The television series, THE TUDORS, is just now going to air on ABC TV – three years after it’s screening in the northern hemisphere. In fact you might ask: Why bother with the ABC when you can buy the entire series on DVD, already discounted?

Yes, yes – it has been screened on pay TV, but only a small percentage of the population is buying cable at the moment.

In this day and age when mind-numbing, moronic sporting contests are broadcast in real time, as they are happening anywhere in the world, why must we wait months or years for decent TV drama and comedy? Can it be the arrogance of programmers? They get to see things when they are new, the peasants can wait. Fair enough.

Naughty people who have no regard for intellectual property don’t wait. They bittorrent. For instance the series ZEN, based on the popular novels of Michael Dibdin about an Italian detective, has just started screening on BBC One. The first two episodes have gone to air and already they are available for wicked people to download. I am told (although I wouldn’t be able to say from first hand observation, of course) that the video and audio quality is excellent.

Zen pic

Some unscrupulous and misguided English persons record them off air from high definition broadcasts [Oh! They have HD for real programs in the UK? How lucky are they? While HD here is reserved for sport, Wagon Train and self-indulgent 24 hour news channels] and upload the episodes to torrent sites within hours of broadcast.

Now, here’s a tricky moral question. Assuming that the ABC decides to buy ZEN and broadcast it in 2014, without advertising, how are we committing any sort of crime or sin if we choose to see the programs now? We are not cheating anyone of their profits. And the ABC is using distance to defend its insulting programming processes and to limit viewers’ choices.

Just as the ACCC chose to enter the case against DVD zoning, resulting in Australians being able to buy de-zoned DVD players and to buy and play discs from anywhere in the world, so the ACCC should be defending P2P [bittorrent] downloaders when no commercial interests are being damaged. And perhaps even when they are.

After all, if publishers are now obliged to have books on the shelves in Australian bookshops within a few weeks of publication in Britain or the US why should television networks be permitted to deny us access to new release TV programs?


And while you are not downloading ZEN you should also definitely not download DOWNTON ABBEY. This superb period drama with Hugh Bonneville and Maggie Smith in the lead is far too good for the Arse Enders. Perhaps in 2018 it might turn up in Oz, but almost certainly not in the high definition format in which it was broadcast.


Posted by terry at 09:03 AM | Comments (0)


iPad magazines


6 issues for $14.62

51 issues for $38.73

Free to registered subscribers

Save money and trees

The low-down: The magazines American Photo and Amateur Photographer are available through the iMag retailer Zinio (get the app from the app store). For The Age, registered subscribers to the daily paper edition can download the app from the app store and then receive a daily edition on the iPad, with all sections including Green Guide/Livewire. The venerable Amateur Photographer, as the title suggests, is aimed at enthusiasts with advice, reviews and advertisements. American Photo puts emphasis on what the best professionals are doing. Livewire gives you this very page of priceless advice and reviews to read on the train.

Like: The prices! The two magazines are expensive to buy as single issues from the newsagent, and they are always weeks behind their original publication date. Photographs, both colour and monochrome, look superb on the iPad – zappier in colour and contrast than on paper. It seems heretical to say it, but as screens increase in resolution this may be the preferred way of looking at photographs.

Dislike: Because the magazine and newspaper pages are physically larger than the screen they need to be zoomed for reading, and then there is some scrolling around.

Verdict: If these prices are maintained, and they are not just bait to test subscriber interest, then this is the future of photographic magazine publishing. Magazines are by nature ephemeral things. Some people keep them but most of us read them and throw them away. Low prices and saved trees, not to mention the carbon footprint difference between paper and electrons, make the iMag the way to go.


Posted by terry at 08:08 AM | Comments (0)




“Sumer is icumen in, Lhude sing cuccu!” and so on. For us it’s more “Lhude buzz blowies.” Anyway, summer is nothing to get excited about, what with the heat and the sun’s carcinogenic rays. Best stay indoors until things cool down again.

And, in the meantime, keep an eye out for activities that don’t involve the midday sun. We recommend a visit to the NGV to take in the current (until March) exhibition of photos called “Luminous Cities.”

The curator of photography, Susan van Wyk, has looked into the Gallery’s permanent collection and assembled an exhibition of city-scape photographs of towns ancient and modern. There is even a photo of Pompeii, but probably not taken the day after the catastrophe.

Australian photographers represented include Max Dupain and Harold Cazneaux (photos of Sydney), Mark Strizic (Collins Street, 1960), Wolfgang Sievers (pre-war Frankfurt) and Bill Henson (Manhattan).

We were drawn to the exhibition by the chance to see work by two of the greatest of city photographers, Eugène Atget and Berenice Abbott. Atget’s subject was his beloved Paris in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, before Baron Haussman’s rebuilding project was completed and there were still traces of the old Medieval and Renaissance city left to be recorded.

Bernice (as she was then, before Frenchifying her name) was a young American would-be sculptor in Paris in the 1920s. She met Atget and committed herself to preserving his magnificent, and under-appreciated, photographic archive. But more than that she was inspired to give up sculpting and take up the camera.

She went back to America and took Manhattan as her subject, The richness of her photographs, taken with large format cameras, are both breathtaking and moving. But of all Abbott’s photographs the one worth the pilgrimage to the Gallery is her most famous – New York at night 1932.

In these days of photographic prodigality, when we keep our finger on the button, more or less confident that if we take twenty photos one is bound to be reasonable, it is good to be reminded of photography as a more considered art.

Abbott wanted to photograph Manhattan at the magical moment when the light was fading and the office lights were all on. She planned and waited. The obvious place to mount her camera was high on the new wonder of the world, the Empire State Building. And, she figured, the day to do it would be the shortest day of the year when people were still at work after dusk, with the office lights all on. She lugged her heavy camera up the skyscraper and took one carefully planned shot. It is now one of the most famous photographs ever taken. Well worth a trip to the cool NGV to see it.


Posted by terry at 08:03 AM | Comments (0)



PopPhotog cover


ZINIO.COM the eNewsagency for the iPad, has just sold us American Popular Photography at the bargain price of AUD19.50 for twelve issues.

Get the ZINIO app from the App Store and go shopping. There are great deals on offer at a fraction of the prices of the paper editions. At least while the Australian dollar holds up, which might not be for much longer.


And you save trees!

Posted by terry at 08:36 AM | Comments (0)



Fujifilm Instax Mini

Price: $164

For footballers?

The low-down: This camera, which seems to have taken some time reaching the Antipodes, revives the Polaroid instant photo technology that went out of production in 2008. The concept is unchanged – a sheet of film/paper with the chemicals in a pod that is squeezed as the medium is ejected from the top of the camera. The film is rated at ISO800. The camera is plastic and toy-like with a fixed focal length lens. It is very bulky – several times the volume of any compact camera. It is turned on and off by pulling and pushing the lens barrel. Print size is 46X62mm, smaller than a credit card. There is an inbuilt flash and four exposure settings on the selector. Power is from four AA batteries. Film/paper comes in a cassette of ten sheets.

Like: Well, it is fun. And children like it, although the development time tests their limited patience.

Dislike: Exposure is hit and miss and image quality is poor. Colours tend to brown/sepia. The viewfinder (optical) display is nothing like what appears on the print.

Verdict: The consensus amongst those who tried it is that the Instax should be part of the kit handed out to all AFL footballers. They can take rude pictures of each other and then tear them up, rather than leave them lying around on a laptop accessible to vengeful groupies. And we must make a comment on the price. Amazon sells this camera for US$80. How can it cost twice that in Australia when the dollar is at parity? Perhaps Fujifilm think we are so dumb that we haven’t yet caught up with the interweb? Opinion in the US is that the camera is over-priced at $80.


Posted by terry at 08:52 AM | Comments (1)



Let’s have a new year’s resolution. Two, in fact. First, we promise, hand on heart, that in 2011 we will begin a strict regime of backing up every file on our main hard disc. After all, did we not lose a whole lot of photos in the great PC changeover of 2010? And we said: Never again. And then we did nothing about it.

Second: we are going to tag the five gazillion photos we have on disc so that when we need a picture of Uncle Cyril we just type Cyril into the search bar and bingo! There he is. Every photo of him.

We have been promising to tag our photos since we first went digi-crazy nine years ago and we still haven’t done the job properly. Every now and then we have a little burst and after ten minutes we can easily think of something we would rather be doing.

We got excited when the iMac got a new version of iPhoto that has face recognition. In theory this meant that we only had to gather together a few different photos of Cyril and say to iPhoto: “Look, this is Cyril. Find me every photo of him on the hard drive.” Unfortunately it came up with a large number of mis-identifications which makes us wonder if the AFP do any better. And it is hopeless at finding “possums” or “lorikeets” or “Flinders Ranges.”

Both iPhoto and the Windows Live Photo Gallery have single and batch image tagging with a descriptive caption. Free photo viewing programs, such as Irfanview (www.irfanview.com) also have image tagging. A tagged image is easy to locate in a file search program and when you type in “Cyril” and hit the Find button and a whole lot of Cyrils come up you glow with self-righteousness. Until you see that the most recently tagged was 2004.

One chap puts the problem to us like this: “Is captioning a tiresome chore, along with staying home on Friday evenings to shampoo the hair of the dog, that can be remedied with some magical silver bullet software.  If the man with the beard, third from left, turns out later to be a famous axe murderer…you might like the custodians of your photographic library to be aware of whom you have photographed in later years.” Macabre imagination, but a good point..

As far as we know – and we are ready to stand corrected – there is no royal road to tagging success. It is tedious. Obviously the easiest, relatively speaking, way is to put all the photos of one person or type into a discrete folder. There they can be tagged as a batch without having to caption every single photo. Our pathetic attempt to follow our own advice is to have a folder named “Family” and one called “Friends”. Almost too vague to be useful, but it’s a start. Anyway, we console ourselves: at least we don’t suffer from OCD.


Posted by terry at 08:50 AM | Comments (1)



Nikon D7000

Price: $1600 body

Worthy upgrade from the D90

The low-down: This 16 megapixel DSLR sits above the D90 in Nikon’s line-up. The rugged magnesium alloy body shell, previously only a feature of Nikon’s professional cameras, houses a 100% viewfinder, two SD card slots (for double capacity or for recording jpeg on one and RAW on the other), a high resolution 7.5cm LCD, 1080p video mode and full time auto focus in movie mode. And there is an external microphone socket and HDMI-out for connecting to a TV. Burst shooting is up to 6fps. We like the ergonomics of Nikon cameras, and this one lives up to expectations, but we realise that ergonomic preference depends on familiarity – Nikon owners will love it. There is the usual Nikon low light focus assist lamp, so much better than the rapid flash method of focusing in the dark. Functions are smooth and luxurious.

Like: The image quality is what we have come to expect, brilliant even up in the high ISO range. In some ways we regard this as a better camera than our more expensive D300. The Active D-Lighting really does help preserve the detail in shadows and highlights.

Dislike: The D7000 only has a three exposure auto bracket which is mean compared with the nine exposure set of the D300. Presumably this is a firmware function that could be easily and cheaply changed.

Verdict: For Nikon owners trading up from a D70/80 or even 90 the choice is simple – the D7000 accepts your lenses and accessories. But for someone new to DSLRs the choice might come down to the D7000 or the Canon 60D. The D7000 feels slightly more “professional” but the 60D has the useful swivelling LCD, a significant feature for video shooting. We would be happy with either.



Posted by terry at 07:56 AM | Comments (0)