The Beckham conundrum

While this sort of thing has been going on for years, with the global reach of the Internet, the phenomena has reached epic proportions – a recent example: one of the Beckham brood has decided that after being a photographer, he’s now turning his hand to being a chef.

He sadly has no particular skill, and regularly cocks up pretty much anything he tries to make, so I can only assume he’s making these videos to amuse himself – as visibly every comment I’ve read seems to rate him as a total plonker.

I got to thinking about this, the Kardasians, B-movie actress Meghan Markel and her soppy husband etc. etc. and the penny finally dropped – these idiots who seem to share 2 brain cells between the whole lot of them, have been ‘created’ to make the rest of the world feel much better about themselves – in effect, we should ‘thank’ them for being so monotonously stupid, as it’s a way for the rest of the mere mortals on this planet to realise that we are NORMAL (and they are daft – have you seen yourself when you’re drunk?)

It’s obviously SO important to sell newspapers that the Daily Mail and suchlike publish ‘stories’ (therein lies the clue) about the Kardashian clan – a group of peculiar shaped women with a VERY distorted view of, well, anything really. One of them farts and it’s front page news. Frankly if I had an arse the size of Texas I’d probably being trying to cover it up – not the Kardashians…

An unidentifed Kardashian back from a trip to the Botox shop…

Anyway, back to Dimwit Beckham, the photographer famous for this…

…apparently it’s an elephant.

Keep trying mate – next on the menu, how to cook cornflakes….

The famous Z8 rumour…

After many months of Thom Hogan maintaining that there won’t be a new Nikon camera body launched anytime soon, Nikon Rumors seem to be getting information that suggests a new release is finally imminent.

As a general rule Thom Hogan is a moderate who’s opinions are well debated and analysed before he puts them into print, and in the past has certainly shown he has ‘insiders’ feeding him information that is pretty reliable. The next few days will show if he is correct in his thinking. With NIKON announcing officially an online launch event the 10th of May, it seems that something is in the works…

Nikon Rumors is there for exactly that – rumours – and as such, anonymous ‘feeds’ often come up with what turns out to be factual events. They have now posted a high quality image of what is supposed to be the eyepiece of the new camera, with a list of possible configurations – body style, sensor size etc. Some of this sounds plausible, but I have to ask myself why Nikon would produce another 45 mp camera body (Z7, Z9) when sensor pixel density seems to be increasing, with SONY firmly convinced the 61 mp sensor is the way to go.

Credit photo – Nikon

Making a ‘prosumer’ camera body would seem reasonable, although frankly what is wrong with the Z7ll? Personally I would edge towards a much higher density sensor, but in a Z6/Z7 sized body, but I don’t have the inside info that the ‘experts’ have…

The readers of Nikon Rumours have spent the past few months suggesting the most ridiculous configurations, but this is to be expected as most of them wouldn’t know what to do with a digital camera anyway. A large percentage of the ‘experts’ never actually post any of their images on the forum – principally because they all speak from theoretical ‘experience’ and never ‘dirty’ their cameras by actually using them – God forbid anyone tries to point this out (I did, and was banned twice!) – but then, what do I know? Unlike these bottom feeders I actually use my photographic equipment…(when I’m not laughing at people buying collapsible bikes, or screwing hooks into their garage ceilings)

Incoming (2)

This is getting to be a habit…

The next on the list of’desired’ optics is the NIKKOR Z 24-120 f/4 S

NIKKOR Z 24-120 F/4 S

This is the sucessor to the very average 24-120 f/4 AF-S F version and judging by the reports, NIKON have managed to correct pretty much all of the previous lens’s faults.

It’s a constant f/4 – which some see as a hinderance – frankly I can’t see why? The maximum aperture allows a smaller, more compact lens – therefore easier to carry around. Some of the fanboys over on Nikon Rumors have even gone so far as to comment that the lens is useless in low light and that they change to their 24-70 f/2.8 – yes of course they do – have these idiots never heard of changing the ISO? (or the shutter speed?) (In their defense, most of them never actually use their cameras, and post comments based on other peoples comments – I’ve stopped reading their rubbish. But I must admit I feel sorry for Peter who created the site – must be hard seeing some of the rubbish they spout…)

These kind of comments, in my book, are total non-starters. I work principally in very dark/badly lit conditions (for my circus/concert work) and frankly I’ve never taken into consideration a slightly smaller aperture as a monumental problem. I have used my 70-200 f/4 AF-S quite alot but more because it was half the size/weight compared to the f/2.8 version.

I’m actually waiting to see if NIKON will ever produce a Z 70-200 f/4 S as there are occasions when I need the extra length, but without the extra weight. Apparently there’s a 70-180 on the ‘road-map’ but no aperture values yet…or production time scale…

This sort of focal length range is extremely useful if your work revolves around a stage or a concert venue, as when I’m obliged to work with an audience behind me, and can’t get closer to the artists, I need to be able to have a bit of extra ‘reach’ – of course, having two camera bodies would be an alternative, one with a medium range zoom, and the other with the 70-200 for example. But that creates it’s own problems with weight and bulk etc.

More on this, with examples, when it arrives…

UPDATE: It’s arrived, and aside from not being able to check out it’s optical qualities yet, it’s everything I had hoped – it’s light and compact and I’m looking forward to putting it through it’s paces – in a weeks time I’ll have the oportunity as I have a circus residence to photograph…

I can see this being a valuable alternative for holidays too. Who wants to lug loads of gear around – this lens and the 14-30 f/4 will give me pretty much all I need for trips…all in two lenses.


I admit, I’ve been convinced by the blurb, but this new gadget is VERY light, which makes a huge difference when you’re wandering around making photographs with a camera/lens combination which is better on a tripod. This is the ULANZI Zero Y

It has a full panoramic head, which also tilts to 90°, obviously an ARCA style mounting (!), the center column can be reduced in length to make the tripod useable at virtually ground level.

So, this should be a complete solution – no need to add a panning/tilting head, and at a total weight of 1kg should be easy enough to sling under the camera bag and carry around without any difficulty.

PS – a similar design, by PEAK, but which weighs twice as much is currently available at 3 times the price 799€ – this version is designed principally for people with far more money than sense, or idiots with hooks in their garage ceilings…


The tripod has finally arrived, and it’s everything I could hope for. Light, well made, sturdy, and very ‘adaptable’.

From the top – the head has a rotating (panorama) function which locks with a simple pressure knob.

The ARCA fitting is released by turning a knurled knob. The ball mechanism is released by opening a horizontal lever – with the center column NOT extended, there is limited ‘play’ but enough to adjust the camera if the ground is completely level. To gain more adjustment (to tilt at 90°) a vertical lever, hidden between two of the legs, needs to be opened to let the column move upwards.

The legs themselves are round, with an almost trianguler centre column. The legs have a top ratchet which adjusts to three positions, from a ‘normal’ vertical position, to an almost horizontal position for low to the ground shots.

For this last setting, the centre column will be too long, so the built in wrench (hidden at the bottom end of the centre column) has to be unscrewed, and used to undo a bolt which allows the column to split into a 25% + 75% configuration – which then allows the legs to be opened to their fullest and the centre of the tripod is almost on the ground.

The centre column can be inserted normally or inverted – this is another way to get the ball head closer to the ground without taking the column apart. There’s a hook on the bottom of the centre column – very useful for hanging a weight, or simply a camera bag to stop the damn thing moving in the wind!

The tripod is supplied with three stainless steel spikes which can be used to replace the three rubber cushions at the end of the legs.

There’s a spirit level on the ball head, and the tripod is supplied in a very well made close-fitting bag with a removable shoulder strap. I purchased this from the ULANZI site in Germany, which meant I paid significantly less (25%) than the same purchase in France – and I have no idea why this should be.

And next on the shopping list…

…this beauty.

NIKKOR Z 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 VR S

I’m not much of a ‘long’ lens fanatic, but I have to admit there are times when my trusty 70-200 f/2.8 just doesn’t go far enough – so this beast is now on order.

It’s a variable aperture telephoto zoom, and with a ‘modest’ 2x converter will give me 800mm at f/8.0 which is still within the range of the auto-focusing/exposure electronics of my camera body.

It’s a large lens, with plenty of glass moving in all sorts of different ways inside, but strangely enough it’s almost exactly the same length and weight as the 70-200, so handling is not a real concern. In any case, given the restricted angle of view, this is a lens to use on a tripod.

These are popular (and I can understand why) so I’m probably in for a wait…

Seen on the Web

All modern cameras have a 1/4″ tripod screw hole, but none have yet been designed to be directly used on tripods with an ARCA quick release fitting. This needs to be ‘added’ as an adapter and the 3913 from SMALLRIG fits the bill wonderfully…


But there’s more…when you’re out and about and you want to put your camera down for a moment…

SMALLRIG 3913 legs deployed

It has legs! Brilliant – not only can you plonk the camera down without it rolling over, you can use this adapter as a mini tripod – and last but not least, it fits the ARCA quick release mounts…

Well thought out bit of kit this…like quite a lot of SMALLRIG designs. (It’s even supplied with an Allen key wrench, used to mount one of the two fixing screws to the camera, which stores inside the adapter)

Auto-focus, and auto-exposure – do they work?

Thom Hogan has recently published an article regarding how auto-focus has evolved over the years. It’s interesting as, for once, I agree with his analysis with respect to the question « does it work? » or rather, ‘can I trust it? » Read his article here

However, I would take this a step further and include auto-exposure.

Auto-anything is another of the many tools available in the camera to allow the photographer to get on with the job and concentrate on his subject, rather than A: missing the ‘moment’ while changing camera settings, or B: setting up the camera with a basic ‘hit and miss’ configuration. People like me who started with 100% manual cameras know this situation well – and the frustrations of waiting for the return of the developed film to discover that the settings just weren’t adapted to the situation….at all!

The sensitivity of modern digital sensors has made possibly the most significant difference to resolving some of the problems confronting a photographer, and even the sensitivity settings have been automated – on a personal note, NIKON have, in my opinion, a very robust auto-ISO algorithm on their recent digital cameras (from the D800 onwards) which I use frequently and have rarely been let down.

Auto-focus is the same in that it works, no-one can deny this, but the user must take the time to test exactly what the camera is doing to be able to understand when and where it ‘could’ potentially let him down. Just pointing and shooting will give (very) variable results – depending not only on the subject (contrast etc.) but also the exposure used. As always in photography (and this dates back to film and printing etc.) it’s fundamental to get the exposure as close to optimum ‘in-camera’, not only for post processing but also for the camera to be able to react with the best settings during the exposure, particularly with respect to focusing.

When it comes to auto-exposure, the automation has really made huge leaps since the late 80’s when this started becoming an option in interchangeable lens cameras. This can still be ‘tricked’ (or rather thwarted) by colour or contrast but as a general rule, the systems handle this remakably well. The simple ‘ruse’ of seperating the controls for blocking the exposure and the auto-focus (the famous ‘back button focus’) means there is a tremendous flexibility for the photographer who, relying on the auto-focus and the auto-exposure, can concentrate his whole attention on what he wants in his final image.

None of this is 100% perfect, and a fundamental part of the photographers learning curve is USING the camera to learn how it handles different situations. Just picking up a camera and starting to ‘shoot’ is liable to give very variable, inconsistent results. The manufacturers have, in my opinion, enabled far too many ‘options’ which only go to confuse the situation – NIKON users can create their own ‘Menu’ of these options, but I sometimes wonder if it might not be easier to have two levels of options, ‘simplified’ and ‘advanced’ – but that would probably only lead to even greater confusion !

It’s « Can’t see the point » week

At least, over the water in Japan – Nikon have just added two new lenses to the Z lineup…

NIKKOR Z 85mm f/1.2 S (left) and NIKKOR Z 26mm f/2.8 (right)

…and I’m trying to figure out why they bothered with the second one, the 26mm ‘pancake’ lens, at all.

I mean, what’s the point? There are already 24mm and 28mm lenses for the Z series, and one of the 24’s is even an ‘S’ (and the other’s DX)

Sure, it’s pretty small, but it’s full-frame and so logically would be used on the Z6/7 rather than the Z50…

The 85mm f/1.2 is obviously just a priviledge lens – what you buy when you’ve got cash left over from buying Leicas etc. Oh yes, the « I know a lot but never actually take photos » crowd over on Nikon rumour sites will try to convince you it’s a « must-have » lens for the beautiful Bokeh…. which the 85mm f/1.8 has in buckets, and is a third of the price….(I know, I recently sold mine)

Nikon has a sterling set of f/2.8 primes and zooms, and having a ‘second’ series of, for instance, f/1.8 primes makes a lot of sense in my book – the maximum opening doesn’t make the front element SO large you need exotic filter sizes (for ND or protection or whatever) and the physical size/weight means you don’t have to employ slaves to carry all your gear.

It would be nice if Nikon were to actually consider what people want and/or need rather than just going off at a tangent with weird and wonderful lenses deemed ‘important’ – why not produce a few exotics, sure, but don’t forget the mere mortals who buy a lot of your production who possibly don’t need, and certainly can’t afford, this stuff.

New news…

I have been asked to prepare an exhibition for the Office de Tourisme here in Auch.

Despite what it says on the poster, this will go up before the end of the month (February) and will feature 20 images of the ‘countryside’ and other heritage sites in the Gers.

It will be installed on the 3rd floor (viewing platform) of the OdT, with a wonderful view of the cathedral.

Could be fun – and what’s more, the images are sharp!

Software Questions…

Here are two images – the same original photo, but dematricised (converted from RAW) using different programs. I think the differences are very interesting…

Cie Libertivore – « Brame » – LIGHTROOM
Cie Libertivore – « Brame » – NIKON NX STUDIO

If you cannot see a difference on this page, click on the image to enlarge it and look closely at the girls face at the top of the frame.

The overall clarity of the lower image is, to my mind, better, and the image is also slightly lighter. In addition, the high ISO ‘noise’ is better treated in the lower image.

The upper image, created using ADOBE Lightroom, would generally need to be further treated – increase the exposure a little, apply a filter to reduce the high ISO noise etc. perhaps also play around a little with the white balance, but in this example art least, none of this has had to be applied in the the lower image.

For someone who tends to shoot 85% of his work with very high ISO values, this is very interesting, but it brings up another problem. Up until now, I have relied on Lightroom to manage my whole treatment process – from downloading the memory cards, to treating the files, creating the web albums and cataloguing the images.

(I’m not quite sure how to insert another process (external to LR) into the sequence without creating a huge set of extra files (doubles in fact). )

One way to do this would be to output all the files from the NX Studio software in TIFF format, then input them to the Lightroom sequence as if they were the original files. But this would cause problems with regard to storage space.

An example: the original NEF file out of the camera is 34,1 Mb which when converted into TIFF (dematricised) becomes 272,9 Mb – 8 times the size.

The original shooting measures 37,40 Gb on disk – which would mean the same thing in TIFF would be 399,00 Gb which is becoming ridiculous – I do actually have the space on my storage disks, but this is going to fill up REAL fast…added to which the processing time is going to be interesting…

This needs some thought…