Dateline 27 August 2015

 

Chatham challenge

We have already reported on this event but the following additional comments came in from a member of the society who, for obvious reasons, prefers to remain anonymous!

There was a strong gathering at the allotted hour on 14 June on platform 2 of Redhill station, all buzzing with anticipation for the annual Chatham challenge. Members are probably aware that the Chatham challenge dates back many, many years, perhaps almost as old as the club itself. (Editor's comment -Not quite correct, although it has been a feature of the summer events calendar for well over 20 years) Some even say that the challenge gave rise to the term “Chatham House Rules”, and in fact the competition is still played under these very strict rules today. For this reason, even the author of this piece must remain anonymous to avoid any risk of identification of the photographs he/she may have taken. Other than that, it is a very chivalrous competition where players strive to come second rather first, thereby leaving the honour of organising the following year’s competition to someone else.

Jose’s organisation worked a treat and everyone made it to the ‘photographic zone’ just to the north of Kings Cross/St Pancras stations. Initially the climatic conditions were quite challenging; the central viewpoint wasn’t quite high enough to get above the clouds, and ground level not low enough to get under the clouds. Soon strategies were hatched (though this should not be taken to mean that the author had any strategy at all), and members set off on their hunt for images suitable for one of the twelve competition themes set by Jose, or failing that, just any images at all.

Garden Party – 12 July 2015 – Organised by Carol and Lester Hicks

A summer 2015 extra event

PF

The summer garden party is a regular feature of events that are held during the summer months. For a number of years this has been held in the surroundings of Carol and Lester's garden. Unfortunately, unlike previous years, the weather was not at all kind, with grey skies and a chilly wind greeting those who attended. As a result the event was held indoors and the usual after-meal games of croquet were abandoned. However, we did take a stroll around the extensive garden afterwards to see the work that had been done so far in clearing many of the trees which had spread in an untidy manner along the boundary.

As usual, Carol had provided an excellent selection of savoury foods and salads plus 'afters', including fruits, scones with jam and cream and mouth-watering cakes that were not designed to do anybody's diets any good!

Despite the unfavourable weather conditions we all enjoyed the excellent food and a chance to chat. Sadly, there are no photographs to add to this article.

Our thanks to Carol and Lester for their organisation and hospitality.

 

Macro Field Outings - 14 and 18 July 2015 - Organised by Gill Langridge

A summer 2015 extra event

Report by Gill Langridge

The first of the macro sessions was attended by John Fisher, Lis Seymour, Mick Higgs and Paul Renaut. The day wasn’t very bright and a bit windy but we saw a few butterflies and lots of bees.

There were a few marbled whites, gatekeepers and dark green fritillaries that didn’t stop in very accessible places or for very long. However all participants seemed to gain something from the day and got a few good images.

Saturday was a brighter day and we saw a lots of marbled whites and gatekeepers, a few common blues and they all posed quite well on one particular flower. Jan Adcock and Colin Hodsdon attended. I had good feedback from all attendees.

Images from Gill and Paul Renaut appear below.

 Images copyright  Gill Langridge

Images copyright Paul Renaut

 

Bexhill Roaring 20s – 18 July 2015 – Organised by Stephen Hewes

A summer 2015 extra event

Report by Peter Flower 

 

As can be seen from this image of the programme cover there were numerous events taking place on this day which had potential to provide interesting entertainment as well as excellent photographic images. Following the very successful earlier event, which Stephen had arranged for a visit to Brooklands, this seemed to follow a theme of 'the good old days'! The meeting point was on the lawn outside the south-west side entrance door into the De La Warr Pavilion building. The pavilion is an interesting photographic subject in its own right, but only if you had the opportunity to cover it before the huge crowds arrived.

About ten of us arrived at the meeting point on time, although I understand that a couple of other members were seen later in the day. There was no shortage of photogenic subjects along a stretch of the seafront, even at that early stage. There was an array of vintage cars and I chatted to the very proud owner of a splendid Chevrolet sedan which had the very distinctive number plate 'KIW 1066', a reference to the nearby Battle of Hastings.

Photograph by Peter Flower

 

A large number of people had entered into the spirit of the event by dressing up in 20s-style clothing. Some examples are shown below.

Throughout the day a number of bands and musical groups were performing at various points along the front. These attracted some dancers, as shown below, plus an audience to watch the marching band.

 

There was also an enactment by stuntmen of Prohibition period action, as shown below.

 

A major activity of the day was an official attempt for a Guinness World Record for the most people dancing the Charleston for 5 minutes. This was done in a crowded area immediately in front of the Pavilion and attracted a huge audience, crowding onto the balcony areas of the building. Jill took part in this event, one of just over 500 people who succeeded in achieving the new record.

Ian Hunt took the following photograph from the balcony. The challenge, much like that posed in the famous 'Where's Wally' series, is to find Jill in the picture. To help, an enlargement of the area in the crowd where she was is also included!

 Ian describes the problems he had taking this photograph -

It was a bit congested on the top balcony and my camera was held at arms length so I was lucky to get that shot. I could have done with your selfy stick! Then my Bugatti Centenary hat flew off my head over the edge of the building and down into the car park. A hasty descent down the spiral stairs and out into the street to retrieve it meant any more crowd shots were curtailed all of a sudden.

From mid-afternoon on a number of air displays took place. These included a mock dog-fight by two triplane aircraft of about WW1 vintage, a Dakota from the WW2 era and a vintage newly-restored aircraft on its first public display which was delayed by headwinds on its flight from Biggin Hill.

 

As can be seen from the photographs displayed above, the weather was sunny throughout the day. There were photographic opportunities at every turn, which added to the enjoyment of the day. Our thanks to Stephen for his research and excellent organisation.

Shooting black cats in darkened cellars!

Techman

 

Canon has introduced its ME20F-SH multi-purpose camera - a black cube with an EF mount and the ability to capture Full HD colour video in near-darkness. At the core of the ME20F-SH is a 2.26 megapixel CMOS sensor, originally announced in 2013, which has pixels measuring 19μm - 5.5X larger than those found on high-end DSLRs. This allows for 1080/60p/30p/24p (and PAL equivalent) video capture in light levels as low as 0.0005 lux at a maximum gain setting of 75 Db, which is equivalent to over ISO 4,000,000.

The ME20F-SH could prove to be a useful tool for film-makers, either as a speciality camera or as a regular production tool for certain applications. Film-makers needing to shoot the occasional scene in near-total darkness while maintaining accurate colour will benefit from the insanely high ISO. And, the camera could be useful in production environments such as reality TV or for documentary film-making in low light.

The camera will be available from December. The price - $30,000.

 

Lens Adapters

Techman

 

The ability to use one make of lens on another manufacturer's camera has been problematic for a very long time. In the days of mechanical control between body and lens this was due to lack of common standards. There could also be variation in the distance between the lens mount and the film or sensor (referred to as the back-focus distance). Even if the adapter overcame the mechanical control differences there remained the problem that it would almost certainly position the lens further away from the film plane or sensor, meaning that infinity focus was impossible. It could be possible to provide a correction lens within the adapter to compensate for this, but almost certainly at the expense of image quality. Things became even more complex with the introduction of electronic control, bringing with it the facility for autofocus and 'intelligent' feedback between lens and body. The back-focus problem also remained. An easing of the latter problem appeared with the introduction of mirror-less and more compact camera bodies. It was now possible to fit an adapter that allowed the substitute lens to be positioned at a suitable distance for the full focus range to be achieved.

Many simple adapters have been available for a range of different cameras but they generally required a good deal of manual control to operate. This might not be a problem with, say, landscape photography but anything involving fast movement or rapidly changing situations would be difficult. News from the United States suggests that, in one specific instance, the problems have been overcome. Because the Sony A7 series of full-frame cameras have slimmer bodies there have been attempts to utilise Canon EF lenses with them. Earlier reports suggested that these were largely successful but with criticism of the autofocus function. Recent comments on American web forums, and among Canon owners in particular, about using Canon lenses with the Sony A7R II are encouraging. The Metabones Smart Adapter Mark IV allows Canon EF mount lenses to fit the Sony E-Mount Camera. It sells for about $399 and allows a great many Canon lenses to work fully automatically on the A7RII, and in some cases actually autofocus faster than with a 5 Series Canon camera. Native Sony lenses will likely remain preferable when it comes to focus tracking and eye focus, but the adapter enables current Canon owners to use many of their existing lenses quite satifactorily with the Sony camera.

 

Trends

Peter Flower

We normally publish a review at around New Year, or at the time of Photokina, to comment on the latest new equipment and trends. However, there have been so many changes to date this year that it seems appropriate to make an interim report.

Note: Camera models with (*) indicated are award winners in the 2015-2016 EISA Awards.

One noticeable trend has been the establishment of common features within the various categories of model ranges. This shows in the adoption of sensor sizes. The smallest sensor is generally the 1 /2.3” that features in 'pocketable' compact cameras and a number of bridge cameras. The choice is not only one of cost, but also the fact that extended zoom ranges can be supplied without lenses becoming too large.

The wide variety is illustrated by the following examples; a Sony DSC-HX90V (*) compact (which includes an electronic viewfinder as well as tilting LCD screen) and Panasonic DMC-FZ300 ultra-zoom bridge camera.

 

The following illustration shows the relative sizes of sensors. From this it is possible to assess the potential benefits achievable from the larger sizes. Note that not all the sizes shown are currently in wide use.

 

The slightly larger sensor, 1/1.7”, also appears in compact cameras, but with shorter zoom ranges and in models that provide slightly better picture quality. Examples are the Canon G16, Panasonic LX7 and the Olympus Stylus 1. The shorter zoom range enables provision of much wider aperture lenses, typically starting from f/1.4 up to f/2.8.

 

There are exceptions to this pattern, including a few models from Fujifilm that have a slightly larger 2/3 sensor, such as the Fujifilm XQ1.

Staying with reasonably compact cameras, there is now a growing range that contains the 1” sensor. Again, these are aimed at users who want good picture quality whilst still retaining carry-around convenience. To this is added the availability of exchangeable lenses. Examples are the Nikon 1 Series J5 and Samsung NX Mini with exchangeable lenses plus the Panasonic FZ1000 with fixed zoom lens.

 

Micro four-thirds models from the likes of Panasonic and Olympus have been around for several years. These originally benefited from smaller lenses and bodies than their APS-C rivals, although it has to be said that some recent APS-C models have bodies that are just as compact. Representative are the newest models, Olympus OM-D E-M5 II (*), Panasonic G7 (*) and Panasonic GX8. An interesting feature of all these cameras is that the touch-sensitive rear screen can be used to select a focus point even when the LCD viewfinder is being used to view the scene.

 

There is a very wide range of APS-C models available from a number of makers. These include cameras with both fixed and interchangeable lenses. There are also fairly compact models (looking like the rangefinder cameras of old) plus DSLR-style ones, both mirror-less and with conventional optical viewfinders. The Sony A6000 represents the typical exchangeable lens compact model (mirror-less and with electronic viewfinder). The Fujifilm X100T has a fixed lens, but with an unusual hybrid optical plus electronic viewfinder. The Nikon D5500 (*) and Pentax K3 II (with optical viewfinders) represent the traditional DSLR range whilst the Fujifilm XT-10 (*) is a similar but mirror-less model.

 

The range of 35 mm equivalent (full-frame) cameras is more limited. A recent release is the Canon EOS 5DS (*).

 

Until now Nikon and Canon models have monopolised this category, but recent announcements and the aggressive pricing by Sony may well challenge the status quo.

In Newsletter 57 of 6th January 2014 there was a prediction that a sub-£1000 full-frame DSLR or CSC camera (SLR-style) would make an appearance within the year. This became a fact by November 2014, as reported in Newsletter 64. This was the the Sony Alpha 7 with 24 megapixel sensor, one of two new models that had been introduced in October 2013. A company called Panamoz listed the Sony A7 at a body only price of £835, or complete with 28-70mm kit lens at £955. This included a free 3 year UK warranty, 14 day money back guarantee, free express shipping with full insurance and delivery in 4 to 6 days.

The recent introduction of the latest flagship model in the range, the A7R II reported on in our last Newsletter, has triggered a significant drop in prices for the previous four models. Sony has followed the lead of various other manufacturers in offering significant cash-back offers. This has resulted in bargain (body only) prices at the present time, as shown below. (Note: Prices are current from Park Cameras)

A7 – Introduced in October 2013 (£599 including £200 cash-back)

A7R – Introduced in October 2013 (£1139 including £200 cash-back)

A7S – Introduced in April 2014 (£1499 including £200 cash-back)

A7 II – Introduced in November 2014 (£1044 including £200 cash-back)

The A7R II – Announced in June 2015 is priced at £2599, and is just becoming available.

This news is important in many respects. It is indicative of the determination of Sony to concentrate on full-frame models in other than their compact ranges. Also, the fact that the A7 range has been developed in such a relatively short time-scale and has resulted in the latest feature-packed model is a measure of their desire to impact the sales of the current market leaders. 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. Looking at the competing DSLR ranges it is obvious that the greater number of models, 14 each for Canon and Nikon, lack cohesion. Not only do they cover both full-frame and APS-C models, but the features are so very different, which can be regarded as a potential weakness.

The strengths of Canon and Nikon lie in the maturity of their products and the fact that so many users have a large investment in their lenses. It is likely that most photographers will have two or many more lenses for each camera body. As a result it makes it difficult to abandon that legacy of lenses and to contemplate starting afresh with a different brand. Because of the lack of mirror box required by a DSLR the mirror-less camera could have a much slimmer body. The back focus distance, from lens flange to sensor, was shorter and so enabled the fitting of adapters that did not affect the ability to focus at infinity. Until recent times it has been possible to purchase adapters that enable DSLR lenses to be fitted to mirror-less cameras, but these have had severe limitations. They might not provide the level of automation, such as autofocus or aperture control, that made them easy to use. However, as reported in the earlier article by Techman, the situation has changed dramaticaly with the arrival of the Sony A7R II and the latest Metabones adapter. The ability of the A7R II to autofocus at very low light levels and to focus as quickly with some Canon lenses as the E-mount ones from Sony is a potential game-changer.

 

Olympus financial results

PF

Readers may recall the financial crisis and surrounding scandal concerning this company in late 2011. The allegations concerned a complex web of financial transactions to companies based in the Cayman Islands involving apparently high fees ($687 million) to advisory companies. The company's share price plunged dramatically, in one instance by 24 percent in a single day. $3 billion in market capitalization was lost in just two trading sessions. Happily, these problems are now behind the company according to a report for the first quarter of the company's fiscal year. This is due in part to its Imaging Systems Business for a 12.3% increase in net sales year-on-year. Notably, its OM-D and Pen series cameras saw a 25% increase in sales volume, helping to compensate for a sliding compact market. Olympus credits the upward trend to solid sales of the OM-D E-M5 II and its 'Pro' M.Zuiko lenses.

 

Down memory lane with Olympus OM

Peter Flower

With the introduction of the Olympus OM-D E-M10 II the company has replicated a design feature that will bring back memories of the original OM-1 film camera. This is best illustrated by the two images below where you can see the very distinctive On/Off switch on the top plate.

It seems that the designers of the new model made a deliberate decision to evoke memories of the original camera that was noted for its compact design. The OM-1 was introduced in 1972 and was notable for its use by David Bailey. Our own Don Morley also used Olympus cameras professionally. Another member who used Olympus until very recent times was May Savage. She was renowned for her excellent black and white prints, using trusty Olympus OM series 35mm cameras. May continued to use these long after most of us had converted to digital, ignoring our good-natured banter about her Luddite tendencies!

 

Brighton Gay Pride event – 1 August 2015 – Organised by Grahame Singleton

A summer 2015 extra event

Report by Stephen Hewes

Despite best laid schemes of mice and men…

BBC News: “A parade to celebrate Pride in Brighton has taken place in front of some 160,000 people lining the streets. The procession was delayed by 90 minutes after a suspicious package, which police believe was intended to disrupt the event, was discovered”.

The event was due to follow a new "high-profile" route that included King's Road, the peace statue, and the city's seafront, organisers said. But it avoided the seafront alert area and went along Western Road.

Ch Supt Nev Kemp said “Expert explosives officers detonated the package, found on the seafront, in a controlled explosion. He said this was normal procedure and there was no immediate risk to the public.”

Among the 160,000 crowd, the Reigate PS contingent of six were going to have one of the best vantage points as the procession turned off the seafront to head uphill into the centre of town. Strategically located where the procession would slow down to navigate the corner, it would have been perfect. But then word passed around that the package had been found and the crowd rapidly dispersed.

Grahame, Pete and I found a location on the route near the end of Trafalgar Street which was compromised – kids with flags waving in front of lenses and two mean spirited neighbours on the pavement (how did we find them in a joyous crowd of 160,000?).

But thanks to Grahame’s insight to catch the early train and grab shots of the procession’s performers setting up, the event was very much a success photographically. We were blessed with diffused sunshine – perfect for fast shutter speeds. People were completely relaxed, happy to pose if requested, and certainly colourful. And in the case of seven rainbow coloured drag-queens, very shiny with metres of silver foil ‘wings’. The attached photographs capture only a small cross-section of the diversity of the event.

After 25 years, the event stands as testimony as to what has been achieved in terms of liberation. While many there would no doubt argue there is much further to go (least of all with the mentality of the stupid individual who planted the package), indications of change ranged from small details like the rainbow epaulettes on the police officers' shoulders to the giant flags on the Hilton hotel and corporate sponsorship from the likes of Sainsbury’s.

Many thanks again to Grahame for leading the trip and for his tips and encouragement.

 

Skittles Match – 10 August 2015 – Organised by Jill Flower

Report by Peter Flower

This is another event which has become a regular feature of our summer programme. It is an opportunity for members to meet and socialise at an event that does not necessarily involve the discussion of photography. Previous events have been held at another venue but this year switched to the Six Bells inn at Newdigate. This proved to be a very successful choice. We had exclusive use of the main restaurant, where the skittles lane is specially set up alongside the seating and tables.

A total of 19 turned up for the evening, including members, wives and two friends brought along by John and Sue Gall. Four teams were formed with members of each being decided by picking slips of paper from a 'hat'. Because of the odd number it was decided to divide into four teams, named Red, Green, Blue and Yellow, with each consisting of five players except for 'Red' who would consist of four and could choose one member to play twice in each round.

There were five rounds of skittles, with the meal taking place in the interval at about 8:30pm. Scores varied by a considerable margin with some balls irritatingly going down the margins of the lane whilst others resulted in almost total wipe-out of the nine skittles.

The highest individual score in a round went to Lester, with a grand total of 16 skittles knocked down. Lester also had the highest overall score of 43 for the evening. This narrowly beat two others, Clare Taylor and Neil Hughan, who each managed scores of 42.

In the team events the overall winners were the Red team with a grand score of 191. Jill awarded them with a box of chocolates to share. The lowest scoring team were the Greens. Rather than the traditional lemons awarded in previous years Jill handed out some very stylish wooden spoons to each team member!

This was a very lively and enjoyable evening. Thanks go to Jill for organising this very successful event. Thanks must also go to the management and staff of the Six Bells who provided the meal and gave such friendly service during the evening.

Modesto Vega in action, Jill presenting a wooden spoon to Les Dyson, and the winning team members

Leica S (Typ 007) medium format camera

Techman

Originally announced in September 2014 this model is only now available. It is claimed to provide outstanding image quality combined with maximum speed and flawless handling. A significant factor is that the company has switched from its traditional CCD sensor to a CMOS unit that lends the camera more flexibility The new Leica S brings together maximum burst rate, exceptional sensor sensitivity and an extensive range of capture modes for photos and, for the first time, video footage. It has a burst frequency of up to 3.5 frames per second, full-HD video in full-frame medium format sensor size, 4K video recording in Super 35 format, fast Live View mode and exceptional image quality at all ISO settings.

The Leica S (Typ 007) is available in the UK from selected Leica stockists, at a suggested retail price of £12,900 including VAT.

 

 

Chichester Cathedral Visit – 8 August 2015 – Organised by Modesto Vega

A summer 2015 extra event

No report on this event, but just a few photographs by Modesto Vega and Les Dyson who attended.

 

And Finally . . . . .

Not quite the right method to take a 'selfie'!