Sunday, May 31, 2009

PAM305 Luminor 1950 Submersible

To me personally, one of the highlights of this year's SIHH was the introduction of the PAM305 Luminor Submersible 1950 3 days automatic.

PAM305 Luminor 1950 submersible
The new Panerai PAM305 Luminor 1950 submersible

I'm a huge fan of the PAM243 and I was hoping for an opportunity to take photos of this beautiful new 305. The two watches certainly have similar looks. But this new submersible has some very interesting new things to offer. First of all it has the new in-house (Manifattura) automatic P.9000 movement with a power reserve of three days. The case and bezel - with polished edges - are entirely made of brushed titanium and the movement is housed in a 47mm 1950's style case. The PAM243 is 44mm and made of stainless steel.

47mm PAM305 next to the 44mm PAM243 on the right
The 47mm PAM305 next to the 44mm PAM243 on the right

The designers did not include a magnification window (often called cyclops) above the date at 3 o'clock in the 2.6mm thick crystal. That's certainly something that quite a few people will appreciate. I have to say that I don't dislike the cyclops - on the contrary - but I have to admit that the watch does look very clean without it.

PAM305 close up
Luminova indexes and batons

Luminova paint is used for the indexes on the dial and for the hands. The later editions of the PAM243 are also made with Luminova. The I and J-series of the PAM243 were still made with tritium.

The dial of the PAM305 doesn't have the numbers 12 or 6. Panerai used two batons for the 12 and 1 baton for the six instead. It took a while before I realized that this was inspired by the design of the vintage Panerai Radiomir 2533. The only other watch that I've ever seen with this design detail. It simply looks fantastic.

PAM305 clear-case back
The PAM305 has a clear case back

The clear-case back of the PAM305 allows you to look at the watch mechanism in action. The visible elements are made of brushed steel and a very nice detail is that the rotor has polished edges.

The new Manifattura P.9000 movement is 7.9mm thick and features 195 different components, 28 jewels, two barrels, 13 3/4 lignes, an Incabloc anti-shock device and Glucydur balance. The watch is water resistant to 300 meters and it comes with the same rubber strap that comes with the PAM243. But it has a large titanium brushed screw-in buckle.

Below are some more of the photos that I took. You can click the photos for a larger view. For anyone interested, I took these photos with three off-camera speedlights in various positions. The speedlights were remotely triggered by a Nikon SU-800 on the camera. All the photos were taken with a Nikon 105mm macro lens.

PAM305PAM305

PAM305PAM305


More photos from this shoot (23 total) are available on paneristipix.com

Related posts

A comparison between the PAM305 and PAM243

All photos © 2009 M.Wilmsen

Feedback is appreciated

Friday, May 29, 2009

The Panerai 1950's style Luminor case

The Panerai Luminor watches come in two basic style cases. The traditional Luminor case - in 40mm and 44mm - and the 1950 style case. The 1950 style case is in fact a Luminor case too, but it has a very different shape. Luminor cases are of course very easy to recognize because of their unique crown guard design. The difference between the two case styles is most apparent when one views the watches from the side. There are no 40mm Panerai watches with the 1950 style case design, the smallest size is 44mm and the largest is 47mm.

the difference between a 1950 style case and a Luminor case
PAM233 on the left and a 1998 PAM2 on the right

Although most Luminor watches in the Panerai Manifattura line are using the 1950 design, the first modern Panerai with this type of case was the PAM127 Luminor 1950 aka Fiddy in 2002 (E-series). Since then, quite a few models were introduced with this case, among those the 212, 213, 210, 233, 270, 311, 317, 275 and the submersibles PAM243 and the new titanium submersible PAM305. Other new Manifattura watches that were introduced in 2009, have a 1950's style case too (312, 320, 321, 328 and 329). It struck me that none of these watches seem to have a polished stainless steel finish. The PAM127 was of course inspired on the vintage Panerai 6152/1 Luminor watch.

Panerai PAM127 Fiddy
Panerai PAM127 aka Fiddy - with its 47mm 1950's case

What better way to show the differences between the two case styles, than a few pictures. I took photos of the PAM233 Luminor 1950 8 Days GMT with its 1950 style case and the 1998 PAM2 (A-series) with its traditional style case. There are of course many other differences between these two watches. For instance a sandwich dial with Luminova on the 233 vs the painted tritium dial used on the 2A. And the 233 - like most Panerai watches with this case style - has a uniquely domed crystal. Much like the acrylic crystals that were used on vintage watches.

the difference between a 1950 style case and a Luminor case
PAM233 on top of the 1998 PAM2

The above photo shows the rounded (cushion) shape case of the PAM233 versus the sharper edged case of the PAM2 at the bottom. Another apparent difference is that the lever is positioned in the middle of the crown guard. You can see that the lever is clearly not in the middle of the 2A crown guard. The lever of the 233 is also slightly bigger and more solid looking.

Below are some more photos showing the differences between the two cases. You can click the photos for a larger view.

PAM33 and PAM2APAM233 and PAM2A

PAM33 and PAM2APAM233 and PAM2A

PAM33 and PAM2APAM233 and PAM2A


All photos © 2009 M.Wilmsen

Feedback is appreciated.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Shooting RAW versus JPEG

If you have upgraded from a compact to a DSLR, you'll probably have to spend a lot of time figuring out how to use all those additional functions. You can use better lenses, you finally have control over the aperture, shutter speed, ISO settings and what else have you. You upload most of your photos to a website so JPEG is the way to go... Well, no. If there's something that you should figure out before anything else, it's how to work with Raw instead.

PAM243 Panerai Submersible
PAM243 submersible - converted from Raw to JPEG without further processing

Raw

So what is a Raw photo? First of all, a Raw file isn't a photo yet. It's just Raw data. Name explained! You'll need a computer to turn that raw data into a photo. But why is raw data better? The raw data is - as opposed to the JPEG format - uncompressed lossless data. Exactly as your camera's sensor registered it. The settings that you used when you took the photo are embedded into the raw data file. E.g. the settings re the aperture, shutter speed, white balance, contrast, saturation and even the focal length and so on. Exactly this is what makes Raw so much better than JPEG.

You can change most of the recorded settings once you have the raw file on your computer to turn it into the final photo. Your camera just stored the parameters but didn't apply them yet. Just so you understand, when you shoot JPEG, your camera converts the raw data into a photo with its built-in software and processor. This is why a JPEG may appear to look better on your camera's display than a Raw file. But believe me, your computer has a lot more processing power and - with the right software - it does a much better job turning the data into a photo. And what's more important, it leaves you in control of the processing decisions.

In case you're thinking, "yeah but I can process JPEG files on my computer too". That's true, but the JPEG source file is already compressed, sharpened and so on by your camera. Basically you're starting out with a damaged file. But what's even worse is that saving a JPEG after changing it means that the file will be compressed again - that is what happens when you save a file as a JPEG. Compression upon compression is definitely not a good idea.

The Photoshop camera raw plugin

There's a lot of software available for processing raw data files. I use Photoshop CS4 and the camera raw plugin. There are different versions of this plugin available so make sure that you have installed the one that supports the data that is produced by your camera. Adobe is always quick to add support for almost any new camera on the market. Follow this link for information about the Adobe camera raw plugin and compatibility with your camera.

When you open a raw file with photoshop, the plugin user interface will appear. The screen grab below shows the controls that you can use.

adobe camera raw plugin

You can see that the important information re the recorded aperture and shutter speed show at the top and that you can easily change many of the settings. And you can do that without affecting the quality of the raw data. It would go beyond the scope of this post to explain all the possibilities, but to show you how powerful the raw format is in combination with this plugin, have a look at the screen grabs below (click the images to see larger versions):

adobe camera raw plugin no exposure correction
The photo as recorded with f5.6 1/30 s - without exposure correction

adobe camera raw plugin no exposure correction
The photo as recorded with f5.6 1/30 s - one stop over exposed

adobe camera raw plugin no exposure correction
The photo as recorded with f5.6 1/30 s - one stop under exposed

I'm sure that - even though the above screen grabs show just a very small part of what is possible - you'll agree that being able to change the exposure after taking a photo is nothing less than brilliant. Again, you're just changing the parameters without changing the recorded data so you're not degrading the original file.

The quality of Adobe's raw camera plugin is so good that I seldom have to make any changes once I've opened the file. I usually correct the exposure slightly when necessary, increase the sharpness and contrast and that's it. Once the file opens in Photoshop, I resize it and save it as a JPEG. Easy peasy.

Downsides

Sure, there are downsides too. First of all you need a computer and good software to process the raw files. There's a lot of software available but I still think that nothing beats Photoshop and the camera-raw plugin.
Processing files can be time consuming. The raw data is uncompressed so it requires more storage capacity and it takes longer to copy the files to your computer. You'll need larger or more memory cards and more space on your computer too. Storing thousands of raw files can require quite a lot of space on your hard drive. Then again, you don't have to keep the raw files once you're done processing the files into the final photos.
Considering what you get in return, these disadvantages are a very small price to pay.

You can find an interesting PDF that goes into much more detail about raw capture and how JPEG differs from raw on Adobe.com: understanding_digitalrawcapture.pdf

Feedback is appreciated!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

PAM275 Stainless Steel Luminor 1950 Chrono Monopulsante

The PAM275 is the stainless steel version of the four new Panerai Manifattura chronograph watches. These are the functionally identical PAM311, PAM317 and PAM277. The full name is Luminor 1950 8 Days Chrono Monopulsante GMT. Quite a mouth full, but what do you expect with a wristwatch that offers this many complications.

Panerai PAM275 Luminor 1950 Chrono Monopulsante
PAM275 Stainless Steel Chrono Monopulsante

As opposed to the pink gold PAM277, the stainless steel PAM275 is a regular production watch. Just like the ceramic PAM317 and the titanium PAM311 chrono monopulsantes. This doesn't mean that this is a watch that is easy to get hold of. On the contrary. Only 300 pieces of this attractive wristwatch are scheduled to be produced in 2008 (K-series). The 275 supposedly hits the AD's this month. And it's very unlikely that there's a single unit that's not already spoken for.

As I already wrote in earlier entries about the Ceramic and Titanium monopulsantes, I particularly like how Panerai positioned the chronograph function button on the left hand side of the 1950 case. Because of this, the right hand side features the typical (signature appearance) Panerai crown guard design with a full sized lever. This is not the case with other Panerai chronograph watches. For instance the PAM327 Luminor Chrono Daylight as shown below.

Panerai PAM327 Chrono Daylight
PAM327 showing its smaller lever and chronograph buttons next to the crown guard

Panerai PAM275 Luminor 1950 Chrono Monopulsante
The PAM275 has a full size lever and reg. tm. engraved in the crown guard

The 275 - like the first Panerai Manifattura PAM233 - has an 8 day manual wind in-house movement with a power reserve of eight days. The dial has a horizontal power reserve indicator at the 6 o'clock position. And it has Panerai's brilliant GMT function with a second hour hand that rotates every 12 hours along side of the normal hour hand. Not many watches combine both dual time and chronograph functions.

Most chronographs have two buttons, a start/stop button and a reset button. The monopulsante chronograph is operated by just a single button that you press to both start and stop the counter. The same button is pressed again to bring the seconds hand back to zero.

Panerai PAM275 Luminor 1950 Chrono Monopulsante case back
PAM275 crystal case back

The 275 has a crystal case back that offers a nice view at the bridges and parts of the interesting P.2004/1 movement. The 1950 style case (44mm) has a brushed finished but the bezel is polished steel. The watch comes with a beautiful black crocodile strap with white stitches. A perfect match with its black dial and hands.

PAM275PAM275
PAM275PAM275


You can click the photos in this post to view a larger version.

All photos © 2009 M.Wilmsen

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Wristwatch photography composition

The wristwatch itself is obviously the most important thing in any wristwatch photo. So just put it in the center of the frame, zoom in and click away. Well that's one way of doing it. An interesting background however, can make a photo much more attractive looking.

In terms of composition, putting a watch in the center of the frame generally doesn't work too well. But in combination with a background that contains other elements of interest, it doesn't seem to work well at all. So if it shouldn't be in the center then where should it be? There's an ages old composition rule, that painters in the golden era used already. This is called "the rule of thirds" and it's often used by photographers too.

Panerai 2A rule of thirds example
PAM 2A rule of thirds example (click to view the larger photo)

The rule of thirds

The "rule of thirds" is very simple. Divide the frame into nine equally sized parts by drawing imaginary lines. Two horizontal lines and two vertical lines (see above example). The main point of interest should be at the center of any point in the frame where the lines cross. It's as simple as that.

Note that this "rule of thirds" is just a guide line. The main subject doesn't always have to be exactly where the lines cross. And rules are made to be broken anyway (can you tell that I grew up in Amsterdam). But to be able to break a rule, you'll have to learn it first...

Panerai 2A rule of thirds example
Another example although not 100% following the rule of thirds

Creative use of depth-of-field

Although an interesting background can result in a much nicer photograph, the background shouldn't be too obtrusive. A good photo has one main point of interest and the eyes should be automatically drawn to that point. That's where creative use of depth-of-field comes into play. As opposed to using a small aperture that would ensure that the entire scene is within the zone of sharpness, try to throw the background elements out of focus by using a wide aperture. If this aperture stuff is new to you, then you may want to read camera settings and depth-of-field first.

If you look at the first photo you can see that the dice, the buckle and even the part of the one dollar bill that's closest to the lens, are all out of focus. The first photo was taken with an aperture of f5.6. With such a shallow depth of field, it's quite difficult to make sure that the most important part of the photo is sharp. In this case the most important part is the dial of the Panerai 2A. The dial of the watch in the first photo is more or less perpendicular to the front of the lens. This way most of the dial is still within the zone of sharpness, even with an aperture of f5.6.

In the second photo, the dial is more at an angle compared to the lens. You can see that the numbers three and nine on the dial is already slightly out of focus because of this. I could have used a smaller aperture for this photo to have all of the dial more in focus. Maybe half a stop or even a stop which would have been 6.7 (a half stop) or 8 (a full stop). But I didn't want the playing cards and the dollar bill to be too sharp.

To wrap it up, here are a few more photos of this combo. And in case you're thinking yeah yeah, sure sure, but what's that strap... It's a Kevin/BigB ammo strap with a sewn in MX buckle. You can buy one here on watches24seven.com.

PAM 2A with Kevin/BigB ammo strapPAM 2A with Kevin/BigB ammo strap
PAM 2A with Kevin/BigB ammo strapPAM 2A with Kevin/BigB ammo strap

All photos © 2009 M.Wilmsen

Feedback is highly appreciated.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Camera metering modes for wristwatch photography

Most cameras - both DSLRs and compacts - offer different metering modes. Simply said, your camera reads the light that is reflected from your subject onto its sensor. The metered data is used to calculate how long the shutter remains open and how large the lens opening (aperture) must be. The different metering modes allow you to help your camera, by telling it what's important in your scene. The three most common modes are Matrix metering, Center-weighted metering and Spot metering. Matrix metering is sometimes called multi-segment metering.

metering modesThe factory default is most likely to be Matrix metering on any camera. This means that the software that's built into your camera calculates the required settings to ensure a properly exposed scene, taking everything in the scene into account. Both the foreground and the background. While this is what you'll want for most types of photography, trying other metering modes can really improve your wristwatch photos.

Center-weighted metering - as its name implies - will give you a calculated exposure based on what is in the center of the frame, taking some of the background into account, but with less importance. Typically the meter will give 75 percent emphasis to what's at the center of the frame and 25 percent to the remaining area. Spot metering more or less ignores everything that's not in the center of the frame.

Considering that the watch is the most important thing in a watch photo, it doesn't really make sense to make your camera try to properly expose both the background and the watch. The calculated exposure will always be a compromise between what would be correct for the background and what would be the best exposure for the watch. Especially with a high contrast scene, e.g. a shiny polished steel watch on a dark background.

nikon d700
Metering mode selector button on a D700

Most cameras have a selector button on the back of the camera that allows you to change the default metering mode. On other cameras you may have to dig into the menus to change this setting. I have found that I got best results with Center-weighted metering with both a D300 and with my D700.

Just selecting Center-weighted metering will probably improve your results already. But there's one problem with using any metering mode other than Matrix metering... Your subject is most likely not exactly in the center of the frame. And although digital cameras are pretty smart, mine doesn't figure that out on its own...

camera display
Shutter speed and aperture shown on the camera display

You can however let the camera help you to figure out a good exposure starting point and then you can take things into your own hands from there. Put the camera in Program (P) mode, focus on the watch, press the shutter button half way down and read the exposure settings on the display (see picture above). The F-number shows the calculated aperture and the S-number is the shutter speed. Put your camera in Manual mode (M) and then select the Aperture and Shutter speed that your camera calculated for you. You can now change the composition (e.g. the wristwatch not exactly in the center of the frame) and your camera will not recalculate the exposure based on what's in the center. Take a few test shots and adjust the settings as required. You may for instance need to select a longer shutter speed if the result is a bit too dark.
If you already know what aperture you want to work with, you can of course put the camera in Aperture priority mode (A) instead, to let the camera just calculate the required shutter speed for you.

If you want to read more about aperture settings and depth-of-field: follow this link.

Your feedback is highly appreciated. Please leave a comment.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Titanium Panerai Luminor 1950 Chrono monopulsante

The new PAM311 is one of four new Panerai Manifattura chronograph watches that were introduced in 2008 (K-series).

Panerai PAM311
PAM311 Titanium Chrono Monopulsante

The PAM311 has the same specifications as the ceramic PAM317, the brushed steel PAM275 and the brushed pink gold PAM277. The gold 277 - with its amazing blue dial - was released as a special edition watch in 2007 (J-series). The other three Chrono Monopulsantes are regular production watches. All are powered by the Panerai in-house movement (Manifattura) calibre P.2004/1 or P.2004. This calibre offers the following functions: hours, minutes, seconds, second time zone, 8-day power reserve, 24h indicator, second reset, horizontal power reserve indicator and a single button chronograph.

Panerai PAM311 PAM317 PAM275
Left-to-right: PAM311, PAM317 and PAM275

The above photo is also available in the wallpapers section

The case of the PAM311 is made from brushed titanium but its bezel is polished steel.
Considering the impressive number of complications, Panerai did a more than excellent job with the design. The dial does not look any busier than for instance the dial of the PAM233 or PAM270.

Panerai PAM311
PAM311 crystal case back

The watch is fitted with a crystal display back but the bridges hide most of the 8 days movement. It's a pretty sight nonetheless.

Panerai PAM311Panerai PAM311

The chronograph is operated by a single button with a fly back function. This button is positioned on the lower left side of the case, leaving the unique Panerai crown guard design on the right side of the watch untouched. Unlike most chronograph watches, the PAM311 does not have markings on the bezel.

Panerai PAM311Panerai PAM311

The GMT function of these watches operates in a Panerai specific manner. The primary and secondary hour hands both rotate every 12 hours. In order to show whether or not the GMT hand is indicating AM or PM, a small AM/PM indicator is incorporated into the small seconds hand. The way Panerai has implemented the GMT function on the Manifattura models is a huge improvement over earlier GMT watches. The second time zone is much easier to read and the dial is cleaner looking because a 24 hour ring is not required. Another unique feature of the Panerai GMT function is that you can hide the second timezone hour hand underneath the normal hour hand when you don't need it.

Panerai PAM311Panerai PAM311

The titanium PAM311 has a beautiful brown dial and comes with a high quality brown crocodile strap that perfectly matches the dial.

There's also an earlier entry including photos dedicated to the ceramic PAM317 chrono monopulsante.

All photos © 2009 M.Wilmsen

Comments and/or questions are highly appreciated.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Getting rid of dust - without Photoshop

Taking a decent watch photo can be a frustrating process. There are so many problems to deal with. Those shiny cases and reflecting crystals can drive you nuts. One other challenge that you'll encounter is dust. Especially if you're trying to shoot macro photos.

Dust really seems to love settling down on your watch. You were really convinced that you got rid of all it with your polishing cloth, but in your photos these little dust particles are there nonetheless. And looking as huge as snow flakes. Sounds familiar? Sure, you can use Photoshop to remove those ugly specs, but you won't have to spend time getting rid of it if it's not there in the first place. And it will safe you from having to buy and learn software too.

Sometimes the answer is so simple:

air duster

Compressed air! What a godsend! I bought one of these to clean my computer keyboard and then realized how useful they can be for watch photography. Of course, you'll still have to spend some serious time preparing your watch for a photograph, not just the scene. And you'll still need a good micro fiber cloth - a good one, not the one you got with your watch - to get rid of finger prints and smudge. But once you have your watch in place, nothing gets rid of those dreaded dust particles as an air duster. And don't forget to redo it after moving the watch or after taking a few shots.

Most computer and office supply stores sell air dusters and they're offered by many different companies using different names. Memorex and Fellowes sell them using the most commonly used name "Air Duster", Areosol are using the name "Dust Off" and Belkin are using the name "Belkin Blaster".

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Off-topic - Dutch/Belgian GTG

This doesn't have much to do with photography and it's not really Panerai news either, but when a bunch of Dutch and Belgian Paneristi come together for watch talk... how can you not post a few photos? Sadly not all the regulars could make it to what was a first combined Dutch/Belgian GTG (as far as I know). But the event - held in Geldrop in The Netherlands on 16 May 2009 - was a success nonetheless.

Geldrop GTG table shotGeldrop GTG table shot
It's not a GTG without a few table shots

Two 1BT's and a 2AFiddy duo
Two 1BT's and a 2A and a Fiddy duo

PAM210 vintage kaktusPAM210 and PAM232
PAM210 with a vintage Kaktus strap and together with a PAM232

Straps from Julien LandaStraps from Dirk Grandy
Straps from Julien Landa on the left and from Dirk Grandy on the right

If you want to see more, you can find all the photos on paneristipix.com: GTG photos on paneristipix.com