My Leica Monochrom

Dogs prefer GMC.
Forest floor.
Enjoy the scenery.

(Yes the only way to get a decent image out of the Panasonic Lumix ZS60 is in B&W.)

One out of thirty-six

A knotty problem

Since I’m “re-learning” my cameras it was only fair to give the infamous Panasonic Lumix ZS60 another shot.

Actually it was a waste of a considerable amount of time. It’s a lousy camera.

Let me tell you what I did to try and overcome the built-in flaws. First of all I turned off the idiotic touch screen. All those things ever do is louse up the picture. Dedicated controls are what’s needed for photography, not infinitely nested menu options accessed by child-like behaviour.

Which brings us to the next issue; trying to get decent colour. I tried all the preset options and fiddled with the in camera contrast, sharpness, saturation … all to no avail. The sensor simply does not produce acceptable colour results. So I switched to monochrome. Hey, it has a ‘Leica lens’; will it be as good as a Leica Monochrom? Ha, ha, ha!

Next trouble was that even in B&W it produces poor results. Contrast and sharpness had to be turned up a bit. I also tried the included yellow, orange, and red ‘filter’ settings. Mediocre at best. Some of the problem can be attributed to the poor exposure evaluation: I found under exposing by 1/3 stop helped somewhat, but this camera over exposes in bright light and under exposes in low light. Frankly it has the dynamic range of a slug and needs constant over-riding of settings to get anything acceptable. Might as well be shooting manual.

Ah yes, manual. Have I mentioned that the autofocus is lousy? So let’s try manual focus. The ZS60 has a neat ’round-the-lens ring that can be used for manual focusing. *sigh* Unfortunately the photographer no longer has good enough eyesight to tell. The EVF is much brighter and higher resolution than the failing one in the venerable Nikon P610, but I still couldn’t use it. So I was using the LCD display, which doesn’t wash out as bad under bright light especially on B&W setting. It still does, though. Focus peaking? It’s got that. Makes a horrible mess of the view and does not aid in getting a sharp image.

So what did I do? Went back to autofocus, reset for single centre point. Honestly the ‘intelligent’ focus selection and multi-point function too often grabs on to the wrong part of the image. Hey you know what would work well for me? A rangefinder in the middle of the screen.

In the end I turned off/did not use more than 90% of the ‘features’ built in to this over-rated piece of junk. That is how I finally got one decent shot (with a bit of post-processing because even then it wasn’t good) out of it.

To sum  up: the lens isn’t sharp, the sensor isn’t good, the processor is poor, the exposure system is almost always wrong, and the ‘features’ are just an over-burden of technological gunk that get in the way of taking pictures (especially disappointing since none of the settings produce any better results than plain ‘automatic’).

Honestly, a camera that can’t take a good picture under normal conditions when set on ‘automatic’ right out of the box is a failed product. As a result of my bad experiences with this camera I will never buy another Panasonic model, new or used.

Seeing out the year

While most people are engaged in reviewing the past year and reiterating how awful it was or trying to pretend it really wasn’t that awful, I’m going to be different as usual and just go forward with some more new pictures instead. (And my late brother the English major would give me an award for constructing such a wonderfully awful run-on sentence as that one.)

The camera is, of course, the new-to-me “Zen Canon” PowerShot G11. Truly a fine quality device which I’m still ‘experimenting’ with. I would have taken more street shots when I went to town Tuesday, but it was all of -10˚C and also totally overcast – so no good for taking pictures or even being outside. Instead I had to sneak some shots in whenever I could to come up with the latest batch.

Lens testing. Wide-angle and close up, full automatic. The result is excellent.
A couple of the resident ravens.
Glacé. This is a segment of a shot which contains many potential images. I liked this bit best.

This camera looks and works like an old but automatic 35mm rangefinder. It has lots of controls on it, most of which I’ve tried and now ignore. For functioning on ‘automatic’ the G11 is second-to-none. I rarely even flip the LCD out and make use of that, much less dive into the menus and change settings. It’s like … using a film camera. So are the results.

It’s all about colour tonal range: CCD sensors!
Although not ideally suited to such extreme photography, the G11 performs well in skilled hands.
And away we go!

As you can see the G11 does a fine job as an ‘artistic’ camera, even though that’s not why I bought it. This is what the infamous ZS-60 was supposed to be capable of. Aside from the extreme difference in zoom capacity, the Canon is absolutely superior in every way to the Panasonic. Never mind the difference in price. The bargain PowerShot makes up for the waste-of-money Lumix. I’ll just pretend the prices were the other way around; that would make the cameras fit their costs. (For those who can’t follow my convoluted reasoning, I paid $12 for the used Canon PowerShot G11 and $300 for the brand new Panasonic Lumix ZS-60. In terms of performance the value is completely the other way around.)

Footnote: there is an optional ‘lens adapter’ for these cameras which twists on around the lens once you remove the protective base ring. It is a tube that sticks out and has a 58mm thread in front of the extended lens. To it you can affix filters or ‘accessory’ wide-tele lenses. The cheapest one I’ve located so far is 3X the price I paid for the camera. I don’t really think it would add much to the functionality so I won’t bother with the expense. Besides those add-on-to-the-front lenses don’t work very well, since the base lens was never designed to have the extra element stuck in front of it. A thin filter is one thing; a thick chunk of glass is quite another.

Two times three is six

A Brief Update.

This has been a terrible week all around. Look at the news, if you dare.  On a personal level it has been day after day of “just get through today”. As dismal as it’s been there were a few small victories, and some of the losses not as devastating as they might have been. The weather has made it excessively unpleasant as it continues to precipitate in various forms depending on whether the temperature is above or below freezing. Ice everywhere. Dangerous conditions. Wednesday morning saw the main (and only) highway through town shut at both ends due to accidents, one of which was fatal.

The good part is that I don’t have to go anywhere. The bad part is I can’t go anywhere; the last window of opportunity to get wood closed up as the sunshine vanished from the end-of-the-week forecast. Since it’s been cold we’ve been burning more wood and I’ve been splitting it when I can. Could have done with that one last row in the shed, but it’s not going to happen now.

I had words with the gov’t rep and since he was not the youngster looking to make points that started the mess we were able to come to an agreement. It will still cost me money, but not as much as it could have. And I have a couple of years in which to comply. Good, because this is not weather for working in.

October is almost over. November … well the start of the second American Civil War looms. No matter which way the election goes there will be violence as a result. Extremism has replaced rational thinking, and popular opinion has taken the place of facts. Welcome to the new world disorder. It’s like the imagined secret cabal that controls everything set out with a goal to make changes without making improvements and only causing damage. Wait a minute! Does that me Mark Zuckerberg is running the world? Or is Farcebook just a mirror of the unreality around us? (Their site has gone completely bonkers on me, never staying stable in its interface for more than a few minutes at a time. I’m not even trying to use it anymore.)

As I said there has been no sun and there is no promise of it really. The idea of buying the Canon 5D has vanished with the money to do so and the fact the price got jacked up again. Follow the Zen.

Anyway, here are some pictures. Two each from the Canon, the Nikon, and the Lumix(!). These images have just been sitting around on their respective SD cards for awhile because there’s no way of taking decent photos in the dross outside.

Ice droplets. (Canon T100)
Count the ravens. (Canon T100)
Pattern on cloth. (Lumix ZS60)
Marley dog. (Lumix ZS60)
Disease is everywhere. (Nikon P610)
Snow is everywhere. (Nikon P610)

Bleak week

The weather promises to be truly awful all week. I got in a day of wood harvest and shutting down the water system at the cabin. In light of the forecast, here’s some images in black and white – which is how it will look the next few days.

Raven on the wing. (Canon T100)

Northern flicker. (Fuji EXR)

Plane in flight. (Kodak P850)

Moon, of course. (Nikon P610)

Layers of trees. (Panasonic Lumix ZS60)

Ghost dog. (Tesco trail camera)

The best laid plans …

Today was supposed to be sunny and dry; a good day for dropping a dead tree and bucking it up and loading the trailer and thus getting some more firewood in. Instead, it’s raining. Imagine my surprise that the forecast was wrong. I wasn’t. Nevertheless my plans are ruined and I have to sit here and wait out the weather before I can even slice up the logs I’ve already got out there and bring in another load.
I’m bored, and that’s dangerous.
It’s too wet to do any photos because I can’t afford an environmentally sealed Pentax K or anything like it. I tried to take some pictures of the eagles circling the lake before the rain got too strong, but the Nikon failed to focus correctly on each and every shot. This keeps happening. It’s one thing when the subject is still and you can go back to it. Flying birds are there then gone: miss them and you’ve missed them.
Anyway WordPress is still allowing access to this primitive editor that works, so I’m annoying you with a post while it still functions. I actually have a few images saved up and may even share some. But mostly when I’m bored I go “camera shopping”. And then have to stop myself from actually ordering anything. It’s difficult.
Let’s take a moment to make fun of camera reviews, shall we? Revisiting the Lumix GF2 and a certain web site’s evaluation of it I take issue with their opinions. Vis:
CONS:
No wireless connection (that’s a pro not a con)
No image stabilization (debatable: if you remember your “one over” rules IS isn’t really that necessary for still photography, and you hardly notice it)
No built-in viewfinder (now that is a con as the LCD screens are useless in bright light. Curiously they list the lack of VF as a con under “Portrait Photography” when in fact that’s one form where it is not needed and the LCD screen is probably better)
Low resolution 12MP sensor (uh, sounds like Spec Snobbery to me)
Poor low light performance (yeah – physics again. Seriously low-light performance requires full size sensor and big glass and it all costs a ton of money. Simply pretending that you can get ISO 6400 out of a MFT or 2.3 sensor doesn’t make it happen)

So remember not to use any commercial review’s opinion as an absolute. Half the time they are just parroting popular opinion and never are they understanding your personal needs. For example the particular site evaluates cameras for Portrait, Street, Sports, Daily, and Landscape photography but utterly misses Wildlife evaluation which is quite a different thing yet majorly popular.
Since this wandered off into comparisons, here’s the Kodak sunset vs. the Nikon sunset:

Taken with the Kodak P850, no adjustments other than sizing.

Taken with the Nikon P610, no adjustments other than sizing.

Kodakery

(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.

 

Autumn comes like Winter

Sunday morning it was -3C. I took some frost pictures around the yard with the Fuji EXR. Now it is Wednesday and I’m back at the cabin. It’s supposed to be 22C today. It was that when I arrived yesterday, but the stove is burning now because it’s only 5! Obviously the warm days are over.

I came across an unusual and disturbing thing on my way in: people camping. That shouldn’t be a problem, except that are on the short (5 kms) road that leads to the cabin, at about the 1 km mark. It makes me nervous to encounter strangers way out here. Are they just camping? Or are they hunting? If they’re hunting, for what? Deer? Or things to steal? I guess those people coming right out here into the grounds has put me on edge. The trail cam shows no one around between when I left and when I returned, so that’s good.

Anyway I brought out a couple of different cameras in case the sun shines and I see something worth photographing. Of course I have the Nikon, but I also have the Kodak P850. It’s functions have gone erratic too, as it doesn’t always take a picture when you push the button. Sometimes it resets. The zoom stops occasionally and other settings seem to change themselves. Not good. Obviously only suited to scenes that will hold still long enough to get the shot.

Inexplicably I also grabbed the Lumix. Took six shots with it upon my arrival, and they are all bad. How could they possibly make a camera that performs so poorly? Why did I think it would be any different this time out? I’m not known for being an optimist.

Frost 1. (Fuji EXR)
Frost 2. (Fuji EXR)
Frost 3. (Fuji EXR)
Frost 4. (Fuji EXR)
Squirrel! Taken with the Lumix.
The Point. Taken with the Lumix.

How to talk yourself out of buying a camera

I recently came across a pretty good deal on a Panasonic Lumix GF2 camera: $80 plus shipping. Not bad. I thought maybe I’d buy it. But why? Uh … because it was cheap and I was bored, frankly. Do I really need to spend money on anything right now? Nope. Not a good idea. Okay, so far these arguments aren’t steering me away from the purchase. Time to try harder. Get some Con Points going!

1). It has no lens with it. Even the cheapest lenses for this MFT mount go for more money than the camera. We’re talking “you could buy a decent lens for the Canon with that cash” levels. Oh you might find one used eventually, but a camera without a lens is useless. The Lens Is The Camera. Any other peccadillos you can work around, but not a bad or missing lens. Option: lens adapter that lets me put an EOS lens on it. That’s another $30 and the Canon lenses I’ve got aren’t great. Could then adapt again to use the Takumars, but in either case it would be manual all the way. Hmm. This is a significant Con Point.

2). It had no viewfinder, just an LCD screen. Bleah. My only complaint against the little Fuji is its lack of viewfinder. Those screens are useless in daylight, which is where and when I shoot most pictures.

3). It’s a Panasonic Lumix which I haven’t been impressed with. My one foray into that brand was the worst photographic experience I’ve had so far, and that’s saying a lot. Other people have had great luck with different P-L models, but I am soured.

4). It’s micro four-thirds format. I’m not sure this is Pro or Con. I’d like to see what the format can do, but it doesn’t really hold much promise of adding to my repertoire. A full-frame sensor would be of more use to me.

5). It’s mirrorless. Ah, sensor covered with dust! In just a few experiments with the Canon I have seen how easy it is to bugger up the imager on an interchangeable lens camera. Mirrorless models have not even a mirror to help keep the dirt off. Definitely a point against. And for those who say “leave the lens on”, well what’s the point of being able to change lenses if you don’t do it?

6). It has a touchscreen for most of the controls. Ew. And yuck.

At this point I was pretty much resolved not to buy it. I honestly couldn’t think of anything in its favour other than it being relatively cheap and something to disturb the monotony. That’s not good enough. Especially when my last cheap purchase was less expensive and delivers some fine photos like these (all taken with the Fuji EXR):

Corvair on the go
Dogs pretending to be innocent
Cloudbow
Rose hips

 

The Black Camera Gang

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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

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Raven – a 640×480 segment taken from a 5184×3456 image
IMG_2359
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

DSCF1148
Don’t even try to understand this
DSCF1159
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

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Contrail-wise
bubble
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

DSCN2140
A moon without friends
DSCN2141
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

P1000351
Resin blob
P1000348
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.