Reactions to what is happening
in the world of photography.
PHOTOGRAPHIC SOCIETY INITIATES ON-LINE MEETINGS
I have just been watching a meeting of the Nottingham & Notts Photographic Society taking place online using the networking site 'Zoom'.
How did they do it?
The speaker - Chris Upton - was giving his illustrated talk from home, and each member of the Society was able to watch from their own homes.
The software allowed members of the audience to ask questions as the talk went on. It was all very informative, the pictures used in illustration came across clearly and the murmurs of appreciation at the end said it all.
Well done Nottingham & Notts, and well done Chris.
I just wanted to share this with you. It is a song that I recorded for the Dore Male Voice Choir and is an extract from a longer video about Dore and its Male Voice Choir.
(Search YouTube - Dore Male Voice Choir - if you would like to hear more from the choir).
COST COMPARISONS - BUY NEW OR BUY PRE-OWNED?
There has apparently been a significant increase in the purchase of pre-owned cameras (and lenses). Presumably, these are being bought by people who otherwise would have bought from new.
Apart from the fact that people are simply trying to cut their costs, it is also clear that a pre-owned camera classified as 'near new", "as new", or "box opened" (and having been tested by the retailer) will behave just like a new one.
You lose the joy and sense of "its new" in favour of cash towards your lens needs.
So, just how much can you reduce your outlay for a camera?
I have done the research and tabulated below some comparative prices (as at 13 March 2020) for a number of very popular cameras. (Please note I have NOT used all of these cameras, I am going by their reputation as gathered from users and reviewers.)
The points to note are:
2. The amount of difference between the RRP and the retail price varies according to which camera is being compared.
3. The pre-owned price for a barely used example (e.g. from either MPB or one of the retailers) is lower than the price for a brand new camera, though again the difference varies with the model you are looking at.
Only you can judge if you want to buy brand new or barely used pre-owned, but the savings by going down the pre-owned route may be significant enough to persuade you.
Sony a6400 E mount
Pre-owned from Park Cameras
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G80 + 12-60 kit lens.
Pre-owned from Wex
Olympus OM-D E-M10iii
WHAT IS THE MOST CRITICAL PROPERTY OF A LENS?
Silly question really, all of its properties matter.
It has to have high-quality optics, it helps if it has in-lens stabilisation, it needs to have the right focal length for your purposes, and so on.
Let me tackle this in a different way. I have just bought a 50mm f/1.2 manual Samyang lens for my Fuji X-system.
Why 50mm focal length? Because I wanted a suitable lens for portraiture. (Why Samyang? Because this lens has such a good reputation for quality, and it has a much lower retail price than the Fuji equivalent.)
"Why a fast lens?" - I didn't mind if it was f/1.4 or f/1.2.
Because I wanted a lens that would provide a really shallow depth of focus when photographing flowers. This way I could get a blurred background behind a flower that would be sharply in focus.
Here is an example:
Everything in the foreground is in focus and the background is softly blurred and provides a good foil to the main subject. This was only possible because the aperture was set at f/1.2.
The keener eyed of you will notice that the butterfly is fractionally out of focus. Herein lies the problem in using such a wide aperture - the focus setting is critical. The foreground leaves are very sharp. By the time the head of the flower and the butterfly are reached this is beginning to drop away. This demonstrates the care that has to be taken with such a wide aperture. In this example, I had just failed and that shows how critical it is to use a tripod (I hadn't) and to wait for totally calm conditions if you are working in the open.
So, when I make a lens choice it is always based on what the day's photography is going to be. In this case, I wanted that blurred background and the only way to get it was through the use of a fast lens.
(For a range of Samyang lenses go to the table of information and prices.)
FUJIFILM X-T3 BARGAIN TIME
Hello X-T4 : now it is X-T3 bargain time.
The release of the (excellent and much anticipated) Fujifilm X-T4 has inevitably led to its buyers part exchanging their X-T3 cameras.
Now, the X-T3 is still a fantastic camera capable of beautiful images as a result of the many user-controlled features that it carries. If you can live without the new features on the X-T4 then now may be the time to grab a bargain X-T3.
To help you I have carried out limited research on today's relevant prices that will help you to make up your mind which way to go.
Starting with the new price of an X-T4. This is currently being offered at £1549.
By comparison here are some X-T3 prices (on 6 March 2020 at 09:45):
Click on the company names to get up-to-date prices.
The real question is whether, for you, the difference in price between the X-T4 and the X-T3 is worth it.
By the time you read this the specific cameras listed in the table above may have been sold. However, more and more X-T3's will come on to the second-hand market and I will keep my eye on the prices for you.
You may want to trade-in your existing camera so check with each of the above companies to see what they will offer you in part exchange.
THE RISE AND RISE OF VIDEO
When is a camera a video camera?
It is becoming very difficult to tell the difference between a stills camera and a video camera.
The video I have included above was taken on a Fujifilm X-H1 stills camera. Now, this may not be the best camera for taking videos, and many would prefer a Fuji X-T4 or a model from the Panasonic stable. (The table at the end of the Gear page indicates which are some of the cameras noted for their videoing capabilities.)
What has fascinated me over the years is the way that camera manufacturers have improved the video capabilities of their cameras. They have responded to the rising demand for taking videos, and because they have made such significant improvements they have fed our appetite for taking videos.
Great - long may it continue!
THE FUJI X-T4 HAS ARRIVED
Why does this excite me?
I purchased one of the first X-T1s, and it has been a reliable workhorse ever since.
I then purchased the Fuji X-H1 when it was first released, and it has been my go-to camera for video (whilst also providing me with professional-quality still images).
I resisted the X-T3 because (unlike the X-H1) it did not have in-body camera stabilisation (IBIS).
Now the X-T4 has arrived with IBIS, the power to record highly detailed images, and the benefits of a fully articulated screen.
All of this at an amazingly competitive (even low) price.
I shall be replacing the X-T1 with the new X-T4.
Want to know more about this great camera? Have a look at the video here.
WHAT IS A PHOTOGRAPHIC IMAGE WORTH
Following my thoughts in the previous blog, I wondered just what is a photographic image worth?
The obvious, and not very helpful answer is: "Whatever someone is prepared to pay for it".
There are many freelance photographers who turn this around and only chase the photographs that they know will command a large fee. However, there are many more who take photographs for their own creative joy and hope that their creativity will generate enough income to make photography self-supporting.
What then are the features of a photograph that make someone want to pay to possess it? (I am excluding wedding photography.)
Here are a few ideas:
- it shows a subject in which they are interested or find immensely appealing
- the image is created with imagination (it is a bit different from the run-of-the-mill rendering of that subject)
- there is an additional 'quality' about the image (in landscape photography this is often the result of a special kind of light falling on the landscape scene)
- the image processing is performed competently and does nothing to prevent the viewer from making a full connection with the image (i.e. focus, exposure, depth of sharpness, and so on are all sublime contributors to a pleasing whole)
Whilst good luck plays some part in the process of acquiring a saleable image, above all else, it is experience, competence, and perseverance that makes for a desirable image. All of this takes time, and providing enough time can be expensive.
So, the 'value' of an image is made up of several things. These include its desirability, the competence of the photographer, and the time taken to achieve the final image.
It is impossible to put a monetary value on some of the contributory elements in the making of a saleable image. However, the photographer knows how much time has been put into capturing and processing the image, how much it cost to travel to get the image, and so on. These are tangible numbers, and in a commercial situation, the aim is to recover those costs and add a 'profit' element to allow for living, re-investment, repairs, insurance, and all the other overheads from which a photographer cannot escape.
What then is the "right" price for the image shown above of Castle Rigg, a stone circle on the margins of the English Lake District?
You can see for yourselves the value I have arrived at by going to the Premium Images page on this web site.
Am I being crazy? May be I am - time will tell.
What I am sure about is that I am no longer prepared to accept that our best photographs are only worth peanuts!
THE PHOTOGRAPHIC STOCK MARKET IS GETTING CROWDED
In the early 2000's I started to submit images to two very different stock libraries. Then, as now, a great deal of effort and time was spent on submitting fully captioned, heavily key-worded, well-processed images. However, this effort was well rewarded in terms of the income that was generated.
Unfortunately, this is no longer true.
The effort is no less, the image quality has improved (in step with hardware and software advances), but the income has come down.
This appears to be the direct consequence of two major factors: (1) the number of images now available to a client has increased dramatically, and (2) many stock libraries sell images at very low prices. (They have adopted an old adage 'Pile 'em high and sell 'em cheap'.)
The latter trend, in particular, has done photographers (and possibly photography) no favours whatsoever. It has damaged the earning power of fully committed professional photographers, and may well have made it difficult for some to operate a viable business.
On the other hand, serious amateurs do earn enough to enable them to improve their equipment or to acquire new photographic experiences.
So, do we ride it out, and accept that returns will be low for the amount of effort expended, or do we find different ways of bringing our images to the buying public?
One way is to turn the whole process on its head whereby we look for the purchaser (of our imagery) rather than waiting for them to find our images.
Take the above example of the entrance to the winter gardens in Sheffield (UK). Who is likely to be wanting this image? Perhaps it is the local Council for their publicity or as an illustration in a report. Perhaps it is the local Tourist Board or agencies promoting South Yorkshire. I very much doubt if they would find this image on a web search of the stock libraries. The alternative is to send a copy to each of these bodies and make them aware of its availability.
Our marketing has to be more proactive.
WHICH CAMERA FOR YOU?
Whenever I give a talk on photography the one predictable question is: "Which camera do you use?"
I must add that this question usually comes from a male member of the audience!
Men like equipment - ladies tend to like the picture!
Take the photograph above.
Was it taken on a compact camera, a DSLR, a mirror-less system or a bridge camera? Or, just maybe it was taken on a camera phone.
Whatever the type of camera, which make was it? How big was its sensor? Did I use a system lens or a third-party lens?
And so the man-questions go on.
It really does not matter.
All that matters is that whatever I used was adequate for the purpose(s) intended.
So, when you next think about your camera and your desire to change it for "something better" - think instead about whether or not it is able to meet all of your photographic needs. If it does - why change? If it does not - think about which type of camera will, and then think about the price.
Out there there is a camera for you - just make it the one that does all you ask of it, and does it well.
As for the photograph taken in Nepal, the answer is none of the above. It was taken on a film camera and scanned for digital reproduction. That was perfectly adequate for the purposes I had in mind.
However, if you do want some advice on cameras please have a look at the information in the Gear Zone.
LET B&W PHOTOGRAPHY
AID YOUR CREATIVITY.
In recent years there has been a renewed interest in creating black and white images.
Frequently this is achieved by converting a colour image using digital image processing software. At times this has generated rubbish, at others, it has resulted in some remarkably powerful images.
My own experience has been that a B&W image can be more powerful than its colour starting point. However, it is ALWAYS the case that if the starting point is inadequate then no amount of digital manipulation will generate a good B&W image.
All of the programs listed on the software review pages allow very effective B&W image processing.
The Bullet Point book on Black and White Photography provides a fuller description of what is now possible with image processing software.
I leave you with this image of the setting sun over Ladybower Reservoir (Derbyshire, UK) which was converted to Black & White from a colour original.