SoCal PhotoExchange

Pentax Spotmeter V – User Report

Posted in Camera equipment, Photo techniques, Photography by douglaspstockdale on February 7, 2018

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Pentax Spotmeter V 2017 copyright Douglas Stockdale

For my analog/film photography, I have been a long time user of spotmeters, my first was made by Soligor and when I dropped that too many times, I replaced it with the Pentax Spotmeter V. The Spotmeter V is an analog spotmeter that has since been replaced by Pentax with a digital version. The meter will measure the luminescence of a very precise area of the subject designed by a round spot much like a bullseye within the meter.

What brought me to use this precise light meter tool was my introduction into the zone system many, many years ago. In a future article I will discuss the zone system in more detail, suffice to say when using black & white film that was hand developed, there were a number of film processing tricks a photographer could use. This was predicated on the fact that they knew the lighting conditions of their subject and what the black & white values that they wanted in the resulting print. The secret trick to make this happened depended a lot on using a spot meter that could record exact light readings in various places within the subject; from the lightest values, mid values to the darkest values.

One thing that I did not like about the lesser expensive Soligor spotmeter was the undersized handle grip, which was rather annoying and maybe a reason that I dropped this delicate instrument one too many times. The Pentax in turn has a large handle and from that perspective alone is a delight to use. You can really get a grip on this little beauty.

The second was the Soligor had a two phase scale; you had one set of values with a slight squeeze of the button and if needed a different sensitivity, you squeezed a little harder to get the second set of light values. In comparison the Pentax has one continuous scale within the view finder, which is much easier to use, especially if the light values were in the mid point of the scale that for the Soligor had the readout jumping between the two values and a bit confusing to know exactly what was going on.

To use this spotmeter requires the photographer to take the value(s) viewed inside the meter and then translate it to the rotating scale on the outside of the meter, see below, to determine the required camera settings. As example, if reading a gray card (18% gray) and the meter pointed to the value of 10 & 1/2, you moved the dial to point at the 10-1/2 mark and for an ISO 100 film, you could chose a series of exposures that provide you with an appropriately exposed film (e.g. 1/15 sec at the half click between f/8 and f/11).

The final luminescence value determined for the mid-point is called the exposure index (EI) and when using the older Hassleblad lens, there is a corresponding EI scale on the lens. Thus this meter and lens make a great combination. When the EI is set on the lens, the aperture and shutter speed sequences were coupled together and locked in. A change in the aperture created a corresponding change to the exposure time. Thus a photographer could make one exposure and then quickly change the coupled exposure index settings for a different combination and still have the desired film exposure.

Although I no longer hand-process my film, I still depend on this meter to evaluate the lighting of my subject and then determine what my exposure should be.

This Pentax Spotmeter V has been a work-horse for me and has been trouble free for the past ten plus years. recommended.

Cheers!

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Drones, Drones, Drones!

Posted in Books & Magazines, Camera equipment, Photo books, Photo techniques by Gerhard Clausing on January 31, 2018

For all drone fans and others who appreciate aerial photography, there is a recent award-winning book and associated website you might want to check out. I recently reviewed their book, Dronescapes, in THE PHOTOBOOK JOURNAL; you can read my review there. The website (Dronestagram) accepts submissions from around the world.

Particularly interesting about this volume are the subject areas, corresponding with chapters of the book, with the following titles:  Drones Are Us (playful, humorous); Close (unusual angles); Urban; Fauna (animals); Probe (environment); Space; Pattern/Shadow (images emphasizing composition and seen as more artistic rather than straight-forward); Move (sports and leisure); and I Do (wedding photography). The editor, Ayperi Karabuda Ecer, also does a good job of highlighting the background of a number of photographers who use these quadcopters in their photographic pursuits.

You should also note that the editor of the book provides a short section of helpful hints for using drones, in addition to all the inspiring ideas and more than 250 images. Plus, each image is marked by the latitude, longitude, and ALTITUDE of the drone at the time of exposure. This gives all drone photographers and videographers ideas about placement and angles for their own work.

Hope this helps those of you fascinated by this new way of seeing the world from above!

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Gitzo compact carbon fiber tripod: user report

Posted in Camera equipment, Photo techniques, Photography by douglaspstockdale on January 24, 2018

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Gitzo G1228 Mountaineer Reporter Carbon Fiber Tripod, copyright Douglas Stockdale

A number of years ago when I bent and broke for the last time my aluminum tubing heavy duty tripod, I decided to make an investment in a carbon fiber tripod. One of my many reasons for selecting the Gitzo G1228 as the tripod’s name implies it that it’s meant for backpacking and mountaineering; rugged and light weight. The carbon fiber materials were very much lighter than the beast that I had before and every bit as rigid and has held up very well over time which is the reason for this user report. By the way the current Gitzo model is the G1228 MK2.

My intent was to use if for my DSLR and medium format cameras with light to moderate weight lens. I understand from others that this tripod can probably handle a light weigh 4×5″ camera as well. I was also intending to travel with it on airline flights and when the ball head is removed, the tripod collapses and measures 20 1/2″ which is ideal for stuffing in an overhead bag that fits in the overhead bin. I have since carried this tripod with me on assignments all over the US, as well as to Europe and Asia. No issues.

The downside to this compact travel size tripod is that when the four section legs are fully extended as well as the column fully extended my camera is almost the right height for eye level viewing. The less you can extend the tripod legs usually the greater its stability, which is the whole reason for its use. So when I using this tripod with my camera rig, such as in both the photos, I try not to extend the column if the composition appears to work. I have also found that when the three legs are held together, the tripod can double as a monopod and provides just enough added stability when working with an active situation (perhaps looks a bit weird, but it works).

The legs are secured or extended after a quick twist of the heavy duty locking rings and I prefer this over the flip-tap type leg systems. It seems that the flip-tabs keep getting snagged (not great for packing with clothes) and are always in the wrong place. The leg sections always seem to extend quickly and smoothly.

Since I am a big fan of ball-heads to attach the camera to the tripod, having the option of a plate to attach the head design of your preference was a nice feature. This also allows a more compact size for travel when I remove the ball head.

The Gitzo is very stream line and robust and has done by me very well for the past five years.There was a hook that threaded on the bottom of the column, but I seemed to have lost that a while ago. If you can keep track of your hook, that is idea place to attach a bag or some other object to provide additional stability for the tripod, such as on a breezy day.

With a lot of my travel assignments now by car/SUV, I am considering a longer tripod. I would prefer that I do not need to extend the smallest legs and still have my cameras at eye level. I would also buy another Gitzo again when I am back in the market for another tripod; little pricey, but worth it.

Cheers!

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Challenges and Joys of Medium-Format Macro

Posted in Camera equipment, Photo techniques, Photography by Gerhard Clausing on January 23, 2018

Recently I have picked up my Pentax 645Z again, to rediscover the world in miniature. The depth of field/focus can be very minimal at close range, seemingly elusive. I have a razor-sharp macro lens that I bought used at reasonable cost (compared to similar Hasselblad and Leica medium format lenses), the Pentax 645 120mm f/4 SMC FA Macro, that makes it possible. Several such excellent automatic and manual Pentax 645 lenses are left over from the film era and are shunned by some photographers who would rather spend thousands for a similar lens with the “digital” designation.

So, with or without extension tubes, there is a world in miniature to be discovered. The live view function on the rotating viewfinder makes it even more possible. The subtleties of color captured with a 51M pixel sensor and the information-gathering ability of these large lenses are amazing. And the time and money saved by not having to process and scan film is substantial, of course. So my idea is to capture a dreamy world, whether it is one of my “selfscapes” or the stuff that we all have around the house, such as my desk surface that becomes a constructed landscape, or the flowers in a vase that have seen better days.

Hope you enjoy the images below. – This is also a forum for exchanging information, so if you have any questions about this or would like to share similar guest contributions, please let me know in the comment section below, or send me an email!

Cheers!

Gerhard (Gerry) Clausing

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All images © 2014-2018 by Gerhard Clausing

Canon 50mm f/1.4 lens check

Posted in Camera equipment, Photo techniques, Photography by douglaspstockdale on January 15, 2018

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Santa Ana, CA, May 13 copyright 2017 Douglas Stockdale

This is not meant in any means to be a full technical review of the Canon 50mm f/1.4 lens that I recently purchased, but in the immortal words of the late Garry Winogrand, “I want to see what this looks like”. As background I have been using almost to the exclusion, the standard Canon 24-105mm L zoom lens which is the “kit” lens that came with my Canon 5D. I think that the 24-105mm is a great all around lens but I am also of the opinion that the prime lens, such as this 50mm f/1.4, will provide an extra brilliance in the rending of the image.

The photo above is essentially the first exposure I made after walking out of Samy’s Camera store in Santa Ana, CA, a full frame capture on my Canon 5D Mark3. I am planning to dedicate this lens on my Canon 5D for my studio work for when I re-photograph photo books for The PhotoBook Journal.

Right now I want to see this full frame image after processing with Photoshop in a lower resolution (72dpi) JPEG on my monitor, since the images I make with this are essentially destined for viewing in this format on the web. I first did a check of the image’s outer edges and corners since that is where a lens usually starts to fail in image quality. My assessment: looking very good and this appears to be a keeper. No need to make a return trip back to Samy’s Camera.

I am not thinking about another photo project involving Southern California food trailers, but it is nevertheless an interesting idea. I must admit, while walking out of the store and trying to decide what to quickly photograph, this red foodie trailer quickly caught my eye. So a little bit of formal composition and the photo was captured.

After working with a zoom lens for so long, using a fixed focal length (e.g. prime) lens was a mental rust remover. Such that if I wanted to tighten up this composition and stay full frame, I actually needed to move my feet. Back in the day when one bought a 35mm film camera, it usually came outfitted with a 50mm lens, such that my Canon Ft-QL (that was somewhere in the very early 1970’s) came with a 50mm f/1.8 FL lens, and this same focal length came with my upgrade to the Canon Ae-1 in the early 1990’s.

Actually for street photography the 50mm (normal focal length) is a really nice lens to work with and I know a lot of street photographers who swear by this focal length for the majority of their work. Nevertheless I may also just tuck this little lens in my camera bag when I take some road trips, or if I want to go low-key/light-weight to replace the heavy and slower 24-105mm zoom altogether ;- )

Cheers!

Below, recent photograph with this 50mm f/1.4 on the Canon 5DMk3 from my project Path to Somewhere; Arroyo Trabuco Trail, December 2017 (cropped square).

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