As regular readers know, when I write about pool instead of photography, four dark horsemen mount up. Fruit rots on the trees, well water turns inexplicably odiferous, the sound of screaming is heard in the distance, and readers by their numberless legions drop out of TOP's audience never to be seen again. And people yell at me that they come here for photography, not pool, and that besides, snooker is better. (I am still trying to work out what a "snooker" is. I think it's a bird. Possibly a cartoon bird.)
And I get flustered when I get yelled at. So I'm going to sprinkle in some camera news so all that won't happen this time.
New Ricoh Pentax Flagship: Did you know Ricoh has a new Pentax flagship camera? APS-C, as ever. TotL. They've followed what seems to be a developing style in choosing a lower number than their previous flagship, the K5-II: the new camera is called the Pentax K-3. They've retained the basic shape of the K-5 (a good thing). Otherwise, the real news is improved specs in almost every area: better AF, bigger sensor, better viewfinder, larger viewing screen, and speedier processor. The"other" news is that the camera says Pentax on the front and Ricoh on the back, and has an innovative/silly feature (I think that should be a new feature category): you can simulate an anti-aliasing filter with the flip of a switch. The camera doesn't actually have an AA filter, but it will helpfully simulate it for you by jiggling the sensor to blur the picture in cases where moire might be a problem for you. Whee, I need that. (<—sarcasm). Dpreview has a good intro.
So anyway, I got to meet Ewa Laurance up close and personal last night! She's a multiple world and 9-ball champion also known as a trick-shot artist, and a famous Nordic beauty (born Ewa Swensson in Gävle, Sweden). She was co-hosting an amateur trick shot competition at Danny Vegh's northwestern outpost in Milwaukee's village-sized Bayshore Mall. Here she is explaining how to do a shot I just recently mastered. Well, "mastered" might be a bit of an overstatement. (That must be her house in the video, by the way, because I happen to know she owns a Brunswick Monticello, which is what that is.)
Her name, in case you're curious, is pronounced "Ava" (long "A" first, short "A" last, like Ava Gardner).
Meet Otus: Hoping to cut in on some of that good Leica carriage-trade action, Zeiss recently announced a line of ridiculously-highly-priced-but-hopefully-worth-it lenses. Following the "Touit" example, the new line is apparently going to be named "Otus," thus introducing the glimmer of realization in my brain that I'm probably not going to be able to keep up with all this. These weird names, I mean. I've got "Touit"; we'll see if "Otus" sticks in there too. But if all the manufacturers start a monkey-see on this, I'm quickly going to get lost. Anyway, the first of these onepercenter lenses is now open for preorder: it's the Zeiss 55mm ƒ/1.4 Otus Distagon T*, in Nikon and Canon mount. Perfect for those of you with four grand burning a hole in your pocket and a gnawing desire for a normal lens for your full-frame digital SLR, which thirst has for some unknown reason not heretofore been slaked.
Danny Vegh's, as you no doubt know (who doesn't?), is the leading purveyor of billiards supplies in the region of Ohio around Cleveland. Only two years ago, CEO Kathy Vegh—who I also got to meet last night and who, like Ewa, also happens to be dazzlingly beautiful in person—opened a store at Bayshore, their first out-of-Ohio retail venture and the best billiards store in Milwaukee proper. They were having a trick-shot contest open only to amateurs. As the only professional in attendance, Ewa did demonstrate some of her own signature trick shots ("these are mine. Mine," she said, dryly referring to the fact that many trick shot artists routinely rip off other peoples' shots).
Here's Kathy on the company's website—on the left with dad Danny, a former ping-pong champion who arrived in America penniless from Hungary and built his retail empire from scratch—and on the right in drab business attire. Yes, I kid.
Interestingly, Kathy's prettier than her pictures.
All-Weather Nikon: The newest camera in Nikon's "Nikon 1" mirrorless line is the Nikon AW1, which is actually a lot cooler than it might seem at first glance. It's similar to the existing J3, but it's shockproof, freeze-proof, and waterproof to a depth of 50 feet, which, you will note, is a little deeper than most swimming pools, as well as a little deeper than must snorkelers can go. Most of us will only have to remember that when we're in water deeper than 50 feet, we should not drop it. Fetuses and digital-only youths won't see the resonance here, but the AW1 actually harkens back to the Nikonos, which were the leading underwater cameras for many years back in the era B.D. The lenses, excusably, are specific to the camera...they have to be waterproof too.
So anyway, I showed up last night just to spectate. I'm a beginner, having just taken up the game in April, and what did I know? I thought there'd be sixty competitors, half of whom would be teenage ninjas who do nothing but practice trick shots all day. So I didn't bring my cue. Which made sense. Of course, not bringing a camera didn't make sense—didn't make sense at all, given that I am, er, ahh, well, a photographer. On the good side, this was one of the relatively rare occasions when I actually managed to remember that there is a camera in my iPhone. (Amusingly, I often forget...and I'll see something I really want a picture of and curse the fact that I haven't got a camera with me. While the iPhone is sitting there innocently in my pocket. The thing does talk—you'd think it would remind me. Do you think Siri could be programmed to say, "Hey, idiot, I'm a camera too" at just the right moments?)
Top: Ewa demonstrating one of her trick shots. Bottom: Ewa, the contest winner, and Kathy. Semi-competently photographed with my iPhone (the iPhone is an exceptionally lousy camera, but it must be said that I am a lousy iPhonographer).
Although the event seemed well attended and the mood was festive, only five (five) people stepped forward to attempt trick shots—and two of them weren't even pool players (they were the children of a guy who evidently really, really wanted the prize but had missed his own trick shot attempts). Only one of the five managed to sink her shot—for which she won a brand new Brunswick Authentic pool table valued at almost $5,000! (A Camden, in cherry.)
Who knew?!? If I had known that the competition would be so managable even for the likes o' me, I would have practiced a few trick shots. I might not have won, but I could have competed.
Sony fail: Sony is perhaps to be complimented for radically lowering the price of its entry-level offering, the new A3000. But apparently there is no such thing as a free lunch: seems the quality plummets in tandem with the price. David Kilpatrick at PhotoClubAlpha is very down on it; among other excoriations, he says "it has the most inadequate electronic viewfinder I can remember using,
including finders on various bridge cameras of the distant past." Ouch! (Although he likes its image quality. Sony does do sensors.) All things considered, this is developing into one to avoid. And avoid recommending...but here's a link anyway, just in case. Hey, it is amazingly cheap.
And in case you're wondering, Ewa Laurance in person is personable, friendly, and warm, as well as very poised and confident. Very likable. I talked to a number of nice people. Good times were had, as they say, by all. If you live in Milwaukee, heads up for future Danny Vegh's events.
• • •
So, how'd I do? Did I sneak in a bit of pool without the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse showing up and alienating y'all? Talk about a trick shot!
(Thanks to Robin Pywell)
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(To see all the comments, click on the "Comments" link below.)
Featured Comments from:
Pete F: "I think the pictures of gorgeous women saved your hide."
Ed Hawco: "Kudos to Pentax for simple naming (K-3), unlike Olympus and Panasonic, whose product names look like the result of a tipped-over Scrabble board."
Will: "The common thread here with these new Zeiss series seems to be that they are named for birds, which is a fun thread to tie them all together."
phil: "Zeiss might not just be looking to the carriage trade. An Otus + D800E is still a lot less money than a medium format setup, or even the Leica S. So it might be a useful product to someone needing every last line-per-millimeter or detail-per-pixel, like someone making huge landscape prints, if it delivers on its promise to be the ultimate. That would be an interesting test, a comparo between high-res DSLR and new, lower-priced MF setups."
Matteo: "But, Mike, the numbers on the Pentax are not getting lower. See, after the K-5 and the K-3 come the K-1, K+1, K+3...."
paul in AZ: "I like the pool bits. (Haven't played for many years but did in college.) Keep 'em up. I confess to skimming or not even reading the camera items."