Plugged In: Odds, ends, meaning in the eye of beholder

Bu Joe Kashi, for the Redoubt Reporter

This week’s photography column consists of essentially unrelated bits and pieces that I found of interest but that did not fit into any of our more thematically focused articles. With no further ado, we’ll get on with it.

  • Post-Christmas sales currently offer some excellent bargains. B&H Photo has an unbeatable sale price on Sigma prime lenses for Sony’s NEX compact-system cameras and Olympus/Panasonic Micro Four-Thirds cameras. For $200 plus about $16 in shipping, B&H is offering a kit of two highly regarded Sigma f/2.8 prime lenses, a 19-mm wide-angle and a 30-mm standard lens.

Although currently back ordered, B&H is accepting orders that lock in this 50 percent off sale price. Here’s the link for Micro Four-Thirds mount lenses  as of January 20:  http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/913512-REG/Sigma__19mm_f_2_8_DN_f_OLYMPS_PAN.html.  The Sony NEX mount two lens kit can be found at http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/913513-REG/sigma_19mm_f_2_8_ex_dn.html.

There’s another lingering good deal: Pentax’s K-01 mirrorless camera. The K-01 never really caught on with mainstream purchasers due to its unusual body design that was basically a digital SLR camera in which the mirror and prism hump were removed and a dash of industrial design added. If you find the body design to your liking, then you can’t go wrong with the image quality.

On the upside, the K-01 uses an upgraded version of the same imaging sensor and processing chip found in the

Photos courtesy of www.camerasize.com. The Pentax K-01, left, is noticeably smaller than Pentax’s K-5 dSLR.

Photos courtesy of http://www.camerasize.com. The Pentax K-01, left, is noticeably smaller than Pentax’s K-5 dSLR.

class-leading Pentax K-5 dSLR cameras. In fact, the K-01 is ranked as having the second best image quality and low-light capability among all mirrorless cameras.

The K-01 directly uses all of Pentax’s wide range of zoom and excellent prime lenses. Both B&H Photo and Amazon have a variety of K-01 sale packages from $314 (body only) through the low to mid-$400 range, with the more expensive kits often including Pentax’s excellent and tiny 40-mm prime lens at a very good price.jk Pentax K-01 top view

Although large, as mirrorless cameras go, the Pentax K-01 is noticeably smaller than Pentax’s K-5 dSLR, one of the most compact dSLR cameras on the market.

  • Last week’s article took an in-depth look at premium compact cameras. Since then, comparative photographs of standard test images have been posted on the respected imaging-resource.com website. Using their image comparison tool, I examined images made with Canon’s G15 and the new Olympus XZ-2 at both base ISO and at ISO 800.

In both instances, the test photos made with the Olympus were sharper and showed lower noise levels. Unless you really want the optical viewfinder built into Canon’s G15, you’ll likely find that the Olympus XZ-2 produces higher image quality.

If you really want an eye-level viewfinder with the XZ-2, you can always plug one of the Olympus detachable electronic viewfinders into the hot shoe port. The XZ-2 seems to be the premium compact camera of choice now that Olympus is using Sony sensors as well as the same fine lens previously mounted on the XZ-1. Pentax’s recently announced MX-1 premium compact camera seems to use the same sensor and lens as Olympus, but with a metal body costing about $100 less.

  • The Alaska Contemporary Art Bank has announced it 2013 purchase program. The deadline to submit work for possible purchase is March 1. There’s no application fee and the juried purchase competition is open to all Alaska residents. You can submit up to six recent works in any visual media, including photography. Purchased works become part of the state of Alaska’s lending collection of artwork that’s displayed throughout state public areas. Only works priced at under $4,000 will be considered. Apply through www.callforentry.org, a nonprofit consortium of western states arts programs that provides a central clearinghouse for art competitions and purchase programs. You’ll need to create an account, log in and then find the Alaska Contemporary Art Bank 2013 call for entries. While you’re at it, sign up to receive free regular announcements of new calls for submission.
  • The well-regarded Luminous Landscape website has posted “The Synthesis of Chinese Landscape Painting and Photography,” one of the most offbeat but interesting articles about photographic composition that I’ve seen in a very long time. This article extracts some basic compositional approaches that characterize traditional Chinese painting and show how they also apply quite convincingly to landscape photography. You can find the article at http://www.luminouslandscape.com/the_synthesis_of_chinese_landscape_painting_and_photography.shtml.
  • One of the most persuasive arguments for using cellphone cameras is the ability to quickly connect to others and immediately transmit and post your photos, regardless of location. That ability to immediately post photos is likely useful for journalists, possibly scientists, and certainly those whose lives revolve around posting to their Facebook page.

Until now, that sort of instant connectivity has eluded anyone using digital cameras other than the minimal photographic hardware found in better cellphones.

Nikon recently released its Coolpix S800c, the first “real” digital camera built around the Android cellphone operating system. Although not a high-end imaging device despite its $350 price tag, Nikon’s S800c has a decent sensor and an optically zooming lens with a 25-mm to 250-mm equivalent zoom range. Samsung announced similar, Android-based cameras.

  • One of our recent articles discussed how every person probably sees something unique in a photograph or other visual artwork, reactions that likely differ from what the photographer had in mind when actually making the photo. We then asked readers to email us their comments about how they reacted to a simple black and white photo of a partially illuminated chair in an otherwise dark room, a photo we’ve reproduced here.

    jk chair - BW version

    Photo courtesy of Joe Kashi

Here are reactions received from our readers:

Barbara McNinch wrote: “I believe I saw the chair/lamp/curtain photo at an earlier local exhibit. I thought the picture was breathtaking. The eloquent composition and lighting of everyday objects is an example of the type of photography I really enjoy. The picture did not evoke any memories for me, either positive or negative. I took it for exactly what it was…an everyday moment beautifully illustrated. I will add that the very small picture in the paper did not do justice to the actual image, which was much larger. Thanks for asking for input as I particularly liked this photograph.”

A reader who wished to remain anonymous wrote, “The photo gives me a sense of both comfort and discomfort. It’s mostly dark and sterile in its neatness, creating a sense of discomfort. Yet at the same time, the band of light, and the patterns and textures in the furnishings and decor that are illuminating make the scene a little more cozy. After all, that’s what a good hotel experience is — a restful space in unfamiliar surroundings.”

Another anonymous reader commented that it reminded her of happy childhood times at her grandfather’s house, while Celia Anderson commented that she found the photo “Quiet, contemplative, intimate, serene. Stunningly beautiful in its simplicity!”

A confession — I took that photo and used it, and the request for comments, to illustrate how people’s reactions differ, depending on their personal experiences. Practically and legally, it was much simpler to use my own photo rather than someone else’s. And, that photo did win honorable mention in the 2011 “Rarified Light” statewide juried show, so some juror thought that it had merit of some sort.

What did I have in mind when I prepared that photo to look as it did in its final form? Actually, the empty chair and side lighting reminded me of mortality and death. That others found quite opposite but equally plausible interpretations showed, I thought, that good photographs allow viewers to construct and experience their own personal meaning rather than being forced to accept a single predetermined “meaning.”

Local attorney Joe Kashi received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from MIT and his law degree from Georgetown University. He has published many articles about computer technology, law practice and digital photography in national media since 1990. Many of his technology and photography articles can be accessed through his website, http://www.kashilaw.com.

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