Covid-19

This name has created havoc, world wide – and I can’t help feeling that we won’t see the end of it for a long while.

COVID-19

It’s the end of April 2020 and people are very scared here on Earth at the moment. It all started just over a month ago in China, and due to the spread, worldwide, of a ‘Corona Virus’ called Covid-19 the world is in lock-down.

It’s amazing what is actually affected by this deadly virus – the effects on humans is very varied – from symptoms akin to a light cold, to people dying in their thousands from respiratory failure., but the global effect is quite amazing.

If people are locked down and can’t go to work, how do they earn money to pay for food? And who stocks the shelves in the shops? Going further, if we’re not allowed out, what happens to bars, restaurants, theatres etc.?

We have been told to work from home – this is relatively easy for people like me who sit staring at a computer for 75% of their working day. But there are many jobs that can’t simply be folded up and taken home…

This is likely to last for a while. The over-optimists want this to be over by Easter (middle of April) but I think this is way over the top – I would expect to be told that we will be in lockdown until at least the start of May.

However, the knock-on effect of all this is going to be interesting. For my work, there are a number of concerts cancelled, and circus performances too, and the Welcome Festival (end of April) has been canceled too. No-one knows when this confinement will end, so it’s very difficult to plan anything at the moment. I’ve even had to cancel the Marathon Photo due in May – but I’ve « invented » a way for the participants to still do this, but from their confinement – this year is going to be interesting!

We’ve been like this for two weeks now – today is J+14 – and with the prospect of another 4 weeks before any changes, it’s going to be a long spring.

Here in France we are only allowed out of our houses for food shopping (alone, not in pairs), to go to the doctors or pharmacy, or to go to work if we can’t work from home. We are also allwoed to go for a maximum of an hours walk, no further than 200m from our houses, once a day. When we do go out, we must take a signed, dated, declaration giving our names, addresses etc. and the TIME we left the house. If we are stopped by the police and we don’t have this form, or if it’s not completed correctly, we face a fine of 135€ – which increases to 200€ if we do it again!

Frankly, even though I have a permanent ‘laisser-passé’ to allow me to go into work to check the servers etc., I think I’ll stay at home for the moment….

A Wonderful Idea!

I’ve been mulling over the « problem » of battery grips, buttons, etc. etc.

The basic problem, up until recently, has been that for battery grips to have duplicate controls (from the camera body) there have to match up to a series of contacts on the baseplate of the camera….

The recent battery pack for the Nikon Z series is just that – a battery pack, as there are no contacts on the baseplate of the camera to allow activation of the control circuitry in the camera from controls on the grip.

What if you didn’t need contacts?

What if it were all done by….BLUETOOTH?

I feel sure I’m not the first to come up with this stunning solution…but I’m going to pretend I was!

Excuse me while I pen an e-mail to NIKON UK……

Finaly – Something useful from Canon

UK based photo site « NorthLight Images » has recently discovered a patent application from Canon (popular photocopier manufacturer) that will make many people, like me, who use battery grips on their cameras, very interested/jealous…

This shows a « Universal » battery grip that attaches to different camera bodies with a changeable adapter. Makes you wonder why no-one has ever come up with something like this before – although, Nikon tend to treat there battery grips as a cash cow and price them far too high. It is, after all, only a box with minimal electronics Inside.

Anyway, if this ever sees the light of day, Canon users will really be a step, a leap ahead of other camera users.

Battery grips are not only for holding batteries (with the exception of the MB-N10 for the Z 6 & 7) they also allow you to have extra controls, or rather, duplicate controls to allow a more comfortable grip on the camera when you use it in a vertical position, for example.

To enable the correct connection between these controls and the camera electronics, a series of contacts are available on the camera baseplate, which marry up to similar contacts on the battery grip.

Up until now, each camera series has had these contacts in different positions on the baseplate, allowing Nikon (and Canon) to sell expensive battery grips for each new model. It seems perfectly logical to build a « reasonable » sized battery grip, and then equip it with changeable plates for different camera bodies.

So, a little like the light bulbs that never burn out, will we ever actually see this produced?

This is the new Nikon Z9!

Nikon Z8…or 9

or Z8 or ZB or….gawd knows what.

No-one except the designers at Nikon (and a fat American git called « The Angry Pornographer » or some such, over on Youtube…or so he likes to think – enjoy your minority status, dickhead) actually know what the next iteration of the Z series mirrorless cameras will look like, or what controls, programmes they will contain….but it will be black, perhaps….

While I admit it amuses me to read all the speculation, it really doesn’t matter much to me – I won’t be able to afford one anyway – having just kitted myself out with the Z7! The fora are awash with comments from a whole horde of non-camera-owning public who « know » what is going to happen before anyone else…

The rumor-mill is very active at the moment, and it seems likely that the replacement /evolution for both the reflex D850 and the Z7 is likely to have the 60mp Sony sensor which became available recently. So far, the rumors have ‘stated’ dual CFexpress card slots (might be nice if we were actually A: able to buy the cards at sensible prices, and B: that once purchased, they would work in the camera (as only two models do at present) This said, if they are backwards compatible with the Sony XQD format, at least all of us using the existing models would still be able to use our XQD cards.

A GPS (Why oh why? We have smartphones with GPS) and Bluetooth/WiFi seem likely too, according to « the people who know » – the latter two are available anyway – I think a more useful manoeuvre would be to write software that actually USED the WiFi connexions to their fullest, and were able to shift hi-density image files quickly.

Another element is the lack of contacts on the baseplate of the existing Z series – thus making a real vertical grip unworkable. Yes, we have the MB-N10 battery grip, which helps, as batteries can be switched without disturbing operations, but no vertical shutter release or AF-ON button duplication.

Going back to the new Sony sensor, 60mp is far too high density for my work – even with Expeed 6 and future developments in high ISO noise reduction, I doubt I’d get the quality I do with the ancient 12mp D3s or even the 24mp Z6. But it might be nice for landscape work…

So what’s your guess? What will be included in the next model, given that so much of the original series seems to have been right (IMHO)

Suggestions on a postcard please….

What? Back to the Cri’Art??

Yes, despite the problematic ‘lighting’ (well, actually the lights themselves are perfectly good – but the guy ‘driving’ them would be better off doing something else) I went back to cover a concert last week – I was asked by the group if I would do it, and as the lead singer is quite cute, I obviously had to say « Yes »…

Heeka
Heeka

The headliners were a Spanish group called « The Limboos » – as I was the only one there who spoke English, we hit it off and passed a very pleasant couple of hours together – and not unnaturally I stayed on to photograph them too.

The Limboos
The Limboos

As you can see from the first image, the light was essentially on the front of the stage – so Danielle playing the drums spent the entire set in the dark…

The Limboos

I’m not going to let this post degenerate into a constat of the lighting conditions at the Cri’Art (Thank God) so just enjoy the images – the albums or on the main site

Circa Tsuïca

Tsuïca, in Romanian, means « eau de vie », and for the past 15 years, Circa Tsuïca have been distributing their form of « eau de vie » around Europe as a very accomplished circus troupe.

Last night was the presentation performance that ended a three week residence here in Auch with their latest production (V)îvre – not as fine-tuned as other works I’ve seen from them, but they’ve still a couple of weeks to go before the « first night » and hopefully the bugs will be ironed out before then.

(V)îvre
(V)îvre
(V)îvre
(V)îvre

Very annoying people – they really are multi-talented. They all play musical instruments, and not only one – most of them play two or three! If that weren’t enough, they play whilst zooming around on bikes, often backwards… I have enough difficulty riding a bike forwards, holding on for dear life with both hands!

One particularity with Tsuïca is their insistance on audience participation – for this show, the audience are given the chance to try to play brass instruments – it doesn’t matter if they don’t actually know how to play them – the first 10 minutes of the show are diedicated to showing them how! In addition, there’s an « apéro » (drinks and crisps etc.) available to everyone as they arrive in the tent. A real class act.

The prelim album has been sent, so now I’m waiting for them to choose the images that will be used as posters etc. for the new production.

New Firmware for Nikon Z series – Update

For the Nikon Z6/7 there’s new firmware expected within the next few days – it’s supposed to further improve the auto-focus performance. Coming after the November ’19 update, also principally aimed at the same area, it’ll be interesting to see what improvements have been made.

It’s also likely that the new firmware will include the addition of software to recognize a larger range of CFexpress cards than is currently possible. Since the first firmware update that allowed these cards to be used, only a small number of SONY CFexpress cards (Sony Type B) could be used by the Z series cameras.

The CFexpress cards are new, and still VERY expensive (considering there’s no licence to be paid to SONY as there is for the XQD format…) for what they are. The main advantage, over existing XQD cards is their read and write speeds – the form factor is identical. I can’t help thinking that people will rush out to equip themselves with something only really useful in the higher pixel density cameras shooting long ‘rafale’ as this would really be the only time when 800mb/s could possibly be useful for writing to the card….

And how many of us shoot at this speed for extended periods of time? I don’t… I’m more interested in getting more reasonably priced memory cards.

Well the updates have just been released (18.02.2020) and the rather suprising thing is that Nikon consider adding eye detection AF for animals as being the key element! (Adding updates for CFexpress cards etc. was a fairly minor thing apparently…)

Thank God for Nikon Rumours…

Well ok, they’ve added support for ProGrade and Lexar CFexpress cards(what adout Sandisk??) too, but this pales almost into insignificance compared to animal face recognition…wtf

Wow – underwhelmed or what?

This is the new NIKON D6 that was released on the 12th of February. Note the date, and try to think of something really interesting that happened on this date – because this new camera is certainly not really worthy of note.

Essentially the only difference with the previous model, the D5, is that it now (finally) has a built in GPS. This goes to show just how much thought has been put into the 6th iteration of the NIKON Pro DSLR.

When EVERYBODY has a smartphone with GPS, and the software for linking the phone with the camera has existed for years, why do the designers consider putting a GPS in the camera is SO ground breaking…

Sorry guys, nice try but no big cigar.

The shutter’s the same, the battery’s the same, the buttons are in the same place – the fact that the IBIS (In Body Image Stabilisation) works VERY well in the Z6/7 and could have been a real game changer seems to have totally escaped the NIkon design team – oh sure, they’ll throw out comments like battery drain, reliability etc. Yeah…sure…

So, for an extra 1000 bucks you can now buy the D5 with a nice new label – frankly, I think I’ll sell stickers with « D6 » on them to cover the « D5 » …

Oh goody, new toy…

The NIKKOR Z 20mm f/1.8 S has just been officially announced – it should be available in March.

NIKKOR Z 20mm f/1.8 S

This is certainly going on my shopping list. It’s not as compact as the previous AF-S and AF-D versions, which is a shame because their size made them VERY discreet. And this new version is 150g heavier, and obviously, considerably more expensive – we’re expecting this to cost around the 1200€ mark.

However, if the performance increases are anything like the other recently released NIKKOR Z lenses, this should be a very interesting addition. Comments from a couple of NIKON testers suggest edge to edge sharpness wide open…and the MTF charts seem to confirm this, showing fairly constant contrast and sharpness right out to the edges. PS this is good news!

I personally find this a more interesting lens than either the 24 or the 35mm, although each has it’s uses. Being a fan of « super-wides » this could easily become my ‘standard’ lens – but first, let’s see what it’s like on the camera…

The current f/1.8 prime lens lineup consists of these other lenses:

(I didn’t include the 50mm f/1.8 – it exists, it’s relatively cheap, but I never use a 50mm lens…)

Interestingly, this new lens is far and away the largest of the group!

24mm – 96,5mm – 450g

35mm – 86,0mm – 370g

85mm – 99,0mm – 470g

20mm – 108,0mm – 505g