AMITIAE - Tuesday 25 March 2014

Camera Manuals on iOS Devices: Hasselblad, Nikon D7000, Nikon Lenses, Nikon Asia Image Guide and Others

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By Graham K. Rogers

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One of my earliest cameras as a child was the popular Kodak Box Brownie. Right up to the 1990s, all of the cameras I owned, mainly cheap ones, used film, right up to my first SLR camera which was a Minolta. I finally progressed to digital and now own a couple of DSLR Nikons, although on a daily basis, probably take as many photographs with the iPhone as with the larger cameras. In recent months, however, I have had a hankering for a return to film and have been looking at used medium format cameras.

Most analogue SLR cameras, and a few high end devices like the Leica, use 35mm film. Some cameras, most notably Rolleiflex, Mamiya and Hasselblad used medium format: 6 x 6, 6 x 7 or similar sizes, depending on the camera maker. With the far larger size of a negative, the image is of a higher quality and many people are still using these. The one Hasselblad 500 that came back from the Moon was sold this week for $900,000 but that does have a unique rarity.

I have been looking mainly at Rolleiflex cameras and I am lucky to have a colleague who has these, as well as Hasselblad and Leica. I have been picking his brains a lot of late, but there are other sources of information online.

While looking for a suitable used Rolleiflex, I found an app put out bearing the name, although its execution was a bit of a disappointment when I reviewed it last September.

There is also an app for Hasselblad users, but this is for reference and is really just a container into which a user can download information through in-app purchases. The app opens with a page displaying 30 Interchangeable lens cameras. This is accessed via an icon at the bottom of the screen, marked "Interchange". Other icons are for Compact, where only one camera is listed; and for Others (mainly accessories). There is also a section marked Mine, which was empty to begin with.

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I did download one manual, for the 2000FC, at a cost of $2.99. This would be a drop in the ocean to a real Hasselblad owner. The purchased manual appeared in the section marked, Mine, giving me easy access. Other manuals, for Compact and accessories, were each priced at $1.99.

The manual for the 2000FC was a small 12-page version that could be viewed either as a single page or several pages at a time. A page could be displayed either in portrait or landscape mode and could be enlarged full width of the screen, although when this was done, some of the text began to break slightly. This suggests that the pages are PDF in origin. This was confirmed later when I sent email. Using either of these formats also means that it is not possible for a user to Cut and Paste text: useful when writing a review.


At the top of the manual page are a number of icons: to the right, print, mail and bookmark. To the left are icons for list view of pages, and Done, which returns to the menu pages.

I also installed the app on the iPad. The full screen display made the menus much easier to read of course. I was able to download the manual I had bought on the iPhone with no extra charge, but was surprised to see the information, "Your reuqest is being processed (sic)".

The pages took a second or so to load on the iPad and there was some slight loss of clarity in a couple of areas, as well as some artifacts that showed the photo-copied origins. Text was small, but I had no problem reading it on the larger device. Using the pinch to enlarge a page soon showed more faint artifacts but there was never a problem with reading the text.

For anyone fortunate enough to have one of these cameras, the manual on an iOS device would be a handy way of carrying the text and related diagrams about, although if my colleague is anything to go by, the user would probably be totally familiar with the device already.

The developer - iGidi - has a number of other apps that also provide manuals for cameras, including Canon, Leica, Nikon and Sony.

Several months ago, I downloaded a manual from the developer Ken Tidwell for my Nikon D7000. This developer puts out a wide range of such guides for Nikon cameras (and oddly one for H1N1 too).

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The app cost me $3.99 and serves as a useful reference for when I am on the road. It contains the same information as the manual that came with the camera, but is lighter and there is no paper. There is a useful hierarchical menu that allows me (with some pre-knowledge) to access specific parts of the information, should I need to find something out. Unlike the text for the Hasselblad manual, I am able to cut and paste a selection should I wish, such as this on Red Eye:

Corrects 'red-eye' caused by the flash, and is available only with images using flash. The image selected for red-eye correction is shown for review.

Confirm correction and create copy as outlined below. Red-eye correction may not always produce desired results; preview before proceeding.

That was much easier than mailing the whole PDF (although I can now open the Hasselblad manual on my Mac).

While I was looking in the photography section of the iTunes App Store, I found another manual app: for Nikon Lenses. The app is free. There are 84 listed (if I counted right) each with a tiny picture of a lens to the left of the page. Each lens is shown in these mini-thumbnails in beautiful detail. The developer is shown as Taggart Gorman who also produces apps on Canon and Tokina lenses.

Alongside the lens is some basic information and I selected one at random: AF-S Nikkor 28mm f/1.8G, Wide Angle - 699.95 USD. Tapping on the lens brings up a page of detailed information on the lens, a link to the US Nikon site, a list of Reviews (9 for that particular 28mm lens) and a link to rent the lens at BorrowLenses dot Com (San Francisco).

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At the top of the screen is a button marked All. Pressing this brings up a scroll wheel with options for All, Wide Angle, Standard, Telephoto, Super Telephoto, Wide-Angle Zoom Standard Zoom, High Power Zoom, Close-Up, Non-AF NIKKOR, Perspective Control, VR Only, SWM OnlyED Only, IF Only, Prime Only and Fixed Aperture Only.

A button at top right offers another scroll wheel which shows No Sort, Aperture, Focal Length and ESP. At the bottom are upgrade options, but when I pressed the center one, Not Today, these disappeared.

I occasionally go into my favourite camera shop and collect another lens catalogue, which then gets lost or hidden in a pile of papers, so this sort of access to lens data will be useful. Although prices are listed in US$, this is still a good starting point. And I wish I had known about the ability to rent lenses when I visited San Francisco for those Apple product releases.

To tie up this look at a few camera-related apps, I downloaded the Nikon Asia Image Guide app. The app is copyrighted by Nikon in Hong Kong, but developed by Nikon in Singapore.

After an opening screen, the main screen displays one of a number of featured cameras, including the new Nikon D4S which arrived here last week with a price tage of 209,000 baht. After a brief period this changed to a list of cameras, but every time I tried to change to one of the other images by scrolling horizontally, there was an unacceptable wait while more data was downloaded. Once it had all come down, the good quality images were more easily accessed.

At the bottom of the screen are 4 options: Highlights, Photography Tips, Service Center, and Settings, which had only Chinese and English language options.

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Pressing Highlights gave me another wait while data was retrieved. A notice showed, "Updating". When this appeared there was a list of cameras, but scrolling down left me waiting again while images were loaded and the app seized. Restarting left me no better off and I had to remove it from the memory and try again. Each time I did a panel appeared asking me to rate it, but when I tried nothing happened.

Frustration levels were rising. This was a beautiful looking app with the sharp colours and great images, but it depended too much on downloading. Not everyone will have access to rapid internet connections, especially if away from wifi access.

After restarting, I went for Highlights again, only to face the Updating panel once more. Once again I removed it from the memory but this time tried Service Centres. I selected Thailand and two dealers were shown. When I tried Australia, after about 10 seconds a longer list was displayed, although none had telephone numbers. When I tried to access more information for one of the dealers, the app crashed. On a second attempt, I was shown a map (and phone number).

I did try the Photography Tips section and this gave me a list of problems that users experience, with some useful (preloaded) guides. The included images were - unsurprisingly - of a good quality.

This app has great potential, but should be better than my experience, with far too much time (and too many interruptions) caused by downloading. This was a shame as it looks nice, but could do with some improvement in execution.

Of all the apps here, the Nikon D7000 and Nikon Lenses apps were nicely produced. The Hasselblad app, while having first-rate information, looked a little less well-finished, especially alongside the lenses app. Nikon's own app may need some more work.

Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand where he is also Assistant Dean. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs. He is now continuing that in the Bangkok Post supplement, Life.



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