Friday, August 07, 2015

Sheephouse Sells Out

Look . . . I KNOW . . . OK? 
Can we call an end to this stupid attitude and let me just get on with writing this? 
Can we? Really? 
You've bugged the bahookie off me since it happened. 
I know. 
I lapsed. 
But things might work out all right. 
You never know - you just have to keep hoping and trying, and realise that we are now in line with 98% of the modern world. 
'Scuse me a minute. 
There's someone knocking. 
Hold on, be back in a tick . . .



Oh, it's you - come on in.

Here the reader is presented with two different scenarios.

Yer Sheephouse is standing, dishevelled, in his old GAP hoody, combats, felt slippers and a bemused look on his face wondering who the hell you are and why daylight has appeared.

Yer Sheephouse is standing, dishevelled, in his old GAP hoody, combats, felt slippers and a bemused look on his face holding a Digital Camera and muttering to himself.

Sadly folks, it's the latter. SHEEPY HAS GONE DIGITAL!

I know - you read the convo at the start of this and it is still continuing, because I realise I have bought into something which produces only prints and electronical images and that, to me, is anathema - what you 'capture' doesn't physically exist until it is printed (I know you can say the same about undeveloped film, but at least you have a coated piece of plastic sitting, waiting, laced with potential)
Yep, after all this time banging on about craft skills and permanence and quality, I go and slip and buy into prosumer land.
I sell out to 'The Man'!
Well, not quite - I still have 14 film cameras and a fridge full of film, so my intent is clear and film still rules for me . . but all the same - a 'sell-out' - Jeez, I couldn't have seen that one coming.
No one is more surprised than me, seriously.
I've actually given myself a bad time about this, because it is so uncharacteristic, but it was done for a reason (promise) - however all the same, I can't help feeling that the massed ghosts of photographers from times past that haunt Ye Olde Sheephouse Study have given me a mighty, ethereal "Hurumph!" and moved off quietly to haunt another passionate photographer.
It feels that bad.


Worry not though film fans - I'm sure normal service will be resumed as soon as possible, however in the meantime, want to talk about my new toy? Eh? Eh??

Well, you might be asking:
"Whatcha got Sheepy?
A BG 56778872, with a 12-947mm f1.2-f22 Mega-Zhhoooom?
A Super-Toast 960D Mk 15 with a Triple Mega Macro and 675 Million Effective Megapixels?
A Yamotomato FX-PK 2 Mk 1 with 1080p and a built-in tea trolley?
Ah no, don't tell me . . a Mull Pixel-Magic 2.1, with free Satellite Phone Capability?
Well, well?"
Er . . cough . . no.
It's a Canon EOS 50D with a 40mm EF f2.8 Prime.
And that's it.
It's a conservative choice, but that is just me, and I spent a vast amount of time looking into it, so, from my own experience I hereby set out my table and offer up to you:


1./ Don't Buy A New Camera Unless You Really Really Have To.
Why? well, the whole photographic world is in a state of flux. Gone are the days when you could proudly buy an M2 and expect it to be handed down to your children. These days, Digicams are marketed for bacteria, or so it seems, with enough model upgrades to render two years ago's marvel a total brick (in the eyes of the salesmen). And yet, as I found, new, isn't always necessarily better. There's a TON of nearly old models out there that will do the job quite nicely, and they don't have to enter the stratospheric price bracket either.

2./ Be Prepared To Compromise.
I wanted a full-frame, I really did, after all, all this fecking about with fecking focal length conversion factors is just so totally bloody stupid. However, I also realised that (coming from my film background whereby 40 year old Nikons and a 55 year old Leica are in regular use) for my purposes, effectively, ALL digital cameras are disposable. Therefore I went for the Canon's cropped sensor, because it was cheaper and newer than the EOS 1D's I was looking at.
If I find I like the process, maybe later on, I'll go full frame and take the lens with me . . watch this space.

3./  The Real Value Is In The Glass
Try and get a great deal on a great optic and if you can, spend at least as much or more than you would on the camera.
Sadly I didn't follow my own advice, however it was with reason - the Canon 40mm is a very good optic at a bargain price (£95 NEW with Canon Cashback . . you could buy nearly 2 pairs of Posh British-Made Boxer Shorts for that you know, or 30 pairs of Tesco's ones) - it will also cover full-frame if need be.
At the moment on the stupid cropped sensor it is equivalent to a 62mm, so a little on the long side, however I'll do an Ernst Haas - "Two steps back and look for the 'ah-ha!'"

4./  Zooooooom = Dooooooom!
As per film days - avoid zooms. Basically at the end of the day, no matter their perceived usefulness, every zoom I have ever used has been a huge and ugly nuisance, and roughly (I say roughly - there are some superb optics out there at a price) to a man and especially with 'kit' zooms, the quality of image made with them is a huge compromise. So do yourself a favour, as per film days, buy prime lenses. They're not cheap, but they'll hold their value better - from film days, the pre-Ai Nikkor 80-200mm zoom - actually an excellent lens, is worth exactly peanuts, whereas a 50mm 1.4 Nikkor keeps rising in value, because it is an uncompromised lens and provides incredible image quality.
So, primes it is - you know it makes sense.

5./  Know Your Onions.
How easy is it to research things these days? About as easy as stuffing that piece of toast into yer gob. As with anything, you have to do some homework - there is no shortage of information out there, so you should be able to narrow things down quite easily, with a bit of judiscious scroobling around.

6./ If You Can - Avoid Auctions.
Yes, I know, they are tempting and there's some seemingly good/great bargains out there, but unless you are very careful you could be being sold a pup.If you're buying new on t'Bay, there's a ton of Grey market products which aren't covered by UK Distributor warranties (though obviously there are scrupulous UK dealers on there, but they tend to price inline with normal pricing).
If you're buying secondhand, you only have the word of the vendor that the item is in good condition - can you afford the time, disappointment, postage and hassle of returning an item (assuming they are prepared to have it back)?
I've bought eBay items described as mint, and they weren't, not by a long shot. so, my choice would be to buy from a reputable dealer with a good grading system and a decent returns policy and guarantee (as per film days). You can even get a years guarantee from certain places on secondhand items, which is OUTSTANDING for a piece of disposable electronic equipment.
Why do I recommend specialised photographic dealers? Well, as I have found, most of them are quite willing to let you know how many actuations your shutter has had. [Gone are the days of a shutter lasting for huge amounts of time, oh no, these days shutter life-spans are measured in actuations and some of the 'bargains' out there are quite possibly on their last legs if you find out their life expectancy. My Canon is a mid-range 'prosumer' model and as such is rated for 100,000 actuations. Mine had around 5,000 - so not too bad in the scheme of things. Presumably the lack of longevity is down to the machinegun-like properties of spray and pray photography.]
Allied to this a dealers reputation rests on their customer service - happy customers are more likely to return - therefore it is important to provide sterling service. When I bought the EOS that is exactly what I received - a years' guarantee, a very conservative grading (it was virtually mint), fast shipping, and the piece of mind that comes from buying from somewhere reputable, so thank you WEX.

7./ If You Have Friends, Speak To Them.
You can't beat personal recommendation and possibly being able to get your hands on something equivalent. My friend Steve embraced digital photography years and years ago - he's bought about a billion tons of gear, so he knows his stuff. He recommended I should either go for the Canon EOS 50D or the Nikon D90. I missed out on a very low usage D90, so plumped for the EOS. His recommendation was that being a mid-range model, the build was considerably better than the 'Rebel' range (EOS 100D/1200D et al) - I trusted him and he was right.
The 50D is a very solid little camera indeed, and without a massive zoom pointing out the front [like an accident with your Y-Fronts] it is very neat and tidy.

8./ Simple Is Better.
You'll not achieve this.
Every single digicam out there has more options than you will ever need to take a simple photograph. It does my wig in. I don't know how these design departments work, but I guarantee I could design a better camera and I am not a designer!
In your research, try and find a camera where the things you need most are easily accessible from a simple button push/knob turn. When you have to start accessing menus and all that shite, time gets wasted.
Lets put it this way, my Leica involves exactly 5 things to use it:
Wind On The film.
Set Shutter Speed.
Set Aperture.
Take Picture.

9./ You Don't Need A Machine Gun.
As far as I can tell - every camera seems to be marketed at frame-rats © - you know, the people that love the amount you can ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah at a subject. Like an Uzi-toting Arnie striding into a room and spraying bullets everywhere, so it seems you can't avoid the idea that being able to chop light into tiny, co-joined, increments in the hope of getting an image is the way to be a better photographer.
To this I will say one thing:
The Decisive Moment.
You're probably not a sports photographer, or a bird-specialist photographer, so don't waste your time going for a camera that can stuff those little digital pieces up the buffer pipe at a rate of knots.
As with film days:
Quality, Not Quantity.

10./ But It's Only 15 Megapixels.
This is a thorny one as 'technology' is improving all the time, however, the general concensus seems to be that around 12 Megapixels is pretty much all you need. More MPs means larger file sizes, means greater storage, means better processing power from your PC and Camera, and at the end of the day, you're probably only going to be taking your memory card to a local print house (or doing it yourself) to an average size of (sic.) 8x10". You don't need a huge file to get pleasing results. A lot of fine images were made with the old Canon EOS 1Ds and that only had 11 MPs . .
If you're like me, you won't be printing posters, so don't sweat the thoughts of lack of MPs - it matters less than you think.
Your biggest robbers of image quality will be noise-reduction, high ISO speeds and sharpening.
Oh and shite images.

11./ Read The Manual.
Ok - I know I said 10 parts, but really, as with anything in life - READ THE MANUAL! It's confusing as feck, but has to be done, because when you are done, you can cheerfully forget all the useless bits of tossy software and menus you won't be using anyway, and use it to light that campfire and have a nice brew.


So there - that's fairly friendly isn't it. If it doesn't meet any of your criteria or I have left anything hanging, it's only because this is my own thinking about things. I know it's not as in-depth or as 'user-friendly' as the likes of Thom Hogan and Ken Rockwell and all those other guys doing sterling work posting every single feature, but then as far as I am concerned there's a VAST amount of superflous fluff involved with digicams - stuff that makes you go "Oooh, it's gotta have a 26K frame rate on a 15 minute charge battery, and be able to print to A0 and beyond, and a built-in triple-sensor brain improver and eye-co-ordinator". Basically stuff that just gets in the way.
Honestly, I could go on, but I won't - there's bound to be loads of shite my addled brain has missed in this that might become important on a longer term basis, but at the end of the day:

What you want with a camera is a light tight (sic) box, with a good lens and intuitive controls that let YOU take control of the picture-making process and not the other way round. Simplicity is the order of the day. 
YOU control the camera, the camera does not control you.


So that's it for now folks. The ambulance is coming 'round soon and I hear they have a rather nice long-sleeved jacket for me and some yummy tablets.
Maybe when I get let out again, my memory cards will have arrived and I'll be able to show you some of the fruits of my colour labours.
Oh yes Technicolor Sheephouse is on the move . . . now where did I put those fruit Spangles?


  1. Go to the naughty step at once!

  2. I'm on it (mentally) already . . .

  3. You'll not get a hard time from me, Phil - provided you only use it for colour! If I see a black and white digital image anywhere near your being, I'll come round your place and kneecap you. Digital cameras have their uses, there's no doubt about it. I just photographed a flat my brother is selling with my Nikon DSLR. It would have been a right nuisance with a colour print film mainly because of the need to balance daylight and flash. And if I were a colour photographer I reckon I'd still be using digital as I've never got anything remotely half decent from commercially produced colour prints and the thought of doing it myself gives me the heebie jeebies. Good luck getting to grips with the Canon. Just remember, though - no black and white!!

  4. Oh go on - I promise to process my CF card in some 1:50 Rodinal . . .

  5. Looking forward to reading your thoughts 3 months down the road, Phil.

    We have a D600 at home which is only used for stuff like what Bruce said above. I have not once had the urge to use it for my "proper" photography.


  6. Hi Omar - I know. I really am viewing this as a colour project as I have become a bit frustrated with my old amorphous 'what is it' style of picture in B&W. I do think this can move me on further as it were, but we shall see. As they say in football, 3 months is a long time in photography . . .
    Don't worry though - I've still got plenty of 'proper' life left in me!

  7. That 40mm lens is great. Also, ignore Mr Robbins above - the Canons do a very good in camera B&W conversion for the JPEGs.

    Like you, I bought into digital with a discontinued camera, but I went for the larger viewfinder magnification that was not full frame (I am a bit of a cheapskate). The 7D; I tried a friend's and the price equates to about 50 rolls of slide film

  8. Hi Ravi - yes I agree, the 40mm is somewhat of a bargain in lens terms - I rather like what I have seen with it so far - the only thing is I just can't get used to no DOF scale, so I suppose there is a trade-off for its price. It is very sharp though, and its out of focus qualities are really excellent.

    Not tried the B&W in camera yet - I fear I might end up with people camping outside my house and placards and tear gas and such-like!

  9. I was tempted to make the switch myself today as I struggled again to load a 120 film onto a Jobo reel whilst realising that there was way too much light streaming into the "dark" room.

  10. I love 120 Kevin - don't do it. My tips for loading are as follows:

    Scrupulously clean your reels after every use - I use fairy liquid and a small nailbrush - works great.
    The big one though, is .. you know the natural curve of the film? If you can bend a crease right across the leasing edge of your film about 3mm from the front, opposite to the natural curve of the film . . basically so that it points up the way rather than down the way and then load that into your real. The upward turn works against the films natural tendency to cling to the reel - sounds daft but it works beautifully - practice with an offcut first though!

  11. Forgot to say Kevin - as for the light-room . .well you know I've operated in none too light-tight darkrooms - if it isn't too light, just moving your body inbetween your film and the leaks is often sufficient enough to make a difference. I've even tray-processed 5x4 in darkness with a faint grey glow coming round the edges of the door - not recommended, but not much fog either . . .

  12. I'm a 50 d canon user .It's a super machine for me . The lens I'm always surround with is the pancake Canon 40mmm . Very good for portraits and close- coming moments ! All my other 10 camera's are .....analogue ...

    tjen dezutter

  13. Hi Tjen - I'm looking forward to using the combo more intensively - what I have seen so far I like - the 40mm is quite a bargain isn't it!

  14. "9./ You Don't Need A Machine Gun.
    As far as I can tell - every camera seems to be marketed at frame-rats © - you know, the people that love the amount you can ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah at a subject. Like an Uzi-toting Arnie striding into a room and spraying bullets everywhere, so it seems you can't avoid the idea that being able to chop light into tiny, co-joined, increments in the hope of getting an image is the way to be a better photographer.
    To this I will say one thing:
    The Decisive Moment.
    You're probably not a sports photographer, or a bird-specialist photographer, so don't waste your time going for a camera that can stuff those little digital pieces up the buffer pipe at a rate of knots.
    As with film days:
    Quality, Not Quantity."

    Well, here's a video of a Canon EOS 1n blowing through a roll of Agfa CT Precisa 100 at 10fps:

  15. Yep - frightening isn't it!
    I always thought motor-drives were of questionable use to be honest, unless you really did need to stop that bird, or that ball as it went over the line. But that's my point - unless you're doing that, why the hell do you need one?


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