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.

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.