Photographic Experiences

Contents

Photographic Beginnings

Analogue (wet) Photography

Audio/Visual
College Days

Digital Photography

The Red Dot
Contemporary Digital Cameras
The Canalscape Trophy
Conclusion
Gallery
Photography in One (A Brief Photography of History, Photographic Theory, Principles and Techniques)

Return to Introduction

 

My Photographic Beginnings

The first camera that I owned was a Kodak Brownie 127 that was a present given to me by my brother Jim when I was about ten years old. I used the camera for family photographs but not for "serious" photographs and very few images survive that were taken on this camera. This was replaced a few years later by another 127 camera... a Ferrania Ibis 44 which possessed a simple “Waterhouse Stops” variable aperture, a couple of different shutter speeds (1/50th, 1/100th second and “B”) and focussing controls. It also and had an accessory shoe and sync socket allowing use of a flash unit.

My first camera... a Kodak Brownie 127...

... followed by a Ferrania Ibis 44 featuring simple controls

When I was growing up my brother had a keen interest in standard 8 ciné photography. Needless to say his interest rubbed off on me. Consequently, I was weaned (photographically speaking) on Bell & Howell Sundials, Autosets and Moviemasters, Eumig Mark S and DLs, Bolex C8s and 18-5s. My brother had an extensive collection of Bolex ciné cameras and projectors (of which he had nearly every model) as well as a good selection of Bell and Howell equipment.

Bell and Howell Sundial, Moviemaster and Autoset Standard 8 ciné equipment

Bolex C8 and 18-5 Standard 8 ciné equipment

My first ciné camera was an old Bell and Howell 605C Sportster and although it had a three lens turret only had a standard and telephoto lens fitted. I only had a couple of accessories to start off with... a Minnette exposure meter and a simple tripod which I hade in metal work at school. The tripod was a pain to carry as the legs did not fold! Jim was a member of a local ciné society; the "Double Run Ciné Group" (after the way that standard 8mm film was exposed twice in the camera, later to become the "Wirral Movie Makers") who met in St Luke's Church Hall, adjacent to the Poulton "Vics" traffic lights on Breck Road in Wallasey. The Club was to move to a suite of rooms in the Manor Hall on Manor Road in Wallasey.

A young me perched on top of Eric Knowles' Vauxhall Victor for the 1968 Wallasey Gala Procession

(Photograph - John Lomax)

When we moved there the rooms were in a terrible state but we cleared them out, cleaned them and converted one of the rooms into a cinema complete with cinema seats and motorised screen tabs (curtains), there was a darkroom (where I made my first black and white print), a small office and a tea room cum kitchen. At the age of fourteen I became the Club's secretary and made many films including an award winning twelve minute film entitled "Briquette" which told the story of how house bricks are made starting with the clay being extracted from a local quarry to delivery of the finished article. The film featured a synchronised soundtrack that was initially recorded on a Fidelity Playtime reel to reel tape recorder (borrowed off Jim) before transferring to magnetic stripe complete with a commentary (part of which which I can still recite today and starts... "The first step in the brick making process is to obtain the clay. In this case it is done by bucket excavators"). This subject was chosen due to a school visit to the location that captured my imagination. To learn more about this and my interest in Local History go to "Wyre Heal - Footnote" in "Canalscape's" sister website "Diarama".

Jim Wood (left) and John Lomax (right)

In 1966 the Club's Chairman... John Lomax was making a film about local photographer Keith Medley but when Keith went to Lake Coniston to film Donald Campbell the focus (sic) of the film changed and was to be called "Campbell at Coniston" even though it still featured Keith. Early in January 1967 I was asked if I would like to go up to Coniston with John to give him a hand and was picked up at 4.30 am to go to the Lake District in John's immaculate 1965 Malibu Gold Ford Executive Zodiac (HMB 315 C). It was the fateful day that Donald Campbell lost his life when his boat... Bluebird hit its own wash and flipped. I can remember the day as if it were yesterday and still become upset whenever I see the historic film that John and Keith took of the crash. It is one of those happenings in history that a person can say "I was there!". A copy of "Campbell at Coniston" is available on DVD from http://www.bluebird-electric.net/campbell_at_coniston_dvd.htm.

Keith Medley with his Newman Sinclair Auto Kine Model G 35mm ciné camera and the "Campbell at Coniston" DVD sleeve

(Photograph - Our Day Out)

When I left school I got a job in the Photographic Department of the large Co-operative department store in Birkenhead. This gave me more money to spend on equipment and one of my first purchases was a second-hand Fi-Cord 202A portable reel to reel tape recorder which required fourteen AA size (MN1500 then) Duracell batteries. My next purchase was a Beyer Dynamic M119 microphone which was supplied complete with a padded, wooden storage case and an XLR plug. I can remember my father ordering a mains unit for it from an advertiser in the back of the Electrical and Electronic Trader magazine that he used to subscribe to. This unit was a revelation and meant that for the price of a couple of sets of Duracells I could run the Fi-Cord off the mains.

Yours truly in the Birkenhead Co-op Photographic Department - note the framed Widescreen Centre plaque to the left of the film shelves

(Photograph - James M Wood)

The Fi-cord 202A portable reel to reel tape recorder

(Photograph - www.vintagerecorders.co.uk)

Beyer Dynamic M119 Microphone

Music to accompany the films was originally from copyright free records played through a Czechoslovakian Supraphon record player. It possessed a separate loudspeaker that was connected to the unit's amplifier by a lead culminating in a DIN plug which just happened to have the same pin configuration as the audio input on a Eumig Mark S sound projector. The record player was mounted in a leather case not unlike a ladies' vanity case and it was light enough to accompany us to many locations when we were presenting film shows. The sound quality seemed wonderful at the time but our standards in that department were pretty dismal compared to what can be achieved today. We used the Supraphon for many years and was eventually replaced by more modern equipment with the music being transcribed onto tape (and later cassette) for mixing before being transferred onto the magnetic stripe on the side of the film.

Czechoslovakian Suprophon record player

(Photograph - dansettes.co.uk)

My old Bell and Howell 605c was replaced by an earlier model fitted with a trio of British Taylor, Taylor and Hobson lenses and featuring a critical focuser above the winder. It was later followed by a Bolex B8LA (similar to the one used in a recent L'Oreal TV advertisement) and an ancient Bolex H8 all fitted with beautiful Swiss Kern Yvar and Switar lenses. The projectors I have had were a dual gauge Eumig Mark S 709 (modified with Eumig DL condenser lenses to increase the light output). This was followed by a prototype Standard 8 Silma 250S not normally available in standard 8 format, capable of accepting 800 ft spools and fitted with a Kern Hi-Fi zoom lens and lastly, a return to basics with a Bolex 18-5 also fitted with a Kern Hi-Fi fixed and zoom lenses. I was quick to discover that working in the photographic retail trade had many advantages - including being friendly with the reps who sometimes came across unusual pieces of equipment such as the Silma 250S.  I had connections with other societies such as the Widescreen Association and the Institute of Amateur Cinematographers (of which, my brother was a Fellow and retired Northwest Regional Chairman).

Bell and Howell 605c Standard 8 ciné camera fitted with three British Taylor, Taylor and Hobson lenses

Eumig Mark S 709 dual gauge sound projector

A Silma 250s and Bolex D8LA similar to those I once possessed

The Paillard Bolex logo - best seen on black leather

An example of a "round base" Bolex H8 similar to the one I had

Quite a few of the films that I made were in 2 : 1 widescreen (not Cinemascope which had a aspect ratio of 2·66 : 1... too much for Standard 8 in my opinion). This involved fitting an anamorphic (or squeeze) lens on the camera and after processing the same lens was fitted to the projector to give a projected (un-squeezed) 2 to 1 aspect ratio similar to today's 16 by 9 widescreen video format. In the photograph above, the Bolex B8LA I am holding has a Delrama prismatic anamorphic lens fitted to it. My father made a metal adapter that screwed directly onto the f 1.9 Yvar lens fitted to the Bolex B8LA.  I later used a Bolex Möhler which was perfectly matched to the Kern lenses and did not possess 1·5 stops light loss of the Delrama (or the annoying mark on one of the front-silvered prisms).

A young me complete with Bolex B8LA and Delrama widescreen lens on a ciné club outing to Lake Vyrnwy in 1969

(Photograph - James M Wood)

The Delrama prismatic 2 : 1 anamorphic (squeeze) lens

An example of the wonderful Bolex Möhler 2 : 1 anamorphic (squeeze) lens

Jim filming a time-lapse sunset with his Bolex B8SL and Möhler anamorphic lens

This came with a purpose-made adapter to fit Bolex lenses and the Bolex 18-5 projector had two small studs forward of the lens for the projector bracket to fit directly without interfering with the lens's focussing just as long as the Bolex Hi-Fi zoom lens isn't fitted as the extra length fouled the bracket. Consequently I had a fixed lens for widescreen films and a zoom lens for standard 4 x 3 format films. Also on the 18-5 photograph will be noticed a plastic blanking plate to accommodate the extra third sprocket (which mine was fitted with) for the later version of the Bolex Sonorizer sound stripe unit that never made it into production.

Close-up of the Möhler mounting bracket (two studs forward of the lens) and the third sprocket blanking plate on a Bolex 18-5 projector

The last standard eight ciné camera that I bought was a Yashica 8E3. It cost £19:19/6d but could not accept any of my anamorphic lenses so I used it solely for standard 4 x 3 filming. It was a nice camera... well made, had three good quality lenses on a turret reminiscent of my old Bell and Howell 605c and possessed many of the features found on the Bolex B8LA. I say "bought"... this is not strictly correct as I had put it away in the Co-op Photographic Department where I was departmental manager, was paying it off at the rate of £1 per week and had paid about £10 off the price. When I caught and apprehended a shoplifter my boss told me that I could have it without any further payment as a reward for my diligent actions.

Yashica 8E3 - one of the last standard 8 ciné cameras that I purchased

As mentioned earlier, I possessed an early Bolex H8 (fitted with the external frame counter and Surefire Grip) but I would have liked an H8 Reflex or even better... one converted to Pan-8. This was basically an H16 with a masked gate with 8mm claw and "pull-down" mechanism which would give a widescreen image without having to resort to anamorphic lenses. There was also a Pan-16 format which was similar in concept but used 16mm stock (which had half the number of perforations as Standard 8mm) but had a two-step pull-down on the claw to allow for the smaller frame height. Projection was by similarly converted 16mm projectors such as the massive and heavy Bolex S321 which unfortunately did not come with the fork-lift truck required to transport it!

A beautiful late model Bolex H8 Reflex RX3 complete with the Rexofader auto-fader device and 36 EE Vario Switar zoom lens

The gargantuan Bolex S321 16mm projector (minus fork-lift truck)

By this time Super 8 had replaced Standard 8. My first Super 8 camera was a Hanimex Synchrozoom (made by Nalcolm) and featured a shutter release combined with the zoom control and a remote control socket for my Fi-cord 202A reel to reel tape recorder. The lens was a Shinkor zoom (emanating from the legendary Shinkorhara Dairy... allegedly the world's largest manufacturer of milk bottles). It did not give good results and was not in my possession for very long. It was replaced by a Bell and Howell Autoload featuring an unusual "T" shaped pistol grip. I was not impressed with the results from this camera either so I gave Fuji's Single Eight format a try. The camera was a Fujica P300... a beautifully designed reflex camera featuring a fixed focus short zoom lens. The results were excellent but the Mylar (similar to nylon) based film stock was impossible to apply magnetic stripe to and pre-striped film had to be bought which was extremely expensive. It was difficult to splice and tape splices had to be used which caused a momentary drop-out of the soundtrack when a splice passed through the Mark S 709's sound head. Dixons' "Prinzcolour" Super Eight film was made by Fuji and suffered the same problems.

Hanimex (alias Nalcolm) Synchrozoom

Super 8 Bell and Howell Autoload (note the unusual "T" grip)

Fujica P300 Single Eight camera

The equipment I desired was a Beaulieu 2008ZM or Bolex 160 Macrozoom camera complimented by either a Heurtier P6-24 (non-standard sound/frame separation and nearly as heavy as the Bolex S321 16mm projector) or Bolex SM8 sound projector - the latter a badge engineered Silma 250s, were well out of my reach financially and in 1970 ciné film prices had started to rise phenomenally to £2 for four minutes of process paid Kodachrome 25 standard 8 ciné film (£27 today).

Dream ciné equipment - Bolex 160 Macrozoom camera and a Bolex SM8 Projector...

...and a Heurtier P 6-24 and a Beaulieu 4008 ZM

Consequently, I defected to still photography although I did keep my Bolex C8, Möhler widescreen lens, Weston Master Two Ciné Exposure Meter and 18-5 combination... the latter's A1 17 8volt 50 watt lamp replaced with a much needed Quartz-Halogen conversion. Even so they were rarely used as by this time I started to have a greater interest in still photography and started to take colour transparencies instead. In recent times the cult status of Bolex ciné cameras has been confirmed by being featured in advertisements. I spotted a standard eight lightmeter model, either a C8, B8 or D8 being held by Claudia Schiffer in a recent L'Oreal Preference TV advertisement and a B8L featured in a Chanel Eyewear advertisement being held by actress Kirsten Stewart. Shame it didn't have the correct Kern Yvar lenses fitted. Ironically, Kirsten Stewart starred in the sci-fi thriller "Super 8"... bearing this in mind maybe she should have been holding a Bolex Macrozoom instead!

 

Model Claudia Shiffer holding a Bolex C, B or D8LA in a recent L'Oreal Preference TV advertisement

Actress Kirsten Stewart and a Bolex B8L in a Chanel Eyewear advertisement

(Shame that it doesn't have Kern lenses fitted!)

The beautifully simple Bolex C8

Weston Master 2 Cine Exposure Meter

After a few years at the Co-op I moved to Dixon's in Liverpool then the financial inducements of Industry beckoned and I left the photographic retail trade, but always kept in touch with latest equipment and developments although I did briefly return in the early 1980s when Jim was manager of the Photomarkets UK shop in Liverpool. A few years ago I was reminded of my time at Dixon's when I went to the then new Jessop's shop in Liverpool for A3 photo paper. The shop had relocated from Williamson Street to 51 Lord Street and their new location was, many years ago, the same shop that used to be Dixon's' Branch Seventy where I once worked. Sadly, Jessop's went into administration but the brand name has been resurrected by Peter Jones... the entrepreneur from BBC's "Dragons' Den". Today the shop is now a branch of Wilkinson Cameras where there are many brands and models on display. They even have a Leica department which I regularly visit!

A photograph of me whilst working at Photomarkets - Liverpool in 1981... note the Bolex ashtray

(Photograph - James M Wood)

I still have a couple of ciné cameras in my camera collection but I left that aspect of camera kleptomania to my brother... Jim; who had examples of nearly every Bolex standard and super eight camera and projector. I do have a video camcorder though... a Panasonic NV-DS60B-S that records onto the Mini DV tape format but it doesn't get much use due to my usually using one of my digital cameras to capture what little video I do take.

Panasonic NV-D560B-S Mini DV Digital Camcorder

Paillard Bolex were bought out by Eumig in the 1980's who subsequently went bankrupt when the Deutche Bank foreclosed on them after the ill fated Polavision instant movies affair. The Bolex name has been resurrected by an American company who have just announced the Bolex Digital D16 video camera. Details are sketchy but this retro-looking unit features a Super 16 sized HD image sensor, interchangeable "C" mount lenses (I have even seen a photograph on the Internet of one fitted with a Kern Switar prime lens), with a three lens "C" mount turret as an option,  a very familiar looking removable pistol grip, dual CF card slots and a DNG (video equivalent of Raw) file output. Although not yet in full scale production the future looks promising for a name whose reputation is embedded in the history of ciné photography but at an estimated cost of $3500 when released in 2013 only professionals and rich amateurs would be able to afford it.

A pre-production photograph of the Bolex Digital D16 video camera

(Note the familiar looking pistol grip)

Whilst this may be the end of my ciné experiences it is not the end of the ciné story per se. With the recent upsurge in all things analogue... audio reproduction and still photography to name but two, it may not surprise the reader that ciné photography has also been reborn with the introduction in 2016 of Kodak Super Eight ciné cameras and film. The camera features an extended Max-8 gate and a fixed focal length C-mount lens but I am sure that variable focal length alternatives are in the pipeline. Other features include an electronic viewfinder (as on a video camera) and an SD Card slot. A range of Super Eight negative film stock both monochrome and colour has also been released. After sending the exposed film to Kodak for processing the negative film is returned but not before it has been scanned with the resulting digital copy available to download from the Cloud.

Rear view of the new Kodak Super 8 ciné camera showing the viewfinder and SD Card slot

Side view of the camera showing the film chamber

I do not expect to see new projectors or additional cameras announced as this model is aimed at film makers and not the domestic market in the same way as the Bolex D16 video camera mentioned previously. Converging technologies have now come a complete circle!

 

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Analogue (Wet) Photography

Prior to my defecting to still photography, my first proper still camera was an Ilford Sportina Rapid that used 35mm film loaded into special "Rapid" cassettes giving sixteen square exposures from each cassette. This was followed by a Rank-Mamiya Ranger full-frame 35mm coupled rangefinder camera (Jim came across an excellent example, bought it and gave it to me as a present which takes pride of place on the shelf displaying my camera collection). For taking photographs indoors or in low light at first I had (and still have) a Minnette flash with a fan-style folding reflector that took PF1B bulbs or AG1B bulbs with an adapter. I graduated to a Kako Model F electronic flash unit which was one of the first electronic flash units I had seen. It had a guide number of fifteen with 100 ASA film and a fresh set of Mallory Duracell MN 1500s (AA size today) gave about thirty flashes. Even so, it served me for many years until I bought a Unomat 5000 which featured automatic exposure, a hot shoe and was rechargeable.

My Ferrania 127 was followed by an Ilford Sportina Rapid

My first "proper" still camera... a Rank-Mamiya Ranger

Kako Model F electronic flash unit

Rondo Colormatic 35mm compact

My first SLR was a Zenit (or Zenith) 3M

Yours truly in 1967 complete with Zenit 3M and Rank Elektra CDS exposure meter

(Photograph - James M Wood)

After the Mamiya Ranger followed such masterpieces as a Rondo Colormatic 35mm compact with auto exposure accompanied by a Zenit (or Zenith) 3M - no instant return mirror, B (basically a 3M with an instant return mirror and leather finish) and E (a B with a built-in but not coupled lightmeter) all with f2 Helios pre-set diaphragm lenses, Praktica Nova 1PL (the "PL" stood for "Praktica Load" - a quick load system using baling wires to retain the film tail - it never failed but the camera did have a horrible hard plastic ever-ready case) with an f2·8 Meyer Domiplan lens, Rolleicord IV B (a budget Rolleiflex). I had a Minnette selenium cell light meter followed by a Rank-Elektra CDS light meter that I used for my ciné cameras that also doubled for still camera exposure measurement. As I became more serious this was replaced by a Weston Master 5 and Euromaster light meters (which I still have). My brother had an Alpa 6c and used a wonderfully neat (and accurate) Kopil clip-on CDS exposure meter with it that was attached via the accessory (flash) shoe. I always hankered after this meter and badgered him repeatedly. In the end he gave in and leant it to me on long-term loan. It lasted for many years until I bought my first Weston.

Minnette selenium cell and Rank-Elektra CDS Exposure Meters

The beautifully neat (and accurate) Kopil Clip-on CDS Exposure Meter

Zenit B with unusual leather finish instead of the corded material

Zenit E - basically a "B" with an in-built but not coupled exposure meter

Practica Nova 1 fitted with a 50mm f2·8 Meyer-Optik Domiplan lens

A later Praktica Nova 1 PL also fitted with 50mm f2·8 Meyer-Optik Domiplan lens

Weston Master 5 and Euromaster exposure meters

Venerable classic - the Rolleicord IV B

When the Olympus 35RC was first released I was working for Dixons Cameras in Liverpool. I was so impressed with it that I part-exchanged my Rolleicord 4b and Practica equipment for one. So successful was it that I had the Olympus for over eight years (I still have an engraved example of this beautiful 35mm compact today complete with leather case and matching PS200 electronic flash unit) as it gave superb results and its built-in light meter always agreed with the Weston! An Asahi Pentax S1a (complete with clip-on CDS light meter), Praktica PLC3 (with a superb f1·8 Zeiss Pancolor lens) Kiev 4A (with an old f1·2 uncoated Zeiss Sonnar lens from a "dead" Contax 2 or 3 rangefinder), Fed 4L, Rollei 35 LED and Rollei 35 SE (fitted with a gorgeous Zeiss Sonnar lens) followed before I was lured back into the world of S.L.R's.

Olympus 35 RC

Asahi Pentax S1A

A Praktica PLC3 fitted with an f1·8 50mm Carl Zeiss Pancolor lens

Rollei 35 LED

Rollei 35 SE

Fed 4L - Russian Leica Copy

Kiev 4A with Jupiter 50mm Lens - Russian Contax Copy

Lubitel 166 - multi-format Russian copy of a Zeiss Ikon Focussing Brilliant

A "knobbly" upholstered, electronic shuttered Praktica B200 (owned very briefly after being replaced twice with the same fault... the most unreliable camera I have ever owned) was followed by two Olympus OM10's (not at the same time) for which I had the Manual Adapter, Olympus T32 dedicated electronic flash unit, Olympus Zuiko 28mm and 135mm lenses, Olympus OM1N, an Olympus XA2 (I would have likes the original XA with a coupled rangefinder and aperture priority but couldn't afford one so the simpler XA2 with the dedicated A16 electronic flash unit instead of the less powerful A11 had to suffice), Lubitel 166 multi-format twin lens reflex, Bakelite bodied copy of a Zeiss Ikon Focussing Brilliant complete with interlocking focus on the viewing and taking lenses capable of very good quality results if used sensibly and now available again in a 35mm/6 x 4·5/6 x 6 version for nearly £300 from the Lomography website), Zorki 4K (the poor man's Leica), dual format Ensign Ranger (6 x 6 and 6 x 9, fitted with an un-coupled rangefinder), Yashicamat 124G (a Japanese classic twin lens reflex with an excellent lens), Calumet 5x4, Kodak Retina 2S (well engineered rangefinder camera from Kodak Stuttgart with an excellent Schneider Xenar lens), Rolleiflex 3.5E, Asahi Pentax K1000 (which I could use with M42 screw lenses via an adapter), Alpa 6B and 6C (the f1·8 Kern Switar is without doubt one of the finest optical quality lenses according to MTF curves and resolution tests. It knocked my f2·4 35mm Zeiss Flektagon wide angle lens for six!) and the Alpa body the best engineered 35mm S.L.R's of all time), Olympus 35SP (a "grown-up" 35RC with a brilliant f1·7 42mm lens - odd focal length) and last but by no means least, a Canon EOS 600 (with dedicated Cobra 700 AF hammerhead electronic flash unit), which was my last "analogue" camera and one of the most competent film cameras that I have ever used and an ultra-sharp lens with really quick ultrasonic motor driven auto focus. I had religiously used various Weston Master IV, Master V and Euromaster light meters since my ciné days in the 1960s. I usually took "duplex" readings (the average between incident and reflected readings) and it was only when I started to use the Canon EOS 600 that I retired the Weston, such was the accuracy of its seven-point light metering system... similar in theory to the Zone System as devised by Ansell Adams - the renowned American landscape photographer. Another essential piece of equipment was my trusty Sunpak Auto 33 flash unit which I possessed for may years which was replaced with an Olympus T32 TTL flash unit when I had the Olympus OM10 and OM1n cameras. When the OM1n was part exchanged the T32 was replaced with a Vivitar 285 flash unit which gave sterling service until I bought the Canon EOS 600.

To go with the EOS 600 I sold the old Vivitar 285 and bought a Cobra 700 AF dedicated flash unit. This featured TTL  exposure control, a remote auto focus illuminator and flash bracket complete with handgrip. It gave sterling service and was in my collection until very recently. One item that I always wanted was the supplementary turret viewfinder made by the manufacturers of Fed/Kiev/Zorki cameras to go with the Jupiter wide angle and telephoto lenses for these cameras. Unfortunately, I was not able to afford this piece of equipment when I needed it. I came across a Cosmic Symbol also known as the Cosmic 35 to leave in the car. This cheaply made Russian Bakelite camera is the 35mm equivalent of the Lubitel and also capable of excellent results.

Sunpak Auto 33 electronic flash unit

The "knobbly" Praktica B200 was the most unreliable camera I have ever owned

Olympus OM10 complete with Manual Adapter

Olympus XA2 Compact

Japanese classic 6 x 6 twin lens reflex - the Yashicamat 124G

Olympus OM1n

Olympus T32 Electronic Flash Unit

The dual format Ensign Selfix Ranger takes 6 x 6 and 6 x 9 photographs

Zorki 4K - Russian Leica Copy

Russian Supplementary Turret Viewfinder

Kodak Retina IIS - one of the best from Kodak Stuttgart

The beautifully simple Asahi Pentax K1000

Calumet 5 x 4 monorail plate camera

This Alpa 5c features a coupled rangefinder in addition to a reflex viewfinder

Vivitar 285 Electronic Flash Unit

Olympus 35 SP -  a "grown-up" 35 RC

Rolleiflex 3·5E

Russian Cosmic Symbol also known as the Cosmic 35

Canon EOS 600

Cobra 700 AF dedicated, convertible electronic flash unit

Some of the cameras (analogue as well as digital) and light meters in my  collection

I look back at some of the "analogue" cameras that I have owned with fondness... especially the handmade Swiss Alpa with their beautiful Kern Macro Switar lenses, the Rolleiflex 3·5E and even some of the Russian equipment, more for the pleasure of using them than the quality. One 35mm camera that I have never owned is a Leica although my brother had a collection of them. I have used 35mm Leicas on many occasions but they do not possess the indefinable "magic" that the Alpa did. Whilst on the subject of the Alpa... this is a make of camera that most photographers will not have heard of due to their being very exclusive and expensive. It was once said that a Leica's shutter sounded like two pieces of velvet rubbing together. The Alpa sounds much the same but with the addition of a little mirror bounce! They were individually hand-built in Switzerland by Pignons SA... a major watch component manufacturer under the corporate umbrella of Paillard Corporation who also held Bolex in their portfolio as well as the matching Swiss Kern lenses.

My brother Jim used to work for James McKenzie's Photographic and Hi-Fi shop in Birkenhead who were Alpa main dealers. When someone wanted to order one they were given a dummy body and various weights were fitted into it to ascertain what material the casting was made from. There was a choice of image formats 11·5 x 16·5 (microfiche) to half-frame for specialist surveillance and time-lapse applications (usually fitted with a radio-controlled motor drive and a 100 ft bulk film magazine) but the full frame 24 x 36 was normally specified. The shutter speeds and lens apertures could be requested in either Imperial or Metric calibrations to match one's exposure meter. The exterior finish could be either black or chrome with 18 carat gold plating - matt or gloss) as an option with lizard skin replacing the soft black or brown leather.

The ultimate Alpa SLR... a gold plated 11si

A unique selling point of the Alpa (not that it needed one) was that lenses from many different camera and lens manufacturers could be fitted via adapter plates. They didn't come cheaply and the last limited edition 11si models could be as much as £5000! Alpa were not the only manufacturer to offer gold-plated versions of their cameras, Rollei, Leica, Minox and Nikon have also offered limited edition specials as well. The experienced photographic technician can always tell a negative or transparency taken on an Alpa due to the two small cut-outs (similar to those used on sheet film) in the right and left hand corners of the image. As far as I am aware they are the only manufacturer to have done this.

A wonderful collection of Alpas belonging to a Japanese collector

A revolutionary (literally) product manufactured by Alpa was the Rotocam. This was the only Alpa to use medium format film and it captured images ranging from 90˚ to 360˚ on either 120 roll film (1 360˚ exposure), 200 film (3 360˚ exposures) or 70mm film (9 360˚ exposures). This virtually unique camera is sought after by camera enthusiasts all over the world and when one comes onto the market they usually command a high price.

The extremely rare Alpa Rotocam

Alpa went bankrupt in 1990 although the name has been bought and cameras are again produced bearing the Alpa name but they are somewhat different in concept to the classic 35mm designs of yesteryear. More about the new Alpas in the Digital Photography section further on. An Alpa made a surprise cameo appearance in the animated film "Madagascar". Whilst the Alpa name is replaced with the name Reflex and a "Retinar" lens id fitted the camera is undeniably based on an Alpa Model 6.

The Alpa 6 made a cameo appearance in the animated film "Madagascar"...

...and the real thing: A hand-made Swiss Alpa 6b that is one of the finest 35mm SLRs ever made

 

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Audio/Visual Presentations

I had been playing around with a simple electronic circuit I had built to synchronise my slide projector with a piece of music using a Commodore Vic 20 computer. A simple computer programme using poke commands ("Basic" programming language) at various time intervals pulsed the computer's RS232 port to which was connected a simple circuit consisting of an opto-isolator feeding an operational amplifier driving a solid state relay which in turn activated the slide projector's slide change mechanism at pre-determined points in time. The experiment worked reasonably well but was fiddly to set-up initially. I demonstrated it to a couple of photographic societies (Bidston Steel Camera Club and Wallasey Fire Brigade Photographic Society) with a small presentation entitled "A Winter's Walk" which was photographs of snow changed in time with Davis Essex's song by the same title.

In December 1985 I was asked to give a slide show about the Bridgewater Canal to Preston Brook Boat Owners' Association at Preston Brook Village Hall. I decided not to use my computer-driven slide synchroniser but instead changed the slides manually which was easier than it at first sounds after a few practice runs. The audio side of the presentation consisted of a soundtrack recorded on TDK Super Avilyn cassettes played on my JVC KD 10B cassette deck feeding an Amstrad 5050 Hi-Fi receiver (with built-in Hafler circuit) which drove my beautiful Rigonda bass reflex loudspeakers (based on the design for Wharfedale Linton). The show was a great success and paved the way for future presentations. I made title slides for the presentations, tidied-up the soundtrack and came across an inexpensive Philips slide synchroniser and matching N2214 cassette recorder fitted with a third head and interface unit specifically for the slide change beeps that managed the task very well. The soundtrack was only monaural and not quite what you could call hi-fi but, when working on a budget you can't have everything! I then started giving Canal and Inland Waterway related Audio/Visual presentations to various societies which I found most stimulating as well as giving pleasure to interested parties. Initially, I used a single Braun Novamat 520 manual focus slide projector synchronised by the Philips unit. The Novamat only had a 24 volt 150 watt lamp and quite often I felt the need for better illumination.

Braun Novamat 520 slide projector

Philips Cassette/Slide Synchronizer

Phillips N2214 Cassette Recorder

This need for more illumination and autofocus (to compensate for "popping" as the transparency heats up and expands) coupled with time my quest for better quality and professionalism necessitated the purchase of a pair of Braun Paximat Multimag 2500 AFS projectors. Initial tests illustrated that there was too much parallax error between the optical axis of the lenses to have the projectors side by side so I had a twinning stand made so that the two projectors could be stacked one on top of the other to minimise this effect. The signal and sound source was originally an old Tascam Porta One which didn't record but was excellent for playback. So by using the old Philips unit to record the beeps I was able to produce fixed speed dissolves to a reasonable standard. I came across an Electrosonic Showpulse ES 3006 slide synchroniser and fitted thyristors with heat sinks in the 250 watt lamp circuits of the Paximats and this unit allowed more control over the projectors but only had a fixed dissolve rate. The Tascam was replaced by a Vestax MR 300 four track cassette deck. The audio performance of the Vestax was excellent but not very reliable. The tape "cobbled" (technical term for a tape malfunction) whilst showing presentations at Whitchurch Photographic Society. This was the only time I was let-down by equipment failure. Fortunately I had taken the Tascam with me and, after rescuing the cassette and re-synchronizing the presentation, I was able to continue. This didn't instil confidence in the Vestax or alleviate the embarrassment caused by the tape "cobble".

Braun Paximat Projectors on their twinned stand

Electrosonic Showpulse ES 3006 Dissolve Unit

Tascam Porta One Multi-track Cassette Deck

Vestax MR 300 Multi-track Cassette Deck

Eventually, the Vestax was replaced by a Tascam Portastudio 07 hi-speed, four-track cassette deck which gave a significant increase in sound quality. The only down-side to the Porta 07 was that a C90 cassette lasted for twenty two and a half minutes as against forty five for a standard full-width cassette. As with the previous units, tracks A and C provided the hi-fi sound source, track two fed the dissolve signal to the Electrosonic unit and track three as a buffer track preventing cross-talk from the audio and dissolve signals. Another Electrosonic dissolve unit... a Gemini was given to me. This dissolve unit allowed infinite control of the dissolve rate, slide changes, etc. It had an in-built, standard speed cassette deck which was broken (hence it being given to me). Rather than fiddle around with it I used the Tascam as the signal source which had much better sound quality anyway. TDK MA-X metal tapes combined with the DBX noise reduction system on the Tascam produced a clean and dynamic hi-fi sound source. This was amplified by my super-smooth Denon PMA 350 (now replaced by a PMA 355 UK) which in turn drives a pair of Jamo 266 loudspeakers (featuring incredibly "bassy" 12 inch drive units), the sound quality from which has stood the test of time and is still phenomenal in these days of digital sound. As the presentations got longer I perfected a means of replacing the Gepe 50 slide magazines half-way through a presentation without any interruption to the show by adding a blank slide to the end of the magazine, bringing up the following magazine onto the ski-slope and advancing the slide change manually whilst a slide was shown on the other projector for an extended period of time. Some of the presentations lasted longer than the twenty two and a half minutes of tape afforded by the Porta 07. Thus necessitating an interval which also gave the lamps and thyristors a chance to cool down.

Tascam Porta 07 four track high-speed cassette deck and mixer

Electrosonic Gemini Dissolve Unit

Denon PMA 355 UK hi-fi amplifier

Jamo D 266 loudspeaker with 12" bass drive unit

As previously mentioned, my first a/v presentations were canal-orientated but I found myself taking an increasing number of local interest photographs of Wallasey and the Wirral and putting them into presentations dealing with not only the geography of the area but, when I started to integrate commentaries into the soundtracks, historical subjects such as Birkenhead Priory and Hilbre Islands were covered as well. I regularly gave presentations to students, friends and fellow boaters and once filled every seat  in Wirral Metropolitan College's Rake Theatre attached to the Withens Lane Campus in Wallasey. Using the cyclorama (basically a large plain white curtain) as a screen I could project images up to twenty five feet across with ease thanks to the 250 watt Xenophot lamps fitted to the Paximats. I also have given presentations to Wallasey Amateur Photographic Society, Birkenhead Historical Society and many canal societies and boat clubs not only on the Bridgewater Canal but as far afield as Walsall to the Birmingham Canal Navigations Society and the Hill Valley Golf Club near Grindley Brook for Whitchurch Photographic Society. When staff at Wirral Metropolitan College where I worked saw the presentations I was asked to produce a series of A/V presentations for the Northwest Manager of the Year for the Management Charter Initiative. I produced the presentations for three years running and showed the presentations at many venues  ranging from Wirral Metropolitan College's Glenda Jackson Theatre to Chester Racecourse. Below is a list of some of the presentations that I have made and a brief details about them.

Title Subject Commentary Music Number of Images
A Winters' Walk Experimental Pictorial Essay on Winter Photography No David Essex - Only a Winter's Tale 30
The Duke's Cut Bridgewater Canal No London Symphony Orchestra's "Classic Rock" 400
Canalscape Pictorial Essay No Enya - Watermark and Orinoco Flow 100
Canalscape - Later Version Pictorial Essay Yes Mike Oldfield and Enya 120
Wealas Eye Boundaries of Wallasey No Rondo Veneziano - Venice in Peril 200
Peninsula Boundaries of the Wirral Peninsula No Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra - Various 300
This is Diarama Audio/Visual Equipment and Techniques Yes Royal Philharmonic Orchestra - Thus Sprach Zarathustra 50
Carscape Pictorial Essay about Classic Car Design No London Symphony Orchestra - its A Sin 80
Birkenhead Priory Birkenhead Priory Yes The Academy of St Martins in the Field and Enigma - Various 200
Hilbre - The Cheshire Islands Hilbre Islands Yes Enya - Various 100
Liverpool Anglican Cathedral Liverpool Anglican Cathedral No Professor Iain Tracey - Two Toccatas 100
The Mersey Ring Merseyside and North Cheshire canals No London Symphony Orchestra's "Classic Rock" - Various 600
Landscape Pictorial Essay about Landscape Photographs No Union - World in Union 50
Nocturne Pictorial Essay about Night-time Photography No Paul Brooks - Music of the Night 50
Fractal Mandelbrot Sets (CGI Fractal Images) No Jean-Michel Jarre - Equinox 50
War of the Worlds War of the Worlds No Jeff Wayne - Prologue and Main Title 50
Manager of the Year Management Charter Initiative 1992/3/4 Yes Mike Oldfield - Sentinel 100
For Future Presentation Trailers No Various Artists - Various Tracks 50
Steamscape Don Breckon's Railway Paintings No Eric Coates - Coronation Scot 40
Wind of Change Pictorial Essay about Wallasey and Birkenhead Docks No London Symphony Orchestra's "Classic Rock" - Various 100
Bidston Hill and Village Pictorial Essay about Bidston Hill and Village No Enigma - Callas Went Away 50
Seasons in Central Park Pictorial Essay about Wallasey's Central Park Yes Paul Brooks - Various 80
Wallasey Revisited Old and modern photographs of Wallasey No Various Artists - Various 100
Mersey Ferries History of the Mersey Ferries Yes Various Artists (not Gerry Marsden!) 100
The Big Ditch History & Geography of the Manchester Ship Canal Yes Various Artists - Various 300
The History of Lymm CC Sixty years of Lymm Cruising Club No London Symphony Orchestra's "Classic Rock" - Various 400

At the time of writing I am slowly converting my collection of audio/visual presentations into digital format which will allow me to run the presentations from my laptop using the slide show feature found within Adobe Photoshop. This coupled with a digital projector and digital sound making it even better than the Tascam did as well as outputting to DVD authoring programs (for showing on TV) such as Adobe Premier. The scanning of 35mm transparencies is accomplished with a Microtek Filmscan 35 negative/slide scanner. For the medium (6 x 6, 6 x 7 and 6 x 9) and large (5 x 4) format negatives, transparencies and glass plates an Epson V700 reflection/transmission flatbed scanner is used and the flat copy scanned on an Epson Perfection 2480 flatbed. Many of the transparencies were starting to show signs of ageing (bacterial growth on the emulsion and fading) and I think that the time is ripe for accomplishing this exercise before the images degrade any further.

Epson Perfection V500 flatbed scanner capable of scanning medium format and large format negatives, transparencies and glass plates

Scanning transparencies using a Microtek Filmscan 35 and a Toshiba Satellite L500 laptop

A screen shot of the Adobe Photoshop Slide Show Editor

This process also allows the inclusion of digital video clips plus many images from the "Duke's Cut", "Big Ditch" and "Mersey Connections" publications as well as digital images from the "Canalscape" and "Diarama" websites that were not previously included. I gave my first all-digital presentation in March 2012 and it was a revelation. The digital sound was superb and the Sony VPL CS7 video projector used was most certainly up to the job as far as brightness (1500 Ansi Lumens) and resolution (SVGA) is concerned. This presentation, which consisted of video and multi-media, was shown at Lymm Cruising Club where the Clubhouse was converted into the "Lymm Odeon" for the night, was a great success and is hopefully, the first of many.

The auditorium of the "Lymm  Odeon"

The Sony VPL CS7 video projector...

and the rest of the presentation equipment used at the "Lymm  Odeon"

What I like about audio/visual is that it combines two of my interests... photography and hi-fi (five if you include canals, local history and computers). Eric Knowles... an old friend from my ciné photography days now sadly no longer with us once said that photographers who produce audio/visual presentations are usually frustrated ciné photographers. And if my example is anything to go by he was most probably correct!

 

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College Days

Between 1982 and 1985 I was working in a steel mill (Bidston Steel) and started a photographic club for colleagues interested in the subject. In 1985 the steel mill closed and after being made redundant I, along with a couple of colleagues that were in the Bidston Steel Photographic Club enrolled on a full-time photography course at Wirral Metropolitan College. Even though I knew quite a lot about photographic theory and made my first black and white print for the Wallasey Double Run Ciné Club newsletter when I was fourteen, the College introduced me to a different world of photography. I learnt about large format photography, I was taught strict darkroom practices and learnt about classic photographers such as Ansell Adams as well as Edward Weston, John Blakemore, Faye Godwin and many others. The reader may notice that most the photographers mentioned are landscape photographers as that is where my preferences lie. I do know about portrait or people photographers such as Henri Cartier Bresson, Paul Strand, Dorothea Lange and others and admire their work. That is not to say that I cannot take studio photograph or portraits... it is just that I prefer not to as the landscape holds more magic for me and an added bonus is that it does not move or answer back! For more information about my favourite photographers and examples of their work visit Photography in One - Classic Photographs.

I was asked to stay at Wirral Met when the course was completed to become employed as a part-time lecturer (for which I qualified after completing a teaching course) before accepting a post as Photographic Technician/Lecturer. I was responsible for processing all types of monochrome and colour films in sizes ranging from ½ frame 35mm, 5 x 4 to 10 x 8 sheet film and occasionally 16mm motion picture film using the stock processes of the day... Kodak D76/Dektol for monochrome, C41 colour negative, RA4 colour print and E6 colour transparency. My C41 and E6 control strips were better than Kodak and Fuji's with a unique timing process utilising cassette tapes with one second "beeps" to maintain even agitation and a commentary for the "ProCo" processor bath sequence ("Into First Developer at the tone!" etc).

Yours truly demonstrating the ProCo E6 film processor to students in 1988... note the large format 5 x 4 transparencies

(Photograph - George Jones)

I have even processed Kodak Technical Pan and Kodachrome as monochrome transparencies, Kodak monochrome Infra-Red, Ektachrome E4 Colour Infra Red Transparency and C22 Colour Negative film as well as EP2 and Cibachrome colour printing processes and associated equipment. Colour negative (C41) processing was accomplished in an automatic Divomat "dip and dunk" unit with automatic replenishment. In the colour printing darkrooms we had beautiful DeVere 504 colour enlargers fitted with Dichromat heads and the same chassis in the monochrome printing rooms fitted with Multigrade heads. Colour print processing was (RA4) accommodated with a Colenta continuous roller processing unit. I am a qualified College Lecturer and have taught on many courses associated with Photography and Media Studies as well as regularly visiting Photographic Societies to give talks and presentations on various aspects of Photographic Theory and Practice.

Divomat Mini C41 film processor

DeVere 504 enlarger with Dichromat colour head

Colenta RA4 Print Processor

One of the benefits of working at the College was that I had access to photographic equipment that at the time I could not afford but could borrow when not required by students. This included Cambo 5 x 4 monorail cameras, Mamiya RB67 roll film SLRs, Fujica GS 6x9 Rangefinder Camera as well as Bowens Illumitran transparency copier, Bowens Quadmatic studio lighting and other professional photographic accessories.

Bowens Illumitran 3S Transparency Copier

Bowens Quadmatic and heads

Cambo Legend 5 x 4 Monorail Camera

Fuji GS 6 x 9 120/220 Rangefinder Camera

Mamiya RB67 Pro S 120/220 SLR

But these and the other classic examples of "wet" photography equipment have become virtually obsolete with the advent of digital photography... the subject of the next section.

 

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Digital Photography

The first digital camera that I ever saw was a digital Leaf back fitted to a Sinar 5 x 4 monorail camera at College. I was not very impressed by the amount of equipment needed by the photographer (this was the price to be paid for instant digital images at that time) but the results were truly remarkable... far superior than the primitive Polaroids previously used for proofing. The first digital camera that I ever used was a Sony Mavica MVC-FD73 that my youngest son Glyn had borrowed from work. This early digital camera stored about 25 low-resolution  (VGA - 640 x 480 = 0·3 megapixels) images in standard mode on a 3·5 inch floppy disc. At around £500 the quality of the resulting images was not seen to be good value for money but it did illustrate the way that photography was to go.

The 0·3 megapixel (VGA) Sony Mavica MVC-FD73 featured 3·5" floppy disc image storage

My wife Ange has connections with photography... she used to work for Max Spielmann - the photo processors and in the early 2000's brought home a "Jamcam"... one of the first affordable (£39.95) digital cameras for evaluation which also shot images in VGA. In these days of 12 plus megapixels being the norm, 0·3 megapixels does not seem much and I was not impressed by the results which lacked contrast, colour saturation and definition. I suspected that the fixed-focus lens came from the aforementioned legendary Shinkorhara Dairy in Hong Kong (the world's largest manufacturer of milk bottles and located next door to Haking's Halina factory) and that the sensor was sourced from a video camcorder and converted to give still image capture. It did not possess a display to view the images taken... you had to wait until they were downloaded onto the computer to see them but it did possess a small LCD display to tell the photographer how many images had been taken. But it was one of the first affordable digital camera around and this has to be respected.

The 0·3 megapixel (VGA) Jam Cam - an early consumer digital camera

With so many film manufacturers stopping production of film adding to the difficulty of purchasing fresh film stock, plus the spiralling costs of film and processing it is not surprising that so many of these classic cameras are now lying in cupboards, wardrobes and lofts, unloved and unused. It is a pity that the prototype "Digital Film" unit illustrated below announced in 2001 featuring what looks like a 1·3 megapixel, APS sized sensor manufactured by by Silicon Film did not make it into full scale production as it would give old analogue film equipment a new lease of life and bring them up to date for use in today's world of electronic media (see the PMA 2001 website for further details). The nearest product to this that was put into production was the digital adapters for the Leica R8 and R9 35mm SLY cameras. This 10 megapixel unit converts the camera into a true digital camera making them the first 35mm SLRs capable of capturing images on film or digitally.

Digital film such as the 1·3 megapixel Silicon Film prototype above would breath a new lease of life to redundant 35mm cameras

In April 2011 a similar concept to the Digital Film mentioned above was unveiled in the shape of the RE-35 Digital Film Cassette. A flexible CCD sensor was withdrawn from what looked like a conventional 35mm film cassette and placed in a camera of your choice. It was recharged via a USB cable from a PC or Mac when the images were downloaded and was available in three different resolutions... 4 mp, 8 mp and 12 mp on what looks like a full-sized sensor. Unfortunately it turned out to be an April Fool and I was caught hook, line and sinker (for the second time in two years... see Canalscape Book 6 - Canalmanac 2010 - "Good Ship Google"). Like most April Fool Pranks it was most plausible as most of the technology is currently available and hopefully, would not be too expensive. Somebody has gone to a lot of trouble making the mock-up cassettes and promotional material and you never know, some enterprising manufacturer might pursue this idea fulfilling many photographers' dreams. Still... we can all dream can't we?

The RE-35 was available in three different resolutions... 4, 8 and 12megapixels

The RE-35 inserted into a Canon A1 (left) and plugged into the USB lead (right)

I had kept abreast in developments (sic) regarding digital cameras and in 2004 I decided to take the plunge into Digital Photography. After reading numerous magazines and websites I had settled on a Fujifilm Finepix F610. This camera has a 12 megapixel (interpolated) feature and seemed to do everything that I wanted from a camera. I had calculated that full-frame (24mm x 36mm) 35mm film had an approximate resolution of 19.4 megapixels. Bearing this in mind it would be fair to assume that a digital camera would produce images of half the quality of full-frame 35mm film. Not so... when viewing a digital image that has been printed the ink splatter masks the lack of resolution. If the image is viewed on a monitor the quality is also masked by the lower resolution of the monitor. Either way the lower resolution should not be visible. This figure is arrived at in the following way... assuming that film has a resolution of 150 lines per millimetre... (24 x 150 = 3600) x (36 x 150 = 5400) = 19,440,000 or 19·4 megapixels. Early digital Leica cameras were very similar to the Fujifilm 4700 and F610... not surprising seeing as they were made for them by Fujifilm (see The Red Spot chapter below). My only worry was the way the camera handled with its unusual "vertical" format. In desperation I telephoned Fujifilm's Customer Service Department and spoke to one of the staff who seemed very well versed in their products and told me that whilst they could not tell me if they had any traditionally designed digital cameras in the pipeline he advised me to look at their website the following Wednesday. This I did, and there was a host of new models announced at the same time... namely the Finepix F810 (widescreen), E500, E510 and E550.

The "vertical" format 12 megapixel Fujifilm Finepix F610

One of the cameras on my possibles list... the unusually styled, widescreen, the 12 megapixel Fujifilm F810

The 12 megapixel E550 seemed to fit the bill as it was compact, versatile, possessed a reasonable zoom range and the specification was reinforced by good camera tests in the magazines. It had an optical viewfinder to supplement the LCD display and even took "AA" sized batteries. All I had to do was wait until September when it was due to hit the shops. I made numerous telephone calls to various photographic retailers and the first shop due to have the E550 in stock was Equipment Express of Altrincham. After quite a few telephone calls to them enquiring as to whether it had arrived in stock yet I was told that they had one put away with my name on it. Consequently I took the afternoon off work and drove up to Altrincham. I walked into the shop and when I told them who I was the assistant said to me... "I imagine that you've come for this", bent down and produced the sealed and unopened box from beneath the counter which contained an E550. I opened the box and after holding the camera for a few seconds I produced my Visa card. I was soon the proud owner of the first Fujifilm Finepix E550 to be sold in the North West of England.

The 12 megapixel Fujifilm E550 and wide angle lens

The resulting photographs most certainly matched the promise that the specifications made. My brother... Jim was so impressed by the camera that he also purchased one. One of the first photographs that I took on the E550 was of the Historic Warships in Wallasey Docks. I used the full 12 megapixel resolution and was blown away by the results... you can even tell the time (5.15) with ease on the Liver Building's clock in the distance on the original image (to the right of the building - if you can find it). I purchased the docking station, extra-wide-angle supplementary lens as well as many other dedicated accessories and it accompanied me virtually everywhere... ready for action.

This photograph of the Historic Warships in Wallasey Docks in 2004  was one of my first digital photographs taken on the Fujifilm E550

The E550 was supplemented by a Fujifilm S9600 digital "bridge" camera. I first saw its predecessor... the S9500 on special offer in our local Asda. I was drawn to the "SLR look" of the camera (known as a "bridge" camera as it bridges the gap between compact and SLR cameras) and, as with the E550, I was impressed with the handling and the way that all the controls fell to hand. After doing some homework I discovered that the S9500 had been replaced with the S9600 which I found on the Internet for a reasonable price and the order was placed. The quality of the resulting images exceeded those of the E550. It has a superb 28mm to 300mm (equivalent) lens, an eye-level electronic viewfinder (essential for when the sun is behind the photographer and "bleaching-out" the view screen) in addition to a really versatile tilting view screen that is extremely beneficial for low or high (over the head) viewpoints. It possesses most of the features found on a digital SLR without the dust, weight and size problems associated with them.

The 9 megapixel Fujifilm S9600 and Metz 36 C-2

Yours truly with the Fujifilm S9600

Most digital cameras feature a built-in electronic flash unit. They are pretty rudimentary and very limited in their output, being designed for subjects no further than a couple of metres. Unusually, the S9600 possesses a flash "hot shoe" and coaxial sync socket allowing the use of a separate flash unit. Unfortunately, the Cobra flash unit that I used with my Canon Eos 600 was not suitable and did not have manual over-ride either so I purchased a Metz 36 C-2 to compliment the S9600. The Metz 36 C-2 is extremely powerful (having a guide number of 36 in feet @ 100/21 ISO) giving off enough light to illuminate the inside of Preston Brook Tunnel as illustrated in the photograph below. I can even use it with the E550 with an ordinary slave unit (no pre-flash - see below) with excellent results. The Fujifilm S9600 is very competent instrument indeed and I hope that it will continue to provide high-quality digital images for many years to come!

The "Cathedral" within Preston Brook Tunnel on the Bridgewater Canal illuminated by my supplementary electronic flash unit

The Fujifilm E550 had been with me for eight years and was starting to show its age. I had always wanted a Leica and for Christmas 2012 my wife Ange bought me a Leica D-Lux 3. This camera is beautifully minimalist and according to Leica was inspired by the original 35mm Leica 0. The Vario-Elmarit lens is fantastic even though the 10·1 megapixel count is relatively conservative by today's standards. Photographs that I have taken with it show that this camera can produce absolutely superb results. Leica go to great pains to explain that digital cameras are not just about megapixels and after analysing the results from them I can most certainly see why.

The beautifully minimalist 10·1 megapixel Leica D-Lux 3

Sunrise from Egremont Ferry - one of the first photographs taken with the Leica D-Lux 3

Early in 2013 I acquired a Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ6 that also featured a 10·1 megapixel sensor and a Leica lens. This camera also gives superb results (but not as good as the Leica D-Lux 3). With this being so slim and "pocketable" I decided to retire my faithful E550 to the display cabinet and use the Panasonic as my "day-to-day" camera. Even though these two cameras appear to have similar specifications the Leica has a "native" aspect ratio of 16 x 9 (wide-screen) and when other formats are selected the resolution is reduces to seven megapixels in 4 x 3 format. The Panasonic however has a "native" aspect ratio of 4 x 3 in which it gives full 10·1 megapixel resolution which is reduced to seven megapixels when 16 x 9 is selected. It is a shame that the Leica and Panasonic do not share the same size battery and charger or USB lead fitting, but you can't have everything!

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ6

One of the first photographs taken with the Lumix DMC-TZ6 - Morpeth Dock, Birkenhead

My latest acquisition is a Leica V-Lux 1 bridge camera. It is similar in concept to my FujiFilm S9600, possesses a 10·1 megapixel sensor and a Vario-Elmarit 7·4 to 88·8mm (35mm equivalent 35mm to 420mm) lens. Like the Fujifilm S9600 it is a delight to hold, being well balanced with all the controls falling to hand. This camera was bequeathed to my by my late brother... Jim. I had admired this superb piece of equipment when he bought it a few years ago and jokingly said that he could leave it to me in his will... which he did. I am sure that he would be pleased to know that it was being looked after and used in the manner to which it has been accustomed to. It has an almost identical performance to my D-Lux 3 which it compliments perfectly.

 The beautifully balanced 10·1 megapixel Leica V-Lux 1 bridge camera

One of the first photographs I took with the Leica V-Lux 1

My pair of Leicas were added to by another of Jim's cameras... the C-Lux 3. The Vario-Elmarit lens is capable superb results and even though the major controls are hidden within the menu it is still a really versatile piece of equipment. This really compact 10·1 megapixel camera replaced the Panasonic DMC -TZ6 as my "day-to-day" camera which is still used in situations where I would not want to risk using any of the Leicas.

The beautifully compact Leica C-Lux 3

A photograph of Birkenhead Park in Autumn taken on the C-Lux 3

(One of the last photographs taken by my brother... James M Wood before his death in November 2014)

My stepson Michael is interested in photography having possessed a Zenith and an Olympus OM10 plus various lenses and accessories in the past. He was in the market for a digital camera and was really impressed with the Leica V-Lux 1. So impressed that he bought a V-Lux Type 114... the latest version which has a most impressive specification. Features such as a one inch sensor 20·1 megapixel, built-in Wi-Fi, an app that allows the user to view and control the image on an iPhone, 4k video recording with a built-in intervalometer... ideal for the time lapse video photography that Michael plans to take with it plus many other features too numerous to mention here. I think that had he been alive Jim would have been pleased to know that he had influenced Michael's choice of camera! We are now waiting for some decent weather and plan to go out into North Wales on a "boys' day out" to take some serious landscapes with our new acquisitions.

"Leica Boys"... me on the left and Michael on the right with "red dots" in abundance

(Photograph - Angela Wood)

One problem that I encountered with some of my digital cameras was synchronizing them with my Metz flash unit. Both the Fuji S9600 and Leica V-Lux 1 possess a "hot shoe" in addition to a "PC" (Prontor/Compur on the Fuji) flash synchronizing socket plus the ability to switch off the pre-flash - the digital equivalent of through the lens flash metering. The Leica D-Lux 3 and the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ6 compacts possess neither of these so if I wanted to use the Metz with them it has to be triggered by a slave unit. Initial experiments showed that both these cameras fire a pre-flash for exposure assessment as well as for red eye reduction. The red eye reduction pre-flash can be switched off but the slave will still trigger the flash unit prematurely on the exposure assessment pre-flash. What is required is a flash unit or slave unit that ignores the pre-flash and fires on the main flash. The flash units that possess this facility range from a cheap (£20) Chinese unit with a guide number of about fifteen or a Metz costing over £100 also with a lower guide number (28) than my Metz 36 C-2. There are a couple of slave units on the market that can also do this. A cheap (£12) one is available on eBay that delays the flash sensing by a variable amount of time in milliseconds. Another more expensive (from £35) and sophisticated model is manufactured by Sunpak... the DSU-01, which can be set to ignore the pre-flash which seems to be a better, if not more expensive solution to the problem and is the one that I bought. The Sunpak can be set to ignore up to three pre-flashes and fire on the fourth and can be fitted to a tripod, lighting stand or flash bar via the tripod bush screw hole beneath it. It is truly the answer to a digital photographer's prayer!

Leica D-Lux 3, Metz 36 C-2 and Sunpak DSU-01 digital slave unit (also inset)

In addition to the Metz flash unit and the Sunpak DSU-01 mentioned earlier, two invaluable accessories that accompany me on my photographic wanderings are my Manfrotto 055/115 tripod/head combination (it will and has accommodated a 5 x 4 monorail camera) and a Billingham Hadley Digital camera bag. They are examples of "equipment for life" that whilst not cheap, should literally last a lifetime such is the standard of construction and I would recommend them to anyone. As with the Leica V-Lux, Michael followed in my footsteps and purchased a Billingham Hadley Digital camera bag for his V-Lux and yes... he has a Manfrotto tripod as well!

"Equipment For Life"... Manfrotto 055/115 tripod and Billingham Hadley Digital camera bag

Michael and me with our Billingham Hadley Digital camera bags (Leicas inside)

Not so essential accessories that usually accompany me include a Joby Gorillapod pocket tripod (handy for impromptu time exposures or self-timer photographs) and selection of Cokin system filters made from CR49 optical resin. Even though most of the effects that these filters can be accomplished using Adobe Photoshop, Corel Paint Shop Pro and other propriety image manipulation programs there is still a place for filters. Try using Adobe Photoshop for removing the reflections that a polarizing filter prevents being captured by the camera for instance! I have a large collection of these filters that are a legacy from my wet photography days but now I only carry a few... usually for adding interest to a bland sky.

A selection of Cokin Filters and my Leica D-Lux 3 mounted on a Joby Gorillapod

Even though I have various photo editing programs on the computer such as Adobe Photoshop and Corel Paint Shop Pro, I try, wherever possible, not to "doctor" my digital photographs (except for some occasional cropping) and present them "as taken". I think that this dates back to using colour transparencies where any editing was not possible without printing, modifying and then re-photographing... all with the inevitable loss of quality. All my cameras have the ability to take photographs in the RAW file format but after experimenting with this format I chose to take photographs as JPEGs and let the image processor within the cameras do the work as I feel that they will be better at assessing the various criteria that can be altered manually when shooting in the RAW file format.

So, what does the photographer do with his or hers photographs? You could always join a photographic society and enter them into competitions. But I have been there, done that, worn that t-shirt and been disenchanted by the photographic society culture that seems to be obsessed with the latest equipment, promotes “camera snobbery” that frowns upon those lesser mortals who cannot afford cameras that meet the club members' expectations. A friend once entered a photograph of a church interior taken on a Cambo 5 x 4 plate camera that was lit using a couple of Bowens Quadmatic studio lighting units with square lights (diffusers) fitted to the flash heads. It was an excellent photograph, beautifully lit, well printed on Ilford Gallery fibre-based paper and entered a print into the L & CPU _Lancashire and Cheshire Photographic Union) competition. The photograph was slated and the judge’s comments were… “someone was lucky with the light!”. I kid you not. Also, if you were to ask the average camera club member about Paul Strand, O Winston Link or Edward Weston they would not know who you were talking about such is the level of ignorance. At the end of the day it is down to the finished photograph and the properties that it exhibits.

Previously, I used my photographs in my audio/visual presentations that were shown to various societies including canal and inland waterways societies, local history societies and photographic societies as well as to illustrate my various books and publications. But now, with the advent of the Internet, they can be seen and appreciated by a much larger audience on my Canalscape and Diarama websites. In addition to this, I have had many photographs (usually about two a month) shown on TV accompanying the Granada Weather Forecast. Recently I had four portraits (not really my forte) published in Modern Portraiture section of the Leica Fotopark Gallery. This prestigious honour was totally unexpected and I wonder what Jim would have thought about them being included there!

A screenshot of the Granada Weather Forecast showing one of my photographs

A Screenshot of "The Morris Dancer" and "Lucky Lucky Man" in the Leica Fotopark Modern Portraiture Gallery

A Screenshot of "The Driver" and "Yuk!" in the Leica Fotopark Modern Portraiture Gallery

When you come right down to it just because you use a good camera, it doesn't necessarily mean that you can take a good photograph. I once won a competition for photographs taken on a Russian Cosmic 35... at the time one of the cheapest 35mm cameras on the market. I'm not implying that I am a good photographer as I am far too humble to claim that!

 

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The Red Dot

I make no excuse for dedicating a section of the website to a brief history of the Leica camera. This is my favourite make of camera and Leica produce what is considered by many to be the best cameras on the market today (but not necessarily the cheapest!). Thought by many to be the first 35mm camera (not so.. this honour belongs to Leo, Audobard and Baradat in 1908) the original camera was designed by Oskar Barnack... an engineer working for German optical manufacturer Ernst Leitz.

Oskar Barnack (1/11/1879 - 16/1/1936) the "father" of the Leica

Barnack wanted a small camera to accompany him on his mountain climbing expeditions. Subsequently, in 1913 he designed a camera small enough to fit in the pocket that used 35mm film off-cuts obtained from a film studio. The film was loaded into a cassette in the darkroom and allowed the camera to be loaded in daylight. After exposure the film was wound into a second cassette which was opened in the darkroom for processing. The prototype camera was known as the UR Leica.

Oscar Barnack's prototype 35mm camera - the UR Leica

The prototype was successful and Barnack persuaded his employer to manufacture a batch of cameras similar to the prototype. This camera camera was the Leica 0 of 1914 which was put into limited production. The name Leica is derived from the "Lei" in Leitz followed by "ca" from camera. And in doing so Leitz laid the foundations of concepts used in most 35mm cameras from then onwards.

This original Leica 0 was recently sold for £1·7 million making it the most expensive camera ever

This replica is not as valuable as the original but is still as beautiful

Leica 1A circa 1925

This camera also proved to be so successful that it was modified and developed and put into full scale production after the First World War as the Leica 1. The camera had a fixed lens and in 1932 the Leica 11 was produced featuring interchangeable lenses. The lens mount used was the 39ž5mm screw fitting that was to become extremely popular with other manufacturers as well. The legendary f3·5 Elmar "pull-out" lens was also adopted around this time. Over the years the design was further refined incorporating a coupled rangefinder, an extended shutter speed range, self timer, etc. After the Second World War many manufacturers had access to the Leica designs under War Reparations. Consequently, many imitations were produced such as the British Reid, Russian Fed and Zorki, etc.

Leica 11A of 1935

Screw mount Leicas such as this 111C were produced well into the 1950s

The ultimate screw thread Leica... the 111G

However Leica continued refining and producing their screw thread cameras culminating in the 111G until the M series of cameras were launched in 1954 which featured a sleeker design and a new bayonet lens mount. The M series was continually developed to culminate in the M7 and MP up to 2008... the last 35mm models produced but the digital M8 was released in 2006 and was in production concurrently with the 35mm models.

The Leica M3 of 1953

M6 the penultimate 35mm Leica rangefinder before the introduction of digital models

As well as SLR models plus other compacts such as the CL... another collaboration with Japanese manufacturer Minolta. Leitz and Leica have produced an amazing number of accessories, filters, lens hoods and lenses for their cameras... some made in the Leitz Canada factory. One unusual accessory is the Visoflex which converts the rangefinder body into a single lens reflex camera. Due to the difference in register (lens flange to focal plane distance) caused by the Visoflex mirror box special lenses can only be fitted for general use when focussing on infinity is required.

The Visoflex converts the rangefinder body into a reflex camera

The Leicameter was an add-on selenium exposure meter made for Leica by Gossen... the German exposure meter manufacturer. Early models were uncoupled but the later models coupled to the shutter speed dial. Motor drives and bulk film magazines were also manufactured for various specialist uses. Some early models incorporated the bulk magazines into their design but later units were an add-on unit.

Leica M3 with a Leicameter fitted

A specialist Leica III bulk film model fitted with a motor drive

Due to the success of the Nikon F SLR of 1959 photographers loyal to the Leica brand asked the company to produce an SLR. Eventually, in 1964 Leica released the Leicaflex. This camera had a built-in exposure meter and a microprism centre spot focussing screen. TTL metering was a feature of SL2 of 1968. This model remained in production until 1976 when, due to financial reasons, the company again collaborated with Minolta (their first collaboration was the Leica CL/Minolta CLE of 1973 mentioned later on) to produce the R3 which was based on the Minolta XE.

The original Leicaflex of 1964

Leicaflex SL2

The Leica R3 was based on...

... the Minolta XE

The Leica R7 was the last SLR to be built in collaboration with Minolta

The Minolta collaboration continued with the cameras being refined up until the R8 of 1996 which was designed and manufactured by Leitz in Germany.  In 2002 the R9 replaced the R8. Basically an up-dated R8 which was in production until 2008 and was the last model in the range. Both the R8 and R9 were 35mm cameras... the latter being the last 35mm SLR made by Leica, that had the ability of being converted to digital SLRs with the addition, in 2005 of the 10 megapixel Digital Module-R. Leica were rumoured to be producing an R10 but it has not  been introduced and is not likely to be with the introduction of the 37·5 megapixel Model S medium format SLR.

Leica R8

The last 35mm Leica Reflex Camera - the R9

Component parts of the Leica Digital Module-R

The Leica R10 prototype that did not reach production

As well as the 35mm cameras and other equipment ranges, along the way Leica developed and manufactured Standard Eight  and Super Eight ciné cameras and projectors a few examples of which are illustrated below.

Standard Eight Leicina 8s ciné camera

Standard 8 Leitz Cinovid ciné projector

Super Eight Leicina Special ciné camera

Before delving into the realms of digital Leicas, I feel as though mention must be made of a few product ranges bearing the Leica name that are not cameras. The Leitz Focomat is a range of enlargers that were available from 1934 to the late 1990s. They were available in various formats (unlike their cameras which were 35mm only) including several 120 roll film formats. Unlike their 35mm cameras the enlargers were autofocus right from the start of production. As well as monochrome, colour and Multigrade versions were available and a range of Leitz Focotar lenses to match.

Leitz Focomat V35 colour enlarger

Another way of producing images captured on film is the slide projector. Leitz have manufactured slide projectors since 1926 starting with the Uleja which projected images from uncut 35mm rolls of film. Since then there have been many different models. In 1958 the LKM (Leitz Kindermann Magazine) slide magazine was first offered on the Pradovit F. This type of magazine went on the be one of the most widely adopted slide magazine systems in the world also being used by Braun, Zeiss Ikon/Voigtlander, Gepe to name but a few. The 35mm slide projector range culminated with the Leitz Pradovit production of which was terminated in 2006. Most have utilised the familiar Leitz straight magazine holding thirty six or fifty transparencies but the later RT model accommodated the Kodak (by whom it was manufactured) "Carousel" type rotary magazine which held eighty transparencies.

Leitz Pradovit IR slide projector

More recently, the latest projector to have the Pradovit name on it is the D1200 digital video projector announced in 2008. It utilises Texas Instruments display technology, is capable of resolving 1920 by 1200 pixels, illuminated by a Philips 220 watt lamp and is extremely small. It is capable of projecting High Definition files in excess of 1080P (the recognised HD resolution) at a brightness of 2000 Ansi lumens and when launched bore a price tag of $15000.

The Leica Pradovit D1200 digital projector

Leica and Leitz before it have a world-wide reputation for producing high quality optics and related products whether it be binoculars, spotting scopes. rifle sights (see http://uk.leica-camera.com/Sport-Optics), microscopes (see www.leica-microsystems.com) or even theodolites (see www.leica-geosystems.co.uk). They have long been associated with these specialist products and the "Red Spot" and the Leitz/Leica name can quite often be seen in some very surprising places. This was demonstrated to me in May of 2016 when I was in London for a Star Wars exposition at the Excel Convention Centre in London's Docklands adjacent to St Catherine's Dock. The Docklands Light Railway ran next to our hotel and the cutting that it emerged from was monitored for stability by a Bluetooth equipped Leica TM30 theodolite pictured below).

Leica Trinovid 8 x 30 binoculars

Leica Apo-Televid 65 spotting scope

No red spot but this is definitely a Leica GME Microscope

This Leica TM1600 A Theodolite doesn't sport a red spot either!

This Bluetooth enabled Leica TM30 remotely monitors cutting movement on the Docklands Light Railway in London

The first digital Leica was the S1 released in 1996. It was basically a scanning back and possessed a 26 megapixel 36mm x 36mm sensor. Although it was designed to take Leica R series lenses it was possible to fit Nikon, Contax, Canon FD, and Minolta lenses as well as medium-format optics from Hasselblad and Pentax (6x7) via a lens mount adapter. There was also a Novoflex adapter that allowed the use of large-format optics from Rodenstock & Schneider, and a tilt-shift adapter for use with Hasselblad lenses.  With most other digital cameras of the time only capable of 1·5 to 2·0 megapixels the S1 was really revolutionary and it would be many years before other manufacturers caught up.

Leica's first digital camera... the 26 megapixel S1

As has been seen Leica are no strangers to collaborating with other manufacturers. With the dawning of the digital era their first digital cameras were made by Fuji. These were basically badge engineered models but in more recent times they changed their allegiance to Panasonic for the more affordable end of their model range. These cameras had Leica lenses fitted to them and the Leica influence can be seen in  the design of Panasonic's Lumix range of cameras such as the DMC-LC1 which also feature Leica lenses. The digital M series cameras possess American Kodak sensors and are still manufactured in Germany along with the other "up-market" models.

The 2· 4 megapixel (4▪3 megapixel image) Fujifilm Finepix 4700...

...and the identical 2· 4 megapixel (4▪3 megapixel image) Leica Digilux 4▪3 made by Fujifilm

The first Leica - Panasonic collaboration was the 3▪9 megapixel Leica Digilux 1...

 ...and the Panasonic DMC-LC5 on which it was based

The Leica Digilux 3 features a four thirds format N-MOS image sensor...

... and the identical Panasonic Lumix DMC-LC1 even has the same Vario-Elmarit lens!

One of the smallest Leicas - the palm sized, 10·1 megapixel Leica C-Lux 3 (also available in silver)

Apparently the Leica 0 was the inspiration behind the beautifully minimalist 10·1 megapixel Leica D-Lux 3

A Leica M8 or M9 was used in Jean-Pierre Jeunet's wonderful Chanel No 5 commercial which incidentally took four months to shoot (see photograph below) Apparently, the Leica being held by actress Audrey Tautou in the advert is her own... lucky girl!

Actress Audrey Tautou holding a Leica (M8 or M9) in the Chanel No 5 advertisement

(Photograph - Chanel)

18·5 megapixel Leica M9 rangefinder

The ultimate digital SLR - the medium format 37·5 megapixel Leica S...

...and the ultimate (not so) compact - the 24 megapixel Leica M10 rangefinder

If money was no object I would most probably have a recently announced 24 megapixel Leica M10 capable of capturing images at 50,000 ISO fitted with a nice 28mm f2 Summicron or even an f0·95 Noctilux lens (at £15k for the two would I be brave enough to take them out and use them?)  or even a 37·5 megapixel medium format Leica S... also fitted with a 28mm f2 Summicron.

There have been a few special editions of the M9 produced in very low numbers. The Hermès Edition was designed in collaboration with automotive designer Walter de'Silva, selected features of the camera body were restyled, including the top and base plates, the shutter speed dial, the multifunction wheel and the shutter release. In addition, the frame selector lever, the accessory shoe and the Leica script on the upper face of the top plate have also been omitted to further emphasise the unique status of this limited edition. The camera is finished in silver chrome and its lens in anodised silver. The exclusivity of this camera is further emphasised by "Veau Swift" calf skin in ochre, supplied by Hermès for the leather finish of the Leica M9-P camera. This exclusive leather trim by Hermès determines the colour concept of the special edition and ensures a perfect tactile sensation. Available as a body and 50mm f1·4 Summilux-M lens or as an outfit featuring the camera body, a 28mm f2 Summicron-M, a 50mm f0·95 Noctilux-M, a 90mm f2 APO-Summicron-M all contained in an exclusive Hermès fitted case for either $25k for the body and lens or $50k for the outfit! This model was further immortalised by the production of a non-functional replica made by Lego and even this wasn't cheap at around $40!

Limited edition Leica M9-P Hermès

Lego replica of the Leica M9-P Hermès

The M9 was replaced in 2013 with not the M10 but the Leica M. Not looking too dissimilar from the M9 it possesses many features such as video recording not seen on previous M series cameras. The latest special edition was based on the Leica M, inspired and co-designed by Sir Jonathan Ive aka Jony Ive... principal designer of the Apple iPod, iPhone and iPad and Marc Newson. The Red was designed with a view to be auctioned by Sotheby’s on the 23rd November 2013 when it raised in excess of $0·5m for the global fund to fight aids, tuberculosis and malaria. There are a few variants of the M including a back to basics manual version designated the M-D that does not even possess a preview screen on the back of the camera.

Possible M9 replacement - the Leica M

Leica M Red co-designed by Apple's Jony Ive and Marc Newson

My underlying problem with the S and the M9 is that they suffer from the same problem as other interchangeable lens digital cameras... dust and other foreign bodies on the sensor. With 35mm (and other formats) of film cameras, when the film is wound from the cassette it is emerging from a sterile and dust-free environment and only exposed to the atmosphere when the shutter is opened. This is not the case with digital cameras with interchangeable lenses as when a lens is removed a partial vacuum is created in the camera body which can cause dust, pollen, etc to be drawn onto the sensor and become trapped when the lens is replaced to settle on the photo sensor. This has lead manufacturers to provide vibrating sensors, ultrasonic pulses or air blasts to clean the sensor. Prevention is better than cure so if the lens is not removable... contaminants cannot enter the camera... hence my preference for fixed lens cameras. But there are always an exceptions to the rule... enter the Leica S with its 37·5 megapixel sensor. This digital SLR with its dedicated range of Leica lenses leads the way that professional cameras will go in the future but its £21,500 price tag (body and f2·5 35mm aspheric wide angle lens) is out of the reach of all but a very select few. And if I had one there is no way that the lens would be coming off! But with January 2012 prices being £4368 for an M9 body, £5007 for an M9P body and £2669 for an f2 28mm Summicron lens... a more affordable option would be a Leica V-Lux (not too dissimilar in looks and layout to my old Fujifilm S9600). I don't think that an S or M9 would help me take better photographs as I would be too afraid to to take them out in case I scratched them. Consequently, I would not be able to take them to some of the places that my current cameras have been!

The latest V-Lux... the 20·1 megapixel Leica V-Lux 114 "bridge" camera

The world's most expensive lens - the 1600mm Apo Telyt-R costing £1·3 million

A recent compact offering from Leica is the Leica C. Reminiscent of the old Leica CL of 1973 made in collaboration with Minolta, this compact features a 12·1 megapixel sensor, an electronic eye-level viewfinder and unlike the CL (which had interchangeable lenses) a Vario-Summicron lens with a 35mm equivalent focal length range of 28mm to 200mm. Available in light gold or dark red colours it also has built-in Wi Fi/nfc (near field communication) for cable-less transfer of images to smartphones, tablets, laptops or computers. A stylish drop-front ever-ready case is available as well.

12·1 megapixel Leica C...

...the camera that inspired it - the Leica CL of 1973...

...and the virtually identical Minolta CLE - note the Leitz Summicron lens

Nicknamed the "Baby M" the Leica X1 features a  12·9 megapixel APS-C sensor with a fixed 24mm f2·8 Elmarit lens equivalent to 36mm focal length on a 35mm camera. This retro-styled camera possesses a revolutionary type of image stabilisation that is neither optical or sensor based and works by combining two images into one. The X1 was superseded by the X2 which is outwardly identical but has an upgraded 16·2 megapixel sensor and other improvements to the electronics. However the X Vario is identical to the X2 but possesses a 28mm to 70mm equivalent zoom lens.

Nicknamed the "Baby M" are the Leica X1 and X2

16·2 megapixel Leica X Vario

Leica's offering to commemorate one hundred years of camera manufacture follows the trend for system compact cameras featuring a body constructed from a single aluminium casting, interchangeable lenses and accessories making it a true system camera... the Leica T. Its 16·5 megapixel APS-C sensor is one of the highest resolution sensors that Leica have fitted to their compact cameras. In line with the latest cameras it has built-in Wi-fi for cable-less connection with computers and other electronic devices. In addition to the purpose built lenses it will also accept more than twenty Leica M lenses via an adapter. The viewing screen is a 3·7 inch touch screen enabling access to the focussing features and menu. One of the accessories available is the Visoflex eye level viewfinder reminiscent to that on the M rangefinder cameras but unlike the original optical Visoflex units this electronic version tilts and swivels for those difficult viewing situations in addition to a GPS facility and a sensor that detects when the camera is raised to the eye. Images can be stored on the built-in 16 gb memory as well as SD, SDHC and SDXC memory cards. Needless to say all these facilities come at a price... £1350 for the body and similar a amount for each of the lenses!

Black Leica T fitted with an M Series Summilux lens

A silver Leica T fitted with an electronic Visoflex viewfinder

The recently introduced Leica Q is basically a metal bodied baby M with a full frame 24·2 megapixel CMOS sensor, minus the optical viewfinder and rangefinder. It is fitted with a non-interchangeable, fixed focal length 28mm f1·7 Summilux wide angle lens and an electronic viewfinder that automatically activates when the camera is raised to the photographer's eye in addition to a three inch touch screen display. Other features include, Full HD video recording an image capture sensitivity of up to 50,000 ISO, Wi-Fi and Near Field Communication (NFC) and the ability for functions to be controlled from a smart phone via Leica's app.

Leica Q

The same full frame 24·2 megapixel CMOS sensor is fitted to Leica's latest offering... the Leica SL 601 mirrorless SLR which features interchangeable L mount lenses (although any Leica lens regardless of age can be fitted via adapters but with limited functionality), automatic image cropping when using different lenses, a high resolution 4·4 million-dot electronic viewfinder with a refresh rate of 60 fps in addition to a 1·4 million dot three inch LCD display on the back of the camera and the usual hi-tech features such as 4K video recording, Wi-Fi, NFC, GPS, etc. found on modern digital Leicas. It is reminiscent of the 35mm  Leicaflex R3 made jointly by Minolta and Leica in 1976. When introduced the price of the body was £5050 and the first "native" lens... a 24-90mm f2·8-4 Vario-Elmarit SL at £3150.

The Leica SL 601 is reminiscent of the 35mm Leicaflex R3

Whilst on the subject of lenses. Leica have recently introduced the f0·95 50mm Noctilux Aspherical lens as a homage to the legendary Leica Noctilux M 50 mm f0·95 ASPH. lens. With resolving powers that exceed those of the human eye and a maximum aperture of 0.95 in available-light photography, it possesses the ability to reveal details that remain hidden to the human eye. As one of the world’s fastest aspherical lenses for 35mm (and digital) photography, it is not the fastest... this accolade belongs to Carl Zeiss with their 40mm f0·33 Super-Q-Gigantar designed as a public relations exercise by Herr Wolf Wehran for the Contarex SLR. Although very impressive it was in fact not a working model and the "Q" designation refers to the word "Quatsch" which roughly translated from German means "nonsense".

Zeiss Contarex fitted with an f0·3 40mm Super-Q-Gigantar lens (non-operational)

The Noctilux's extremely shallow depth of field at maximum aperture expands creative horizons in a way previously unknown to the world of photography. The superb optical performance unites with the highest-quality materials, perfect construction, and utmost precision in a lens of unrivalled quality.

Leica f0·95 50mm Noctilux Aspherical lens

Another new addition to the Leica range of digital cameras is the Leica X-U. Basically, this is a water and weather-proof 16·2 megapixel Leica X body fitted with a fixed focal length 23mm f1·7 with integral flash unit. The body is "ruggedised" with rubber body coverings, a protective glass filter over the front of the lens and is waterproof to fifteen metres. Needless to say the price has been increased over the standard camera to reflect these additions.

The Leica X-U... a "ruggedised" Leica X-E

A really surprising new Leica is the Sofort. This is an instant camera that utilizes Fuji Instax film packs as well as Leica's own monochrome and colour film packs. Available in three colours... white, mint and orange it is obviously aimed at the "snapshot" market. Shooting modes are macro, bulb, automatic, self-timer, party and people, sport and action, double exposure and selfie. The range of modes confirm the market that the camera is aimed at. As it is not a digital camera it does not possess an LCD display but it does feature an optical viewfinder. Accessories available for this camera are limited to a colourful range of cases and photograph display box, album and post cards.

Leica Sofort instant camera

Whilst on holiday in Tenerife I saw a Leica V-Lux 30 in a Los Christianos shop window, As Leicas are not usually sold on the island it came as quite a surprise to see it. I went into the shop and discovered a whole display case dedicated to the brand and containing a pair of Digilux 1 as well as current D-Lux 20, 30 and X-1 models and a fitted system case. Another display case contained an R8 as well as a Hasselblad and a Bronica. Elsewhere two Pradovit slide projectors could be seen on display. It just goes to show that there is good taste on Tenerife!

A display of Leicas in a Tenerife department store

On a recent trip to Manchester my stepson Michael and I visited the Leica Store in St Anne's Arcade to purchase a spare battery for his V-Lux 114. Even though I knew about the shop it was the first time that I had been to it and it was an absolute revelation. In one of the display cases they had every model of Leica from a replica UR Leica to the latest SL mirrorless digital SLR. I spent a very pleasant hour drooling over the cameras on display and having a stimulating conversation with the manager David Stephens and staff as well. We even had friends in common in the shape of Mike Jackson... an ex-colleague from my (and Jim's) Dixons days. I am looking forward to revisiting this shop that should be on every Leica aficionado's visiting list... better leave the credit card at home though!

Display case in the Leica Store, Manchester containing an example of every Leica model made

Leica equipment traditionally used the Leitz name engraved in script as their trade make. Since the mid-1970s the Leitz name was incorporated into a red circular badge (known as the red dot - hence the name of this section) but more recently this has been replaced with the Leica name. Leica is one of the foremost camera manufacturers on this planet. The technical, manufacturing and optical quality of their products is beyond reproach. Leica are not afraid to make bold design statements and incorporate features not thought of a couple of years ago. I will watch with interest how they refine current models and develop new models, encompassing new design trends and technologies as and when they appear in the future. The basic Leica design has stood the test of time and the modern M series digital cameras can trace their heritage back to the original Leica prototype of 1913.

A floral tribute to Jim Wood in the shape of a Leica

At the start of this part of the Canalscape website there is a dedication to my brother Jim who had a collection of Leica cameras. For his funeral we commissioned a floral tribute that featured a replica Leica. I have included a photograph of the floral tribute in this section as I feel that it is fitting. After the funeral it was donated to Wallasey Amateur Photographic Society who were proud to remember one of their members in this way.

 

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Contemporary Digital Cameras

Digital cameras have come a long way in a few short years. Modern examples, as well as possessing higher resolution image capture have many features such as image stabilisation, smile detection, GPS tagging, HD movie mode, plus many more that were unimaginable only a few years ago. Many of the more "serious" compact cameras have interchangeable lenses. In addition to mid-range zoom lenses "pancake" lenses... compact wide-angle lenses are becoming more popular for when the telephoto range is not required. I have purposely kept a low profile when it comes to Digital SLRs and only mention a few exceptional examples (the Leica S, Canon EOS 600D, Olympus OM-D and Sigma SD1 Merrill). New digital cameras are demonstrating an individuality of design reminiscent of 35mm cameras from the past (retro styling), some of which are shown in the following section.

The Canon EOS in its various guises has been a popular SLR in various guises for nearly thirty years. The name "EOS" is nothing to do with the god of light or a convertible Volkswagen but is actually the initials of "Electro Optical System". It is the preferred tool for many press and many other professional photographers. I still own a 35mm EOS 600 and a new model recently launched is the 18 megapixel EOS 600D. Having held this camera I can say that it has the same "feel" as my old 35mm EOS 600 but is much lighter and possibly a little smaller due, no doubt, to the APS-C sensor being smaller than than the full frame 24mm x 36mm dimensions of 35mm film. This allows not only a more compact body but shorter focal length lenses. What is surprising is that the menu is not too dissimilar to the 35mm version. A testament, not only to the original Colani T90 design but to Canon innovation as well.

The 18 megapixel Canon EOS 600D

An interesting trend in digital compact cameras is that of what is termed the "system compact". Basically this is a compact camera with advanced features and interchangeable lenses. A good example is the Canon EOS M which will accept all lenses from the EOS range via an adapter (basically a spacer not unlike an extension tube) to maintain the correct focal length and functionality of the lenses. The EOS M has an 18 megapixel sensor that is identical to that used in the SLR range but without the bulk of a mirror box and eye level viewfinder or some of the more complicated features of its big brothers.

The interchangeable lens, 18 megapixel Canon EOS M shown here fitted with a compact "pancake" lens

Another recent digital SLR is the the Olympus OM-D E-M5. This £1k+, mirror-less DSLR features a 16·1 megapixel, "Micro Four Thirds" sensor and is reminiscent of the Olympus OM 10/20/30/40 35mm SLRs from the 1980's (except for the film advance lever and rewind crank). The OM-D draws heavily on Olympus's 35mm SLR heritage and in true Olympus fashion possesses an alloy body as well as being a true system camera. The lenses (using adapters), accessories and flash units from the Olympus Pen-F digital range of digital compacts are also compatible with the OM-D. The supplied FL-LM2 dedicated electronic flash unit is a dead ringer for the T20 and T32 flash units designed for the original OM series of 35mm cameras but I am guessing that they do not feature the revolutionary off the film plane flash metering of the originals.

The 16·1 megapixel Olympus OM-D E-M5 bears a striking resemblance to...

...the 35mm Olympus OM 20 from the 1980's

The Olympus Pen-F Digital mirrorless SLR also bears a striking resemblance to...

...the original Olympus Pen-F half-frame SLR from the 1970's

Sigma produce an interesting range of cameras that feature Foveon multi-layer sensors invented by Dick Merrill... a design engineer at Foveon. The SD1 Merrill is an SLR with interchangeable lenses having the Sigma SA lens mount. The multi-layer sensor is said to resolve 46 megapixels. This is achieved by capturing colours at each pixel location in a different way to conventional sensors. The DP1 Merrill possesses the same sensor in a compact body but has a fixed lens with a 35mm equivalent to 45mm focal length. Whilst not cheap the price reflects the performance of these unusual cameras.

Sigma SD1 Merrill SLR

Sigma DP1 Merrill compact

There seems to be a glut of retro-styled cameras announced recently. Many of these next generation cameras feature back-lit C-MOS sensors which have a lower megapixel count than conventional sensors but offer a greater image quality and contrast range. Many of these cameras have interchangeable lenses as well. The Fujifilm X-Pro 1 bears an uncanny resemblance to their professional 6 x 7 roll film cameras which are available in standard and wide angle lens versions. These cameras, which are popular with landscape photographers are one of the few cameras of this type still in production. The  Fujifilm X100 has been criticised for not having interchangeable lenses. In response to these criticisms Fujifilm developed the X-E1 which is basically an electronic viewfindered X100 with interchangeable lenses available in either black and black leather or silver and black leather. The same CMOS sensor is used in the retro XF 117 compact available clad in brown, black or red leather and is reminiscent of the old Zeiss Werra from the late 1950's and mid 1960's... very tasty!  A new addition to Fujifilm's X range is the X-T1. This is a 16·3 megapixel APS-C size X-Trans CMOS II sensor equipped mirrorless SLR that utilises a 2 megapixel electronic viewfinder in addition to a conventional display on the back of the camera. Prime (fixed) lenses of various focal lengths are available  (identical to those that fit the X-E1) as is an 18-55mm zoom lens and external dedicated flash unit. Body only prices are well into four figures with lens prices starting at about £400. The camera itself is reminiscent of the 35mm Fuji STX-1 and 2 SLRs dating from the 1980's.

 

The retro "Leicaesque" 12·3 megapixel Fujifilm X100

The Fujifilm X10 is the X100's little brother which shares the same 12·3 megapixel CMOS sensor

The new £2k (including one lens) Fujifilm X-Pro1 features the X100's hybrid viewfinder, a 16 megapixel APS-C X-Trans CMOS sensor and interchangeable lenses

The new Fujifilm digital cameras resemble the Fuji 6 x 7 roll film cameras... one of the few of this type still in production...

...and the also made the visually similar dual format 35mm Hasselblad X Pan panoramic camera

Fujifilm's X-S1 bridge camera shares the  same 12·3 megapixel CMOS sensor as the X100 and X10

The Fujifilm X-T1 however features a 16·3 megapixel sensor in a mirrorless SLR body

The Fujifilm X-E1 is basically an X-100 with a fully electronic viewfinder and interchangeable lenses

The same CMOS sensor is used in the retro Fujifilm XF 117 reminiscent of the Leica D-Lux and the Zeiss Werra of the 1960's

The stylish Samsung WB700 has a Schneider Kreuznach fixed zoom lens and a 14·2 megapixel sensor

The stylish 24·3 megapixel Sony Nex 7 also has interchangeable lenses...

...and the luxurious 24·3 megapixel Hasselblad Lunar which bears an uncanny resemblance to the Sony Nex 7

The Sony RX10 which has a 20·1 megapixel Exmor R CMOS sensor and a Zeiss T* Vario Sonnar f2.8 24mm to 200mm (35mm equivalent) lens...

The 24·3 megapixel, retro-styled Sony Cybershot RX1 complete with fixed 35mm f2 Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* lens

The retro-wagon just keeps on rolling with the Pentax MX-1 This is the first new Pentax camera since being taken over by Ricoh and very nice it looks too. It is reminiscent of the 35mm Pentax MX SLR complete with metal top and bottom plates separated by a band of black leather-type material. Even the style of lettering on the top plate is the same! Along with advanced features the camera has an SMC Pentax zoom lens with a 12 megapixel back-lit CMOS sensor. At £400 it is a bit on the expensive side though. Only time will tell if this beautifully designed camera competes with competitors from other manufacturers. The latest offering from Pentax is the K-01. This is a mirror-less SLR featuring a 16 megapixel sensor and an unusual design by Marc Newson... the celebrated co-designer of the Leica M Red.

The 12 megapixel Pentax MX-1 body shape is reminiscent of...

... the 35mm SLR Pentax MX of the 1970's and 1980's

Latest Pentax offering... the 16 megapixel K-01 mirror-less SLR

Mention must be made of the Minox miniature cameras some of which are made under licence in Japan by Sharan. Minox (who were bought out by Leica in 1996) are famous for making 16mm "spy" cameras and a range of reproduction cameras also using Minox 16mm film cassettes. I say reproduction as they have made a range of miniature classics based on original designs from Leica (F, IIIF and M3), Hasselblad wideangle (SWC), Nikon (F SLR and SP2 rangefinder) and Rolleiflex TLR (2·8 F). The latest digital Leica model is based on the M3 and originally featured a 1·3 sensor later up-rated to 5 megapixels. The Rollei model is based on the 2·8 F twin lens reflex design and has a 3·2 megapixel sensor from which the resulting images are interpolated to 5 megapixels. There is a third model... the DCC 5·1 that is not based on a particular camera but is a generic representation of a 35mm rangefinder camera from the 1950's and bears a remarkable similarity to the Bolsey B2. It is interesting to note that Alpa 2 cameras where also marketed as the Bosley Reflex. These digital Minox cameras are not novelties but are fully functional cameras capable of producing high quality results and in more recent models the sensor has been upgraded to 14 megapixels.

A 5 megapixel Minox digital Leica M3 miniature reproduction...

... and the 35mm camera it is based on

5 megapixel Minox digital Rolleiflex 2·8F miniature reproduction...

... and the full-sized camera it is based on

The 5·1 megapixel Minox DCC...

... and the Bolsey B2 to which the Minox DCC bears an uncanny resemblance to

(Early Alpa 2s where also known as the Bolsey Reflex)

A recently released novelty is the Gizmon iCA. This is a case for the Apple iPhone that resembles a Leica lllc. When seen from a distance or given a quick glance it does indeed look like the venerable classic 35mm rangefinder camera from the 1950s. However, closer inspection reveals its true heritage. The Gizmon iCA allows full utilisation of the iPhone's 8 megapixel camera and is available in black/chrome, tan/chrome and an all black "military" edition. The Gizmon badge is also reminiscent of Leica's red button and script trademark. A range of add-on lenses and filters are available in addition to accessories including a micro electronic flash, leather case, remote shutter release and a tripod adapter to name but a few. Shame that its made from polycarbonate... maybe they should make one in metal covered in black leather to make it look and feel more authentic... but you can be assured that it would cost significantly more than fifty quid (plus the cost of the iPhone)!

Gizmon iCA case for the Apple iPhone...

... and the camera it was modelled on - the Leica IIIc

Rear view of the Gizmon iCA all black "Military" Edition (nice Jeep)

Whilst on the subject of mobile phones, they play an increasingly important part in our lives and bear little relationship to the "bricks" of a few years ago. But their convergence of technology with built-in MP3 players, phone, camera, sat nav, etc means they are "Jack of all trades and masters of none" in my estimation. Maybe I expect too much from the cameras incorporated in mobile phones but Nokia have recently announced the  Lumina 1020 mobile phone which possesses a 41... yes 41 megapixel sensor and a Carl Zeiss lens. This smartphone carries on where their similarly specified 808 Pureview left off and even features a Windows operating system. Very impressive but for now I will continue carrying my compact Leica C-Lux with me everywhere I go!

The 41 megapixel Nokia Lumina 1020 mobile phone

Another example of converging technologies is the Sony QX 100/Sony Xperia This smartphone, featuring the usual large touch screen display, can have what looks like an interchangeable SLR lens fitted to it. It is actually a second hi-resolution camera that communicates with the phone's electronics via Bluetooth. The 28mm to 105mm (35mm equivalent) Carl Zeiss Vario Sonnar T* lens and 20 megapixel Exmor R CMOS sensor has its own rechargeable battery and Micro SD Card slot making them independent of the phone except for the controls and viewfinder. The lens can even be used off the camera (but within Bluetooth range) in situations where the phone body would not fit or it would be impractical to use. The output from the CCD is still shown on the phone's display and the camera functions are also accessed via the phone's interface or by duplicate controls on the lens body. There is a less expensive model... the QX 10 which has a lower resolution sensor (18 mp) and a Sony 25mm to 250mm (35mm equivalent) lens rather than a Zeiss T* lens.

The separate components of the Sony Xperia mobile phone and QX 100 camera...

...and those components assembled into a single unit

A surprise development in mobile phone design came with the introduction of the Huawei P9 smartphone which features not one but two cameras developed in collaboration with Leica complete with twin Leica Summarit lenses. One camera has a monochrome sensor whilst the second has a colour sensor. The image processor combines the two 12 megapixel images to increase the dynamic range as in HDR (High Dynamic Range) photography, especially in low light conditions to produce stunning images worthy of professional cameras. In 2017 this model was superseded by the P10 which features the same twin camera set-up but with added sophistication and features.

The revolutionary Huawei P9 smartphone

The twin Leica cameras featured in the Huawei P9 smartphone

Another development that took me by surprise was the recent launch of the "Lytro" camera. This revolutionary concept uses plenoptic or light field photography and allows the user to select which parts of the image they want in focus after the photograph has been taken. In digital photography this is known as the Bokeh effect whereas in conventional film cameras it was known as shallow depth of field. This is achieved by locating additional micro lenses behind or in front of the main objective lens's focal plane and producing what is basically a series of images (not unlike a short burst if video) taken with various depth of field settings. Sophisticated software processes the extra information and modifies (or choses) the image as required. At present the resulting images are only relatively low resolution (approximately 1·3 megapixels) but the technology is still in its infancy and I shall be watching the development of this technology with great interest. Visit the interactive Lytro website and explore the features of these cameras for yourself. They will make you smile just as they made me smile.

The unusual and revolutionary Lytro cameras

The unusual design of the original Lytro camera did nothing to endear itself to photographers used to a conventional digital camera. What was needed was a more acceptable, ergonomic design and in 2014 a more conventional model... The Lytro Illium was launched in 2014. It now features a four times zoom lens, possesses a 40 "megaray" sensor, hand grip and a larger display enabling it to handle more like a compact even if its design is still a little futuristic not to mention the £1300 price tag!

The Lytro Illium

Who knows what trends the future will hold. But, whatever it holds we can be assured that there will be an ever-increasing sensor resolution, the incorporation of GPS to provide information of the location the photograph was taken and a move away from in-camera storage media such as SD/XD/M2 Memorystick/etc. with images up-loaded to the cloud (a secure storage server on the Internet) via an in-built 3G or 4G modem, to be downloaded as and when required. This would be yet another example of converging technologies incorporated in cameras.

The 56 megapixel Leaf Aptus 2 is a digital back that can be fitted to many medium and large format cameras. It was originally designed for 120/220 roll film such as Hasselblads and Mamiyas as well as cameras that used 5 x 4 sheet film loaded into dark slides. An example of the large format cameras suitable is the Walker Titan SF... a traditionally designed large format field camera which offers all the usual movements such as cross front, rising front and swing front. The designer... Mike Walker is a personal friend of mine whom I first met when I was a photography lecturer and technician at Wirral Metropolitan College where he was a student. Previously an engineer, Mike wanted to build a large format field camera originally using brass and mahogany with leather bellows. Prototypes were made in 5 x 4, 5 x 7 and 10 x 8 formats and went into production. A development from this design was the Titan SF and XL wide angle version which both utilise modern materials such as ABS for the body, stainless steel for the fittings and PVC for the bellows. The technical specification of these cameras can be seen at the Walker Cameras website at www.walkercameras.com. Imagine my surprise recently, whilst channel scanning on the television, to see a 5 x 4 large format camera being constructed on the Discovery Science channel's "How its Made" programme. Not only was it a large format camera but it was a Walker Titan with none other than my old friend Mike Walker constructing it!

The Walker Titan SF large format field camera made from modern materials

The new Alpa cameras mentioned previously are reminiscent in some ways to the classic Linhof roll film cameras. As they are a modular camera they can be specified in various configurations with either roll film (up to 6 x 9) or digital backs and cost more than £15k for a basic model with the viewfinder alone costing more than £1k (but you can always buy an iPhone viewfinder adapter for £425 + the iPhone!). Various movements (rising and cross front) and digital backs can be fitted to them but the top-of-the-range is the 80 megapixel Leaf Aptus II-12 back which will set the lucky purchaser back in excess of £25k (all February 2011 prices). They are indeed wonderful, competent instruments but do not, unfortunately, possess the "usability" and magic of the beautiful 35mm SLRs that once bore the same name.

A modern titanium Alpa 12 SWA camera fitted with a 80 megapixel Leaf Aptus digital back and Schneider Apo Digitar lens

An all black model complete with iPhone viewfinder

If you thought that the Alpa 12 SWA at 80 megapixels was the ultimate in digital camera resolution then think again. In September 2015 Canon unveiled a prototype full frame 120 megapixel version of their Eos SLR camera designated the 120M. This announcement was not long after their 250 megapixel senor was announced but as yet has this has not been fitted to a camera and is still in development.

Prototype 120 megapixel Canon Eos 120M

FujiFilm have also entered the megapixel race with a recently announced a medium format mirrorless SLR in the shape of the Fujifilm GFX 50S. A sensor 1·7 times larger than a full-frame sensor produces a resolution of 51·4 megapixels coupled with a focal plane shutter that allows both shutter-less and leaf shuttered lenses to be used. The camera body is only slightly larger than a conventional DSLR but with superior quality images and light gathering qualities. The modular deign incorporates interchangeable viewfinders and battery grips to suit different photographic environments. Needless to say this camera will not be cheap when it is released in 2017 with prices, according to Fujifilm, expected to be below $10k which puts the camera in the same market place as the less versatile Hasselblad X1D.

Fujifilm's 51·4 megapixel GFX 50S

Just to put the megapixel count into perspective, a 35mm image is equivalent to (as previously mentioned) approximately 19.4 megapixels, a 6 x 7 roll film image is equivalent to 100 megapixels and a 5 inch by 4 inch sheet film is equivalent to 500 megapixels. The Seitz 6x17 Digital... another Swiss masterpiece, fitted with a 90mm Schneider Kreuznach Super Angulon lens, has a resolution of 160 megapixels (yes 160 mp - you did read correctly). This camera bears an uncanny resemblance to the Linhof 6x17 roll film camera. The manufacturer also makes a range of panoramic and specialist cameras but the question that everyone wants an answer to is the price... £30,000. Oh... I nearly forgot... the Alpa is available with a Seitz sensor as well! Judging by the lower photograph it does not appear to be a comfortable camera to hold... it would go nicely on my Manfrotto tripod though. With the speed at which technologies develop today I wonder how long it will be before it is knocked off top resolution spot? I reckon... it might have even been knocked off the pinnacle by now. For additional information on film/sensor/printer and display resolution read the Megapixel Myth at kenrockwell.com and the excellent Wikipedia article Digital Versus Film Photography.

 

 

The impressive Seitz 6x17 160 megapixel digital panoramic camera bears an uncanny resemblance to...

...the Linhof Technorama 617S 4 on 120 or 8 on 220 roll film panoramic camera...

...but it does not look to be the easiest camera to hold though!

 

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The Canalscape Trophy

To complete the "Canalscape" portfolio, in February 2011 I presented the "Canalscape" Trophy to Lymm Cruising Club. The trophy is awarded every year to the photographer taking the best overall photograph entered into the Chairman's Photographic Competition. The trophy itself is a brass propeller mounted on a hard wood plinth. It was made by my youngest son Glyn when he was an apprentice at Stone Manganese Marine Limited of Birkenhead... the world renowned manufacturer of ships' propellers. The plinth has twelve coats of varnish on it and is extremely shiny as is the brass trophy itself.

The Canalscape Trophy

The first year that it was presented the trophy was won by a beautiful photograph of a snow scene taken by Eleanor Muirhead (Scotch Dave's wife). It featured a winter scene of sheep in a snowy field in Dunbar, Scotland, captured on her Sony Cybershot DSC-W270 digital camera and is shown below. I judged the winning entry on a number of criteria... composition, technical quality, etc plus did I wish that I had taken the photograph myself... which I did! When I later spoke to Eleanor about the photograph she told me that they were out for a walk with "Cracker"... their dog who, thirty seconds after she took the photograph, looked over the fence and scared the sheep away. Eleanor was glad that she took my advice from the presentation I gave to Lymm CC entitled "What Makes A Good Photograph?". In the presentation I showed examples of photographic faults and how to avoid them as well as other composition and general advice. One of the tips I gave to the budding photographers was to always carry a camera. If Eleanor hadn't taken this advice she wouldn't have taken the photograph.

Eleanor Muirhead's 2011 Canalscape Trophy winning photograph

(Photograph - Eleanor Muirhead)

The 2012 winner of the Canalscape Trophy was Arthur Malcolm with a wonderful landscape entitled "The River Goyt at the Torrs". When I was judging the photographs for the Canalscape Trophy there was one photograph that stood out from the others. It was a landscape featuring a bridge over a river with sunlight shining through the arches. I was captivated by the light shining through the arches of the bridge and the soft sunlight creating a serene atmosphere in this beautiful landscape. After I had made my choice I discovered that the photograph was taken by my old friend Arthur Malcolm... himself a keen photographer which is evident in the quality of the photograph. I later learnt that Arthur took the photograph of the River Goyt (a tributary of the River Mersey) at the Torrs near New Mills in Derbyshire on his 12·2 megapixel Canon Eos 450 DSLR whilst out for a walk along the river with his partner Brenda. Arthur used a process called HDR - High Dynamic Range to take the photograph. This is where three photographs, usually Raw files, are taken one after another. The first normally exposed - the second two stops under exposed and the third two stops over exposed (bracketing). The three images are combined in an image editing program to enhance shadow detail (over exposed frame), high light detail (under exposed frame) and add them to the normally exposed frame. Brenda told me that she had to wait a quarter of an hour whilst Arthur waited for the light to be just right before taking the photograph... the sign of a dedicated photographer and a man after my own heart!

Arthur Malcolm's 2012 Canalscape Trophy winner... "The River Goyt at the Torrs"

(Photograph - Arthur Malcolm)

Arthur was also the 2013 winner of the Canalscape Trophy with a photograph entitled "Reflections of Leeds" which features a piece of modern art located in Clarence Dock, Leeds. Arthur took the photograph on his 12·2 megapixel Canon Eos 450 DSLR and I think that you will agree that it is a most worthy winner demonstrating good composition and technical quality. I have looked closely at the photograph and I cannot see the reflection of Arthur or his camera in the globe!

The 2013 winner of the Canalscape Trophy... "Reflections of Leeds" by Arthur Malcolm

(Photograph - Arthur Malcolm)

The 2014 Canalscape Trophy winner was Bob McCulloch with his photograph of a Springer Spaniel (whose name is "Ted") "springing" through the surf on a Welsh beach. Bob managed to capture the "decisive moment" precisely (à la Henri Cartier-Bresson – the renowned French photographer) and the photograph captures the moment well. The photograph was taken on a 12 megapixel Canon PowerShot SX240 HS compact camera so who says that you need a sophisticated SLR or bridge camera to take decent photographs?

The 2014 winner of the Canalscape Trophy... "Springing Through the Surf" by Bob McCulloch

(Photograph - Bob McCulloch)

The 2015 Canalscape Trophy winner was also taken by Bob McCulloch. His Canon Powershot captured the beautiful sunset below near Braunston on the Northern Oxford Canal. It is one of those photographs that one wishes that they had taken themselves and was yet another worthy winner for Bob proving yet again that you don't need a sophisticated camera to take decent photographs.

 

The 2015 winner of the Canalscape Trophy... "Oxford Canal Sunset" was also taken by Bob McCulloch

(Photograph - Bob McCulloch)

 

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Conclusion

So there you have it... a brief history of my photographic experiences and the photographic equipment that I have loved (and hated) that has contributed towards the photographs used in "Canalscape", "Diarama" or of general interest. I hope that you have enjoyed reading about my photographic memoirs as much as I have enjoyed reminiscing about and living them.. When you come right down to it just because you use a good camera it doesn't necessarily mean that you can take a good photograph. I once won a competition for photographs taken on a Russian Cosmic 35... one of the cheapest 35mm cameras on the market at that time. I'm not implying that I am a good photographer as I am far too modest to admit to that! My ideal combination of (reasonably) affordable cameras is the Leica V-Lux 1 bridge camera which compliments perfectly my Leica D-Lux 3 compact. There can not be many photographers that can honestly say that they possess their ideal combination of cameras!

I hope that the reader does not get the impression that I am a camera junkie (anorak - guilty as charged... camera junkie - definitely not). But having said that I must admit to appreciating the "feel" of a good bit of leather covered aluminium or brass! With that observation I think that I'd better leave well alone and conclude with the words of the "Master"...

"F8 and be there!"

 

If you would like to see some of my favourite photographs... from both the Canalscape and Diarama websites

as well as subjects not covered by these areas non-canal orientated photographs on Canalscape's sister website... Diarama, please scroll down

Gallery

 

If you would like to know more about photographic history, theory, principles and techniques click the link below...

 

 Photography in One

 

Click here to return to Contents

 

or select another section below...

Introduction

  Book 1 - 1960 to 1982

 

Book 2 - 1983 to 1999

Book 3 - 2000 to 2005

Book 4 - 2006 to 2007

 

Book 5 - 2008 to 2010

  Book 6 - 2010
  Book 7 - 2011
  Book 8 - 2012
  Book 9 - 2013
  Book 10 - 2014
  Book 11 - 2015
  Book 12 - 2016

Book 13 - 2017

Ruby
nb Squirrel
Canals on Screen

Photograph Gallery

Photography in One

The History of Lymm Cruising Club

The Duke's Cut - The Bridgewater Canal
The Big Ditch - Manchester's Ship Canal
Shroppie - The Shropshire Union Canal System
Mersey Connections
The Wonders of the Waterways
Manchester and Salford Junction Canal
2011 Gardner Engine Rally Report
Foreign Forays - Canals of the World
Worsley Canal Heritage Walk
Castlefield Canal Heritage Walk
The Liverpool Docks Link

Don't Call it a Barge

nb Total Eclipse
Canis Canalus
Shannon
Footnote and Acknowledgements
Site Map
Go to the
Website

 "Canalscape" and "Diarama" names and logo are copyright

Updated 10-07-2017