Posts Tagged ‘cameras’

Panoramic Carnival 1992

Sunday, October 11th, 2020
Panorama, Notting Hill Carnival 1992

Although I’d been making the occasional panoramic image over the years, taking a series of pictures and painstakingly cutting and pasting several prints to produce a seldom quite convincing join, it was only late in 1991 that I finally bought a camera capable of taking true panoramic images.

Panorama, Notting Hill Carnival 1992 nh92001_2400

It’s hard now to imagine how difficult it was to produce panoramic images back in those pre-digital days – unless you could afford an expensive panoramic camera. Nowadays many cheaper digital cameras come with a ‘panoramic’ mode (though I’ve never managed to use one to produce an image that survived close scrutiny) and both specialised “stitching” software and more general programs such as Photoshop make joining several frames just a matter of a few clicks.

Panorama, Notting Hill Carnival 1992 nh92004_2400

It was the Soviet Union, and Krasnogorsky Mechanicheskiy Zavod  (KMZ) that first introduced a reasonably priced panoramic camera to a wider audience, with the Horizont, available from 1966-73, but at the time I wasn’t interested in panoramic photography. Like their Zenith SLR cameras which I started serious photography with this was pretty basic and had a possibly undeserved reputation as being something of a problem to use.

Panorama, Notting Hill Carnival 1992 nh92011_2400

When I bought my first panoramic camera in 1991 it was a Japanese model, a Widelux F8, a similar swing lens camera to the Horizont but with a wider 140 degree angle of view and rather smoother operation. It was also considerably more expensive and I think cost me almost a month’s salary.

Panorama, Notting Hill Carnival 1992 nh92020_2400


Although the camera worked smoothly, its viewfinder was abysmal, and I made landscape pictures with the camera on a tripod and using two arrows showing the field of view on the top of the camera body, with a spirit level in the accessory shoe to level the camera. But for the carnival and similar images of events I used it handheld.

Panorama, Notting Hill Carnival 1992 nh92022_2400

In later years I bought the revised version of the Russian camera, now with a similar mechanism encased in a plastic body and called Horizon (there were several slightly different models.) The viewfinder was so much better than than Widelux and thankfully incorporated a spirit bubble – and the cameras were less than a tenth of the price (I used at least two over the years, one ridiculously cheap from a clearly illegal operation in the Ukraine, evading any customs duties.)

Panorama, Notting Hill Carnival 1992 nh92024_2400

The only colour images I can find from Notting Hill Carnival in 1992 were taken with the Widelux, and appear to have been taken in two relatively short periods, one on Ladbroke Grove and the other on Elkstone Rd. There are some more, some rather similar to those in this post, in my Flickr album Notting Hill Panoramas -1992.


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


Trafalgar Square protests

Saturday, April 4th, 2020
Ian Hodson, BFAWU President

Back on Saturday 12th October there were two protests taking place in Trafalgar Square and it was raining. One was by trade unionists supporting Extinction Rebellion and the school climate strikers, and there was a powerful speech from Ian Hodson, National President of the Baker’s Union BFAWU.  His union is one of the older and smaller unions in the TUC, founded in 1847 in Manchester though it has changed its name a couple of times.

The BFAWU is a union that still fights actively for its members and isn’t afraid to take on large organisations, including McDonald’s, Burger King, and KFC in its campaign to unionise and improve pay and conditions for fast food workers.

The rain came on rather more heavily, and I kept my cameras in my camera bag or under my coat, and took rather fewer pictures than I would otherwise. Working in wet conditions is still rather a pain, even though some cameras and some lenses are ‘weatherproof’ this doesn’t really keep them going in the rain.

The 3million organisation representing the three million EU citizens who were living in the UK had come prepared, wearing blue and yellow plastic rain capes with a sticker on them also in the colours of the EU flag and the message ‘I am not a bargaining chip’.

They had come to protest at the broken promise made by the Vote Leave campaign, which had clearly stated that EU Citizens currently living in the UK would “automatically be granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK” in the event of Brexit. Instead we have a complex scheme of applications, with many who have applied for leave to remain having their applications rejected. Some who have lived here for over 50 years, and have children who are UK citizens may face deportation.

Together they tore up copies of the promise, though the light had dropped and the pictures I took on a longer lens were rather blurred by their motion – I hadn’t got my camera set to a high enough ISO.

I still can’t decide which is the best way to work with my digital cameras when lighting conditions are likely to change. The different cameras I use – and on this occasion it was an Olympus OMD M5 II and a Fuji XT-1 – have slightly differing implementation of auto-ISO, which would seem to be a good answer, but in practice can mean that you are too often working at full aperture.

Probably the answer is to work in manual mode, setting both aperture and shutter speed when using auto-ISO, but it is then very easy to find that either you have reached your maximum ISO set and the camera then underexposes everything, or, even worse, you are at the minimum ISO in your range and all your images are overexposed with burnt out highlights.

More on both protests:

Brexit unfair for EU citizens
Trade Unionists join the Rebellion


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


Fuji or Olympus?

Wednesday, December 4th, 2019

This is the question I’ve been asking myself for some weeks or months. For a year or so I’ve been finding a camera bag full of Nikon gear too heavy to carry for the length of time needed to cover events in London. It’s mainly standing around that I find a problem so far as my health is concerned, and I have to remember to either sit down or to keep moving to stop my ageing veins becoming inflamed. Walking is a little better, though I do get tired much more quickly, and while I used to walk for the length of a working day and perhaps cover ten or a dozen miles, now I get tired and give up in half the time.

I can still run when I need to, though not quite as far or as fast as when young. Last Saturday when I saw a march going down Whitehall from in front of the National Gallery I ran to catch up with the front of it, around 600 yards in the fastest time I’ve done for some years. But still slow compared to my youth, when before smoking took its toll I recorded some decent but not outstanding times. I once won a quarter mile at the local youth sports in a world record time and at least fifty yards ahead of the next runner. The timekeepers ran up to me pointing at the time on their watches, and in a perhaps stupid fit of honesty I told them that the race officials had put the finishing tape in the wrong place. I was very annoyed as the conditions had been perfect and I would surely have recorded a personal best on the day over the full distance.

But no I feel a great need to cut down the weight I carry, and the Nikons are only for special occasions (the D810 is now my slide scanner – more about that one day in another post.)

For some years my holiday cameras have been Fujis. I started with the fixed lens Fuji X100, then went on to an X-E2, followed before too long by an X-E3. I swapped my Leica M8 with a friend for an X-Pro1 because I wanted to work in colour without all the fuss that the M8 needed. All of these Fujis were good in their way – and if I could be satisfied with just a say 28, 35 and 50mm equivalent lenses I would have been happy with the X Pro1. But I really got serious with Fuji with the X-T1.

I tried working with the X-T1 and one of the Nikons. It was still a fairly heavy combination, but the X-T1 was pretty good (if occasionally mystifying.) Its 10-24mm wideangle zoom was an improvement optically than the Nikon 18-35mm that I’d bought when the 16-36mm gave up the ghost (it remains on my desk with an equally almost certainly beyond economic repair D700 as an expensive paperweight) though sometimes a little slow to focus. It was good to have the extra wide angle that its 15-36mm equivalent provided – I sometimes found the Nikon’s 18mm not quite wide enough.

But things were still too heavy. And when I saw an Olympus OMD M5 II selling new for just over £400, Micro Four Thirds seemed to be the answer (as one of my colleagues had been telling me whenever we met.) Along with the body I bought the absurdly small and light Olympus 18- 150mm, also going cheap. Just over 3 inches long and only 10 oz. I don’t own the Nikon equivalent, but it is half as long again, weighs almost three times as much and costs over twice what I paid for the OM lens.

And using the M5 II usually turned out to be a great experience, except for a few quirks – the most serious of which was perhaps the ease with which the main control dial could be inadvertantly moved. Working in shutter priority it is far too easy to find yourself taking pictures at 1/8th rather than the 1/250th you have consciously selected. Though with its effective in-camera stabilisation the pictures were still usually sharp unless anyone moved.

I don’t make a great deal of use of long lenses, but this August I spent some time testing the Nikon telephotos I do have, an elderly 70-300 and a couple of shorter zooms (one a DX) against the Olympus. Despite the much smaller 4/3 sensor, this gave the sharpest images and I could see no difference in the amount of detail.

For the past months I’ve been working almost all the time with the Fuji X-T1 and the Olympus M5 II. I’ve bought an expensive Panasonic Leica wide angle zoom for the Olympus, and can chose either camera for wide-angle or telephoto use, and can’t quite decide which I prefer. Both cameras have their quirks and neither is as straightforward to use as the Nikons. And winter weather and working in poor light have made some limitations felt, particularly with the noise in Olympus images at ISO over 3200. The D750 gives noticeably better results at ISO 6400 and focuses better in low light.

Of course the X-T1 is quite an old model by now – and the M5 II is now being updated as the M5 III. It would be easier to work with two cameras from the same marque, and I’ve been wondering which way to go. The M5 III seems only a minor upgrade on the II, and annoyingly takes slightly different batteries. I’ve been thinking of getting a second M5 II instead of waiting for the III, and the price is now even slightly lower. The X-T30 looks much more of an upgrade on the XT1, and is even lighter than the Olympus, but is not weatherproof, and I have more Fuji lenses… With some special offers and rebates the difference in cost isn’t great…


The cameras behind the pictures

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2019

I’ve often written about it being the photographer and not the camera that makes great pictures, but of course most photographers spend far too long talking and worrying about cameras, and many of us own a ridiculous number of them, mostly just sitting unused in cupboards.

Of course there are a few pictures that call out for some very special features in a camera, but most of the great images we know could have been taken by almost any working camera. Back in the days of film it wasn’t too unusual for the images used to advertise Camera X to have by taken by a photographer working with a different manufacturer’s system, and when captions included things like the camera model, aperture and shutter speed these were often rather speculative. Sometimes on my contact sheets I noted the camera used – OM1/ M2 etc – but often it was unrecorded. Now we have EXIF data to go on; with film you only had the markings on the film, which confirmed it was Tri-X or FP4 etc but nothing more.

But I think most photographers will find the article “20 Of The Most Iconic Photographs And The Cameras That Captured Them” of interest, even if as one of the comments points out, it really is “20 famous photographs and photos we found on the internet that we think might come pretty close to what wikipedia says they used“.

It rather shows the lack of proper historic research behind the article when it comes to one of Capa’s D-Day pictures:

Capa was with one of the earliest waves of troops landing on the American invasion beach, Omaha Beach. While under fire, Capa took 106 pictures, all but eleven of which were destroyed in a processing accident in the Life magazine photo lab in London.

We now can be certain, thanks to the exhaustive and painstaking work of A D Coleman and his team, that the “processing accident” was entirely fictional, a story invented by Capa (or possibly suggested to him by military intelligence), who was a great story-teller in words as well as images. The story was never believable – film just doesn’t behave as suggested, nor does processing equipment.

Capa only took 10 images on Omaha Beach (or just possibly 11) before deciding that if he was to get his images back to England in time he had to jump back onto a landing craft. His films will have been developed under military supervision, and it seems almost certain that any images that he took on the approach to the coast will have been censored and destroyed, as the censors were anxious to hide the huge scale of the invasion.

Of course Omaha Beach was dangerous, but by the time Capa arrived (an hour or two later than he claimed) the leading US troops had already made their way well ahead, meeting rather less resistance than on other beaches. But it will still have been a very scary place to be, and the image conveys that through its rawness and lack of sharpness, I think a combination of camera shake and under-exposure combined with overdevelopment. I think experienced darkroom workers at that time lifted the film briefly from the developing tank and held their glowing cigarette behind it to judge development, dropping it back into the developer if the image was too weak.

At least they got the make of camera right – a Contax – though the particular example shown doesn’t look as if it got far out of the showroom and certainly not to war. The same is true of quite a proportion of the others here.

Given what is now known about Dorothea Lange’s ‘Migrant Mother’ the comment on this seems rather lacking, and the same could also be said about ‘Afghan Girl’ by Steve McCurry. And perhaps it should be pointed out that several other photographers also took pictures of ‘Tank Man’ in Tiananmen Square (and they probably used Nikons too.) Then there is that ‘Raising The Flag On Iwo Jima’ …

A few of the comments are also worth reading, and some tell rather more than the Bored Panda article about the pictures featured.