Vote! Yea! Selfie? Nay!

For anyone who's not yet made it to a polling station to cast their ballot in today's European elections, please do go and vote, but please don't take any photographs in the process. Although photography in polling stations isn't against the law itself, if you were to accidentally compromise another voter's right to secret ballot or divulge the unique identification number on a ballot paper, you would be breaking the law. If convicted, you could face a £5,000 fine or up to six months in prison.

Given that the law isn't clear cut, it's best to stay on the safe side and refrain from wielding photo-enabled equipped around a polling station. We'll probably have a clearer picture in the autumn, when the Law Commission publishes its proposals regarding electoral reform, which includes rules regarding secrecy and photography.

(Headsup to the BBC)

Social Photography on sale in the US!

I've heard a rumour that my newest—and possibly prettiest—book, Social Photography is now on sale in the US! Naturally I'm incredibly biased (although my father probably wins the prize for most enthusiastic cheerleader), but I am very proud of it. In a nutshell, it's a guide to making the most out of your smartphone, from taking better pictures to sharing them astutely. social photo cover

You can go into a bricks-and-mortar store to purchase it, use your preferred online retailer, or download it as an ebook.

For people in the UK wanting to lay their hands on a physical copy, they'll be here next month. Of course I'll be sure to tell you when! That would be now! Woohoo!

Lensbaby adds an Android option to its Kickstarter campaign

When manufacturers and purveyors of not-quite-toe-curlingly-expensive optically fun lenses Lensbaby launched a Kickstarter campaign to bring a Sweet Spot selective focus lens and companion app to mobile photographers, a few eyebrows were raised. First, because a well-established company was looking for Kickstarter funding for a project that felt nailed-on to succeed and second, because the Sweet Spot lens and app was iPhone-only. At least, I don't use an Android phone but I felt indignant on behalf of Andoid phone owners. Sweet Spot + iPhone, but now coming to Android (photo by Ben Hutchinson)

It sounds as if Android users have made their demand for an equivalent sufficiently for Lensbaby to take note. It has just announced a $50 pledge for an Android-compatible Sweet Spot lens and app, that will ship and be availble for download in October this year.

You can go lay down your money on Kickstarter now.

JVC Kenwood joins the Micro Four Thirds group

Olympus and Panasonic unveiled the Micro Four Thirds standard, with its smaller and lighter weight interchangeable lens system, back in 2008. Olympus has focused on building the OM-D line built to Micro Four Thirds standards while Panasonic produced some cameras that are great for making videos. Today, JVC Kenwood has announced that it is joining the Micro Four Thirds group and will be releasing a series of advanced Micro Four Thirds products. In a joint statement from Olympus and Panasonic, they were keen to stress the development of the Micro Four Thirds standard in a way that reflects the interests of the individual companies and provides consumers with a selection of different products: 'The release of these new products will add to the growing diversity of the Micro Four Thirds System lineup, which now consists of a wide range of products that represent the unique characteristics of each participating company.'

I'm awaiting confirmation from JVC Kenwood on its expected Micro Four Thirds product range and expectations.

Flickr's product chief Markus Spiering joins EyeEm to promote its US development

Markus Spiering, who until Monday was Head of Product at Flickr, has announced he's joined Berlin-based photo-sharing community EyeEm, where he'll be focused on expanding the app into the US market and developing the product team. While Spiering is currently sitting at a desk in Berlin, he will be opening up a San Francisco EyeEm office later this year.

Spiering was named as one of Silicon Valley's top 40 players under the age of 40 in 2013, and was seen as instrumental in halting a decline in Flickr's decline after its sale to Yahoo!, so to some leaving a Wall Street-listed company for a Berlin-based start-up might seem like an unusual move. However, it's the challenge of raising EyeEm's US profile to which Spiering is looking forward, having watched the progression of the company since its inception. And EyeEm has been making waves of its own recently, having announced both its Market, where its members can sell their images, as well as a deal that will allow its users to licence their mobile photos through Getty Images.

Florian Meissner, EyeEm's CEO welcomed Spiering to their team: 'We feel honored and are understandably excited to have Markus on our team. We have been consistently impressed with his accomplishments across product and design during his tenure at Flickr. With his vast experience in product, mobile applications and design, as well as his network in North America, Markus will be crucial in realizing EyeEm´s visions about the future of photography.'

EyeEm is going places, and with Spiering on board, it could be getting there a whole lot faster.

Is Flickr 3.0 for iOS and Android on its way?

So this just appeared in my Feedly feed: Flcikr 3.0 Feedly

And when I clicked through to read the article, I encountered this:

Flickr 3.0 blog

Which implies that a major update to Flickr for mobile is imminent, but that somehow, someone got the blog post announcements a little out-of-synch.

Flickr's mobile apps underwent massive, and much-needed, over-hauls in August and December 2012 for Android and iOS respectively, while there was a significant upgrade to the iOS app's camera and editing function in August last year. Meanwhile, the desktop version underwent a significant redesign in May last year and has seen a new photo-page launch over the past six months.

What Flickr 3.0 for mobile holds, I don't know. But I have to say, I'm quite excited to see where it's going!

From 0 to 200 million users in 3.5 years. Instagram, of course.

From a Foursquare-like check-in app that wasn't really going anywhere to a photo-sharing site holding very nearly 20 billion images via a Facebook buy-out worth $1 billion, Instagram announced today that it's surpassed 200 million users. Or rather, it thanked its users in a blog post for making Instagram great. As a quick reminder, here's how far it has come:

October 2010: Instagram launches December 2010: Instagram clocks one million users (yes, it only took three months) September 2011: 11 months and 10 million users, and it's still iOS only April 2012: 1 million users sign up for the Android version of the app in the space of 24 hours March 2014: Instagram announces it has 200 million users, 50 million of whom signed up within the past six months

A flare issue in the Fujifilm X-T1

If your new Fujifilm X-T1 carries a serial number lower than 41M07801, you are being advised to contact Fujifilm's customer service team (0844 553 2322 in the UK). This is to arrange for your camera to be inspected and, if necessary, adjusted to remedy a flare issue that some units from early in the production run are experiencing. Compact, but SLR-styled

A manufacturing fault means that if the connector port cover happens to be open while images are being shot and strong sunlight is shining into the port at a certain angle, the light can be reflected within the camera body and be recorded on the images. These aberrant rays of light render as a flare effect for those photographers who've seen it. As the connector cover is usually closed and the light has to be at a particular angle, it's a relatively rare occurrence. Still, best to have it checked and, if necessary, repaired.

Fujifilm will carry out this service free of charge.

London photographers, take extra care of your kit

There have been reports of people acting suspiciously in the vicinity of photographers in central London over the past few days. On Saturday, Luke Robinson noticed someone keeping vulture-like eyes on photographers around Waterloo Bridge and the Southbank. The person in question was holding an SLR lens, but no body, bag, or other kit. Robinson spotted the 'dodgy chap' as he headed towards him, but swerved out of the way at the last minute.

Today, AFP photographer Leon Neal reported seeing 'two masked men riding a black scooter with taped-up number plates, doing laps of Westminster Magistrates court, checking out gear.' The motocyclists aborted their third pass when Neal and his colleagues made it clear they had been noticed. However, there are now reports that both Sky and BBC news crews have been targeted, with cars broken into and gear stolen.

Please be extra vigilant, report suspect behaviour, and don't place yourself in unnecessary danger. Remember: you're worth more than your kit.

Calumet Photographic closes its US doors

In a largely unexpected turn of events, the 75 year old photography stalwart Calumet Photographic has ceased trading in the US. With no prior notice to staff, a defunct website, a closed Twitter account, and only a Facebook announcement to go on, what do we know about Calumet US' shut-down?

  • All 14 stores across the US have not opened on Thursday 13 March.
  • The company filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, which enables company liquidation, on Wednesday 12 March. This usually follows a failed attempt at re-organisation after Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
  • According to papers filed with the courts, Calumet listed only $50,000 assets against liabilities estimated to be in excess of $1,000,000. It has 585 debtors.
  • Calumet stores in Europe will continue to trade - although they share the same name, they are separate business entities

According to comments left beneath the Facebook announcement, staff were only informed of the loss of their jobs when they arrived for work this morning. The situation doesn't look good for them, and neither does it look good for any customers with products on order or any kind of credit with the company.

(Headsup to Amateur Photographer and additional information from Photo Business Forum)

St Jude be praised! The Canon EOS M won an award!

It seems scarcely believeable but the much-derided Canon EOS M has managed to bag itself an award. I can hear you muttering and imagine you scratching your heads quizzically: just what was deemed award-worthy about the mirror-less camera with criminally slow auto-focusing speeds and risibly bad balance, and by whom? It would seem that the iF Design Award jury considered that its user interface was deserving of the Product interface: iF Communication Design Award 2014.

To give the EOS M its due, while its auto-focus was referred to as 'glacial', just about every review that I have read has lauded its touchscreen interface. At least Canon got something right there, then.

Canon also happened to pick up three other iF awards for its cameras: the 5D mark III, 100D, and the Powershot N. There were more its camcorders, printers, and projectors.

Fujifilm teases its new X-mount camera

It's not a leak; it's a teaser. Fujifilm has posted an image of a new X-mount camera to its website and the line 'Coming on January 28th.' Here, you can see it for yourself: Coming on 28 January. (Ahem.)

Apart from what we can see of the retro-esque design that Fuji's made its trademark (dials to control exposure compensation, shutter speed, and ISO), there are rumours that it will be weather-sealed, have a 16 megapixel APS-C sensor, and be called the X-T1. There're also a few murmurings about it taking on Nikon's retro-looking, video-free, full-frame beast, the Df. We'll wait to see; it's due out next Tuesday.

Fujifilm's X-mount teaser

Snapchat: persona non grata at Eton

In a short interlude from CES coverage, we'll revert to some Snapchat chat (there's been a bit of that recently) and an amusing story that emerged out of Eton College—educator of Prime Ministers and future kings of England—over the weekend. Following concerns that some of its students might've been using the ephemeral messaging service to share less than wholesome photos, the college has blocked access to Snapchat via its wi-fi network. It's hoped that this move will encourage students to consider the ramefication of what they share and how they choose to share it. As Headmaster Tony Little told The Sunday Telegraph: '... we hope that blocking it on our network will at least make them think twice. This is part of our continuing effort to educate boys in the sensible use of technology.'

Of course, it won't prevent anyone who's determined to send or receive a salacious (or otherwise) image from flipping off wi-fi and using cellular data from doing the deed, but the delay might give them pause for thought.

(Headsup to Gizmodo)

Catch 'Moments in Time' on BBC 2 tonight

Pictures, pictures everywhere. Our media consumption, both news and social, is dominated by images. It's almost impossible to send a news story to web publication without one. Increasingly, these images are contributed by the man on the Clapham omnibus who happens to have a smartphone in his hands. The BBC is taking a look back at this year's major stories, and the images that were used to illustrate them, in a documentary this evening. The programme covers photographers, news editors, and members of the public who happened to be in the right place at the right time to get the picture that made the news. It's called 2013: Moments in Time and it's showing on BBC 2 at 21:00 GMT.

If you don't manage to catch it this evening or forget to set it to record, you can always catch up on iPlayer.

Improvements are coming to the Sony QX10 and QX100 lens units

Sony is set to release a firmware upgrade for its QX10 and QX100 smartphone lens attachments in January. If you need a quick reminder the QX10 and QX100 are lens units that you operate from your smartphone via Sony's PlayMemories app, bringing higher quality images and more control to your smartphone shooting. The upgrade is intended to improve their low-light functionality and bring more control to the QX100. The cheaper, less well specced QX10 will have a new maximum sensitivity of ISO 3,200; the QX100 will be able to hit ISO 12,800. The QX100 will be getting a shutter priority mode in addition to its aperture priority, programme mode, and auto modes.

Sony's QX10 in white

At £399 for the QX100 or £179 (although I've seen them on special offer for £150) for the QX10, I'm still not convinced that they're worth it, but Sony seems to want to make them work.

(Headsup to Engadget)

An order of smartphone camera units suggests Amazon might be venturing into phones

Rumours of an Amazon mobile phone aren't exactly new. Speculation started when the Kindle was released; it heightened when the Kindle Fire came out; it has rumbled on since then with suggestions first that Foxconn might be manufacturing the handsets, and then HTC. Now it's being reported that Amazon has placed orders for smartphone compatible compact camera modules with Taiwanese manufacturer Primax Electronics, ready to launch a new device in the first half of 2014. I've not been able to dig up any more information on the camera unit specs, but even with a world-beating camera, any Amazon smartphone is going need to strong hold in the app market. Apart from an interface that not everyone gets along with, the Kindle Fire's primary shortfall is its lack of apps. If Amazon wants to compete in the mobile market, whatever the price of the device, this is something that will need to be addressed.

(Headsup to TechRadar)