29 September, 2015

Epson HD and HDX inks are coming

Sony G 70-200mm - Mt Coot-tha, Toowong Queensland [Click image to enlarge.]

Epson has announced new printers and new UltraChrome HD and HDX ink sets. These 24 and 44 inch printers come with either an 8 or a 10 ink configuration (8 is the HD and 10 is the HDX). And, within the 10-ink sets there's a further choice between "light, light black" or a new violet.

I am NOT in the market for a printer to replace my Epson 3880. My 3880 seems to have plenty of life left in it; so, until that changes, the UltraChrome K3 inks will do nicely.

I am pleased, however, that there are advances in the art. I'm a big fan of some of the newer matte papers (Epson's Hot Press Natural, for example) and it looks like the new inks will deliver an improved Dmax for these. Seemingly, more of the pigment stays at or near the surface of the print. As you would expect, the new ink sets also promise greater gamut and longevity.

It's also being claimed that the new printheads will have much longer lives, not being subjected to in-head heating.

As to hardware, the 3880 is succeeded by the already released, HD inkset, 17 inch, P800. That printer benefits from roll paper, but it has no built-in cutter. Who knows, perhaps one day I'll be ready to move to 24 inch paper.

26 September, 2015

Camera bags and Velcro

Sony G 70-200mm - Mt Coot-tha, Queensland [Click image to enlarge.]

I keep reading opinions and reviews about camera bags that seem to be negative about the use of Velcro. This negativity seems to arise for one reason: When you separate the hooks from the loops it makes a loud, tearing sound.

I want to say a few words in support of Velcro and its use in camera bags, and even about the loud tearing sound.

When the flap on my bag drops back down, the Velcro catches — automatically. That provides three benefits:
  1. My bag isn't open to the world; and
  2. anyone trying to open my bag will make a noise and have to tug at it (alerting me); and
  3. if I'm seriously jostled or if I fall down, the contents of my bag will not spill out.
If the price for this is a bit of noise now and again, I'm okay with that.

(Interestingly, it appears that "Velcro" isn't the name of the product, it's the name of the company that makes the hook and loop product. I call it Velcro anyway.)

22 September, 2015

Happy Birthday, Blog

9th and Boundary - just a very quiet corner in Toowong, Queensland [Click image to enlarge.]

In reading The Online Photographer (TOP) blog (as I regularly 
do), I learned it's coming up to its 10th birthday — many happy returns.

This caused me to notice that this blog just passed its 5th.

Thank you to all of you who have visited.

I still find it fun to write the blog. As I've mentioned before, writing about almost anything is, first, a huge lesson for me.

I began the blog on 20 September 2010. It turns out that the blog shares its birthday with Sophia Loren. (Happy 81st, Sophia.)

18 September, 2015

Domke canvas camera bags

Voigtlander 15mm - "Church" - Samford, Queensland [Click image to enlarge.]

Just over a year ago, I said that I wouldn't tell you what camera bag to buy — and I won't. But I will tell you why I like canvas bags. (It just so happens that, for me, that means Domke.)

Camera bags mostly serve three (for me quite separate) purposes: For checked baggage, storage, or carrying. For me it's all about carrying. There's no chance that a camera or lens of mine will go into checked baggage. Reduced kit size is one of the blessings of the mirrorless revolution, so I don't need to. And, I don't have enough gear to store.

A bag for carrying, needs to be comfortable. To be comfortable, it should be soft. For a bag to be soft, it's likely to be either canvas or leather.

I'm not dismissing the benefits of leather. It's weatherproof, beautiful and it can be soft. But gear changes, needs change, and circumstances change. Given the price of quality leather, buying a good leather bag to meet the needs of the moment seems to me to be a triumph of optimism over practicality. I can see, however, that photographers with kits that will serve for extended periods (think, Leica), might find leather a practical alternative. (If I could afford Leica, I could afford leather bags.)

The elephant in the room is ballistic nylon. (I never would have thought that I would get "elephant" and "ballistic nylon" into the same sentence.) If you're worried about shrapnel or if you ride a motorcycle (or both, I suppose), then the "ballistic" level of protection makes good sense.

For me, that leaves canvas. Canvas is "warm" to the touch. It's relatively inexpensive. It molds to circumstances. Canvas is reasonably abrasion and weather resistant. So, canvas is my first choice of material in a bag.

There are a number of canvas bag makers: Domke, Bellingham, ThinkTank, Courser, and National Geographic. I'll also mention Crumpler, named for Stuart Crumpler, rather than an ability to be crumpled. Crumplers are mostly Polyester, but Crumpler is Australian; so, what the hell.

I've carried Domke bags for years. They're canvas and Domke has whatever size and style of bag I might need.

And finally, good bags must have good shoulder straps. Domke bags have shoulder straps with rubber sewn into one side of the weave that keeps the strap from slipping off my shoulder. In my experience, only one brand of strap does a better job of shoulder-holding and that's the UPstrap-Pro series of camera straps. (But, these days I'm a wrist-strap guy.)

03 September, 2015

Capture One Pro and Lightroom

Near Port Vila in Vanuatu [Click image to enlarge.]

Capture One Pro 8 has been out for almost a year now, and the reports are that it's an outstanding raw converter. This has caused the forums to light up with comparisons between the various converters; but, principally, between Lightroom and Capture One. (DXO is often in there, but usually the focus is on LR and Capture One.)

First a little background. I'm a Lightroom user. I've used it for a long time and I'd like to think that I'm reasonably proficient. I don't really know Capture One (although I watched a few of the Luminous Landscape videos), but it seems clear that it's a front runner with outstanding features.

I'm not in a position, then, to tell anyone whether Lightroom or Capture One is the better program.

If I find something works well for me, I'm happy to mention it; but I don't proselytise. I do, however, subscribe to the view that over time, most often, competing purveyors leapfrog one another in quality and features. For this reason and because my time is valuable to me, I don't switch lightly. 

Shootraw.co.uk is a two-person, one-on-one training organisation in South London. They teach Lightroom, Capture One and Photoshop. I like what they have to say about switching:
Don't make the decision to switch between applications based purely on reviews – that should go without saying. If you are an expert user of either Lightroom or Capture One Pro, you'll likely get better results than most users of the competing application – expertise will almost always be more important than your choice of raw conversion software.
There's a steep learning curve in raw conversion software, particularly if large format printing is part of the workflow. So, I'm just going to let the debate rage and watch the next few incarnations with interest.

NB: It worries me that some of the "reviewers" of raw conversion programs don't distinguish between the inherent conversion qualities of the programs and the fact that some programs make more default adjustments following conversion.