Another 50 = 80

Continuing with my Canon “practise”. In this case the lens is the wonderful Asahi Pentax Super Takumar 50mm f1.4. It is a faultless lens, and even a blind photographer like me can get good shots with it.

Crystal Tree
Frosted Woods
Close to the Ice
What are you looking at?

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?

Whither photography?

Bad photo of the moon. The white dot on the right is Venus.

Premise: a desire to replace the ailing Nikon P610.

Solution: purchase a long telephoto lens for the Canon T100.

Selection: Sigma 150-600mm.

Problem: Many.

Let’s start with the price. It’s over $1,000, all said and done. That’s a lot of money to me. In fact if I had $100,000,000 I’d still think $1,000 is a lot of money – because I’m a cheapskate. Er, frugal.

Well recently it’s been “on sale” in the off-and-on method of modern con artistry. I mean merchandising. Yeah, that’s it; merchandising. Not con artistry. In any case the “sale” has amounted to a whopping 9% off regular price. Nine percent. Not even ten. This is with the Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Holiday Season sales allegedly trying to lure people to buy with low, low prices. I laugh scornfully at their pathetic attempts. The lens is 20% too expensive to begin with, and 9% off is just a joke. Our sales tax is 12% here.

Then there’s the “other thing”.

My last eye exam included such terms as “cataracts”, “glaucoma”, and “epiretinal membrane”. All of which can be treated to varying degrees of success, but with no guaranteed results for any. And underneath it all I still have the re-attached retina and cloudy aqueous humor complete with floaters. In other words the best that can be offered is not going blind rapidly. Definitely not any hope of return to fine vision. Now for most people this would not be an issue, but for a photographer … seeing the fine details is essential. I’m sure some of you have noticed the decline in quality of my work since The Last Picture? Instead of nine out of ten images being good, it’s one out of ten being acceptable.

Given those circumstances one has to wonder about the practicality of investing in any more photographic equipment of any type at any price.

Not-so-bad picture of the moon.

Plans? What are they?

Right. Had it all figured out. Monday, mow lawn before it starts raining Wednesday.

Er, starts raining Tuesday.

Uh … didn’t even get the mower started before the sunshine turned to dark clouds and the rain began – on Monday.

So much for plans.

Now for other things.

Pileated on a poll. Nikon P610.
Same spot after bird flew off. Canon T100 & 250mm.

This is the reason why I looked into longer lenses for the Canon (more on the Nikon at a later date). I had some fun looking at ‘bargain’ long lenses, reading and watching reviews. Well what do you expect from a $150 lens? Right. While the reviewers put their best faces on and try not to say anything bad … well one of the lenses bent noticeably in the middle like a wet noodle. Yeah, that’s quality build! *LOL* Some of what I looked at were mirror lenses. I had one once. Guess what? The laws of physics haven’t changed since then.

The apologetic reviews were about how you can fix the flaw in post, ’cause you know everyone is willing to spend hours correcting images that took a fraction of a second to make. Hmm. Might be easier to just draw the scene by hand on a piece of paper with a pencil.

Anyway … no new lenses. Oh and from when I started looking a week or so ago until this post the prices on every one went up about 33%. I make that 1700% annual inflation rate. You know, every time I go to the store at least $100 disappears and yet even in my feeble state I have no problem carrying the bag in.

Never mind. At least it isn’t snowing. That’s scheduled for tomorrow.

Canon 1Ds & 300mm

Could see the full moon eclipse Sunday due to clouds. This is half a moon taken with the big camera. Another reason why I want a longer Canon lens.

Leftover winter shot taken with the Olympus E410.

So it’s “play it by ear” from now on as I try to sort the many little and some not-so-little jobs of Summer into a scheduled fraught with rain.

Whingeday

Right: I’m skipping the bit about spending $250 on a 97¢ surgical mask. (Okay, it was actually a trip to the dentist – who evidently is making up for lost time and income.) Let’s go right to cameras because they’re more fun.

IH BC170 firetruck (early 1960s) taken with the Fuji, which works when I don’t screw up the controls I can’t see.

The best/worst suggested solution so far to my continuing low-eyesight shooting problem: buy a Pentax 645D. Why yes; I bet a medium format DSLR has a really big, bright viewfinder that would work well. I can’t get past that $2,000+ no-lens price tag, though. Pretty sure a long focal length lens would be problematic as well, even with 41 MP to crop from.

Now let’s veer off course a bit so I can complain about how bad cameras are at video. Sure, I don’t do video. But in the interests of all the people who do I had to take a look at how well it’s being handled these days. I actually have two cameras which are acclaimed for their video abilities: the Lumix ZS60 (which actually can do 4k) and the Sony a6000. In reality they both suck at video. Why? Number One Problem would be “controls in the wrong place”. Believe it or not, when it comes to ‘push the red button’ videography the old Nikon wins again, and it’s not even HD. After reading and watching a lot of people’s reviews of various cameras they use for video I can’t help feeling that it’s the ultimate case of equipment designed to make money not produce results. For one thing, external microphone jacks are missing on most of them. The built-in mikes have built-in problems that can’t be gotten away from by any simple means, other than taking the mike off camera. Also there is far too much reliance on LCD viewing rather than a decent viewfinder, and guess what; many people are finding it hard to see what’s happening when they shoot in broad daylight. Well colour me not surprised. Other frequent complaints include that the mikes pick up more camera noise than sound, and that the focusing swiftness leave much to be desired.

Manufacturers might try listening to photographers, you know. I don’t do video and even I could design a camera that would be better at it than what’s out there now. This is because no matter how good, the video is always an add-on afterthought rather than a goal to achieve from the start. As it is you have to spend some serious money to get anything that’s good at it, far more than you spend to get decent stills (we’re not talking about smart phonetography* here of course). That means you end up buying a lot of ‘features’ you never use. Does that sound familiar? So I now have much empathy for videographers as it seems they are suffering from the same lack of attention from camera makers that still photographers have to put up with. That is fundamentally wrong in every way.

You know, no one ever gives me anything for free. Except a bad time of course. Gee, do you think any of those companies has read my ranting and determined I’d be a poor risk for product evaluation? Nah, they’re not that smart. Obviously it’s simply that they never see anything I write. Lucky bastards, eh?

Well now next week the ice should be off the lake and the snow off the road so I can go take a ‘first look’ at the cabin for this year. I will license the Nissan and check it out, fill it with too expensive gasoline, and give it my best shot. Ooh that’s going to be another $1,000 expense right there.

My camera plan for the trip is to charge up all my Canons: the G11, T100, and 1Ds. That’s probably a mistake because the Fuji and the Nikon are better suited to handling all the conditions I might encounter, but we’ll see. As with everything else, subject to change without notice.

*New word: phonetography; taking pictures or video with a smart phone. Registered Trademark and sole copyright are mine. If you use it, you owe me $1.

 

Unwelcome event

I came in from splitting wood Saturday and found the lens cap for the Nikon on the floor. Not where I’d left it. It should have been on the camera which was sitting on the counter. Had been sitting on the counter; it wasn’t where I’d left it either. Further search turned it up on the floor near the closet, upside down with the battery door sprung open and the battery popped out. The floor is hard, by the way; not soft carpet with padding beneath or even a thick rug.

The suspects have white feet. Most likely it was Puss-puss, although her comrade Boots has been known to frequent counters too. Being cats they both like to push things off on to the floor. I have left cameras there before (beside the door; ready to shoot) without any taking a sudden trip downwards.

Now, the Nikon already has plenty of problems. It certainly didn’t need a “drop test” courtesy of the Feline Testing Group. I put it back together and tried a few shots. Focusing was not happening. It kept returning “in focus” results with EVF images even I could see were not. I kept trying, and eventually got something sharp:

Focus-by-chance?

The question is; will it continue to do so? It’s had a nasty knock, and it seems the functionality has become a little more random as a result. Only time will tell.

How flat is your cat?

Possible culprit. (Don’t ask me how she did that.)

 

Potato potato potato potato

They tell me these are potatoes.

From now on all posts will be potato. Metaphorically at least.

Anyway, the Mrs. is back so that potato is over with.

Went down to Kam to pick her up, took the little Fuji camera just in case. The ‘case’ was waiting on the flight to arrive. I walked about the countryside and took some pics, none of which turned out. Why? Because I have really bad eyesight and could not see the dial was set to ‘M’. I could not see the screen because … small LCD in bright daylight. But sure enough when I got home I had half a dozen completely blown-out pictures of nothing. C’est la vie pomme de terre. Next time I think I’ll take the Canon G11. I hate to think the little F80 will be off my ‘usable’ list owing to not being able to see to use it.

Oh the Nikon jams on every zoom now.

The next project is photographic some jewelry, something I should never have agreed to do. Why not? Because close focusing is not something I’m good at anymore. Nothing near, nothing far; nothing sharp no matter where they are. I’ve already done some preliminary shots, and the results were not encouraging.

Isn’t this fun? No, it’s not.

On a side note, the latest hi-res sat image of the lake shows it as a big frozen blob. I’m not surprised by that either, as it’s only halfway through April.

 

Believe you can’t fly

(A scheduled rant because who knows what Wednesday will be like.)

This is precipitated by a blog I read wherein the writer postulated that film cameras will still be going after digital cameras have quit. Initially it looked like a claim that we’d all go back to film, but the actual point was that digital cameras individually are doomed to die within a few years whereas there are film cameras that are still functioning after more than a century.

Boy don’t I know it! I have several examples myself, from the handful of digital cameras that have passed on to the recycling bin to the 100+ year-old Brownie that I’ve taken pictures with – including using a digital camera as ‘film’ for it.

Of course everyone who reads my drivel knows my prejudice against smart phones. Can we add to the standard complaints the fact they are designed to land in the bin before they’ve even stopped working due to Planned Obsolescence on Steroids?

Let’s just look at film versus digital for a moment. Again.

What are the main drawbacks of film? It costs a fortune to use as supplies dwindle and the chemistry involved becomes ever-more expensive and scarce. Whereas digital uses cheap, reusable technology. Also film has that ‘wait’ factor where you have to shoot the whole roll and process it before you see what you got. Digital is nearly instant. Film is fixed in its results, digital is variable at several stages from changing the ISO frame by frame to post processing with the click of a button.

What are the main advantages of film? A good film camera need not be dependent on batteries and is unlikely to fail as a result. Indeed it can be “always on” and at the ready, with no lag between spotting the shrike in the bush and grabbing the shot. Some digital cameras are really slow to start up, or even capture after pushing the button. I’ve got a lot of pictures of where birds were a fraction of a second before the camera actually fired. True it can happen with film, but it’s less likely. And as mentioned at the start the film camera may still be functioning long after the digital one has given up. Most film cameras, even many of the cheap ones, are built like tanks. On the other hand digital cameras are generally built to be replaced in a couple of years (that ol’ obsolescence thing again).

I’m not going to discuss film image quality versus digital image quality as that really is a moot point and one that’s purely aesthetics.

Can you get a digital camera that will last? Sure. Got a few thousand dollars to spend? And then we still need to define “last” because a 150,000 shutter count can go by faster than you think, even when you are paying a small fortune per frame.

Is there any point to this post? No, not really. Certainly no conclusions. Just observation. But yes I would still use film if it were at all practical because I really like the way some of the old film cameras work (I often set my digital ones to imitate the functions, although not to the “simulation recipe” extreme). But I would use it alongside digital because both have advantages when it comes to getting the results you want.

B&W in colour

Swirling chaos

When someone does make a camera I’d like (Pixii) It of course comes with a price tag that is more in line with what I spend on a vehicle. Shall we lament that no major company had brains enough to do this? Shall we laugh at the paradox of spending truckloads of money to buy fewer ‘features’? Ah the price of being a photographer rather than some jerk with a device full of technological glitz that they never use.

I can appreciate every aspect of this Pixii and wish the company great success. Although given the limited number of potential sales they may need a miracle to achieve it.

What I can afford is … junk.

No name “Go Pro” knock-off that is terrible, Apexcam which is slightly better.

Seriously the one on the left cost $50 some years ago and never gets used because its image quality is so bad. The one on the right is not “4K” but does make a decent dashcam for the Xterra (you’ve seen some stills from it posted before). Both have over-emphasis on video, which is a common problem with cameras these days. I say “problem” because for all the emphasis they then fail to do the job well, concentrating on image and ignoring the other half of video; the sound.

Anyway, not a good time around here. I’m actually refraining from posting images out of fear there will soon be none. The venerable Nikon P610 now ‘stutters’ on every zoom. And my eyesight certainly isn’t getting any better.

C’est la vie photographique.

Want to see how bad that “action camera” is? It’s this bad. (Yes I use YT for storing unimportant videos I want to show to people. I don’t “do” video.)

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