Monday, June 28, 2010

First things first

What better way to start a week than receiving something cool in the mail. And what better way to start enjoying what you just received than starting a blog about it. Well, this blog isn't really about a soft release, or even two of them. That's just what I happened to receive today. However, they are the topic of this first blog post for that very reason. Let's first discuss what soft releases are, what they are supposed to do, and then take a look at the ones I now have.

A soft release is a little button you can screw into the shutter release on many cameras. It basically makes the shutter release a bit easier to reach (by making it bigger and providing a different shape) and a bit easier to trigger (hence the term, soft release). The idea behind this is to reduce effects of camera shake on your pictures by eliminating some of the shake from the photographer pushing the shutter button. Not all cameras can fit a soft release. For example, a Canon DSLR will not have place for one, while a Leica M will. While some SLRs can fit a soft release, I would expect rangefinders and other mirrorless cameras to benefit more from using them. This is because the mirror slap of an SLR camera also introduces some shake and this cannot be removed with such a simple accessory. Better handholding technique is of course beneficial in both cases, and I guess some may even think a soft release is just an attempt to take a shortcut there. As I have not tried one before this day, I cannot yet really comment on that point.

Here are my two ladybugs with threads on their bottoms:

They are made by match Technical Services, who specialize in photographic accessories for the Leica M rangefinder cameras. Among other things, they make several types of soft releases. The ones with the ladybug paint job are called Bugs. Now, in addition to looking cool (or not like your typical camera accessories anyway) these things are actually very well made. They are CNC machined out of solid brass, and my first impression when putting one on my Epson R-D1 digital rangefinder camera was very positive. They fit the thread perfectly and require just the right amount of force to take off. You will not lose these things easily by accidentally dropping one off the camera, they won't break nor should they get stuck on your camera. Nice.

As I received two Bugs (red and white), I was able to compare their quality, finish, and functionality. I'm very pleased with them both and there are no differences between them except for one thing. You will notice in the image below that the ladybugs are not facing the same way when attached on the camera. Oh the horror! This is due to both the Bugs themselves as well as the camera. Firstly, the Bugs are obviously unique. It would perhaps be possible to align the soft releases better for the painting. However, the threads on the cameras differ as well and the maker of the soft releases has zero control over that, so there would be very little point to do so. For example, my Voigtländer Bessa rangefinder camera had the Bugs facing in yet another directions. No biggie, but someone may care. If this would bother you and you want to try a soft release, get a design that you feel comfortable having any which way on your camera.

So, are all my photos now shake-free and can I suddenly handhold shots a stop slower? No, and I don't know. I need to experiment more. I do believe it should be possible to use at least slightly longer shutter speeds now, since firing off shots only requires a fairly gentle tap with the soft release. The difference is noticeable. And the ladybugs are simply pretty cute. While the white one looks good on the R-D1, I'm not picking any favourites yet.

This concludes my first post. More will follow. This is my soft release into blogging.

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