphragm lenses, Praktica Nova 1PL (the "PL" stood for "Praktica Load" - a quick load system using baling wires to retain the film tail - it never failed but the camera did have a horrible hard plastic ever-ready case) with an f2·8 Meyer Domiplan lens, Rolleicord IV B (a budget Rolleiflex). I had a Minnette selenium cell light meter followed by a Rank-Elektra CDS light meter that I used for my ciné cameras that also doubled for still camera exposure measurement. As I became more serious this was replaced by a Weston Master 5 and Euromaster light meters (which I still have). My brother had an Alpa 6c and used a wonderfully neat (and accurate) Kopil clip-on CDS exposure meter with it that was attached via the accessory (flash) shoe. I always hankered after this meter and badgered him repeatedly. In the end he gave in and leant it to me on long-term loan. It lasted for many years until I bought my first Weston.
Minnette selenium cell and Rank-Elektra CDS Exposure Meters
The beautifully neat (and accurate) Kopil Clip-on CDS Exposure Meter
Zenit B with unusual leather finish instead of the corded material
Zenit E - basically a "B" with an in-built but not coupled exposure meter
Praktica Nova 1 PL fitted with 50mm f2·8 Meter Domiplan lens
Weston Master 5 and Euromaster exposure meters
Venerable classic - the Rolleicord IV B
When the Olympus 35RC was first released I working for Dixons Cameras in Liverpool. I was so impressed with it that I part-exchanged my Rolleicord 4b and Praktica equipment for one. So successful was it that I had the Olympus for over eight years (I still have an engraved example of this beautiful 35mm compact today complete with leather case and matching PS200 electronic flash unit) as it gave superb results and its built-in light meter always agreed with the Weston! An Asahi Pentax S1a (complete with clip-on CDS light meter), Praktica PLC3 (with a superb f1·8 Zeiss Pancolor lens) Kiev 4A (with an old f1·2 uncoated Zeiss Sonnar lens from a "dead" Contax 2 or 3 rangefinder), Fed 4L, Rollei 35 LED and Rollei 35 SE (fitted with a gorgeous Zeiss Sonnar lens) followed before I was lured back into the world of S.L.R's.
Olympus 35 RC
Asahi Pentax S1A
A Praktica PLC3 fitted with an f1·8 50mm Carl Zeiss Pancolor lens
Rollei 35 LED
Rollei 35 SE
Fed 4L - Russian Leica Copy
Kiev 4A with Jupiter 50mm Lens - Russian Contax Copy
Lubitel 166 - multi-format Russian copy of a Zeiss Ikon Focussing Brilliant
A "knobbly" upholstered, electronic shuttered Praktica B200 (owned very briefly after being replaced twice with the same fault... the most unreliable camera I have ever owned) was followed by two Olympus OM10's (not at the same time) for which I had the Manual Adapter, Olympus T32 dedicated electronic flash unit, Olympus Zuiko 28mm and 135mm lenses, Olympus OM1N, an Olympus XA2 (I would have likes the original XA with a coupled rangefinder and aperture priority but couldn't afford one so the simpler XA2 with the dedicated A16 electronic flash unit instead of the less powerful A11 had to suffice), Lubitel 166 multi-format twin lens reflex, Bakelite bodied copy of a Zeiss Ikon Focussing Brilliant complete with interlocking focus on the viewing and taking lenses capable of very good quality results if used sensibly and now available again in a 35mm/6 x 4·5/6 x 6 version for nearly £300 from the Lomography website), Zorki 4K (the poor man's Leica), dual format Ensign Ranger (6 x 6 and 6 x 9, fitted with an un-coupled rangefinder), Yashicamat 124G (a Japanese classic twin lens reflex with an excellent lens), Calumet 5x4, Kodak Retina 2S (well engineered rangefinder camera from Kodak Stuttgart with an excellent Schneider Xenar lens), Rolleiflex 3.5E, Asahi Pentax K1000 (which I could use with M42 screw lenses via an adapter), Alpa 6B and 6C (the f1·8 Kern Switar is without doubt one of the finest optical quality lenses according to MTF curves and resolution tests. It knocked my f2·4 35mm Zeiss Flektagon wide angle lens for six!) and the Alpa body the best engineered 35mm S.L.R's of all time), Olympus 35SP (a "grown-up" 35RC with a brilliant f1·7 42mm lens - odd focal length) and last but by no means least, a Canon EOS 600 (with dedicated Cobra 700 AF hammerhead electronic flash unit), which was my last "analogue" camera and one of the most competent film cameras that I have ever used and an ultra-sharp lens with really quick ultrasonic motor driven auto focus. I had religiously used various Weston Master IV, Master V and Euromaster light meters since my ciné days in the 1960s. I usually took "duplex" readings (the average between incident and reflected readings) and it was only when I started to use the Canon EOS 600 that I retired the Weston, such was the accuracy of its seven-point light metering system... similar in theory to the Zone System as devised by Ansell Adams - the renowned American landscape photographer. Another essential piece of equipment was my trusty Sunpak Auto 33 flash unit which I possessed for may years which was replaced with an Olympus T32 TTL flash unit when I had the Olympus OM10 and OM1n cameras. When the OM1n was part exchanged the T32 was replaced with a Vivitar 285 flash unit which gave sterling service until I bought the Canon EOS 600.
To go with the EOS 600 I bought a Cobra 700 AF dedicated flash unit. This featured TTL exposure control, a remote auto focus illuminator and flash bracket complete with handgrip. It gave sterling service and was in my collection until very recently. One item that I always wanted was the supplementary turret viewfinder made by the manufacturers of Fed/Kiev/Zorki cameras to go with the Jupiter wide angle and telephoto lenses for these cameras. Unfortunately, I was not able to afford this piece of equipment when I needed it. I came across a Cosmic Symbol also known as the Cosmic 35 to leave in the car. This cheaply made Russian Bakelite camera is the 35mm equivalent of the Lubitel and also capable of excellent results.
Sunpak Auto 33 electronic flash unit
The "knobbly" Praktica B200 was the most unreliable camera I have ever owned
Olympus OM10 complete with Manual Adapter
Olympus XA2 Compact
Japanese classic 6 x 6 twin lens reflex - the Yashicamat 124G
Olympus T32 Electronic Flash Unit
The dual format Ensign Selfix Ranger takes 6 x 6 and 6 x 9 photographs
Zorki 4K - Russian Leica Copy
Russian Supplementary Turret Viewfinder
Kodak Retina IIS - one of the best from Kodak Stuttgart
The beautifully simple Asahi Pentax K1000
Calumet 5 x 4 monorail plate camera
A hand-made Swiss Alpa 6b - one of the finest 35mm SLRs ever made
Vivitar 285 Electronic Flash Unit
Olympus 35 SP - a "grown-up" 35 RC
Russian Cosmic Symbol also known as the Cosmic 35
Canon EOS 600
Cobra 700 AF dedicated, convertible electronic flash unit
Some of the cameras and light meters in my collection
I look back at some of the "analogue" cameras that I have owned with fondness... especially the handmade Swiss Alpa with their beautiful Kern Macro Switar lenses, the Rolleiflex 3·5E and even some of the Russian equipment, more for the pleasure of using them than the quality. One 35mm camera that I have never owned is a Leica although my brother has a collection of them. I have used 35mm Leicas on many occasions but they do not possess the indefinable "magic" that the Alpa did. Whilst on the subject of the Alpa... this is a make of camera that most photographers will not have heard of due to their being very exclusive and expensive. It was once said that a Leica's shutter sounded like two pieces of velvet rubbing together. The Alpa sounds much the same but with the addition of a little mirror bounce! They were individually hand-built in Switzerland by Pignons SA... a major watch component manufacturer under the corporate umbrella of Paillard Corporation who also held Bolex in their portfolio as well as the matching Swiss Kern lenses.
The ultimate Alpa SLR... a gold plated 11si
My brother Jim used to work for James McKenzie's Photographic and Hi-Fi shop in Birkenhead who were Alpa main dealers. When someone wanted to order one they were given a dummy body and various weights were fitted into it to ascertain what material the casting was made from. There was a choice of image formats 11·5 x 16·5 (microfiche) to half-frame for specialist surveillance and time-lapse applications (usually fitted with a radio-controlled motor drive and a 100 ft bulk film magazine) but the full frame 24 x 36 was normally specified. The shutter speeds and lens apertures could be requested in either Imperial or Metric calibrations to match one's exposure meter. The exterior finish could be either black or chrome with 18 carat gold plating - matt or gloss) as an option with lizard skin replacing the soft black or brown leather. A unique selling point of the Alpa (not that it needed one) was that lenses from many different camera and lens manufacturers could be fitted via adapter plates. They didn't come cheaply and the last limited edition 11si models could be as much as £5000! Alpa were not the only manufacturer to offer gold-plated versions of their cameras, Rollei, Leica, Minox and Nikon have also offered limited edition specials as well. The experienced photographic technician can always tell a negative or transparency taken on an Alpa due to the two small cut-outs (similar to those used on sheet film) in the right and left hand corners of the image. As far as I am aware they are the only manufacturer to have done this.
The extremely rare Alpa Rotocam
A revolutionary (literally) product manufactured by Alpa was the Rotocam. This was the only Alpa to use medium format film and it captured images ranging from 90˚ to 360˚ on either 120 roll film (1 360˚ exposure), 200 film (3 360˚ exposures) or 70mm film (9 360˚ exposures). This virtually unique camera is sought after by camera enthusiasts all over the world and when one comes onto the market they usually command a high price. Alpa went bankrupt in 1990 although the name has been bought and cameras are again produced bearing the Alpa name but they are somewhat different in concept to the classic 35mm designs of yesteryear. More about the new Alpas in the Digital Photography section below.
A wonderful collection of Alpas belonging to a Japanese collector
A classic Leica M6 35mm rangefinder camera
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I had been playing around with a simple electronic circuit I had built to synchronise my slide projector I with a piece of music using a Commodore Vic 20 computer. A simple computer programme using poke commands at various time intervals pulsed the computer's RS232 port to which was connected a simple circuit consisting of an opto-isolator feeding an operational amplifier driving a solid state relay which activated the slide projector's slide change mechanism at a pre-determined point in time. The experiment worked reasonably well but was fiddly to set-up initially. I demonstrated it to a couple of photographic societies (Bidston Steel Camera Club and Wallasey Fire Brigade Photographic Society) with a small presentation entitled "A Winter's Walk" which was photographs of snow changed in time with Davis Essex's song by the same title. In December 1985 was asked to give a slide show about the Bridgewater Canal to Preston Brook Boat Owners' Association at Preston Brook Village Hall. I decided not to use my computer-driven slide synchroniser but instead changed the slides manually which was easier than it at first sounds after a few practice runs. The audio side of the presentation consisted of a soundtrack recorded on TDK Super Avilyn cassettes played on my JVC KD 10B cassette deck feeding an old Teleton Hi-Fi amplifier (with built-in Hafler circuit) which drove my beautiful Rigonda bass reflex loudspeakers (based on the design for Wharfedale Lintons). The show was a great success and paved the way for future presentations. I made title slides for the presentations, tidied-up the soundtrack and came across an inexpensive Philips slide synchroniser and matching N2214 cassette recorder fitted with a third head and interface unit specifically for the slide change beeps that managed the task very well. The soundtrack was only monaural and not quite what you could call hi-fi but, when working on a budget you can't have everything! I then started giving Canal and Inland Waterway related Audio/Visual presentations to various societies which I found most stimulating as well as giving pleasure to interested parties. Initially, I used a single Braun Novamat 520 manual focus slide projector synchronised by the Philips unit. The Novamat only had a 24 volt 150 watt lamp and quite often I felt the need for better illumination.
Braun Novamat 520 slide projector
Philips Cassette/Slide Synchroniser
Phillips N2214 Cassette Recorder
This need for more illumination and autofocus (to compensate for "popping" as the transparent heats up and expands) coupled with time my quest for better quality and professionalism necessitated the purchase of a pair of Braun Paximat Multimag 2500 AFS projectors. Initial tests illustrated that there was too much parallax error between the optical axis of the lenses to have the projectors side by side so I had a twinning stand made so that the two projectors could be stacked to minimise this effect. The signal and sound source was originally an old Tascam Porta One which didn't record but was excellent for playback. So by using the old Philips unit to record the beeps I was able to produce fixed speed dissolves to a reasonable standard. I came across an Electrosonic Showpulse ES 3006 slide synchroniser and fitted thyristors with heat sinks in the 250 watt lamp circuits of the Paximats and this unit allowed more control over the projectors but only had a fixed dissolve rate. The Tascam was replaced by a Vestax MR 300 four track cassette deck. The audio performance of the Vestax was excellent but not very reliable. The tape "cobbled" (technical term for a tape malfunction) whilst showing presentations at Whichurch Photographic Society. This was the only time I was let-down by equipment failure. Fortunately I had taken the Tascam with me and, after rescuing the cassette and re-synchronizing the presentation, I was able to continue. This didn't instil confidence in the Vestax or alleviate the embarrassment caused by the tape "cobble".
Braun Paximat Projectors on their twinned stand
Electrosonic Showpulse ES 3006 Dissolve Unit
Tascam Porta One Multi-track Cassette Deck
Vestax MR 300 Multi-track Cassette Deck
Eventually, the Vestax was replaced by a Tascam Portastudio 07 hi-speed, four-track cassette deck which gave a significant increase in sound quality. The only down-side to the Porta 07 was that a C90 cassette lasted for twenty two and a half minutes as against forty five for a standard full-width cassette. As with the previous units, tracks A and C provided the hi-fi sound source, track two fed the dissolve signal to the Electrosonic unit and track three as a buffer track preventing cross-talk from the audio and dissolve signals. Another Electrosonic dissolve unit... a Gemini was given to me. This dissolve unit allowed infinite control of the dissolve rate, slide changes, etc. It had an in-built, standard speed cassette deck which was broken (hence it being given to me). Rather than fiddle around with it I used the Tascam as the signal source which had much better sound quality anyway. TDK MA-X metal tapes combined with the DBX noise reduction system on the Tascam produced a clean and dynamic hi-fi sound source. This was amplified by my super-smooth Denon PMA 350 (now replaced by a PMA 355 UK) which in turn drives a pair of Jamo 266 loudspeakers (featuring incredibly "bassy" 12 inch drive units), the sound quality from which has stood the test of time and is still phenomenal in these days of digital sound. As the presentations got longer I perfected a means of replacing the Gepe 50 slide magazines half-way through a presentation without any interruption to the show by adding a blank slide to the end of the magazine, bringing up the following magazine onto the ski-slope and advancing the slide change manually whilst a slide was shown on the other projector for an extended period of time. Some of the presentations lasted longer than the twenty two and a half minutes of tape afforded by the Porta 07. Thus necessitating an interval which also gave the lamps and thyristors a chance to cool down.
Tascam Porta 07 four track high-speed cassette deck and mixer
Electrosonic Gemini Dissolve Unit
Denon PMA 355 UK hi-fi amplifier
Jamo D 266 loudspeaker
As previously mentioned, my first a/v presentations were canal-orientated but I found myself taking an increasing number of local interest photographs of Wallasey and the Wirral and putting them into presentations dealing with not only the geography of the area but, when I started to integrate commentaries into the soundtracks, historical subjects such as Birkenhead Priory and Hilbre Islands were covered as well. I regularly gave presentations to students, friends and fellow boaters and once filled every seat in Wirral Metropolitan College's Rake Theatre attached to the Withens Lane Campus in Wallasey. Using the cyclorama (basically a large plain white curtain) as a screen I could project images up to twenty five feet across with ease thanks to the 250 watt Xenophot lamps fitted to the Paximats. I also have given presentations to Wallasey Amateur Photographic Society, Birkenhead Historical Society and many canal societies and boat clubs not only on the Bridgewater Canal but as far afield as Walsall to the Birmingham Canal Navigations Society and the Hill Valley Golf Club near Grindley Brook for Whichurch Photographic Society. When staff at Wirral Metropolitan College where I worked saw the presentations I was asked to produce a series of A/V presentations for the Northwest Manager of the Year for the Management Charter Initiative. I produced the presentations for three years running and showed the presentations at many venues ranging from Wirral Metropolitan College's Glenda Jackson Theatre to Chester Racecourse. Below is a list of some of the presentations that I have made and a brief details of them.
|Title||Subject||Commentary||Music||Number of Images|
|A Winters' Walk||
Experimental Pictorial Essay on Winter Photography
|No||David Essex - A Winter's Tale||30|
|The Duke's Cut||Bridgewater Canal||No||London Symphony Orchestra's "Classic Rock" - Various||400|
|Canalscape||Pictorial Essay||No||Enya - Watermark and Orinoco Flow||100|
|Canalscape - Later Version||Pictorial Essay||Yes||Mike Oldfield and Enya - Various||120|
|Wealas Eye||Boundaries of Wallasey||No||Rondo Veneziano - Venice in Peril||200|
|Peninsula||Boundaries of the Wirral Peninsula||No||Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra - Various||300|
|This is Diarama||Audio/Visual Equipment and Techniques||Yes||Royal Philharmonic Orchestra - Thus Sprach Zarathustra||50|
|Carscape||Pictorial Essay about Classic Car Design||No||London Symphony Orchestra - its A Sin||80|
|Birkenhead Priory||Birkenhead Priory||Yes||The Academy of St Martins in the Field and Enigma - Various||200|
|Hilbre - The Cheshire Islands||Hilbre Islands||Yes||Enya - Various||100|
|Liverpool Anglican Cathedral||Liverpool Anglican Cathedral||No||Professor Iain Tracey - Two Toccatas||100|
|The Mersey Ring||Merseyside and North Cheshire canals||No||London Symphony Orchestra's "Classic Rock" - Various||600|
|Landscape||Pictorial Essay about Landscape Photographs||No||Union - World in Union||50|
|Nocturne||Pictorial Essay about Night-time Photography||No||Paul Brooks - Music of the Night||50|
|Fractal||Mandelbrot Sets (CGI Fractal Images)||No||Jean-Michel Jarre - Equinox||50|
|War of the Worlds||War of the Worlds||No||Jeff Wayne - Prologue and Main Title||50|
|Manager of the Year||Management Charter Initiative 1992/3/4||Yes||Mike Oldfield. - Sentinel||100|
|For Future Presentation||Trailers||No||Various Artists - Various Tracks||50|
|Steamscape||Don Breckon's Railway Paintings||No||Eric Coates - Coronation Scot||40|
|Wind of Change||Pictorial Essay about Wallasey and Birkenhead Docks||No||London Symphony Orchestra's "Classic Rock" - Various||100|
|Bidston Hill and Village||Pictorial Essay about Bidston Hill and Village||No||Enigma - Callas Went Away||50|
|Seasons in Central Park||Pictorial Essay about Wallasey's Central Park||Yes||Paul Brooks - Various||80|
|Wallasey Revisited||Old and modern photographs of Wallasey||No||Various Artists - Various Tracks||100|
|Mersey Ferries||History of the Mersey Ferries||Yes||Various Artists (not Gerry Marsden!) - Various Tracks||100|
|The Big Ditch||History & Geography of the Manchester Ship Canal||Yes||Various Artists - Various Tracks||300|
At the time of writing I am slowly converting my collection of audio/visual presentations into digital format which will allow me to run the presentations from my laptop using the slide show feature found within Adobe Photoshop. This coupled with a digital projector and digital sound making it even better than the Tascam did as well as outputting to DVD authoring programs (for showing on TV) such as Adobe Premier. The scanning of 35mm transparencies is accomplished with a Microtek Filmscan 35 negative/slide scanner. For the medium (6 x 6, 6 x 7 and 6 x 9) and large (5 x 4) format negatives, transparencies and glass plates an Epson V700 reflection/transmission flatbed scanner is used and the flat copy scanned on an Epson Perfection 2480 flatbed. Many of the transparencies were starting to show signs of ageing (bacterial growth on the emulsion and fading) and I think that the time is ripe for accomplishing this exercise before the images degrade any further.
Epson Perfection V500 flatbed scanner capable of scanning medium format and large format negatives, transparencies and glass plates
Scanning transparencies using a Microtek Filmscan 35 and a Toshiba L500 laptop
A screen shot of the Adobe Photoshop Slide Show Editor
This process also allows the inclusion of digital video clips plus many images from the "Duke's Cut", "Big Ditch" and "Mersey Connections" publications as well as digital images from the "Canalscape" and "Diarama" websites that were not previously included. I gave my first all-digital presentation in March 2012 and it was a revelation. The digital sound was superb and the Sony VPL CS7 data projector used was most certainly up to the job as far as brightness (1500 Ansi Lumens) and resolution SVGA) is concerned. This presentation consisted of video and multi-media , which was shown at Lymm Cruising Club where the Clubhouse was converted into the "Lymm Odeon" for the night, was a great success and is hopefully, the first of many.
The auditorium of the "Lymm Odeon"
The Sony VPL CS7 video projector...
... and the rest of the presentation equipment used at the "Lymm Odeon"
What I like about audio/visual is that it brings together two of my interests... photography and hi-fi (five if you include canals, local history and computers). Eric Knowles... an old friend from my ciné photography days now sadly no longer with us once said that photographers who produce audio/visual presentations are usually frustrated ciné photographers. And if my example is anything to go by he was most probably correct!
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Between 1982 and 1985 I was working in a steel mill for a time (Bidston Steel) and started a photographic club for colleagues interested in the subject. In 1985 the steel mill closed and after being made redundant I, along with a couple of colleagues that were in the Bidston Steel Photographic Club enrolled on a full-time photography course at Wirral Metropolitan College. Even though I knew quite a lot about photographic theory and made my first black and white print for the ciné club newsletter when I was fourteen, the College introduced me to large format photography, I was taught strict darkroom practices and learnt about classic photographers such as the previously mentioned Ansell Adams as well as Edward Weston, John Blakemore, Faye Godwin and many others. The reader may notice that all the photographers mentioned are landscape photographers as that is where my preferences lie. I do know about portrait or people photographers such as Henri Cartier Bresson, Paul Strand, Dorothea Lange and others and admire their work. That is not to say that I cannot take studio photograph or portraits... it is just that I prefer not to as the landscape holds more magic for me and an added bonus is that it does not move or answer back! Below are a few of my favourite photographs taken by a selection of world-renowned photographers.
View from the Window at Le Gras - Generally accepted as the earliest surviving photographic image - Nicéphore Niépcé - 1826
Boulevard du Temple - First photograph capturing a person - Louis Daguerre - 1838 (mirror image)
Latticed Window at Laycock Abbey - Oldest photographic negative (Calotype) in existence - William Henry Fox-Talbot - 1835
Fading Away - the first photo montage composite image (albumen print) from five negatives - Henry Peach-Robinson - 1858
Sir John Herschel (albumen print from a wet collodion negative) - Julia Margaret Cameron - 1867
George Eastman and Kodak Brownie (taken on a Kodak Brownie) on board SS Gallia - Frederick Church - 1890
Winter, Fifth Avenue, New York - Alfred Stieglitz - 1893
Nautilus Shell - Edward Weston - 1927
Brooklyn Bridge - Walker Evans - 1929
Boy on Bicycle - Henri Cartier-Bresson - 1932
Mirror Lake, Yosemite National Park - Ansel Adams - 1935
Migrant Mother - Dorothea Lange - 1936
Airship Mooring - Edward Steichen - 1941
French Boy - Paul Strand - 1951
Hotshot, Eastbound at the Iaeger Drive-in - O Winston Link - 1956
Reedy Loch - Fay Godwin - 1985
Stockport Viaduct - John Davies - 1986
Scrap Yard - Wayne Mitchelson - 2008
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I was asked to stay at Wirral Met when the course was completed to become employed as a part-time lecturer (for which I qualified after studying another course) before accepting a post as Photographic Technician/Lecturer. I was responsible for processing all types of monochrome and colour films in sizes ranging from ½ frame 35mm, 5 x 4 to 10 x 8 sheet film and occasionally 16mm motion picture film using the stock processes of the day... D76/Dektol for monochrome, C41 colour negative, RA4 colour print and E6 colour transparency. My C41 and E6 control strips were better than Kodak and Fuji's with a unique timing process utilising cassette tapes with one second "beeps" to maintain even agitation and a commentary for the "ProCo" processor bath sequence ("Into First Developer at the tone!"). I have even processed Kodak Technical Pan and Kodachrome as monochrome transparencies, Kodak monochrome Infra-Red, Ektachrome E4 Colour Infra Red Transparency and C22 Colour Negative film as well as EP2 and Cibachrome colour printing processes and associated equipment. Colour negative (C41) processing was accomplished in an automatic Divomat "dip and dunk" unit with automatic replenishment. In the colour printing darkrooms we had beautiful DeVere 504 colour enlargers fitted with Dichromat heads and the same chassis in the monochrome printing rooms fitted with Multigrade heads. Colour print processing was (RA4) accommodated with a Colenta continuous roller processing unit. I am a qualified College Lecturer and have taught on many courses associated with Photography and Media Studies as well as regularly visiting Photographic Societies to give talks and presentations on various aspects of Photographic Theory and Practice.
Yours truly demonstrating the ProCo E6 film processor to students in 1988... note the large format 5x4 transparencies
(Photograph - George Jones)
Divomat Mini C41 film processor
DeVere 504 enlarger with Dichromat colour head
Colenta RA4 print processor
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The first digital camera that I ever saw was a digital Leaf back fitted to a Sinar 5 x 4 monorail camera at College. I was not very impressed by the amount of equipment needed by the photographer (this was the price to be paid for instant digital images at that time) but the results were truly remarkable... far superior than the primitive Polaroids previously used for proofing. The first digital camera that I ever used was a Sony Mavica MVC-FD73 that my youngest son Glyn had borrowed from work. This early digital camera stored about 25 low-resolution (VGA - 640 x 480 = 0·3 megapixels) images in standard mode on a 3·5 inch floppy disc. At around £500 the quality of the resulting images was not seen to be good value for money but it did illustrate the way that photography was to go.
The 0·3 megapixel (VGA) Sony Mavica MVC-FD73 featured 3·5" floppy disc image storage
My wife Ange has connections with photography... she used to work for Max Spielmann - the photo processors and in the early 2000's brought home a "Jamcam"... one of the first affordable (£39.95) digital cameras for evaluation which also shot images in VGA. In these days of 12 plus megapixels being the norm, 0·3 megapixels does not seem much and I was not impressed by the results which lacked contrast, colour saturation and definition. I suspected that the fixed-focus lens came from the aforementioned legendary Shinkorhara Dairy in Hong Kong (the world's largest manufacturer of milk bottles and located next door to Haking's Halina factory) and that the sensor was sourced from a video camcorder and converted to give still image capture. It did not possess a display to view the images taken... you had to wait until they were downloaded onto the computer to see them but it did possess a small LCD display to tell the photographer how many images had been taken. But it was one of the first affordable digital camera around and this has to be respected.
The 0·3 megapixel (VGA) Jam Cam - an early consumer digital camera
With so many film manufacturers stopping production of film adding to the difficulty of purchasing fresh film stock, plus the spiralling costs of film and processing it is not surprising that so many of these classic cameras are now lying in cupboards, wardrobes and lofts, unloved and unused. It is a pity that the prototype "Digital Film" unit illustrated below announced in 2001 featuring what looks like a 1·3 megapixel, APS sized sensor manufactured by by Silicon Film did not make it into full scale production as it would give old analogue film equipment a new lease of life and bring them up to date for use in today's world of electronic media (see the PMA 2001 website for further details).
Digital film such as the 1·3 megapixel Silicon Film prototype above would breath a new lease of life to redundant 35mm cameras
In April 2011 a similar concept to the Digital Film mentioned above was unveiled in the shape of the RE-35 Digital Film Cassette. A flexible CCD sensor was withdrawn from what looked like a conventional 35mm film cassette and placed in a camera of your choice. It was recharged via a USB cable from a PC or Mac when the images were downloaded and was available in three different resolutions... 4 mp, 8 mp and 12 mp on what looks like a full-sized sensor. Unfortunately it turned out to be an April Fool and I was caught hook, line and sinker (for the second time in two years... see Canalscape Book 6 - Canalmanac 2010 - "Good Ship Google"). Like most April Fool Pranks it was most plausible as most of the technology is currently available and hopefully, would not be too expensive. Somebody has gone to a lot of trouble making the mock-up cassettes and promotional material and you never know, some enterprising manufacturer might pursue this idea fulfilling many photographers' dreams. Still... we can all dream can't we?
The RE-35 was available in three different resolutions... 4, 8 and 12 megapixels
The RE-35 inserted into a Canon A1 (left) and plugged into the USB lead (right)
I had kept abreast in developments (sic) regarding digital cameras and in 2004 I decided to take the plunge into Digital Photography. After reading numerous magazines and websites I had settled on a Fujifilm Finepix F610. This camera has a 12 megapixel (interpolated) feature and seemed to do everything that I wanted from a camera. I had calculated that full-frame (24mm x 36mm) 35mm film had an approximate resolution of 19.4 megapixels. Bearing this in mind it would be fair to assume that a digital camera would produce images of half the quality of full-frame 35mm film. Not so... when viewing a digital image that has been printed the ink splatter masks the lack of resolution. If the image is viewed on a monitor the quality is also masked by the lower resolution of the monitor. Either way the lower resolution should not be visible. This figure is arrived at in the following way... assuming that film has a resolution of 150 lines per millimetre... (24 x 150 = 3600) x (36 x 150 = 5400) = 19,440,000 or 19·4 megapixels. Early digital Leica cameras were very similar to the Fujifilm 4700 and F610... not surprising seeing as they were made for them by Fujifilm (see The Red Spot chapter below). My only worry was the way the camera handled with its unusual "vertical" format. In desperation I telephoned Fujifilm's Customer Service Department and spoke to one of the staff who seemed very well versed in their products and told me that whilst they could not tell me if they had any traditionally designed digital cameras in the pipeline he advised me to look at their website the following Wednesday. This I did, and there was a host of new models announced at the same time... namely the Finepix F810 (widescreen), E500, E510 and E550.
The "vertical" format 12 megapixel Fujifilm Finepix F610
One of the cameras on my possibles list... the unusually styled, widescreen, the 12 megapixel Fujifilm F810
The 12 megapixel E550 seemed to fit the bill as it was compact, versatile, possessed a reasonable zoom range and the specification was reinforced by good camera tests in the magazines. It had an optical viewfinder to supplement the LCD display and even took "AA" sized batteries. All I had to do was wait until September when it was due to hit the shops. I made numerous telephone calls to various photographic retailers and the first shop due to have the E550 in stock was Equipment Express of Altrincham. After quite a few telephone calls to them enquiring as to whether it had arrived in stock yet I was told that they had one put away with my name on it. Consequently I took the afternoon off work and drove up to Altrincham. I walked into the shop and when I told them who I was the assistant said to me... "I imagine that you've come for this", bent down and produced the sealed and unopened box from beneath the counter which contained an E550. I opened the box and after holding the camera for a few seconds I produced my Visa card. I was soon the proud owner of the first Fujifilm Finepix E550 to be sold in the North West of England.
The 12 megapixel Fujifilm E550 and wide angle lens
The resulting photographs most certainly matched the promise that the specifications made. My brother... Jim was so impressed by the camera that he also purchased one. One of the first photographs that I took on the E550 was of the Historic Warships in Wallasey Docks. I used the full 12 megapixel resolution and was blown away by the results... you can even tell the time (5.15) with ease on the Liver Building's clock in the distance (to the right of the building - if you can find it). I have since purchased the docking station, extra-wide-angle supplementary lens as well as many other dedicated accessories for it. It accompanied me virtually everywhere... ready for action.
This photograph of the Historic Warships in Wallasey Docks in 2004 was the first taken on my Fujifilm E550
The E550 was supplemented by a Fujifilm S9600 digital "bridge" camera. I first saw its predecessor... the S9500 on special offer in our local Asda. I was drawn to the "SLR look" of the camera (known as a "bridge" camera as it bridges the gap between compact and SLR cameras) and, as with the E550, I was impressed with the handling and the way that all the controls fell to hand. After doing some homework I discovered that the S9500 had been replaced with the S9600 which I found on the Internet for a reasonable price and the order was placed. The quality of the resulting images exceeded those of the E550. It has a superb 28mm to 300mm (equivalent) lens, an eye-level electronic viewfinder (essential for when the sun is behind the photographer and "bleaching-out" the view screen) in addition to a really versatile tilting view screen that is extremely beneficial for low or high (over the head) viewpoints. It possesses most of the features found on a digital SLR without the dust, weight and size problems associated with them.
The 9 megapixel Fujifilm S9600 and Metz 36 C-2
Yours truly with the Fujifilm S9600
Most digital cameras feature a built-in electronic flash unit. They are pretty rudimentary and very limited in their output, being designed for subjects no further than a couple of metres. Unusually, the S9600 possesses a flash "hot shoe" and coaxial sync socket allowing the use of a separate flash unit. Unfortunately, the Cobra flash unit that I used with my Canon Eos 600 was not suitable and did not have manual over-ride either so I purchased a Metz 36 C-2 to compliment the S9600. The Metz 36 C-2 is extremely powerful (having a guide number of 36 in feet @ 100/21 ISO) giving off enough light to illuminate the inside of Preston Brook Tunnel as illustrated in the photograph below. I can even use it with the E550 with an ordinary slave unit (no pre-flash - see below) with excellent results. The Fujifilm S9600 is very competent instrument indeed and I hope that it will continue to provide high-quality digital images for many years to come!
The "Cathedral" within Preston Brook Tunnel on the Bridgewater Canal illuminated by my supplementary electronic flash unit
The Fujifilm E550 had been with me for eight years and was starting to show its age. I had always wanted a Leica and for Christmas 2012 my wife Ange bought me a Leica D-Lux 3. This camera is beautifully minimalist and reminiscent of the original 35mm Leica 0. The Vario-Elmarit lens is fantastic even though the 10·1 megapixel count is relatively conservative by today's standards. Photographs that I have taken with it show that this camera has the potential to take absolutely superb results. Leica go to great pains to explain that digital cameras are not just about megapixels and I can see why. I am really looking forward to exploiting the qualities of this beautiful camera in years to come.
The beautifully minimalist 10·1 megapixel Leica D-Lux 3
Sunrise from Egremont Ferry - one of the first photographs taken with the Leica D-Lux 3
Early in the New Year I acquired a Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ6 that also featured a 10·1 megapixel sensor and a Leica lens. This camera also gives superb results (but not as good as the Leica D-Lux 3). With this being so slim and "pocketable" I decided to retire my faithful E550 to the display cabinet and use the Panasonic as my "day-to-day" camera. Even though these two cameras appear to have similar specifications the Leica has a "native" aspect ratio of 16 x 9 (widescreen) and when other formats are selected the resolution is reduces to seven megapixels in 4 x 3 format. The Panasonic however has a "native" aspect ratio of 4 x 3 in which it gives full 10·1 megapixel resolution which is reduced to seven megapixels when 16 x 9 is selected. It is a shame that the Leica and Panasonic do not share the same size battery and charger or USB lead fitting, but you can't have everything!
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ6
One of the first photographs taken with the Lumix DMC-TZ6 - Morpeth Dock, Birkenhead
One problem that I encountered with both these cameras is synchronizing them with my Metz flash unit. The S9600 possesses a "hot shoe" in addition to a "PC" (Prontor/Compur) flash sync. socket plus the ability to switch off the pre-flash - the digital equivalent of through the lens flash metering. The Leica and the Panasonic possess neither of these so if I want to use the Metz with them it has to be triggered by a slave unit. Initial experiments showed that both these cameras fire a pre-flash for exposure assessment as well as for red eye reduction. The red eye reduction pre-flash can be switched off but the slave will still trigger the flash unit prematurely on the exposure assessment pre-flash. What is required is a flash unit or slave unit that ignores the pre-flash and fires on the main flash. The flash units that possess this facility range from a cheap (£20) Chinese unit with a guide number of about fifteen or a Metz costing over £100 also with a lower guide number (28) than my Metz 36 C-2. There are a couple of slave units on the market that can also do this. A cheap (£12) one is available on eBay that delays the flash sensing by a variable amount of time in milliseconds. Another more expensive (from £35) and sophisticated model is manufactured by Sunpak... the DSU-01, which can be set to ignore the pre-flash which seems to be a better, if not more expensive solution to the problem and is the one that I bought. The Sunpak can be set to ignore up to three pre-flashes and fire on the fourth and can be fitted to a tripod, lighting stand or flash bar via the tripod bush screw hole beneath it. It is truly the answer to a digital photographer's prayer!
Leica D-Lux 3, Metz 36 C-2 and Sunpak DSU-01 digital slave unit (also inset)
In addition to the Metz flash unit and the Sunpak DSU-01 mentioned earlier, two invaluable accessories that accompany me on my photographic wanderings are my Manfrotto 055/115 tripod/head combination (it will and has accommodated a 5 x 4 monorail camera) and a Billingham Hadley camera bag. They are examples of "equipment for life" that whilst not cheap, should literally last a lifetime such is the standard of construction and I would recommend them to anyone.
"Equipment For Life"... Manfrotto 055/115 tripod and Billingham Hadley camera bag
Even though I have various photo editing programs on the computer such as Adobe Photoshop and Coral Paint Shop Pro, I try, wherever possible, not to "doctor" my digital photographs (except for some occasional cropping) and present them "as taken". I think that this dates back to using colour transparencies where any editing was not possible without printing, modifying and then re-photographing... all with the inevitable loss of quality. All my cameras have the ability to take photographs in the RAW file format but I choose to let the image processor within the cameras do the work as I feel that they will be better at assessing the various criteria that can be altered manually when shooting in the RAW file format.
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The Red Spot
I make no excuse for dedicating a section of the website to Leica. This is my favourite make of camera and produce what is considered by many to be the best cameras on the market today (but not necessarily the cheapest!). Thought by many to be the first 35mm camera (not so) the original Oskar Barnack design has stood the test of time and the modern M series digital cameras can trace their heritage back to the original Leica prototype of 1913. He originally designed the camera to be small enough to accompany him on his mountaineering expeditions and to use off-cuts of 35mm film that he obtained from movie studios. The film was loaded into a cassette and was advanced into a second cassette which was opened in the darkroom for processing. He worked for optical manufacturer Ernst Leitz and persuaded his employer to manufacture a prototype camera... the UR Leica of 1914. This was followed by the Leica 1 which was put into limited production.
Oscar Barnack's prototype 35mm camera - the UR Leica
This original Leica 0 was recently sold for £1·7 million making it the most expensive camera ever
This replica is not as valuable as the original but is still as beautiful and according to Leica...
...was the inspiration behind the beautifully minimalist 10·1 megapixel Leica D-Lux 3
Leica 1A circa 1925
This camera proved to be so successful that it was modified and developed and put into full scale production after the First World War as the Leica 1. The name Leica is derived from the "Lei" in Leitz followed by "ca" from camera. The camera had a fixed lens and in 1932 the Leica 11 was produced featuring interchangeable lenses. The legendary f3·5 Elmar "pull-out" lens was also adopted around this time. Over the years this design was further refined with a coupled rangefinder and extended shutter speed range. After the Second World War many manufacturers had access to the Leica designs and many imitations were produced such as the British Reid, Russian Fed and Zorki, etc.
Leica 11A of 1935
Screw mount Leicas such as this 111C were produced well into the 1950s
The ultimate screw thread Leica... the 111G
However Leica continued refining and producing their screw thread cameras culminating in the 111G until the M series of cameras were launched in 1954 which featured a sleeker design and a new bayonet lend mount. The M series was continually developed to culminate in the M7 and MP up to 2008 but the digital M8 was released in 2006. Along the way Standard Eight and Super Eight ciné cameras were developed as well as SLR models plus other compacts such as the CL... a collaboration with Japanese manufacturer Minolta. Leitz and Leica have produced an amazing number of accessories, filters, lens hoods and lenses for their cameras... some made in the Leitz Canada factory. One unusual accessory is the Visoflex which converts the rangefinder body into a single lens reflex camera. Due to the difference in register caused by the Visoflex mirror box special lenses can only be fitted for general use.
The Leica M3 of 1953
M6 the penultimate 35mm Leica rangefinder before the introduction of digital models
The Visoflex converts the rangefinder body into a reflex camera
Standard Eight Leicina 8s ciné camera
Super Eight Leicina Special ciné camera
The last 35mm Leica Reflex Camera - the R9
Leica are no strangers to collaborating with other manufacturers. With the dawning of the digital era their first digital cameras were made by Fuji. These were basically badge engineered models but in more recent times they changed their allegiance to Panasonic for the more affordable end of their model range. These cameras had Leica lenses fitted to them and the Leica influence can be seen in their design. The digital M series possess American Kodak sensors.
The 2· 4 megapixel (4▪3 megapixel image) Fujifilm Finepix 4700...
...and the identical 2· 4 megapixel (4▪3 megapixel image) Leica Digilux 4▪3 made by Fujifilm
The first Leica - Panasonic collaboration was the 3▪9 megapixel Leica Digilux 1...
...and the Panasonic DMC-LC5 on which it was based
The Leica Digilux 3 features a four thirds format N-MOS image sensor...
... and the identical Panasonic Lumix DMC-LC1 - even has the same Vario-Elmarit lens!
The ultimate digital SLR - the medium format 37·5 megapixel Leica S...
...and the ultimate (not so) compact - the 18·5 megapixel Leica M9 rangefinder
If money was no object I would most probably have a Leica M9 fitted with a nice 28mm f2 Summicron or even an f0·95 Noctilux lens (at £15k for the two would I be brave enough to take it out and use them?) as used in Jean-Pierre Jeunet's wonderful Chanel No 5 commercial which incidentally took four months to shoot (see photograph below) or even a Leica S... also fitted with a 28mm f2 Summicron. Apparently, the Leica being held by actress Audrey Tautou in the advert is her own... lucky girl!
Actress Audrey Tautou holding a Leica (M8 or M9) in the Chanel No 5 advertisement
(Photograph - Chanel)
There have been a few special editions of the M9 produced in very low numbers. The Hermès Edition was designed in collaboration with automotive designer Walter de'Silva, selected features of the camera body were restyled, including the top and base plates, the shutter speed dial, the multifunction wheel and the shutter release. In addition, the frame selector lever, the accessory shoe and the Leica script on the upper face of the top plate have also been omitted to further emphasise the unique status of this limited edition. The camera is finished in silver chrome and its lens in anodised silver. The exclusivity of this camera is further emphasised by "Veau Swift" calf skin in ochre, supplied by Hermès for the leather finish of the Leica M9-P camera. This exclusive leather trim by Hermès determines the colour concept of the special edition and ensures a perfect tactile sensation. Available as a body and 50mm f1·4 Summilux-M lens or as an outfit featuring the camera body, a 28mm f2 Summicron-M, a 50mm f0·95 Noctilux-M, a 90mm f2 APO-Summicron-M all contained in an exclusive Hermès fitted case for either $25k for the body and lens or $50k for the outfit! This model was further immortalised by the production of a non-functional replica made by Lego and even this wasn't cheap at around $40!
Limited edition Leica M9-P Hermès
Lego replica of the Leica M9-P Hermès
The M9 was replaced in 2013 with not the M10 but the Leica M. Not looking too dissimilar from the M9 it possesses many features such as video recording not seen on previous M series cameras. The latest special edition was based on the Leica M, inspired and designed by Sir Jonathan Ive aka Jony Ive... principal designer of the Apple iPod, iPhone and iPad. The Red was designed with a view to be auctioned by Sotheby’s on the 23rd November 2013 when it is expected to raise in excess of $0·5m for the global fund to fight aids, tuberculosis and malaria.
M9 replacement - the Leica M
The Leica M Red designed by Apple's Jony Ive
My underlying problem with the S and the M series is that they suffer from the same problem as other interchangeable lens digital cameras... dust and other foreign bodies on the sensor. With 35mm (and other formats) of film cameras, when the film is wound from the cassette it is emerging from a sterile and dust-free environment and only exposed to the atmosphere when the shutter is opened. This is not the case with digital cameras with interchangeable lenses as when a lens is removed a partial vacuum is created in the camera body which can cause dust, pollen, etc to be drawn onto the sensor and become trapped when the lens is replaced to settle on the photo sensor. This has lead manufacturers to provide vibrating sensors, ultrasonic pulses or air blasts to clean the sensor. Prevention is better than cure so if the lens is not removable... contaminants cannot enter the camera... hence my preference for fixed lens cameras. But there are always an exceptions to the rule... enter the Leica S with its 37·5 megapixel sensor. This digital SLR with its dedicated range of Leica lenses leads the way that professional cameras will go in the future but its £21,500 price tag (body and f2·5 35mm aspheric wide angle lens) is out of the reach of all but a very select few. And if I had one there is no way that the lens would be coming off! But with January 2012 prices being £4368 for an M9 body, £5007 for an M9P body and £2669 for an f2 28mm Summicron lens... a more affordable option at £550 would be a Leica V-Lux 3 (not too dissimilar in looks and layout to my Fujifilm S9600). I don't think that an S or M9 would help me take better photographs as I would be to afraid to scratch it and would not be able to take it to some of the places that my current cameras have been!
The 12·1 megapixel Leica V-Lux 3 "bridge" camera
The 16·2 megapixel Leica X Vario
The world's most expensive lens - the 1600mm Apo Telyt-R costing £1·3 million
A recent compact offering from Leica is the Leica C. Reminiscent of the old Leica CL (made in collaboration with Minolta) this compact features a 12·1 megapixel sensor, an electronic eye-level viewfinder and unlike the CL (which had interchangeable lenses) a Vario-Summicron lens with a 35mm equivalent focal length range of 28mm to 200mm. Available in light gold or dark red colours it also has built-in wi-fi/nfc (near field communication) for cable-less transfer of images to smartphones, tablets, laptops or computers. A stylish drop-front ever-ready case is available as well.
The 12·1 megapixel Leica C...
...the camera that inspired it - the Leica CL...
...and the virtually identical Minolta CLE - note the Leitz Summicron lens
Leica's latest offering to commemorate one hundred years of camera manufacture follows the trend for system compact cameras featuring a body constructed from a single aluminium casting, interchangeable lenses and accessories making it a true system camera... the Leica T. Its 16·5 megapixel APS-C sensor is one of the highest resolution sensors that Leica have fitted to their compact cameras. In line with the latest cameras it has built-in Wi-fi for cableless connection with computers and other electronic devices. In addition to the purpose built lenses it will also accept more than twenty Leica M lenses via an adapter. The viewing screen is a 3·7 inch touch screen enabling access to the focussing features and menu. One of the accessories available is the Visoflex eye level viewfinder reminiscent to that on the M rangefinder cameras but unlike the original Visoflex units this electronic version tilts and swivels for those difficult viewing situations in addition to a GPS facility and a sensor that detects when the camera is raised to the eye. Images can be stored on the built-in 16 gb memory as well as SD, SDHC and SDXC memory cards. Needless to say all these facilities come at a price... £1350 for the body and similar a amount for each of the lenses!
Black Leica T fitted with an M Series Summilux lens
A silver Leica T fitted with a Visoflex viewfinder
Leica is one of the foremost camera manufacturers on this planet. The technical, manufacturing and optical quality of their products is beyond reproach. They are not afraid to make bold design decisions and incorporate features not thought of a couple of years ago. I will watch with interest how Leica refine current models and develop new models, encompassing new technologies as and when they appear in the future.
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Contemporary Digital Cameras
Digital cameras have come a long way in a few short years. Modern examples, as well as possessing higher resolution image capture have many features such as image stabilisation, smile detection, GPS tagging, HD movie mode, plus many more that were unimaginable only a few years ago. Many of the more "serious" compact cameras have interchangeable lenses. In addition to mid-range zoom lenses "pancake" lenses... compact wide-angle lenses are becoming more popular for when the telephoto range is not required. I have purposely kept a low profile when it comes to Digital SLRs and only mention a few exceptional examples (the Leica S, Canon EOS 600D, Olympus OM-D and Sigma SD1 Merrill). New digital cameras are demonstrating an individuality of design reminiscent of 35mm cameras from the past (retro styling), some of which are shown in the following section.
The Canon EOS in its various guises has been a popular SLR in various guises for nearly thirty years. The name "EOS" is nothing to do with the god of light but is actually the initials of "Electro Optical System". It is the preferred tool for many press and many other professional photographers. I still own a 35mm EOS 600 and a new model recently launched is the 18 megapixel EOS 600D. Having held this camera I can say that it has the same "feel" as my old 35mm EOS 600 but is much lighter and possibly a little smaller due, no doubt, to the APS-C sensor being smaller than than the full frame 24mm x 36mm dimensions of 35mm film. This allows not only a more compact body but shorter focal length lenses. What is surprising is that the menu is not too dissimilar to the 35mm version. A testament, not only to the original Colani T90 design but to Canon innovation as well.
The 18 megapixel Canon EOS 600D
An interesting trend in digital compact cameras is that of what is termed the "system compact". Basically this is a compact camera with advanced features and interchangeable lenses. A good example is the Canon EOS M which will accept all lenses from the EOS range via an adapter (basically a spacer not unlike an extension tube) to maintain the correct focal length and functionality of the lenses. The EOS M has an 18 megapixel sensor that is identical to that used in the SLR range but without the bulk of a mirror box and eye level viewfinder or some of the more complicated features of its big brothers.
The interchangeable lens, 18 megapixel Canon EOS M shown here fitted with a compact "pancake" lens
The highly competent 10 megapixel Canon G12...
...and the almost identical 10 megapixel Nikon P1700
The sleek 10 megapixel Nikon 1J1...
...and the almost identical Nikon 1V1 features an electronic viewfinder
Another new digital SLR is the the Olympus OM-D E-M5. This £1k+, mirror-less DSLR features a 16·1 megapixel, "Micro Four Thirds" sensor and is reminiscent of the Olympus OM 10/20/30/40 35mm SLRs from the 1980's (except for the film advance lever and rewind crank). The OM-D draws heavily on Olympus's 35mm SLR heritage and in true Olympus fashion possesses an alloy body as well as being a true system camera. The lenses (using adapters), accessories and flash units from the Olympus Pen E-P3 range of digital compacts are also compatible with the OM-D. The supplied FL-LM2 dedicated electronic flash unit is a dead ringer for the T20 and T32 flash units designed for the original OM series of 35mm cameras but I am guessing that they do not feature the revolutionary off the film plane flash metering of the originals.
The 16·1 megapixel Olympus OM-D E-M5 bears a striking resemblance to...
... the 35mm Olympus OM 20 from the 1980's
Olympus Pen E-P3 features a 12·1 sensor, interchangeable lenses and is reminiscent of the 1960/70s half frame 35mm SLR by the same name
Sigma produce an interesting range of cameras that feature Foveon multi-layer sensors invented by Dick Merrill... a design engineer at Foveon. The SD1 Merrill is an SLR with interchangeable lenses having the Sigma SA lens mount. The multi-layer sensor is said to resolve 46 megapixels. This is achieved by capturing colours at each pixel location in a different way to conventional sensors. The DP1 Merrill possesses the same sensor in a compact body but has a fixed lens with a 35mm equivalent to 45mm focal length. Whilst not cheap the price reflects the performance of these unusual cameras.
Sigma SD1 Merrill SLR
Sigma DP1 Merrill compact
There seems to be a glut of retro-styled cameras announced within the last few months. Many of these next generation cameras feature back-lit C-MOS sensors which have a lower megapixel count than conventional sensors but offer a greater image quality and contrast range. Many of these cameras have interchangeable lenses as well. The Fujifilm X-Pro 1 bears an uncanny resemblance to their professional 6 x 7 roll film cameras which are available in standard and wide angle lens versions. These cameras, which are popular with landscape photographers are one of the few cameras of this type still in production. The Fujifilm X100 has been criticised for not having interchangeable lenses. In response to these criticisms Fujifilm developed the X-E1 which is basically an electronic viewfindered X100 with interchangeable lenses available in either black and black leather or silver and black leather. The same CMOS sensor is used in the retro XF 117 compact available clad in brown, black or red leather and is reminiscent of the old Zeiss Werra from the late 1950's and mid 1960's... very tasty! A new addition to Fujifilm's X range is the X-T1. This is a 16·3 megapixel APS-C size X-Trans CMOS II sensor equipped mirrorless SLR that utilises a 2 megapixel electronic viewfinder in addition to a conventional display on the back of the camera. Prime (fixed) lenses of various focal lengths are available as is an 18-55mm zoom lens and external dedicated flash unit. Body only prices are well into four figures with lens prices starting at about £400. The camera itself is reminiscent of the 35mm Fuji STX-1 and 2.
The retro "Leicaesque" 12·3 megapixel Fujifilm X100
The Fujifilm X10 is the X100's little brother which shares the same 12·3 megapixel CMOS sensor
The new £2k (including one lens) Fujifilm X-Pro1 features the X100's hybrid viewfinder, a 16 megapixel APS-C X-Trans CMOS sensor and interchangeable lenses
The new Fujifilm digital cameras resemble the Fuji 6 x 7 roll film cameras... one of the few of this type still in production...
...and the also made the visually similar dual format 35mm Hasselblad X Pan panoramic camera
Fujifilm's new X-S1 bridge camera shares the same 12·3 megapixel CMOS sensor as the X100 and X10
The Fujifilm X-T1 however features a 16·3 megapixel sensor in a mirrorless SLR body
The Fujifilm X-E1 is basically an X-100 with an electronic viewfinder and interchangeable lenses
The same CMOS sensor is used in the retro Fujifilm XF 117 reminiscent of the Leica D-Lux and the Zeiss Werra of the 1060's
The stylish Samsung WB700 has a Schneider Kreuznach fixed zoom lens and a 14·2 megapixel sensor
The stylish 24·3 megapixel Sony Nex 7 also has interchangeable lenses
... and the luxurious 24·3 megapixel Hasselblad Lunar which bears an uncanny resemblance to the Sony Nex 7
Sony's latest offering... the 24·3 megapixel Cybershot RX1 complete with fixed 35mm f2 Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* lens
..and the RX10 which has a 20·1 megapixel Exmor R CMOS sensor and a Zeiss T* Vario Sonnar f2.8 24mm to 200mm (35mm equivalent) lens
The12·1 megapixel Panasonic DMC GF1 fitted with an interchangeable wide angle "pancake" lens...
... and the similar fixed lens Panasonic DMC LX3 from which it was derived...
A recently announced camera is the Pentax Q. Of late Pentax have been keeping a low profile but the 12·4 megapixel Q, in addition to having a back-illuminated CMOS sensor is the smallest interchangeable digital camera made. Pentax are no strangers to producing small cameras. In the 1970's they made an SLR using 110 size film called, unsurprisingly, the Pentax 110. Hopefully the Q will stimulate Pentax's flagging reputation.
Pentax have recently announced the miniscule 12·4 megapixel "Q"
The retro-wagon just keeps on rolling with the Pentax MX-1 This is the first new Pentax camera since being taken over by Ricoh and very nice it looks too. It is reminiscent of the 35mm Pentax MX SLR complete with metal top and bottom plates separated by a band of black leather-type material. Even the style of lettering on the top plate is the same! Along with advanced features the camera has an SMC Pentax zoom lens with a 12 megapixel back-lit CMOS sensor. At £400 it is a bit on the expensive side though. Only time will tell if this beautifully designed camera competes with competitors from other manufacturers.
The 12 megapixel Pentax MX-1 body shape is reminiscent of...
... the 35mm SLR Pentax MX of the 1970's and 1980's
Whilst on the subject of small cameras, mention must be made of the Minox miniatures some of which are made under licence in Japan by Sharan. Minox (who were bought out by Leica in 1996) are famous for making 16mm "spy" cameras and a range of reproduction cameras also using Minox 16mm film cassettes. I say reproduction as they have made a range of miniature classics based on original designs from Leica (F, IIIF and M3), Hasselblad wideangle (SWC), Nikon (F SLR and SP2 rangefinder) and Rolleiflex TLR (2·8 F). The latest digital Leica model is based on the M3 and originally featured a 1·3 sensor later up-rated to 5 megapixels. The Rollei model is based on the 2·8 F twin lens reflex design and has a 3·2 megapixel sensor from which the resulting images are interpolated to 5 megapixels. There is a third model... the DCC 5·1 that is not based on a particular camera but is a generic representation of a 35mm rangefinder camera from the 1950's and bears a remarkable similarity to the Bolsey B2. It is interesting to note that Alpa 2 cameras where also marketed as the Bosley Reflex. These digital Minox cameras are not novelties but are fully functional cameras capable of producing high quality results.
A 5 megapixel Minox digital Leica M3 miniature reproduction...
... and the 35mm camera it is based on
5 megapixel Minox digital Rolleiflex 2·8 miniature reproduction...
... and the full-sized camera it is based on
The 5·1 megapixel Minox DCC...
... and the Bolsey B2 to which the Minox DCC bears an uncanny resemblance to
(Early Alpa 2s where also known as the Bolsey Reflex)
A recently released novelty is the Gizmon iCA. This is a case for the Apple iPhone that resembles a Leica lllc. When seen from a distance or given a quick glance it does indeed look like the venerable classic 35mm rangefinder camera from the 1950s. However, closer inspection reveals its true heritage. The Gizmon iCA allows full utilisation of the iPhone's 8 megapixel camera and is available in black/chrome, tan/chrome and an all black "military" edition. The Gizmon badge is also reminiscent of Leica's red button and script trademark. A range of add-on lenses and filters are available in addition to accessories including a micro electronic flash, leather case, remote shutter release and a tripod adapter to name but a few. Shame that its made from polycarbonate... maybe they should make one in metal covered in black leather to make it look and feel more authentic... but you can be assured that it would cost significantly more than fifty quid (plus the cost of the iPhone)!
Gizmon iCA case for the Apple iPhone...
... and the camera it was modelled on - the Leica IIIc
Rear view of the Gizmon iCA all black "Military" Edition (nice Jeep)
Whilst on the subject of mobile phones, they play an increasingly important part in our lives and bear little relationship to the "bricks" of a few years ago. But their convergence of technology with built-in MP3 players, phone, camera, sat nav, etc means they are "Jack of all trades and masters of none" in my estimation. Maybe I expect too much from the cameras incorporated in mobile phones but Nokia have recently announced the Lumina 1020 mobile phone which possesses a 41... yes 41 megapixel sensor and a Carl Zeiss lens. This smartphone carries on where their similarly specified 808 Pureview left off and even features a Windows operating system. Very impressive but for now I will continue carrying my digital compact with me everywhere I go!
The 41 megapixel Nokia Lumina 1020 mobile phone
Another example of converging technologies is the Sony QX 100/Sony Xperia This smartphone, featuring the usual large touch screen display, can have what looks like an interchangeable SLR lens fitted to it. It is actually a second hi-resolution camera that communicates with the phone's electronics via Bluetooth. The 28mm to 105mm (35mm equivalent) Carl Zeiss Vario Sonnar T* lens and 20 megapixel Exmor R CMOS sensor has its own rechargeable battery and Micro SD Card slot making them independent of the phone except for the controls and viewfinder. The lens can even be used off the camera (but within Bluetooth range) in situations where the phone body would not fit or it would be impractical to use. The output from the CCD is still shown on the phone's display and the camera functions are also accessed via the phone's interface or by duplicate controls on the lens body. There is a less expensive model... the QX 10 which has a lower resolution sensor (18 mp) and a Sony 25mm to 250mm (35mm equivalent) lens rather than a Zeiss T* lens.
The separate components of the Sony Xperia mobile phone and QX 100 camera...
...and those components assembled into a single unit
One development that took me by surprise was the recent launch of the "Lytro" camera. This revolutionary concept uses plenoptic or light field photography and allows the user to select which parts of the image they want in focus after the photograph has been taken. In digital photography this is known as the Bokeh effect whereas in conventional film cameras it was known as shallow depth of field. This is achieved by locating additional micro lenses behind or in front of the main objective lens's focal plane. Sophisticated software processes the extra information and modifies the image as required. At present the resulting images are only relatively low resolution (approximately 1·3 megapixels) but the technology is still in its infancy and I shall be watching the development of this technology with great interest. Visit the interactive Lytro website and explore the features of these cameras for yourself. They will make you smile just as they made me smile.
The unusual and revolutionary Lytro cameras
The unusual design of the original Lytro camera did nothing to endear itself to photographers used to a conventional digital camera. What was needed was a more acceptable, ergonomic design and in 2014 a more conventional model... The Lytro Illium was launched. It now features a four times zoom lens, possesses a hand grip and a larger display enabling it to handle more like a compact even if its design is still a little futuristic.
The Lytro Illium
Who knows what trends the future will hold. But, whatever it holds we can be assured that there will be an ever-increasing sensor resolution and a move away from in-camera storage media such as SD/XD/M2 Memorystick/etc. with images up-loaded to a secure storage server on the Internet via an in-built 3G or 4G modem, to be downloaded as and when required, being combined with "cloud" computing. This would be yet another example of converging technologies cameras combined with mobile phones instead of the other way round. If this seems far-fetched, consider that it is already possible to purchase an SD Card with a built-in Wi-Fi transmitter (Toshiba FlashAir, Lexar Shoot-n-Sync, Eye-Fi). Only time will tell if my predictions will come true but in my experience, these things happen before you realise it!
Toshiba's "FlashAir" SD Card/Wi-Fi Transmitter
The 56 megapixel Leaf Aptus 2 is a digital back that can be fitted to many medium and large format cameras. It was originally designed for 120/220 roll film such as Hasselblads and Mamiyas as well as cameras that used 5 x 4 sheet film loaded into dark slides. An example of the large format cameras suitable is the Walker Titan SF... a traditionally designed large format field camera which offers all the usual movements such as cross front, rising front and swing front. The designer... Mike Walker is a personal friend of mine whom I first met when I was a photography lecturer and technician at Wirral Metropolitan College where he was a student. Previously an engineer, Mike wanted to build a large format field camera originally using brass and mahogany with leather bellows. Prototypes were made in 5 x 4, 5 x 7 and 10 x 8 formats and went into production. A development from this design was the Titan SF and XL wide angle version which both utilise modern materials such as ABS for the body, stainless steel for the fittings and PVC for the bellows. The technical specification of these cameras can be seen at the Walker Cameras website at www.walkercameras.com. Imagine my surprise recently, whilst channel scanning on the television, to see a 5 x 4 large format camera being constructed on the Discovery Science channel's "How its Made" programme. Not only was it a large format camera but it was a Walker Titan with none other than my old friend Mike Walker constructing it!
The Walker Titan SF large format field camera made from modern materials
The new Alpa cameras mentioned previously are reminiscent in some ways to the classic Linhof roll film cameras. As they are a modular camera they can be specified in various configurations with either roll film (up to 6 x 9) or digital backs and cost more than £15k for a basic model with the viewfinder alone costing more than £1k (but you can always buy an iPhone viewfinder adapter for £425 + the iPhone!). Various movements (rising and cross front) and digital backs can be fitted to them but the top-of-the-range is the 80 megapixel Leaf Aptus II-12 back which will set the lucky purchaser back in excess of £25k (all February 2011 prices). They are indeed wonderful, competent instruments but do not, unfortunately, possess the "usability" and magic of the beautiful 35mm SLRs that once bore the same name.
A modern titanium Alpa 12 SWA camera fitted with a 80 megapixel Leaf Aptus digital back and Schneider Apo Digitar lens
An all black model complete with iPhone viewfinder
f you thought that the Alpa 12 SWA at 80 megapixels was the ultimate in digital camera resolution then think again. Just to put things into perspective, a 35mm image is equivalent to (as previously mentioned) approximately 19.4 megapixels, a 6 x 7 roll film image is equivalent to 100 megapixels and a 5 inch by 4 inch sheet film is equivalent to 500 megapixels. The Seitz 6x17 Digital... another Swiss masterpiece, fitted with a 90mm Schneider Kreuznach Super Angulon lens, has a resolution of 160 megapixels (yes 160 mp - you did read correctly). This camera bears an uncanny resemblance to the Linhof 6x17 roll film camera. The manufacturer also makes a range of panoramic and specialist cameras but the question that everyone wants an answer to is the price... £29,000 (in March 2011). Oh... I nearly forgot... the Alpa is available with a Seitz sensor as well! Judging by the lower photograph it does not appear to be a comfortable camera to hold... it would go nicely on my Manfrotto tripod though. With the speed at which technologies develop today I wonder how long it will be before it is knocked off top resolution spot? Not long I reckon... it might have even been knocked off the pinnacle by now. For additional information on film/sensor/printer and display resolution read the Megapixel Myth at kenrockwell.com and the excellent Wikipedia article Digital Versus Film Photography.
The impressive Seitz 6x17 160 megapixel digital panoramic camera bears an uncanny resemblance to...
...the Linhof Technorama 617S 4 on 120 or 8 on 220 roll film panoramic camera...
...but it does not look to be the easiest camera to hold though!
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Enough of the anorak stuff! What follows are some of my favourite "Diarama" photographs complete with details of the equipment used to take them, the year and film used (where applicable).
Foxgloves - Snowdonia - 1968 - Zenith B - Kodachrome 25
(Runner-up in the 1968 Kodak Young Photographer of the Year Competition)
Harbour - Portmeirion - 1970 - Practica Nova 1PL - Kodachrome 64
Electricity Pylon - Carlett Park - 1975 - Olympus 35RC - Agfachrome CT18
Rest Hill Road - Bebington - 1977 - Olympus 35RC - Kodachrome 64
(converted to monochrome after scanning)
Viaduct - Cefn Mawr - 1979 - Practica PLC3 - Kodachrome 64
Sunset - Leasowe - 1980 - Rollei 35SE - Kodachrome 64
(As used as a back-drop to the Granada TV Weather Forecast)
Shaggy Ink Cap Mushroom - Beeston - 1982 - Olympus OM10 - Kodachrome 64
Old Fence - Leasowe - 1985 - Olympus OM1n - Agfapan 100
Bala Lake - 1986 - Calumet 5 x 4 - Agfapan 100
Bidston Steel - 1986 - Calumet 5 x 4 - Agfapan 100
Frodsham Viaduct - 1986 - Zeiss Super Ikonta 6 x 9 - Agfapan 100
Lime Kiln - Wigan - 1986 - Ensign Selfix Ranger 6 x 9 - Agfapan 100
Alhambra and Underpass - Bradford - 1987 - Olympus OM1n - Kodachrome 64
A56 Road Bridge - Walton - 1987 - Olympus OM1n - Agfapan 100
Mooring Pier - Wallasey Pool - 1987 - Calumet 5 x 4 - Fujichrome RDP100
Tall Ship at Sunset - Birkenhead Docks - Alpa 6B - Fujichrome RDP100
Head of the River Birkett - Leasowe - 1989 - Pentax K1000 - Fujichrome RDP 100
Abandoned car - Thurstaston Beach - 1990 - Alpa 6B - Fujichrome RDP100
Leasowe Lighthouse at Night - 1991 - Alpa 6B - Fujichrome RFP400
Gayton Sunset - 1991 - Rolleiflex 3·5E - Fujicolor NSP 160
(As used as a back-drop to the Granada TV Weather Forecast)
View from the Corona Gallery - Liverpool Anglican Cathedral - 1992 - Canon Eos 600 - Fujichrome RDP100
Plant Fonds - Dominican Republic - 1999 - Canon Eos 600 - Fuji NSP160
Sunset - Rhodes - 2003 - Canon Eos 600 - Fujicolor NSP160
Louvered Window - Ellesmere - 2005 - Fujifilm E550
Windows - Salford Quays - 2007 - Fujifilm E550
Venetian Gondolas - 2008 - Fujifilm S9600
Mersey Ferryboats - Wallasey Pool - 2009 - Fujifilm S9600
Icy Coastscape - Harrison Drive - 2010 - Fujifilm S9600
Breakwater - Lake Como - 2010 - Fujifilm S9600
Steps - Bellagio - 2010 - Fujifilm S9600
Lake Como Panorama - 2010 - Fujifilm S9600
(Stitched from three images - who needs a Seitz?)
Sunlit Woodland Glade - Carlett Park - 2010 - Sony Ericsson W995
River Mersey Sunrise - Eastham - 2010 - Fujifilm E550
(As used as a back-drop to the Granada TV Weather Forecast)
Salthouse Dock at Night - Liverpool - 2011 - Fujifilm S9600
Boats on the Mud - Heswall - 2011 - Fujifilm S9600
Sunrise Over Liverpool Pier Head - River Mersey - 2011 - Fujifilm E550
(As used as a back-drop to the Granada TV Weather Forecast)
Wallasey Docks' West Float at Sunset - 2012 - Fujifilm E550
(As used as a back-drop to the Granada TV Weather Forecast)
Inside BBC Media City - Salford Quays - 2012 - Fujifilm S9600
Egremont Breakwater - 2012 - Fujifilm E550
Coloured Pipes - Wallasey Docks - 2012 - Fuji E550
Kelp - Rhosneigr - 2012 - Fujifilm E550
Alfred Dock - Wallasey Docks - 2012 - Fujifilm E550
Rainbow Over Wallasey Docks - 2012 - Fujifilm E550
Wallasey Docks' West Float at Sunrise - 2012 - Fujifilm E550
(As used as a back-drop to the Granada TV Weather Forecast)
Liverpool Pier Head at Dusk - 2012 - Fujifilm E550
Birkenhead Woodside Ferry at Sunrise - 2012 - Fujifilm E550
(As used as a back-drop to the Granada TV Weather Forecast)
Sunrise from Egremont Ferry - 2013 - Leica D-Lux 3
Dockside Reflections - Birkenhead Docks - 2013 - Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ6
Perch Rock at Sunset - New Brighton - 2013 - Leica D-Lux 3
"Lucky Lucky Man" - Lanzarote - 2013 - Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ6
Hotel Beatriz at Night - Lanzarote - 2013 - Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ6
Stanlow Sunrise, Ellesmere Port - Manchester Ship Canal - 2013 - Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ6
(As used as a back-drop to the Granada TV Weather Forecast)
Birkenhead Docks Sunrise - Wallasey Pool - 2013 - Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ6
Illuminated Trafford Centre Bridge - 2014 - Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ6
Rolling fields at Moore - 2014 - Leica D-Lux 3
Lymm Village - 2014 - Leica D-Lux 3
Sunset Over The Wirral - 2014 - Leica D-Lux 3
(As used as a back-drop to the Granada TV Weather Forecast)
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The Canalscape Trophy
To complete the "Canalscape" portfolio, in February 2011 I presented the "Canalscape" Trophy to Lymm Cruising Club. The trophy is awarded every year to the photographer taking the best overall photograph entered into the Chairman's Photographic Competition. The trophy itself is a brass propeller mounted on a hard wood plinth. It was made by my youngest son Glyn when he was an apprentice at Stone Manganese Marine Limited of Birkenhead... the world renowned manufacturer of ships' propellers. The plinth has twelve coats of varnish on it and is extremely shiny as is the brass trophy itself.
The Canalscape Trophy
The first year that it was presented the trophy was won by a beautiful photograph of a snow scene taken by Eleanor Muirhead (Scotch Dave's wife). It featured a winter scene of sheep in a snowy field in Dunbar, Scotland, captured on her Sony Cybershot DSC-W270 digital camera and is shown below. I judged the winning entry on a number of criteria... composition, technical quality, etc plus did I wish that I had taken the photograph myself... which I did! When I later spoke to Eleanor about the photograph she told me that they were out for a walk with "Cracker"... their dog who, thirty seconds after she took the photograph, looked over the fence and scared the sheep away. Eleanor was glad that she took my advice from the presentation I gave to Lymm CC entitled "What Makes A Good Photograph?". In the presentation I showed examples of photographic faults and how to avoid them as well as other composition and general advice. One of the tips I gave to the budding photographers was to always carry a camera. If Eleanor hadn't taken this advice she wouldn't have taken the photograph.
Eleanor Muirhead's Canalscape Trophy winning photograph
(Photograph - Eleanor Muirhead)
The 2012 winner of the Canalscape Trophy was Arthur Malcolm with a wonderful landscape entitled "The River Goyt at the Torrs". When I was judging the photographs for the Canalscape Trophy there was one photograph that stood out from the others. It was a landscape featuring a bridge over a river with sunlight shining through the arches. I was captivated by the light shining through the arches of the bridge and the soft sunlight creating a serene atmosphere in this beautiful landscape. After I had made my choice I discovered that the photograph was taken by my old friend Arthur Malcolm... himself a keen photographer which is evident in the quality of the photograph. I later learnt that Arthur took the photograph of the River Goyt (a tributary of the River Mersey) at the Torrs near New Mills in Derbyshire on his Canon Eos 450 DSLR whilst out for a walk along the river with his partner Brenda. Arthur used a process called HDR - High Dynamic Range to take the photograph. This is where three photographs, usually Raw files, are taken one after another. The first normally exposed - the second two stops under exposed and the third two stops over exposed (bracketing). The three images are combined in an image editing program to enhance shadow detail (over exposed frame), high light detail (under exposed frame) and add them to the normally exposed frame. Brenda told me that she had to wait a quarter of an hour whilst Arthur waited for the light to be just right before taking the photograph... the sign of a dedicated photographer and a man after my own heart!
Arthur Malcolm's 2012 Canalscape Trophy winner... "The River Goyt at the Torrs"
(Photograph - Arthur Malcolm)
Arthur was also the 2013 winner of the Canalscape Trophy with a photograph entitled "Reflections of Leeds" which features a piece of modern art located in Clarence Dock, Leeds. Arthur took the photograph on his Canon Eos 450 DSLR and I think that you will agree that it is a most worthy winner demonstrating good composition and technical quality. I have looked closely at the photograph and I cannot see the reflection of Arthur or his camera in the globe!
The 2013 winner of the Canalscape Trophy... "Reflections of Leeds" by Arthur Malcolm
(Photograph - Arthur Malcolm)
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So there you have it... a brief history of my photographic experiences and the photographic equipment that I have loved (and hated) that has contributed towards the photographs used in "Canalscape", "Diarama" or of general interest. I hope that you have enjoyed reading about my photographic memoirs as much as I have enjoyed reminiscing about and living them. Not forgetting sampling some of the results produced. When you come right down to it just because you use a good camera it doesn't necessarily mean that you can take a good photograph. I once won a competition for photographs taken on a Russian Cosmic 35... one of the cheapest 35mm cameras on the market. I'm not implying that I am a good photographer as I am far too humble to say that! My ideal combination of (reasonably) affordable cameras would be a Leica V-Lux bridge camera to compliment my Leica D-Lux 3 compact. You never know... one day I might have both of them.
I hope that the reader does not get the impression that I am a camera junkie (anorak - guilty as charged... camera junkie - definitely not). But having said that I must admit to appreciating the "feel" of a good bit of leather covered aluminium or brass! With that observation I think that I'd better leave well alone and conclude with the words of the "Master"...
"F8 and be there!"
If you would like to see my canal orientated photographs on Diarama's sister website at Canalscape.net please click below
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