Shooting with the Olympus Pen FT/F Film Camera

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Olympus Pen FT half frame film camera 


Film cameras are pretty cheap to procure from eBay these days and for me, I wanted to experience what having a half frame camera would be like. It's moments like these that challenge you as I have shot on 35mm film but never in half frame. The reason was simple. I didn't have the money to buy a half frame camera and had to settle for a 110 type compact film camera. Moving up to a 35mm camera was my next step up the ladder as by that time, the only half frame camera still selling was an automatic Yashica Samurai. It looked perfectly space age but I felt something wasn't right. It just didn't look like a real camera!


This is a single 35mm frame, captured by a half frame camera

After doing some research, I settled for two classics from the 60s, the Pen F and FT. The difference is one comes without a light meter while the other one has one built in. The F model was the first and chirpy to use. The viewfinder is bright and the lenses are pretty good. So good in fact many idiots ended up selling the lenses to MFT digital mirror camera users, leaving the bodies behind to gather dust. That means you can get plenty of F cameras but they are without any lenses. 

To be fair, there are Nikon F mount adapters as well as OM Lens versions. The problem is the availability of these mounts are pretty hard to come by these days. After all, the camera is close to half a century old (I must admit that I was born after the camera was introduced to this world). 

Having had experienced some of the best full frame film cameras like the Nikon FM and F4, going back to a camera that takes half frame is a bit disconnecting. Both the Pen FT and F are SLR type cameras, the only difference is that they have a very different type of lens arrangement and the FT suffers from a much darker viewfinder as some of the light has been siphoned off to power the light meter—making it a shade darker. This also means that in low light scenes, it will appear a little more difficult to focus. I prefer the F's focus screen as it's split screen so you can nail the focus faster than the FT. 


Anyway, if you want to start shooting with half frame pen cameras like the FT, and F, here are a couple of tips. 





Do not use a film faster than ASA 400 


ASA 400 film has more grain than ASA 100 film, so it goes to show that it's better to use lower ASA film to get a better result. The larger the grain, the more it will show once you enlarge the frame. 

Another thing is that film stocks differ too. For example, negative film has less contrast quality than compared to slide or positive film. You need to know the types of film and their quality before hand to get the best out of them. No two film stocks are alike.

Even for B/W film, those processed specifically in C-41 color chemicals exhibit a lower quality of contrast than those processed specifically with B/W chemicals. 

Some people even shot slide film with the half frame camera and there were half frame slides that could be used on slide projectors at one time. Slide film would be awesome but exposure would have to be spot on. 



Crop your scene in the camera viewfinder

Subjects like city skylines and landscapes are poor choices for half frame because you have a much smaller image to play with. In terms of distance to subject, the best are within 15 feet from your camera. If the subject is too small within the frame, you will have to crop it to make it look larger and unless you get high quality scans at 300dpi and above on positive film, chances are those images won't be suitable for further cropping when captured on negative film. 


this is a tight crop with the whole subject area filling the frame


In a full frame 35mm slide or negative, you don't have this problem as the film area is twice as large this allows for better clarity and composition as you can still crop the frame for a tighter composition and still have plenty left over for a good print. In half frame, you are discouraged from doing this as cropping it further will not enhance the detail and clarity as you are already stuck with a smaller frame. Blowing that up will lead to more dot grain. 

You have to think in terms of how much can you enlarge your half frame image before the quality starts to suffer. In camera cropping of the scene to fill your frame is recommended

Always use a Light Meter


Got an iPhone? Cool! Now download that light meter app that lets you use your iPhone measure spot exposure. The Pen FT has a built in meter but the F only comes with an external one. The problem with the FT meter is that it is not entirely accurate for spot readings. In light meters apps there are two varieties. 

The incidence light meter measures falling light from a source while a spot meter measures light at where you are pointing. The incidence light meter has a diffusion dome for a head while the spot meter uses the iPhone's camera to measure light from a desire location. It's not the most accurate but it does fine for general lighting but when it comes to high contrast scenes you have to take several measurements using the Zone System to best bring out the hidden details. 


Kodalux and Voigtlander lightmeters for film cameras


The zone system of film exposure tells you to measure both the highlight and low lights to ensure that the details are captured on film. 

You can also get those analogue light meters but the new ones are more accurate. Take for example the Voigtlander meter, it is very accurate and uses 2x LR44 batteries. Whereas the Kodalux doesn't use any batteries and can be subject to wear after the photo sensitive element wear out over time. 


Scanning and Post Production

Developing a roll and having it scanned is relatively easy but I must warn you that some photo labs don't do this. You need to have someone who has a color lab that also caters to the needs of film photographers to get high quality scans as most of the scanning done through color lab process is of a lower quality. 

I have not shot these on positive film but these will pose a bit of a problem as half frame slide mounts are very difficult to come by these days. In the old days, there were easy but I have only come across one or two sellers so far on eBay. 

That's not to say you can't shoot with positive film using half frame cameras if all you want is a scanned image for sharing and a physical slide frame for archival purposes. 

The half frame camera is quirky at best, something which you should be aware of from the very beginning. It's probably quite good for street photography and anything casual but wide angle shooting like landscapes and cityscapes would be extremely difficult to achieve. 

For one, the wide angle lenses from Olympus for the FT and F cameras are extremely expensive...it's probably even next to impossible to get them now as can be seen by the relative prices of these lenses once they are available on eBay. Wide angle is probably the half frame camera's weakest point, and it shows. 

When you scan, and depending on the scanner used. The scanned image is no larger than 4 megapixels if you are using a 8 megapixel full frame scanner. You must not forget that you will lose picture quality once you start to divide the image in half. Bummer....but that's how it is. 

The last hurdle is really the lenses for the Pen F. These have become very hard to come by over the years because mirrorless camera users have been snapping them up. That also means there are a whole load of F cameras that sell without any lens and you can bargain that down cheap. To use, you will have to find a way to obtain a lens mount for full frame Nikon or Olympus OM lenses which is also relatively difficult to find these days. Besides this, shooting with a half frame is really an experience where you can learn to appreciate analog photography. The challenge is what you should be looking forward to as the mere click of a shutter to get a picture can easily be satisfied with just your mobile phone camera while the same can't be said for film cameras. 
 

Pen F, note the F motif. This is the first model

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Training your Eye for Photography

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It took many failed shots, many failed attempts to do what you read on those camera magazines and the result wasn't always perfect. That's how analog photography was in its heyday.

I started shooting on those point and shoot 110 cameras. No brainers really, they were fun...and limited in every aspect. I was in high school and there wasn't any money to buy better gear. I used my Dad's Minolta SRT which still works now, but the thing was far too heavy a responsibility for me to carry around if I accidentally lost it.

Besides, I spent whatever money I had on Popular Photography Magazine, and that had to pay off. You learn to use techniques featured to capture interesting photography. Take for example the Orton Slide Sandwich or double exposure. For me, I started to experiment with 110 cartridge film double exposure by taking one exposure and going to a dark place to open the camera, take out the film cartridge and winding the next frame in camera before putting the film cartridge back in. It worked!

The Orton Slide Sandwich was a failure though, I got a slide duplicator and sandwich two slides in between them to see what you got....the Orton technique wasn't rocket science. How you determine your line of sight needs some training. This is what people refer to as the Photographer's Eye.


What you see is what you Get

The first steps towards good imaging is that you have to engage your brains and heart all at the same time. I know that digital photography has changed things to the point that you don't really wait for a moment to happen but rather just fire away. What you see in frame is what you get. That's a whole lot easier than shooting with a compact film camera like the 110 camera I started with.

Learning to compose isn't that difficult. With digital, your learning curve is much lower. With every shot you make on a digital camera doesn't cost you a cent, shooting film on the other hand does cost you dearly.


Michael Doohan. Copyright Benard Quek
When I was shooting film, I could not afford to waste the moment. You had 36 frames and if you actually ran out of film at a crucial moment, you'd have lost that one moment while you were busy switching rolls.

The judicious use of film was crucial and you had to learn to spot the moment. You could of course carry two cameras but in the days of analogue you only did so because you carried different stocks of film in each camera. If you had one roll of slide in one camera, you'd carry b/w or faster slide film in the other. You did so as to avoid replicating what you are shooting with one camera to the next. People these days shoot countless selfies i the toilet. That's how cheap it is to capture a picture.

Today, with digital, you don't have to worry about this since you can dial in the filters even after shooting them. Post processing allowed you to do lots of stuff later. In analogue, you can't. The roll had to be processed, and to do any kind of post production, you had to scan them. Digital images on the other hand could easily be edited in-camera. No need to worry about highlights or blowouts. In RAW format, you can recover that in post processing.


Composition is Key

People often ask, what's the most important thing to learn in photography. For me, it was only one thing...composition. How you place you subjects within a frame mattered. Everything else is secondary.



Copyright Benard Quek

When I started in analogue, I didn't know that until much later. Then after countless rolls, you get the idea that you can compose better pictures by taking it from various angles and placing objects in the frame according to a grid of thirds. Once you get this, there is nothing else to learn as digital cameras often do everything for you, from calculating the right exposure to the white balance settings.

In film, we had so much more to worry about. White Balance had to be corrected using colored filters. And if you were shooting slide film like Kodachrome, the exposure latitude is very narrow and if you miss it, you are totally fucked. The wrong exposure will leave you with a unusable picture.


Learn to be Aware of your Surroundings

When you get up in the morning walk down the path to your nearest Starbucks, your level of awareness is not at the optimum. This is why you need to train your level of awareness to be alert for photo opportunities. Think of yourself as a hunter, except that you're on the look out for picture perfect moments. 


Copyright Benard Quek

In the digital age, we have a camera by our side all the time. Your smartphone is your weapon of choice. So learn to use it. 

By being aware of what is going on around you, everyday things starts to take on a different dimension. It becomes a challenge on how you can capture it as a good picture. You become aware of the angles, the dimension of given to your by the chose focal length of the lens, that sort of stuff.

You then realize that by training your eye constantly to look out for such things that it becomes second nature to you to chose the best angle and the best composition allowed.



Be Smart and See what Others See

After being exposed to a place or location for too long, you don't get to see much as you have seen it all before this is why photographers who want to build their eye for composition need to get out, see new things and get new inspiration. You get the lazy eye and you stop looking for picture moments. 

This helps to alleviate 'photographers fatigue' which often happens when you keep going back to the same place too often. I do agree that some places are just plain boring but it is for you to challenge the norm and come out with a picture to tell the tale. Other times, you get plain lazy to get out of the car just to snap a picture when you see one.




Once you have the Photographer's Eye, it remains with you until you consciously learn to turn it off. You learn to spot moments along the street, or as you go out for lunch and dinner and see something which you can do to make a beautiful picture.

Photography today is more accessible more than ever for people to take it up as a hobby and you don't need big heavy equipment for this like in the old days.

I started capturing photos used in print magazines using two used cameras, a Nikon FE2 and a Nikon FM2. The learning experience was extremely valuable but when transitioned to the digital age, most of what you needed to know no longer applied. All you need was your eye for a good picture and the camera would do the rest.


















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Making that Winning Shot!

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Recently, one of my photos was featured in a photo competition by photocrowd and was subsequently carried by The Telegraph in the UK.

A lot of you would have asked, how this the picture came about? Fluke shot? The only way to tell is to look at a photographer's workflow or raw reel. From here you can tell what he was seeing. I had the pleasure of seeing these raw workflow from Michael Yamashita of NG and Michael Freeman when working with Sony Asia Pacific. And from this, you can tell where they were hitting and framing their shots.

This is something that most photographers do not want to share with you, choosing only the shortlisted or best shots. So you never learn what really happened.

Video of the Shots in Action


video

This was captured about five years ago, in Macau during the annual Grand Prix meet and the girls in the paddock were all strutting their wares (sponsor logos) and in it, I could not believe the number of photographers on hand to capture what was going on.

So throughout the three days, I was actually busy capturing content for a iPhone app and for that, there were lots to see and do.

The workflow for the winning shot is seen in the video enclosed and there was a few misses when people walked onto the frame, which happens very often.

When you are working in a hot and crowded environment, things are expected to go wrong, and with people walking all over the place, this is bound to happen.

A photo opportunity is missed because someone walked in, not caring if they were in frame and out again and as you wait for the moment to clear, that moment is history. You never get your shot.

This is why in digital, you have the option of working fast.

Angle of the frame is very important as you can see from the workflow shots in the video. In the shortest time possible, you have to nail this. And this isn't just from the perspective you want, that is on eye level.

Most of the time, photographers see scenes only from eye level. Sure you can have a variety of shots by zooming your lens in and out to frame it but going higher and lower is to me, your sense of perspective. This is what the photographer's eye is all about.

The camera I was using, a G1 from Panasonic didn't have that freedom as it was the first generation M43 sensors. I still love this camera and use it once in a while. It's dated of course, with a 12 megapixel sensor, my smartphone is a Galaxy Note 4 with 16 megapixels. So that's how far behind technology from yesteryears is.



I tried to make several shots of different crops. One was without the photographers in the picture, the others included them in various angles. The winning shot was cropped as there was someone walking right into frame.

Because the girls themselves were the main subject, the background became secondary. You basically shifted the main subject from across the frame, from center to off center to see how it works.

You cropped tight, and wide both while maintaining the perspective of the models. Remember when shooting such scenes, the environment is very fluid. They can be posing like they are now but not later. So no two scenes are going to be the same even if the models are hanging around the paddock area all the time.

Fortunately, the Sun was shining brightly, and into my LCD display which made it difficult to shoot. The color of the wings and attire just jumped out of the picture. So this was the main reason why it looked good. 

Stock Options?


The other thing is that, the photo itself has no commercial value if you include photographers in the picture, including the models' faces also means your photo is pretty much worthless when the faces are identifiable. This is main reason why I took the shot, one of the photographers shooting them for editorial value, the others without the photographers for stock image value.

To further enhance the image stock value, you have to personally remove the logos on the model's attire. A process I have yet to find time to do.

So if you happen to chance upon moments like this, think first about the sort of photos you wish to capture. Include both editorial and stock image possibilities as who knows? You might get lucky.






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Photokore to Shut its Service in Decemmber 2015

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It is sad to see another one go but times are a changing. Photokore, a stock image library that's been around since 2010 is finding hard to find paying customers for pictures from Asia. And by December 2015, it will shutter its site for good.

One of Photokore's strong points was it capitalized on photos made available to them from photographers based in Asia. That however hasn't translated to sales. People in Asia just don't buy pictures!

It has of course sent out alerts to both subscribers and photographers on the impending closure.


Problems with a Paying Market


One of the trends I notice is that Asia isn't a big contributor in terms of revenue to stock photography. Many prefer to lift images off others from social media and don't give a hoot until they get found out. In south Asia, where the weather remains relatively the same, you don't find much changes in the environment as say in four season countries. There are no distinct differences besides the rain and the sun shine. North Asia, aside from Japan and Korea, no one really bothers about buying pictures either. The respect for copyright is a right to copy. China, well, need I say more?

Western based markets are only slightly better as collateral has to be purchased before hand and this contributes somewhat to the revenue base. In fact, a majority of these stock agencies from the west make decent living from selling photos.

The paying market is shrinking, while the contributor base has been increasing, thanks largely to mobile photo sharing sites that have opted to jump into the stock image business.

Instagram briefly flirted with a stock image revenue model in 2012 only to have their users go up in arms about it. Now users will pay the price for this with lots of advertising. Which is the other way to get around the problem.

There is no two ways around this. Monetize or die.

Stock image wasn't the first choice for EyeEm or 500px.com but they now offer a library of photos to would be photo buyers as well. Competing and sometimes complementing big names like Getty Images, they offer a cheaper option.

Not sure how long this model will survive but there isn't much in the long term to look forward to in the stock image business as we are already been inundated with photos from around the world in social media.

I have sold some photos but not enough of it to pay rent. That's my observations so far and I don't think it will change in time to come.















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Consolidation of Stock Image Agencies

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When Adobe bought out Fotolia, people were saying that it was a good thing but seriously folks. You have all been mistaken.

Back in June, Adobe announced its own photo bank called Adobe Stock. You sign up with their cloud services which can run into hundreds in a year, you get 40% off all your stock photo purchases.

For me, it was a WTF moment.

In doing so, and charging your customers less, and you're selling it at a lesser price which in turn benefits the agency and not the photographer. If Adobe sold your photo at a retail rate of dollar, you get only a few cents from it. And if they sold it cheaper, you get less than peanuts.

This is a problem I have with stock agencies which sell stock imagery for cheap. You want the best photos taken on a DSLR with Leica lenses, have a model or property release as well, then charge buyers a buck for a download. Maybe a little more than a buck if you want a higher resolution version. And if you give discounts to your buyers, you also discount the return on commission to the photographer. So where does this end?


Challenging the Microstock Market

I don't give a damn about long tail marketing or mass market buying. Adobe isn't a premium company that is going to pay you well for your photos. Fotolia made a name for itself as a microstock for everything. Adobe hopes to do the same.

From images to clip art and vector files, the creative effort behind it is getting valued much lower.

Sure there will be some winners but even on Wallstreet, the losers outweigh the winners. So who are the winners here? Adobe of course because they don't own the intellectual property behind your image but so long as you give them the permission to sell it for you, they can set a price and give you a percentage of the retail price. Technically speaking, they won't give you a higher rate if they sold it lower because of their promotions.

This is how it all works these days. You the photographer gets your foot in the door by providing royalty free with property and model releases, it is a classic case of having you do more and earning less. It is a disruptive model of business that only benefits the business owner. That is, unless you are some rich millionaire with plenty of time on your hands and want to shoot some really awesome photos and sell them for beer money.

The Two Faces of Microstock


Currently, don't think that you can challenge the big guns of photography with your amateur attempts to make money from photography.

There are two types of microstock agencies, one that only validates and takes in DSLR high spec imagery and those who don't. These stock agencies want only the best imagery shot on DSLR cameras to be listed as Royalty Free. Photographers who are desperate enough to sell will list them there as they have no other choice. You might think that rights managed is the way to go but seriously, unless it was a big corporation going on a global spending spree, your chance of getting something sold for such use is next to zilch.

Image buyers are spoiled for choice since they can get the best imagery for the cost of next to nothing.

The other type of Microstock will be more forgiving with your imagery but they don't make money from them because you used a mobile device to capture those photos. Not that it's not any good but compared to the quality of those using DSLRs, your photos suck.

Why buy a photo for a buck that was captured with mobile devices compared with those using DSLRs. They cost the same. Do the maths and you'll know what value it is. As a buyer, I want to pay the least for the best. 

I have seen pretty good pictures listed on royalty free, with model releases and stuff required for commercial use. And they go for cheap. As an ambitious photographer who wants to break into the business, you have to hedge your bets on a better camera, pay for models if need be and photoshop the hell out of them so they look great. All for the return of a buck. Don't think you can hijack the big boys by setting up shop. People have tried to set up coffee stalls outside Starbucks just to do the same and they never work.

Now, some photographers would prefer to sell their images on dedicated sites like Photoshelter.  You get to make all the money on your own but hey, have you forgotten the marketing part? Do you not see those online search adverts inserted into Google for stock image or stock photos? Seriously you want to take o the big boys with millions to spend so that your Google Ad bid will never get seen? Advertising is the only way to get your site shown to the world and if you were hoping some guy who wants to buy an image for his website is going to land on your web image fire sale page, well think again.

What the Future holds for Image Agencies

The market is worth roughly US$4 billion a year. If a hundred image agencies were to battle for that same market, you can see the fragmentation. Some will fall off a cliff. Others will exist only in name.

The future is marked with consolidation. Too many agencies and the market isn't growing fast enough.

Adobe Photos have subscription models, and so do some of the more popular microstock agencies, and if a client were to download photos with a their paid subscription, you will get pennies in return. 

For the up and coming photographer, listing on a stock photo library might turn out to be a bad idea. If they get bought out, turned inside out to a microstock model, you have to agree to stick with them or delete your albums for sale.

Selling your photos might sound as easy as uploading it to a site but in the end, it is the retail prices that will eventually inspire you. Why would you waste time on a business that demands not just your time but money as well if you want to compete in the big league with little or no hope of ever achieving a decent income? Think for a moment about those stock photographes who earn hundreds of thousands every year and ask them how hard they work and how much of a dollar investment they put into their business. Does the end justify the means?

That, unfortunately, can only be answered by you.

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The SL is the new Crown Jewels of the Leica Family

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A long time ago in an era far far away, there was a film camera called the Leicaflex SL, and it was a monster of a camera in terms of size and handling.

Enter the new SL. The Type 601 is built like a German Tiger Tank, with a deadly canon of a lens as well. It is heavy. And heavy is good. The germans have been building big things while the Japanese are opting to make it smaller. Remember the Rover Mini, the diminutive car that BMW bought over and turned it into a BIG car? Mini apparently is just a moniker to the Germans to reinterpret what is small into something bigger.



It is a beast that is milled from a pure aluminum block which can be used as weapon against your detractors who say you can't take a good picture even if your life depended on it.


Many of you would have wondered why the Leicaflex even existed, well there was a time when rangefinders fell out of favor with users and Leica had to innovate. Out came a film SLR camera and this is what you get from German technology. It used R mount lenses and it was later replaced with the R series SLRs during a brief interlude with Minolta. That didn't take off either so off with their lenses. 

So why the SL? Why now? Why the fuck would someone pay US$7000 for a camera body?

Just as there are mountains that people wish to climb, there are people out there who would buy and use a Leica SL for whatever the reasons it has been uncalled for. 

I have been a fan of M lenses. But the SL lenses are something to be avoided. 

The M lenses are manual and come in a nice compact size. The SL lenses are fully AF and will scare any mugger if you swung it at him like a weapon. 

The reason why I opt for M lenses is because of its timeless nature. Being a manual lens, you don't have to fear that some AF motor inside the lens would go broke. The M is also full frame, fits like a charm to M43 cameras with a M adaptor and can be paired with those nice Fujifilm APS-C sensor cameras as well. 

The M lenses are not bulky, and is comparative to what you find with M43 lenses. 

Carrying them around and having a close look at the quality of the imaging will convince you enough to own them for life. And should you sell it, you will find ample buyers on the second hand market. 

The SL lens hasn't got a lens adaptor as yet. If you bought it and didn't like the lens you have for it, you don't have much of a choice on selling it since the number of people opting to buy such lenses are restricted to AF users who are themselves SL camera owners. 

This is probably the only clear reason that I won't be buying into a SL camera. Sure, you get the same Leica imaging but I want my hardware to last too. Digital isn't built to last. It was built to kill time when you needed something fast. 

I am decidedly old school for good reason. I see the value in old school lenses because that is what I feel will last. 

There is nothing like having a camera and lens system you can pass them to someone who can continue to use it. It is renewable technology compared to the throw away technology modern cameras are made of. 

I could for example continue to use a Leica CL rangefinder with a M lens, and pass that down to someone who wanted to experience film photography. They can also mount that M lens on future cameras through a lens mount since full frame is the direction everyone is going these days. 

The last thing you want is to double down on those latest SL lenses only to find out ten years later that the SL cameras no longer exist and there is no mount to reuse it for other similar cameras. 

Photography isn't like what was used to be. Technology has democratized the skill needed to take a nice photo and any fool with an iPhone is qualified enough to be called a photographer. 

Then you have the pros, who keep wanting to upgrade to new equipment for better imaging without really bothering to upgrade their skill. Everything is Photoshopped these days and if you are good with photoshop, you will have plenty of customers who will subscribe to your services. 

Which brings me back to the Leica SL. 

Buy this at your own peril. 






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Photographers! Your Photos will get Stolen even if it's Low Resolution

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This should be a warming to photographers who think that adding meta tags to get your photo found in Google search is going to get you plenty of business.

A photographer by the name of Zach was mildly surprised when his photo turned up in a mall. The story appear on Petapixel and goes like this.

Zach listed his photo with a photo credit at three online locations, but the last one used on his blog wasn't credited with a copyright notice. The first two were Flicker and Facebook and the last being his own blog.


How it got stolen was relatively simple. Remember how SEO pundits tell you to name your photo so that it gets discovered in a google photo search...well that is a bad fucking idea apparently. 


This is how Zach found out when he did a name search of his photo. Guess what, it came up in the top ten results and that is probably how it got stolen. 

Once a thief does a search, gets a low resolution file and extrapolates it to a bigger resolution size, there is no hope in hell he can't do a blow up poster of any kind. 

Well meaning photographers who post to places like 500px think that their photos are safe? In your fucking dreams!

All it takes is a screens shot and your picture is worth, well about next to nothing. 

And if you chased down the offenders, in this case...for Zach who lives in a country where copyright protection is guaranteed by law, who also demanded compensation was met with stiff resistance. 

The compensation was not agreed upon and guess what. Lawyers in the US had to say this to Zach.

"The photo stolen was not registered with the U.S. Copyright Office and without that, it would be hard to collect damages aside from usage fees."

So photographers, please don't think you have a piece of IP if you haven't registered it yet with the US copyright office and yes, registration isn't free of course. You pay for it and hopefully secure a windfall once some big corporation abuses your copyright and you sue the pants off them, that is...provided you had the money to pay a lawyer to sue.

I have come across job postings for Photo Editors with online sites which says...part of the job of the Photo Editor is to 'remove' watermarks so any talent with Photoshop will be deemed a talent. Needless to say, when you remove watermarks, it means you're openly stealing from a Google search. 

With this sort of image theft going on wholesale, it is little wonder that any photographer is seen as nothing more than a Photoshop Hack. 

Copyright when it comes to image is nothing more than the right to copy. That's all. So when you display your photo somewhere on the Internet, be prepared to have that taken by others. There is no putting the toothpaste back into the tube once its been squeezed out.








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Rezivot Ressurrects Polaroid Film Backs for old Cameras

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Here is a Kickstarter Project that is worth backing. A self made camera engineer of sorts is trying to create a new 4x5 as well as Fujifilm Instax Wide instant film adapters for a wide range of old skool cameras. 

His Kickstarter presentation isn't very polished but Kendar Chen is pretty adamant about having a film back that will fit most old film cameras that used  Polaroid 600se instant film sheets. 

Since the demise of Polaroiod, the Impossible project has been hard at work producing these instant film stocks from a bygone era and unfortunately, not everyone is able to buy into them. 

Two instant film stocks that is still widely available is made commercially by Fujifilm, namely the Instax Wide and FP-100C




If you are going to use instant film, your best option is to use them with the best instant film available. The problem with the Impossible Project film stocks are they are very unreliable as can be seen by the output results. The chemicals used from for the original Polaroid film stocks are no longer available and as a result, substitutes have to be used. The new film stocks are still being tweaked, and do not perform like the original Polaroid film so something had to be done.

Fujifilm still manufacturers their instant film stocks that gives consistent results. The FP-100 is by far one of the best if not the best in the market. The Instax Wide comes in a distant second. 


What Rezivot has done is create those backs that will fit onto some of these old skool cameras that have no film stocks available and to adapt others to take in the Instax Wide processor. This processor mimics the shooting and spitting out of the film after capture. 




So with it, you could literally adapt it to a few different types of cameras, including Mamiya 6x7 and Hassey. This means those old cameras aren't going away but now have the necessary ammo designed for you to shoot again. 

For the Kickstarter Campaign, you have a choice to back your desired film backs depending on the camera you still have lying around in the attic. 


The campaign just started and I urge you to make this a reality. Apparently, they already have a few successful beta designs and are still working to make more old film cameras useful once again.



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500px rebrands in China, photographers turn nasty!

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After its rebranding exercise, 500px was suddenly in hot soup after it announced that it is going into China with 500px.me as part of their expansion drive. 

What CEO Andy Yang didn't know was he had opened a door to a hornet's nest. 

As Andy pointed out in the Series B Funding scheme, Visual China Group which poured in the money expects 500px to be live in China. So when 500px started a Beta site to test out the system by mirroring the same content in China as well as their global site, photographers went on a rant to say that they didn't give their permission to go live in China. This is of course utterly stupid since 500px is not blocked in China after checking. 


China a Country for Pirates?


The only reason why photographers feel insecure is that they fear their photos would be stolen. I find this highly amusing as for some reason, photographers do not know that their most precious works are regularly stolen in the western world as well as sites like 500px are not responsible for the content you put up. 

For example, if you have a large screen computer like the iMac, you can take a high resolution snapshot of the screen and it will be saved in TIFF. The snapshot file can then be extrapolated to a larger image when you have the right software. 

To think that by displaying your images on 500px.com versus 500px.me is safer is pure hilarity. 

True. China has as bad rap for stealing anything but if their beef is with China Vision Group, the investor of 500px, then you probably have it coming. First, 500px has already given away your images as free backdrops on Chromecast. You don't get a cent if you get featured. 

China Vision Group is a content company, now owned by Alibaba.com. 

The deal is no different than 500px giving Google a free ride on Chromecast. 


500px.me will remain in Beta?

Probably not after Andy pulled the plug as he was trashed in social media for not seeking permission. 

To me, all this hullabaloo is pointless for the following reasons. 
  • 500px.me is meant to be a Chinese centric site, 500px can still go ahead without the .me prefix and have a dual language login for Chinese users. This means the Chinese site will be a CDN site hosted in China. 

  • 500px is not a well known source for royalty free imaging since their pricing is much higher and the stock image market is going on a downward spiral. It makes no sense to think you can earn less by not allowing the Chinese to view your images. 

  • TTIP and TPPA makes no mention that your images would be protected under their copyright terms. What is protected are Music and Movies, not to mention TV content as well. Again, to think that you will have more copyright protection with these trade pacts is pure fantasy. 

Having to get your permission for 500px to use your images in China is just another layer that does nothing for you as a photographer or your earnings. If you are serious about not having your images stolen, then don't display them on any social site. 

It makes no sense to do so if you know technology well enough to conduct image theft. 







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Lomo Instant Wide: Should you get one?

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It's up for preorder but one isn't available just yet. Now would you want one coz technical specs are kinda thin. Or would you like to wait and see? Lomo has since put its pre ordres on hold as they have been inundated with demand and they can't cope with the orders.  

Here is what we know about the camera. 


  • If offers TWICE the picture area of an INSTAX Mini print.
  • It has interchangeable lens for wide and close up shots. 
  • It has fully auto exposure settings
  • It has a lens cap that doubles as a remote shutter
  • It is actually a Fuji Mini Instax Wide camera with changeable lens attachment
  • It is fuguly

Now many years ago...I was intrigued by this Instax Wide camera, ok...it was more than a decade and a half ago, but I settled for the Instax Mini instead and for good reason. 

I wanted to travel and didn't want to lug around a camera which was bigger than both my hands. 

It is fucking big and don't let the Lomo video fool you into thinking otherwise. The problem is the film and how it has to swallow the whole Fuji film cartridge making the camera a beast. 

Now, I have been a SLR users all my life and would gladly move away to something analog like a rangefinder but these days, I am not that active anymore in shooting and when I do, I have a Galaxy Note 4 for all those shots that come without notice. So when I held the Instax Wife from Fuji in my hands those many years ago, I decided that it has to mean something if I am to use that camera. 



For one, I would prefer a Polaroid EE100 Reporter as it folds into a nice package but comes with a fixed lens. Comparatively, the Lomo Instant Wide has interchangeable lenses. But for me, the Polaroid would win over my choice since the two is about the same in size and bulk. 

The Polaroid has character, while the Lomo looks almost Soviet-ish in design. However both a plastic bodied so don't assume it will last a life time even though the EE100 is still available on eBay for cheap. 

When you buy an instant camera, you have to know what you are using it for. If is is just for fun and you can afford those pricey prints, then it's fine. Fun is a cost factor. If you don't have a need to shoot analog then please don't. 

Shooting analog is difficult. 

There are severe technical limitations that makes it difficult to operate and even though the camera has an auto exposure, not all scenes render well on instant film. Once you understand this and don't mind going the distance to learn to use it, then it is fine. 

I hate to see people think that shooting analog is easier than digital. I beg to differ. Once your expectations are ruined, the whole analog concept will be dumped along with it and you'd never get the chance to experience it once you double down on an iPhone. 

And this is what Lomo is all about. It is about the shooting experience that analog gives you that you won't find on a digital medium. For me, digital is almost fool proof. The many ways it can go wrong for you can be corrected in post production while in analog, that is never the case. There are more challenges in analog photography and this is what makes it different. 

So if you are in the mood for a challenge, then don't hesitate to pick up an analog camera. 





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500px to use give your images for Free to Google Chromecast

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Remember the Taylor Swift demand that Apple pay her when her music is played for non-subscribers using Apple music during the trial period? Ditto. 

Apparently 500px feels that it owns your pictures and for that, streams it live to Google Chromecast for absolutely nothing. That's how much your digital pictures are worth I'm afraid. They have licensed it to Google for nothing and photographer's contribution to the site will now be carried for free as an image backdrop. 

Now I cannot see why Taylor Swift could make such a demand using the same logic while photographers seems to get ripped off by the same process. 

If Google wants those images as a backdrop for Chromecast, then they should pay for it. 

I do not know at this stage if 500px did a backdoor dealing with Google on this and it certainly does not bode well for people who want to earn some money from their photographic works. Why doesn't 500px tell Google that they can only display creative commons type of images only and that until a photographer signs off as a CC release, no picture will be displayed until a fee is paid. 

Imagine for a moment that they only give you credit for the image displayed. Would that translate to financial success?

I'm afraid not. 

No one is going to be paid and the want for fame does not equate with fortune. You work could net you picture a framed and printed picture sold from 500px but giving it away as a backdrop is pretty much like shooting an image for free just for your photo byline. 

Why not shoot for free? The thousands you sunk into camera gear gives you so much joy that not having a roof over your head or a hot meal on the table isn't a priority. 

Having your picture discovered is one thing, but getting paid for it is a whole different issue. Being discovered as a photographer these days is like finding a nickel on the street. If it makes you happy just to be that nickel well good for you. 

But for the rest of us. We want to be paid because we believe that our pictures are worth something more than that nickel on the street. 

So let's hear it from Photographers in the comments below...!




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Voigtlander Rangefinders are no more....

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Cosina recently announced the end of production for all its rangefinder cameras. Even in a time where interest in film photography has become a bit of a renaissance, Cosina could not sell enough of them to keep them alive. 

This is not to say that you'll see the Voigtlanders disappear from the shelves overnight. There are still plenty of stocks, just that maybe the models might be looking for won't be in stock. 

Like for example the Bessa R4M would have been my camera of choice. It has 21mm framelines for wide angle shooting, so you don't have to buy an optional viewfinder like in the case of Leica M cameras. Leica has no solution for wide angle lenses except for a clip on viewfinder which you have to pay for. 



Voigtlander lenses are still being manufactured so it's not a big dent on your film shooting experience. 

For me, the Voigtlander rangefinder cameras was a good step towards film photography for beginners as they are much cheaper to own than compared to the Leica MP or M series rangefinders. 

Leica still manufactures the MP, a pro level film camera which cost a bomb. But the Bessa was the cheaper alternative. In fact, it is only a fraction of the cost of a used Leica M7. You could go buy a used film camera on eBay, but there are some of us who want to own something new. 

Why the SLR won the Film Battle

Before the introduction of the SLR, the rangefinder was the only professional film camera you could use. How the SLR became king of the hill was simple. It was much easier to focus and use. 

In a rangefinder, you have to align two split focus images together to know that you are in focus, whereas in a SLR, you can judge the focus by the clarity of the whole frame. Even the highly praised Olympus XA did away with rangefinder focusing in subsequent models. 

The ease of using a SLR was evident from the onset but prices between the two didn't differ as much. Both needed manual lenses and the Japanese found a way to make it cheaper. This meant that Voigtlander was sold to Cosina and the European heritage faded away. 
Over the years, Voigtlander started to withdraw production of its cameras, the first to go were the A models, now even the M models have been killed off. 

As rangefinder cameras fell out of fashion, the digital age was probably the final nail in the coffin. 

What you'd be missing on a Voigtlander Cameras

The Bessa R3M had a 1:1 viewfinder aspect ratio so you can keep both eyes open to frame a subject. This is clearly a step above what a Leica could do. 


But shooting with a film camera like the Bessa takes some getting used to, the A models have auto exposure while the M is fully manual. I could double down on a manual model as that is the best way to experience rangefinder photography like the old pros use to do. 

Using an old world method to capture images has to be experienced to be appreciated. 

There is no instant previews or sharing to social media. Film has to be developed and printed. Money must be spent on film. 

Film stocks give a varying degree of results. No two film stocks behave the same way. You get 36 shots in a roll, which means there is no machine gunning your way to a picture like you do on an iPhone. 

If you mess up the exposure, there is no second chances so you have to bracket shots which are important to you. 

Film photography, especially using a rangefinder camera, sharpens your level of observation as you learn to anticipate picture  moments before it happens. This is more so with the rangefinder as you need to work the focus and set an exposure for the moment while thinking of the framing. 

If you don't work fast enough, you will miss that moment. So instead seizing the moment, you anticipate it why observing what goes on around you. 

Sure you can do this with a film SLR as well, but that defeats the point of training your eye and mind to think at the same time. 

Shooting with a rangefinder is more difficult, sort of like driving with a stick shift on a classic car but the experience you get from it is out of this world. It's a sense of achievement to be able to shoot good pictures on film with a rangefinder than it is on your iPhone. 

So if you intend to embark on this challenge, I urge you to hurry. Bessa models would soon be only found in a used camera store. 



  

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