November 29, 2008

Danish Please

Every now and then it's worth looking around at what other people are doing and seeing if there's something fundamentally different you're missing out on. This chap has got a great recipe working for him, and a great camera...

I like Canon cameras, but have due respect for other brands. I do seem to run into a lot of photographers whose work I really like and also shoot with a Canon. Is it coincidence? I also ran a few trips in China recently and had one group entirely carrying Nikon, the other entirely carrying Canon. Guess which group was wrangly and tough work, and which group was fun and open to new ideas.

Anyway, Back to the photographer Flemming Bo Jensen. I've been to Copenhagen and I know how hard it is to shoot well. It has loads of inspiration but demands even greater persperation. Flemming's work is revealing, evocative and makes you want to be there.

That's what photography is all about.

November 20, 2008

Old Gold

My first film images shot in nearly ten years were taken on a second hand Great Wall DF-2 during my most recent trek through China with a group. Two other folks on the tour decided to follow suit and bought themselves a Shanghai Seagull for similar purposes.

Here's what we got!

To my surprise the exposures were mostly on the mark. Film is very forgiving of exposure. The camera itself did prove super sharp within its focal sweet spot, but you didnt have to miss the mark by much to fall into the blurry zone. Medium format is not very forgiving of lazy focusing.

My unit also had a poor system to protect the film from scratches, plus a lot of rust and particles falling onto the film. Not exactly production quality, but still very happy with the results given the completely random nature of the purchase.

The experience has left me far more appreciative of the joys to be had shooting with reduced depth of field. I found myself using F2.5 on my Canon 5D a lot during the trip and making the most of the boker/sharpness divide.

Now that I have the prints in my hand I also have a new appreciation for the abilities of my Digital SLR equipment.

November 02, 2008


Brand new camera gear in Beijing is not very cheap, but when you really need to go camera shopping in Beijing there is one place where the range and selection is pleasingly overwhelming. For fans of second hand cameras there is even better news.

I've known about the Beijing Camera Market for years but have struggled to find an accurate description of how to find it. Check the bottom of this blog posting for details, but for now the question is "why go there"?

It's chaos. Cameras, Cards, Tripods, Dresses and more. Yes dresses. Chinese camera markets are intrinsically linked to the sale of wedding dresses. Or vice versa. Half the place is filled with sequined taffeta, the other half with Canon, Nikon, Hasselblad and other toys. Tripod shops, camera bags and other dedicated items abound, and tucked away in the maze of shops inside the main hall is even a quality bookshop where you'll find the best photographic images from China in print.

New cameras dominate the market, but the prices are not brilliant. Haggle hard. Opening prices vary from one store to another as much as 20%, and buyer beware of memory cards that may not be the genuine item. Test them in your camera by formatting the card before you walk out the door.

The real gems here are from the old school. Narrow stores fill in the gaps with second hand goods dating back to an era when Mao Zedong was China's most photographed icon. Alongside Russian relics and early western rangefinders you will come across classic models of local heritage. SeaGull is best known but keep an eye out for the Pea Fowl and Great Wall. For as little as 150 Yuan you can go home with a working camera, but expect to pay more than ten times that amount for a genuine Rollei 35 - well over it's market value outside of China.

If you love your camera gear then the Beijing Camera Market is worth a little effort to get there.

And what did I go home with? Pleased to say I spent my 200 Yuan on a "Great Wall DF-2". It's a Chinese copy of the Pilot 6 which uses 120 film, has a simple but durable shutter mechanism and is relatively compact for a medium format camera. For the sake of US$30 I think this will make the next photo tour a little more fun. Year after year we roam about China with our digital gear but this time I'll have an added challenge and a new perspective. If I do manage to correctly expose a few frames I'll post them online.

Wish me luck!

(ps click here for more info on Chang Cheng - Great Wall DF-2)


Some people refer to WuKeSong when talking about the camera market, but in fact the location is a fair bit north of the Wu Ke Song Metro stop and is more accurately located by the Ding Hui Qiao Nan bus stop. (South end of DingHui Market).

Exiting the WuKeSong subway stop you head out the North-East exit and about 100m up the road you can catch any of the following buses which stop directly outside the camera chaos just two bus stops further along the road...

751 - 913 - 952 - 982 - 983

The actual bus stop is called DingHuiQiao Nan (South of DingHui Bridge). Coming back is easy too. Exit the market and walk under the bridge where any of the following buses will take you back to WuKeSong subway just three stops south...

751 - 913 - 952 - 982 - 983 - 740 - 115 - 996

And finally, if you think it's all just too hard schlepping about Beijing on trains and buses then there is one more way to do it. Come along to China with me on a photography tour and I'll show you the place myself!