Category Archives: equipment

Empty space

One thing I like about working in the city of Melbourne in early January is how quiet and empty it can seem. Thanks to the holidays, there is less traffic and I get to the car park earlier and there are far less cars already there. This has given me the opportunity to try out the new f2.8 lens on the Olympus (which is now firmly entrenched as my carry around camera) and also explore an empty car park.

This is what the Melbourne Museum car park looks like before 7.30am in early January.

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Also posted in Olympus

Wandering around in manual mode

After toting a full frame camera plus lenses around a number of European cities while on holiday last year, I decided that something lighter and easier to carry might be the future of my travel photography.

After much reading and thinking and sorting out of ‘must haves’, I decided to test the quality and usability of micro 4/3. Not wishing to spend a large sum of money and then find out that the micro 4/3 system couldn’t deliver the image quality I needed to do large prints, I decided to go for the Olympus E-M5 and the kit lens.

Getting used to the electronic view finder and a complicated menu system has been a bit of a challenge, but so far, the Olympus has performed way above it’s price range. Considering the price difference between the E-M5 and my full-frame Canon plus L series glass, the Olympus is amazing. I have no trouble producing high quality A2 prints from the 16mp small sensor.

Setting the camera up to work the way I want it to has been a bit of a challenge but the other day I went for a wander around Williamstown (a suburb of Melbourne) with the E-M5 in full manual mode to see how easy it was to use. Surprisingly easy after I set up a couple of custom functions as it turned out.

The Olympus E-M5 is a lot of camera for the money.

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Also posted in Olympus, opinion

Photographing Freeplay

I recently had some fun photographing the events at the Freeplay independent games festival held in Melbourne, Australia.

The events I photographed took place in an auditorium at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI), a theatre at the State Library of Victoria, an exhibition space in the State Library and a dimly lit bar where the awards presentation was held.

The lighting conditions varied from marginal, lit by spotlights of various strengths and colours to almost pitch black lit by dull red spots (the bar).

The white balance was non-existent, depending on where the speakers were standing, what was being displayed on the screen behind them and whether or not they were using a tablet for reading notes.

Mare Sheppard of Metanet Software Inc.

This was an excellent chance to try out the low level response and focusing of the new 5D Mark 3 which had arrived a week or so earlier.

The first surprise was the focusing, much, much faster than the original 5D I had been using prior to this. It was grabbing focus as fast as I could press the shutter button, even in the dimly lit bar there was no lag or focus hunting.

Morgan Jaffit of Defiant Development.

The low level performance was brilliant, it can practically see in the dark and this came in very handy in the bar for the awards night. Sure the files have some noise, but this cleaned up to an acceptable level for the conditions. I’ve never shot an image at ISO 25600 before. This gave me 1/80 at f4.5 and combined with a monopod I was able to document the evening and capture not only the presenters and award recipients, but also the visuals on the screen behind them. See more of the images at the Freeplay galleries.

Paul Callaghan, director of Freeplay



Also posted in Canon, discussion

Cameras in the Cupboard #11

Nikon Nikkormat

The workhorse. My third SLR was a Nikon Nikkormat, so was my fourth, fifth and sixth.

Nikon Nikkormat

In fact I used Nikkormat cameras from when I bought the first one in 1973 to when I decided to go digital in 2002.

I was hooked on the Nikkormat the first time one of my friends from the Geelong Camera Club let me use his briefly. The view finder was much brighter than the SLR I was using at the time and the prints were sharper.

Over the next 29 years I wore out several bodies, replacing them when they couldn’t be repaired economically. I usually had two Nikkormat bodies in my camera bag, a black one for black and white film and a silver one loaded with colour.

Nikon made the Nikkormat FT from 1965 to 1967, then the FTn from 1967 to 1975. I had examples of both over the years.

I now have 6 large ring binders of negatives, all taken with a Nikon Nikkormat. My favourite camera of all time.

Also posted in cameras in the cupboard

Fast Photography

On the 19th March, 2010, a couple of friends and I went to Phillip Island for a day out at the classic car races.

Last year I was disappointed with the photos I took, so this year I was determined to do better. Last year I came home with a lot of blurry photos, so concentrating on getting a decent shutter speed and holding the camera still was my goal.

I set the ISO at 800 and the program mode to aperture priority at f8. This gave me a shutter speed of around 1/1000.  I turned the auto focus off and manually focused on a section of the track in front of me. As the cars came out of the fast right-hand corner at the bottom of the main straight, I tracked them until they reached my pre-focused spot, then I pressed the shutter.

I got some good results in terms of sharpness and the position of the car, however, my lack of a longer tele lens (I was using a 200mm) and the fact that I don’t have access to the track, meant that the images were still rather dull.

So I wandered off to the pits and tried to make some interesting images there.

Here is a gallery of the best ten photos of the day.

Also posted in collection, discussion, explanation

Cameras in the Cupboard #8

Zeiss Ikon Contina

One of the cameras in the cupboard has a significant place in my life for a number of reasons. It is a Zeiss Ikon Contina.

In 1955 my mother’s eldest sister, my aunt Ruth, decided to leave our home town of Geelong and travel to Europe. This was not a common thing to do in the 1950s. Apart from the fact that it involved a 6 week voyage by ship, it was virtually unknown for a young country girl to travel unescorted to Europe for an indefinite stay.

Ruth got work in London, met up with several other women from various parts of the world and spent every available minute of the next six years touring Britain and Europe. She returned home after being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 1961.

I think Ruth’s Zeiss Ikon is a Contina 1a, made between 1954 and 1957. However, it has the Novar f3.5 lens, which means it was made prior to 1956. I am not sure if the camera was purchased here before she left or as soon as she arrived in England.

It is a very simple camera without rangefinder-type focussing, just a distance scale on the lens. There is no light meter either, but the lens is adjustable from f3.5 to f22.

For a simple camera, it is very solid, heavy and well made. My aunt was a fastidious woman and the Contina is in superb condition. I am struggling to find a mark on it, even with a magnifying glass. The leather carrying case is also in unmarked condition. One might be tempted to think that is has never been used, but I know it travelled around Europe for six years, and I have the boxes of slides to prove it.

Unfortunately Ruth was neither a good, nor prolific photographer. A lot of her images are badly underexposed.

But this camera represents a number of things in my life. The trip up from Geelong to Station Pier in Melbourne is one of my earliest memories and my first trip to Melbourne. It was the first time I ever saw a passenger ship, and the only time I have ever waved one goodbye, with the streamer throwing and a band playing.

And on the way home I got to ride in the dicky seat of my uncle’s 1936 Plymouth coupe.

Also posted in cameras in the cupboard, collection

Cameras in the Cupboard #5

As I have mentioned before, my family, especially my mother’s side, always seemed to have had a camera on hand at family gatherings; birthdays, Christmas, picnics and the like. So I grew up thinking that having a camera and photographing family events was just what people did.

The first camera I remember is my father’s Kodak Brownie ‘C’.

A lot of the early photos of my immediate family were taken with this camera, it might even have taken the picture of my mother and father in the previous post.

I remember playing with the camera as a child (very carefully and under supervision, of course). I was fascinated by the dim images in the viewing screens. Because the camera took 6cmx9cm negatives  on 620 film, it could take an image in either portrait or landscape format and had a viewing screen for each one (the two little portholes above the lens). It was virtually impossible to make out any detail unless the subject was bathed in bright sunlight.

This camera is the start of my photographic story. I took my first photo with this corroded old piece of family history. And it was the first camera to take a photograph of me.

Kodak made the Brownie ‘C’ from 1946 to 1957. In 1953 the design of the front plate changed slightly, making my father’s camera a pre-1953 model. In fact, judging from some of the photos, he certainly owned it in 1949, so it is an earlier model. It still has its original canvas carry case, although the strap has broken.

Also posted in cameras in the cupboard, collection

Cameras in the Cupboard #2

Zorki 4

The second in this series of cameras in my cupboard is a Russian Soviet Zorki 4. It is another purchase; in fact it was the first item I ever won in an eBay auction.

The Zorki was made by the KMZ factory in a suburb of Moscow. The factory began producing cameras heavily based on pre-war Leicas just after the Second World War. The Zorki 4 was made from 1956 to 1973 and more than 1.7 million were produced, according to the Guide to Russian and Soviet Cameras by J. L Princelle.

From what I can work out, my camera was produced somewhere in the late 1960s. It is a classic rangefinder with a few quirks. It’s heavy and solid, made out of serious metal, not plastic. The shutter and the shutter speed dial are interconnected, so you have to cock the shutter before setting the shutter speed.

The old Zorki has had quite a few films through it over the years but it is still in good working order. There are a few wear marks on the body and a scuff on the front lens element but apart from that all is good.

Reviewers have claimed that the images from the Zorki and the other Russian Leica copy, the FED, were as good as an image from a Leica.

And the Zorki has the added advantage of a Leica-compatible screw mount lens, so there is no reason why you can’t put a Summicron on the front of it.

I can’t afford a genuine pre-war Leica, but a Zorki isn’t a bad substitute.


A work colleague read this post and requested that I change the word ‘Russian’ to Soviet’. His reasoning is that the entire production run of the Zorki 4 was produced under the Soviet regime and isn’t exclusively Russian. And as Mikhail comes from Russia, who am I to disagree?

Also posted in cameras in the cupboard, collection


At the moment, it seems inevitable that still photography and video photography will merge, or at least get closer together. In an essay on the Luminous Landscape site, Chris Sanderson talks about his experience using the Canon 5Dii in video mode.

In the article he makes this statement “I am a videographer first and a stills photographer second.” And to me this is a vital point in the discussion about the convergence of still photography and videography.

I am still photographer first and a videographer never.

Still photography and videography require different skills sets and, I think, different ways of viewing the world. I see in still images, I want to interpret the world with still images. I am not interested in moving pictures nor am I interested in learning the skills needed to take and edit watchable video.

Sanderson also says “…the video portion of the 5Dii’s functionality appears to be an afterthought, video handling and implementation are rudimentary.” Well, at least that is a plus. Video hasn’t taken over the camera. I want a still camera to feel, be held and operate like a still camera. I don’t want to have to work around video controls. I can live with a still camera that has a video function as long as I never have to see it.

But I would prefer that Canon spent the extra cost of the video functions on something important, like getting the autofocus to work properly every time or providing weather proofing and a solution to the condensation problem.

At the moment the 5Dii is a viable replacement for my 5D when it eventually needs replacing. But if Canon keeps going down this path, the model after the 5Dii might not be.

Also posted in Canon