Arthur Morris / Birds as Art
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Bulletins and Notes Archive
BIRDS AS ART ON-LINE Bulletin 55 September 9,
- The Death of the Arca-Swiss
- New Issue of
NPN Now On-Line
The Death of the Arca-Swiss B-1
I constantly receive questions from folks whose Arca-Swiss
B-1 Ballheads are not functioning properly. These
questions fit into two categories. The first deals with
complaints that the main locking knob s "stuck." The
situation is almost always caused by folks who have
turned the knob
too hard when
the ball with the main locking knob! It is "stuck"
open.... This problem occurs especially with folks who
do not have great arm strength. If you take a large
pair of pliers or get a really strong person
to turn the knob towards "tighten," you should be fine.
Then just be sure to loosen the main knob lightly....
The second type of questions are from folks whose ballheads
grab or stick and do not pan smoothly even when the main locking
knob is loosened completely and the set screw is out fully so
that the least possible tension is set. In these cases, the
ball is simply dirty. The problem is exacerbated in cold or
damp weather. I would swear on a stack of Sibley Field Guides
that years ago that I never ever encountered such problems. I
have had some success cleaning the ball with isopropyl alcohol
and drying it by turning and turning it and working through the
cut-out slot. Bryan Geyer recommends dunking the whole ballhead
into 99% isopropyl alcohol and swishing it around. Arca-Swiss
recommends against this.
In any case, I, personally, have totally given up on my Arca-Swiss
B-1 ballheads. In recent years quality control has slipped, the
ballhead sticks terribly (as above) whenever it gets slightly
cold or dirty, and their repair "service" is ludicrously bad at
best. (When the ball grabs, and you grasp the clamp and move it
around, the main locking knob actually moves and exhibits almost
1/8 inch of play: this never happened with earlier general I now
use the terribly expensive Linhoff Prophy II for my macro work
and when working off a tripod or the Groofwin Pod in the car.
I would love to hear from folks with regards to either their
favorite or most hated ballheads...
Issue of NPN Now On-Line
There are two great articles, the first is "EOS 1v versus Oak
Creek" by multiple IPT participant E.J. Peiker is extremely
well-written, humorous, and packed with suspense... You will
have to check it out yourself if you want to know if the
camera lived. "Experiences and Changes" by Pete and Alice
Bengeyfiled is superbly written. While dealing primarily with
photo locations in the West, it makes me wonder who among us
prefers Ding Darling with spoonbills and early morning light
and 60 photographers, and who would prefer a long walk down a
secluded beach with sea oats and only a few birds. Both
articles are accompanied by some fine photographs. To visit
NPN click on:
More and more Bulletin Subscribers are hanging out at both the
Avian Gallery and the General Discussion. There have been
lots of great images posted on the former (as well as some
heated exchanges), and some interesting threads on the latter,
especially the still-developing thread that deals with the
correct way to use an incident meter. If nothing else, do
check out Greg Downing's amazing Horned Puffin flight shot
from the recent Pibilofs IPT at:
One of the
great pleasures in life is receiving a letter like this:
I've long been a student of your work - can't count the
number of times I've read the chapter on
exposure in your classic, The Art of Bird Photography. This book
(and your previous Pure & Simple
book) have made me a much better bird photographer. Humble
congratulations and gratitude to you for
raising the bar, worldwide, in bird photography. Also, for
kindling widespread interest in bird
Based on your experience and advice, I made the switch to Canon
EOS many months ago, complete with the monster 600/4(non IS...
maybe next purchase). My god, has it ever changed my ability to
consistently make good bird photos. My previous gear was a quite
inadequate (for bird
photography, anyway) Minolta system. As I'm sure you are deluged
with questions about the various brands, I thought you might
like to read my recent response to someone asking about my
experience with Minolta (compared to my recent Canon
experience). Not sure if you've had much experience with Minolta
systems, or have ever had much feedback about them - so perhaps
this is of value to you in your arsenal of knowledge about why
Canon is the superior choice in brands.
Please keep making your outstanding and inspiring bird photos!
Bird & Nature Photography
(Note: Be sure to check out Ethan's fine web site; his
home page yawning merganser is a killer.)
Thanks for the email. I look forward to seeing some of your
photos when they are online! I'm happy
to answer your email, because it was a scary and big choice for
me to switch entire systems from
Minolta to Canon EOS. Hope my experiences help with your
I shot Minolta gear for years and made many great shots with it
- but ultimately found that it had
some serious limitations. I chose to switch to Canon when I
decided to buy a big lens, which cost
nearly as much as the entire rest of the system. At that time, I
did have a lot invested in Minolta,
but with services like ebay and photo.net, I was able to sell
all my Minolta gear quickly and for a
good price. This helped to make the switch quite easy.
I believe that the obvious choice of brands for a serious
wildlife photographer is Canon or Nikon.
Sure you can make great images with other equipment, but the
other brands have various limits (some
are big limits!). Canon was my choice for a number of reasons:
-they are a huge company (way bigger than all the others) and
they invest heavily in research and
-their lens technology is incredible (I'm saving for an image
stabilizer) - they are clearly
-they have the most extensive and complete selection of gear,
especially pro accessories
(ie.autofocus extension tubes)
-They have several high-end bodies with essential pro features (ie.
mirror lock-up). Minolta bodies
have lagged behind with such pro features - they're finally
getting better with the 7 and 9, but
it's awfully late in the game.
-lots of great used Canon gear, especially lenses (non IS)
available at bargain prices right
now (this is how I bought my 600/4 and EOS 1N bodies), as rich
photographers upgrade to the latest IS
lenses and new pro bodies.
-generally cheaper than Nikon (bodies especially)
OK here are some specific thoughts on the Minolta pro APO
-it is extremely sharp; optically excellent
-one of the biggest/fastest handholdable lenses
-good speed and focal length combination for shooting VERY close
-Autofocus is loud and sluggish; here the canon lens blows the
Minolta out of the water -it is
lightning fast, accurate and silent - it is WAY better than the
-Cannot switch between auto and manual focus instantly with
Minolta as you can with canon - this is
probably the single biggest fault of Minolta's lens/focus
technology. For wildlife(especially
birds), I like to first autofocus then do fine adjustments
manually. Can't do this with the Minolta,
so I almost always had to shoot it in manual focus. I missed
many shots as a result.
-Awkward lens hood attachment on the 400/4.5- I broke the small
attachment pegs on mine and had to
fix it with tape. Canon is much better design.
-Add a 1.4x converter (which you will want to do for wildlife)
and the lens is awfully slow
(minimum of f/6.7). A 2x puts your min. aperture at f/9.5.
Minolta should have made it an f/4
lens - it would have made more sense.
-Serious vignetting(dark edges) when you use extension tubes
with the lens. Must use Kenko tubes,
because Minolta does not make any.
All in all, I believe the Canon system and big lenses are much
better than the Minolta. I'm not
alone here, as most pros are using Canon or Nikon. You sound
like you're quite serious into nature
photography - maybe with pro aspirations. My recommendation is
to switch to Canon before investing
more in Minolta. In the long run you'll be more satisfied. It's
easy to sell your gear these days on
the internet. You could pick up the 100-400IS lens for about the
same price as the Minolta 400/4.5.
Used bodies are quite cheap too - I bought two EOS 1Ns used. In
fact, most of my gear was bought
used (the only way I could afford to get it!).
As a parting note, I should mention that I am not sponsored in
any way, so my opinions are totally
un-biased. They are based entirely on my personal experience
with both of these systems.
If you have any other questions, feel free to send them to me.
Hope this helps. Good luck and great shooting!
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