We interrupt our regular post to bring you the following snowstorm

So … “up to two inches” they said. Yeah? Tell it to the dog:

Difficult going.

No need to dream of a white Christmas; it’s guaranteed.

This vehicle has 9.5″ of ground clearance. Really.

Let’s have some colour!

Thus my day is planned for me: spend a couple of hours clearing a foot of snow from the driveway just in case I have to go somewhere this week. I’m not planning on going anywhere, but you never know what might happen.

Like a sudden snowstorm.

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.

“Filmulation”

It’s World Photography Day! What better day for an old fool who doesn’t know anything about anything (me) to palaver on about some of which he does not know?

Or something.

Anyway, today’s pictures are a result of using a digital camera as though it were a film camera. It’s easy with the right equipment. Now for some people the “right equipment” is a Fujifilm X camera which has some pre-set film simulations as well as a host of programming capacity to vary all sorts of settings. Lots of fun, for lots of money.

For me the fun comes from getting film-like results without spending a lot of money or experimenting endlessly with settings. Part of the charm of film is the slightly unpredictable results, and I have achieved that using some sub-par equipment and a little know-how. Or maybe no-how.

The camera is the always dirty Pentax K100D Super. It has the advantage of a CCD sensor which produces better colour tonal range than the CMOS sensors (in my opinion as well as that of several others). Plus the limited 6MP size is something of a bonus here as it is not crazy-sharp. The lens is the very sharp Pentax Super Takumar 35mm f2, whose glass is stained yellow due to the thorium content. This is an all-manual set-up too; no auto exposure or focus.

Settings are the same as with Mini Manual Manual, save the added adjustment of fixing the white balance at daylight. I think leaving off that step is one reason why so many film simulations don’t have that random variation that film gives us. Remember film has fixed sensitivity and colour temperature. On a digital camera these are two more variables. So we set it like film and shoot it like film: ISO 200 (lowest possible on this camera) and Daylight colour balance. Here’s what we get:

Marley on the beach. This looks exactly like a typical colour print from the 1960s.

The yellowing of the lens does show up in the images and needs to be compensated for in the final processing. But here we see the side effect of it enhancing cloud contrast just like a K2 filter would.

The cabin. Rich, saturated colour.

In the woods. My eyesight got me in trouble here on exposure, but not so much that I wasn’t able to ‘save’ it.

This could be the beach at Wakiki.

“You can’t control natural light.” Unless you learn how.

I was going to do some more shots in the same manner only using the T100 as the camera, but I haven’t got to it yet. It’s been a busy and tiring week, and that as of Tuesday.

Meanwhile my redesigned Master Plan continues to take shape and unfold. Slowly.

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.

Canon 1Ds, Part II

(I hate not being able to edit a post with the classic editor; it’s create and go with no going back!)

Okay, now let’s see if this Pro-Cam can deliver a decent photo. I haven’t cleaned the sensor yet, but here we go anyway.

Canon 40mm EF lens.

Not bad, and of course sharper than the 75-300mm zoom. Let’s go for really sharp with the Super Takumar 50mm f1.4 on all manual:

Ubiquitous shed shot is sharp.

This sort of makes me want the Canon 50mm EF now, but that would be further expense and I don’t imagine I will use this camera enough for ‘standard’ shots to make it worthwhile.

Marley has found snow.

I had to ‘fix’ this one a bit as it was slightly over-exposed (f16 is the minimum aperture and at ISO 200 & 1/250 it wasn’t enough). That’s what snow will do to you.

Duncan: less snow = better exposure.

Nice, subtle colour from this camera. It’s a CMOS sensor but it comes across like CCD.

Wood is good.

At full size this image has a lot of detail. The “very low resolution” sensor (11MP) isn’t lacking no matter what the megapixel promoters insist.

Here’s a bit I found on-line regarding the original price. EGAD! Glad I didn’t pay that!

And now for something completely silly:

Fujifilm F80 vs. Canon 1Ds – the small and the large.

One fits in your shirt pocket, the other breaks your neck!

Next experiment includes trying some different lenses and resolution settings. I also hope to try an astronomy shot, as that is one of the reasons I got this monster.

So far I’m happy with it. Also it’s the only exercise equipment I own. I’m sure it’s building up my biceps.

As March winds down

It seems everywhere I look on WordPress these days there is a resurgence of complaints about what they are doing. Some people have apparently lost the Classic Editor entirely, while others are struggling with some bastardized version which is nearly as bad as the Blockhead Editor abomination. I guess they really don’t want us around anymore. Someone should mention to them that killing your customers is not a good business plan.

They aren’t alone at this: several places I do business with have been changing their rules in an effort to … what? Cope with easing COVID restrictions? Or just drive people crazy? The recycle center has now twice sent little notes of disapproval for using “the wrong bag” on returnables. The first time it was for the same type of bag I’d been using for nearly a year. The second it was for using exactly the type of bag they said I now have to use. If you want people to recycle, you make it easy for them to do so. Not more difficult than filling out the tax forms (and boy has that been a nightmare this year for everyone).

So while there is still no chance of even getting on the waiting list for the vaccine we don’t have enough of and I’m still waiting on test results that will tell me what direction my health goes in next (odds are it will be ‘downhill’), I present a few images made now that I can get about a bit again. Providing I don’t slip on the ice or WP doesn’t shut down the only usable editor they’ve got on me, I’ll keep snapping away in the hopes it will brighten someone’s day.

Three friends. (G11, cropped from full image taken at maximum telephoto.)

Rare photo of Marley not being a silly goofball dog. (Pentax K100DS.)

Bark unlike a dog. (Pentax K100DS.)

Glowing cloud. (Pentax K100DS.)

Duncan in a noble pose. (Pentax K100DS.)

A sliver of moon. (Pentax K100DS.)

Incidentally, I’ve discover the Pentax’s kit lens does not focus properly at distance. It is pretty small change between 7′ (2m) and infinity, and with age it has become too sloppy to be correct. The only way around this shortcoming is to either focus manually (which is difficult for me) or use a small aperture to compensate with depth-of-field (which is less than ideal too).

Anyway, having sorted out that camera as much as possible I have switched back to the Olympus E410 for my walk-a-rounds. It has the longer zoom on it (150mm max – equal to 300mm) in case I spot a bird. I find much of my photography is done telephoto so why fight it? Still wish I could get the longer zoom for this camera, but that is not yet to be.

As good as can be

It snowed Sunday night, after being 8°C that day. Then it warmed up and melted off again. This has been one weird Winter!

Anyway it was nice and sunny so I got out and walked around with the dogs and the Pentax K100DS a little bit. I wanted to see if I’d managed to polish the 18-55mm Pentax-DA lens sufficiently for use, and how well I’d manage a bit of activity. Oh, I have got the autofocus working off the ‘back (OK) button’ – but not from the shutter release. I don’t really like the back button focusing method; seems unnatural to a long-time photographer.

Here are the results. In some cases I had to do some post-processing to correct exposure errors it still makes, but over-all the camera is usable now.

The new snow.

Puddle remnant.

Marley being incredibly silly.

100% crop of 18mm shot. Fairly sharp.

50% crop of 55mm shot. The gossamer is blurred by wind.

100% crop of 55mm shot.

I don’t think any further cleaning will improve the lens any: it is what it is. I need to take some more “general” shots to see how it handles medium and distant focusing. On the whole, usable but of course not as good as the Super Takumar manual lenses. One nice thing about this camera is that it automatically adjusts for the yellowed 35mm lens, making the two an ideal combination.

Although it’s a nice camera to use, I probably won’t use it much except in instances where I want to employ one of the old lenses like the Hanimex 80-200mm zoom. I might try the old Soligor on it as well, but that is one heavy monster lens and it doesn’t have manual stop-down so it’s either full aperture or I’ll have to wedge the pin.

Mini Manual Manual

Being basically lazy, I rely heavily on automatic settings. Hey, I paid for ’em so I’m gonna use ’em right? Besides which my eyesight isn’t that great so autofocus is a must.

Except when I’m using classic lenses, which don’t hook up to today’s automation technology.

It is then that I fall back on 50+ years of being behind a camera (any one of hundreds), and go “full manual”. This means “pre-setting” everything, and then hoping for the best. If you can judge the light and the distances it usually works (we didn’t always have light meters and rangefinders, you know). Here’s how to do it, in as brief a lesson as I can manage.

1). Set ISO. The only rule for this is that higher numbers mean more noise, the digital equivalent of grain. Otherwise it’s a matter of choosing your favourite film speed, or in this case as close as possible. I’m picking on the Pentax K100DS for this experiment, and it only goes down to 200. Ordinarily I’d use 100.

ISO set to 200 because there is no 100 on the camera.

2). Set shutter speed. There are two rules-of-thumb about this. The first is the “exposure rule”, wherein shutter is set to “1/ISO” or as close as possible. In this case 1/250. The second is the “image stabilizer rule” wherein the shutter is set to “1/focal length” (or higher) to minimize blur problems with long focal length lenses. Since I’m using the Pentax Super Takumar 35mm f2, this isn’t an issue. Thus we go back to rule #1. Now if you plan on shooting things in motion, the high speed shutter rules apply and you may have to go even higher than you would ordinarily as it’s all relative. This means you might crank the ISO up another stop or two as well. Remember that 1 stop increase in ISO is double the current number, and for these APS-C cameras 800 is about the upper limit for acceptable results regardless of what they can be set to. (Me thumbing my nose at manufacturers’ ridiculous claims.)

Camera on ‘M’, shutter at 1/250.

3). Set lens. This is the big one. This is where the trickery comes into play. That ‘trickery’ is depth-of-field, which enables sharp (or sharp-ish) imagery before and beyond the actual focal point. So we start by closing the aperture as much as possible, which on this lens is f16. Yes I know it’s all the rage to shoot wide open all the time these days. That’s just so much dingo’s kidneys. This full manual trick will not work at maximum aperture because there’s almost no depth-of-field available – we’re looking for exactly the opposite of the blurred background effect that’s so popular today it has become a cliché. The second half of this part is setting the focus to where infinity is at one edge of the D-O-F scale for the aperture. On this lens that’s about 8′ (2.5M), giving a range of sharpness from around 4.5′ (1.4M) to infinity.

Setting aperture and focal point to give maximum range of sharpness.

Now we can take pictures. These are corrected for exposure (under-exposed is your friend for digital; over-exposed is just an uncorrectable loss), white balance (including in this case negating the thorium yellowing of the lens glass), and then reduced to ‘Internet size’.

Bleak tree. I finally got all the crud off the sensor!

Eight feet from the Whale, the actual focus point.

Closest focus possible. Image is sharp!

Not framed: I just held the camera up to the roof and pushed the button. You can see the range of sharpness here.

Close up and cropped in, Marley’s image is sharp.

A couple of notes: bright light is your friend for this procedure. There was some variable cloudiness that effected the available light on these pictures. I did not change the settings, I just compensated in post-processing (sometimes as much as 2 stops). You can adjust the aperture in the field if you want to, but remember it will alter the depth-of-field and you may lose sharpness where you want it. Longer focal length lenses have less D-O-F for a given aperture and don’t work as well with this trick. Also if you want to focus closer you can, but you have to remember to switch back when you return to scenic shooting.

Some people may think this is a silly thing to do, as it basically turns an expensive DSLR into a box camera. But frankly I have no sharper modern lenses than these old Takumars, and some that are much worse. Other people may be a bit miffed to find they don’t need all the fine complexity of the modern digital camera to turn out halfway-decent photos. And didn’t I myself once say I paid for those auto functions so they better work? Yet here I am not using them. Sometimes, at least.

BONUS SECTION!

I said I’d compare the Pentax K100DS 6MP to the Canon T100 18MP (both APS-C size sensors), and here are those shots:

Barn shot #1

Barn shot #2

Taken with the same ISO, the same exposure, the same focus, in fact with the same lens (the 35mm f2 Super Takumar) switched from one body to the other. Slight adjustment to white balance for each to rectify exposure but nothing else. Both shrunk from their native size to “Internet size”, with no cropping. Go ahead: try and figure out which picture came from which camera.