Dick’s Rant

The Ruby Glass windowpane. The sooty red oil lamp. In short, the enchanted lantern of little light that has barely illuminated the photographer's cave since the earliest days. The dim signal that chemical magic was afoot. The safelight. Let me start out by saying safelights aren't. None of them are safe, but their degree of danger depends upon a number of factors. The ones that were fired by kerosene were dangerous as fire hazards and the ones that work with electricity are dangerous because of that. But that is only to the worker - their real danger is when they overspread and fog up sensitive emulsions and photographic coatings. They are not meant to, but eventually they all do. You defeat this by four means: a. Distance - you keep the safelight far enough away from the sensitive material. b. Time - you expose the paper or film for the very smallest amount of time needed. c. Intensity - you keep the light as dim as you can, while still benefiting from some illumination. d. Filtration - there are different filters for different emulsions. This A-P safelight is...

If you have a camera with an internal stabiliser that lets you wave it about like a paper pinwheel - and still gets the picture - well you can stop reading. Go swat flies with it. The rest of us need more support than that. We need clamps and holders and tripods. We recognise the fact that nobody wants to see our pictures or videos if they are all shaky and blurry - even if it is art. We need stability. Enter everyone who makes tripods. Big ones, little ones, plastic ones, metal ones - even wooden ones occasionally. The legs go out and the legs go in and the locking mechanisms break and the quick release plates get lost and the cycle of retail goes on turning. And every now and then someone comes up with something new. The Joby people did when they started marketing their Gorilla series of camera supports. Initially meant for the dear little compact cameras, they were three flexible legs and a small screw-mount. They were intended to wrap around a pile, chair leg, tree branch, or...

And let us praise Sony for their design department. I often suggest simplicity to photo enthusiasts when they start to get complexes about complexity. Ditto when it comes to frugality. And the third part of the good-idea trilogy is lightness. Very often we are carrying enough weight in our photo gear to hurt by the end of the day - and a lot of professional days go a lot longer than 24 hours! Anything we can do to cut the burden is a good idea. The new FE 24-70 mm f:2.8 GM lens from Sony carries a Mk II designation on the barrel, but it is easy to see the differences from the outside - the lens now has a dedicated aperture ring  and is considerably shorter that the Mk I version. That, and the complete redesign inside with new lens configurations and materials, make it 200 grams lighter than the first type. It is now notably sharper and faster as well, and has conquered the bugbear of chromatic aberration. The first version was a continuation of a DSLR design, but this new...

Or Facetime, or Zoom, or whichever app and platform you used at the start of the 2020 pandemic? When you had no idea what you were doing, and neither did anyone else, and it showed? Did you do a Zoom quiz night? Or birthday party? Do you ever want to do another one? Thought not...

But dry at the time I went outside the Murray Street Store. Sometimes you can luck it. The opportunity to try the new-to-me Nikon Z-fc was too good to miss, so I took the spare SD card out of the gadget bag and plugged it in. Thus was the point at which the Nikon muscle memory kicked in and I was able to dive into the menu and format it. That's not just bumpf. A lot of cameras operate on menus and instruction sets that have been devised by their own staff. They may have configured the things quite differently from those of other makers, and it can be an Indiana Jones adventure to try to find the pathway in the menu that will lead you to the command you wish to exercise. Quite a few camera makers employ poison dart shooters and giant stone balls to discourage you from finding their treasures. Just getting to " format " can be a feat. The choices after that for sizes, shapes, renderings, colour, and such are pretty much standard between each camera in any...

It's been a long time since I first saw the announcements about the Nikon Z-fc camera - and since I watched Michael Phillips juggle three dummy demonstration bodies at a photo trade fair. I've looked at the dummy cameras in Murray Street and Stirling street since then, but this is the first time I've gotten a real-live working one to play with  It is fitted with a 24-70 f:4-6.3 lens. The lens is an average zoom range  - but for this APS-C-sensored camera that equates to 36-105mm fields of view when you compare it to the other Z full-frame cameras. Never mind - there are all sorts of Z-mount lenses for the Nikon cameras and you can go wider, too. You can also get Z lenses that capitalise on the style of the camera body...

Go 0n. Buy it. You know you want to try it out. If you have recently discovered that there is a world of photography beyond the pixel, and braved the wonders of the film cabinet, you are ready to consider a revolutionary idea; rolling your own film. Don't imagine that I'm suggesting you manufacture it yourself. Unless you live in Rochester, New York and aren't afraid of the dark, it is probably still best to let someone else actually coat the plastic strip, perforate it, and roll it up for packaging into a lightproof wrapping and a tin case. They've been doing it for a century and they are good at keeping the emulsion in and the insects out. But at this point you can step in  - and save yourself some money by doing so. Lots of photographers have been loading their own 35mm cassettes from rolls of bulk film for the last 70 years. It was a standard practice for big users; newspapers, magazines, schools, etc. when pre-packed tin cassettes from the major makers - often delivered in screw-top tin cans...