Friday 31 May 2013

Big News with Magic Lantern and what it means to you.

I posted a few weeks ago about Magic Lantern and how it enabled me to shoot a multi day time lapse with a Canon 550D.

Little did I know what the rather clever team at ML had cooking - RAW video output for Canon DSLR's

RAW video on a DSLR - something that even the brilliant and considerably more expensive Canon C300 does not have the ability to do.

Shooting RAW gives another world of control when shooting stills as we all know, one can imagine it would do much the same for video, so a whole new world of possibilities for video shooters for free or next to nothing.

But this development has many implications - even if you do not shoot video.

Magic Lantern adds a whole load of functions to your Canon, which are of interest to stills shooters too, from an intervalometer to a customisable menu giving you the option of hiding the myriad feature that you never use, you can read all about it here.

We are all winners in this, but it has much wider implications, the biggest of which being that Canon are behind the curve of what is going on in the more adventurous sectors of the market.

I am sure that they know their excellent products are capable of the wonderful things that ML bring to their cameras, but choose not to implement them.

Perhaps there are good reasons, like the danger of frying your CMOS sensor?

But perhaps there are not?

The bottom line is Canon are not offering some users the features that they want and open up creative vistas.

Why no intervalometer as standard?

Why no customisable camera menu to hide all the stuff you don't use?

Right now EOS cameras are being 'developed' after market by ML, who are adding features that should have been there in the first place.

On one hand this is great for Canon, having such a fanatical enthusiast following, though I'm sure there have been some pretty fraught high level meetings at Canon HQ with the question being asked 'what do we do?' I hope their first port of call is not to try and lock their camera's down via firmware updates or call the lawyers.

They should really ask how it came to this?

If they asked me for advice (which I do not think they will be doing anytime soon) I would advise them to listen to what users want and face up to the fact that the smart phone has changed the landscape and they need to get with the program.

The Magic Lantern situation has pointed the way to new camera design, cameras that use apps and communicate with the cloud.

Samsung are making great strides in this area but so far have not fully applied this technology, a camera that has apps written for it....think of it?

Tim Cook stated that Apple has a 'surprise' in store for the Autumn, I find myself wondering if it might be a camera? After all they exist to be disruptive in established sectors.

And right now it is a sector which is ripe for a revolution, with so much old thinking at play.

The steps Canon have taken so far have been tentative to say the least, with wireless capability limited to a few(mainly compact)cameras.

Wireless is why I chose the excellent bargain basement Canon 6D over the 5D MkIII, saving myself the thick end of £1000 into the bargain(more of this at a later date, but it is enabling me to shoot pictures which one cannot be done any other way. My partner Lucinda is shooting a wedding in a couple of weeks time and will be shooting the exchanging of vows shot with a tripod mounted Canon 6D, on quiet mode, placed where no photographer is allowed, monitoring and triggering with her iPhone. Awesome technology that you can buy over the counter, plug and play - if you are a Canon user and want to do some really smart, different, shooting buy one now - it is a steal )

Winners in all of this?

The real winners in all this are you and I, with the exciting features that have been added, and exciting products which can surely only be just around the corner....

Monday 27 May 2013

Making the Camera disappear

Not quite as mystic as it sounds....but a phillosophy that has served me well.

An interview I did with Giles Babbidge on the excellent earlier this year which has just gone live.

It's an audio interview so it should not eat into your bank holiday Monday too much.

It covers....well just listen and you will get the picture.

Friday 24 May 2013

A Photographic Memory by Rachel Seed - Interviews with photographic legends

I met Rachel Seed when I was teaching at the Maine Media workshop in Camden, Maine.
As I go to know her better she shared a passion and remarkable personal project idea with  me.

Rachel tragically lost her mother at a very young age, so she never knew her mother.

As she grew up of course she had many questions that could not be answered.

Rachel and her Mother Sheila share a passion though.


Rachel's mother did something quite unique, she travelled extensively to conduct interviews with the very biggest name in photography.

Including Cartier Bresson, Don McCullin, Bruce Davidson, W. Eugene Smith.

Armed with the tapes she followed in her Mothers footsteps and interviewed the surviving photographers, and the widow of Cartier Bresson

To quote Rachel.

   ‘This project began when I uncovered some boxes of short films at my dad's house about the photographic icons Henri Cartier-Bresson, Bruce Davidson, Cornell Capa, Lisette Model, W. Eugene Smith, William Albert Allard, Don McCullin, and others. My mother, Sheila Turner-Seed had directed and edited the films in the early '70s. Since she died so long ago, I thought maybe I could learn more about her life if I retraced their origins.

Excerpt from Sheila's typed transcript of her interview with W. Eugene Smith.

I discovered that her raw interviews had been sitting like a time capsule at the International Center of Photography since 1979 when my dad sent them there for safekeeping. This led me to start A Photographic Memory, a film celebrating my mother's life and work, as well as ICP founder Cornell Capa's vision for photography. 

In A Photographic Memory, I go on a journey to learn – through our shared profession – about the mother I never knew but whom I so desperately need to know. My mother, Sheila, was an ambitious New York and London-based writer, editor and producer who died suddenly in 1979. I was 18 months old and she had completed, a few years earlier, a series of award-winning film programs about influential photographers that were co-produced by International Center of Photography founder Cornell Capa and Scholastic. After revisiting these photographers in New York, France and England or, if deceased, their closest associations, I am blending my mother’s 1970s interviews with my own footage, creating a posthumous mother-daughter collaboration that connects me to my mother while re-examining the course of the careers of some of the most influential photographers in the history of the medium’

Letter from Henri Cartier-Bresson to Sheila.

The trailer left me wanting to see more, not just because it offers a rare insight into the biggest names in photography, but because Rachel actually went out there and did it.

We ALL have at least one brilliant idea, but Rachel is making hers happen.

Someone asked the author Frederick Forsyth what advice would you give someone who wants to write a novel?

He paused and replied 'Sit down and write it'

I will be contributing to this Kickstarter as I want to see the finished project, and listen to the wisdom of all of those great shooters, and to see what Rachel discovered on her journey.

Monday 20 May 2013

Zeiss Touit - Review and Mini Shoot Out

So after a hectic weekend with still not enough time using the lenses, it is time to share my results and findings.

As a 'health warning' this should not be considered a full on review, more an extended hands on, in the real world, also it will be from a Fuji users perspective, as I am not a Sony user.

Touit, why?

Looking at it from the perspective of the Fuji and Sony, it was a good way of increasing the reach of the brand, offering more choice for the consumer.

Interestingly I was speaking to one camera dealer who was recounting to me how he gets a fair few prospective Leica M owners coming in to his shop. Firstly he breaks the news to them that supply is an issue and then there is the small matter of the price...So he offers them the Fuji X Pro1, quite a few have  opted to buy the Fuji, one can imagine that to the discerning customer, the option of a Fuji X Pro 1 sporting Zeiss glassware will be even more compelling.

From the the perspective of Zeiss, it is a huge untapped market, one which was ripe for it to enter.

The Zeiss 32mm in all its cutaway glory.

Construction and Appearance.

When comparing Zeiss 32mm to Fuji 35mm what strikes you straight away is the quality.

Perceived by the user, or otherwise, this is a factor.

The Zeiss is a little bigger, a little heavier which lends it a jewel like quality, the controls being better damped on the Zeiss with the movements on the aperture ring very crisp.

I have spoken about the importance of physical lens size previously and how the physically quite big Canon 'L' series 35mm F1.4 is a perfect fit as a result, lending great balance.

So it is with the Zeiss 32 F1.8 fitting a little more comfortably in my hand than the Fuji 35 F1.4.

The Touit range is a departure for Zeiss when compared to the ZE and ZF lenses, that they utilise rubber aperture and focusing rings.


A first for Zeiss - Autofocus.

It works well too, in my hands it felt every bit as good as the Fuji X lens, but then so it should this lens range is made with the full support of the camera manufacturers.

As a result of the co-operation with the manufacturers you will see that they do not step on the camera manufacturers toes, 32mm v 35mm....F1.8 v F1.4

Manual focus is via electronically coupled focusing ring, in something which has worked with varying degrees of success and something I have been suspicious of.

I'm happy to report that the Touit manual focus works very well on the Fuji and though I have no scientific data on this I was able to manually focus more easily than with the Fuji lenses.


Fuji make good lenses, I remain impressed by the performance of the Fuji lens on my X100, in-fact if you have been anywhere near a Hasselblad H series camera you will have used a Fuji lens, as they design and make the lenses.

So in the face of  good Fuji lenses why did Zeiss enter the fray?

I became more familiar with Zeiss lenses when I shot a short earlier this year and I was immediately impressed, to such an extent I have adopted Zeiss lenses for key assignments, this comes after decades of using Canon lenses. The Zeiss lens which I am using nearly everyday for panorama's is the Zeiss Distagon 15mm F2.8, lens so good that it displaces the Canon glass - Zeiss do make the best wide angle lenses, more of that in a future post. The important thing is my very positive experiences with Zeiss glass led me down the path of trying these lenses out.

Zeiss lenses have a look and feel about them which is just that little bit different, with lovely colours, contrast and sharpness, you have to try them to really 'get' what they are about, for there are subtleties which make a considerable difference.

Mini Shoot out.

All images shot on a Gitzo 5562LTS tripod with Manfrotto 405 head, using Fuji's own jpg straight from camera with no adjustments.

Firstly the Fuji 35mm wide open at F1.4.

At 100 percent

Now the Zeiss 32mm

Wide open at F1.8

At 100 percent

Not exactly comparing 'apples with apples' but I wanted to do a 'real world' test at each lenses widest aperture, something we all use when up against it in super low light. Advantage Zeiss - a massive difference just about everywhere you look.

 Fuji 35mm at F5.6

At 100 percent

Zeiss 32mm at F5.6

Now at 100 percent

Advantage Zeiss again but not by quite such a big margin, that said, you are seeing a degree of detail here that is not present with the Fuji.

Fuji 35mm at F16

Now at 100 percent

Now for the Zeiss 32mm at F16

Now at 100 percent

Close, very close. A comeback from the Fuji in the final 'round' really not that much in it.


Best you draw your own as you will be the one who buys and uses these lenses, one is very good, the other is excellent, the Zeiss clearly ahead until they hit F16.

The winners and the losers in this? A win for Zeiss lenses but a win too for Fuji, for it will be a shooter who is a real Leica fan with a fat wallet who buys a M series over a Zeiss equipped Fuji X Pro1(the X Pro2, along with some of the cool new features from the X100S, cannot be all that far away either)

The X pro 1 has been considerably enhanced by this funny sounding but great performing glass, which has a quality look and feel which is rare these days.

No matter when I finally hand them back it will be with a heavy heart.

With a keen eye on the launch date of the Fuji X Pro 2.

Keep an eye out for more real world samples I'll be posting later this week.

Thursday 16 May 2013

Zeiss Touit Lenses - The missing link with the Fuji X1 Pro

Followers of this blog will know that I have a Love/hate relationship (mostly Love) with the Fuji X100,  and sure as night follows day I will somehow find room in the, seemingly never ending, photo budget orgy for its updated and largely fixed younger brother the X100S.

The problem child in my often blinkered eyes was the X1 Pro, which floated many shooters boat, but not mine.

Why not? Its size (a little too big) and the loss of the silent leaf shutter in the X100 (entirely understandable as it would put its interchangeable lenses out of reach of many users)

So, a good camera but not one for me....until now.

How so?

Those purveyors of the very finest optics Carl Zeiss have just unleashed on the photographic world the  two lenses, a 12mm f2.8 and a 32mm f1.8, (which promises to turn into a family) in Fuji and Sony fit.

Their first auto focus effort too which is really very good, but more of that later.

Not to mention the manual focus controls which are uncommonly good.

Firstly let's get the name out of the way.

The range is called Touit.

Yes, really.

What is a Touit when it is at home?

To quote good old wikipedia

'Touit is a genus of Neotropical parrots in the Psittacidae family.

So there you have it, a parrot.

Doubtless it will baffle some and amuse others.

But those who laugh, the joke will indeed be on them, for Zeiss have struck gold with these remarkable lenses.

With superb image and build quality which many will be unfamiliar with.

I have not had chance to shoot so very much with them yet.

So how do I know they are good?

I used them today on a paid assignment and they just shone.

Crisp, contrasty with great colour.

Sadly as I have not even delivered them to the client yet I cannot share them but over the weekend I will be shooting more, and will share my conclusions with you.

Along with my thoughts on the wider implications of the introduction of these lenses.

4am start beckons, with assignments at opposite ends of the country so an early night for me.

More, much more after the weekend.

Sorry for the tease...think of it as delayed gratification.

Monday 13 May 2013

Drew Gardner Workshop 22nd and 23rd June, hosted by Frank Doorhof in the Netherlands.

While Frank and Anneweik Doorhof were over in the UK for Focus on imaging they dropped in for dinner.

Conversation turned to workshops, and Frank suggested that I might like to do a workshop in the Netherlands, and so it came to pass......

I'm excited as it is my very first workshop in the Netherlands and it will be over two days.

If you are on a budget you can book for one day, though the better value two day option will suit others.

You can book on Frank's website here.

It will be very special.

Friday 10 May 2013

Adobe CC - Hero or Villan?

Adobe in addition to knowing a thing or two about software, certainly knows how to stir up lively debate.

No one can deny that they make some fine software, that the vast majority of photographers use.

The software ship seemed to be sailing along just fine, with the option of subscribing to the software if you wanted access to a wide range of their software.

Then a bolt from the blue.

You can no longer buy the software.

You must subscribe to it.

Adobe's rationale does make a great deal of sense.

No more software piracy, a CFO's dream of a constant monthly income stream, no more printed DVD's

Putting Adobe well and truly in the driving seat.

Not only for the company does it make sense, for top end working pro's it could be a money saving boon, always having the latest and greatest from the software giant.

On the other hand, there will be some people who like buying and owning software, without a monthly payment leaving their bank account.

If you are broke and you hit hard times, Adobe will deactivate your software.

Leaving you few options to earn your way out of a financial hole.

I do know shooters in this unhappy situation too.

Without Adobe the photographic world would be a much unhappier place, but you do have to question any manufacturer who takes away a buyers choice and imposes a new way of distributing software, no matter how appealing it may seem.

Old hands like myself may recall this is not the first time that Adobe has ruffled feathers in the photograph world.

Remember Adobe stock photos? It was greeted by swathes of the photographic community with the same enthusiasm that one would greet a rabid leper, and though it does still exist, as a result of the furore, it was somewhat kicked into the long grass.

There is always a challenge when you are the in disputed market leader, you can become a little, dare I say it, disconnected from your customers, with more than a slight whiff of schadenfreude.

Are Adobe guilty of this? I will let you decide.

There is a bigger issue here though, competition breeds success.

And when it comes to Photoshop, Adobe does not have a great deal of competition - yet.


Adobe may well have uncorked the bottle and the genie may well be out there - not wanting to go back in quite so easily.

They just may have opened the door for a clever start up to offer similar software that you can buy out right.

There may come a day when photographers use something other than Photoshop.

This may seem far fetched, but consider for a moment Microsoft Office and Excel

Every but every computer had this software installed, but little by little it is not quite so vital anymore, with its market share being eroded by affordable and compelling alternatives like Pages and Numbers.

So Photoshop you HAVE to subscribe to but it is rather interesting to note that you don't have to subscribe to Lightroom.



Photoshop has an opposition which is about as unified as the Judean people's front and the popular front of Judea were in ousting the Romans in the wonderful 'Life of Brian'.

Lightroom faces opposition which is vibrant and compelling, Capture One 7 and DXO to name but two, keeping Adobe honest and giving them a good run for their money.

I reckon Adobe will stay top of the tree, with many seeing CC as a bargain.

But equally I believe that there will be a small but vocal community of users who do not wish to be compelled to pay a monthly subscription if they want to use the software.

In the next couple of years it will be interesting to see if Adobe faces competition which makes them rethink this approach which many will like and make others feel left out in the cold.

Monday 6 May 2013

Magic Lantern - Transforming a Canon 550d (or T2i) into a great budget time-lapse DSLR, and so very much more too.

I'm set to be shooting a multi angle time lapse of the installation of a rather expensive piece of industrial machinery.

It will be shot over 10 days too, so all the experience gained in my yet to be shown forced rhubarb time lapse should come in very handy.

Primary position will be covered off with a Canon 5d MkI, with a Canon TC-80N3 and powered with a mains adaptor Canon ECK-E2,  the super wide interior shot will be covered off with a GoPro Hero 2 with a clever little mod of a time-lapse intervalometer from, this combo will be powered by a 16,000 mAh iSound battery, which in turn will be plugged into the mains, charging as it powers the GoPro. This is a great back up just incase there is any sort of power outage and should keep going no matter what, I used this combo in the Far East on some fun little time lapses. I need a third angle too, what camera should I use? I do need a a tighter shot, so a DSLR is the order of the day, but I don't really want to sacrifice the shutter of a 5d MkII.

I remembered I had a Canon 550d knocking around somewhere, it had after all been used to great effect alongside a Canon 5d MkII on the South African township project, you can see more about the project on the Canon CPN site

A brief excavation of a distant cupboard revealed this long lost rarely used camera, with a couple of batteries, but alas no intervalometer. After hunting high and low it could not be located.

I thought I would do a quick web search for a suitable 'budget' intervalometer, I saw a few on offer which would do the job but looked pretty nasty too. One page click in I found a reference to Magic Lantern software giving the 550d amongst many other things time lapse capabilities.

I have always been a little sceptical about putting something like this on one of my Canon DSLR's, I mean it should be ok but.......

On this occasion though curiosity got the better of me, after all what did I have to lose? The camera had been effectively out of commission for some months.

What is exactly is Magic Lantern and more importantly what does it do?

'Magic Lantern is a software enhancement that offers increased functionality to the excellent Canon DSLR cameras. We have created an open framework, licensed under GPL, for developing extensions to the official firmware.

Magic Lantern is not a "hack", or a modified firmware, it is an independent program that runs alongside Canon's own software. Each time you start your camera, Magic Lantern is loaded from your memory card. Our only modification was to enable the ability to run software from the memory card.

ML is being developed by photo and video enthusiasts, adding functionality such as: HDR images and video, timelapse, motion detection, focus assist tools, manual audio controls and much more too'

Here is a very handy installation video which I found very useful.

Magic Lantern Install Tutorial from Chadwick Shoults on Vimeo.

If you feel like giving it a go you can download it here (at your own risk blah, blah etc)

Things got off to an inauspicious start, as after downloading the software it would not install on the camera...a never ending loop red LED flashing on the back of the camera eluded to something not going to plan. The small matter of following the instructions rectified the situation, it turns out the firmware of my camera had was ancient therefore incompatible with the latest version of Magic Lantern, also I was trying to install Magic Lantern on a 64gb card, which is not compatible with.
By the way, during my time lapse investigations I did try a 64gb card in a GoPro hero 2, which as the manufacturer says is incompatible with the Hero 2, you will see at least one YouTube demonstration of it working successfully, sadly the demo is flawed as they do not show the part where they try to download the corrupt images from the card, nor the counter stalling at 1000 ish images in. Listen to the manufacturer on this one......

Back to my Canon 550d experience, I'm pleased to report that the time-lapse feature works a treat, I have not yet had time to explore the (many!) other features that ML has bought to the party.
I even managed to score a Canon ACK-E8 mains adaptor on Ebay, putting multi day time lapses well within my grasp.

With the never ending tide of the latest and greatest offerings from the manufacturers, the secondhand hand price of obsolete camera's plummets.

A brief foray onto to Ebay revealed just how low those prices are, with a sample of the excellent Canon 5d Mk1 in excellent condition going for around £400, while the Canon 550d going for around £250, less than a GoPro Hero 3.

I know I'm not strictly comparing 'apples with apples' and each camera is suited to different roles, but you get where I'm coming from.

Before splashing out a ton of money on a camera which you may be paying for for months or years to come, check out sea of bargain basement 'old hat' DSLR's out there just waiting to be repurposed.

Think of all the fancy glass you can buy with the money you have saved.

Thursday 2 May 2013

Don't miss this one! Frank Doorhof tour of the UK

I met Frank Doorhof a few years ago in Holland.

As you can see he is a damn fine shooter.

To be honest I knew very little about him and what he was about, over the years I have seen him at work in seminars and I believe he is one of the very few people out there who gives seminars where the information is directly applicable to your own photography. Added to which some of the results achieved live on stage in front of a large audience are truly special. As the lighting wizard Dave Black  said when we sat in on one of Frank's seminars 'I know very few people who can create such beautiful photographs at a seminar in front of a very large audience'

High praise indeed.

You may even have caught him at The Flash Centre stand at Focus on imaging this year.

He has bags of energy and I defy anyone not to be moved into action by the man, he made me feel positively lazy and lacking in motivation (really!) and that I should get off my backside and SHOOT SOMETHING NOW!

So, a very talented Mr Motivator.

As you may have guessed from his name that he does not come from the UK, but this month Frank is doing a tour of the UK with shows in London, The Midlands and Edinburgh.

I reckon these shows are really good value.

If you feel like honing your lighting skills and perhaps more importantly rekindle your photo mojo, try and catch one near you, you will not regret it.

I will leave you with the words of Matt Kloskowski

“Frank is an absolute lighting genius. His vision, creativity, knowledge and casual style make him one of the best instructors out there today. If you get a chance to take a class with Frank, then jump on it! You won’t regret it”