What's New at 120studio.com

(April 2015 archive;  click here for current)

2015 April 29

New review:  Zenith Allegro 2000 speakers.  1970's-vintage speaker with 8" woofer and 3 1/2" Foster tweeter.  They're pretty loud!

2015 April 23

New review:  Could this be the best deal in computer speakers?

Film Is Alive:     I saw HP5 Plus listed as "Discontinued by Manufacturer", but this seems to be an error.  An Ilford / Harman representative tells me HP5 Plus is still being made and is one of their most popular sellers.  And for good reason... HP5 Plus 400 is pretty awesome stuff.  Even better if you develop your own

Pick up some HP5 Plus through here or 10-roll packs here.

Film is awesome, but many people simply didn't (or don't) know about the qualities of film.   What's odd is that the film companies themselves were not in much of a hurry to fix that.

I don't blame the digital camera companies;  of course they don't want you to like film.  Why does anyone think Nikon stopped allowing film entries in their photo contest?  They're afraid it will take market share from them.  That's FUD, of course, because actually a DSLR is one of the best tools for digitizing film

As usual, the marketing-and-FUD departments have it all wrong;  film is not taking away digital's market share.  At this point, it may actually be selling more digital cameras! 

What's taking away digital's market share?  Start with smartphones for a better answer, then look to the fact that people don't (and shouldn't) need to buy a new camera every two years.  Digital's market growth was built on the idea that they should;  but actually, a camera made in 2012 or '13 is still more than enough for today.  Unless, of course, the timing really is right for you to get a new camera.  And sometimes it is.  It's just that there's not that sense of immediate obsolescence that we had, back when digital cameras were two-megapixels-going-on-three. 
As one who scans my own film, I have all the more reason to be positive about the newest digital cameras.  The newer Nikon DSLR's (such as the D5300), as well as the newest from Canon, provide 24 MP, which should extract the maximum resolution from a 35mm frame.   You'll need a 1:1 macro lens and a couple other things, which are detailed here.

2015 April 20

Review:  Rolls Bellari VP130 Phono Stage / Headphone Amp.   A one-tube device that also uses solid-state electronics... could this be any good?  Find out!

2015 April 14

Audio articles - main list

New article:  Wow, Flutter, and S/N Ratio... a simple overview for turntable buyers.   Be sure to read this if you're thinking about dismissing the new turntables because they have > 0.1% wow and flutter.  

Wow is a slow type of flutter, as you'd get where an LP is slightly off-center on the spindle.  That's going to be slightly over half a cycle per second.  Flutter is faster, on the order of four cycles per second (or higher).   That means you'd be hearing an unwanted oscillation about four times every second.

The idea is to minimize these, to the point where you can't hear them.

Engineers spend a lot of time figuring out how to get rid of these things when they're designing turntables.  If you let the engineers have their way, you would get air-bearing turntables with all the best components.  Actually, forget the granite pillars that go miles into the earth... how about a maglev turntable!   Not just the bearings... how about the whole turntable, levitated.  But that would be expensive, which is why it's always a trade-off with cost.

When reading specs, you don't really need to differentiate between wow and flutter;  the manufacturers lump these together.  Give the article a read.

2015 April 11

This is a good year for turntables.  New units from TEAC, Onkyo, and Pioneer!    This is hugely significant.  We want vinyl!  

Nope, they're not $30,000 turntables built of granite pillars that go halfway to the earth's mantle.   They're for ordinary people who like music.

The Pioneer has the lowest wow and flutter (0.1%) of the bunch.  The TEAC has the highest (0.2%) but has the best overall features. 

It's been a while since I've really focused on the audio gear, so I'll do a little of that for a while.  But don't worry, this is still at heart a film-photography website.  

Anyway:  glad to see that Onkyo is making turntables in 2015.  Also, their mini hi-fi system is one of the only ones that still has the traditional RCA input jacks in the back of the unit.  Other manufacturers (*ahem* Sony and Philips) won't show you the backs of their currently-made mini hi-fi systems... because they don't have the RCA connectors back there.

The Onkyo mini hi-fi also has standard speaker-wire connectors on the back, so if one day you decide you don't like the speakers, you can always hook up a pair of big CV's or something.  Or, nearly anything you want.   Mini hi-fi systems are almost all 6-ohm, but you could hook that to 8-ohm speakers and still get good sound.    I know that works, because I used to drive big floorstanders with a mini hi-fi system, and you could get it loud enough that people wouldn't want to be in the room.   

Today I was just thinking about how cool a mini hi-fi system is, and how for many listeners, this is really all you'll need.  At first when I saw the state of these devices in 2015 I was going to forget about them, but that Onkyo system has me interested again.

As for the turntables, it's really encouraging to see a number of newly-manufactured ones on the market.  It's even better to see these companies trying to make semi-serious turntables for prices that ordinary people can afford.

2015 April 10

This little DC power supply looks good, but how well does it actually work?  Read the review here.

2015 April 9

New article ready:

Vintage audio gear wants to be photographed with film.

Classic Review:  Sansui SP-30 Speakers.

I'll also be doing a detailed review of this power supply.  Stay tuned.

2015 April 7

It was my job this year to cook Easter dinner for the family.  I picked serious, no-frills kitchen ware.   The results were delicious.

2015 April 6

Canon EOS Rebel T6S

Now there's a firm release date:  May 10th.    By all indications, this one will be worth having.  24MP, built-in wireless speedlight control, and 19 cross-type AF points.  It also has movie servo AF, like the 70D, so this one is going to be good for DSLR video.  The 70D still has the better movie AF, thanks to the Dual Pixel sensor, but the T6S does have Hybrid CMOS AF III, which is an improvement over the usual Rebel line.

Pre-order yours today.  


Easter-themed song by one of the greats of American folk music.

Speaking of greats, have you heard this artist?  Essential.  There are unfortunately not any modern-day vinyl reissues that I know of, except this one from the Eighties.   I would search for the original vinyl here

Les Paul was an incredible guitarist, and Mary Ford was also quite a singer.

If you play the guitar, then you'll know what it's like to want one of these, which happens to be the design that Paul invented. 

Some people might tell you that the $100-ish, China-made Fenders are not that great, but actually they are very good for a beginner (such as myself).   I think the manufacturing quality has improved in the past several years.

I've tried one rather extensively and have no gripes whatsoever with it.   If I were actually going to stick with playing the guitar, I would pair it with one of these and a small amp like this one, which based on my experience is surprisingly good for the price.

I could completely nerd out on effects pedals.  Digital doesn't usually simulate analog with any great degree of satisfaction, but this pedal is absolutely the coolest thing ever.  (And for about twenty bucks, I can't see how you could possibly go wrong with one of these.)

All I'd have to do is actually learn how to play the guitar [well] first. 


I was the chef, as it were, for Easter dinner.  That brings us to the subject of what foods, and how they were made.  Will try to get a mini article up on here soon.  I've been contemplating a series on outfitting a kitchen for people who don't want to mess around with useless, frilly gadgets. 

2015 April 5
Easter Sunday

"Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live"

-John 11:25

Happy Easter 2015  

2015 April 4

After The Rain

Last night was one of those perfect, should-have-brought-a-film-camera evenings.  The rain had just stopped;  the pavement was wet, and everything had that fresh, after-the-rain smell that you can't get all winter long.  

Ektar 100 is phenomenal stuff for night photography, provided you use a tripod.  Now that spring is here, maybe I'll shoot some more Ektar at night.  Here's one from a while back.  Holga 120:

After a spring rain, the pavement reflects all the various lights:  beautiful blues and greens and purples and all the other colors.  

This was a Noritsu scan, but even here, adjustment was helpful.

Film scanning can be as simple as letting a pro-lab do the work for you.  I prefer home scanning, though, for the ability to adjust the colors and get the best sharpness.  From the same photo you can get vastly different impressions by tweaking the procedure.   This is not a subject that's going to jump into your brain instantly by reading a preview, though;  it requires a level of dedication and perserverance, but (hopefully) many readers will find it worthwhile.

Support Your Local Independent Reviewer

Writing a review is a lot of work (even for the best), but you know you're getting the opinion of someone who doesn't have to clear it with "corporate" before they write their actual opinion.  One company that approached me-- a company whose cameras I review on here occasionally-- ran off straightaway when presumably they read more of my articles.  It was probably the bean counters one, if I had to guess. 

I'll still say nice things about their cameras, but only if they're good cameras. 

Mainly I'll be reviewing stuff that seems especially interesting to me for some reason or another.   Same with audio gear.  Whether it's great, or not as good as I'd hoped, I'll be sure to let you know.

There might be a Canon T6S review in the future, mainly because Canon has finally made a semi-affordable 24-MP camera (pre-order here.)  That's going to be good for film scanning, even if it's way more than necessary for casual photography.  In all likelihood I will be reviewing a bunch more film cameras.   I'll just as soon use a pocketable "trashcam" as I will a 6x7 pro camera that requires a tripod.

Headphone Amp

One of the several items in my article backlog (for a long time now) is this cute little one-tube phono preamp, which also doubles as a headphone amp.   The other day I bought a couple of mp3's and was sorely disappointed with the audio quality.  So, it's vacuum-tube-and-record-player time again.  The stock power supply for that tube amp is the weak point, though.   Read more here.

I've often said that MP3 audio is not as good as the real deal.  That said, you probably know that properly-encoded MP3 is actually about as good as CD quality.  Problem is, a lot of MP3's are encoded at too low a bitrate.  That, combined with digital noise reduction, gives the sound a distinctive "garble-y" quality;  audio details are missing.

This is a problem with some (many?) mp3's being offered for purchase at various places... a good reason to get the CD or vinyl whenever you can.

Somehow, it seems everything audio and photo turns into an extended project if you really want the good stuff, but I've realized that it's all part of the fun.  Developing your own film, using big clunky cameras, and improving power supplies can all be lots of fun. 

And what fun would any of it be if everything were pre-fabbed, blister-packed, and uniformly perfect?  

Vitamin A&D Ointment

This is just a reminder to self.... have to put up an article on A&D ointment.  Lots of interesting biochem going on there. 

You may have been told that vitamins A & D are in the ointment for no particular reason, or because the manufacturers simply couldn't think of anything else to throw in there for no particular reason.  Actually the vitamins do have specific effects.   Vitamin D is a hormone, it's lipid-soluble, and it participates in biochemical reactions in the upper layers of skin... so, yes, it's going to do things that no other type of molecule is going to do.  

What exactly it does there... has not been fully described by science yet.   But there's stuff.  (The good kind.)  More later.

What's New (& What Was)

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