The first is the usual “photographer’s bad luck” that everyone suffers from, wherein the shutter goes off too soon/late or the exposure is just a bit wrong or the framing fails or something happens and the image doesn’t come out as expected.
The second is my failing eyesight which not only contributes to the factors mentioned above, but prevents me from noticing any problem until I’ve got the image on the 15″ computer screen. Sometimes not even then.
The third is that my favourite use-it-all-the-time camera, the Nikon P610, is worn out. I know; it’s a poor carpenter that blames his tools, but in this case it’s justified. I have evidence: Nikon P610
Really, the lens is not supposed to do that. This explains the focusing errors and the zoom jamming. On top of that both the image sensor and the EVF are fading away like old soldiers. Not surprising since the last SD card had about 5,000 pictures on it before I stuck a new one in. I think I bought this camera about 7 years ago when they first came out. It has had a lot of use.
Of course I still manage to get some good pictures from it:
But I can’t say I’ve made any really remarkable pictures with it for some time. This may be misinterpretation on my part owing to looking at the world through a permanent blurry grey haze. Whichever, there’s no denying the problems are there.
I guess my “professional snapshots” are going more “snapshot” than “professional” these days.
Anyway, back to cabin work. And hoping the forecast doesn’t presage another Summer of wildfires. Aside from the one currently burning near Lytton (the town that was obliterated by fire last year) that is.
I came in from splitting wood Saturday and found the lens cap for the Nikon on the floor. Not where I’d left it. It should have been on the camera which was sitting on the counter. Had been sitting on the counter; it wasn’t where I’d left it either. Further search turned it up on the floor near the closet, upside down with the battery door sprung open and the battery popped out. The floor is hard, by the way; not soft carpet with padding beneath or even a thick rug.
The suspects have white feet. Most likely it was Puss-puss, although her comrade Boots has been known to frequent counters too. Being cats they both like to push things off on to the floor. I have left cameras there before (beside the door; ready to shoot) without any taking a sudden trip downwards.
Now, the Nikon already has plenty of problems. It certainly didn’t need a “drop test” courtesy of the Feline Testing Group. I put it back together and tried a few shots. Focusing was not happening. It kept returning “in focus” results with EVF images even I could see were not. I kept trying, and eventually got something sharp:
The question is; will it continue to do so? It’s had a nasty knock, and it seems the functionality has become a little more random as a result. Only time will tell.
Possible culprit. (Don’t ask me how she did that.)
To start with, I looked up the average size of an adult male’s hand and checked several sources for confirmation. It’s about 19cm (7.5″) from wrist to tip of middle finger. Thus my hands are actually normal size, and not gigantic as so many of the tiny devices in our lives today have led me to believe. This doesn’t really change things, though.
Over-all, ‘handling’ is a highly subjective criterion. Gripping the camera easily is surely the main part, and secondary to that would be the controls falling into place where those most frequently needing changing would be readily accessible. This is somewhat (but not very much) standardized across camera makes and models these days, with only the occasional “gotcha!” cropping up to ruin the experience. Your actual mileage may vary, as the saying goes. So let’s look at me gripping my cameras and discuss some other minor details.
I generally have no trouble holding this camera or operating its controls (except when they stop working). The grip area measures about 4″, which is a little shy of accommodating the whole hand but does take up more than half. I’m pretty comfortable with it. My major complaint about the controls is that ISO is buried in the menu settings instead of being a dedicated knob or at least easily-accessed adjustment. There may be some way of programming that, but even if so I’d never remember where it is. I don’t like “programmable” buttons for that reason. If you only have one camera or multiples of exactly the same camera you might remember which button is set to do what, but … not me.
As you can see it’s a little smaller handful than the Nikon, despite having a larger sensor and generally being about the same body size. The ‘finger grip’ in front simply doesn’t stick out as far. Still very usable, and some of the small controls are more sensible on this camera. Of course there’s no zoom control because of the detachable lenses. The ‘PASM’ dial, which also serves as the on/off switch, on top is fine. The ISO access button on the back is okay. Adjusting shutter speed or aperture when in the respective ‘preferred’ mode is also okay with the thumb dial, but I do prefer actual dedicated controls.
I like using this camera. It has the build and ‘feel’ of a 35mm SLR. But holding it is something of a challenge. There’s almost no ‘finger grip’ and the body is small (and lightweight). Most of the controls are well-placed, and it has a door on the side for memory cards (in this case CF or xD: no SD card) where it should be. Yeah putting them under the same access as the battery is a cost-saving measure, not a better design. The settings access for ISO, shutter, and aperture could definitely be better than it is. I still like using it. Too bad the battery is failing and only lasts about 20 shots at best. Also the auto focus is abysmally slow. Then again it’s an old (by digital standards) camera, dating from 2007.
This one is problematic in the extreme. I can practically encompass half the camera in my hand, and its utter lack of front ‘finger grip’ means my palm hits buttons on the back changing settings when I don’t want to. This can make it really annoying to use. Paradoxically, it has ‘handy’ knurled wheels for adjusting settings which are right where you can change them with your thumb – albeit sometimes you do so accidentally. Other than those problems, which are significant, it’s a good camera that takes good pictures. In some ways it’s the best I’ve got, such as the speed of autofocus and ease of adapting vintage lenses. It’s a dust magnet though, and the handling really is problematic. Oh I said that already. Did I mention the handling is problematic?
I will take a moment here to talk about lens rings. I like them. I want one for focus, one for zoom, and one for aperture out there in front like a film camera would have. None of my cameras meet that spec, although zoom and focus rings are present on some of the DSLR lenses. The Lumix has a ‘pseudo’ lens ring which can be assigned different functions such as zoom or focus or program adjustment, but it is not dedicated and sorting through the menu to find the adjustment is frustrating. The Sony’s kit lens has both a zoom button and a zoom ring which is redundant and annoying. Duplication of controls is never helpful. Using manual lenses eliminates a lot of this, but also eliminates autofocus and exposure. I see many Fujifilm professional cameras have very ‘film-like’ controls and so I envy Fuji users that. I certainly can not afford one though.
Now let’s step over the edge of the cliff into the realm of the sublimely ridiculous:
Right. Same hand, different camera. No argument about a “too small” body here! It would be great – if it didn’t weigh in at over 1.5 kilograms (more than 3 lbs.) and did have a 1500mm lens – which it would need to be because it’s a full-frame camera. Only 11MP, but great for low-light photography like night skies or infrared work because of that ‘low resolution’ in combination with the sensor size. Fairly impractical for daily shooting, though. Of all my cameras this one has the worst controls for convenience of access. Nothing is straightforward or dedicated about them, and a lot of ‘double pushing’ is needed to change things (hold one button down while advancing settings with another).
Yes if the lens were retracted I could hide that one in my hand. There are smaller cameras than this, but they do not take as good pictures. Again the viewfinder issue (it hasn’t got one) and focal length limit. But you can carry it anywhere. Besides that it’s the only one that automatically shifts resolution to get a better picture. That EXR function is quite a thing: so good that I never take the camera off automatic. This one is point-and-shoot heaven.
Is there a winner here? Yes, and it’s the *cough* Nikon P610. Were you surprised? One of the things against the P950 and the P1000 is that they are physically larger (and heavier), but offer no advantage from that increased size: they have the same tiny sensor as the P610 inside. Mostly the bodies got bigger to hold the larger lenses which at 83X and 125X respectively are probably best described as “overkill”. Or maybe “clunky”. I guess the thinking was “half an improvement is better than none”? The P610 aside, the next best in my collection for handling is the Canon T100. It is the most modern as well, with an 18MP sensor that allows some reasonable cropping (the 24MP Sony a6000 is actually an older design).
I don’t know how a Canon SX70 or Panasonic FZ80 handles and it’s unlikely I’ll find out. There are no camera stores near me and the closest is over 2 hours’ drive away, with no guarantee they’d have what I want to look at.
Even if I could afford it.
Addendum: adding a picture of the Pentax K100Ds. As you can see it fits my hand as well as the Nikon does, and indeed is a very nice-to-handle camera. It has a few faults, though: it’s only 6MP which I find too low for my usual photography (even though the images get shrunk way down before presenting), I’ve only got one auto lens for it and any new one costs as much as a lens for the Canon or Sony, and the pentamirror is desilvered to the point where not only are there large black spots in view but the light transmission is lower than normal for a DSLR. But it is a nice camera. I would have had the slightly newer K200 but ego-Bay killed me before the sale was complete. Another thing to ‘thank’ them for.
(Note: through dint of major effort I am avoiding commenting on life in general at this moment and instead concentrating on just one of my many problems.)
For the sake of argument let’s say my Nikon P610 no longer works at all. This is not yet true, but like the Kodak P850 and V1003 before it the Nikon’s functions have become erratic and the resulting images less than ideal. It is inevitable that it will fail altogether at some point. I already can not rely on it, which is a shame because it is an excellent camera. Was.
So, what to do about losing my #1 piece of equipment?
First of all the key reason why the P610 took so many pictures for me: the fantastic zoom range. My photography involves me being out and about and seeing things near and far. Often very far. As such I need to be able to switch from close up (not just wide-angle) to telephoto quickly. I can stand in one spot and see a butterfly on a flower right in front of me and a bird in a tree yards away. Thus the extreme zoom lens is an important feature for me.
Right. So replace it with another comparable camera, yes? No. Why not? Three reasons:
1). There aren’t any exact matches. The newer versions from Nikon are ridiculous in their zoom ranges, larger and heavier, and burdened with extra features which add no functionality. Other units from Canon and Panasonic have less zoom but as much ‘technoglitz’ and none have a guarantee of lens quality. The ol’ P610 quite spoiled me for its lens and newer offerings, even more expensive ones, have not shown to be as good quality.
2). Prices are nuts. The P610 cost roughly $400 new and whereas we can expect a bit of inflation the P1000 replacement is 4X that price. The Canon SX70 is 2X. The only thing comparable is the Panasonic FZ80, and it has other faults.
3). “To thine own self be true” – Polonius. In researching dealing with this problem I naturally turned to my current arsenal of cameras to see which had the best potential for stepping up to the plate to pinch-hit for the Nikon. The truth is none of them quite cut it, but there was a recurring theme among certain ones; namely the EVF models wherein even the best (Sony a6000) is difficult for me to use with my failing eyesight. The optical finders are much larger and brighter and easier to see, so buying another camera with an EVF would be like pretending I haven’t got a vision problem.
How bad is that problem? There is currently an optical puzzle making the rounds of the Internet where you’re supposed to read the number in a swirled pattern. My left eye can see five of the seven digits. My right eye can not discern any one them. Yes, it’s that bad. I have taken to ‘resting’ it with the eye patch as much as possible so that when I do need depth perception or increased peripheral vision it can be used. This is incurable and only goes in one direction. It does not help that most cameras are made to be used with the right eye. The DSLRs are a little easier to switch with owing to the finder being basically in the middle of the camera instead of on one side.
Now the interesting thing is that the Panasonic FZ80 is available for <$400 right now. But see problems 1, 2, and 3 above. Only the price and my boredom caused me to look at it at all. Anyway I can’t afford even that.
So I’m back to trying out my existing cameras. None of them has the ultra-long telephoto ability. Going back to #3 I have to wonder if that matters since I can’t spot those far away birds now anyhow. Mostly I triangulate on the sound and then scan the trees where I think one is for movement to zoom in on. Usually by that time the bird has flown off, and so have its descendants.
Objectively the Sony a6000 isn’t suitable even if I spent $1,000 on a long lens for it, which I’m not going to do. Good though the camera is I have troubles using it beyond just the EVF issue as outlined above. It’s a shame because it is a good camera and I like it save the few operational flaws (which are more problems with me than with it).
The Lumix ZS60 is out because of the EVF, the short focal length range, and the poor quality lens.
I like using the Olympus E410 but guess what? There are no lenses available for it because the four-thirds format was supplanted by the micro-four-thirds system. So I should go out and buy an OM? Not too bloody likely that would happen! Besides which changing lenses out is not as convenient as simply zooming from one extreme to the other.
Of course the Canon G11 and 1Ds aren’t at all suitable for daily use as the former is fixed lens with a limited range and the latter weighs nearly as much as a compact car as well as not having a long focal length lens.
This leaves the Canon T100, which also lacks telephoto lens range. That costs a ton of money, and again this is a compromise because even with it you don’t have that wide-to-telescope-like focal length range.
If only they built a DSLR with a 1/2.3″ sensor! But they don’t and won’t so that’s the end of it.
Oh I didn’t mention my Pentax K100Ds. The reasons why should be obvious.
Since the equipment can’t/won’t/doesn’t exist the only choice is to compromise on style. I already find it frustrating when I go out with the ‘wrong’ camera and see something that it can’t get an image of (the other day it was a pileated woodpecker on a power pole when I had the G11 which doesn’t have a long enough zoom). Now I’m going to have to give up on shots because I can’t change lenses fast enough and don’t have long enough focal length.
This is a problem that has no solution. Just like all the others.
There are so many problems in my life right now that not only am I unable to keep track of them I can’t keep on top or ahead of them. Problems, problems everywhere and not a drop to drink. See? I can’t even find humour now. Well when a $3 box of cereal costs $7 and 5 lbs. of potatoes is $6 and … well that’s just part of it.
For the sake of your sanity if not mine, let’s just look at one problem: my Nikon P610. It’s still my main ‘go to’ camera, but it is going. Lately the zoom has begun stopping/starting instead of running smoothly. One day the whole thing locked up with no response from any control, including turning it off. I had to remove the battery to ‘reboot’ it. It has become unreliable. Regrettably it is also irreplaceable.
Yes I realize that is a snow scene and thus needs more exposure (I’ve only been doing this 50+ years so don’t mind me). It’s just that in addition to needing every shot tweaked on contrast it has now begun to habitually underexpose everything, regardless of reflectivity.
I have other cameras, but none of them can do what the Nikon could. Namely this:
So there’s that to contend with, alongside worsening eyesight. I know: I’ve been told to go see the doctor but I already know the results of such a visit because he told me the last time; there’s nothing can be done.
All things considered, I hardly notice the toe I broke last week. Yes, really. Trying to walk on this nightmare of ice that is renewed daily … well see what trouble Duncan got himself into? Yeah, like that.
Something good happening for a change would be nice. About as likely as a chocolate tea kettle, but nice.
Taking a break from lens testing to do a little lens testing.
You might have suspected that the Sony’s high resolution 24MP sensor is great for showing up any and all flaws a lens might have, and you’re right; it does.
What then would be the result of using the lowest resolution sensor I have available, the 6MP Pentax K100Ds? Not needing to reduce the image as much for “Internet size” pictures means you also can not increase it so much to spot the flaws. You can get away with a lot if you don’t look at a picture too closely!
As you can see if you don’t ask too much from a lens it can deliver something better than you expect. (All except the Sun Actinon, which still proves to be a very poor lens indeed.) In fairness, these images are not “straight out of the camera”; they have been processed, including ‘sharpening’, to achieve the best possible result with still a minimal amount of effort.
It doesn’t matter how good your instrument is if you don’t know how to play it.
It doesn’t matter how good your camera is if you don’t know how to use it.
High-priced, complex equipment with lots of ‘features’ will not overcome a lack of photographic knowledge just the same as a tin-eared rock star wannabe can’t get a song out of a Gibson Les Paul. If the player has the talent though, a Silvertone will sing for him.
Here’s me playing my ol’ Sears Silvertone, as it were. I make no apologies about the boast.
Pictures taken with the Nikon P610; the camera I keep coming back to despite its ailments. I think manufacturers should be really embarrassed that their much-more-expensive ‘professional’ DSLRs can’t do any better than this low-dollar, ten-year-old ‘bridge’ camera.
Okay so I’ve used the a6000 a bit more in varying conditions and not always the best weather. Sunshine is occasional around here and when it is clear it gets cold. That’s as may be.
I’ve found a couple of things I don’t like. The first is that the SD card is right up against the hinge side of the access door, which makes it very difficult to remove/replace. Oh sure you’re supposed to use the wifi connection or a USB cable to download your pictures. No thanks. I like being able to change cards. It’s one thing to grasp the simple economics of putting it with the battery under one bottom door (unlike certain other cameras that give memory a separate, side-access compartment as it should be). It’s quite another to grasp that tiny card with big fingers and wiggle it in/out when it’s so close to the door. Something is going to break there. Beyond my patience.
Another problem is the camera’s tiny size. The pad of my thumb keeps hitting the controls on the back and suddenly it thinks I want to change the ISO or it brings up one of the other functions connected with the various buttons which on this camera are quite close to the edge. Along that same line, the knurled adjustment knob on top which is easily moved with the thumb when in shooting position is right next to the ‘PASM’ knob which is also easily moved with the thumb – when you’re trying to adjust the other. Like so many things these days it is not designed for operation by people with large hands.
I’ve had some trouble with the EVF too, in that it needs a proper eye cup to block light when the sun is low and coming from the side. Likewise the fold-up LCD isn’t much good as a waist-level finder because the automatic eye-detection is too close to your body then, blocking the light that triggers it. I’m sure there’s a menu option somewhere to turn that off.
So let’s see how the lens evaluation went. I’d rate it as “good”, but not “very good” and certainly not “excellent”. That power zoom switch is a nuisance, and I kept forgetting to use the zoom ring. Two ways to do one thing is redundant, and redundancy is only needed as a safety against failure (which this isn’t). Let’s look at the pictures:
Let’s discuss the last two images. My intention for this camera was to use it for ‘birding’, hoping the 24MP sensor would allow enough digital zooming to make up for the limited lens range. Now if you know birds you can see from the segment that is a bald eagle. But you wouldn’t want to hang that picture on your wall. The kit lens only goes to 50mm (75mm equivalent). The full size frame of the picture looks sharp enough, but that sharpness vanishes when cropped this much. How much could we get away with? Good question. At any rate this lens is clearly inadequate for the task. Lenses are available up to 200-ish mm (300mm equivalent) and I have an experiment planned to see how that works before plonking down the outrageous price for one.
One more picture with this lens to see how it does on close-up:
Oh yes, I almost forgot: there is already dirt on the sensor (a more frequent problem with mirror-less than with DSLR cameras).
(Note: this post and the next one are pre-planned as I’m going in hospital for a procedure and probably won’t be up to doing much for a while.)
Apologies to anyone who had a sudden heart attack or stroke or even just a coughing fit upon reading that title. Yes, I managed to get my hands on a Sony a6000 with 16-50mm kit lens. How? Well it came about as a confluence of three things:
1). Eric L. Woods repeatedly pointing out how good Sony cameras are. I trust his judgement.
2). The camera being available in a local store, which happened to put it on sale (see below).
3). I was bored, and since ego-Bay has declared me Public Enemy #1 I can not relieve that boredom with inexpensive used photography equipment so I am forced to buy new if anything.
Now the a6000 is a camera I have considered and dismissed before. It has advantages such as higher resolution, the ability to adapt almost any lens to it, and supposedly faster focusing. You can see where I was going with it: the combination of 24MP and a 300mm lens on an APS-C format coupled with fast autofocus should make for a good ‘birding’ camera. I take a lot of pictures of birds. Or at least I do if I can. Lately things have been conspiring against me there. The problem, as always, was the price. Sony cameras are not cheap, at least not in Canada. I was actually toying with the idea of buying one, along the lines of “yeah maybe if they put it on sale I will”. Well they did, so I did. This was not the usual “$20 off” sale either. It was a clearance sale of more than 1/3 off! Funny thing is, they didn’t advertise it as such. Not even as a sale. The price just happened to go down. I fully expected to go into the store and be told “that was a typo”, which would have stopped me from buying it. It wasn’t, and I did.
The next big problem was the weather, which has been most uncooperative for every activity of late, except for getting soaked and freezing. Pretty good at that. Also being plastered with mud. So the first picture was by no means a fair test, but it does tell us some things:
The exposure and colour are accurate to the scene. But when you zoom in you see that as is typical of today’s cameras the claimed high ISO rating is nothing but a number from the PR department: the noise level on any setting above 800 (for APS-C) is unacceptable even with both noise reduction settings on. Close up you see ‘palette knife’ quality, not ‘film grain’ quality:
It would be unfair to compare this to my Canon 1Ds because that has a larger sensor, fewer pixels (allowing more light per), and cost $8,000 when new. I will be comparing it to the Canon T100 when I can.
Let’s talk about ergonomics. This cameras is well thought-out, with only a couple of “mystery buttons” and a few illogical placements. On the whole nothing that would upset you much. Let’s face it I have ten different digital cameras now and even the three from the same manufacturer don’t have the same buttons in the same places. This and an inability to remember how I have each one programmed is why I prefer dedicated controls. The menu system, that bane of digital photographers everywhere, is the best I’ve seen yet. It’s not organized the way I would do it, but it is straightforward and intuitive.
My greatest praise is for the EVF. It is large, bright, and clear. You could almost think you were looking at an optical finder, it is that good. It has a diopter, but with my eyesight there no sense bothering trying to adjust it. Likewise the LCD display is good, but there’s no such thing as one of these that can be seen in bright daylight. The ability to tilt it into a pseudo waist-level finder is intriguing, but I suspect self-defeating. I shall have to try that out one day. If it ever stops raining here.
There we have it: almost an entire ‘long roll of film’ into use and it produces its first artistic image. This is mainly due to me messing about trying to take images in lousy conditions. The fact is the camera passes the #1 test: it produces perfectly good pictures right out of the box on ‘Program’. In fact it has four program modes, including ‘intelligent’, ‘intelligent scene’, and ‘scene’ as well as the basic ‘P’ setting. I tried them in sequence and I could see some difference, but not so much so as to say “this one is better” nor do they produce any difference you couldn’t get with a 10% tweak in GIMP. Why manufacturers insist on cluttering up cameras with useless and redundant technology I don’t know. Save that stuff for the poor sods who think they can take great photos with their smart phones.
Colour rendition in ‘standard’ mode is nice and subtle with a good tonal gradient. In fact it is highly reminiscent of a CCD sensor. Turning it up to ‘vivid’ gives a bit more saturation and contrast, but doesn’t go overboard and still retains that film-like quality. At this point I hadn’t even turned off the auto white balance.
Some more praise: the autofocus is as fast as everyone says. It’s especially good once you turn off the ridiculous multi-point system (really, kids; there’s one subject in your photo and you can’t have the camera trying to make 149 different spots ‘it’). It has continuous focus too, which I like but know is a battery-eater.
Of course with any camera the lens is the thing, and here … well I will withhold praise. At this point I’d say it’s a ‘good’ lens, but not very good and certainly not on par with the Super Takumars or the Nikon P610 (really camera makers should be embarrassed that they don’t equip their products with lenses as good as a 6-year-old, $400 ‘bridge’ camera). One thing about the lens that drives me crazy is the ‘power zoom’. Leave that for the point-and-shoot models, Sony. There are two reasons I don’t like this method in general, and one more specifically to this edition: zoom motors are much slower than twisting a ring, they are less accurate for fine adjustment, and in this case the control is in an annoying location. Using this almost-a-zoom-ring button is really irritating. I also don’t think the lens needs to ‘power expand/collapse’; that’s just more complexity to go wrong at some point.
Give me some good light and I’ll try this camera out fully, including putting it head-to-head with the like-sized-sensor Canon T100. It will be interesting to see if 1/3 more pixels has any realistic value (the Sony has two digital zoom settings built in: I’ve tried both and they are not impressive).
Now let’s talk money. The big stumbling block I’ve come up against is that a decent long-range telephoto zoom for this camera is $1,000+! That’s the same thing that stopped me using the Olympus E410 for ‘birding’; the longest zoom cost three times what the camera and two other zooms cost! Adapting other lenses isn’t the answer either, as without the excellent and fast autofocus you lose one of the main advantages. Adapting other AF lenses tends to be expensive and problematic; you may as well pay for the Sony lens to begin with and be assured of it working. Just some advice from the old man: if you go adapting lenses, be prepared to go manual everything. Do not expect any sort of automatic connection to work, no matter what the claim from the maker.
On to the big question: was this a sensible purchase? I’m invoking the Eric L. Woods defense here; I like it, leave me alone. Would I have bought it at full price? Absolutely not. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t, though. It is a very good camera and not at all disappointing.
Now here’s the kicker: you want one? I’ll sell you this one quite reasonably. I have nothing against the camera, and I haven’t even tried it out fully yet, but I know it’s not going to fit with my shooting style. That’s a bit of a bummer, to say the least.
Unless someone would like to pony up $1,000 for a tele lens? I can’t afford it. Oh well, we’ll see what happens next what with my upcoming surgery and all.