All posts by fossiljellyfish

I'm a biologist who enjoys building scale models... I write popular science articles in my spare time, play World of Tanks, and publish scale model reviews in Armorama. I have decided to start a blog to show the work I've been doing; any comments are welcome. Please subscribe to the blog, and give regular feedback; this would greatly help me to improve both my skills and my blog.

DML 1/35 Sd.Kfz. 250 Neu with Royal Models set part 1



This is a very, very old build that has been sitting in a box for a long, long time. I feature this model because it represents my limits; not necessarily limits of ability (although those, too), but the limits of what I’m willing to do for a build. The base kit may not be a difficult one, but this is an all-out aftermarket bonanza. Over the years I reflected on this build a lot, and it helped me understand better of what the hobby means to me. I realized I like challenges, but only within a certain limit; as soon as a build becomes work I do not enjoy it any more. This model with all the aftermarket essentially became a job; you are spending an hour or so just to put together the convoy light from individual PE pieces -and the fruit of your effort does not actually look better than the plastic original (if there’s a visible difference at all). Or worse yet, due to the high level of skill needed for assembly, it actually looks worse. So yeah. From now on only builds that are not evolving (or devolving) into a full-time job. (Unless someone is paying for it of course.) So the work has been ongoing for at least a decade now: I continued my predecessor’s efforts, then gave up; I shipped the model to Hungary when I moved to the UK, and there it sat in my mother’s attic until I dug it out to finally finish it two years ago. Here in the UK I’ve finished several 1000+ part models while it was waiting patiently for me to work on it which I did on and off. But mostly off. And now it’s finally close to finishing.

So without further ado, the model.

I bought it on Ebay already started; someone went all-out with the DML 250, and bought all the Royal Models aftermarket sets he could get his hands on- and then sold it for peanuts. It was an ambitious project; a project with appealed to my naive younger self. Trying to build several sets does feel like biting a bit too much: you not only have to coordinate the kits instructions with one aftermarket set, but coordinate it with several sets, with a lot of overlap and variation. Some sets fit a different version of the vehicle, and all three have parts which are duplicated/triplicated; making sense of four sets of instructions is not an easy feat. The fact that Royal Models are not always clear on their instructions do not help matters either.


My main issue -aside from the conundrum presented by the several sets of instructions- was the tiny PE parts plaguing the whole build. I started the interior in 2007 back in the US, then shelved the model because I got a bit overwhelmed by the sheer amount of PE. I still do not know how possibly I could hold a 1mm PE part, and apply it to wherever it should be going without gluing my tweezers together and onto the model.

The finishing touches did not go well; not at all. I finished the interior a year ago, and the model went back to the box as I found it difficult to add the PE tool boxes on the sides. A year ago I weathered the interior a bit: added streaks, chips and dirt, finished with the small details, and closed the hull. I realized really quickly that the kit parts are not always inferior to the aftermarket alternative: the radio rack (but not the radios), some of the smaller equipment was kept from the DML set. In retrospect I wish I kept the tool boxes and the fenders, too…

The kit tracks were surprisingly good -they are workable plastic tracks. I have to say this may be an older DML model, but it’s still pretty good when it comes to detail.

Once the hull was closed off, I turned to the toolboxes on the side. I managed to attach them after a brief struggle, but there are some issues with the angles. I suspect some of it is my own incompetence, but some is due to the fact that the Royal models set was designed for the Tamiya model, and it’s the DML version I’m using. Regardless I went through several iterations of filling, sanding and painting; I used both Green Stuff and ordinary putty to do the job, and used the primer to check for irregularities.

Despite of having done the most annoying/disheartening part – filling and sanding- I ran out of steam again. I was only recently spurred on by my feelings of guilt. I have decided not to start new models until I finish off these shelf-queens; so far I’m making good progress. (There’s an Airfix Bentley and a DML 251 to be finished; not to mention several WWII and Warhammer figures.) And here I ran into one of the problems with the instructions: the doors for the tool boxes were to be installed from the inside. Which were not exactly indicated by the instructions: it shows the doors going on from the outside. The problem is I’ve already attached the frame to the hull, so outside the doors went.

I did try to install most of the minuscule little padlocks and all but at the end of the day I did what I could without driving myself crazy. For me a victory will be achieved if I finally can mount this model in its case. Ironically the plastic original has very nice padlocks moulded on them.

The Royal Model set is extremely comprehensive and detailed; the problem is it’s not very user friendly. I especially disliked the fact that the front mudguards are to be built from three different parts instead of folding one into shape; I’m not even lamenting on the fact that you’re supposed to glue the edges together without a small PE flap provided that could have been used for more secure attachment. (OK, I am. I AM lamenting.)

Another few months of rest; and then a new effort to finish this build. I’m quite motivated to finish off everything as I may be moving to a different country; I want to take these models with me mounted in their cases, instead of languishing in a box, half-assembled.

I sorted through the kit parts that I wanted to keep, and installed every single little detail I’ve left out so far. I also decided to stick to the kit’s plastic option whenever I can; particularly when it comes to the antenna mount for the large radio. I did not feel like folding and gluing the elaborate little assembly made out of several tiny PE parts, so I just slapped the three-part plastic one on. It does not look as nice, but at this point I was just happy to call the building phase finished. I also decided to use the kit’s width indicator rod instead of trying to fashion one out of wire as the instructions suggest; I also used the kit lamps and tools. The truism -just because it’s there you don’t need to use it- never rang truer to me than in this kit. I still am left with a ton of PE I have absolutely no idea where they should be going.

Anyhow. I’m done with the building, and this is what matters. Next step: painting the blasted thing.



Flyhawk 1/72 M1A2 SEP tank


The M1A2 SEP (System Enhancement Package) is an updated version of the Abrams featuring depleted uranium reinforced armor, updated ballistic computers, fire control and other systems. This is an upgrade package that can be applied to any M1 variants: several older M1A1 were updated to the M1A2 SEP levels. (A good summary of the vehicle can be found here.

I was quite interested in Flyhawk’s M1A2 SEP model; all their kits I’ve built so far looked like miniaturised 1/35th scale models with regards to detail (and sometimes complexity), so there’s quite a reputation to uphold.

(In short: they do.)

The packing of the model is exceptional: all the sprues placed in the same bag are fixed together with a thin rubber band; and the delicate parts for the turret baskets are wrapped in packing foam to prevent damage.

The PE fret has a circular mask for the wheels; it is a really welcome feature.

The plastic is exceptional quality, all the ejection pin marks are in inconspicuous places, and the sprue gates are very small. There is virtually no flash to clean up. The detail is simply speaking incredible – the best example is the subtle but very realistic anti-slip surface on the turret and hull, or the single-piece gun barrel. The machine guns are pretty amazing, too: the barrels are hollowed out, and the ammunition belt running from the ammunition box is modelled, too. (Something 1/35 scale kits sometimes do not have.)

The instructions are provided in a booklet for the tank, and as a fold-out page for the mine plough. Interestingly the assembly of the mine plough has as many steps as the tank itself (although it’s obviously less complex.) The booklet is very well designed; the English is not very good, but understandable. (Being someone whose English is not perfect either, I should not be throwing stones, though.) The instructions make very good use of colors to help with the assembly process, and also provide several views of the more difficult steps to aid the modeller. Flyhawk also provided tips and some useful pieces of advice, which is very much welcome. The instructions, and the fact that the whole model was designed to be as user friendly as possible, makes for a very pleasant building experience. (The design is excellent: it is very difficult to mistakenly attach something upside down or on the wrong side – even the gun barrel is moulded in a way that it only fits into the mantlet in one way.)

As far as I could determine the model is accurate. The size is spot-on for 1/72, but I’m not really familiar with the M1- people who are better acquainted with the type are more qualified to judge the accuracy of the model.

The lower hull is assembled from four parts: a bottom, two sides and the back. This is somewhat of an old-school approach, but the fit is good, so there is no problem here. The hull already has the swing arms for the road wheels attached; this makes the build simpler, but you won’t be able to position them to conform to an uneven terrain, should you wish to build a diorama. This is going to be made more difficult because of the unique track assembly: the tracks come finished; they are assembled from two halves, but these join longitudinally. It’s very welcome due to the simplicity of assembly, but it limits the modellers options. The running gear assembly is actually quite innovative: you attach the inner row of road wheels to the hull, add the inner halves of the tracks, and then glue the outer set (and the drive wheel) on, and finally add the outer halves of the tracks. Even though the instructions suggest you glue the side-skirts on before you even add the top of the hull to the bottom, they are probably going to be the last things to be installed – well after the painting stage is done. They are provided as single pieces; you cannot open them up. The fit to the hull is OK, but not perfect, though.

The hull has a lot of PE grilles provided, which is great; there are some very fiddly PE parts, though. (The PE casting numbers on the turret are a bit over the top in my opinion. I could just about to manage the cables running to the headlights.) In general, there are a lot of tiny parts -both plastic and PE.

The turret is a pretty straightforward assembly. The hatches can be positioned open should you wish so -although there is no interior provided. The loader’s hatch has a bit too many parts I feel – Flyhawk does have the tendency of giving multi-part sub-assemblies that would shame a 1/35 model. Unfortunately the instructions only detail how to assemble the hatch in a closed position.

The vision blocks need to be tinted (reddish), as the instructions advise. It’s probably a good idea to paint the back of their slots black before inserting the transparent pieces. You get some PE welding numbers for the turret, but seriously? I took a look at them and after a brief, amused chuckle I just left them untouched; I feel these numbers should have been moulded onto the turret. I appreciate the fact that they are individual for each and every turret, but here there was a decision to be made: either satisfy the purists (I think the term “rivet counter” has acquired somewhat of a negative overtones lately), or make the build reasonably simple. I think a generic casting number would have been sufficient; if anyone was unhappy with it, they could have just sand it off, and use the PE alternative. Unfortunately Flyhawk did not mould numbers on the turret sides, and so instead of incorrect detail I ended up with none.

The other, somewhat challenging part to build was the racks/baskets on the back of the turret. These multi-part plastic/PE contraptions were not easy to build at all; some patience will be necessary.

The mine plough is somewhat of a fiddly assembly (OK, it’s an understatement: it is a VERY fiddly assembly). In fact this is probably the weakest point of this model. The instructions are not very clear in some crucial steps; it is hard to decipher what goes where. A drawing of the finished sub-assemblies would have helped out tremendously. The tiny parts are difficult to handle without launching them onto the carpet. The other issue is that the attachment point of the dozer blades is quite flimsy, and you can easily break them off during handling.

Flyhawk provides a very fine piece of chain that you will have to cut into five parts to be attached to the plough. Once you are finished the results are pretty impressive: the plough has movable skids, and the locking arms on the frame can be disengaged, too. I’m not entirely sure of the advantages of a non-static mine-plough. I guess the plough could be made to conform a terrain feature in a diorama, or shown being installed, but I’m not certain this option is worth the effort that comes with building it. I would have preferred to have something simpler to assemble – or have better instructions. Either of these would have been nice.

The overall building was done in three quick sessions -this is not a very difficult or long build. The mine-plough was the most time consuming part of the build the truth be told. The painting steps took a tad bit longer. I’ve applied a German grey primer to the whole of the model, followed up by the desert brown in several thin layers to keep the shading effect of the dark primer. I’ve decided to go with the brown desert scheme with the plough painted green- I really liked the contrast of the two on the box art. (I originally wanted to build it in three-tone NATO colors.) Even though it’s not authentic, I kept the “Captain America” decal from the three-tone option, simply because I liked it better. My model, my rules I guess. I gave a try to the PE mask provided for the wheels, since the outer wheels were not attached to the model yet. (In retrospect I should have just left the inner row off as well; I painted their rubber rims by hand.)

Once the basic colors were on, I installed the tracks and the outer row of roadwheels, installed the skirts, and went on to weathering the model. The lower part of the hull received some light pigment dusting. I added some filters to modify the tones somewhat, and sprayed Future over the model to prepare it for the decals. Once the decals were dried, another layer of Future sealed them on, and provided a good basis for the upcoming wash. I used the wash to create some streaks as well in several layers; I also used a couple of AK Interactive streaking products, too, to give some subtle variation in color. The front ID panels have black corners; since there are no decals provided, and I did not trust my hands with a brush I used a permanent marker to paint them.

After it dried I sprayed a matte coat over the tank. That’s about it – the model was finished.

Overall I have to say the build was a pleasant one, although the sheer number of tiny plastic parts (especially in the plough assembly) was sometimes a testing my patience. The results are spectacular for sure. I’ve built Revell’s M1A2 a couple of years ago, and I have to say it’s difficult to decide between the two kits. (Long-long time ago I’ve built the old 1/35 Trumpeter Abrams. This 1/72 gem easily trumps it -bad pun intended- when it comes to detail.)

The Revell kit has excellent detail for the scale, but Flyhawk easily surprasses it in this regard. You do feel like you have a premium quality model in your hands when you build it. On the other hand the Revell M1A2 is a much simpler build. It boils down to preferences I think: if you don’t want to be bothered with tiny parts and PE, the Revell is a good alternative; if you want to go all-out, there’s the Flyhawk model for you.

Modelcollect 1/72 E-75 German heavy tank with interior

As an introduction I have to admit that I love models featuring their interior. (The blog is full of these models…) If I can, I buy aftermarket sets to enhance my models, and obviously I was overjoyed by the recent influx of tanks with full interior by several manufacturers. Modelcollect has been on my radar for a long time now, because I do like to build post-war Soviet armor/trucks, and I also like that the 1/72 scale Modelcollect kits usually come with PE and metal barrels, which is really unusual -and amazing-, and more importantly, I like their prices. When I saw that they were working on a series of tanks with interior included, obviously I became very much interested indeed. I kept checking their online shop to see when these tanks become available, and when the E-50 and E-75 finally did, I immediately went and purchased the E-75.

The first thing I received was a sprue of the top of the hull. That was all I got in the cardboard box, and there was no explanation included. This made me worried for a while as you can imagine, but it took me just an email to clear up the situation: Modelcollect sent out replacement sprues for all the E-75 they sold. Exceptional customer service I’d say. (The reason, as far as I could determine, was that the top hull was somewhat damaged in the original sprue – the back of the engine compartment is a thin plastic strip, and it was bent a little in my sample. Other than that I could not find any differences between the original and the replacement.)

The tank itself is a paper panzer: it never got further than the planning phase. It was planned to use a lot of the Tiger II components, and looks remarkably similar to it. I suspect the model’s interior was designed using the Tiger II as a template – after all German tank designs were quite conservative during the war, so it is a safe bet from Modelcollect. The model is packed in a somewhat thin cardboard box; the box art is a technical drawing of the tank against a black background.

The kit comes with several extra parts you will not use during the building phase; an extra lower turret, two E-50 turrets, and a lot of smaller bits. (This seems to be the case with most Modelcollect kits; my spares box has been filling up lately from the leftovers of the three models I’ve bought.) The introduction on the instructions are taken from the wikipedia page of the E-50. (A mistake obviously.)

The instructions are provided as a foldout on high quality, glossy paper. The steps are outlined well and look clear, but during the building phase I ran into a couple of issues, which I will highlight over the course of the review. None of these issues are deal-breaking, but they did cause me some headache; however if you know about them you will have no problems whatsoever during the build. (I guess this is one of the reasons to read reviews.)

The model also comes with a very large set of PE: apart from interior details and a lot (and I mean a lot) of round disks for the bottom of the ammunition, we also get the back and front mudguards as optional PE parts, and the track guards are included as well. A lot of the PE is not used for the build; I’m honestly not sure what they are for. It’s an intriguing enigma. There is also a small fret for the engine deck grilles, periscope covers and lifting hooks. A third tiny PE fret is also included, which is not used at all. (And not included in the sprue layout section of the instructions, either.) Another mystery; if anyone has the answers, please let me know in the forum. There’s a nice-looking crew included if you want to place them inside the tank; the detail is not as fine as some resin offerings’, but they are still pretty good. The plastic is somewhat fragile. The parts are finely cast, but there is some flash (not a lot), and the detail is OK, but not exceptional.

The interior is not too detailed, unfortunately. I know I’m asking for a lot here, so take this criticism with a grain of salt. The basics are in, but there is a lot more that could have been done. The detail from the firewall is missing completely, and the radio-operator’s station has no detail at all. The seats have no moulded-on detail of padding, and the turret is missing a lot of things (fume extractor, electrical boxes, etc.). Obviously this is a 1/72 scale kit, so the expectations need to be adjusted a bit, but I still would have liked to see a more comprehensive interior. If you plan to build the tank with only the hatches open most of it will be invisible, so it may not be an issue for you -but then why not buy the cheaper version with no interior? I built the model as a cutaway, so for me the more detail the model has, the better. My impression is that originally the tank was not planned with an interior, but it was added to it later. The interior sides of the larger parts (hull, turret, etc.) have no markings where the different interior detail should go, and some hatches are moulded shut. A lot of the PE options look like an afterthought, too, and sometimes surgery is necessary before installing them (I’m thinking of the front and back mudguards mostly).

The first step details the addition of extra track links to the turret; I would leave them off until after the painting is done. The teeth are supposed to be replaced using PE replacements; I’ve left them as they were. (The instructions are not clear about removing the plastic teeth, and they are tiny anyway.)

The second step assembles the turret basket (very nice PE plate), and the third finishes off most of the turret interior and the gun. This is where you run into the first issue: the metal barrel should fit onto a small peg on part A6- but there is no hole drilled into the metal. I cut the peg off and tried to glue the barrel to the plastic base as straight as I could; it’s still a bit wonky if I’m honest. Only after painting -when I was putting the leftover bits into the spares box- did I realize that we actually get a proper mantlet that can fit the metal barrel (A9 instead of A8). This is a recurring problem with the instructions- they seem to have been designed for an all-plastic model, which was modified later to include PE, metal barrel and interior. Unfortunately not all the modifications made their way into the instructions; some did, but this particular one, for example, apparently did not. Regardless now you know, so you can use the correct part.

There are two turret bases included, but the instruction does not give the part number, so I have no idea if I used the right one. This is again a tricky issue. The turret ring on the hull does not have the holes for the interlocking pegs normally moulded onto the ring of the turret itself. These are very well known features of almost all tank models: this is how the turret is locked into place. Upon inspection you will find that one of the turret bases has these little pegs, while the other does not. The latter one would go better with this model, but at the end of the day it makes little difference which one you choose to use. Obviously I used the ones that had them as I did not notice these differences during the building phase…

The turret bottom has moulded-on holders for the gun; these are unnecessary, since the gun comes with its own support-and these details are not featured in the instructions, either. (You just have to cut them off.) Where the gun goes exactly is not marked anywhere, unfortunately; I used the location of the holding pegs I cut away to attach the gun.

Step 4 finishes off the turret exterior: hatches, lifting hooks and everything else. Unfortunately the back access hatch cannot be displayed opened; and the loader’s hatch can only be opened about 90 degrees, because the fume extractor housing is in the way.

Step 5 and 6 work on the upper hull and engine deck: you have an option to cut off the moulded-on mudguard, and substitute it with a PE one (tiny PE part alert). There are also PE guards supplied for the whole length of the tank; this is really nice if you want to show them damaged, bent or missing. I would not add them to the hull at this stage, though -wait until you finished the hull and running gear. (There are no markings where exactly should the tools, towing cables, trackguards go.) The engine deck has nice PE grilles.

None of the engine access hatches or the driver’s/radio operator’s hatches can be opened; this is a shame, since you do get an engine compartment and a driver’s compartment. Unless you are building a cutaway these details will be invisible once you finish the build.

Steps 7-10 detail the assembly of the running gear/tracks. The process is quite easy and straightforward. The E series was not planned to use torsion bars; the special spring suspension is nicely replicated. The positions of swing arms, however, are not very obvious. You can move them up or down, hence adjust the road wheels to any terrain, but the “neutral” setting is not very clear.

The kit comes with link-and-length tracks, which is a very good option for this scale. The links are left and right handed; something the instructions do not say or indicate. You should sort the track links first and then start with the assembly. I cut off the connecting pins from them because it was easier to assemble them (they are a bit clunky and don’t fit very well into their grooves). The number of links necessary for the tracks shown on figure 10 is not correct; you will need at least five extra individual links to finish the complete track.

Step 11-12 shows the assembly of the engine compartment. There is some flash on the lower hull which needs to be removed. The basic layout is created by parts H18 and H4; there are no guiding grooves within the lower hull to help you with the placement. (It’s not difficult to find the correct position, but it would still be nice to have them. The engine is quite detailed little thing, and once finished the whole engine compartment looks pretty good. Some larger pipes can be scratchbuilt if you are so inclined; overall, it’s a really good representation of the real thing in this scale. The problem is that none of it will be visible if you close the engine deck, since the access hatches cannot be displayed open.

Step 13-15 details the assembly of the interior. It is somewhat basic, but generally enough in this scale. The radio operator’s station in quite neglected as I mentioned; if you plan to do a cutaway, best use the driver’s side, or work on your scratchbuilding skills. To make painting easier do not yet glue the bottom of the fighting compartment into the hull; I did, and it made painting somewhat difficult.

Step 16 shows the assembly of the ammo racks; depending on how you want to display the tank you may not need to bother with all the PE disks for the ammunition. The place where part J8 should be placed is not marked on the hull.

Step 17-19 show the assembly of the back armor plate of the tank. The detail is pretty good, but I’m not sure the suggested sequence is correct. You have an option of using a PE mudguard; for this you need to remove the moulded-on plastic part. The instructions would have you attach all the small parts to the panel and then remove the plastic mudguards. Performing this surgery first, and then adding the protruding details might be a better way of doing it. I would also glue the panel to the hull before adding the smaller bits; the fit is tight, and it takes some fiddling to slot it in place. (I generally prefer finishing off the large assemblies first, and then add the details to minimize damage later on; this means I’ve installed this part when I was finished with the tub of the hull and before I installed the interior.)

Step 20 is the final assembly. The top of the hull does not fit perfectly to the bottom which necessitated some sanding on the sides of the lower hull to achieve a good fit. As mentioned at step 1, the turret ring on the hull is perfectly circular; there are no notches that would allow the turret to lock onto the hull. This may be annoying to some, but I think it’s actually a good thing: it allows you to display the tank with the turret off, without having to make those notches disappear. It also means that nothing keeps the turret in place if you don’t glue or magnetize it.


Once the assembly was done I’ve chosen a hypothetical (and funky looking) camo pattern; I did not like the plain dunkelgelb suggested by the assembly. I tried to make weathering as realistic as possible: as usual I applied some filters to “unify” the colors, and after washes, I painted paint-chips, scratches and rust streaks onto the tank. The streaks were done in several layers in several colors: from blackish to rust, representing dirt, dust and rust streaks. As a final step I dabbed some pigments on the horizontal surfaces to simulate dust.

Overall the detail is good, the subject is great (depending on your preferences, of course), and the interior is a very welcome bonus. What really lets the model down is the instructions; as I pointed it out several times they are not very good at certain steps, and at others they are flat out wrong. This is not a deal-breaker; especially if are aware of the weak areas. The model, as I mentioned, was improved from an all-plastic version. The design of the “base” pieces, the several extra parts, and the somewhat mangled instructions all seem to point to this direction. There is nothing wrong with improving existing models; I just wish the instructions were improved to the same level as the model itself was. It is certainly not a bad model by any measures I have to add; in fact I quite like it, and I’m really looking forward to building the T-80 I have in my stash -and the T-72 with interior still to be issued.


To sum up: what can you use this model for? As I mentioned it a couple of times already, if you just build it out of the box, most of the interior detail will not be visible. In this case you are better off ordering the non-interior version. (This is a very good idea MiniArt seems to be adopting, too: a budget version for most people, and a “premium” version with interior for the more unhallowed model builders.)

The interior version is a very good option if you plan to build a damaged tank, or a tank under repair. For these purposes this model offers an incredible deal, since it is relatively inexpensive, and has enough detail to showcase it with the turret lifted off with a crane. If you want to add more detail, you can use the Tiger II as a guide and either scratchbuild the missing detail, or adopt one of the aftermarket resin interior sets available for the Tiger I. I think Modelcollect could have gone a bit further with detail even if it means an increase of price: after all, there is a cheaper alternative available, and this was always going to be a niche product, so why not go all the way? Regardless if would like to build something special; this is definitely a good model to grab.

Photographing models part 3. – small studios

So now we have the camera chosen, and the lenses sorted out; what else is needed for taking photos of your models?


Studio setting

Getting a dedicated light box is not really expensive any more. You can get a collapsible light box with two/three light sources for less than £30.


The bare minimum should be two light sources; the white sides of the box diffuse the lights a bit, making the illumination less harsh, softening the shadows. (If you can install it, a third, overhead light source would not be a bad idea, either.) You don’t actually need a box; if you fabricate a diffuser you can put in front of your light sources, it works fine as well.


The background -normally- should be something neutral, which does not take away the attention of the viewer, and which allows for the most visibility of the object in the foreground. Used to use the colored cloths that came with my photo-box: black (not ideal, too dark), blue (OKish, but darker than should be), and red (not ideal, weird). These are admittedly less than ideal solutions, but on occasion they are the better alternative (lightly colored parts show up better against a dark background). The best option I found was to use colored papers from craft stores (but real velvet works well, too -something I will need to spend some money on). You can get them in many different colors: you would ideally need to buy a few that would allow you to choose the most optimal one depending on the model in question. White is an OK choice although the contrast can be too stark. Light grey is a better option; however it always depends on your subject. A white-washed tank, for example, might be better photographed against a bit darker background. (After all, the whole point of the white-wash was to blend the tank into the light background.) Make sure you don’t pick strong colors -again, I say this with the understanding that a lof of my photos were taken using precisely these colors. (As I said before I am an unashamed hypocrite.) If you gently bend the paper you can make the background and foreground blend seamlessly. If you photograph sprues, I found that the cloth background was better than the paper- it eliminated the dark shadows under the sprues.


Choosing a light source is also an important as we mentioned it in the first post when we talked about white balance.


Taking photos under natural light is one option; however you will need to wait for the perfect conditions (slightly overcast sky, soft lights) which is not always an option. You should avoid direct sunshine: it makes the contrast really high between shadows and light areas. (Unless you are photographing spacecraft where a stark contrast is actually quite realistic.) The best times are usually early afternoon, with the sun covered by a reasonably thin cloud cover which diffuses its light.

Artificial light sources

The easiest artificial lighting source is a lamp. Or more, to be exact, as you need more than one light sources to avoid deep shadows and uneven lightning. Normal desk-lights are good enough (if you set the white balance of your camera -see below), but the best option is to use bulbs that mimic the sun’s light (sunlight/natural light bulbs). The setup should be something similar that is used in studios; at least two lights (a so-called “main” and a “fill”), 45 degrees from the subject.


Most cameras have built-in flashes but these are absolutely useless when it comes to macro photography; they are simply too far from the object, and they are not designed with macro photography in mind. (The camera/lens itself casts a shadow on the object, for one. They also are too strong for close-up work.)


Another option is to use flashguns separated from your camera (we’re talking about expensive DSLRs with multiple expensive flashguns) similarly set up as the LED lights on the above photo; keep in mind that you definitely will need to use diffusers with them. This solution is not very economical as proper flashguns can cost £100 minimum (each), and you’d need at least three of these. (And they need to be remotely triggered, so you need the shoes holding the flashguns and a remote control, too.) Here’s a pretty good article on studio photography; it applies to scale models as well. (I guess a model is a model…) The flashguns are set up similarly to the lamps we discussed before -for obvious reasons.

If you do a lot of macro photography, you can get a ring-flash that goes around the objective, providing appropriate lighting for the objects photographed, but these things are costly. I mean really costly. There is a cheaper alternative with LED lights -these are not flashguns, but they do provide extra light for your photographs, so they might be a viable option. One good thing they have going for them is that you can see your subject much better, so focusing is easier, since the LEDs are on all the time. They do eat up batteries, though. If you choose to buy one of these units, they will come very handy if you decide to go outside and start photographing insects and other small critters.

A tripod is also a useful thing (and again, an expensive one if you want something that is stable); and if you really want to go all-out a macro focusing rail also comes handy; but with a decent camera set up properly, and some proper light sources, you should be doing fine. It really is just a matter of practice from now on (and time you’re willing to spend with photographing).
I hope these posts helped to start with macro photography; I do believe it’s one of the most interesting aspects of photography, so I encourage anyone to experiment with it. In no time you will be trying to take portraits of jumping spiders I bet…

Photographing models part 2. Lenses and other alternatives

In the previous post we discussed the cameras and basic settings; we did not cover anything in great detail, but I hope it was enough to provide some help on what you need to focus on when learning and practising photography. (Again, these posts are more of a “do as I say don’t do as I do”, rather than me talking as an expert.)

So we now have the cameras covered; let’s talk about lenses and other options.

“Macro mode”

This is an option on virtually all cameras, not just DSLRs. What this mode means is simply a preset set of values of aperture/shutter speed/ISO that is deemed to be optimal of getting the best close-up shots using the optics of the camera; that’s it. It does not change anything in the lens itself. For larger models (I mean scale models, not camera models), it is a perfectly usable option. Any kit lens (18-55mm) can normally do closeups that are good enough for a 1/35 tank. But that is where the usefulness ends; for true macro shots it will not suffice. If you want to zoom into smaller details, like a 1/35 (or 1/72) scale face, you will find that you need something extra.

Front Lenses


These lenses screw onto the front of the lens, like a filter. The good news is that bridge cameras and certain compacts can mount them, too, giving you some extra flexibility that you would expect from a more expensive DSLR setup. (You can find telephoto and wide-angle attachments as well.) These lenses are normally quite cheap, and produce acceptable results. (I took these sunflower photos using a 10X front lens and the D3300 Nikon with the kit lens mounted.) They come in sets, and are stackable to increase magnification; I tend to use them if I can’t be bothered to change the lenses, or if I don’t want to bring a heavy macro around for a hike. (They do affect image quality negatively, but for scale model photos to be published online they are perfectly fine. Amusingly though they do turn your camera short-sighted; you will lose the ability for infinite focus…) The real drawback is that the edges of the photos are not going to be as sharp as the center of the photo – most of the time it’s not noticeable, but if you want to photograph a big, flat thing (stamp collection), you will see the issues with sharpness.

Bellows and extension tubes

These sit between the objective and the body of the camera, lengthening the distance between the sensor and the optical elements. This allows a closer focus than the normal minimum focusing distance of the lens, making the subject larger -essentially turning the lens itself into a macro objective. The tubes are sold in sets allowing the length to be adjusted incrementally, while the bellow -obviously- does the same thing in a gradual fashion; the principle is the same.

There are problems with this solution, though. One problem, the most important one, is that less light reaches the sensor; and in photography light is everything. You always want to maximise the amount of light you have; this is such a big issue in microscopy, for example, that they use immersion oils between the optical elements and the subject to get every little photons possible onto the sensor (or photo-multiplier tube, but this is a different topic altogether).

When photographing scale models you are in complete control of the lightning so the question of light is less severe, but you still want to have as much of it as you can. (This is a more serious issue for other types of macro photography; especially if you are working outside trying to chase down small insects.) The bigger issue is for us that normally neither the extension tubes nor the bellows have any electrical components that can transfer signals from the camera body to the lens, rendering the lens into a full manual one. Again, if you are happy to fiddle with the settings in full manual it’s not such an issue, but it does get old real fast. It’s good to learn to use the camera in full manual, but you really want to simplify taking photos as much as you can. Especially if you decide to expand your vistas and go on photographing wildlife- while a tank model will wait for you to find the appropriate settings, a spider might get bored and go off somewhere else if you can’t get the shot in seconds.

Bellows and tubes costs more than front lenses; and they cost significantly more if they can transfer electronic signals to the lens. I found that these high-end versions actually cost as much as the cheaper, second-hand dedicated macro lenses, even though they do have the severe disadvantage of taking light away from the sensor. Since they seem to cost about the same as a superior solution, I never really bothered with them. There is no shame in buying a second-hand lens. (Just make sure it’s not scratched, there is no dust -or mould- in it, and the motors work properly. My Tamron, unfortunately, only works in manual focusing mode, because the focusing motor does not function.)

Inverted lenses

There is a budget option to turn any lens into a macro objective. This is an interesting solution, but not very practical in my opinion. (Again: let’s simplify things as best as we can.)

Dedicated macro objective

Well, this is the real deal. A lens that produces closeups, and can also be used as a portrait objective. True macros have a reproduction ratio of 1:1- meaning that a 20 mm long object will be 20 mm long on the sensor. (Here’s a good tutorial on macros that is worth reading.) Several companies put the word “macro” on their objectives without them being “true” macros only giving you a 1:2 magnification. These are decent enough objectives but not true macros (but they may perfectly suit your needs nevertheless). True macro or not, objectives are -obviously- not cheap (my dream objective costs about 300 GBP and it’s not even expensive as lenses go), but they produce the best results. (Here’s a good guide on choosing one.) I use a 90mm Tamron objective; it can be very useful in wildlife photography as well. The 90mm focal length allow you to be suitably far from your subject, so bees and other critters don’t feel like you’re invading their personal space. (Which is a mutually advantageous thing, believe me, especially when we’re talking about bees.) The quality is simply incredible.


Macro objectives are not the perfect solution for all, though; with larger models you will find that you can’t fit everything into the frame, and the depth of field will be an issue, too. Be prepared to use a combination of lenses: sometimes a kit objective with a small aperture and a tripod will be enough. When you need to focus on the small details, you will need to break out the front lenses or the macro objective.

If the constant discussion about it was not enough to hammer this point home, using higher magnifications you will notice that your depth of field reduces significantly. (Now you learned something you can use with portrait photos as well: set the aperture large, and you will blur the background of your subject by deliberately by decreasing the depth of field. This will focus the attention on your subject efficiently.) However for us, it is a bad thing since only a small portion of your model will be in focus. If you work with microscopes this problem will be even greater; take a look at this micrograph I took of some human cells back in the days when I was working in as a researcher: at 63X magnification even a wafer-thin edge of a coverslip is not in complete focus.

You can go around the problem by simply taking a photo from further away in the largest possible resolution and then crop the photo (this is how digital “zoom” works, by the way). This is a perfectly valid solution; you may even use a telephoto lens to zoom onto you model. Telephoto lenses compress the perspective which will be visible on the photo, but the entire model may fit into their depth of field, which is a definite plus.

You can also decrease the aperture (and use a tripod to steady the camera) to increase the depth of field as much as possible, or, if you absolutely must have the largest possible depth of field, you can do some image stacking. It’s possible to do manually in Photoshop, but there are programs freely available. (I probably should make a short post about this.)

So here are some examples of the same model using different methods (tried to do overall shots and closeup shots as well).  Everything else remains the same; the camera needed to be re-positioned as the focal point changes with different setups.

Depth of field (wide aperture vs small aperture)

Mobile phone camera (Huawei P10 light)

D3300 kit lens (18-55mm) zoomed in

D3300 kit lens (18-55mm)+ 4X front lens


D3300 kit lens (18-55mm)+ 10x front lens


D3300 kit lens (18-55mm)+ 2x, 4x, 6x, 10x front lens stacked


D3300 telephoto lens (55-200mm)  – I had to stand about 2 meters from the tank…


D3300 Tamron 90mm macro lens

Overall it can be safely summarised that if you don’t want to zoom into the model, even a phone camera does reasonably well; however you do need a bit more serious equipment if you are interested in showing off small details. Even though the detail and quality is significantly better when using a dedicated macro objective, for the purpose of scale models it’s a definite overkill; the extra quality you get comes for a very steep price.

The next -and last post- will be about lighting and basic studio settings… keep tuned in.

Photographing models part 1. Cameras and settings

This post will be somewhat long, but hopefully useful. I’m trying to cover a lot of things from equipment to settings; I do hope it will be clear and easy to understand regardless. I try to mention the basics and provide links for further reading; this series is meant to be an introduction to key concepts rather than a comprehensive tutorial.

As a disclaimer: this is how it should be done; it does not necessarily mean my own photos are the epitomes of perfection…

Photographing models is essentially studio macro photography. You can do it cheap, even with a reasonably good phone camera, or you can go the whole nine yards, and use a DSLR with a dedicated macro lens -or choose an option in between. I’ll try to list all the viable options so you can make a decision easier. Macro photography is is an incredibly interesting branch of photography, and not just when it comes to plastic. It is essentially the photography of small objects. (Shameless self promotion: I run a blog on macro photos, too.) Things that you learn by taking photos of your placid and immobile models will enable you to take some pretty cool photos of the less than placid and definitely not immobile wildlife living in your backyard.


Painting and photographing models

There’s also a related issue to mention which is less technical, and more philosophical. The camera sees things differently when it comes to macro photography. Tiny irregularities, mistakes stand out incredibly well on a photo- simply because the camera’s point of view is much closer to the model than you eyes’. While you look at the model as if you were looking at it from a distance (one reason for factoring in the scale effect when painting the model), the camera “looks” at it as if you were standing right next to it. The level of detail, the weathering, everything will look different. This can be used to your advantage: you can take photos of the model during the build and check for problems; issues with seams, uneven brushstrokes, etc.. Things that you hardly notice when you look at the model, will stand out like a sore thumb.

It also affects how much weathering you want to do. There’s always a question of how much is too much, but apart from personal taste, it’s worth keeping in mind that your model will look different on a photo than in real life thanks to the above mentioned effect. To put it strongly you can either build for the camera or for the eye. The camera essentially brings the observer close to the model- therefore subtle weathering, which is hardly noticeable when looking at the model with the naked eye, will stand out more; and weathering that you thought looked great and natural on the model when you looked at it from hand-length will look over-done.


(My Churchill Gun Carrier is a good example of it. It does not look anything special with the naked eye; just a green piece of resin. When you look at the photos, it looks pleasingly weathered and dusty. The effects are subtle, but visible.)


There are several options to capture the light coming from your model. You can use film cameras (not suggested, but certainly possible), or you can choose from the wide range of digital cameras. In some respect it does not really matter which one you choose (within a range, of course); but it’s important to be aware that DPI does not really matter when choosing an option. Same with megapixels (which is the common unit for smartphone/DSLR resolution). There is more to a camera than just the resolution: the sensor and the optics are the two fundamental things that will determine the quality of the photos.

Smart phone cameras

Smartphones caused a revolution in photography; now everyone and their aunt are taking photos like mad. Newer models of phones are equipped with cameras of remarkable quality; for photos destined to be published on the web these cameras might be just enough. Keep in mind, though: a 12 megapixel phone camera is not going to take better photos than a 9 megapixel DSLR; just the opposite. A phone camera’s sensor is fraction of the size of a decent DSLR’s; the optics is also going to be severely limited by the very small optical parts. A DSLR will have larger sensor, better optics; it will always come out with better quality photos. Same is true to a lesser degree with compact and bridge cameras: optics and sensor size matters. A lot. As I said, for web-only publication it might not matter that much, but the difference is always going to be visible. Sometimes when I can’t be bothered to set everything up, and I snap in-progress photos using my phone. This is a less-than-perfect solution, and it’s quite obvious which photos were taken with my phone and which were taken by the DSLR I use. (If I had space to have a permanent photo corner, I would not be tempted to use the smartphone at all.) That said, the photos taken by phone cameras are not horrible at all.

Compact cameras and Bridge cameras

These cameras are perfectly capable of taking good quality photos of models. The sensors are smaller than the DSLR sensors, the optics are usually not that good quality as a £1000+ Nikkor objective’s, but the question is: do you really need that good of a lens for this job? (You might, but most of us do not.) For the laymen (meaning: you and I) these cameras will be perfectly suitable. You can set the most important things yourself: ISO/shutter speed/aperture/white balance, and they can also shoot RAW. (Most photographers shoot in RAW format, because even though these images are gargantuan in size they offer the best option for post processing; they also do not lose information like JPEGs do. I use RAW for almost all my photos, except when I photograph scale models… JPEG is perfectly suitable for web-publishing.) These cameras also normally have a dedicated macro setting (which really is just an aperture/shutter speed setting that was deemed to be “optimal” for macro), and can do most of the jobs you need.

Bridge cameras, as the name suggests, are a transition between compact and DSLR. They give you almost as much flexibility and almost as good quality as DSLRs, but they are smaller and easier to use. They normally have one monstrous zoom lens that can give you a wide-field photo as well as a 300X telephoto option (for which you’d need to spend at least a grand in DSLR lenses to achieve), and can take front lenses (discussed in the next post) to give you even more flexibility. To be perfectly honest I’m jealous of the 300X zoom on the Fuji bridge camera my wife has; my paltry 200mm telephoto cannot hold a candle to its sheer magnification. (However the image quality is vastly superior.) When I took a photo of the last supermoon with my fancy D3300 (OK, it’s not fancy as far as DSLRs go, but it is fancy as far as this comparison goes), 200mm lens and a tripod, and then switched to the 300X zoom held in hand, it was infinitely easier to take a great-looking photo of the moon using the Fuji. I managed to shoot a great photo without fiddling with the settings – whereas it took me several tries to find an aperture setting where the bright moon did not oversaturate the photo on the Nikon. I honestly can say that a bridge camera is perfectly good for most amateur photographers like myself; I just had a DSLR fetish I needed to satisfy.

“Real macro” -meaning 1:1 image production- might be out of the league of these cameras, but you rarely need magnification that large. As mentioned bridge cameras (and some compacts) can mount front lenses, which can bring you to this realm, though.


Well, these are the “serious” cameras. Expensive pieces of equipment, interchangeable lenses, large sensors. There are different classes within the DSLR world, of course: medium format, full-frame, APS, etc. based on the sensor size. If you decide to invest in a DSLR, you probably should read up on these; for our purposes it’s enough to say that the smaller sensor DSLRs -like the Nikon D3300 I use-, are cheaper and smaller, and are perfectly enough for our (and most) purposes. (Not to mention the lenses are cheaper, too.) Don’t forget, bigger is not always better; you actually have to carry that camera around, so you need to consider your needs real carefully before you blow your money on medium format body.

If you have limited resources it’s better to spend on the objectives than on the camera body. If the glass is good quality it does not matter much if the photo was taken using a D3300 or a D5.

The real advantage of a DSLR is the high quality and the flexibility; you have a lot of options to produce macro photos -see in the next post. (Not all of them are expensive.)

Mirrorless cameras are essentially the same category as the DSLRs. Large, high quality sensors, interchangeable lens, amazing quality. They are smaller and lighter (no bulky prisms and whatnot), but they are considerably more expensive, and you don’t have as wide range of lenses available for them as for the DSLRs. I do often wish I had a mirrorless when sightseeing and doing touristy things.

(Tip for choosing cameras: Pentax cameras in general are very much compatible to all K-mount lenses produced from 1975 onward… this opens up a very cheap source of high quality glass; the only downside is that most if it will only work in manual mode.)

Camera settings

These settings can be changed in most cameras -even in some of the smartphone models.

Aperture/shutter speed/ISO


This is the trinity of macro photography (or any photography, really, but they are especially important when it comes to macro). If you want to delve into macro photography, learn the phrase: depth of field. You want as much of it as possible; but here’s the catch: the larger your magnification, the smaller it gets… so you need to tweak your photos a bit. (This issue of inverse relationship between magnification and depth of field is exaggerated  even more with microscopy, obviously.) Photographing small subjects you will need learn to juggle with the amount of light you have (with closeups it’s smaller than normal), and the the depth of field.

Aperture is simply put the opening between the lens and the sensor. (It works essentially like the pupils in your eyes.) Its size can be adjusted, and this is how you control how much light should hit the sensor. This, obviously, have ramifications: allow too much light in and your photo will be overexposed; allow too little, and it will be underexposed if you don’t adjust the shutter speed and ISO. It also effects, as we discussed, the depth of field: if the aperture is small, it will allow very little light in, requiring longer exposure, but the depth of field will be larger; if the aperture is small, it will allow more light in, with a shorter exposure, but the depth of field will be small. It goes from a large number (small aperture) to a small (large aperture).


Shutter speed: as the name implies, it is the amount of time the sensor is exposed to the light. If the aperture is large, the speed will be high, since you need to expose the sensor for a shorter amount of time with more light, and vica versa. If it is too low, you will need something to hold the camera stable- a tripod, ideally.

Playing around with these two settings you can achieve different effects: choosing a large aperture and fast shutter speed allows you to “freeze” motion (for example droplets of a water fountain, the cliche of photography students), or you can make it look “smooth” if you choose a small aperture and longer exposure.

ISO: describes the sensitivity of the sensor. In the film era, you chose films with certain ISOs for certain tasks: ISO100 was perfect for outdoor photos, 200 was normally chosen for darker, indoor photos. With digital cameras you can change the value at any time. The low ISO setting will give you nice, crisp photos, for the price of lower sensitivity, so you will need more light for those photos. Higher ISOs give you more sensitivity, but the photos will be grainier, noisier.

Depth of field

As we discussed, if the aperture is wide (small number), the depth of field will be small, but you allow a lot of light to the sensor (and use faster shutter speeds and lower ISO); conversely, if you set the aperture small (large number), you maximise the depth of field -but this means you decrease the amount of light hitting the sensor, so you need to increase the shutter speed, and the ISO (sensitivity) of the sensor. The more you decrease the shutter speed, the more stable you need the camera to be (tripod and a timer may be necessary), and the more you increase the ISO, the more noise you introduce to your photos, and they will look grainy… so it’s a balancing act, especially when taking photos of small objects. You want to hit the ideal combination of these three factors. There are good calculators available which can help you choosing the right settings. Normally shooting at aperture f/10-11 in aperture priority mode gives you the best compromise (relatively large depth of field, and you can still hold the camera in hand), but this is not an absolute rule. At large magnifications apertures f/22 can be used when necessary to increase the depth of field -but this will increase the shutter speed dramatically. (Aperture priority mode means you set the aperture manually, and the camera chooses the shutter speed.) ISO should not go over 400 because the photos become visibly noisy (grainy), but then again; it may be the price you pay in macro photography.

White balance

Most light sources will modify the color of the object they illuminate, unless you are using special studio lights. (Please see this article for a very good explanation.) Incandescent, neon, LED, etc lights all have their own temperatures, that is to say, colors (just think of the sodium lights on the streets; they stain everything yellow. This -to a lesser extent- is true for most other light sources, too.)


Normally your brain corrects for this effect, and you will see colors similarly under different sources of illumination regardless of the light source’s color temperature. However these differences will show up on your photos, so you must account for them. The best is to get a “natural light” bulb for your light-sources. (If you paint miniatures in the evening it’s a good idea to use it in your desk light as well… it can be really disappointing to see your previous night’s work in the daylight.) The other thing you can do to account for the different sources of illumination is to set your camera’s white balance.

Most digital cameras you can set the white balance to automatic, which works well in most cases. If there is some funkiness going on with the colors (for example you have a couple of different types of light sources that confuses the camera), you can use a white sheet to set the camera to your own lighting conditions. Your camera will adjust the photos it takes based on the white color you “show” it. (It’s quite important to set it properly in order to reproduce the colors faithfully.) If you shoot in RAW (that is you save your photos in RAW format), you can adjust the white balance later in an appropriate software (Photoshop, for example); however it takes time and effort, so it’s always better just to take the photo right at the getgo.

1/72 AMX-40 by OKB Grigorov


This is one of those tanks that definitely has a lot of personality. From absolute obscurity it was launched into the general consciousness* by the online game World of Tanks, which features it as a tier IV light tank. It has a certain notoriety as it is certainly one of the worst tanks in the game, but despite of this it became somewhat of a legend (or a cult, rather) simply due to its quite unique looks. It’s a sort of hipster tank, just like the Churchill Gun Carrier. The WoT community has created several amusing memes around it, and it has its own nickname: “The Duck”. Right now the only mod I run with the game is the “rubber duck” custom paintjob. (See below)

*Well, more accurately, into the general consciousness of a certain gaming community…

The unique look of the tank is the result of its designers taking the idea of sloped armour to its limits. The plans were drawn up in 1940 as a replacement option for the S35 and S40 cavalry tanks, but due to the German invasion these plans did not materialise; no prototypes were ever built. (To be fair it would have probably performed just as bad in real life against panzer IIIs and IVs as it does in-game.) The only contemporary image of this strange-looking tank available online is a drawing. The tank did inspire a lot of online creativity, thought…


I have been toying around with Blender trying to make a printable model of this tank, but so far my efforts are less than satisfactory. (I’m not giving up, though; if I succeed I will paint it in the Rubber Duck scheme.) Needless to say when I saw that OKB is producing a version of this vehicle I ordered one at once. I quite like this feedback of computer games into the scale model industry; a lot of newer releases (KV-4, AT2, etc.) were clearly inspired by the weirder prototypes, paper panzers popularized by WoT.

The kit comes in a typical OKB box, the parts placed into ziplock bags. The instructions are computer generated and quite simple, but this is a simple model after all. Once you finish the suspension/running gear (I have no idea if they are accurate), you’re essentially finished. It comes with two PE parts, and two transparent resin pieces for the headlights. It lacks the back-mounted machine gun that was planned (that up-pointing gun mounted behind the turret). Other than that it looks very similar to the blueprint, but distinctly different from its in-game representation. (Which is a shame, because the WoT turret with its secondary machine gun turret looks much better in my opinion. It’s absolutely fictional, but looks trump historical accuracy. Well, this is what Blender is for, I guess.)

The model went together without a hitch. The suspension arms fit well, the wheels went on nicely, and the tracks were a breeze to install; that was pretty much the extent of the build, really. Apart from this I had to glue the turret and the gun in place, install the headlights, and add the side-skirts. The building process took about an hour. The only tricky part was to fix the side-skirts onto the curved profile of the tank.

The painting was also pretty easy: I primed the model with the side-skirts off with Vallejo’s German Grey primer, and applied AK’s Chipping Fluid. Once dry, I mixed up the (fictional) blue-gray color from WoT using Tamiya paints, and misted it over the model in several layers. This was followed by some moderate chipping using a wet, stiff brush.

When the model was dry, I used some oil-paint based filters (light brown, blue) to modulate the base color somewhat, and sealed everything with gloss varnish.

Unfortunately there are no decals provided with the model.

After weeks of consideration I decided to test out printing waterslide decals using an inkjet printer. The results were not satisfactory (I used transparent decal paper instead of white, and the colors are very faint), but life is about learning, right? If you want to have faded markings, print decals -that’s my conclusion. The other -bigger problem- is the thickness of the decals; they are just not going onto the surface very well, you can see silvering despite of soaking the whole model in decal softeners, and in general, just being crappy decals. Conclusion? Buy an aftermarket set next time…

The headlights were painted using a chrome pen.

I added the decals, sealed them, and painted on some more scratches and chips. Using Tamiya’s makeup set I added some dust on the lower part of the chassis; and this concludes the painting and weathering phase; the Duck is ready.

Overall the model is nice: well designed, easy to assemble, and unique-looking. The price is moderately high, but affordable; it’s great as a weekend project (or for the true fans of Le’Duck).

MiniArt’s T-60 light tank part 2. -finishing up


Part 1

I painted and weathered the interior, closed in the hull, and moved onto the turret. As I mentioned I made a bit of an embarrassing mistake with the guns… Otherwise the interior went together fine. What I found, however, is that the assembly of the main gun is somewhat unwieldy. It’s made up of two parts (barrel and the interior part) which are glued to the holding part under the gunshield. Since they are not directly connected it’s very important to make sure they form a straight line. The gun barrel is bored out, which is quite impressive, really. The turret has a pistol port; the metal plug, however has no PE chain that would hold it. It’s somewhat disappointing, but easily remedied if needed.


The track assembly is relatively simple; fortunately the links are not very small. The assembly goes as usual with individual tracks: glue them together with liquid glue, wait 20-30 minutes and gently shape them onto the running gear. (Best work in sections as the links do not hold onto each other very well.) It would be really nice if MiniArt provided a jig to form a realistic sag between the return rollers.


Painting was easy. I glued the turret in place; I did not want to risk damaging the seat.

The first layer was the Vallejo primer base; I cannot recommend enough this primer. While it’s possible to get away not using any primer, it still provides a better surface for the paint to hold on; and in case of Vallejo, you don’t have to dilute the paint before spraying, so it’s easy to use.

I’ve used a really lightened version of OD green by Tamiya as the base color; this went on in several thin layers. The mud on the sides was applied in a very unorthodox manner. Way before painting I was applying mud to my T-55; I simply applied the leftover mixture of pigments, Mig Ammo neutral wash, plaster and static grass on the sides/bottom of the hull. It was an impulsive decision; I did not want to throw out the leftovers. It was not an unprecedented one, however; I’ve seen mud being pre-applied before painting before (or rather, mud texture, which was then painted in earth colors later on).

I avoided these areas with the primer, and only fogged the green slightly onto it; this actually resulted in a pretty neat muddy effect.




Reviewing the photos I just relized I forgot to add the handle for the commander’s hatch on the turret.

Anyhow, once the green color was on, it did look a bit light and bright; nothing a couple of dark filters did not remedy. I was hoping I would get the right color by the end; I’m actually pleased with the results.

The circular access hatches on the engine deck and other protruding details were painted with light green oil paint straight from the tube; it creates a nice contrast, and once the paint dries (a week…) it can be toned down a bit with filters.

The exhaust port was first painted in the primer color (German grey), then additional layers of different rust colored pigments were added using white spirit. The contrast between lighter and darker colors was toned down with a dark brown wash at the end. The exhaust fumes were simulated using “soot” from Tamiya’s makeup-set.

When I was happy with the final color, I added the decals onto a gloss varnish base, then sealed them with flat varnish.

The next steps were adding tonal variation. I’ve used the dot-method first (brown, yellow, white and green oil paints), then different streaking products from the AK Interactive range.

Finally some dust and rust colors were used from the Tamiya makeup range to blend everything together.

I’ve mixed some light, dust colored pigments with white spirit, and applied little patches onto the horizontal surfaces. Using a clean, wet brush I spread these out and removed the excess to create a little, uneven layer of dust.

I’ve used AK’s oil stains diluted with white spirit on the fuel cap. First I made a more diluted mixture, and applied a couple of larger spills, then using a less diluted mixture I added smaller ones; this gives the impression of several instances of spilled fuel around the cap. (The larger ones obviously being older, and more spread out.)

Finally the tracks and the edges of the tank were treated with a silver pencil to give a little metallic shine to the model.



I’ve mounted the T-60 next to her bigger cousin the SU-76. I think the next (and final step) in the painting phase will be the application of subtle paint chips to both tanks later on. To be honest the one reason I bought the Su-76 was the cover art: I liked how the original Russian color showed through the German camo around the driver’s hatch…




MiniArt’s T-60 light tank part 1. – The Interior


The T-60 was born as the replacement of the outdated T-38 series of light tanks. It was designed to be easy and cheap to produce in large numbers, and to be simple to use. The idea was to build up a large number of light tanks armed with a 20mm autocannon which would support the infantry on the battlefield as a sort of cavalry. They were definitely not designed to fight other tanks or serious fortifications; they were supposed to scout, and fight infantry (and perhaps lightly armored vehicles) with their main armament. The production started in 1941 and went into 1942 with about 7000 tanks built; they served until the end of the war. (It was the third most produced armored vehicle in the Soviet Union after the T-34 and Su-76

The tank featured sloped armor, and a two-man crew. The driver was sitting in the hull, and a commander/loader/gunner was in the one-man turret behind the driver. There was no radio provided for the crew. The tank was powered by a GAZ-202 6-cylinder engine which had 76 hp, and allowed the tank to achieve a whopping 27mph top speed. The range was about 270 miles. The main armament was a 20mm TNSh cannon, which was later in the war was upgraded to a 37mm ZIS-19 gun. This upgrade was not pursued since the ammunition for the gun was in a short supply. A later upgrade to the 45mm ZIS-19 tank gun necessitated the complete redesign of the turret; this project was abandoned when the T-70 project was approved as the replacement of the T-60. As an additional claim of fame, this tank was used in the famous flying tank project- attaching glider wings to the vehicle to make it airborne.

The Germans captured and quite a lot of these tanks, but I could not find any information on what they thought of the vehicle. (They mostly used it as a towing tractor/ammo carrier, so this might indicate something.) Tanks captured by the Romanian armed forces were rebuilt into the TACAM T-60 tank destroyer. 

The operational history of the T-60 was not very illustrious but it was crucial in the early days of Barbarossa when the Soviets needed tanks to hold back the German advancement while their industry was relocated further East. It was certainly reliable and could handle difficult terrain well; it was also available in large numbers -something that really counted when other, more superior weapon systems were not yet ready in large numbers. As a stop-gap solution it worked, but it was certainly not a good tank.

One of the reasons I like models with interiors is that you get an idea of what was it like for the crew to work and fight in these vehicles, and in this respect MiniArt’s offering is a very eye-opening one. I have to say based on what I’ve seen of the T-60 during the build of this model, it must have been a singularly unpleasant vehicle to be in. It was tight, cramped, and the engine was in the same compartment as the crew. The driver had a large, hot engine with rotating shafts, fuel and oil pipes all over right next to him, and the position of controls were also pretty un-ergonomical, placed as they were literally behind him. If the turret was facing forward his hatch was obstructed by the gun so leaving quickly was not much of an option, either… All this in a tank that had an armor that could be penetrated with a relatively stern look.

This tank must have been extremely dangerous to operate even in peacetime, but having people shooting at you as well will transform the picture from grim to hellish. All in all, I do not envy the people who had to fight in tanks -any tank, really- during the war, but these little vehicles must have been especially horrid. The Panzer II, it’s most comparable German counterpart, was positively luxurious compared to the T-60 -and it also had a radio.


The model is your typical Full Interior MiniArt kit. It has relatively few parts.

Normally MiniArt instructions are very easy to follow; this case I had some issues with them. For one, sometimes you have no idea how the finished article should look like (case to the point: the horn (?) assembly on the frontal glacis. For that particular part you will need to check the painting guide or historical photos.) The other, bigger is that the order of assembly does not always make sense. The most outstanding example would be the mudguards. First you add some of the tools and other details to the mudguards (e.g. holding brackets for the towing cable, but not the cable itself) but then you stop and move on to other parts of the model, leaving assemblies half-finished; later on you return and finish the build.

The other big problem was that sometimes the instructions show an assembly turned over, and then later steps showing it in the right orientation; this, combined with my inattention meant that I made a seriously silly mistake and put the main gun in the wrong position. I guess it’s fitting; as a left handed person now I can claim I have a left handed T-60. The mistake is mine, but the instructions don’t make it easy to avoid. (Interestingly enough my version now gives more clearance for the driver’s hatch to open… I think I might have improved on the design.)

Another mistake I made due to this issue was the installation of the PE bracket for the hand-crank shaft; fortunately this was easy to remedy when I realized the mistake.


The build is quite straightforward and -with some issues aside- easy. The suspension is a torsion bar suspension, but unlike in the case of the T-44, T-54, T-55 kits, it’s not functional. It is faster to assemble, but the problem is that the swing arms need to be manually positioned -something this kit shares with the older SU-76 kit. Not a big issue, but it’s not a welcome one.

The interior goes together easily. The engine has really nice detail (I could not find reference on the cables and wires, so I did not add them), and the transmission is really nice, too. I replaced the plastic rod representing the shaft of the hand-crank because it was too delicate, and broke when I removed it from the sprue. I installed the different pipes (fuel, air, etc) after I weathered the interior as they are all over the place, which would make access to certain places more difficult during the painting/weathering process.




I had some difficulties installing the gills into the back of the tank; you are supposed to place them parallel to each other and the back of the tank. The guiding ribs are not very pronounced and don’t hold them very well, so actually inserting the gills into the right ones can be a bit frustrating. (As soon as the glue “melts” the plastic a bit, the gills will freely move out of their ridge.)

The engine service hatch can be posed open, which is very much welcome, since it allows showing off the interior. (Why else build it, right?) The instructions show this as a “movable” option with a hinge; however I find this to be a very optimistic assessment: the hinge is very small, and the fit of the hatch is quite tight.

Well, this was part 1. Part to is coming next. (Duh.)


Armory 1/72 VK 72.01 (K) “Fail Lowe”


When I was told I had a chance to review a model that has not even been issued yet, obviously I said yes; after all it is a rare opportunity to get your grubby hands on something so fresh out of the moulds. An added point of interest is that Armory is mostly known as a producer of high quality resin and PE aftermarket company, and their foray into the plastic scale model world is quite an interesting -and daring- step (with other resin manufacturers following suit lately).

The subject of this kit is a fictional vehicle from the popular online game World of Tanks; it it a German superheavy gift tank given out at Clan Wars, and in general it is regarded as a less-than-effective tank in-game. (Well, it might be an understatement. It’s called the Fail Lowe…) It is possible that it was an actual plan during the war, but it does not really make a difference if we call it a paper panzer or a ‘46 German tank, really. Amusing Hobby issued it in 1/35 scale; now we have a more manageable sized 1/72 version.

Armory seems to be interested in fictional German tanks for their injection moulded kits; this is the second of such vehicles, and share several parts.

The hull has a complex shape, and the surface seems rough in several places; I needed to sand the round part on the back, for example. There are no attachment points of the interlocking armor plates simulated where these plates are normally located, which is a shame (where the frontal armor meets the side armor, for example.)

The PE is top-notch, which is to be expect of Armory; they have a long experience with producing PE conversions  for both armor and aircraft, and full resin/PE models.



The model is not difficult to build, even without instructions (I used Armory’s Lowe’s instructions, the 3D renders, and the website during the build). The hull is a conventional assembly of several flat parts; we don’t get a “bathtub” like lower hull. The fit is reasonably good.

I chose to assemble the running gear and the tracks before adding the mudguards.

The running gear’s attachment points are somewhat flimsy and weak; the wheels can detach quite easily after assembly, so be careful. (This seems to be a common issue; I had some problem with the running gear of Modelcollect’s E-100, too.) The idlers are done in an interesting fashion: the individual disks had to be glued on a shared axis. I did have to enlarge the holes on these wheels.

Since I did not have the instructions I was unsure how close the tracks needed to be mounted to the hull; it turns out I mounted them a bit closer than should have, and it meant some trimming and cutting, which is somewhat noticeable. (You won’t have this issue if you use the instructions, but I felt important to confess, since it’s the result of my circumstances and not the model’s fault.)

And this is the part where we come to the less-than-ideal part. The mud guards have small protruding sections sticking out to help with the attachment; these should fit into the corresponding holes placed on the side of the hull. The fact is that they don’t fit; the mudguards are quite thick and chunky, and the holes are not wide enough. This is a recurring issue with the model: several plastic parts are somewhat thick, which suggests a need to refine the plastic injection moulding process Armory uses (or replace the mudguards with PE parts…). Interestingly other parts, such as the tools and towing hooks are very finely moulded.

The top of the hull is a little bit wider than the bottom, which required some sanding to bring them to the same width. The top part is sitting on the top of the sides, which means there is a seam to be filled on the side.

This leads us to the next issue: the need for filling seams. The fit is not as good as to eliminate the need for filler. The seams between the mudguard and hull are quite wide and need to be filled. The triangular parts on the side under the round section also need filling (and they have a sink-mark as well). The turret also needs some trimming and filling to fit properly. The armored mantlet does have a seam on the artwork,so I decided not to touch it. Due to the nature of the moulding process, the muzzle breaks (there are three options to choose from) have also seams to fill, which is a bit more difficult due to the fine details. If you are patient, it’s worth drilling out the holes.

As I said the PE considerably improves the model; the engine deck grilles, etc. are very nice additions. I switched some tools to DML ones as I had those pre-painted; I also put on a 1/35 rolled tarp on the mudguard.

Overall, once I finished with the fitting and filling the build became quite enjoyable. The model looks unique, and once it takes shape, it’s a cool little thing to work on.


I chose a fictional painting scheme with my fictional tank, and used silly putty to mask the dunkelgelb parts. The Dunkelgelb is a mixture of Mig’s two kind of Dunkelgelb colors (mid and late war). I’m still a bit conflicted on these paints; if you use them right they do spray on nicely, but the fact that they form a cured layer makes them a bit less attractive for me. I’m used to the Tamiya paints, and I really like the fact I can just “mist” them on. I’m not sure I can do that with these paints.

The green was Tamiya dark green lightened with a lot of tan. The triangles were hand painted once the paint was dry. The model received a pin wash of dark brown to bring out the small details. (Looking over the photos I realized I forgot to paint the periscopes… this is something I’ll remedy tonight.)

As usual I applied filters (light brown, in several layers) to lessen the contrast, and added mud to the bottom of the chassis and running gear using pigments mixed with white spirit.

The decals were applied in a haphazard manner. I made up the identification numbers (birthday of my wife, if you really want to know), and put on the charging knight because I quite like the figure. I sealed everything with Testors dulcote.

Several layers of subtle streaking was added using AK’s Winter Streaking Grime. The photos bring out everything incredibly stark; they don’t look as strong by eye. It’s actually a good idea to take photos just to see the mistakes; it’s incredible how much more critical the camera is… (It also exaggerates the weathering effects, so keep that in mind. You can please the eye or you can please the camera; rarely can you do both…)

I used Tamiya’s makeup set on the whole model; it got a nice, uneven coat of dust (dark dust on the lower part, light dust on the upper part), which was followed by Mig’s washable dust on the horizontal surfaces. I did not use the product “straight”: I heavily diluted it with water, and added small patches where I thought dust would accumulate. With a clean, wet brush I could spread these patches, and remove the excess quite nicely. I did not add paint chips to the model; I thought I’d keep it relatively pristine. The edges got the usual treatment with a silver pencil to give a metallic shine to the model, and I declared the tank finished. (Prematurely, as I just realized, since I forgot to paint the periscopes, and lost the radio operator’s machine gun barrel somewhere in the weathering process… Let’s say he removed it for maintenance, and leave it at that.)


And that’s it, really. The model is OK; it’s not a high-tech Flyhawk kit, but it’s not bad, either. It’s something you are used to if you work with Eastern European Braille models, with one exception: the basic plastic is greatly improved by the brass barrel and extensive PE. I think it’s pretty impressive that a mostly resin/PE aftermarket company is moving to the injection moulded model market; it’s something OKB and other companies seem to be doing, too. Exciting time for the 1/72 market, that’s for sure.