Dateline 28 January 2015

 

 

Quiz Evening – 5 January 2015 – Stephen Hughes

Peter Flower

 

The season kicked off with a fun evening organised by Stephen Hewes and Clare Taylor who, as last year’s winning team, challenged us to their quiz. We mustered four teams and the winners, the ‘Happy Snappers’ – Jill and Peter Flower, Gerry Stone, Liz Seymour and Carol Hicks - now face the task of setting up next year’s challenge.

There were seven rounds of questions -

1. Set your aperture

2. “I had one of those”

3. All a blur

4. Lost

5. Blankety blank

6. QI

7. Sign language

These covered a wide variety of subjects including technical ones about camera settings and features, identifying various old camera models, filling in the missing words in the 'Blankety Blank' section, identifying the location of photographs taken in Reigate and Redhill, symbols used on photographic equipment and more general knowledge questions.

The final scores are given below.

Happy Snappers 41.6

All Male 38.7

Jamaica 36.9

Red Snappers 32.6

Given that the maximum marks available would have been in excess of 70, no team came out shining in glory! However, it has to be said that there was a deliberate ploy by the All Male team in the final round to ensure that they did not win!

 

Post The Camera – 12 January 2015 – Mike Farley LRPS

Report by Peter Flower

The title of this talk was somewhat puzzling until it got underway and it became obvious that the word 'post' referred to post-production of photographic images. Mike is a member of Croydon Camera Club, and currently chairman. The topics discussed covered all aspects of digital image manipulation, hardware and software recommendations, decisions on images to be retained and storage thereafter.

Regarding computer requirements he recommended that a 64-bit processor was essential, in that it allowed addressing in excess of 4 Gbyte RAM (limitation of 32-bit processor) to enable speedy processing of the larger images which modern cameras produced. A laptop computer with the right specifications would be suitable, but with a larger external monitor. For PCs he recommended the Windows 7 or 8 operating systems. Regarding safe storage, he recommended RAID 1 or RAID 5 disc systems. These would guard against loss of data in the case of initial intermittent disk faults. Raid 5 was the best option, but a separate boot disk, for example of the SSD type, provided an additional safeguard, especially if RAID 1 was implemented. (RAID 1 utilised data mirroring whereas RAID 5 used three or more disks with redundancy to enable data recovery) For ultimate peace of mind it was wise to back up data onto external hard disk drives, preferably stored in a different location to that of the computer.

Another important aspect for effective image editing was the choice of monitor and the conditions under which it was viewed. There were a number of older monitor technologies in existence but the IPS with LED backlighting was ideal. Modern monitors performed much better in relation to viewing angles, whereas older ones showed very different impressions of colour at even slight variations in angle. Mike advised that the colour should be set to the Adobe RGB standard. Although it might be difficult to achieve the perfect working environment this was ideally a location in a windowless room with 18% grey walls and daylight balanced bulbs.

Colour management needed careful consideration. The camera, monitor and printer could all be profiled with appropriate devices and software, ensuring that there was consistency at all stages.

Regarding image editing there were various options including the full version of Photoshop, plus Lightroom and versions of Photoshop Elements. His recommendation was for Lightroom, which was also useful as a library management tool, and versions 9 of Photoshop upwards.

Decisions about the images to be retained, and potentially worked upon, or discarded could be problematic. There were systems for awarding star ratings or tagging with colour codes that could be helpful in this respect. Decisions about working from RAW or JPEG files would be dictated by personal preferences. The important factor was to ensure that the modifications to images were made in a logical order. As an example, each 'save' of a JPEG file would result in further compaction, with loss of some of the original data.

There was much more information given in Mike's talk, but in too much detail to contain within this brief report. However, some of the pointers that he gave will be of benefit to those members who are developing their skills in this area. In particular, his advice about avoiding data loss and safe archiving were a reminder of how we needed to think about this aspect. To end the evening he gave a brief Lightroom demonstration.

 

Examples of his work can be found at the following link -

 

www.mikefarley.net

 

Harvest Mouse by Mike Farley © Copyright

Photograph taken at the British Wildlife centre. Accepted for the 2010 Surrey Photographic Association biennial exhibition.

 

Nikon D750 flare problem

Techman

There have been numerous reports in recent weeks about a problem with some models of this camera. The problem shows up as an unusual pattern, unlike the normal circular flare shape that occurs when bright light sources are just outside of the frame. The flare takes an unusual shape with a shadow in the flare manifesting itself as a darker band across the top of the frame. An example of this is shown in the following wedding ceremony photograph.

Photograph © copyright Hugo Hernandez – image taken from Flickr site

 

The flare around the groom's head would not be unusual in this strongly backlit situation, but the dark band above is certainly not normal.

The problem only occurred with some cameras and in a few specific scenarios. The search was on to identify the cause of this mysterious phenomenon. Research by an independent photographer found that the problem was due to some variation between D750s, in terms of how the AF elements are positioned relative to the rest of the mirror box and sensor. The following still image taken from a video on youtube by Tomasz Piotrowski shows the positioning of these elements in the base of the mirror box. It is variation in positioning that explains why some models are affected and not others.

The rather elusive cause of the problem having been identified Nikon has since made arrangements to service the faulty cameras free of charge and to check unsold stocks.

In view of the fact that the problem arises from the placement of the AF module this brought into question the implications for autofocus accuracy. It is an acknowledged fact that autofocus on DSLR cameras, irrespective of make, can be subject to slight inaccuracies, known as front or back-focusing problems. This is not entirely surprising, given that the focus mechanism relies upon absolutely perfect alignment of a number of components from the lens, through the mirror box and down to the autofocus sensor. (This does not apply to mirror-less cameras (or DSLRs in 'live view' mode) where the focus sensing is done directly at the sensor level) There are firmware facilities available that can register a particular lens to the camera body and compensate for any focusing inaccuracies. It should be stressed that this facility needs to be applied to individual lenses because these can also differ, and that it is not limited to Nikon.

Irrespective of the DSLR camera that you may own, it would probably be of interest for you to read a more detailed account on this subject. This is available on the DP Review site at the following address -

 

http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/nikon-d750

 

Review

Peter Flower

The festive season has witnessed some very competitive pricing. Even before the start of the traditional January sales keen pricing and cash-back offers were very much in evidence. What is even more surprising is that prices for the base models in the DSLR range have dipped below those for many compact system models. There are numerous examples of this trend but perhaps the most significant are those for cameras from one of the 'big two'. The base model in the Canon EOS range was subject to very attractive pricing from Jessops in the lead-up to Christmas. The Canon 1200D DSLR with 18-55mm DC kit lens was offered at just £249 (£269 with £20 cashback) This included a 2 year guarantee (1 year plus 1 year extension) The camera has an 18 megapixel sensor, Full HD video capability, built-in Feature guide and comes with EOS Companion app. The DC lens does not have image stability, but the same model with 18-55mm IS lens was priced at £309 (£329 with £20 cashback) The camera was also offered as a twin lens package with 18-55mm DC lens plus 50mm lens at £309 (£329 with £20 cashback) or, even more amazingly, combined with a Tamron 70-300mm lens at £299 (£319 with £20 cashback). A slightly more up-market model, the Canon 100D DSLR with 18-55mm IS STM lens, the most compact DSLR, was priced at £419 (£449 with £30 cashback)

(Note: these prices were still valid on the Jessops web site at 3 January 2015)

Taking a step down memory lane, Canon entered the bargain DSLR market-place in August 2003 with the 300D. This was introduced at a price of about £1000, affordable for the serious amateur photographer. By comparison with the recent models mentioned above it had a miserly 6 megapixels sensor and a small 1.8” screen that could not show a live view.

Returning to the present, seeking the best buy is a confusing process, where prices can change on a daily basis and with sales offers from different outlets varying significantly. An example that was spotted was for a Canon EOS 5D Mk III Body. In the 3 January 2015 edition of Amateur Photographer this was on special sale at Park Cameras for £1999. In the fine print of the advertisement the offer expired on 1 January 2015 !!

 

Market Trends

Peter Flower

It is difficult to obtain definitive figures that indicate meaningful trends in different segments of camera sales. Not only do these vary significantly in the major areas of the world, but the numbers of units shipped and monetary value do not necessarily vary to the same degree. There are instances where it is obvious that greater profitability shows up in higher percentage increases on the previous year than that of unit shipments. The following comments relate to statistics published by CIPA (Camera & Imaging Products Association) in October 2014. Not all manufacturers are member of CIPA but included are the major camera makers such as Canon, Casio, Fujifilm, Nikon, Olympus, Panasonic, Ricoh (Pentax), and Sony.

Looking at shipments to Europe, the January to October totals for 2014, compared with the same period for 2013, there is an overall drop to 64.9% (units) and 74.4% in value. The figures for built-in lens cameras (which would generally be represented by compact cameras) reflects this trend with figures of 64.2% and 74.5%. This would seem to indicate that compact camera sales figures are holding steady despite the competition from smartphones. However, sales of single-lens reflex cameras have dropped significantly, to 60.7% and 66.6%. In contrast, sales of non-reflex cameras have increased, rising to 112.6% and 136.0%. This category includes so-called mirror-less cameras, compact system cameras and rangefinder cameras with interchangeable lenses.

Although these figures show an increasingly strong trend towards the use of mirror-less cameras it is still important to remember that although DSLR sales dropped about a third they still dominated the 'serious' camera sector.

Ignoring the statistics, which vary considerably for different parts of the world, there is a general concensus by market observers and representatives of various manufacturers that the days of this DSLR domination is likely to decline rapidly. Although it is an opinion from only one competitor, Samsung that has recently announced its NX1 flagship model, it is an indication of thinking which is current.

In an interview, Byungdeok Nam, Senior Vice President of Samsung's R&D team in the company's Mobile (formerly Digital Imaging) division was speaking about the NX1, the new firmware, and the mirrorless camera market in general. He was asked “When will DSLRs become extinct?”. His response, “I wouldn’t like to say, but since 2008 when mirrorless systems were announced, mirrorless didn’t grow very rapidly. In the last year, however, market reports are predicting that in 2018/19 mirrorless cameras will outsell DSLRs.”

Sony, which has camera models in just about every sector of the market (including examples like the A99 with its fixed-mirror design), has decided to concentrate on mirror-less models. These range from the quirky QX1 and QX30 models that can be used in conjunction with smartphones, through compact system cameras (in appearance like rangefinder cameras of old) up to the full-frame A7 models. Some time ago a Sony top official was quoted as expressing the intention to oust one of the top two (Canon or Nikon) from that position. This will not be an easy task, given the advantage that Canon and Nikon have in the availability of a massive range of lenses and the fact that serious photographers and professionals have such an investment in them.

Recent responses given by Masaya Maeda - Managing Director and Chief Executive, Image Communication Products Operations of Canon at Photokina give some indication that his company is considering a more positive move towards introduction of mirror-less models in future. (The EOS M1 and M2 models have not been overly popular. According to reports the M1 introduced in June 2012 didn’t sell very well in the States. Originally priced at $799, retailers soon had ridiculous discounts of down to $299 within only a few months. Its successor, the EOS M2, was omitted from the US market all-together) Sharing reactions to the recently released 7D Mark II Mr Maeda explained that Canon is very serious about mirrorless. He was asked if customers ask for more than 22 megapixel sensors that Canon cameras currently offer. His reply “ Yes. We know that many of our customers need more resolution and this is under consideration. In the very near future you can expect us to show something in terms of mirrorless and also a higher resolution sensor”. He said further “We are serious. We are really focused on mirrorless and we’re spending lots of time, and devoting a lot of manpower to scaling up mirrorless development right now”.

Meanwhile, patent applications from Nikon are leading to speculation that they are also planning an entry into the mirror-less sector, possibly at full-frame level. For the moment their only representation in the sector is with the Nikon 1 range, featuring a relatively small 1” sensor.

It will be interesting to see what Canon and Nikon do to compete. Serious photographers are questioning the requirement to carry around the bulky bodies and lenses. Sony has already shown that full-frame camera bodies can be made so much lighter and more compact once the conventional pentaprism is done away with. In addition, the shorter back-focus distance of lenses means that they are also smaller and lighter. This back-focus distance also means that adapters can be used to mount lenses from other makes of camera. It is quite usual for favourite lenses from existing DSLR-fit models to be used with mirror-less models.

The big challenge will be two-fold. The first, to catch up with the advances that have been made in focusing technology. There was a time when phase detection focus through the direct view viewfinder was so much quicker and accurate than the method using contrast detection (CD) on the sensor. This is no longer the case. The latest hybrid CD systems are extremely fast and accurate, with an ability to track action sequences. The second, to furbish any new models with a range of lenses. It may take the same bold measure that Canon took when it introduced the EOS system. To the consternation of long-term Canon users (and I was one of them) it dropped the mechanical FD lens system in favour of the totally new electronic EF system. This caused great upheaval at the time, but it did prove to be a sensible move. The wisdom of this decision is evident in that since the introduction of the EOS 650 camera in March 1987 over 100 million EF and EF-S lenses have been manufactured.

 

John Packham – A Tribute

Peter Flower

 

It was with sadness that we learnt from his son, Chris, of the recent death of John Packham. His is not a name that will be familiar with most of the current membership. However, to a number of longer-term members he will be remembered as a stalwart member of the society over many years. I have asked a number of those who remember him to contribute to this tribute. There will be inevitable overlaps of facts about John in the particular memories that are recalled but I thought it appropriate to quote each one fully.

As will become obvious from some of the comments that follow, John could be a slightly 'prickly' character at times, but the thoughts that shine through are a of a person who was generous with his efforts on behalf of the society and who contributed so much to the day-to-day running. As will be mentioned elsewhere, John fabricated the original print display easel and a number of display panels that were used at annual exhibitions. The print display easel is still in use, although it was modified some years ago in order to make it easier to erect. The original version was table-mounted, on top of a sturdy box. Erecting the easel involved a two-person effort, struggling to fix struts with numerous wing-nuts. (Anyone who has attempted this will remember, with horror, the number of times that wing-nuts went spinning off onto the floor during this process!) The display panels were also sturdy affairs which required attachment to the upright supports with wing-nuts. (Readers will recognise some affinity between Les Dyson with his cotter pins and John with his wing-nuts!) The problem with the display panel uprights was that fixing brackets, and holes in the panels, were not at uniform heights. Fixture points were unique to each panel. This meant that a system of colour and letter/number coding had to be used to match each panel to its uprights. Great fun when assembling the displays at each annual exhibition! As will be obvious from the following comment, John got his fabrication and engineering skills from his time at the Gas Board.

 

His son, Chris Packham, was a member of the society in his younger years and contributed the following brief comments -

I think Dad joined the society in the eighties but I’m not sure of the exact date. Also I’m not sure when he left the society at a guess I would say it must have been something like seven years ago. Don Morley was present at Dad’s garden party in 2007. I think Dad left the society shortly after that. It’s terrible to think that I know so little detail about my own father’s activities. He used to work for the East Surrey Gas Company in Reigate which became British Gas. His last place of work was in Croydon. He started as a fitter’s mate and ended up as a Senior Technical Officer, testing the quality of appliances sold in the gas show rooms.”

Steve Lawrenson who has served four terms as chairman knew John throughout his time with the society and sent this following tribute -

John joined the Society in the 1980s and we were soon to benefit from his practical skills as he carefully crafted our somewhat over engineered print easel.This was typical of John. He would willingly do anything that was asked of him and we could be sure that it would do what it was intended to do and that it would last.

I have more reason than most to remember him as he worked with Ray Ashbee for several weeks on the redesign of my bathroom.

Tony Riley appointed John as the Society’s Quartermaster and he looked after our equipment for many years. During this time too, John built up a formidable array of his own camera and darkroom equipment. He would go to any lengths to master this. Indeed his son Chris recalled the famous occasion when John was overcome by fumes in his darkroom and had to be rescued by the Fire Brigade. He must have been just as tough as he looked. No doubt the rigours of his early life as a runner and fisherman stood him in good stead.

We had seen little of John in recent years as his health declined. However those who knew him have had their lives enriched by the experience. We will all miss him and be grateful for his lasting contributions to the Society.”

Don Morley, past chairman, recalls his memories of John at that time -

As I suspect, most who knew him well will recognise John was a one off; indeed he was a very proud and able man. He was always ready to help others, yet equally one who found it difficult to ask for or accept any sort of help or advice from others for himself no matter how much he sometimes obviously needed it.

I came to understand this more and deal with it better back in my days as Reigate PS Vice Chair or later as Chairman in an era when all of our committee meetings were traditionally held at John's home. Sadly this included the time just after John so tragically lost his dear wife, yet where we other Committee members all quietly realised he needed to carry on as best he could as though nothing had changed.

His own hospitality during these times became legendary, and not least we knew because he was not going to let the memory of his dear wife's past hospitality down. Amidst all of this John, the wonderfully gifted handyman, also threw himself into near extremes of manual labour. Despite being over seventy he involved himself in gardening and building all new rear garden patios, new and complex brick walls, garden paths, and a wonderful summerhouse that would not have disgraced the grounds of Buckingham Palace!

Quite apart from respecting and genuinely liking this highly complex and capable man I was rather proud to eventually feel able to say it was mutual, and indeed we also became friends away from the Reigate PS activities. Though if he is up there looking down on me I do hope he will not mind me adding, it was always on his own terms because, character that he was, he was only ever going to do things his way.

Frankly I have so many fond memories of John. For instance, he was a handyman par excellence so made his own enlarger and brick built his own darkroom to way above Pro standards. Likewise, he made such items as the club's projector and print stands. Typically John built them to last the proverbial thousand years. For many years he was the key holder and set the room up on Monday evenings. Then, one day he suddenly threw a bit of a wobbly and wrote to me as the then Chairman demanding someone else did it. So I had the hall keys back from him so I could open and set everything up in future myself. But whenever I got there John would be chomping at the bit to be let in to do it, so eventually I was getting there as early as 7.00pm in order to beat him. Not that I ever did!

In many little things he was so proud, such as the fact that the Queen chose the same bank as himself, which of course was Coutts. You knew nothing ordinary suited John, it just had to be the best.

I also so fondly remember events such as John's garden party where I swear he outdid the catering at Harrods. When he decided to take up golf, though, this was a much less happy memory because whatever John decided to do he literally threw himself into it, no expense or effort spared. He invariably did things exceptionally well, that is sadly until golf where not even his buying the best set of golf clubs known to man helped, and I for one still greatly regret my ever getting involved!

Again I do hope John will not mind me repeating the story, but what I did not know at the time was that John probably already knew he was not going to be picked for anyone's golf team. But with him not being used to failing at anything it annoyed him a lot. Though I did not realise it when he asked me to try golf myself, was that dear old John desperately needed to put things into a better perspective, at least finding someone he could beat.

Anyway off we went to a golf club intent on sharing his clubs and me unknowingly as the patsy but it went downhill all the way thereon. Call it beginers luck or whatever but although I would class myself behind John as the World's second worst golfer on that day somehow I could do no wrong. For instance, if it was my turn to drive off my shot might go in the wrong direction, but no matter as it would then hit a tree (or another golfer!) and bounce back onto the right green.

John however had no such luck and was obviously getting livid. Clubs flying through the air rather than golf balls. So as neither the game or the result mattered to me I decided to deliberately try and lose, given the state John was getting himself into. But Sod's law had it that still nothing worked, and so by the sixteenth hole with me sadly sixteen up John just stormed off and went back home, and to this day I so wish I had not accepted that invitation.

Whatever, and despite this he was such a lovely man. One who, as said earlier, would help anyone, and who I know is now so sorely missed by all of those who were privileged to know him.”

Marion Gatland added these comments -

It's a long time since John left the cIub. I remember him as a very nice man, always willing to help, very enthusiastic club member, organising many still life evenings with his son Chris supplying all the equipment and props. He organised the club annual dinner for many years.”

May Savage contributed these memories -

John was a kind and friendly man who put a lot of effort into the club. He had a large collection of enlargers, which if I remember rightly he kept in a shed in his well kept garden. He and his son Chris were very bereft when his wife died, a very sweet person who always supported him in club activities. I can't think of anything else except that he had a close family and his sister would come to our annual dinners – a very pleasent person.”

Roy Ticehurst is no longer a member but sent the following comments -

 “One thing I do remember about John. He used to arrange the annual dinner. One of his venues was The Coach House at Godstone. That has remained our favourite restaurant. Due to Mary’s inability to leave to house at present it is a little while since we went there. However, our family also favour the Coach House and their reports are still good and the same owners run it.”

 Dennis Fletcher responded with his memories -

I didn't know John very well but one of my sons was a friend of Chris at Reigate Grammar School.

John was very friendly and approachable and among other things organised several of the annual dinners which RPS had. I suppose he was of the 'Old School' of Photography and as far as I know didn't really embrace the digital revolution. I remember him appearing at Reigate PS with several old film cameras and I guess that he had quite a collection

Several aspects of John's contributions to Reigate PS have already been mentioned, as Steward and also the significant work he did for the annual exhibitions including making the display boards.

There is very little I can add, John was one of those valuable members not in the limelight but working away, making valuable contributions to the running of the Society.”

 Angela Vickers added these brief memories -

John was a full member until 2008 then he became an associate member from 2009-2011. I remember him as being the “full-time” steward until he left the society. I think he was membership secretary when I first joined and collected the subs to pass on to Philip Duplock. He also organised the annual dinner for a few years.”

David Thorpe was a long-time member of the society until he moved to Australia many years ago. We still keep in contact on a casual basis and he maintains interest in our activities via the Newsletter and the web site in general. Following my emails to all the members who I thought would remember John, including David, I received a surprise phone call all the way from Australia. David recalled with affection the service that John had rendered to the society. We talked about the many things in which John had been involved, including those that have already been mentioned before by other members.

Summing up, these comments reflect the respect that his fellow members of that time had for John. It was unfortunate that the death of his wife, which affected him greatly, and subsequent failing health resulted in him discontinuing his membership. He was not someone who saught the limelight, but in his own quiet way served the society well in so many ways.

 

Photography Into Art – 19 January 2015 – Graham Smith

PF

 

At the time of writing I am waiting for images from Graham to illustrate this article. If these are received they will be included in a subsequent Newsletter.

 

A load of balls!

PF

The filming of BBC's new drama 'Wolf Hall' required the use of a large box of tennis balls. You might well question the requirement for these in a costume drama involving Henry VIII. In fact they were required to protect the delicate floors of six National Trust properties, including stately homes such as Montecute House and Lacock Abbey. The Trust insisted that the film crew should attach tennis balls to the feet of their tripods and lighting stands to avoid any damage to flooring.

 

Let there be light – but only by candles!

PF

Hilary Mantel praised the visual flair of the BBC’s adaptation of her Booker Prize winning novel “Wolf Hall”. This used the latest camera technology to film by candlelight in Tudor halls and country homes. The director, Peter Kosminsky, known for his minute attention to authentic detail, used an Arri Alexa video camera to film all the night-time scenes by candlelight. The opening episode aroused criticism from many viewers who claimed that the scenes were too dark, but there was no doubting the effective creation of atmosphere that reflected the reality of events in that period.

The Arri Alexa range of video cameras is not alone in the ability to produce images in low light utilising high ISO settings. The following YouTube video shows a comparison between the Arri Alexa and Canon C500. However, if you have the patience to watch this through you will see how the moving image smooths out the effect of 'noise' at the higher settings. The commentator pauses the moving image at various points and it is then that the interference patterns become obvious.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gV6sx9L7A04

 

And finally . . .

 

Elephants like to take 'selfies' too !!