Articles

Before the rise of the Internet it was far more difficult to get hold of test and review information be it cameras, hi-fi or any other subject. This kind of information was the domain of specialist magazines which were limited to the amount of page space available. Often it could take weeks for a new piece of kit to get the review treatment and sometimes, depending on an items popularity, it would be skipped altogether. Dealers were also a good source of information, but their opinions were sometimes driven by whatever item had the largest profit margin.

Those photographers who enjoy macro or close focus photography will appreciate how important a sturdy tripod and well-made focus rail are. I have always held a particular fascination for macro work as I enjoy making images that illustrate the infinite patterns found in flowers, or alien like insect detail.

When I began taking photography seriously many years ago, one of the first lenses I used was a humble 50mm f1.8 that came with my OM1n. Being new to the realm of SLR photography I wanted to capture sweeping wide angle vistas. I became immediately dissatisfied with my 50mm as it produced images too ordinary, too boring. Within weeks it was replaced with a 28mm lens that instantly gave my pictures the drama and impact I was looking for, and I was soon pushing for wider and wider effects that lead me first to 24 and secondly 21mm lenses.

One thing that 30+ years of photography has taught me is that there is no such thing as the perfect camera bag. During this time I have used, abused, collected and disposed of so many different types of bag that I no longer easily remember them all. I think I must have a weakness for them as when I attend a camera show, or visit a shop, I find I gravitate towards the bag section in search of the perfect item. The worrying thing is that I still do this in the feint hope that I have missed something over the decades, or that a manufacturer has introduced the holy grail of bags that will end my (and others) search.

My favourite image viewing software program is FastStone Image Viewer 4.6. It is simple to use, offers easy to use image manipulation controls (although I prefer Lightroom for processing images) and handles most RAW file formats (including Adobe DNG). On top of this, it is available free to download (for home use) from http://www.faststone.org/, although donations are accepted to help toward future development costs.

It seems rare today for a camera to come along that looks like it is designed by a photographer and not a by a consortium of IT orientated experts. Most cameras are bristling with buttons and their menu items allow users an almost infinite amount of configuration. Enabling/disabling some of the options can be frustrating to say the least, and having a copy of the manual close to hand is almost a pre-requisite in the early weeks of ownership.

It is into this world that Leica's X1 was born, its Spartan appearance making it stand out from the crowd. It is a beautiful example of minimization, devoid of all unnecessary controls and built to simply take still images.

One of the greatest photographic pleasures in life is to see a well exposed, well projected slide and more so, if it is an image that you have created yourself. I have been using 35mm slide film for decades now, both professionally and personally, and my enthusiasm for it has remained constant. There is nothing like receiving a box of transparencies and holding them up to the light for the first time. In this world of binary data, a slide is something so tangible – almost magical, with almost a feeling of a bygone age.

I write this occasionally glancing down at my desk, at a small box of yellow and blue with a ‘best before’ date of October 2013. And I realise that this could be the last batch of Ektachrome E100G I am likely to be able to get hold of. The news came, early in March 2012, that Kodak was discontinuing all of their slide film. Bad news for me, as I have used Kodak’s E100G, E100VS and Elitechrome EBX exclusively for many years. Kodak assured us that there are sufficient supplies of film to last several months, but I have noticed that stocks are already exhausted at some of my suppliers.