Monday 31 October 2011

'Travelling Light' webinar with Manfrotto

Kick boxing on the Thai Cambodian border 1993 

This in some peoples eyes at least might seem to be an unusual subject for a webinar.

But many of us travel with our camera gear.

And in the last decade just how difficult has this become?

Often the 'problems' one encounters are not security driven but airline rules and regs.

Tighter rules on the number of pieces of luggage and a big focus on the weight of bags.

How many times have you had to put your expensive gear in an unlocked bag in the hold?

On 17 /11/11 at 19.00 GMT I will explain and share some of my coping techniques which have helped me navigate sometimes baffling rules.

All of my tips are legal and can save you delay or excess baggage charges.

I will also share incidents of where I have come unstuck and I will talk about carnet's too.

Please come and join me (it is free!) and see if you can save yourself some time, money and trouble next time you fly.

Thursday 27 October 2011

Canon Pro Solutions Day 2 - Looking for the end of the rainbow

After my second presentation on behalf of Apple, which I was blessed with an engaged audience who asked more than an intelligent question or two, I had a little more time to check out some of the new offerings.

I got some hands on time with the latest itineration of the Canon EOS 1D series, the Canon 1DX.

First impressions? A product of evolution not revolution, beautifully built, a very well resolved package which if you are a Canon user who shoots news or sport, I think you will be buying one of these...sooner or later. Lots of features you notice straight away like the speed....but there are stacks of features that are not obvious straight away, like the ethernet port (Cat 5) which answers all the camera connectivity questions you may have had and more besides, the Wi-Fi connectivity via the optional WFT-6 E6 transmitter which uses the 'N' protocol (not 'G'), and that the video output which is close to 50Mbs(the magic HD spec for the BBC), never mind the zillion ISO capability.

I must stress I have not used it in anger but it all looks very promising indeed.

As I left the show I walked past a display case of milestones for Canon and one camera which I had not previously heard of caught my eye.

The 1957 Canon VT Deluxe

A beautiful looking camera, with a juicy looking 50mm F1.2 lens.

And a thought came into my mind...I have a Fuji X100 which is so close to greatness it hurts, but needs some of the bells and whistles that Canon could easily bring to the party.

Picture this, a full frame digital version of the Canon VT with the hybrid finder like the X100 but with DIGIC 5 processor and autofocus which is a step up from the X100.

I would dare to suggest a camera like this would sell in comparatively large numbers, for a camera of  its type.

I'm guessing that it will not happen though, bit too retro for them.

I suppose the company which will do it will be Leica and it will end up costing the same amount as a small car.

As I left the Islington business centre there was a beautiful rainbow arcing over the sky which stopped many people in their tracks.

Canon had many fine products on show, but the particular model I really wanted to see was not there, nor does it actually definitely exist.

One end the rainbow was in Islington the other, at least for me lies in Hollywood where on 3rd November there will be (according to many sources on the net) an 'Historic announcement' by Canon.

I don't know what it is, but RED are making an announcement the same day, and Canon have opened a new technology centre in Hollywood.

All these factors could be unrelated and it might just be the launch of a printer, but I doubt it.

Only 8 days to go and we will all find out what 'It' is

Wednesday 26 October 2011

Day 1 at Canon pro Solutions and a dislike of Tomatoes

Thanks to all who came to my 'Crossing the Line' seminar at Canon Pro soloutions, I was speaking nominally about Canon XF305 and Final Cut Pro.

I do not claim to be an editor, let alone a trainer but I did speak a little about FCPX.

Now love it(and I do actually like it)or hate it(as quite a few people said they do) it is here and we might as well start to explore the possibilities of this new way of doing things.

What struck me was when I asked the audience how many people had used it and only one hand went up. Though there maybe a few points of contention, why on earth not at least give it a go?

My daughter Georgie does not like Tomatoes and I always joke with her that how does she know that she doesn't, as she has never actually tried one?

It seems to me that tomato syndrome could be taking hold......

More on the Canon Pro solutions show tomorrow 

Thursday 20 October 2011

What I have been doing....

I have been uncharacteristically quiet, posting very little.

Well I can tell you a little now

For the past 2 years I have been working on a documentary for TV

I produced the programme with a really outstanding team.

It took us to 8 countries and the long process of post production begins.

I can't say too much more here but I will be saying a little more at 'Canon Pro Solutions' next week where I will be presenting for Apple.

Why Canon Pro solutions? Well we shot the documentary on a pair of Canon XF305's one of which I rented from the Flash Centre, the other I own.

It is a cracking camera and if you are shooting something which could be broadcast it shoots in full 1080P HD at 50Mbs, the magic threshold for BBC HD broadcast.

Needless to say I will be blogging extensively about the project in the future

Wednesday 19 October 2011

Fuji X100 part 3

Readers of this blog may recall my initial musings about the Fuji X100

Upon first handling I was intrigued but I nominally gave the nod to the Sony NEX 5

And pointed out some of the X100's short comings.

Then why do I find myself looking at one on my coffee table, having shelled out a premium for this fabulous, if at times flawed, camera.

I cannot recall quite so much so much been written about a camera.

Though this is not why I bought it.

It is one of those Camera's which has actually been following me around, you know bumping into people who have one and to a man and woman they all have been passionate about their  X100, all had a certain glint in their eye, and talked about joy in their picture taking.

I took a call last week form a friend who is going to be working as a stills photographer on a major Hollywood production over the next few months, they asked me what I thought a good unobtrusive and silent choice for a camera alongside their Canon 5d's and I found myself suggesting they try out an X100.....and in the process I somehow persuaded myself to buy one.

Well a couple of weeks into ownership, I have no cause to regret my decision, not yet at least.

I have been lucky enough not to be affected by some of the issues which reportedly affected the early camera's, such as lock ups and pretty compromised firmware.

That is not to say it has all been plain sailing as I will explain.

Fuji have designed a truly beautiful camera, one which really looks and feels a cut above the rest, with some ground breaking features too, including it's clever hybrid viewfinder.

When I bought the camera I thought I would not use the EVF but I must say I find it so good I don't use the optical finder as often as I thought I would

It is compromised by a super baffling menu system, which does seem to take an age to navigate ones way around, battery life can be suspect too if you don't watch it, it caught me out today in fact.....

Battery indicator goes from three bars, to two bars, to flat in moments

It also needs a lot more horsepower in terms of how fast it is, write speed can be slow, and it's not possible to make any adjustments while it is writing to card, a glaring fault. 

Having spent a lot of the budget on look feel and build perhaps Fuji ran out of money for a decent processor inside the camera.

And while we are on the subject of speed and cards, I was initially caught out by a 40 second start up time, my first thoughts were 'what have I just bought?' 

What I have found out is it is very card sensitive, and when I switched the card out for a super fast 16gb Hoodman Raw Steel (named thus because it is steel reinforced and is so much more robust than other offerings which can be rather fragile) I found it improved matters no end, and providing I ALWAYS reformat the card in camera, it starts up in an acceptable second or so.

Autofocus is passable, in good light all is well, but in low light, the natural habitat of the X100, it can really struggle, even when you actively seek out points of contrast and AF friendly areas it can take two or three attempts to get focus, in which time the picture has often been missed. This, in my opinion, is the single biggest single failing of the camera
and the Manual focus is an act of cruel comedy so you can't reliably fall back on that either and I feel is best avoided as is the video mode, which is average.

Fuji have made something of a rod for their own back when some bright spark in the marketing Dept came up with the catch line 'the professionals choice'

Ok here we go, is it a full on pro camera?


Expect it to be and be prepared for the mother of all disappointments.

Can it be used on a Pro shoot? Certainly and I have been doing so, but for a particular type of photo.

A particular type of photo?

Well yes, in action the X100 is THE most unobtrusive camera I have ever used, not just because it has a silent mode, but somehow people are simply not quite so aware that you are shooting. When you use the X100 in silent mode you seem to don a Harry Potter esq cloak of invisibility, you just disappear, on more occasions than I can recall while filming my new documentary I was simply unaware that I was being photographed.

Here is my good friend Vu Bui, unaware I was shooting him...really!

Perhaps it is why it is such a hit in the film world, with Academy award nominated DP's and the like using them.

The camera has it's faults but I still bought one, and I did not buy the very capable Sony NEX.

The reason is soul, something the Fuji X100 has in spades but I have found curiously lacking when I have used the NEX, as good as it is.

All of this comes from a man who has owned five Alfa Romeo's, four rapidly dissolving Alfasuds and a tempetuos GTV6, not the most reliable of cars but goodness SOUL!

If any member of staff of Fuji is reading this, revel in the success that this camera has been, but please wake up to it's shortcomings which led me to tweet 

'Fuji X100.... a dim witted fool of a camera trapped in the most beautifully engineered body. I still like it though'

Words I stand by, but I would still heartily recommend this quirky, deeply flawed but charming camera

It dares to be different in a world of sameness, and delivers photographs that no other camera can. 


I'm waiting until I'm in a silent distraction free environment before I do this, as it does look rather more involved than updating the firmware on a Canon or Nikon, though it does claim to improve the AF...fingers crossed.

Wednesday 5 October 2011

Steve Jobs

Much has been said about Steve Jobs, his achievements and his untimely passing.

I feel I can add little to what has been said about this great man.

Let us reflect,not only his great life but how we live our own

In his very own words.

'“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”