Three gone…

As of today, Jessops no longer continues to trade. It is but a third specialist purveyor of photographic equipment to go this way. Jacobs, another Leicester headquartered competitor, met the same fate as did the Wildings chain in the northwest of England. These were smaller operations than Jessops who may have overreached itself during the boom years and certainly had their share of financial troubles in recent times, the latest of which putting an end from the operation.

Many are pondering what is happening and the temptation is to blame the rise of the e-commerce and the economic situation for all of this. In addition, I have seen poor service blamed. However, where are we going to go now after this? Has photography become such a specialised market that you need a diversified business to stick with it? After all, independent retailers have been taking a hammering too and some have gone out of business like the chains that I have mentioned here.

It does raise the question as to where folk engaging in a photographic purchase are going to go for advice now; is the web sufficiently beginner friendly? There seemingly are going to be less bricks and mortar shops out there now so coming across one-to-one advice as once would have been the case is looking harder than it once was. Photographic magazines will help and the web has a big role to play too. It certainly informed some of my previous purchases but I have been that little bit more serious about my photography for a while now.

It might be that photography is becoming more specialist again after a period when the advent of digital cameras caused an explosion in interest. Cameras on mobile phones are becoming ever more capable and cannibalising the compact camera market for those only interested in point and shoot machinery. Maybe that is where things are going in that mass market photography doesn’t offer the future that it once might have done given the speed of technological advance. The future and present undoubtedly are about as interesting as they have become utterly uncertain.

Thinking over the last ten years or so, there has been a lot of change and that seems set to continue even if I am left wondering if photography has shot its bolt by now. My first SLR came from a Stockport branch of Jessops and was a film camera, a Canon EOS SLR. It certainly got me going and was exchanged for a Canon EOS 30 from Ffordes, an internet transaction during which the phone system around Manchester and Cheshire went on the blink. That outage may have exposed a frailty of our networked world but there has been no fire to melt cables in a tunnel since then. Further items from Jessops came via the same channel such as a Manfrotto 055 tripod and my Pentax K10D. A Canon-fit 28-135 mm Sigma came from Jessops’ then Manchester Deansgate store and another Canon-fit Sigma lens, a 70-300 mm telephoto affair, came from another branch of the chain, although not the Macclesfield branch since that had yet to be established and there’s no photographic store left in the town now after the Jessops and Wildings closures.

Those purchases have become history just like the photographic retail chain from which they were sourced. These days, I am more than comfortable in making dealings over the web but that concern about those starting out that I expressed earlier now remains. Seeing how that would work is set to become interesting. Might it limit the take up of photography on a more serious basis? That is a question that could get a very interesting answer as we continue into ever more uncertain times.

Sometimes, a firmware update is in order

After a recent trip to Oxford, I have started to mull over adding a longer lens (could make more distant architectural detail photos a possibility) to complement my trusty Sigma 18-125mm f/3.8-5.6 DC HSM zoom lens that now is entering approaching its third year in my hands. While I have made no decision about the acquisition of another lens, there are some tempting bargains out there, it seems. However, the real draw on my attention is the lack of autofocus with the aforementioned Sigma and I now find it hard to believe that I was blaming the manufacturer for no keeping up with Pentax when it really was the other way around. A bit of poking around on the web revealed that all that I needed to do was download a firmware update from the Pentax website. While being slowed down by the lack of autofocus cannot have done bad things for my photography, I still wonder at why I didn’t try updating the camera for as long as I have.

In the file for updating my K10D, there was a README file containing the instructions for carrying out the update with the included binary file that was set to take the camera from version 1.00 to 1.30 (hold down the Menu button while starting the camera to see what you have). In summary, both files were copied onto an SD card that was inserted into the camera and it turned off. The next step was to power up the camera with the menu button held down to start the update. To stop erroneous updates, there is an “Are you sure?” style Yes/No menu popped up before anything else happens. Selecting Yes sets things into motion and you have to wait until the word “COMPLETE” appears in the bottom left corner before turning the camera and removing the card. Now that I think of it, I should have checked the battery before doing anything because the consequences of losing power in the middle of what I was doing would have been annoying, especially with my liking the photographic results produced by the camera.

Risk taking aside, the process was worth its while with HSM now working as it should have done all this time. It seems quiet and responsive too from my limited tests to date. Even better, the autofocus doesn’t hunt anywhere near as much as the 18-55 mm Pentax kit lens that came with the camera. The next decision is whether to stick  with my manual focussing ways or lapse into trusting autofocus from now on though my better reason is to stick with the slower approach unless the subjects are fast. Now that I think of it, train and bus photos for my transport website have become a whole lot easier as have any wildlife photos that I care to capture. Speaking of the latter brings me back to that telephoto quandary that I mentioned at the beginning. Well, there’s a tempting Sigma 50-200 mm that has caught my eye…