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.

Bad craziness

Initial experiments with infrared using the Canon 1Ds.

Pic #1
Pic #2
Pic #3
Pic #4
Pic #5
Pic #6
Pic #7
Pic #8

Some notes: this camera seems to be more sensitive to IR than it’s T100 sibling. I have used a variety of processes here to bring out the images, mostly having to do with exposure compensation and sharpening. I can see where some adjustments are needed, for example I was using ISO 1250 (max on the 1Ds) and it is grainy. Most of the images were at f16 to avoid focusing issues. I can see where lower ISO and longer exposure time would be advantageous. Also I am not satisfied with the initial WB setting as the exposure for that is off. Images were taken without a tripod, using fence posts and rails instead. You can see this lens (the 50mm Super Takumar) has a ‘hot spot’ for sure.

Unfortunately I have to start all over because of the limited space on my only CF card. I will keep experimenting until I get results I want, even though my aim for this camera is not IR photography.

1Ds with 28mm

The weather has gone lousy again so it looks like photo shoots stop for a while. Of course it could all turn around tomorrow: it does that at this time of year. Still not clear enough to go to the cabin, but maybe next week? We’ll see.

In the meantime I took a few shots with the 28mm f3.5 Super Takumar on the Canon 1Ds. This is not my favourite lens for this camera. It works fine and is plenty sharp of course, but it doesn’t ‘fit’ right in terms of taking pictures. In fact the lens-body combinations that work best (to my eye) are the 50mm on the full-frame 1Ds, the 35mm on the Pentax K100s, and the 28mm on the Canon T100 (the last two are APS-C sensors with 1.5 and 1.6 crop factors respectively). Not really a surprise as that’s as close to ‘normal’ lens/body combinations as you can get with these equipment choices.

So let’s see the pictures.

Dead rose hips. Square format for purposes of composition.
Hat tree chain saw carving made by my friend Lorne. Remember digital doesn’t have to have rigid dimensions.
Detail of the carving showing the woodpecker peeking out.
Marley napping. This is a segment of full-frame to see how well it stands up to magnification. Okay.
Winter colour. The tones of this camera are subtle.
Sit, Marley! Checking the dynamic range which is good.

A quick on-line check shows the shutter count on this camera is less than 31,000 – which means it will probably outlast me since they are supposedly good to 150k.

I have yet to try this out on night photography due to lack of weather co-operation. We have already got to the point where you have to stay up ’til 10:00 PM to get a truly dark sky, and that will get worse as we near the Summer solstice and get almost 16 hours of daylight!

There are only two things I don’t like about this camera. The first is the weight, which is enough to relegate it to studio-only work. I can’t imagine even a young photographer gaily toting this 3.5 lbs. body plus lenses over hill and dale. Sure, I’ve handled heavier cameras but that was when there was no choice. It makes me wonder if this wasn’t the driving force behind mirrorless design; all for the sake of weight!

The second issue is the controls are pretty badly thought-out. Many of the most-used items (like ISO) are stupidly complex to operate or are in dumb locations. That big turning wheel on the back for selection is absolutely moronic: four simple arrow buttons like everyone else uses would be infinitely better. The major selections for operation are again stupidly done, where a simple PASM dial would be welcome. Even the ON/OFF switch is poorly located. I think no photographer was involved in the design. For my purposes this isn’t a major issue because I usually “set and forget” things in advance – a particular camera has a particular job and doesn’t get altered from the best settings for that job. The exception to this is the ‘experiment’ camera (Canon T100) which suffers all sorts of changes depending on the experiment of the time.

Otherwise I like the larger sensor size for giving exactly what was expected of it. I don’t see it as the miracle solution for bad photography it is often subliminally touted as – by the same people who think more megapixels cures the same problem. I still haven’t tried it for astro or landscape really, and that’s what I really want to do with it. I don’t think I’ll be buying any more lenses for it specifically, other than in so much as the T100 also takes EF lenses.

Time will tell.