More with the Canon T100

I have three more lenses to practise with on the Canon. First of them is the standard ‘kit’ lens; 18-55, which is an unremarkable performer by anyone’s standards.

Chick-a-dee, dee, dee, dee.
Scenery.

On the whole, not awful. But of course mostly shot at the 55mm end as I rarely use wide-angle. Or even short telephoto.

The second lens is the heavily used 75-300mm which is a bit stiff in the zoom and doesn’t render quite as good as we’d want. But it’s still not bad.

Crossed wires, or BC Hydro shouldn’t hire ravens to do line work.
More scenery.

The third lens is the 40mm ‘prime pancake’, which is a very odd focal length for either full frame or APS-C. But the lens itself is quite sharp and a decent performer.

Two ravens overhead. You wouldn’t expect to take bird pictures with a 40mm (64mm on the T100).
Still more scenery. Colour adjusted to get the blue out of the snow.

So … what have I learned from this?

1). The Canon is easier for me to use (even discounting the Nikon’s increasing defects) because I can see the view more easily.

2). The Canon is more difficult to use because of the need to swap lenses to get even close to the Nikon’s range of focal length (due to the difference in sensor sizes).

3). I would need a much longer zoom lens (like 600mm at least) to come close to the range I normally use for wildlife shots, and those cost a lot of money.

4). I would need to slow down my shooting style because the Canon can’t ‘shift modes’ as quickly as the Nikon, and the general use of it requires more time – especially with swapping lenses.

There is no perfect way to go because they don’t make an ‘ideal’ camera design for my needs. A 4/3s camera like the Olympus E410 I have would be close, but there are very few lenses for it. The modern micro 4/3s cameras don’t have optical viewfinders, so they would not be good with my eyesight (even my Sony a6000’s finder is too small and too dim). Since the only choice I have is to use the optical finder cameras I already have, I’ll go with that.

More slowly, more carefully, and more to come.

When 50(mm) is 80(mm)

In continuing my ‘practising’ with the Canon T100, I shot the next series of images using the 50mm f1.8 Canon EF lens. There were a large number of pictures that weren’t any good. This was due not only to the usual factors, but also because I don’t normally shoot in that focal range (equivalent to 80mm on a 135 film camera). Also, the weather was grey much of the time and when you shoot on a grey day you get grey images. But here are the very few that turned out acceptable.

Scenery #1
Scenery #2
Lone cone
Bird on a branch
Clouds of fluff
Bird in the clouds

This lens is better on the Canon 1Ds (full frame) where the focal length is ‘normal’ and both are well-suited to landscape photography.

In the past couple of weeks I have passed on some equipment offered because I figure if I can’t make use of what I’ve got there’s no sense in getting more. I will be shooting additional ‘practice’ shots with the T100, utilising the short-range zoom and some adapted fixed focal length manual lenses (the Super Takumars mainly). I still have a great deal of difficulty using the viewfinder, even though it is much larger and brighter than the EVF on the old Nikon P610. This has nothing to do with the camera, and everything to do with my failing vision. Perhaps I should try firing blindly around me with a wide-angle lens and see how that goes. Probably wouldn’t be any worse than trying to take pictures on purpose.

I have also dug out the Sony A6000. Originally I intended to try and sell it again, but failing that I might as well see if I have any more luck shooting with it. It’s smaller and lighter, which has both advantages and disadvantages. It also adapts old lenses more readily, which is good because Sony E lenses are very expensive. But these days, what isn’t?

Answering the riddle

“How do you get to Carnegie Hall?”

Practice, practice, practice!

Here I am practising with the Canon T100 and 55-250mm lens.

Big black bird (raven).
Cold sun. Taken through the window on a -34C day, but that’s okay because it’s supposed to be ‘soft’.
“Dogs and cats don’t get along.” (Marley & Squeak)
Zig-zag. I like a bit of ‘real life abstract’.
Bitty brown bird (junco).
Light, shadow, texture, pattern.

So what’s the score? One out of every seven pictures shot was ‘acceptable’. Not very good, but an improvement over the Nikon’s one out of ten. The reasons for the improved performance are several: the Canon has a larger, brighter viewfinder which is easier for me to see through (although I still mis-framed shots); its autofocus is faster and more dependable (although again I missed shots because the focus points are little black dots and my eyes have their own ‘little black dots’ built-in); the zoom is a mechanical ring, not motor-driven that sometimes locks up as the Nikon does; the sensor is larger, higher resolution, and not failing; the lens isn’t loose and wobbly.

I miss the Nikon’s excellent (actually better than the Canon’s) lens resolution and its extreme zoom range, though. But it is nice to know the camera isn’t going to just fail randomly as its worn-out predecessor does. The battery lasts longer too. I’ve had the T100 for three years now and bought it to replace the P610, but it was hard to give up a camera that so perfectly fit my shooting needs. Now those needs have changed and I have no choice (many of the shots missed with the Nikon were due to my just not being able to see what I was doing with it).

Next step is to put the fixed focal length ‘prime’ 50mm on it and shoot some more, although I dislike having that limitation. I also need a much longer than 250mm lens for my usual wildlife photography, but that will have to wait for now. (It’s been waiting for three years, what’s a little longer?)

Footnote: it was -40 Thursday morning, but it’s headed for above freezing next week. This weird weather continues to complicate things.

Canon 1Ds and 50mm f1.8

Since I got the Canon 50mm f1.8 lens I’ve had a few opportunities to shoot with it. My initial experiments showed it worked better on the full frame 1Ds than on the crop sensor T100 so … Here are a few pictures taken with the big (and heavy) camera.

Opening with the lake lagoon.
Summer is over.
Maybe the moon.
Taken after dark, when the 1Ds shines.
What the full frame, 11 MP camera is best at (although this lens isn’t a good choice for).
Closing with the lake lagoon.

It’s an okay lens, but the 1Ds deserves better. Now that the hectic season has passed I may do some more astro photography with the Takumar lenses. Although I did notice that setting up for that has become more difficult with the eyesight trouble.

Another boring lens test post

Okay, I bought a Canon 50mm f1.8 EF lens. I would not have done so if a 40% off the lowest regular price around sale had not come up. I especially would not have done so if I’d known about the unexpected $250 in vet bills that came up afterwards or the unexpected $186 in other expenses or the price of gasoline going back over $2 per litre. Let’s face it; if we could see the future we’d all win the lottery.

But it seems every Canon owner has one of these lenses so … why not me? Just how good is it anyway?

50mm on the 1Ds.
40mm on the 1Ds.

The quality is almost identical to the 40mm ‘pancake’, and indeed it’s not much bigger. For general shooting, both are ‘good’ but neither are ‘excellent’. In fact not only does the classic Super Takumar 50mm f1.4 utterly destroy them in sharpness, the venerable Nikon P610 is also noticeably better (when it actually manages to get a correct focus lock, which is rare these days). This is the sort of thing that makes me want to try a Nikon DSLR.

Now let’s see the two lenses on the crop sensor Canon T100 (from the same place):

40mm on the T100 – about 64mm equivalent.
50mm on the T100 – about 80mm equivalent.

(You may notice the T100 overexposes and the colours are not as rich.)

How is the 50mm for really close-up sharpness?

On the T100 – notice focus did not lock in the right place.
Segment of 100% image at the sharpest area.

Of course these were taken wide-open to give it the toughest test. Again, it’s good but not excellent. Frankly I expect better from Canon. Oh I get it: you’re supposed to spend the big money and buy their top quality lenses instead of spending reasonable amounts and getting mediocre results. That’s another shoot-yourself-in-the-foot strategy from Canon, which goes with their no-third-party-RF-series-lenses announcement. They don’t seem to get the idea of “brand = reputation” and that people will accept lower quality from ‘off-brand’ makes at lower prices but won’t accept lower quality from ‘name brand’ makes at any price. (I have seen this failed marketing strategy before, as in when certain car makers introduced junky low-priced cars to ‘compete’ with the import makes when all they wanted was to get people into showrooms and talk them into higher priced, higher profit vehicles.)

So it’s not the best lens, but can you take a good picture with it?

Evening sky with the 50mm on the 1Ds. No adjustments other than sizing.
Fuzzy seeds with the 50mm on the T100. Cropped and sharpened.

Yes, I guess so. Although it seems to work better on the 1Ds (full frame) than on the T100 (crop sensor). The ‘medium’ focal length afforded by the 1.6 factor on the APS-C camera puts the lens in a range I don’t normally use. Frankly it’s a little disappointing over-all, like every purchase I’ve made lately.

Anyway … Once this holiday weekend is over it’s on with the wood harvest (a couple more loads at most) and then close up the cabin for the season.

Marley finds lens testing boring.

Analysis Part 3: handling

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.

The ‘camera to beat’: Nikon P610

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.

Second best: Canon T100

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.

Getting difficult: the Olympus E410

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.

Here’s trouble: the Sony a6000

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:

Are you strong enough? Canon 1Ds

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).

Tiny power: Fujifilm F80 EXR.

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.

Pentax K100Ds

Two from three

So much going on I didn’t know which way to turn. It has taken me days to decide just what the “weekend post” would be of/about. Thus it’s a sampling because I couldn’t make up my mind.

Canon T100 55-250mm lens

Canon T100 55-250mm lens

I’ve been ‘trying out’ the Canon lately to evaluate it as the next ‘main camera’ to use. I like using it but it simply can not do the things the Nikon P610 ‘bridge’ camera can, so I find myself repeatedly grabbing that instead when going out.

Nikon P610

Nikon P610

I have stopped using the Olympus for now. Not just because the battery is failing and I’m loathe to put money into it, but also because I need to force myself to evaluate the future of photography for me and it is unlikely the E410 is the answer no matter how much I like using it.

Olympus E410 40-150mm lens

Olympus E410 40-150mm lens

What with everything everywhere being as bad as it is (yes, my wife is still in England with no return date even guessed at) switching to “artistic” photography only is about all I can do. I loathe the idea of it as I do very much like taking wildlife photos. You know: pictures of birds I can’t actually see because they are small, far away, and hidden in tree branches. Do I need to mention the failing camera + failing eyesight thing again? No. Not going to say anything about the triple digit inflation rate around here either.

Just trying to keep my sanity together. Remind me again exactly why I should do that.

More analysis coming up. Er, camera analysis that is. I could probably do with the other kind as well, to be honest.

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.