May 202010

Well I recently bought this Canon Pixma MP640 and it prints photos beautifully. But the downside is that it takes 5 cartridges (ink tanks) and they cost about ten pounds each (a bit less if you shop around). Now I don’t want to have to restrict my printing out of photos because of overpriced ink (£2/ml – that’s more than most perfumes), so I have evaluated a couple of alternatives.

I did a bit of web research. Someone on one of the online forums I hang out on suggested a continuous ink system. That led me to City Ink Express. When I got there, I saw their refillable system and rather liked the look of it. They sell a kit which includes ink tanks with auto-reset chips, 100ml of each ink (FotoRite) and 5 syringes with blunt needles for tank filling. Instructions were good and there are even online videos to guide you through the process. I bought one. It cost me £50 + ~£5 postage and arrived promptly. As the original Canon cartridges ran out I replaced them with these.

City Ink Fotorite kit

City Ink Fotorite kit

This ink worked fine in routine document printing. Once I had replaced all except the Canon photo black (it still hasn’t run out) I printed a few test photos, duplicating ones I had already printed with the Canon ink. This was to make a direct comparison. Now I wasn’t expecting miracles, but I was looking for the holy grail of “cheap ink that is as near as possible to an exact match to the OEM Canon stuff”. (I don’t want much do I?) Here are the results…

Canon left, Fotorite right

Canon left, FotoRite right

Canon left, Fotorite right

As you can see if you look closely (click any image to enlarge it) the eagle has a bluish colour cast. The blue sky on the sunflower looks an odd colour and the Canon yellow is much more vibrant. The butterfly shot is a much closer call between the two, but if you look closely at the butterfly’s black body, the FotoRite ink gives a decidedly bluish cast. I did have a go at adjusting the photos’ colour balance to try and duplicate, but it was a bit hit or miss. I know you can buy a calibration kit and change the printer profiles – but who’s got time for that? No. I’d like to see if I can find an ink that will give me what I want…

  • Results as close as possible to the Canon originals
  • Economical to refill

…without messing about with hardware profiles. So the search went on. I found an interesting thread about the
“German “Durchstich” refill method for the PGI-520/CLI-521 cartridges” on (via google) :rotfl: My eyes were opened to the possibility of refilling the original Canon cartridges, which I still had. In that thread there are a couple of inks that come highly recommended. The thread also warns of using inappropriate inks, which can burn out your print head. OctoInk comes highly recommended on that forum, so I banged off an email to Martin with an enquiry, and got a reply within a couple of hours – always a good sign. I decided to try his ink, which is made by Image Specialists in the US. OctoInk appealed because they are UK based and well recommended. I ordered ink and a few 21 gauge needles on Monday night, it was packed that night, shipped on Tuesday and with me on Wednesday. This is the ink I bought. It cost me £21.30 delivered for 100ml of each of the five inks. (Update 6 december 2010 OctoInk now sell a kit with everything you need for the Canon Pixma MP range)

I filled the cartridges according to the Durchstich method, installed them and cleaned the print head, sent a nozzle test page through the printer and then printed out the same three test photos (on the same paper of course – also remember I’m still using the Canon photo black – but that’s the same for all three tests now). So here are the results. I captioned the photos this time. Each set of three was photographed in one shot so the lighting for each is identical.

I did a blind test with Tomek and Malgosia, putting the three photos in random positions and asking them which they liked the best. Tomek picked three out of three OctoInk image specialists. Malgosia picked one Octo outright winner and the other two she couldn’t choose between the Canon and the Octo.

My own opinion of the OctoInk Image Specialists’ Canon Compatible CLI221 + PGI220BK Ink Set is that it is a very good match for the Canon ink – particularly if, like me, you don’t want to mess about with printer profiles. This ink is good enough for me to use as a direct replacement for the original ink. And instead of costing £2 per ml, I got 500ml for £20. That much of the Canon ink (admittedly with brand new tanks each time) would cost £1000. This should mean I don’t have to be a tightwad with my photo printing, which is exactly what I set out to achieve. Thank you Martin from OctoInk. 🙂

May 162010

Went to butterfly world in St Albans yesterday. Quite a good setup they’ve got there. It’ll be even better when the dome is done. At the moment they have a big greenhouse, which is very warm and humid. My camera lens steamed up to start with. Had to let it warm up a bit and then clean with a lens pen. Perhaps I’m getting fussy, but I wasn’t all that pleased with the results with macro flash. The natural light ones from Zgierz seem to be better. Stupid thing is, I probably could have shot some natural light ones as I had a 55mm macro lens with me too. Didn’t even think to try it. 🙁 I was too busy trying to get greedy amounts of depth of field with the ring flash which I haven’t really used very much. Probably needs some sort of diffuser on it, as it was a bit harsh.

OK, so normal people might think they’re quite good, but I think they could be a lot better. As usual, images can be clicked for a larger version.

Not sure what this one is

Tree Nymph

Blue Morpho

Owl Butterfly

Not IDed yet

not sure about this one either

Spikey Caterpillar

Pond skater

Apr 222010

I saw my first confirmed speckled wood of the year, and it stayed on our terrace for about 3 hours this afternoon, sheltering from the wind (I assume). I looked out this evening and it was still there. Unmoving. So I picked it up and put it in a tupperware box and took it inside. It played dead for a while, but when left alone for a bit it opened its wings. I moved the box to under the light, got the camera ready, popped up the onboard flash (best I’ve got with me) and selected f/8 and AF. Focussed on the eyes. Click. Just about to take another and the wings bang shut. 😀

Put the box lid back on, box under a towel in the dark for a few minutes. Then got it out again. After a while the wings opened and were quivering. “no need to be scared of me matey” I thought. Clicked one off and then specky had a fly round the room and settled in the main lampshade. Switch that light off and it migrated back down to land on my credit card wallet So the credit card wallet goes back in the box with speccy.

I think the quivering must have been a prelude to flight. I have a feeling this is rather a young butterfly as its wings are in perfect condition.

Speckled Wood

So it stayed in the box overnight and this morning I fed it some sugared water. Could actually hear the sucking/slurping sound. Then I shut the door and opened the box. It flew to the window and when it settled with its wings open I clicked off a few shots.

Apr 152010

It was sunny and there was an opportunity to get the camera out this afternoon, so I did. A Peacock butterfly met me at the door. I followed it round a bit and then found a comma, which I observed feeding. After that I found a bee and a mosquito in the veranda. So here they are. As is my custom, all images can be clicked for a higher resolution version.

Peacock Butterfly

Next was the comma

Comma perched on a piece of wood

Then the comma feeding in a tree. Check out that long proboscis…

Comma feeding on a bud

Next up Mr mosquito…


And last up a bee…


Well I enjoyed shooting them. This is the pick of about 100 shots. Hope you like ’em. 😀

Mar 172010

Well, a few weeks ago I said I’d like to take my son to the cotswold falconry centre. He had a school open day on Saturday, so they were all given the day off on Monday. It was a nice day, so we decided it would be a good day to visit. So we loaded up with cameras, picnic etc. and off we all went.

Tomek was able to poke his camera through the little spyholes they had to give the breeding pairs of falcons and hawks some extra security. I couldn’t. So although I saw the pair of peregrines, Tomek was able to take a shot of one of them.

Peregrine Falcon

As usual, all images are clickable for higher resolution ones. (Although top resolution are not published, they are available on request).

I got a few shots, but a lot of them were very samey from last time, and to be honest, not quite as good. One of the best was the kestrel, which was outside this time. Last time it was inside because it was cold.


I got to fly this Harris Hawk, Tomek was offered, but didn’t fancy it (probably because the plonker flew it right over his head just before – wish people would be more sensible with children).

Harris Hawk

Up close, Harris Hawks are quite amazing. They’re not that special to look at from a distance though. The falconer said you can train a Harris Hawk in a week.

Harris Hawk, up close

This one wasn’t out last time either. Interesting fellow.

Yellow-billed Kite

This Saker was stood on his perch flapping. Thought I’d take a shot.

Saker Falcon

Leah the Lanner Falcon was flying free this time. Last time she was on a line.

Leah - Lanner Falcon

The Caracaras were noisy and most of the time they seemed to prefer to walk.

Caracara from the Falklands

My AF still can’t keep up with birds in flight, but this was about the best flying shot I managed.

Matabele the Bateleur Eagle

They seemed to have two Gyr-Saker falcons today

Gyr-Saker Falcon

Desmond the ??? owl.

Feb 202010

I went to Cotswold Falconry Centre yesterday. They’ve got falcons, eagles, hawks, kestrels, vultures and more owls than I knew existed. Fantastic place. Really enjoyed it. Must go back again with my son. The nice thing about it is that many of the birds are on tethered perches so can be photographed without having to go through glass or cages.

I took about 200 shots. I have to say the flying shots were total garbage, but that was to be expected. My AF cannot keep up with a falcon. 😀

I picked out one shot that I thought was really nice. This was the female Golden Eagle called Xena. It was shot with a Sigma 105 EX 2.8 Macro lens from about 4ft away at about f/5 and 1/640.

Xena - Golden Eagle. Click photo to enlarge.

This was the best shot to start with, I’ll put up some others later when I’ve had a chance to go through and sort them all out. But for now I’d better get back to work. 🙂

This was a Chilean Eagle.

Chilean Eagle - click to enlarge.

This next one is a Lanner Falcon.

Lanner Falcon. Click to enlarge

I got to hold and fly this barn owl. He was lovely. Quite hard to photograph white on a bright day.

Barn Owl. Click to enlarge

Bateleur Eagle - Matabele

Bateleur Eagle - Matabele

Turkey Vulture

Another falcon

Bald Eagle

Gyr Saker Hybrid Falcon.

Eagle Owl

Feb 052010

box brownie

my first camera ca. 1977

First camera I ever had was a small box thing that I think I only ever got 2 recognisable shots out of. Mind you, I was about 8 when I had it as a hand-me-down from my grandmother. How was I to know if you took out the film and had a look at it, the negs came back blank? 😥 At least they didn’t charge for the processing. But it was labelled “FAIL” on it. My second film ever and I was a failure. Still, it didn’t put me off. 🙂 I did give up on that camera though.


Next up was a small kodak ektra 12 I got for my (probably 10th) birthday ca. 1979, which I happily snapped away with for a few years.

ektra 12 camera

my second camera ca. 1980

It used one of those small cassette films. You could plug in disposable flash units for indoor shots, but never really had a lot of success with that. I’ve still got a few photos from that camera though.

Photography really caught my interest when I got my first “proper” 35mm camera – an Olympus XA when I was 12 – as long ago as 1982 😮 IIRC I paid £70 for it and it was almost new. (Bought from a friend of my dad’s who lived in the Philippines and travelled regularly through Hong Kong – thanks Freddie :yes: )

Olympus XA

My 3rd camera. Olympus XA. Click photo to enlarge.

They were £100+ in the UK at the time. It has aperture priority f/2.8 to f/22, manual rangefinder focussing and its own detachable A11 flash. I just tried it out and the metering and shutter still fires – meaning the lithium cells still have some juice left in them. 😎 Still works too – although who uses film these days? ?:-)

Well that one lasted me until I bought a Nikon F50 in December 1995 for £400 after saving up all my spare personal cash for a year (we also bought our first house that year). I’ve seen F50s selling on ebay recently for as little as £15 😥

Nikon F50

My 4th camera. Nikon F50. Click photo to enlarge.

Still got that one too. The F50 was a great camera. Loved using it. I took quite a lot of photos with it. Started shooting transparencies for serious stuff. Back in 1997 I considered becoming a freelance photographer, but glad I didn’t because very few people are good enough to make any decent money at it. If I’m honest with myself, I doubt if I would have been one of them.

In 1999 I got into e-publishing and in 2000 needed my first digital camera.

Fuji Finepix 1400 zoom

My 5th camera. Fuji Finepix 1400 zoom. Click photo to enlarge.

A Fuji Finepix 1400 zoom, which cost £300 for 1.3 megapixels. Seems unreal now. 😀 It was a good quality machine though, and had good optics. It also took 4 AA High power batteries and got through them in about an hour if you had the screen on. 😮

Digital photography was something of an eye-opener. I have to say that I’m glad I got a lot of use out of my Nikon F50 before buying a digital camera because the lure of instant results almost completely killed the desire to shoot film. After buying the fuji, I probably only averaged a couple of rolls of film per year up until about 2007 – and I don’t think I’ve shot any film since then – although I might do one day if I feel the need. :-)) Still got the F50 and it still works if I need it to.


Back to the Fuji though, I even took it snorkelling a couple of years after buying it. 2 weeks after 9/11 was a great time to go to Egypt. In Sharm el Sheik, I used it with an Ewa-Marine housing, which is a thick polyurethane bag with a glass front and a watertight clamp seal. SmartMedia cards were expensive back then. I remember paying about a couple of quid a megabyte. But you could fit three photos into a megabyte. I was still used to film so not as click-happy as I am now. I think nothing of bashing out several hundred shots in an afternoon now and keeping the best 10. The learning curve is just so quick with digital. You can make all your mistakes without having to write down what you did and wait for the processing.


On that holiday I did my PADI advanced open water diving course and took the underwater photography option, which involved renting a Sea and Sea MX-10 camera. A few months later, in 2002 I bought a full MX-10 set second-hand for £400.

My 6th camera. Sea & Sea MX-10.

That’s a simple 35mm point and shoot in a waterproof case, complete with hammerhead flash, wide-angle, close-up and macro lens. Unfortunately, I haven’t had a lot of use out of it because our son was born later that year and I’ve only been diving once since he was born. 😥 I have taken it on two diving holidays though and put a few films through it, with some reasonable results. Tried to offload it for about £200 in 2005, but nobody wants film cameras these days. I’d rather keep it myself than give it away for peanuts. :-))

In 2003 the Fuji digital became a bit temperamental on a trip to Woburn safari park – just after I got this tiger shot (which I was very pleased with at the time. Now I look at it and think it needs some post processing to lighten it up a bit and give some more contrast and vibrancy. :laugh: )

tiger reflection woburn 2004

tiger taken on 1.4 megapixel finepix

Olympus Camedia C-220

My 7th camera. Olympus Camedia C-220. Click image for larger photo.








So we bought a refurbed Olympus Camedia C-220 zoom. Still got that one. Still works. Chose it because we could use our existing SM cards.

In May 2006 I picked up a Nikon Coolpix 3700 (ebay £70) because I wanted a small, light compact to put in a model plane and take aerial shots and video remotely. This is an excellent camera. Shoots 30 fps video at 640×480 and really takes nice photos. But it’s still a compact. If you want really good shots and no shutter lag, you need an SLR. Ho hum. 😉

Nikon Coolpix 3700

My 8th camera. Nikon Coolpix 3700. Click image for larger photo


March 2009 saw me itching to get a DSLR, but with low budgetary requirements. It had to be a Nikon because I already had two Nikon AFD lenses. A quick survey of the current crop of Nikon DSLRs revealed that I would need to spend £600 to get one that would operate my existing glass. Sod that, I thought. So after patrolling ebay for a couple of weeks I managed to get hold of a D100 for £170. These were selling for over a grand in 2002. 6 megapixels – DX format. But most importantly it is completely compatible with my lenses (the 70-210 f/4-5.6 set me back £300 in 1996).

My 9th camera. Nikon D100. Click photo to enlarge.

I think I’ve put around 6000 clicks on it since then. Now I’m heavily into macro photography – particularly insects. So that’s where I’m at with cameras today. I’ve bought a bunch of second-hand lenses and accessories for the D100 since then, including…

  • 18-55mm Nikkor AFS DX
  • 70-300 Nikkor AFG
  • 55mm Micro Nikkor AI (old manual focus)
  • 105mm Sigma DG Macro EX

…and you can see the results of some of them elsewhere on the site.