First Good Flash I Owned

Now, the old Braun flash I remember fondly is the RL-515.  This was the flash I learned to do bounce flash with (at the behest of the editor of Carleton’s Alumni Magazine, for whom I was the primary photographer at the time—Jane Kellogg maybe?).

Powerful enough to bounce the flash off the ceiling in most institutional rooms and expose Plus-X (ASA 125)  at f/5.6. Recycled in 1-2 seconds to full power.  Being able to shoot the slower Plus-X rather than the grainier  Tri-X, and being able to bounce (producing softer and more suitably located lighting) really set my pictures apart from others in the early 1970s.

Fully manual, of course; it had two power settings, and two reflector positions (normal and wide), but after that you were on your own.  To bounce, you estimated the distance the flash traveled, figured the aperture for that, then added some more exposure (generally 1-2 stops) to account for the reflectivity of the bounce surface and the diffusion of the beam. Then you made up for any miscalculations in the darkroom.

It was a monster—square flash head about 3×3 inches, an L-bracket to attach it to the base of the camera, and a separate battery pack that hung over your shoulder. Note it’s set up to go on the right side of the camera; in those days the right hand was the support hand, with the adjustments (aperture, focus, zoom if you had it) being done with the left hand.  The hand positions are the same today, but with the conveniently-located control buttons and wheels, the right hand also controls exposure and AF trigger and things.  (Not everybody does things the same way, either than or now.)

Braun RL-515 Flash
Braun RL-515 Flash

I owned two of them at various times (the first perishing in a friend’s car fire!).

What that pack contained was a weird historical relic: a 510V primary dry-cell battery.  (Eveready 496, NEDA Listing 741)! Even in the mid 1970s they were expensive, I remember paying $35 (which was about what four 100-foot rolls of Plus-X cost, about 75 rolls of film). But that was the only flash I ever had with that speed of recycling, and I don’t think I’ve ever had a more powerful one either.

Eveready 479 510V dry-cell battery
Eveready 479 510V dry-cell battery

I wouldn’t wonder if the 510V rechargeable packs for various flashes derived from this and thus were electrically compatible with it. I don’t think there’s much chance of finding any of the actual dry-cell batteries at this late date!  (Huh; I do find a place claiming to have them for sale—for $200;

My Sunpak 555 with Quantum Battery 2 was a better flash than this, because of the ability to work with OTF flash exposure control in modern cameras (I used it with Olympus OM-4Ts and many different Nikons). None of the others I owned even came close, especially the Honeywall Auto-Strobonar 892s.

These Have Gotten Cheaper


I got mine (long gone) in 1973 for $250, with a 50mm Summicron collapsible lens.  It was quite old then (I seem to recall that I once looked up my serial number and determined my M3 was made in 1954; same vintage as me).

But inflation since then has been a lot; a random online calculator says my $250 is now worth $1391 (and looking deeper into the ebay search, that bottom guy is an optimist).

Loadout for Photographer’s Vest

Hmmm; what should my normal collection of stuff be?  (Current vests aren’t quite perfect, and the most perfect one has annoying problems like the pen pockets aren’t big enough for actual pens.)  Thinking of modifying or replacing the vest I’ve been using (it’s 25 years old or so, anyway!).

This is complicated by the fact that I use the vests for both photojournalism projects and video projects.

(This is the brainstorming phase; I’m wondering what I’m missing, but even the White Knight couldn’t carry all this on his horse.)

  • ballpoint pen (space pen?)
  • sharpie
  • color sharpie
  • flashlight (good one, but little) (emergency as well as seeing clearly in dark spots)
  • notebook (stenographer’s?)
  • rocket blower (remove dust from lenses etc.)
  • lens tissue or PecPads (never touch a lens with the same thing twice)
  • big microfiber cloth (not for lenses, but screens and things)
  • lens cleaning fluid (Eclipse? Kodak?)
  • lens cap (standard place to put the lens cap from the camera in use)
  • body cap (camera should never be left uncapped) (for each mount)
  • rear lens cap (spare) (for each mount)
  • fresh batteries (camera-specific, AA)
  • dead batteries (keep them separate from the fresh!) (but can mix kinds)
  • tape (narrow, wide, colors, dark, white) for marking and labeling in addition to holding
  • badge / pass / id needed for venue access
  • keys (somewhere safer than belt hanger)
  • phone (has apps, too)
  • lenses (at least fast wide and fast medium telephoto)
  • flash (for photojournalism gigs)
  • digital sound recorder (for video gigs) (and remote)
  • monitor earphones
  • lavalier mike
  • memory cards (possibly multiple kinds, for still, video, sound)
  • polarizing filter (sized for main lenses)
  • neutral density filter (sized for main lenses)
  • step-d0wn rings (to put filters on smaller lenses)
  • mini / clamp tripod, or beanbag, or both
  • radio (depends on what the crew is using)
  • gloves (warmth, protection)
  • gray card (for white balance)
  • tape measure (more for studio photos and video than photojournalism)
  • cable ties, to fasten things (6)
  • tools?  I haven’t routinely carried tools; what might be useful?
    • hex key for tripod tension adjustment
    • very small Phillips for batteries in flash triggers
    • generic #2 Phillips (stubby)
    • generic medium flat-head (stubby)
    • wrenches?
    • knife (don’t leave home without it)
    • trauma shears (might replace knife)
    • pliers
    • diagonal cutters (or just use the trauma shears)
  • kleenex
  • lip balm
  • ibuprofen, aspirin, etc. Antacid?  Decongestant?
  • small bandaids (little nicks and cuts, don’t want to bleed on the cameras)
  • earplugs (noisy locations; music)
  • wet wipes (3)
  • pre-moistened lens cloths (for glasses; or lenses if desperate) (3)
  • deoxit (contact cleaner cloths) (1)
  • additional glasses (dark, for example)
  • water bottle
  • emergency food (protein bar?) (2)
  • mousetrap 🙂
  • trash (need designated place, don’t just drop stuff, can’t count on venue)

Clearly some of this stuff could live in the big toolbag that sits at home base, rather than in pockets I have with me at every second.

I may edit this post over time, since I’m still thinking about this.

The End of Adobe

Or at least, I hope they finally get some competition.

Because they have just decided that I should pay $360 a year instead of about $200 every two or three years to use Photoshop.  Which is totally out of the question.

Worse, they claim the early response to their subscription model has been highly favorable — when everybody I know absolutely hates the idea, because it means we’ll be paying a huge amount more money.

So; the key features missing from Gimp seem to me to be adjustment layers with layer masks (including 16-bit layers), and plugin integration.  I may have to give up photography and work on photo software development for a while, or something.

(There’s also the same problem with Lightroom, and Bibble sold their great product to Corel who have ruined it and I think made it not an option for bulk processing in the future, so I have problems there, too.  Well, everything will work for a little while, until I get a new camera, at least.)

I would urge everybody to do everything they can to avoid giving Adobe any more of your money, and to support viable competitors.