(The title comes from the name of Eastman Kodak’s long-time periodical.)

So after wearing myself out harvesting wood and dragging in the remaining two dock sections, I took some time to take some pictures using the venerable Kodak P850. Perhaps I should make that “vulnerable” because the ol’ Kodak is losing its abilities. Worse than the Nikon. In fact the shutter never triggers on the first press now, instead it ‘resets’ the camera – sometimes more than once – and I have to fiddle with it to get a shot. Also the settings are ‘set’, as the erratic functioning extends to all the other controls. It took me ages to get it off “EV+3”, and ISO is hopelessly fixed at 100.

With the Nikon failing, the Kodak failing, and the Lumix just plain no good it looks like I will soon be down to a mere two cameras: the Canon T100 and the Fuji EXR. I have found a deal on a used Sony HX350 and am seriously considering it. But if I buy it and it turns out to be another disappointment – I don’t think either my wallet or my psyche could stand it.

(Also note that WordPress is messed up again and won’t let me write any text after a picture has been added.)

After much finagling, here are the results.

Chainsaw dust. I’ve been making quite a lot of it.
A View to a Logging.
The Fungus of the Opera.
Butterfly warming itself on the beach.
This is why I like the camera: the colour renditions are terrific.
Darkness descends.


The Black Camera Gang


Most of my cameras are black. It’s the traditional colour for cameras, mainly due to their having been made of leather-covered boxes for a long time but also to reduce unexpected light reflections. When I was young, the really expensive SLRs had an all black “professional finish” which eliminated the common satin-chrome trim. This cost the manufacturer less to build, but the customer more to buy. Go figure.

Here I am, then, with five black-finished ‘professional’ cameras. Okay, maybe not so professional, but mostly they work well for my purposes.

The Canon Rebel EOS T100

Raven – a 640×480 segment taken from a 5184×3456 image
Unlucky horseshoe – would also have worked in B&W but I like the warm red colours

This is my ‘experimenting’ camera as it has interchangeable lenses and a really wide selection of settings for … well just about anything. It is also the best in low-light because it has the largest sensor. Don’t be fooled by high ISO numbers as that isn’t all there is to getting decent nighttime shots.

Both of these were taken with the ‘long’ kit lens, 55-250mm, which is slightly sharper than the ‘short’ 18-55mm kits lens.

The Fujifilm FX80 EXR

Don’t even try to understand this
Crater Lake

This is my slip-in-pocket-take-everywhere camera. It replaces the ailing Kodak V1003, which I actually coerced into taking the group photo at the top (after a few false starts). It has a unique processor function which lets it ‘sacrifice’ pixels to improve the image. Not much good at anything besides snapshots, but it does those beautifully with film-like quality. And yes I realize I’ve just used it to present two “artsy” shots instead of the more-suitable-for-its-type documentation images.

The Kodak P850

Bubble, bubble

This is an old workhorse camera I’ve had for many years. It’s not great under conditions other than good lighting, but it has the most ‘artistic’ rendering of any thanks to its CCD sensor. This gives it a wide tonal range and full-yet-soft contrast.

The Nikon P610

A moon without friends
The baby day

This camera has the best optics of all, save putting one of the Super Takumars on the Canon. It also has the most fantastic zoom range which is great for someone like me who does a lot of telephoto work. It rarely disappoints and I usually don’t have to play around with any settings to get a decent image out of it.

The Panasonic Lumix ZS60

Resin blob
Stating the obvious

The worst of my cameras. I’ve given it all sorts of chances and tried every setting combination I can think of. Getting even a halfway decent image out of this is like pulling teeth – from a chicken. Its ergonomics are excellent, except for the near useless touchscreen. The EVF and LCD are the best of all my cameras, and it has the greatest manual focusing of any except the Canon with a manual lens. Beyond that … the exposure is consistently wrong and no simple EV ‘fix’ works around it, and the lens is so noticeably not sharp it isn’t even funny. Whereas the Nikon produces 90% successful images this thing doesn’t even make 10%. It’s so horrible I’m reluctant to even contemplate selling it on to someone else. Panasonic should be ashamed of themselves for making this camera; lots of glitzy features but it utterly fails to be able to take a decent shot most of the time.

I also have four silver cameras, and two blue ones. But they are not in regular use now due to various factors. At this point there are no other types of camera I particularly want, with the possible exception of a full-frame sensor. Other than the admittedly limited advantages they give, my photographic needs are so far met by the equipment I’ve got.


After the nice results with taking a picture of the wild rose thorn using the $6 Canon, I decided to try other cameras on the same subject to see how sharp they are. So here are the results in ‘alphabetical’ order.

Canon T100 – remarkably sharp
Canon PS A70 – nicely sharp for a cheap old camera
Fujifilm F80 EXR – no good at close-ups
Kodak P850 – pretty good for an old 5MP ‘bridge’ camera
Kodak V1003 – cheap point-n-shoot does better than some
Panasonic Lumix ZS60 – epic failure; the worst of the lot
Nikon P610 – knocks it out of the ballpark

The shooting method was consistent but not perfect: I set the ISO at 100 and let the camera pick settings (noticeable in variations of exposure). Focus was in automatic close-up mode, again trusting to the equipment. Not zoomed, but due to differences in wide-angle focal lengths and inconsistencies with framing from one camera to another (it would be nice to set a piece of this up on a stand so the distances would be the same for all) the composition varies quite a bit as does the size of the stalk represented. Some of the cameras could go much closer than others, for example. All pictures are 640×480 segments of 100% sized images, regardless of the total pixels. I tried multiple shots when needed and picked the best from the bunch. In the case of the Lumix, that’s pretty sad to report; it really doesn’t do good at this despite my having got the occasional decent close-up from it.

Collecting Cheap Cameras?

After playing with my inexpensively acquired Canon PowerShot A70, I got to wondering about the viability of cheap digital cameras and how they might fare as collectors’ items. Thus I did a bit trolling on Amazon and came up with a little information, some of which is presented here.

First of all, there is a huge number of brand new low-dollar not-really-brand-name and not-named-at-all offerings starting at about $12. With prices like that and specifications that can only be called “suspect” you can readily understand why you probably shouldn’t put your trust or dollars in something called “YTGOOD” or “Cobra” or “TEXXIS”. Many of these cameras are cookie-cutter copies of one another, and there’s no reason to expect any of them to work at all, much less work well.

However, a few old familiar names popped up too.


Argus. The name that brought us the venerable C3 35mm camera that every film photographer must have had at some point in their lives. Of course the company that built those cameras went bankrupt and obviously the name got passed along. The name, but not the quality. No matter how much lipstick you put on a pig it will never look like a horse.


Bell & Howell. In the days of film this name was best known for projectors found in schools, movie cameras, and a few clunky still cameras. Industrial strength and styling, and tractor-like quality – in a world that wanted sports cars. I had a few myself and they were not overly impressive in operation or image quality. Here we see the fine old name hung on more of those cookie-cutter cameras. They kept the worst aspects, and threw out the best.


Polaroid. Edwin Land must be spinning in his grave. The first self-developing cameras were quality units that worked. As years went by efforts to maximize profits saw metal bodies and glass lenses replaced with plastic everything, to the detriment of quality in both cameras and images. (Side note: while the instant camera market was clearly dying, Kodak saw fit to introduce their own. That was a not-smart move that didn’t help them at all.) Again we have a familiar name attached to regurgitated industrial rubbish. Besides, I can’t help but read that second model name as “Sociopathic”.


Vivitar. A company that used to make top-quality and reasonably priced photographic accessories such as lenses, filters, and electronic flash units. I’m sure I have one of their flashes in a box around here, and it probably still works. I know my 135mm M42 lens with their brand on it does! But alas, here is another great house that has sunk to the level of street beggar.

Should you buy any of these? In my opinion, no. The fact is even when they don’t look identical the specifications are so bland that there’s nothing really interesting about them. Largely these are the basic “Instamatics” of the digital world. Some may claim to be waterproof, some of the weirder ones come in odd shapes or colours, but on the whole they are quite frankly cheap plastic crap. Not even Diana F quality.

What should you look for instead? A name brand like Canon, Fuji, Kodak, Nikon, Olympus, or Pentax. But beware of the odd image storage methods like xD cards, Sony  sticks, and Compact Flash as they can be difficult or expensive to obtain if not included with the camera. Even then you are up against the “Plain Jane” aspect for most of these cameras: the same X MP and Y zoom capacity without much else to say for themselves. Also, trolling through Amazon shows a large number of such cameras available for what we can only call ridiculous prices, as they meet and in some cases exceed the cost of brand new offerings that are better cameras. Look around a lot, and be careful with your money.

Here’s an example of something I would buy, albeit I’d prefer a lower price than the $106 it’s being offered for:


I wouldn’t expect it to be a great IQ performer, but the unique design configuration makes it collectible. The one used camera I did buy off Amazon, the Fuji F80 EXR, is unusual and collectible because of the different way it operates – the EXR function.


I don’t think I’ll be getting back into camera collecting. At least not per se, but I seem to be acquiring them anyway as I try to fulfill my photographic wishes.

What would I buy to fulfill those wishes if I could? I’m not keen on mirrorless cameras, as some experiments with the DSLR I have show how easy it is to get sensors dirty on anything with a removable lens and mirrorless doesn’t have the extra ‘protection’ of the flip-up mirror, nevertheless some of the things I’m interested in come only that way.

Assuming money were no object, the ‘Holy Grail’ would be a Fujifilm X-Pro3. I seriously would like to try one of those because it is so ‘film-like’ in design and function. Using the EXR has really piqued my curiosity about Fuji’s X series.

Otherwise, for my own purposes it would be nice to try a high-MP (at least 24 to have a 1/3 advantage over my current Canon) camera just to see the difference. I know it wouldn’t be much, but just how much it would be intrigues me.

I’d like to have a full-frame sensor for the same reason; not that I expect either to make any spectacular difference in the pictures I take, but to see the subtle effects I expect to find.

Another addition would be something with a flip-up LCD (despite my constantly iterated objections to them) so I could do waist-level view pictures. None of these are great reasons to shell out hundreds of dollars for a camera.

Especially not when you can have fun for a few dollars with a little patience and searching.

GAS is not necessarily BAD

Let’s talk about GAS. We all get it from time to time. In some cases it’s chronic. It can be uncomfortable and it may alienate your friends. It also costs money. Gear Acquisition Syndrome. There; I said it.

But is it always BAD? In this case that would stand for “Blowing Away Dollars”. The answer is a qualified “no”. Here’s a couple of reasons why it might not be, or at least not to the level that requires ‘treatment’ (i.e. exercising some modicum of self-control).

First let’s define GAS. It’s basically buying stuff, in this context cameras and related equipment, often without sound reasoning. “That looks cool!” or “Ooh I want that!” are not good reasons to buy anything, never mind expensive photographic gear. The BAD form of this is when you buy things “just because” or find yourself making up justifications (excuses) for purchasing the desired item – which then sits unused in a box or bag or drawer somewhere. That’s when you know you’ve made a mistake. That’s when you’ve got really BAD GAS.

The other BAD form of GAS is when you make the gut-wrenching decision to ‘switch systems’, opting for the Nikon equipment over the Canon equipment you already have because you think it will suit your needs better. The trouble is you don’t know this for sure until you bite the bullet, write the (metaphorical) cheque, and take the plunge. (Did I get enough trite clichés in there?) By then it’s too late. Oh you may recover some of your dollars by selling your old equipment, but it will probably not be enough to do more than slightly reduce the expense – even if you’ve already got your money’s worth out of the old stuff. And if you don’t sell it off the stuff piles up around you: Gear Acquisition Syndrome.

However there are a couple of good forms of GAS. One of these is when you buy various types and brands of equipment that you do use, including things that expand your horizons and enable you to do things you never tried before (although you may also never try them again; there’s no guarantee of continuance). For example one camera may be better at low-light shooting and another superior for capturing landscapes. (It’s not always down to the lenses for this.) Many (most?) of us have at least one compact camera for toting along everywhere, and another, larger, more ‘professional’ rig for taking ‘serious shots’. As long as the gear fulfills a role in your photographic life it isn’t a waste. This we understand.


The other good form of GAS is when it isn’t done under the pretext of intended use. It’s called “collecting” and is a legitimate pursuit in itself. I should know, as I did it for decades and ended up with hundreds of cameras, nearly all of which I used at least once – if only for the experience of doing so (some were not usable at all, owing to various factors such as unavailability of film). I had to divest myself of nearly the entire collection a couple years ago, and have regretted it increasingly since then. Most of the items I don’t miss, but a few would still be useful at least in part – such as the old SLR lenses that could be adapted to the new DSLR camera. Oh well, history may repeat itself but we don’t get to go back and do things over.

Yet I find my collecting spirit lives on. As of this writing I have seven digital cameras, and am contemplating buying others. I find I am always contemplating buying others. Not because of any delusion about how they would add to my photographic repertoire, but just because I find the cameras interesting in and of themselves. So far the thing that keeps me from going full-blown-treatment-required GAS crazy is the huge delta difference between the cost of the items and my income. More than once I have found good deals on new equipment (the used stuff is usually priced insanely around here – people never look at what their old junk is worth in comparison to its replacement equivalent) and have succeeded in talking myself out of it, thus saving me a lot of money.

But believe me, if money were no object I’d be buying equipment like crazy just to have it.

Or maybe I already do.

Post Script:


This is another digital camera in the house; a Nikon Coolpix S3100. I bought it for my wife years ago, but unfortunately its ‘extending’ lens system has suffered and it no longer closes up right (note the crack between the blades) nor opens reliably. It’s a shame because it’s a cute little camera (almost too small to hold) and takes fairly decent pictures. I worked with it Saturday morning and finally got it to take a shot in focus:

Taken with S3100

Yes, it was that gray and it looking like it will snow more. It’s about spot-on in exposure and white balance, pretty good for an inexpensive automatic point-and-shoot camera!

Kodak vs. Lumix


The sun shone bright, so I attached the Kodak V1003 and the Lumix ZS60 to the side-by-side mount and went out to take some pictures. It started out with a laugh, for when I tried to turn the Kodak on it jammed. I thought the test was over before it began, but a few more insistent pokes of the power button got it to co-operate and off I went.

Now, there are some significant differences in specifications between the two cameras to begin with. The sensor size and type for starters: CCD 10MP Kodak vs. CMOS 18MP Lumix. The lenses are vastly different too, both in initial focal length (36mm vs. 24mm) and zoom capacity (3X vs. 30X). Beyond that I also have to point out that the Kodak is nearly dead; not only is turning it on and off a hit-or-miss adventure, but both the sensor and LCD display are ailing and not up to their original specifications.

This was quite an issue in the bright light too; seeing anything on an LCD in sunshine is difficult at best. The Lumix’s eye-level finder is a godsend here; although its display is noticeably better, it still doesn’t show well in bright light. The Kodak’s screen is practically blank in the sun, so where possible I stood in the shade and shot into the light so there would be some hope of framing.

So let’s see how they fair, Kodak on the left and Lumix on the right:

In this wide shot we see three differences between the two cameras; the Kodak lens, as noted, isn’t as wide but it has a greater colour palette due to the CCD sensor but less contrast because that sensor is failing.

In the telephoto image from the same point we see both cameras fail to get an accurate exposure. If anything the Kodak is more correctly exposed. We also see the extreme difference in the zoom factor; it’s hard to figure out where in the Kodak image the Lumix’s view is, but it’s in there.


Here we see two ‘100%’ views of medium-distance shots to examine the sharpness of the lenses. Again the Kodak image on the left is ‘flat’, lacking in contrast. We also see it is not as sharp as the Lumix lens, but alas that camera is still disappointing for something wearing the Leica name. Here are the two pictures the above composite was made from:


There are two questions I’m trying to answer here. The first is “can the Lumix take the place of the Kodak?” The answer there is obviously “yes”, and not just because the Kodak is dying. The Lumix is a capable point-and-shoot on its own. The second question is “just how good is this new camera?” With its “Leica” lens, 30X zoom capacity, and 18MP sensor it ought to be great. But when you compare it against the much less expensive Kodak it comes away disappointing; it should be better than it is, and not just for the money. When it comes right down to it, the lens really is the most important aspect of a camera. There’s something of a con job going on here, using the Lumix and Leica names to sell a camera that is just about average in terms of actual performance.

No doubt the extra money is for all those wonderful features I’ve only just begun to explore, and know I will never use. I’ve poked at some of them and found them good, but not suited to my needs. It has multiple colour and monochrome settings for example. I will probably decide which colour setting I like best and leave it at that; when I want B&W I find post-shoot desaturating to be the best solution. The numerous built-in digital ‘filters’ are interesting, but also not that easy to access and certainly not anything I’d make use of. I think they were trying to “put a smartphone in a camera” as it were; it’s amateur stuff that adds more clutter than actual functionality.

Once I’ve decided on what settings I like best I will be shooting with this a lot more; to see how it performs in a real-world situation, like the old Kodak it replaces.

I’m still going to miss that V1003 when it finally quits completely.


Four views

It hasn’t been good picture-taking weather here lately, so I’ve only just managed to finish this series I started quite some time ago. I wasn’t really sure where it was going or what I would do with it, to tell the truth. It ended up being four random shots from four different cameras. Each has a small story behind it.

Latest Snow – Kodak P850
Mr. Downy – Nikon P610
Fallen Leaf – Canon T100
Sunrise – Kodak V1003

The first picture, “Latest Snow”, was taken at ISO 80, to fly in the face of the current trend of hyper speed. Also the camera kept freezing because it was -12.

The second, “Mr. Downy”, was shot on a horribly overcast day with the air full of mist which did a real number on the sharpness and exposure. Yet a little post-processing salvaged the image.

The third, “Fallen Leaf”, is the most interesting subject with the way the curled leaf has been caught in a spider’s web. The colour shows how warm our light is at this time of year too.

The fourth image, “Sunrise”, is further testament to how you can take quite decent pictures with an inexpensive camera. Alas I did have to tweak it a bit because the V1003 has lost its ability to render contrast and colour correctly, but the adjustment is still minor.

I’m not sure how many more photos I will take this year. We’re in the stage of Winter where it manages to be miserably cold and also lacking interesting snowfall. Getting out and about will become more difficult, and most of my favourite subjects have gone into hibernation.

I wish I could.

Old glass, part three

In this installment I’m using two different but near identical Kodak Petite cameras from the 1930s. Whereas the Hawk-Eye used 120 film these take 127. The significant part is that one of them is the first camera I ever had (when I was 7), and it had been the first camera my Dad had:


The other is a nearly identical blue one that I picked up later in life. It works somewhat better than the ‘original’ as alas the green one’s bellows have gotten very stiff over the decades. Still I like the Petites over the Hawk-Eye as they are smaller and thus somewhat easier to manage and the focal length of the lens is more suited to the Canon’s tiny sensor (although there is still some significant change in the focus required).

First let’s look at a shot ‘as-is’ and then with the white balance corrected:

These lenses do not have any colour correcting on them as B&W was pretty much it for film in the 1930s. Marley in the snow shows the natural tendency for a slight magenta cast to everything. Exposure info for these photos is: ISO 200, 1/60, US Stop 4 (about f8). In some cases I had to do some ‘lightening’ post-shoot as the exposure swings wildly depending on the scene variations and adjusting any of the settings gets a bit tricky out in the field as I was trying not to let the camera be open to get dust in it. You soon run out of hands handling two cameras at once!

The wild rose in winter, one with each of the two Petites. There’s little difference between the two, I’d say. You can see some slight colour difference despite both images having been processed the same. Also in these two of the fir trees:

As I said before, whereas this is a fun experiment it is hardly a practical way to make pictures. Without a fixed connection between the two cameras it is awkward to handle and dust gets inside. The lenses are sharp, but not astoundingly so (unlike the Takumars). Exposure is a challenge, as is focusing. And every shot needs colour correction to give accurate tones. I think I’ll stop with this now, unless I find another interesting old lens to try out, and actually clean off the Canon’s sensor.

The End?


Old glass, part two

The weather here isn’t co-operating much with anything, including photography. By the time there was any sunlight to shoot with today it was late afternoon. There was also an inch of snow on the ground. Despite these setbacks I was eager to try out using the Canon with another old camera for its lens. In this case a Kodak Rainbow Hawk-Eye from the early 1930s. This being a folding type camera removes the focusing limitations of having the ‘film plane’ in the wrong place.


The results show promise, but were not without problems. For one thing hand-holding two cameras at once is more than a little awkward. You run out of fingers to make adjustments with, and there’s some difficulty with actually getting your eye on the viewfinder. I tried using a tripod to help, but its assistance was minimal. In the fleeting light I took four shots, three of which I had to ‘ramp up’ because a fairly minimal change in scene illumination resulted in a drastic difference in actual light on the sensor.

Exposure was ISO 200, 1/60, US Stop 4 (that’s what the Kodak is equipped with). You will note sharpness is not great, partly because it is impossible to clean the front of the lens on the Hawk-Eye. Partly because there are some issues with getting focus sharp even with the bellows (which don’t slide all that smoothly on the track). Also, post-processing is necessary as the lens is not colour-corrected in anyway (1933 production). The same goes for the Brownie shots I did before.

It’s an amusing experiment, but not really a practical way to take even artistic shots. There is risk to both cameras from their being “used open”, and you can see on the dog shot I still haven’t cleaned the sensor from the last experiment; I expect to do one more series before doing that.

On the other hand it does leave open the possibilities of adapting quite non-standard lenses for artistic purposes. It also reminds me of the silliness of people purposefully spending money on ‘soft’ lenses when the effect is so easy to achieve. You can take the sharpest lens in the world and ‘soften’ it, but you can’t make a bad lens produce sharp images.

Of course now I’m on the lookout for more things to adapt, such as a damage old camera that could be made into a more permanent “accessory” to the Canon. The next experiment, however, will be with another folder; the Kodak Petite (another colour art deco camera).

The original Kodak Brownie from 1900 used for the first series