capture integration medium format phase one mamiya leaf

I pulled out a 17 year old copy of Photo District News today, in order to give my guys a good laugh. One of the inside stories described how Calumet was opening a new “Digital” division in order to handle the unique needs of its customers and this “emerging” Digital technology. This was my first job change after spending 5 years at Sinar Bron Imaging. It wasn’t the article that was amusing as much as the photograph that accompanied it. Standing astutely on the Calumet Digital Solutions new mobile van was a younger, shaven, and very thin version of me. My serious scowl and naïve boyish looks created quite a bit of amusement around the office. This accomplished two things. First, it showed our team that the guy in charge at Capture Integration is not off limits to a good ribbing. An enjoyable working environment is the first step to creating a team that enjoys their job and this flows through to the customer. Secondly, I wanted to reemphasize to the new guys that this is not my first rodeo. I have been in the digital industry since it began.Having experience from manufacturer’s, distributor’s, and a dealer’s perspective, I believe that I have a unique understanding of relationships in our marketplace. I have been very fortunate to experience the pros and cons of each side. I have witnessed how some manufacturers really don’t understand their customers. I have seen distributors that only care about the bottom line. And I have seen dealerships where “customer service” is a foreign concept. These are the reasons I started Capture Integration back in 2004.

I am in the fortunate position to work with a team that is the best in our industry. I learn as much from them on a daily basis as they do from me. We speak with customers from a wide array of fields and specialties. This keeps each day unique as we see our customers excelling in their own areas of expertise. Having such a diverse customer base, we are able to glean wisdom from these daily interactions. While I see our many of our customers at the top of their field, I think that there is always room for improvement with all of us – myself and Capture Integration is at the top of the list. To start 2014, I thought that I would share these with you. Here are my top ten mistakes that I witness most frequently from our customers.

10) Not calling Capture Integration for support

I am a man. I often skip the directions and go right to using a product and trying figure things out on my own. It’s part of our make-up. As photographers we often take that to the next level. Photographers notoriously are famous for finding a way to succeed by their own creativity. And while I appreciate the creativity, the products we sell are unique. Products like tech cameras, 80mp digital backs, and Capture One Pro have unique characteristics that we have never witnessed before in our medium. They are not point and shoots. And to get them to perform at their best, a great deal of knowledge and technique is necessary.

Capture Integration has thousands of customers. These customers are in every genre of the photographic process and are all over the world using every digital back combination. When a bug is found in software we blog about it first. When a new product comes out we test it first. When a firmware problem pops up we hear it from our customers first. Please do not struggle with a problem or software crashing issue and not call us. If you are having an issue, then the likelihood that we have already found a solution for this problem is very good. Hours and days of frustrations can be eliminated with a simple call to us. Don’t be “that guy.” Please use our expertise and think of us as your partner in business.

9) Cheap firewire cables

Slow file transfers. Poor voltage throughput. Inconsistent file errors. All of these support problems often are solved with one quick question… “What FW cable are you using?” Firewire cables supply the power to the digital back while simultaneously handling constant data throughput in return to the computer. The old analogy of “you are only as strong as your weakest link” is never more correct than in this scenario. Transferring your files quickly without corruption is as essential to our process as any other piece of the puzzle. Why trust it to a bargain brand cable? And while we understand that the manufacturers that we represent have FW cables in the $100 to $300 range, we do not always find the need for that costly expense. Capture Integration has researched, tested, and certified a range of cables that have our stamp of approval. These CI Certified cables start at only $34.95. Trust me that a high quality FW cable can save you days or weeks of frustration while troubleshooting an inconsistent problem.

8) Monitor calibration

Do you have a dog that turns their head down and away from you when you catch them doing something wrong? You know what I am talking about right? That “guilty dog look.” I see this look way too often when I ask attendees in our workshop “when was the last time you calibrated your monitor?” Everyone knows that you should calibrate your monitor every 30 days but who does it? Show of hands please! Anyone?

I am not going to chastise a single customer on this one since we are all culprits here. We get busy and forget. Time gets away from us. This is why I personally love the Eizo self calibrating monitors that will calibrate themselves at a preset time period, (like every other Friday at lunch time.) Now, I don’t even have to think about it anymore. But if this does not fit your budget, then do you own a calibration device? Even if you have years of experience in prepress or you know 8 bit repro like the back of your hand, you still need an accurately calibrated display. If you don’t have a current calibrator, it is time to take action. Here is a quick link to our suggested model.

7) Firmware

Have you experienced a random overexposed file when shooting Leaf shutter lenses? Is your DF body compatible with the latest/newest lens? Does your body lock up in Mirror Up/Self Timer mode? If you say yes to any of these sentences, then when was the last time you upgraded the firmware in your medium format body? Or did you know that you even could? I find that many of our customers never upgrade their firmware after the initial purchase. A new firmware upgrade can fix the bugs that you have been annoying you or even give you new functionality that you were not aware existed.

A few months ago we upgraded the firmware on a Hasselbald H3d 50 and did some testing. Unbelievably the updated back had a dramatic decrease in long exposure noise. The results were actually better than any specifications that we could find online. Poof…. New improved back with just a firmware upgrade. If you would like assistance with this upgrade then please give us a call and we will gladly walk you through it. Furthermore, we offer free Phase One/Mamiya Leaf V grip rentals to CI customers who want to upgrade their DF+ bodies. Why not take us up on this offer?

6) “Off-Brand” CF/SD cards

How long does it take for your files to transfer? Do you know the UDMA speed of the cards you use every day? Are you having corrupt files in camera? Remember my weakest link statement in mistake #10? You have invested in high quality equipment. It does not matter if you are shooting professionally or shooting as a hobby. We are creating amazing imagery that we want to keep forever. Don’t trust those images to a relabeled off brand storage device. Because those few dollars that you saved could end up costing you priceless images in the future. In our experience you should use either a Sandisk or Lexar card. They are the leader in the field for a reason and we have very little issues with them.

5) iMac/Mac Mini

I really don’t know why Apple has taken so long to upgrade their Mac Pro towers. Their expandability and reliability are unmatched in our field. Due to this, many of our customers have chosen to purchase iMacs or Mac Mini’s for their tethered workflow. And unfortunately, this is problematic. Over the years, Apple has been continually reducing their voltage output on the FW bus to compensate for features that draw more and more power. The voltage needed for the Intel processors was the first culprit. Then the iMac “all in one” computers followed this trend and continued with the smaller compact Mini’s. With each new innovation, the voltage dropped a little more leaving us with a very unstable power output. And now finally, Apple has discontinued FW on most of its new systems. If you are having any difficulties with dropped connections, magenta lines in your image, or poor image transfer – then give us a call. We have work arounds and we keep all the accessories in stock that can fix this issue immediately.

4) Capture One Pro vs. LR

When you shoot higher ISO images, are you noticing a line in the middle of your image in areas like the sky? When you shoot long exposures, do you notice more noise in the image then you should? While I understand how “easy” Lightroom can be, if you are a digital back user then you should be using the native software from that DB manufacturer. Adobe is not your friend and neither is the DNG format. If the latest Creative Cloud debacle isn’t enough to sway you away from an Adobe product – then try developing high ISO, long exposure, or tech camera files in LR vs. C1 Pro and see for yourself. LR will strip core essentials of the raw file that Adobe does not deem necessary like ccd calibration, dark calibration, and LCC adjustments. That is just the tip of the iceberg in my opinion; but this is a short top 10 list. Hard fast rule: Use Capture One for your Phase One/Leaf files, or Phocus for your Hasselblad images. Raw files should always be processed by the digital back’s native software. Test it for yourself.

3) Software Upgrades

Are you the person that jumps on an OS or software upgrade as soon as it released? While there might be some cool new features in that new upgrade, what new bugs will it create? I am an old school guy. I need to be efficient in order to get from one job to the next. I don’t need bugs or incompatibility slowing me down. Often, upgrades take 2 steps forward but unfortunately also take 1 step backwards. Don’t upgrade until you check in with Capture Integration’s support blog. Capture Integration invests in people. We now have the largest support staff in the digital back industry. We test every single upgrade before it is released. If there are issues then you will hear it from us first. Are you signed up to receive our software alerts? Are you signed up for the RSS feed? Here are important links that you should know:

Capture Integration Newsletter
Capture One Pro Tips + Tricks
Capture Integration Download Archive

2) Buying on eBay

“The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten” – Benjamin Franklin

We all like saving money. In fact, I have never purchased a new car. I appreciate the savings on a pre-owned car instead. However, saving money is not the same as gambling. Customers get burnt everyday on eBay. Backs have calibration issues or column errors. Many backs have blown firewire or sync ports. Lenses have focus issues or syncing issues. Accessories are missing, and the ones that are shipped are used and of poor quality. Customers come to us after these backs don’t function, a panic attack, and a simple Google search. Why go through this loss and frustration? Are a few dollars really worth the trouble?

  • Every CI Certified DB has been thoroughly tested through a 21 point certification program.
  • Every CI Certified DB has a full 1 year warranty.
  • Every CI Certified DB has all new accessories: batteries, chargers, and cables.
  • Every product we sell has the best customer support in the industry

There are many areas to save money. We can help you with many of these areas. But gambling with this kind of a purchase on an internet auction site just isn’t smart. These mistakes are often more costly then the few dollars that were initially saved.

1) Priorities

We are in a fast paced world. How many of us are putting in 10-12 hour days? Are we reaching for the brass ring that is always a few inches out of reach? Are we making sacrifices today that we will regret in the future? Do we still have vacation days at the end of the year that we haven’t taken? Sometimes we forget why we are working so hard to begin with. When was the last day you surprised that special person in your life with a surprise day off dedicated to them and them only? No one looks back at their life and thinks “I wish I would have spent less time with the people I loved”. Our career is just a vehicle to provide for our family and special people in our lives. Stop now. Schedule something special. Take time and show them how much you care.

In case you want to the share the laugh, here’s that picture from 17 years ago…

Photo District News

 

One comment

  1. John Bamber says:

    Great article, Dave! I also love the Calumet shot. You guys are like the digital A-team with that van!

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