Amazon Delivering Live Lobsters.

From today’s Sunday Times:
“Amazon is marketing live lobsters for home delivery, meaning the creatures spend days in a box as couriers drive them around the country.”

Link to original article (Paywall):

Amazon delivers ordeal for lobsters

Amazon delivers ordeal for lobsters

Amazon is marketing live lobsters for home delivery, meaning the creatures spend days in a box as couriers drive them around the country. The Canadian creatures sell for £46.49 each, including…

Source: www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/news/amazon-delivers-ordeal-for-lobsters-37j28fwcr

 

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Engineered Meat?

This piece in today’s WikiTribune sheds some light on the future of lab-grown meat. Looks like it has promise:

Lab-grown meat: how can we satisfy future demand?

Lab-grown meat: how can we satisfy future demand?

By 2050 global meat consumption is predicted to double. One scientist thinks he may have the solution

Source: www.wikitribune.com/story/2017/07/18/science/meat-future-demand/995/

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Using Mamiya RB Lenses on an RZ


For obscure reasons, I decided to try an RB lens on my RZ. So I got a hold of a mint 90mm Sekor C from eBay.

The lens produced nice crisp images – from this point of view I was happy with it. It was also less expensive than a similar condition RZ lens.

One of the other benefits is that the mirror-up function is simpler than the RZ lenses – you just turn a knob on the barrel through 90 degrees and it’s ready to go.

The RB lenses are all-mechanical. Unlike RZ lenses, you set the shutter speed on the lens. (It doesn’t matter what shutter speed you set on the RZ body – the light baffle in the body opens and stays open, letting the light in regardless of the speed on the lens.)

Anyway, I was so pleased with the 90 that I went ahead and bought a 50, 65 and 250.

Then I ran into a problem: the 90mm jammed onto the RZ body. I tried for several minutes but nothing I could do would free it. Eventually, through some random combination of cycling the film wind-on lever and rotating the locking ring, I got the lens off. I was quite relieved, having had visions of having to send the whole lot off to a repairer.

I subsequently read that RB lenses frequently jam on and people have to take drastic measures to remove them. This put me off the whole idea of RB lenses so I have decided to sell all 4 and replace them with RZ glass.

So there you go. A cautionary tale. RB lenses will work on an RZ body but you’ll be taking your chances…

 

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HIIT

I was reading a blog post about HIIT on Steve H. Graham’s website yesterday when I remembered that Andrew Marr had a stroke whilst doing it (HIIT).

HIIT stands for High-Intensity Interval training. The general idea is that instead of exercising for long periods at low intensity, you do intervals of twenty seconds or thereabouts at maximum effort.

The main benefit is that you don’t have to train for so long each time, yet you get all the benefits (And more) of prolonged aerobic exercise:

  • You burn more calories overall
  • Lowered blood pressure
  • Increased mitochondria count (Not sure what this does but it sounds like it should be good.)
  • Increased endurance
  • Increased telomerase, which protects telomeres
  • Increased production of human growth hormone

A recumbent exercise bike is ideal for HIIT. Fortunately I have one. I just haven’t figured how to use it yet.

My under-utilised recumbent bike.

Anyway, I plan on starting an HIIT programme soon. I hope to see the benefits quickly, particularly the increased sense of wellbeing that comes with regular exercise. I also hope to lose a bit of weight and not die of an electrical cardiac malfunction. I’ll let you know how I get on.

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Buying & selling cameras on eBay

How to buy and sell camera gear on eBay without getting burned.

Buying

  • Valuation
    Before you do anything, go to eBay Advanced Search, check the ‘Sold’ checkbox and search for the camera / lens / whatever you want to purchase. The results will give you a good indication of the actual market value of the equipment you’re looking for, meaning you should be able to avoid paying over the odds for it.
  • Auction Versus Fixed Price
    Auctions are always better than fixed price sales. Items sold by auction are almost always less expensive to buy than fixed price ones. Sellers listing cameras for a fixed price usually list them for top-dollar. It’s true that most decent camera gear is now sold this way on eBay but if you’re not in a hurry, the thing you’re looking for will come up in an auction sale sooner or later. It pays (literally) to be patient.
  • Check Feedback
    Check the seller’s feedback carefully before buying. Less than 99.5% is a bad feedback score. If you’re splashing out on a pricy camera or lens, you want it to be in good condition. Some sellers are less than complete in their description of the item for sale. Past feedback from buyers should point to the honesty or otherwise of the seller. (There’s a separate tab for feedback as a seller and a buyer. The ‘Seller’ tab is the one you should read.)
  • Compacts and Lower-End Stuff
    Be especially careful when buying compact cameras or lower-end stuff: owners tend not to be keen photographers and often won’t realise their equipment has faults. Higher-end equipment tends to be owned by enthusiasts who know what their camera is supposed to do. They also, in my experience, tend to look after their hardware better than happy snappers.
  • Avoiding Bidding Wars
    Sometimes you will find that there’s another prospective buyer out there who wants the same item you’re bidding on. This can lead to a bidding war, where back-and-forth bids raise the price substantially. The way to avoid this is to use AuctionSniper.com. This website lets you decide how much you want to pay for your camera and it then places a bid in the last few seconds of the auction. They take 1% of the sale price as commission but it almost always saves you money in my experience.
  • Check It Over
    When your camera arrives in the post, open the parcel immediately and thoroughly check it over. Any faults that weren’t listed in the advert mean you need to contact the seller and ask for either a partial refund (If you want to keep it) or request a return. Always use eBay’s own messaging system when contacting sellers about faults. If you use personal email, eBay has no record of communication, which is important if you end up having to open a dispute.

Selling

  • Valuation Again
    As with buying, it’s a good idea to look at eBay’s Advanced Search > Sold option to find out what your gear is worth before you list it.
  • Fixed Price is Better than Aucion
    In my experience, you will always get more for your camera in a fixed price sale. Although some auctions raise good prices for equipment,they tend to be hit-or-miss compared to fixed price sales.
  • Long Listing
    The longer your item is listed for, the better your chances of raising the price you want. More potential buyers will view your camera over 30 days than 7 days.
  • Photographs
    The more photographs you can put in your ad, the better. People like to see what they’re getting for their money. I size my eBay photographs to 2000 pixels wide before submitting them. eBay will resize them but 2000 seems to be about right.
  • Cleanliness
    Clean your camera  / lens before photographing it. Little bits of dirt and dust are usually very apparent in big images and will put buyers off. A soft cloth and some compressed air make all the difference.
  • Completeness
    Be honest in your description. If there are any mechannical or cosmetic faults, list them in your ad. Failure to do so will most likely result in a complaint from the buyer. You really don’t want to get into a dispute or receive bad feedback.
  • Pack it Well
    Robust boxes are a must. I prefer double-walled ones. (I once had a film holder arrive broken because I sent it in a weak box.) Scrunched-up newspaper makes good packing. Don’t leave any space in the box for your precious gear to rattle around in.
  • Insure it
    Royal Mail’s Special Delivery gives you free cover up to £500, plus optional cover to £10,000 for an additional fee. You could also use Parcel2Go.com and get your parcel insured there, though their insurance is quite pricey. (They are good for sending stuff overseas though.)

…and that’s about it.

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Commercial Photography

I spent some time today looking at local commercial photographers’ websites.

Some notes:

  1. There’s a lot of competition.
  2. To some extent, all commercial photographers in central Scotland are Jack of all trades.
  3. The majority specialise in one area – e.g. architecture; still-life; industrial and so on.
  4. The quality of websites is variable: one or two are excellent but most are distinctly average.

Commercial photography is something I’ve thought about doing myself off and on over the years. However, I have enough of an income to get by on for now, so I’m not planning anything. Besides which I think it’s possible that doing something you love for a living might take the sparkle out of it.

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Rock Concerts

In 2013 I went to see Neil Young in Glasgow. He was touring his new album, Psychedelic Pill.

As experiences go, it was rather mixed: the music was great – great sound too. But we were in the standing part of the venue, which meant being so surrounded by other fans so packed in that you couldn’t move more than a couple of inches in any direction. There was also the (Completely hammered) guy directly in front of me wobbling about and shouting incomprehensible nonsense throughout the concert and raising his glass of beer over the heads of the people in front of him.

There are a few other bands I’d like to see while they’re still around but next time it’ll be in an all-seated venue like the Armadillo.

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Nikon 35Ti Quick Review

Nikon 35Ti
Nikon 35Ti

This came in the post last week. I got it on eBay in my ongoing quest to find a decent pocket film camera. I had previously purchased a Ricoh GR1v but it seems a bit fragile, with lots of reports of the LCD breaking amongst other things, so I thought I’d try a 35Ti.

The little Nikon gets good reviews and while I’ve seen a couple for parts on eBay, from what I can make out it’s a lot more robust than the Ricoh.

Lens

It’s a 35mm f2.8. I haven’t had any film developed from it yet but sample images I’ve seen on the internet look sharp and contrasty. Minimum aperture is f22.

It has what looks like a metal cover that retracts when you power the camera up. The lens protrudes a centimetre or so from the body when in use. I prefer a 35mm to the 28mm of the Ricoh, which is just a bit too wide for my liking.

Metering

It uses Nikon’s Matrix system, which is reportedly quite good even in difficult lighting.  You can choose Program or Aperture Priority modes, which are selected from the power On/ Off switch on the top of the camera.

Exposure Compensation

You can vary exposure by plus or minus two stops. You have to hold down a small button and turn the control wheel on the top plate. It’s a bit fiddly compared to the Ricoh.

Flash

The flash is either always on, always off or auto. I never use flash so I can’t say how effective it is. Control is by two tiny buttons on the front left of the body. They’re not easy to operate.

Panorama

It has a switch for panorama mode. All this does is to move a blind into place which blanks of the top and bottom of the frame when you expose the image. Not hugely useful.

The panorama switch is to the right of the viewfinder.
The panorama switch is to the right of the viewfinder.

Construction

The body is made from titanium. It’s reasonably light. The control buttons and wheels look reasonably robust with the exception of the latch which keeps the back shut – this is a flimsy affair and looks like it would be easy to break.

Focusing

Autofocus is controlled by two sensors on the front of the camera, to the left of the viewfinder. The autofocus target in the viewfinder is a small oval. The focus motors are quite noisy.

You can also manually set the focus distance by pressing the ‘AF’ button and turning the control wheel. Again, this is quite fiddly.

Dials

The dials aren't hugely useful
The dials aren’t hugely useful

A small set of analogue dials on the top plate shows you focus distance, exposure compensation, aperture and something else I haven’t figured out yet. It’s not hugely user-friendly and is of limited use since the information displayed here can’t be seen when you’re looking through the viewfinder, which is when it matters. It looks nice though.

Viewfinder

Not a great photograph but you can see the focus target and (Faintly) the parallax marks.
Not a great photograph but you can see the focus target and (Faintly) the parallax marks. The red hue of the lines is due to the viewfinder illumination button being pressed.

The viewfinder has bright lines for framing. It also incorporates:

  • Parallax marks for close focusing
  • Shutter speed (Not displayed elsewhere on the camera)
  • Exposure compensation signifier
  • Autofocus target

There’s a button on top of the camera which illuminates the bright lines and other markings in low light.

Dimensions

118 x 66 x 36mm

Summary

It seems like a good pocket camera. Fairly robust, with a good lens and some control over exposure and focusing. It has a better reputation for reliability than the Ricoh GR1 cameras.

On the down side, it’s not as compact as my GR1 or Olympus XA. I can live with that in exchange for durability though.

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Ricoh GR1v Quick Review

img_0318

I bought this camera on eBay a few days ago. It cost me £320. I used to have a GR1 but lost it so this is a replacement. The GR1 was a great little camera and I took a lot of photographs that I liked with it.

img_0324

Anyway, this one was advertised as being in excellent condition and the price looked good. I did a few quick checks on receiving it and mechanically it seemed okay so I put a roll of Tri-X into to it and quickly finished the film, which I sent off for development at Peak Imaging (An excellent company).

After inspecting this GR1v a little closer, I noticed that the eyepiece was loose. To cut a long story short, I ended up accidentally breaking it off in an attempt to fix it. (The plastic it’s made from is quite brittle.) I fixed it back in place with my mum’s hot glue gun but it’s a temporary repair. I’ll be on the lookout for a GR1 for spares on eBay and replace it soon as possible. For now the bodge looks reasonably secure though:

img_0326

The two main things I liked about my old GR1 were its pocketability and the scope for a fair amount of manual control. It also had a great lens. The 1v offers a bit more flexibility but not there’s not a huge difference between the two. The lens is the same except that it has improved coatings. One other thing is that the body is made of magnesium so it’s quite sturdy without being too heavy.

Lens

It’s a 28mm f2.8. Minimum aperture is I think 22. Very sharp and has good contrast. I’ll post some sample results below once I have them.

img_0333

 

Exposure Control

You have a choice of fully automatic or aperture priority. Selection is via a small wheel on the top right-hand side of the camera. The 1v offers exposure bracketing but I doubt I’ll ever use it. You can also override the auto ISO (DX) and set it manually here.

img_0331

Flash

There are three flash settings: always on, always off and auto. Flash range with 400 ASA negative film is about 20 feet.

img_0328

Focus Modes

There are three modes: full autofocus, infinity and snap (Fixed focus at about 6 feet. The preset distance in Snap mode can be altered but doing so is a bit fiddly. The main advantage of snap mode its that it makes for less lag if you want quicker response at the shutter button).

The Mode button on the top plate controls these options.

Exposure Compensation

You can increase or decrease exposure by two stops using a selector on the left side of the top plate. Very handy and easy to access like all the other controls.

img_0327

Other notable features:

  • The film is completely wound out of the canister and onto the take-up spool when you load it into the camera. This means that when you take a photograph, that frame is rewound back into the film canister so that if the camera back is accidentally opened, the exposure isn’t lost.
  • There is a ‘Time’ exposure mode which lets you take long exposures without draining the battery. It doesn’t say in the user guide what the maximum length of exposure is but it’s probably adequate for most scenarios.
  • Mine has a Date Back. The control panel for this is on the side of the camera. The digits in this display are tiny:

img_0325

Weaknesses

These cameras are quite old now and Ricoh won’t repair them any more. I don’t know if there are any independent specialists in the UK.

There are a few known problems with them as they age:

  • The eyepiece tends to come loose. It’s held on with only one small screw and is made of a softish plastic which seems to be quite brittle, meaning it can break off as mine did. You’ll need to take one off a defunct camera. I don’t think this part is available separately.
  • The frame lines in the viewfinder can fade or disappear over time.
  • The LCD information panel on top of the panel can malfunction so that the data isn’t displayed properly – chunks go missing.

Summary

I’d recommend this camera to anyone who fancies one, with the caveat that you check for the problems listed above before buying. It’s compact, has a great lens and gives you good control over the main functions.

Update

Having read more about the many known problems with this range of cameras, I can’t really recommend them. Whilst they’re great when they’re working, in my opinion they’re just too fragile to invest a lot of money (£3-500) in.

 

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Canon T90 Quick Review

img_0295

I got this camera to replace my Leica M6. The Leica was worth too much to have lying around and I didn’t like taking it out and about for the same reason, so I sold it and got this.

The body cost me £90 on eBay. I got a 35mm F2.8 lens for about £40. Both are in pretty good condition.

At about the same time, I bought an A1 and an AE1 body. My reasoning was that I could choose the one of the three which suited me best.

As it turned out, this was the T90, because it works best for metering and shooting on manual. The A1 is mainly designed for automatic exposure and the AE1 doesn’t have as good a choice of metering modes as the T90.

T90 Metering: you can choose between spot, centre-weighted and average. I prefer spot.

Exposure modes: aperture priority, shutter priority, automatic and program (Not sure what the difference is between these last two).

It has a built-in auto winder. Speeds are 4.5 or 2 frames a second. I use it on single-shot though. Shutter speeds range from 30 seconds to 1/4000.

The shutter is notorious for jamming, resulting in an EEE error being displayed in the viewfinder. Apparently this tends to happen if the camera is left unused for long periods of time. Newton Ellis camera repairers (UK) say on their website that they can fix it – no indication what this costs though. I read somewhere that to prevent this problem when the camera is lying unused, you should fire the shutter on B and take the batteries out whilst the shutter is open. I haven’t tried this myself so can’t vouch for it.

The camera takes 4 AA batteries. Reports vary on how long these last but so far mine seems to be getting through them quite quickly.

In short, I really like the T90. I like to meter and make exposures manually and it’s ideal for that. You also get motor wind and it just feels nice in the hand.

FD lenses for it are cheap – much less expensive than comparable Nikon glass.

The only downside is the potential for the EEE shutter error but as I said you can get that repaired, or just buy another functioning body for less than £100.

img_0299

Viewfinder display (Not a great photograph I’m afraid).

img_0298

Metering & exposure mode controls.

img_0297

LCD Display

img_0296

Rear panel with On/Off switch & some buttons I never use

img_0301

A look inside the door on the right side of the T90. Buttons are for viewfinder information brightness; battery check; rewind and (I think) self-timer. I hardly ever use these.

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