Category: Photography Equipment

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PortraitPro Studio 21 – A comparison with Luminar Neo Relight Ai

PortraitPro Studio 21 – A comparison with Luminar Neo Relight Ai

In Part 1 of this two part examination of Luminar Neo I looked at how Relight Ai handled a typical portrait taken under difficult lighting. This second part looks at how PortraitPro Studio 21 handles the exact same job. No attempt has been made to enhance the portrait in either software, firstly because the beta version of Luminar Neo I have access to has no significant portrait capabilities and secondly because I really only wanted to look at how easy it is in both software solutions to effect large global changes to the overall lighting of the portrait.

For this comparison I used exactly the same start point, the image of my friend Chris as shown in Part 1. Since I had chosen to use the jpeg version of this image in Luminar Neo I again I started with the jpeg in PortraitPro Studio 21. Nomally I would recommend starting with the RAW file when editing but the importance here of where we end up is less of interest than the journey itself so the jpeg works equally as well. Here is what the UI of PortraitPro Studio 21 looks like. It is somewhat different to that in Luminar Neo, somewhat busier and focused on the face but that is not surprising as PortraitPro Studio 21 is really designed o do a different job.

The User Interface for PortraitPro Studio 21

In Luminar Neo, see Part 1 for much more detail on exactly what was done, the relighting of the portrait is handled by Relight Ai. I also used two other tools to affect the Mood and the Colour. In PortraitPro Studio 21 I used just two tools these being Skin Lighting & Colouring which affects the relighting of the face and the Layers tool to modify the background. Being software designed specifically for portrait work PortraitPro Studio 21 has many additional tools that I could have used. However, this would not provide a fair comparison so I used only those stated above.

Looking at the background first, PortraitPro Studio 21 provides the ability to seperate the foreground image (the face) from the background. This process creates an editable mask which can be fine tuned to give better results. In general terms, seperating the background from the foreground is a one click process as here

Seperating the foreground from the background

As can be seen, the background is now really well seperated from the foreground including the areas that Relight Ai had problems with. Once the background is isolated, it is a simple job to change whatever parameters you feel will provide the end result you are looking for, In this case I used just brightness and exposure but I could have used blur, contrast and even a tone curve to make the changes I wanted. The result of this work is shown below.

The final step required is to relight the face and this is done using the Skin Lighting & Colouring tool. As with all the tools in PortraitPro Studio 21 there are a lot of options but for this edit I only wanted to apply light to the right hand side of the face as we look at the photo so as to provide more even tone agross the face as whole. Here’s the final image associated with the edits discussed presented so that we can compare it to the results from Luminar Neo. Since the edits are done in different packages there is some difference in the overall colours and tones but the comparison is really to allow you to see what each application has achieved. There is no doubt that with additional work both could be improved greatly but as a tart point, they hopefully allow some useful comparison.

Luminar Neo Relight on the left, PortraitPro Studio 21 on the right

CONCLUSION

PortraitPro Studio 21 is probably one of the better portrait editing tools on the market today. However, it is not perfect and with the image used here, it suffered similar problems with dealing with the hairline of the subject. My feeling when using both applications is that Luminar Neo was much easier to use, gave good results and produced a noticably better image that what I started with. PortraitPro Studio 21 on the other hand, certainly with respect to portraiture, presented me with a huge number of options which, had I wanted to go down this route, would have allowed me to perfect the portrait way beyond what Luminar Neo, certainly at this point in time, could achieve.

Of course the $64,000 question must be “Is the PortraitPro Studio 21 image noticably better than that created by Luminar Neo Relight Ai?” I think that despite my respect for PortraitPro Studio the answer for me is just a “maybe” when considering like for like as in this case. I know that’s a cop-out but there are reasons. Luminar Neo was really easy to use, created a good start point for further work and ultimately delivered what I wanted quickly and with relative ease. While Relight Ai never managed to balance the light as effectively as PortraitPro Studio 21, there is a marked shine on the forehead because of the strong light coming from the left as we look at the image, it did a pretty good job overall. Had I spent a lot more time on this project I feel sure I could have perfected it. Besides, Relight Ai also works on landscapes and on objects so it is more of a generalised tool than PortraitPro Studio 21 which leans unashamadely towards portraiture. On the other hand, PortraitPro Studio 21 definately handles relighting of the image far better although that shouldn’t be surprising given the range of tools available for portrait manipulation. The image from Portrait Pro Studio 21 is therefore much flatter and a marked improvement on the original. Of course, had I used more of the tools at my disposal in PortraitPro Studio 21 I am pretty sure there would have been even more improvement over the original. However, that was not the purpose here as what I wanted to do was to show that both applications are capable of producing excellent results in portraiture which can be improved by additional work.

Luminar Neo at this point in time, albeit crippled by Skylum who have removed lots of the key functionality is without doubt capable of doing really good work even as provided ie beta. It’s intuitive, capable and feels a lot more like the versions I loved in the early days ie Luminar 2018 and Luminar 3. Where it ultimately ends up is down to Skylum but they appear to be on the right track.

SUMMARY

Luminar Neo Relight Ai (Beta Version)

  • Very easy to use
  • Lots of control over the final image
  • Lacks portrait focused tools at the moment
  • Relight Ai only provides basic relighting capabilities
  • Some mask work is likely to be required
  • Great results for minimal effort and cost

PortraitPro Studio 21

  • Comprehensive and therefore confusing UI
  • So many tools I don’t know where to start
  • Can be used to do as little or as much as you want
  • Extensive tools for working on the backround
  • Extensive tools for working on the foreground image
  • Very powerful relighting capabilities
  • Amazing results but it is (relatively) expensive and it does require more effort and experience to get the best from it

Dunked your camera? It’s not all over, you’ve got a fighting chance to save it!

First off let me say that the experience of falling in water with your camera around your neck is not the best fun you can have. My personal attempt did result in good scores from all judges especially as I bounced on some fairly large boulders before hitting water. Sadly, my Fujifilm x-T1 also saw action and while I have now dried off, and indeed so has the camera, the 18-55mm f2.8-4 lens that was attached to it is proving to be a little stubbon. Here’s what I have been doing to recover from this semi-disasterous situation.

Your Next Actions Make a Difference

Firstly, let’s rewind a little because the actions you take when this sort of thing happens really matter. So, while still lying in the water I had the presence of mind to pass the camera to a passer-by who came across to help. That move was practically instantaneous which meant that while the camera was under water for a few seconds, it was not in water for minutes. It was also turned off, another plus point. The other big plus point here, if there can be one in this situation, is that the water was practically pure as well as being fast moving as it was generated by a cascading waterfall on Dartmoor. Had the camera fallen into seawater, or a murky algae laden pond I would not be as confident that I can recover the camera or the lens. So, what can you do to improve your chances of a successfull outcome?

  • Turn the camera off or keep it off
  • Remove the battery and memory cards
  • Wipe down the camera with some form of absorbent cloth as soon as you can – inside and out (not the sensor though)
  • Wipe down and dry the lens as much as possible
  • Open all of the comparment doors to enable them to circulate air into the camera
  • Protect the sensor with a body cap or use another another lens
  • Get the camera and lens into a dry, warm environment as soon as possible
  • Do not be tempted to turn on the camera for several days. Put it aside and leave it alone!

The Camera Body

Firstly, let’s talk about the camera body. Although emersed for a few seconds, all the compartment doors were at least closed and the camera was off. Once I was back on my feet, and although drenched, I immediately removed the lens, the battery, the memory card and I opened up all of the compartment doors. I was fortunate in that I was carrying a microfibre cloth and although my canvas camera bag did get a little wet, it didn’t get soaked. That was lucky because it also had two spare batteries and a Viltrox 23mm lens inside. First job, remove every drop of water off every part of the camera body I could access. Amazingly, no water had got into the sensor chamber, it was bone dry thanks to the 18-55mm that was attached. There was a little water in the various compartments but overall it cryed off externally very quickly due in no small part that it was a nice dry and warm day. Normally I would have hightailed it home at this point but as it was a family day out and we had our grandchildren who are only three and five, I decided to trudge around for the next hour or so. In fairness, other than being drenched and a little sore I came off pretty lightly and my youngest grandson George was a delight helping me up and down the routh terrain at every opportunity. As I walked, I allowed the camera to sit in the breeze with all the compartment doors open. I had fitted the Viltrox 23mm by this point as I didn’t want to add fuel to the fire by allowing dust and debris into the camera body via the open sensor compartment. Ideally I would have used a body cap but of course, who carries one of these around just in case you fall in a river, stream, pond or the sea!!

Over the next couple of hours the light breeze dried off the camera a treat and I eventually made it home about three hours later. When I did, the first thing I did was to remove the Viltrox 23mm and to put some cling film over the lens apperture. It was still bone dry so I think I got really lucky here. I then opened the window and hung the camera on the window pole to gently continue to dry out in the breeze. By this point in time there was no water apparent anywhere so I thought this was perhaps a good first step. I left this overnight and then in the morning, I put it on a radiator (this was on very low setting) to allow a little more heat to access the internals. I didn’t however put the camera directly on the radiator, I lifted it up about an inch to allow the warmth to envelop it. All the doors remained open, including the LCD panel which I had pulled out earlier to dry off and had kept it there. After a day and a night more of doing this, I decided to test the camera. Interestingly, the on/off switch, which on the x-T1 is part of the shutter button, was really stiff which worried me a little. However, with a little persuasion it moved and turning it on and off a few times (with the battery out) resolved the problem. I also checked all of the other dials and buttons for similar problems but these were all good, no stickiness as far as I can see.

Did the camera fire up? Amazingly it did, without issue other than it looked like the damp had forced a factory refresh as I needed to reset the language, the date and the time. All of my eight Presets had also been wiped but no big deal, I only really use two slots and I know the settings off by heart. Having shot a few bland test shots I turned off the camera and set it to one side. It’s being sitting in the corner since then and I’ve just tried it again and it’s working fine.

The Lens

As I mentioned, the Fujifilm 18-55mm really didn’t do well in it’s encounter with water. Unlike the camera it was sopping wet. The worry here then is that even if I manage to dry it out, it is very likely that despite the water being really pure, there are going to be some water marks on the internals of the lens etc. It is also a toss up as to whether the electrics will ever work again. Now I’m prepared to sit it out for as long as it takes to dry it out totally as I still have the gorgous Viltrox 23mm working perfectly on the x-T1 plus I have the Samyang 12mm manual to play with which is huge fun. All in all, and while I might miss the 18-55mm, I can still shoot perfectly well with what I’ve got. Anyway, let’s talk a little now about what I have done to try to recover this lens.

The first thing I did was on the way home we stopped off and bought a huge bag of rice. Rice is brilliant for sucking up moisture so it’s a good first step, after drying the lens externally, in sucking up the moisture in the lens. Now, given the amount of water drops I could see on the internal lenses, this was never going to be a quick solution. It could take days if not weeks to remove all of the water, even in a warm home. Anyway, I popped the lens into a plastic container completelysurrounded by the rice. I used a fair amount of rice for this as it’s cheap and plentiful. I then put a cleanfilm over the top and let it sit for 5 days before sneaking a peak. Interestingly, the top lenses were dry, or at least appeared so, while the lens closest to the sensor, which had ben bone dry whan I started drying out the lens, was covered in water drops. This tells me that water is moving freely around the lens and that the process is working, albeit very slowly. In order to try to speed up the process, although why I don’t know, I have now put it on the radiator, which is only slightly warm, to hopefully help with the process. I also felt it wouldnt hurt to move the rice around. I’ll add some photos later to illustrate the process of camera and lens drying.

Initial Conclusions

So, as it stands I have at least achieved some success. My body is repearing itself nicely and the x-T1 appears to be working OK, no apparent problems although time will of course tell how it fairs in the longer term. The 18-55mm although initially not looking particularly healthy has now, and this is after 9 day sitting in rice in a warm environment, dryed out significantly. It might actually be bone dry but you know what, I don’t need to push it and while another few days won’t affect me it might be good news for the lens. Examination today shows that there are some marks on the lens surface, but these aren’t substantial. Whether it will ever work again, I still don’t know. The chances 50/50 I’d say. If the electronics work I have found an interesting article on dismantling and accessing the top two elements to clean them which I will try if necessary. I suspect that this will be some time yet though. Whatever happens I will update this blog post and let you all know how things turned out.

I hope that this article is helpful. Having a good plan of attack in such circumstances is key to success. You also need patience. Everything has to be 110% dry before you even consider turning the camera on and that probably means waiting the 4 or 5 days as I did.

What’s the best lens for street photography?

Right off the bat I just want to say that there is no right or wrong answer to this question. In truth, the lens you choose is probably going to reflect your confidence levels as a photographer. If you like mixing it up on the street then a 28mm is probably perfect as it gets personal at that focal distance. If you are a little shy or worried about photographing strangers then a longer prime or even a short zoom is probably going to favour your style of photography. The essence of this article then is that, there is no perfect lens for the job, it’s all about you and your confidence levels as a photographer!

All this being said, it’s hard to imagine anyone doing street with a long zoom. Candid / street photography requires you as much as possible to blend into a crowd and nothing shouts photographer like a DSLR armed with a long zoom. Equally, a fisheye or an ultrawide lens is pretty much useless in my opinion unless you like standing toe to toe with your subject. With that lens you are going to see more that the whites of their eyes and that means getting very personal. Great for urban landscape photography for sure, but candid people biased photography, in my opinion, leave it in the bag or at home. Now while some photographers also spout long and hard about the benefits of vintage glass, which is often manual focus of course, forget it. It’s not 1961 when you had no choice, it’s 2021 when you certainly do. Rely on a manual focus lens / camera combo and I guarantee you that you’ll miss that pulitzer price winning shot when the opportunity arises. In fact I’ll go as far as to say that you’ll miss a lot of really good shots. In street, great images don’t come along everyday so when they do, you need to be nimble and nimble means more often than not, nailing it on auto.

For me, the sweet spot for street and candid photography is going to fall somewhere between 24mm – 75mm in full frame terms although my favourite squeeze for candid photography today is the pocket sized Canon G7X, purely because when I started to get really interested in street and candid photography, that is what I bought. I use it a lot for street because it’s small and unobtrusive and easily fits in a trouser pocket so is highly portable. The 8.8 to 32mm lens combined with the 1″ sensor seems to capture great shots even in low light. In full frame terms that’s 24mm to 96mm so pretty handy for street. In truth though I’d be equally happy with any good quality 1″ sensor compact nowadays, such as Sony or Lumix. Another good option of course is the Fujifilm x100V (or an earlier variant) and the x-Pro series ie version 1 through 3. All great cameras for street and candid photography.

The diminutive Panasonic Lumix GX80 with 12-32mm kit lens.

Another favourite of mine is my Panasonic Lumix GX80 which has an M43 sensor. Again it’s small, descrete and very capable. Armed with the Lumix 12-60mm f2.8 (or even just the f3.5 if cash is tight) this is a great street combo because again, it’s small and compact. In fact it might equally be as good with the kit lens, the diminutive 12-32mm. What I certainly wouldn’t take out with me is my Nikon D600, even with a tiny pancake lens. Way too big for serious street work. And although I have used my Fuji x-T1 a lot for street photography, especially with the 18-55mm f2.8-4 and the Viltrox 23mm, I still think that this size is too big for serious street. This is because with street photography you really just want to blend into the background, not make a statement along the lines of “hey, look at me, I’m a photographer and I am photographing you!”.

France, 2018. Image taken with Lumix GX80 with Lumix 12-60mm lens

Now I am a member of a couple of Fuji facebook groups and the buzz on these groups is about SOOC photography ie straight out of camera shooting. Like many, I do like the jpegs that Fuji cameras can create, especially with a filmic simulation applied in camera but I maintain that for good street photography it pays to blend in and you’ll do that best with a small, innocuous camera like the Canon G7X or something similar. Because I am as happy playing with RAW as I am with JPEG’s, I don’t worry too much about SOOC although as I mentioned, with the right light, Fuji cameras can produce stunning yester-year film quality results. As mentioned above, for the serious Fuji street photographer I would suggest that you look at the X100V or perhaps the X-Pro3 if you want lens interchangeability. These two cameras for me, along with many modern compacts are about as perfect as it gets for street and both sit alongside my Lumix GX80 and Canon G7X for this very reason.

Fixing an Epsom SC-P600 with air in the print-head damper

I’ve decided to share this purely because it helped me resolve a tricky problem that took me some time to figure out. If you are in the same position, I hope that it helps you too.

THE PROBLEM
Printer (an Epson SC-P600) exhibits green hue when printing B&W prints using various software. In addition, the nozzle check exhibited degradation in various colours (seen as broken lines in the print) and indeed, in the case of Light Cyan and Yellow, no lines whatsoever.

THE PERCEIVED REASON
I assumed that since the printer had been printing perfectly previously that the problem was associated with blocked print head nozzles. This led to trying to clean the print head using the techniques discussed broadly on the internet and in videos on YouTube. This was to use one of several head cleaning products such as W5 (Lidl) through to Magic Bullet or variations thereof from other suppliers. The technique is to power-up the print head caddy so that it undocks and moves into the centre, then quickly pull out the power cable so that the caddy remains free to move by hand. Once you can do this, cut a thin strip of J-cloth about 40mm wide x 250mm long (three ply is about the right thickness), lay this in the track below the print head caddy and then soak in an appropriate solvent, for example Magic Bullet. Once soaked, position the caddy above this strip and allow the fumes to work on the hard ink overnight. This process, together with a number of head cleans and print nozzle tests does waste a lot of ink so be aware of this. Did this solve the problem? No, it didn’t and I’ll explain why next.

THE ACTUAL REASON
When I bought the printer it was second-hand, in great condition but nonetheless, second-hand. It came complete with both the original Epson OEM ink cartridges plus a full set of Permajet 9 x 125ml inks and associated cartridges and syringes. It did not however contain the all important instructions on how to use the cartridges or an associated DVD with additional instructions / software. I only found this out when I spoke with Permajet later about my problems. More on this later. Without instructions but with what looked very much like “like for like” cartridges (when comparing the original Epson cartridges to the new Permajet ones), I proceeded to fill and fit the cartridges as each original Epson cartridge became empty. This is error number 1.

The second and much more important error was that I had no idea that each of the replacement cartridges need to be primed before fitting. Priming is a simple but fiddly process that ensures that ink is pushed into a special chamber in the cartridge so that no air is sucked into the supply lines from the cartridge to the printhead dampers. By not priming the cartridges properly, effectively I was allowing the printer to suck air into the supply lines rather than ink, something I had no idea about. This was error number 2.

The effect of sucking air into the supply lines and printhead damper is basically to stop any ink reaching the printhead for that particular cartridge. This manifests itself worse case as loss of most of the lines if not the complete block of colour for a particular cartridge in the nozzle print test, or at best some lines but very patchy. If you don’t understand what’s happening, this will lead to repeating the head clean and nozzle checks many times without any improvement whatsoever.

CARTRIDGE PRIMING IS THEREFORE THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT TASK WHEN CHANGING FROM OEM INKS TO 3RD PARTY INKS.

RESOLVING THE ACTUAL PROBLEM
Not realising that this was the real problem I did the only thing possible at this stage and phoned Permajet as I was using their cartridges and inks. Now, when you have a new kit of inks and cartridges from a particular supplier there is an expectation that that supplier will help you resolve any problems. Not so Permajet. The moment that the customer support guy, I won’t name names, heard that the kit was purchased by someone else he really couldn’t have been less helpful. True he outlined the correct approach to using the replacement cartridges, i.e that the cartridge must first be filled and then primed prior to use, but he offered zero help or advice to help resolve my problems other than recommend that I call a specialist engineer (John at Repro Repairs on 01494 882363) who might be able to help. He actually made it sound like I had killed my mother and needed to be locked up. Even when I mentioned that two of the cartridges appeared to be leaking ink he only pointed me at the place on their website where I could buy new ones. No offer of we’ll ship out a couple to you FOC as a good will gesture from Permajet it seems. These BTW were £20+VAT per cartridge so with 2 cartridges needed, plus one I had accidently filled with the wrong colour ink (I know, what a dickhead), that was a potential outlay of £60+VAT for just 3. Ouch!!

Undeterred at this setback, and despite the piss poor support I’d received from Permajet, I decided to look for alternatives. I looked at Fotospeed, Specialised Inks and Marrutt and noticed that a full set of 9 cartridges from Specialised Inks (which are actually Marrutt cartridges), were only marginally more expensive than the 3 from Permajet. Having recently been in touch wth John Reed at Marrutt about paper I thought I’d ask John if he could help and he kindly agreed to sell me a complete set of cartridges for just £30+ VAT (down from £80) which was very generous. I have subsequently found out that you can buy similar if not identical cartridges on Ebay for even less BUT I value help and support and Marrutt have a good name in the printing industry. They also have some great educational videos and documentation relating to printing techniques and some fairly priced consumables such as paper and ink on their website so well worth a look.

Moving on, I now had a set of new cartridges from Marrutt plus some of the original inks from Parmajet so I started to explore how I could purge the air from the supply lines and get the printer working again. In amongst the research I did I found several software tools which provide firmware level operation on various printers, the Epson SC-P600 included. Two of these, WIC Reset, which means Waste Ink Counters Reset Utility.) and the Epson SureColor SC-P600 (EURO) Ver. 1.1.3 Service Adjustment Program are two very useful utilities to help solve a variety of problems with printers such as the Epson SC-P600.

In my case, the Epson SureColor SC-P600 (EURO) Ver. 1.1.3 Service Adjustment Program was what I needed as research had indicated that to clear the air from the supply lines I needed to do an INK CHARGE which is something the printer does when you turn it on for the 1st time after purchase. Effectively, the INK CHARGE draws ink from the cartridges dispelling any air in the supply lines as it goes and charging the dampers with ink ready for use. Once the process has run, any air in the supply lines has been purged and the dampers in the printhead are fully primed. The software is required because the printer only ink charges once, the day you turn it on from brand new so it needs to be forced to repeat this operation.

BARE IN MIND THAT AN INK CHARGE USES A LOT OF INK SO YOUR CARTRIDGES MUST BE AT LEAST 40% FULL BEFORE ATTEMPTING IT. IN FACT, YOUR PRINTER WILL NOT ALLOW YOU TO DO AN INK CHARGE IF THE CARTRIDGES AREN’T AT LEAST 40% FULL.

With regards using the Epson SureColor SC-P600 (EURO) Ver. 1.1.3 Service Adjustment Program, be aware that this is not freeware. You will find it readily in searches with a cost of between $10 – $20. Being tight, I bought my copy on EBAY for just $10 from a company in Bangladesh. To stop the software being transferred to anyone who wants it, it is encoded to your PC although it only runs on Windows, not a MAC so please be aware of this. Thereafter you can use it as often as you need to BUT it will only run on the PC it was purchased for. Of course, at just $10 a go it’s not exactly expensive and bearing in mind it does so much more than ink charge, it’s worth every penny. One other thing I should point out, this software is considered as MALWARE by anti-virus software and your computers firewall so if you want or need to use it, you are going to have to get around that. While it does worry me that my anti-virus tools highlighted the problem and indeed put it in quarantine every time I ran it, I had zero choice but to use it to do the ink charge. This meant putting the executable on a white list!! It’s a huge worry but my printer is working 100% now so I guess the result was worth the risk. The good news is that for those that know about it, it has a good reputation but as always, do your own research as I make no claims whatsoever about these applications or about the suppliers that sell them so you use them at your own risk.

OTHER PROBLEMS
One of the big problems of using 3rd party cartridges is that they don’t necessarily show how much ink is in them. This is a problem because the cartridge may be full yet the printer shows them as only partially full or even empty. Because the INK CHARGE process won’t run if the cartridges aren’t at least 40% full, this is a BIG problem.

There are two ways around this

Firstly, if your P600 printer is running the very latest firmware then it checks to see if you are using OEM ink and secondly it uses a chip to tell the system how much ink is in the cartridge. It’s not actually measuring the amount of ink in a cartridge, it’s working off the fact that the cartridge was full and since then, the printer has used so much ink during printing. It’s a best guess rather than an accurate measurement.

To overcome this problem you can downgrade your firmware to an earlier version where cartridge chips are not validated and therefore your printer thinks that there is 100% ink in the cartridge at all times. To do this you need to use the WIC Reset Utility which means buying a key to enable this at $20. Once you have downgraded the firmware you have to rely on visual checking of ink levels. It does however mean that you can run the ink charge routine without any further concerns other than to ensure you have at least 40% ink in each cartridges.

The second approach, and this is the one I used, is to put empty OEM cartridges in the printer and start it up and when it complains, take out the empty cartridge and put in the full cartridge. The printer will again complain, this time that you appear to be using non OEM ink but providing your firmware allows 3rd party ink, it’s just a warning. Repeat for all cartridges and after some time you should eventually see all your cartridges as showing full. At this point you can run the ink charge. The ink charge takes about 10 minutes to complete. Once initiated it is a fully automatic process and all you will hear is the printer going about it’s business. Time to go grab a tea of coffee. Once complete you should see a message on the screen that it has completed successfully. Close the application and run a nozzle printer check. If the ink charge has been successful, as it was in my case, you should see a perfect set of patterns for every nozzle. If not, run a clean print head followed by another nozzle check and this should hopefully do the trick.

WHAT ELSE IS THIS SOFTWARE USEFUL FOR
The primary function of the WIC Reset Utility is to check and reset the waste counters as this stops a printer, even though still perfectly usable, to continue to be used. It’s a kind of end of life situation. I used it to check mine and I’ve got plenty of free capacity left before I have to start worrying. Having access to this little utility will help me overcome this issue when and if it arises. This particular service within WIC Reset is free so you don’t need to buy a key to enable this option.

THE FINAL COMMENTS
As you can imagine, I am hugely relieved that I was able to recover my printer and to return it to fully working condition. Since recharging the dampers in the print head I have been able to print perfect prints. If there is one lesson learned, other than to prime any new cartridges before fitting and use, it’s not to give up. The internet is an amazing resource and everything I needed to know and do was there. I just had to find it.

THANKS TO
A big thank you to Mike Bond for his help, support and advice. It’s people like Mike that make photography such a wonderful pastime. A big thanks also to John Reed at Marrutt for helping me out with replacement cartridges at such a reasonable cost. I also found the educational vidoes on the Marrutt and Specialised Inks websites invaluable when researching the correct process to follow when priming the cartridges for 1st time use.

Epson SureColor SC-P600 (EURO) Ver. 1.1.3 Service Adjustment Program functionality is as follows:

  • Initial setting
  • Head ID input
  • Head angular adjustment
  • PW / First dot position adjustment
  • Bi-D adjustment
  • PF / EJ adjustment
  • CR motor heat protection control
  • PF motor heat protection control
  • CR Encoder check
  • PF Encoder check
  • APG Function Check
  • CR Belt Check
  • Ink Selector Check
  • Mist Recovery Check
  • Shipping Setting
    Maintenance
  • Head cleaning
  • Ink charge
  • Initialize PF deterioration offset
  • Disable PF deterioration offset
  • Initialize front tray ink counter
  • Disable front tray ink counter
  • Final check pattern print
  • EEPROM dump
  • Printer information check
  • Paper feed test
    If you wish to share this document please feel free to do so but you must include this notice. No advice is given or implied, it purely outlines the process I adopted to make my Epson SC-P600 printer work again after inadvertently allowing air into the printhead damper system. It may work for you, it may not.
  • Dave Collerton, 2019
Errors can be Fortuitous

Errors can be Fortuitous

Man with Bike on Beach. Taken with Toy Camera effect on the Lumix GX-80. As shot.

Like most of you reading this I own a number of cameras. Nothing really outstanding or even expensive but I like my tech. I don’t think I have GAS, but like most potential addicts, I’m only a step away. Amongst my ensemble of gear is the diminutive Panasonic Lumix GX-80, hereafter the GX-80 (also known as the GX-85 in the US) which before I purchased the Fuji x-T1 about 12 months ago, was my daily squeeze. I believe that elsewhere on this blog i have mused lovingly about this camera and for very good reason. It’s excellent!! Diminutive in size maybe, but trully the complete street camera when paired with a decent lens. That’s not to say the 12-35mm it came with isn’t a good lens, just that there are better on the market if candid photography is what get’s you out of bed. What I use, and it produces amazing images for not much money, is the Lumix 12-60mm f3.5-5.6. Now, you can splash out a lot more for the (slightly better) f2.8 version but I suspect you aren’t going to see a lot more bang for your buck in doing that.

The other day I decided to resurect the GX-80 and wander the dark and desperate streets of Torquay. OK, so it’s no Chicago but hey, it has a charm of it’s own. As given away in earlier paragraphs, I paired the GX-80 with the 12-60mm and searched out victims for my photo-blitz. I should say from the get go that I am not an “in your face” type of “street” photographer. While I value this genre, I’m simply not brave enough. Nor do I tend to sit on street corners where amazing triangles of light mingle with primary colours and the odd passer-by carrying an umbrella while staring intently at their smartphone. I have done this of course but I’m way to fidgity to sit in one place all day waiting for the right opportunity to pass by. I’m a wanderer. I’m lazy. I see a subject I like and I take the photo. That means that on any particular shoot I am going to have a whole range of images from beach scenes through to urban landscapes.

On this occasion I recalled the various scene modes the GX-80 offers and I decided to use the Bleach Bypass effect as this is something I think works really well for urban landscapes and candid photography. So far so good. However, at some point in the morning I had problems with post-focus turning itself on and in trying to rectify this while walking, I somehow switched from Bleach Bypass to Toy Camera. Now, and please don’t laugh, I was wearing prescription sunglasses and while I thought the viewfinder looked a little strange, I put it down to some sort of polarising effect from the lenses. To cut a long story short, I banged out a whole mornings images in Toy Camera mode, something I have never ever conpemplated doing. Of course I’ve used Toy Camera effects in software such as Nik Efex so I know what to expect for the most part but what I didn’t expect from the GX-80 was the enhancement of blues and oranges that this mode gives. The header image gives you some idea as to what this mode delivers and to be honest, it’s not displeasing. Now, not every image I took caught my eye. For various reasons the vignette was too strong, or the colours simply overwhelmed the image but a fair number were, at least in my opinion, they are worth showing here.

Seagull with sunburst. As shot.
Man on Bike with light behind. Processed in On1 as B&W simulation
Torquay Harbour. As shot. This reminded me of my film days e.g. classic negative (Superia 100)
Reflections in Blue. As shot

Personally, I think that choosing Toy Camera (totally in error) delivered some really interesting shots. You may or may not agree but I’d be interested to hear your thoughts either way in the comments below.

Please note that all images degraded to 1080 @ 72dpi for faster web delievery

A walk with Ilford FP4 Plus 125

A walk with Ilford FP4 Plus 125

Skateboarder, Victoria Park Paignton 2021

This is the second roll of film I have put through my aging Pentax KM and I’m very much more pleased with these results than for the Kentmere 400 (also an Ilford product) that I tried first. Now, that could be down to inexperience, it was the first roll of film I had developed in over 40 years, or it could be to the way I was using the camera / lens. I certainly found the lens to be challanging, it was the Pentax 50mm f1.7 lens, which althrough equally aged does tend to get good reviews. The problem I found was in focusing it and the Kentmere images are definately off focus for this reason. For these shots, I went with the Minolta 35-70 F2.8-4 as I’d used this on my Lumix GX-80 with a lens adapter and achieved some really nice results. I felt than that I had a good chance on improving on the 50mm f1.7 and looking at the reults here, I think I did. For the next roll I shoot with the Pentax, I am going to shoot twelve on the Pentax 50mm, f1.7, twelve on the Minolta 35-70 and twelve on the Pentax 55mm f1.8 that came with the camera all those years ago. I’m keen to revisit the Pentax 55mm as I recall images from that lens being quite sharp. This approach will at least enable me to judge whether it is technique, or equipment.

All of the above images were processed in Bellini chemicals. For the developer I used Bellini Hydrofen @ 1:39 dilution for 6 minutes, for the fixer, Bellini FX100 ECO @ 1:4 for 3 minutes. The stop bath was just tap water. I digitised the negatives using a home made digitising rig consisting of a light box (flash lit), Lomography Digitalizer 35mm Scanning Mask, tripod and a Nikon D600 with Tamron 90mm f2.8 1:1 Macro lens.

A cautionary tale on why I both love and hate Ebay

A cautionary tale on why I both love and hate Ebay

Anyone following this blog will know that I love experimenting with photography. Whether that is playing with film, building stuff, digitising my negatives on a shoestring or just having fun with stuff like Nik Efex.

A couple of weeks ago I was experimenting with digitising negatives and it became very clear that the lenses available to me were not going to be ideal for this task. They worked, just not ideally. What I needed to do a professional job, albeit it’s a home grown digitising setup, is a sharp, accurate 1:1 macro lens. Various online searches resulted in recommendations for the Nikon Micro 105mm f2.8 1:1 macro lens and I duly searched for one on the various shopping portals. By chance, this particular lens was due to complete on Ebay in a couple of days and so I set my top bid price using the Ebay automated bidding system which in this case was £239. As it happened, I won at £195 which was a good price for this lens so I was well pleased. I was surprised that the shipping option was 2nd Class Signed for but as its a 2 – 3 day service I felt reasonably comfortable. The item duly paid for it shipped next day and the shipping info was supplied. All good. Fast forward 11 days, and several messages with the seller later, still no lens. On day nine I had agreed with the seller that if the lens didn’t arrive in the next 24 hours he would refund. I have to say at all times the seller was courteous and responsive and as promised, on the 10th day he refunded my payment and the agreement was that I would refuse the delivery if and when it arrived. A couple of days later it did just that!

Now, for a few seconds I did think about accepting the lens and reversing the refund. What stopped me was that it arrived in a flimsy Royal Mail plastic bag with practically no packing. At best it felt like it had a single layer of micro bubble wrap as I could clearly feel all of the lens features. To my mind this is no way to ship a £200 lens, especially one that’s just had an eleven day trip around the UK. The opportunity for damage was simply to high. The lens was refused and returned. Hopefully it will reach the seller in good order but quite honestly, it’s somewhat of a lottery.

This obviously left me with a problem in that I still needed a macro lens. While waiting for delivery I had the opportunity to rethink my strategy and this latest research yielded several alternatives to the Nikon 105mm, for example the older version of the Tamron 90mm f2.8 1:1 macro. Searching online yielded several options but eventually I alighted on one in excellent condition, again on Ebay, this one for £179 on Buy It Now. There were a few other options available to me but I felt that I might wait 2 or 3 days and still pay close to £179 so I pressed the button and bought it. Literally 48 hours later I was unboxing a perfect example of the Tamron 90mm f2.8 and with it popped onto my Nikon D600 I digitised my first negative strip. Perfect results.

There are several things to learn from this story. Firstly, I only ever buy from sellers with close to 100% satisfaction rating and a lot of shipped items. Despite this, I got it wrong with one and right with another. Both were however courteous and responsive and that’s a big plus point. Secondly, my experience with the long and finally aborted delivery of the Nikon 105mm led me to ask the seller of the Tamron 90mm to upgrade shipping of the lens from Royal Mail 1st Class Tracked and Signed, a 48hour service, to Special Delivery which is a 24hour fully tracked service. I offered to pay extra but the seller refused the offer but still shipped by Special Delivery. That is outstanding customer service by any measure. I also asked if he could ensure it was packaged appropriately and indeed, it arrived boxed and well protected. Thank you Ebay seller jklewis133, I thoroughly recommend you to my readers.

Lomography Digitalizer 35mm Film Scanning Mask

Lomography Digitalizer 35mm Film Scanning Mask

I’ve mentioned the Lomography Digitalizer 35mm Film Scanning Mask (Lomography Digitalizer) in a few of my blogs but I thought I’d focus specifically on it for this one.

Firstly, the Lomography Digitalizer is a simple scanning mask which can clamp and hold a strip of up to six 35mm colour or B&W negatives. You could use it for any number of negatives between one and six of course but six is ideal. It consists of 3 parts, a metal baseplate, a plastic hinged frame which clamps the edge of the negative and a plastic central clamp which holds the film flat when you close the frame. Magnets are incorporated into the design to provide the clamping force between the various parts. Basic operation follows the procedure of placing the metal base plate in the bottom of the frame, placing the negative strip in the frame holder, placing the clamp on top of the negative, it has location guides for this, closing the frame and then removing the clamp. Because the magnetic attraction is now broken with the base plate, this falls away and you are now left with the negatives securely held in the frame ready to scan.

Loading the Lomography Digitalizer is a little fiddly especially if the film is curling. If the curl is along the negative strip then this is one problem but often the curl is along and across too so it’s really important to ensure the film is positioned correctly before clamping down the edges. This is where the central clamp does it’s work. However, because this locates on four tiny plastic prongs, it is possible to knock the film moving it slighly in the rebate when loading the central clamp. However, once the central clamp has secured the film flat against the metal baseplate, you simple close the frame and this secures the edges of the negative strip. You then remove the central clamp which drops away the metal baseplate – remember I said everything is secured using magnets. Now, while it is impossible using this technique to completely flatten the film in the holder, it does appear to do a reasonable job. Of course, the flatter your negatives, the flatter they sit in the frame. You are now ready to scan the negatives.

I should have mentioned that before doing any of the above, I recommend blowing off any dust that might be on the negatives. Cleaning both sides of the negative makes for a far better result when digitising.

In use, the Lomography Digitaliser is relatively simple to position but I do recommend either a jig or frame to ensure that you can quickly position each negative frame perfectly with respect to the camera lens. If you don’t do this, you will spend a lot of time fiddling around trying to position the frame in the right place. This is doubly relevent if you are using a 1:1 macro lens as the negative fills the frame so accuracy becomes far more important. There are other products out there that do a better job of negative positioning but they are more expensive, some very much more expensive. You pays your money and makes your choice as they say.

With regards the digitising process, if the negative is held flat, using something like a light box, mine is lit by a flash head, positioned under the frame with the camera set on say F5.6 or F8 at 1/125 or whatever your camera syncs at, ensures that you have a good DOF through the frame. This should result in a crisp, accurate digitised image. I am using a Tamron 90mm f2.8 1:1 Macro which is ideal for this task.

I’ve been doing it all wrong!

I’ve been doing it all wrong!

I recently posted my thoughts on how to win more club competitions by considering the judging process in more depth and in particular, looking at what typically does and doesn’t do well. Does this process work for me? Well, truthfully, no as I simply don’t enter competitions with anything less than something I love and that is often going to be at odds with what I know a club judge is going to like. I care about what a judge thinks of course, indeed I care about what all of you think about my photography but not so much as to change my mind as to what I will or won’t enter into a competition.

So recently, I have begun to rethink my strategy on photography and in particular whether entering competitions has any real merit for me personally or whether I should just concentrate on projects and doing what I mostly enjoy, which is reportage, candid photography and street portraiture.

The image above, without doubt one of my all time favourites, is from a trip to France from a couple of years back. It is a shinning example of how the judges dialog can be totally at odds with the end result of the judging process. Now, I don’t so much mind the comments I get from judges with regards the technical elements of my images, these are often valid points as anyone who has taken a candid shot on the spur of the moment will generally tell you. The opportunity for perfection in such cases is practically zero after all. What I do find amusing though is that when judges are faced with something outside of their comfort zone, where they struggle to apply their normal rules, that they have to resort to slight of hand to make a coherent appraisal of what is before them. Honest and blunt judges quite often just say, “nope, didn’t get it, don’t like it” so at least you know that it’s a bust. Judges who do not like to offend will use other tactics but effectiveley, they are saying the same thing.

Now, this image is typical of my photography and so are the comments it received. The judging comments went something like, and this is from memory, “I don’t know if the photographer meant to create a 40’s style image but if they did then clearly, they nailed it. I particularly like the b&W treatment here, it gives it an art-noir feel, authentic of reportage photography from that period. The image also makes you wonder who this guy is, a waiter perhaps (good guess that one) or an office worker on a break. I wonder actually if it’s a staged shot (it wasn’t). Technically, I don’t mind the subject being very slightly out of focus, it adds to the ambience of the shot and the dark background really focuses the eye on the subject. Overall, a great image, well seen and well handled in post”. Now, you’ll note the lack of any real negativity in these comments and I remember thinking at the time, this one’s a winner. I waited espectantly for the magic words “and we’ll hold that one” but sadly, as all too often, they never came. This is quite typical of photos which slip outside of the box with regards the comfort zone of a particular judge.

As yet, I have never met a judge on the club circuit who likes and specialises in documentary photography, other than one of our own members who judges internally and who is a member of the contemporary group at the RPS. His understanding of documentary photography in particular is extraordinarily broad and he has influenced me enourmously over the past few years. He is however, unique as the vast majority of judges I have met, while highly proficient in their own fields, judge much more conservatively and the results often indicate that they are following well defined rules of what good club photography has to look like. Should I be disillusioned or disappointed then when my images bomb? Well, disappointment is a human traite as it’s never easy hearing a negative critique about something you feel passionately about. However here, there was nothing negative in the points being made so there was an expectation, incorrect as it was, that the judge liked it enough to place it. What this image did do though is to raise the questions as to what I should expect from competition and club judging and whether in reality I was going to let this have any impact on my particular style. In truth, it didn’t and while I have entered a few “mildly sanitised images” into competitions since then, this image is from 2018, I haven’t moved too far from my personal perspective of what makes a good image rather than what makes a good club image. I feel that these two things are somewhat at odd’s with each other.

In summary, I think that as photographers we are looking for some form of acceptance, whether that is gaining likes from posting on Instagram or Facebook or entering and winning competitions. We are born of an age where likes equal value and this all too often pushes us in directions other than where we had hoped to go. For some of us though, photographing and making something interesting from the mundane and ordinary is what marks our work as purposeful and this can and often often does lead to sometihng exceptional.

Being different is everyone’s dream

Being different is everyone’s dream

If you are anything like me you want to show work that is different from those around you. One way of doing this is to photograph what you see but then present it in ways which aren’t necessarily expected. I found that this became a whole lot easier when I dsicovered Nik Effects from Google, now DxO of course. Nik is a treasure trouve of effects covering everything from black and while processing (Nik Silver Efex) right through to Noise Removal (Dfine 2). There are tools for vintage stylisation, analogue stylisation and much, much more – all of it free is you know where to look on the DxO website.

This image is one such image. Taken a couple of years back, it bombed in a club competition for technical issues such as the overly bright highlights. It’s true I could have toned these down in post, perhaps I should have but you know what, it is what is it. It’s not meant to reflect technical perfection, it’s supposed to illicit a non techincal response in the viewer. I spend a lot of time looking at images like this and for me, if they prompt more questions than answers I tend to think that was a successful image.