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Sunday, 10 June 2007

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On the subject of the panoramic switches, I've often wondered why digital cameras don't offer more choices for aspect ratio. Some point and shoots (e.g., Panasonic FX07), allow you to shoot 3:2 and 16:9, but I don't think any SLRs offer this feature. I love my K10d, but also really like shooting in a square format. Obviously I can just crop afterwards, but somehow that's just not the same as composing the shot in the square format. How hard could it be to add this feature?

(are digital SLRs starting to replace hasselblads and other medium formats for studio work? If so, I'd think that many of the photographers used to working in a 6x6 format feel the same way.)

For a long time I used a Pentax MZ-5n with a panoramic switch. I rarely used it when actually taking a picture because the cropping mask was just a little off kilter rather than straight. It also left a fuzzy edge effect to the frame. But it was great just to visualize what you could do to crop the image later on to give a pano format.

This is an interesting article that nicely contrasts the values of the camera retailer with the views of the majority (I assume) of readers of this blog. Scott Parsons understandably places value on products that will sell well. As a consumer, I place value on products that meet my needs and will not "quickly fade" from the market. From that perspective, the only one of his points I agree with is #1: There is need for 'granny-friendly' products.

About number 10... I'm all for the ideal of the personalized attention of a brick and mortar shop, but my experience with them has been awful. Consistently, two of the main photo shops in the San Francisco Bay Area (one in Palo Alto, one on 2nd St. in SF) make me want to not buy from them. The salesmen are always in a rush, and as soon as it becomes clear that you are not going to give them your money without any thought, they lose interest and become borderline rude.

Maybe I've been unlucky, but if so, my luck has been pretty consistent. The value added to my photography by these and other shops in the area is actually below zero. I'd rather do my research online and buy from a place that will deliver to my desk.

"Some point and shoots (e.g., Panasonic FX07), allow you to shoot 3:2 and 16:9, but I don't think any SLRs offer this feature."

Incidentally, Panasonic's L-1 offers 4:3, 3:2 and 16:9.

Scott,

I agree with most of your list. As someone who spent 25 years in retail photo (all of it in small, independent stores) I'm mainly glad to see that there are still some fellow dinosaurs alive and kicking.

A special note to "RP": The Ricoh GX100 has a setting for square images. I didn't believe it until I actually used it. So one of my personal settings is for square monochrome images. All this and a "24-72" zoom. Canon? Nikon? Who needs 'em? BTW, I also have a K110D and yes, I know I should have sprung for the image stabilizer in the 100. Next time.

Mike, you've got a great thing going here, which I enjoy immensely.

Fred

The "Grandma" camera is the $100-$200 Kodak kit at the discount store that includes a base with a dye-sub printer and a point and shoot camera. My Grandpa is 90 years old without a computer and he brought one of these about a year ago. He's had a lot of fun taking photos and printing them out right away. He has no computer. The prints cost about 17-20 cents each but of course he can choose what he wants to print from the back of the camera.

Downsides? The camera is a bit small. The LCD display is fairly small. The optical view finder is fairly small. He hasn't complained but I imagine a nicer viewfinder would really make it easier for him to use.

Not so long ago I was given a roll of the Kodak Ektar 25 by a friend who had kept it in the freezer. It was like revisiting an old friend. I had the shots developed and looked amazing. I wish it was still available, and I'd like a 120 version.

If Kodak et al had taken all of the technical innovation and genuine advantages of APS over 35mm and applied it to 35mm, then they might have been onto a winner. Instead they decided, yet again, and like 110 and Disc (yuk!) before them, that 35mm was too good for the consumer photography market and they could get away with selling less film for a higher price.

Alternatively, and even more bizarrely, they asked their customers to simply not use a chunk of the film everyone had already paid for ('panorama' cameras).

I've spent twenty years as a photographer hoping to find a quality independent photo retailer, but all I got was places trying to sell me APS, 'panorama' features, date imprinting and other ways to screw up perfectly good film, or, just as frequently, people who simply didn't know what they were talking about.

I've bought quite a lot of photo equipment online, and even on Ebay. Good film SLR deals there a few years ago at least. But as you move up in the price bracket, you want to feel the camera in your hands before you buy. You do the research online, you feel the camera, and if the salesperson's nice and the deal is comparable, why not go with the local retailer? That's where I bought my 5D, as an upgrade from the Ebay 300D.

As someone new to the joys of photography, I discovered Kodak's Ektar film a few months before a three-week trip to Europe in 1991. I bought around 20 rolls (mix of ISO 25 and ISO 100) at Price Club before the trip, and ended up wishing I had purchased twice that quantity.

In the end, it didn't matter, as all those beautiful pictures became just memories when the basement apartment I was living in several years later flooded, claiming not only the prints, but all the negatives as well!

My God did this one resonate! I visited my old hometown in NJ last week and went downtown to the old camera store to buy a lens. The store had closed after at least 50 years in business. I went to the camera store in the next town over. The owners told me sadly that they have sold the property and will be closing next month. All merchandise was up for grabs cheap. But not the lens i wanted. I planned to go to NYC the next day anyway and figured i'd buy the lens at B&H but instead traveled another 20 minutes down the highway and went to the only camera store left in my area. I found the lens for $100 more than B&H but bought it anyway just to support the smaller retailer who apparently pays more for his inventory than B&H sells it for!! But i thought, where will we be when all the little stores are gone? We'll have to order everything online or else trek into NYC just to buy a filter. Never thought i'd see the day. :((

Kodak Photo CD WAS ahead of its time. I had a number of rolls of Kodachrome scanned to Photo CD in the mid-1990s, and the CDs have all survived and the files open perfectly. The compression scheme was brilliant because you could extract several resolutions from a master file, depending upon your need. Unfortunately, I found the scanning was erratic quality. The concept was good, and it shows that Kodak's engineers and marketers were anticipating the digital revolution. Somehow it just didn't click with the public.

I agree that APS was a nice invention, but a bit too late. I have quite a few APS rolls, and are thinking about scanning them to my digital album in iPhoto, but the cost vs. quality equation is not good. (With 35mm you have at least more alternatives for scanning.) Does anyone have good suggestions how to do this?

I too fondly remember the Kodak Photo CD (not the Picture CD which was crappy and inferior). The scans I have on Photo CD are still better than what I can do with my Nikon Coolscan IV. The problem with it, besides being ahead of its time was Kodak kept the Photo CD format proprietary. The discs (gold) had to be bought from Kodak at a fixed price and the technology behind the file system as well. I was lucky that for a while my local Safeway grocery store used to offer Kodak Photo CDs for a discounted price, until Kodak decided to obsolete it with the Picture CD.

I remember Ektar well, too. Ektar 125 was a great print film, and so was Ektar 25. Ektar 100 was obviously trying to be warm and saturated like Fuji Films.

Kodak makes some good things for unknowledgable people. The camera + printer setup someone above suggested is good enough.

My opinion is that if a computer enters the picture, simply don't. Save them the agony. They'll be fine taking the rolls to the store.

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