Case(s) in point

Well the sun is shining today and I’m trying to get some test pictures done. This is being hindered by the fact it’s -12C and that the Sony eats battery like candy. I’m averaging less than 175 pictures per charge with it, and that is far worse than any other digital camera I’ve got. Plus the mirrorless design loves to pick up dirt on the sensor. Frankly the camera is rather a pain to use.

That’s as maybe. I also have some inside work to do, including working on the old brown leather case I got in the deal:

The deal.

Kind of dried out and dirty with signs of damp damage, but not unusable. I have treated it with a couple of applications of Neatsfoot oil and it’s looking better already:

Darker, softer leather.

This picture shows the difference between treated and aged leather:

The inside pockets. Left is treated, right is as-was.

And now a word about Neatsfoot oil. This product was our “go to” treatment for ‘raw’ leather for many years when I was young. We used to call it “banana oil” because it smelled rather like bananas. Used it for all kinds of things from shoes to belts to camera cases. A lot of camera cases! I haven’t had to treat any leather for a long time now for some reason (possibly because it is no longer politically correct to make things out of leather, or possibly because it’s too expensive to). When I bought a new bottle of the stuff … well it doesn’t smell the same at all. That’s kind of a good thing because the ‘old’ smell could best be described as stinking. The question now is: will it work as well? We’ll see. It needs a couple more applications at least; you just keep rubbing it in until the leather won’t absorb any more. I wait a day between each application to give it time to absorb.

The case is already better and usable. Exactly what I will use it for I haven’t decided. I’ve removed the ‘tripod straps’ which were buckle straps on the bottom of the front. Not safe to carry a tripod with them so they’re just in the way. It also needs a better shoulder strap, which will cost more money even if I don’t get a leather one. Always something costing money.

There was a bonus inside the case hidden behind a snap flap at the back: the instruction manual for the Praktica LLC (which I don’t need; either the book or the camera), some notes on how to take pictures, an equipment price listing (which doesn’t match the equipment), and a Kodak Master Photoguide from 1954! I used to have a lot of those old Kodak guides from various years and for various purposes (they had Darkroom Guides as well).

Bonus!

As for the other three cases … the badly damaged black leather one is already in the trash, the blue Hewlett-Packard hard shell I haven’t decided what to do with …

It has no padding inside. Just a big, empty case. Aside from the lens cases I’ve stored in it temporarily.

… and the Canon camcorder case is a puzzler because its insides are the opposite: pre-moulded to fit the equipment it was meant to hold. Modification may be possible, but how and what for I haven’t even thought about.

The Canon ‘fitted’ camcorder case.

In the mean time, back to lens testing!

Canon T100 versus Sony a6000

In a previous post I demonstrated how the Canon’s 18MP sensor produced identical resolution to the Pentax K100D’s 6MP sensor when shrunk down to “Internet size”.  That is a difference of 3X the pixels producing the same quality image in the end. Really the only advantage to higher resolution is the ability to crop further: ‘post-shooting digital zooming’. With the acquisition of the Sony a6000 it was only fair to see how 1/3 more pixels held up to this axiom.

There are a few other considerations in my comparing the cameras as well, mostly in respect to my personal usage of them. The Sony can adapt almost any old lens by virtue of being mirrorless which gives a great deal more space between the sensor and the lens to accommodate adaptors. Case in point: in order for a Canon FD lens to work on the Canon T100 you need a fairly expensive adaptor with a ‘refocusing’ lens in it, whereas with the Sony it’s just a big metal ring. $40 vs. $20, and that extra piece of added glass will have some effect on the resolution.

Two other operational differences are that the Sony is physically smaller and has an electronic viewfinder. Otherwise they are both APS-C ‘crop sensor’ cameras, albeit with a tiny difference in the crop factor: 1.6 for the Canon, 1.5 for the Sony. Hardly significant, yet it does show up in the pictures.

Dealing with dodgy weather, I first did some pictures using each camera’s standard kit lens: Canon 18-55mm and Sony 16-50mm. Fairly similar, but the Canon is slightly more telephoto at both the wide and narrow ends.

Canon T100

Sony a6000

Another similarity between the two lenses is that neither will win any awards for sharpness. They’re “good enough” for average shots, but not up to my standards. I can see this even with my failed eyesight, so it must be painfully evident to anyone with sharp vision.

Canon T100

Sony a6000

For the record, both cameras were set to “automatic everything” and “standard” colour  to see if they would handle the same scenes differently. On the whole there was only a slight tendency towards less exposure for the Canon. Enough so that it made me go back and check to see if I had set compensation at -1/3 or something. I hadn’t. Colour on both cameras is fine ‘right out of the box’ and I couldn’t see any significant difference in the end results. (I did shoot more pictures than are presented here; these are selected for example purposes.)

Of course to pit camera against camera you have to use the same lens on both, so out came the 50mm f1.4 Super Takumar:

Duncan Dog.

Duncan Dog again.

If it weren’t for the obvious clues in labels and field of view you could not tell which was which. Obviously the cameras are comparable quality.

(Note: at retail the Canon cost half what the Sony did, and I wouldn’t have bought the latter had it not been offered at a significant price reduction.)

Now from my personal experience the Sony has four shortcomings:

1). It is smaller, which makes it harder for me to handle. This can possibly be overcome with the addition of an accessory hand grip, but that would be even more money spent.

2). It is mirrorless, and there’s already spots on the sensor again after being cleaned the first time. A bit of a drawback for a camera you would like to change lenses on fairly often in order to use vintage glass.

3). The EVF is noticeably dimmer than the optical finder of the Canon. It has settings for brightness, but this revelation is very significant for me personally.

4). Although the exposure metering in Manual is superior in operational ease to the Canon, the focus is terrible because wide open results in the EVF being a glare of overexposure and you can’t see to focus anything. It is necessary to either switch modes for focusing and then back for exposure or ‘guess focus’ or ‘pre-focus’ – all of which is a pain to do. The Canon does not have this focusing issue due to the optical finder, but checking exposure requires looking at the back screen. (Note that the display symbols in the Sony’s finder are difficult for me to see, but I can manage them and others would have no trouble I suspect.)

What else? Well there is something of a paradox in using the camera with the best, fastest autofocus I have ever seen (better than the Canon or any other camera I have) with manual focus lenses, but there we are. As for obtaining further Sony or third party automatic lenses … egad, the prices! A cheap tele zoom is almost as much as the whole camera cost, and quality primes or long focal length zooms (I tend to shoot telephoto mostly) are twice what I paid for the thing. To be fair, other manufacturers’ glass isn’t much cheaper. Cheap lens tends to equal low quality imaging, hence my fondness for the antique Super Takumars (which are now also insanely priced on the used market when you can find one).

Where do I go from here? To be honest, around in circles. I have debated buying the hand grip ($70) or an FD adapter ($20 – I have one FD lens and it’s not a Canon) or the ‘inexpensive’ tele zoom ($300+) or selling the camera on, and can’t see any way clear.

What I have discovered is my eyesight is terrible and the EVF cameras I have are all now difficult to use because of that. This puts me up against the wall for many things, not the least of which is using my favourite (and ailing) Nikon P610 superzoom for birding. You can not get an optical finder camera with a 65X zoom factor. Not that it would be impossible to make one (imagine a DSLR with a 1/2.3 sensor), they just don’t. The Olympus E410 has a 2X crop factor, but again the lenses available are few and expensive and don’t begin to reach into the Nikon’s 1440mm equivalent range. This is physics spoiling my fun again.

Right now I’m trying to feel proud of myself for not buying a lot of lenses and whatever locally for cheap, and mainly I didn’t do it because the seller couldn’t be bothered to make an itemized list even when I asked for some specifics. Well then I can’t be bothered to drive for over an hour to look and see if any of it is something I can use.

It’s typical that since I have recovered from the operation that the weather has turned bad thwarting any adventures in photography for me. I’m bored, and that’s a dangerous thing.

Oh well at least I don’t live in any of the disaster-struck areas of BC. The effect will no doubt be higher prices on everything, as that’s always what happens, but I haven’t actually lost anything due to the flooding – unlike so many others.

Re-learning curve: Canon PowerShot G11

What re-learning curve?!

Despite a lack of co-operation from the weather and increasing pressure to do things other than photography I managed to fire off a few shots with the G11. To my delight it is still easy to use even with my failing eyesight. For one thing it has an optical viewfinder which remains bright (unlike the Nikon P610’s dimming EVF) even if partially obstructed by the lens barrel at wide focal lengths. Oh yes, the camera has limitations in that department, but few in any other! The CCD sensor renders great tonal range, the ISO goes down to 80, the lens is sharp enough for general purposes, and the exposure is correct (although I prefer -1/3 EV setting).

As the saying goes, the proof is in the photos!

A beautiful day at the lake. We’ll be seeing fewer of these as Autumn rolls in. At least the fire smoke is mostly gone now.

Lakeweed. Nice detail for a point-n-shoot camera!

The great tonal range of the CCD sensor translates into a wide array of gray tones when desaturated!

This particular type of camera is best at taking pictures of objects. Dogs are objects. If you object to dogs, get a cat.

Here: one standard-issue cat, in box, with accessory toys.

If you’re willing to put a little effort into it, the G11 is capable of artistic shots as well.

I am so keeping this camera! Best $12 I ever spent! I could probably get pictures out of it without eyesight.

Speaking of which, I see the doctor again on Thursday. I look forward to mentioning the continued pain, blurriness, spots, and weariness. I don’t look forward to hearing what he has to say because I have a pretty good idea what that will be.

Re-learning curve: Canon 1Ds

“Re-learning”? Not with this camera! This is the ‘full frame’ DSLR, and as such has the largest and brightest viewfinder. Seeing what I’m trying to photograph is the biggest problem these days, and with the 1Ds it’s almost not an issue. Likewise the Canon G11 with its optical finder gives similar performance. Only the EVFs and smaller, dimmer optical finders present much difficulty.

Okay this camera still has poorly-thought-out controls, but I know where they are and don’t have to change them often. Also it weighs a lot. But what about the all-important results? Well I took 28 photos and only 6 of them are actually bad. That’s the best post-eye-problem ratio of any camera I’ve got.

All these photos were taken with the 75-300mm Canon EF lens. Some are the full image, some are cropped to varying degrees. This is not the best lens either, but it was cheap and it works.

Landscape view. Or ‘lakescape’ perhaps.

Squirrel!

Shrouded in mystery.

Birds fly in the lake of the sky.

Natural guitar pick. (Stone full of mica.)

Bird in a tree.

First of this year’s wood harvest. (640 x 426 segment of full frame.)

Goodnight.

The success with using this camera reinforces the validity of my revised plan. In fact replacing this camera and the T100 with a 5D Mk II would by viable, but unlikely to happen. At this point I’m aiming for keeping the Fuji F80, Canon G11, Nikon P610 (which needs replacing at a later date), Canon T100, and this Canon 1Ds. Also I will use various adapters to allow the use of classic lenses with either Canon DSLR (the full frame cameras are not quite as good with this due to some lenses getting in the way of the larger mirrors).

To that end I have purchased some new equipment which hasn’t arrived yet but will result in further posts when it does. I’m not doing so well at selling off the superfluous stuff, but then there’s a lot else going on around here now with the start of the annual wood harvest.

Equipment sidetrack

Sydney J. Harris used to write columns about “Things I learned en route to looking up other things”. This is something like that, but not exactly.

Idly I am poking through equipment for sale, wondering if certain items can be fit into the revised Master Plan, and occasionally bidding on whatever I think might. This has included some rather wild detours like Sony a6000 to get the hi-res sensor and mirrorless adapt-almost-any-lens ability to switching to Nikon DSLR for the same hi-res reason or even because I want to try out some of the older, CCD equipped cameras of theirs. None of that happened. A lot of lenses passed as well.

What I did buy was some more lens adapters for the Canon EF cameras, just in case I found a Canon FD or Nikon F lens for such a price as couldn’t be passed up. In essence, the redesigned plan is to reduce the DSLRs to Canon only, because then it’s all fairly interchangeable and a lot of old glass can be easily adapted to it. Also no need to memorize six or eight different control configurations. Makes sense, right?

The only change, then, was acquiring a Canon T7 to get a 24MP sensor (1/3 more pixels than the T100 so worth the switch). I haven’t succeeded in this either, as they mostly go for more money than I’m willing to put into this project at this point. For another thing, selling off the superfluous equipment is proving to be quite a stumbling block.

Anyway, that’s the plan now: Canon 1Ds (too big and heavy for anyone else to want), replace the Canon T100 with a T7 to get higher res on the hi-res camera, keep the Canon G11 and Fuji F80 carry-along cameras, and continue using the Nikon P610 as the “daily driver” until it fails entirely. Hopefully by that point I can save up enough for a replacement like a Canon SX70.

Oh and one other thing: try, try, try to avoid buying any more equipment just because it’s cheap or interesting (and cheap). Sensible, right? Right. Let’s see me actually manage to do it.

Now off to one side I come across this blog by favourite writer Eric L. Woods: A Sigma dp2 Quattro Fascinating camera. The Foveon sensor is built like a layer of colour film, and the results show. Several of the other X3 write-ups I found dismissed the design as though they were written by people with stock in other sensor manufacturers or something. Much of it was confused and contradictory so I guess maybe they didn’t understand it. Personally I like the concept and the results.

I also like the fact they didn’t go crazy on cramming “features” into this camera. It has some faults to be sure, like no EVF. Considering how expensive it is that’s just stupid. But largely it is a digital camera for a film photographer. Too bad about the price. In my “ideal” camera design I can see that Foveon X3 sensor as a key element.

That’s all as maybe. I have to try and focus on my current projects, including the wood harvest that has just started. It’s been difficult as the still-present smoke makes me cough almost instantly when I so much as talk, never mind work. I got a lot done yesterday when there was no smoke about, so timing is vital to success.

In the meantime there’s only a few more things on e-Bay I want to keep track of. Just in case.

First load of firewood for this year.

Re-learning curve: Canon T100

Four weeks since having my retina welded. If there’s any further improvement it will be minor and slow, so I’ve got to work with how I see things now.

Last week, before the smoke filled the valley here and I started choking on every breath, I got a chance to try using the Canon T100 APS-C DSLR. This included some experiments with the manual Pentax Super Takumar lenses, not a one of which produced an acceptable picture. Curiously my ability to judge exposure has been affected, in that bright scenes seem darker and dark scenes seem brighter than either actually is. O-kay, going to need a light meter to do that now I guess. I mean I was off a good 2 stops on every shot regardless of lighting. That’s really bad for me. I can’t have an instant “do over” because I can’t see the camera’s LCD well either.

On to automatic lenses, exposure, and focus! I paid for those functions so I’m going to use them. In theory this eliminates many issues and leaves me dealing only with composition matters. In theory.

Sky before the smoke moved in. A ‘general’ picture that came out fine.

Then we started getting some weird clouds. Picture is still okay, though.

“Silver and Gold”. The smoke begins to affect the light.

“Bugsy sent me!” Experiment with close-up focus (mud wasps).

How to drive the autofocus nuts. It had a helluva time latching on to that web! The difference here was sufficient that even I could see if it had worked before pressing the shutter.

Artistic image achieved.

The issues with this camera are that its EF-S lenses are not the sharpest (and I need all the sharpness I can get now) and the ‘focal points’ are little black dots in the viewfinder; my eyes now have their own little black dots and I kept getting confused about which dot was which for trying to fix focus. In short the extra effort I need to go to now in order to get an acceptable image has slowed down my photography, whether I want to take my time or not. This is a problem for any rapid ‘grab shots’ of wildlife, for example. The lowered resolution of my vision makes spotting birds in trees extremely difficult, and even affects my ability to recognize a potential scene. ‘Obvious objects’ are much easier to pick out. They just aren’t always the thing I want to photograph.

I have my Olympus E-410 here as well. I’ve yet to buy the longest lens for it (70-300mm zoom) because they are always 3X as much as I paid for the camera and the two shorter zooms. However if the smoke would like to go away I can evaluate that for use with “my new eyesight”. The Pentax K100D Super should get a check too, although that camera had issues even without vision problems factored in. It is because of the changes and the fact I have four different DSLRs with five (or six if you count the classic glass) different lens systems that I’m rethinking how I do photography.

The two bright spots are the Canon G11 and Fuji F80, which are just point-and-shoot basically and not a concern. Likewise the Nikon is hanging in there, but its failings of focus and exposure are now exacerbated by my own. Thinning the herd to where I have fewer cameras which I can more easily use and that produce results I want is what I’m contemplating now.

Landscape trial

Camera Decision says the Canon 1Ds is no good for landscape photography. Their complaints are a lack of live view and low resolution sensor. Naturally I had to give it a try.

Snow-topped mountains.

Across the lake.

The next point over.

Sunset.

These were all taken with the 40mm EF lens, which is fairly sharp but not as good as the old Takumars.

What I found: There’s dirt on the sensor again! Yes, a higher resolution sensor would enhance landscape scenes and a live view LCD would be helpful for framing/composing. I would not call it a failure, though.

I intend to try some more shots, using the 50mm Super Takumar, when I can get to it. Once again the weather is about to turn on me and I’ve got about one more good day which I will use up getting a little work done around here.

If only it were Springtime

Of course 19°C (66°F) is pretty Spring-like, but watching the satellite picture says there’s still snow out at the lake. The forecast says no lows below freezing now, so perhaps another week …

In the meantime I have started working around here as there are a few things to deal with. That’s why I moved 600 lbs. of stored papers out of one shed and into another; so I can get at other stuff and perhaps make enough room to complete the modifications the local Mafia, er government, wants to a shed that has been standing for years without incident. I am and engineer you know. Bureaucrats need to prove they have power over everyone, though.

Papers away! (G11)

All that off to one side, I tried out the Canon 1Ds on some night shots and need to do some tweaks before I take more. First of all, the 64MB CF card is horrible for hi-res as it only holds <10 pictures. Can’t do much experimenting with that. Second, the camera’s maximum ISO of 1250 is real but pretty low for star shots. That can’t be helped, so either I take ‘trace’ shots (30 second exposures are about 3X too long to prevent this) or do lots of enhancing post-shoot. I need to try it with the 50mm f1.4 lens I was using the 35mm f2 because that’s what was on it when I woke up in the night and decided to try. It’s one more stop of exposure anyway. I can see where a real ISO of 3200-6400 would be of great use here, but the camera hasn’t got it. At least it does a good job at the speed it has, and the ‘noise reduction’ (second image method) is more effective than with any other camera I have. The biggest problem is that it’s not really dark until 10:00 PM now, so night photos interfere with my sleeping habits.

Nighttime is little light time. (1Ds)

Many other things are going on around here right now, some of it rather stressful. Vaccine? Nope. Surgery? Ha! Our hospitals are full-up with COVID patients (cases are out of control and the government isn’t even trying to stop the spread now) so that’s not happening. I need to get equipment ready for this year too (including fixing the trailer), and … well just all sorts of things.

In storage. (G11)

I had fun doing the IR photos and still have some more experiments to conduct with the 1Ds but they will have to wait for now. I have even toyed with the idea of selling it and everything else I’ve got to go for a 5D, but I suspect my equipment wouldn’t bring enough to cover the cost. C’est la vie photographique!

Ghost plane. (P610)

I’m still using the Nikon P610 a lot, and it is still malfunctioning. But it hasn’t quit completely. Yet. Which is good because I can’t afford to replace it. I still want to shoot more with the G11 and now that the weather is better I should be able to. Previously every time I’d go to town it was so miserable and cold that taking pictures was right off the list.