Friday, December 2, 2016

"Post Truth" and how we got here.

The thing about "Post Truth" is that we got ourselves here. It wasn't some alien invasion or a mass mind control exercise. People willingly gave up looking for truth (or as it is sometimes known "the correct state of affairs").
There was a time when politicians, churches, campaigners would investigate a problem, put forward their own proposals for addressing it based on their moral or philosophical position, then try to get the population to support it. This was how trade unions and the Labour movement began and why they then formed the Labour Party - as a way of making that voice heard in parliament.

In 2016 it works somewhat differently. These days campaigners create a narrative, a story, which makes sense as a story, but often has little evidence behind it. They then try and get a "broad cross section of society", in reality usually a handful of spokespeople, to back it and then they lobby the government to introduce laws that force people to address the issue in question. This means that laws are passed that have very little popular support, so we should not be surprised when the public distrusts elected governments and looks for other solutions rather than being forced to comply with laws they do not agree with.

This strategy is used by political parties, campaign groups and religious bodies. It is much less about hearts and minds and much more about influencing decision makers, with little debate on what we want to influence them to do. A simple parable might be that Jesus, having become concerned about the money lenders in the temple, got up a petition to the Sanhedrin to ban the sale of sacrificial animals in the temple courts. He launched it a press conference with the leaders of a number of Jewish sects including Simon the Zealot (showing that this was not a partisan issue). Meanwhile, Peter and Paul arranged a meeting to brief Pontius Pilate on the issues and try and get him to support reform measures. Not a perfect example, but you can see where the early Christians would have been had they been led by "policy wonks".

A lot of decision making is now based on showing that you have a narrative and that people are buying into it.

Is it any wonder then that people have been so easily switched from believing one narrative to believing another? They were never convinced of, or committed to, the first. It was just the way things were being run. The alternative narrative doesn't need much evidence behind it as long as it meets people's immediate desires and concerns. As we have seen with Donald Trump, you can quickly renege on your populist campaign promises.

People now choose the narrative that best fits with their pre-existing values, tastes and prejudices. One way to describe the phenomena might be, to quote Adam Savage:

I reject your reality and substitute my own.

It is now possible to believe all sorts of crazy stuff because it fits within a narrative that is not itself outrageous.

Now to the reasons this has happened. I think it is partly to do with the increasing diversity of "opinion leaders". With mass communication open to the general public the ways that people receive information is changing. We have already seen how fake news websites have influenced people's thinking during the US presidential election. Governments have also used news management to influence behaviour, for example, during the handover of Hong Kong to China and during the Scottish independence referendum campaign. People are now as likely to trust a blogger or a YouTube channel as they are a newspaper or the BBC News. This means that the likeability of a given presenter or opinion leader is likely to be a significant factor in people buying into their narrative. Some of the main sources of these narratives are people like Alex Jones, David Icke and a plethora of "researchers" who speak well on phone in interviews. If you look at some of this "alternative news media" they are actually quite reliant on material originating with Russia Today and other government's news agencies, so they are not that alternative after all. I am not saying they are wrong about everything, but they are largely immature in their understanding of how mass communication works and how easily they can be manipulated into doing the opposite of what they think they are doing.

Another factor has been the dismissal of the scientific method as a way of obtaining the truth. Two examples of this are the adoption of young earth creationism by increasing numbers of evangelical Christians in the UK and the work done to rubbish climate change science. Science has gone from being the accepted way of finding out facts to a way of finding ideas which need to be presented alongside all the alternatives so people can choose their own truth.

These changes mean that politics is in a state of instability. Labour and Conservative used to be able to rely on about 30% of the vote and had to campaign for the other 20% to get a majority. Now, as we have seen in Scotland, people are willing to vote for alternatives. In England that might mean the end of Labour and the rise of UKIP, because one narrative the left has not really caught up with, and it is more of a verifiable truth than a narrative, is that the British population has generally moved to the right over the past five years. A bit like a tectonic plate sticking on a fault line until the pressure gets too much and it suddenly lurches forward a few feet, we could be about to witness further political changes that have not been predicted.

(If you want to look further at the issue of truth try John 18, even if you aren't a Christian you can't help being captivated by verse 37 and 38).

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

35mm Film Processing by Mail Order in 2016

One of the reasons we have fewer independent photographic shops than we used to is that many relied on the profits from developing and printing in order to survive. In the heydey of film photography, a local shop might take in 20 films a day for processing, have them collected by the lab and delivered back next day for around £2, then charge the customer £4. This doesn’t sound like a lot but £500 to £1000 a month is make or break for some small businesses, especially when the mark-up on major brands was slimmer than 5% in order to compete against companies like Dixons and Jessops. Then came the internet price wars and the rise of digital. Both were the final cut for most photographic shops. The latter killed off the mass market developing and printing industry. No more York or Bonusprint envelopes falling out of Sunday magazines, no more Colourcare vans collecting and delivering films to your local shop, no more local photo processing shops like Supasnaps and Klick.

Asda and Boots hung on longer with in-store store processing labs, but these have gradually shut down leaving your choices for getting film processed somewhat narrower. Unless you are very lucky and have a local lab then you will need to get your film processed by mail order.

At time of writing (November 2016) these are some of the companies doing 35mm film processing by mail order at the budget end of the market in the UK. The prices are for developing and scanning either to CD or for download with the negatives posted back to you. They will all provide a set of 6x4 prints for around £6.

The size of scans varies. I have tried to find the prices for medium sized scans that could be used to make digital prints to 6x4. You still have the negatives for conventional printing of enlargements. Most return the scans on a CD. Some upload them to a transfer site which means you can download them before the negatives reach you in the post. This could reduce the effective turnaround time by two days.


Photo Express
Develop and medium scan £5

Develop, medium scan (2988x1722), scans uploaded to We Transfer, negatives by post,  £6

Need special mailers, available on request from this web page
Price unknown.

Max Spielman
They closed a lot of shops after being bought by Timpson in 2008. Some branches of Timpson will take a film in for processing and send it to their central lab with around seven days turnaround. They also offer a mail order service. Scans are thought to be quite low resolution, but you do get a set of prints.
Develop, print, scan to CD £8.50

Develop, medium scan to CD, £9

DS Colour Labs
Develop, Medium scan to CD, £10

Develop and Scan, to Dropbox, negatives by post,  £11

Black and White

If you shoot black and white you have a few budget options too. It may be cheaper to get prints rather than scans.

AG Photolab
Develop and medium scan £8.99

DS Color Labs
Develop and medium scan to CD £14
(compared to Develop and print to 6x4 £10)

Develop and high res scan to CD £18.75

Higher Quality Options

If you are looking for higher quality, professional standard, processing then I would recommend Peak Imaging (who I have used for 35mm and 120 films). The Darkroom UK also has a very good reputation, although I have not used them, as does Karen Willson.

The Darkroom UK
Develop and medium scan to cd £18

Peak Imaging
Develop and medium scan to cd £20.85

Karen Willson
Develop and print to 6x4 £19.85

Monday, November 7, 2016

Lens manufacturers of the 1980s

I entered the photographic trade in 1984. Initially working for Dixons, which was still a pretty serious photo dealer having only just stopped selling processing chemicals. In 1985 I worked for an independent photographic dealer who sold everything from low-end compact cameras to Bronica, Contax and Nikon. We even sold the Zenit Lomo when it was launched, in their little yellowish plastic boxes - just £20 at the time, probably 100% markup on trade price. I should have bought a pallet load of them and put them in storage.

We were also second-hand dealers which allowed me to try out all sorts of lenses and cameras we did not stock ourselves.

This list is based on lenses I handled during the period 1984 to 1986 plus or minus a couple of years. I have tried to order them roughly in descending order of quality, although this is difficult as some made a mix of good and bad lenses.


The Tamron lenses felt well made and looked industrial. Their design was angular, rather like  Leica or Contax. Their quality was above Tokina and with the appropriate “adaptall-2” lens mount their 70-210mm zoom came in at around £129. Their selling point was that you could change mount when you changed camera. This was a faff for dealers though as you never seemed to have the right mount in stock, no matter how many drawers full you had. You could probably find a Fujica or a Topcon mount, but woe betide anyone asking for a lens in Minolta or Olympus fitting.


This was usually the higher end offering at most independent photo dealers in the 80’s. Their Telephoto zooms tended to be around the £99 price point and were reasonable performers. If you went cheaper than this then image quality usually suffered.


Like the Chinon cameras these were sold exclusively by Dixons. Although their SLR bodies  were Pentax K or M42 fitting they made lenses in other fittings too. Dixons stopped stocking these after they introduced the Miranda lenses, except in Pentax K fitting as part of a multi lens kit with a Chinon body. The Chinon lenses were solid performers. They even made a 50mm f1.2 which sells for serious money today.


These were sold exclusively by Dixons following their acquisition of the Miranda trade mark. They were produced in Canon, Minolta, Pentax K, M42 and Olympus mounts. Probably made by Cosina (who also made the Miranda branded SLR cameras for Dixons).


Although Cosina made lenses for lots of manufacturers their own lenses were much rarer and tended to be in Pentax K mount to suit their range of SLR cameras. Some of their telephoto zooms suffered from chromatic aberration, usually evident as green fringing. Others were fine, so test before buying.


Vivitar marketed lenses manufactured by Cosina, Makinon and Chinon amongst others. Some were good, others not so good. Their SLR camera bodies were made by Cosina.


A mixed bunch of lenses from the same far eastern sources as Vivitar. I owned a 135mm f2.8 which was outstanding and probably originated with Chinon.


This was an unfortunate brand. The original Helios lenses were made in Russia (e.g. the 58mm 2.0 made by KMZ and Lomo and fitted to the Zenit SLR’s). The UK importers TOE wanted to import the full range of good quality Russian lenses but the Russians would not allow it. As a result TOE imported mediocre quality lenses from Japan badged as Helios. The 28-70mm was particularly poor, but looked equally spectacular with its huge objective lens and 62mm filter thread.


Sirius lenses were low priced and the quality was not great as they seemed to pander to the “one lens does everything” craze of the later 80’s which saw lenses like the 28-200mm become popular. The Sirius lenses were popular with independent dealers. They were mainly manufactured by Cosina and Samyang.

Sun Actinon

These were budget priced lenses sold through Sangers Photographic Wholesale, who operated the ”Image Photo Centre” brand used by a lot of independent photographic shops.
The 80-200 sold for £49 compared to the Tokina 70-210 which was £79. It tended to suffer from zoom and focus creep.


Another budget priced lens distributed by the filter manufacturer. I never handled these, but they appeared to be very similar to the Sun Actinon lenses and might just be the same lenses marketed to dealers who were not customers of Sangers.


Prinz was Dixons own brand prior to them acquiring the Miranda trade mark. It was designed to sound German. Early Prinzflex  SLR’s were rebadged Zenit’s, later ones were rebadged Chinons. The Prinz brand continued in parallel with Miranda for a couple of years and was used at that time for lower end items like 110 cameras, basic flash guns and a few lower quality lenses, notably the long 400mm and 500mm T mount lenses which were of poor quality. Rating based solely on those T2 lenses as they had stopped making anything decent by the time I was handling them.


These were budget priced lenses sold by Dixons, possibly exclusively. Mostly made in Korea, possibly by Samyang. They were often the lowest priced lenses you could buy. The 28mm was oddly constructed and was almost as long as a 75 or 80mm telephoto. Quality was probably on par with the Sun Actinon lenses but the construction felt poorer.