Answering the riddle

“How do you get to Carnegie Hall?”

Practice, practice, practice!

Here I am practising with the Canon T100 and 55-250mm lens.

Big black bird (raven).
Cold sun. Taken through the window on a -34C day, but that’s okay because it’s supposed to be ‘soft’.
“Dogs and cats don’t get along.” (Marley & Squeak)
Zig-zag. I like a bit of ‘real life abstract’.
Bitty brown bird (junco).
Light, shadow, texture, pattern.

So what’s the score? One out of every seven pictures shot was ‘acceptable’. Not very good, but an improvement over the Nikon’s one out of ten. The reasons for the improved performance are several: the Canon has a larger, brighter viewfinder which is easier for me to see through (although I still mis-framed shots); its autofocus is faster and more dependable (although again I missed shots because the focus points are little black dots and my eyes have their own ‘little black dots’ built-in); the zoom is a mechanical ring, not motor-driven that sometimes locks up as the Nikon does; the sensor is larger, higher resolution, and not failing; the lens isn’t loose and wobbly.

I miss the Nikon’s excellent (actually better than the Canon’s) lens resolution and its extreme zoom range, though. But it is nice to know the camera isn’t going to just fail randomly as its worn-out predecessor does. The battery lasts longer too. I’ve had the T100 for three years now and bought it to replace the P610, but it was hard to give up a camera that so perfectly fit my shooting needs. Now those needs have changed and I have no choice (many of the shots missed with the Nikon were due to my just not being able to see what I was doing with it).

Next step is to put the fixed focal length ‘prime’ 50mm on it and shoot some more, although I dislike having that limitation. I also need a much longer than 250mm lens for my usual wildlife photography, but that will have to wait for now. (It’s been waiting for three years, what’s a little longer?)

Footnote: it was -40 Thursday morning, but it’s headed for above freezing next week. This weird weather continues to complicate things.

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.

My pictures are terrible

Yes, I know they are.

There are three things causing this:

The first is the usual “photographer’s bad luck” that everyone suffers from, wherein the shutter goes off too soon/late or the exposure is just a bit wrong or the framing fails or something happens and the image doesn’t come out as expected.

The second is my failing eyesight which not only contributes to the factors mentioned above, but prevents me from noticing any problem until I’ve got the image on the 15″ computer screen. Sometimes not even then.

The third is that my favourite use-it-all-the-time camera, the Nikon P610, is worn out. I know; it’s a poor carpenter that blames his tools, but in this case it’s justified. I have evidence:¬†Nikon P610

Really, the lens is not supposed to do that. This explains the focusing errors and the zoom jamming. On top of that both the image sensor and the EVF are fading away like old soldiers. Not surprising since the last SD card had about 5,000 pictures on it before I stuck a new one in. I think I bought this camera about 7 years ago when they first came out. It has had a lot of use.

Of course I still manage to get some good pictures from it:

Varied thrush
Red is dead

But I can’t say I’ve made any really remarkable pictures with it for some time. This may be misinterpretation on my part owing to looking at the world through a permanent blurry grey haze. Whichever, there’s no denying the problems are there.

I guess my “professional snapshots” are going more “snapshot” than “professional” these days.

Anyway, back to cabin work. And hoping the forecast doesn’t presage another Summer of wildfires. Aside from the one currently burning near Lytton (the town that was obliterated by fire last year) that is.

Want versus get

We all have wants. And then there’s what we get. For instance I want to be able to always take pictures like this:

Nikon P610 showing off its abilities.

Too often these days what I get is photos like this:

Nikon P610 showing off its dysfunctions.

Same with the computer: I’d like it to work consistently, not randomly toss up hardware errors that stop me from doing whatever it is I’m trying to accomplish.

But this post is not just about technology.

I mean, I want to win the lottery. That doesn’t happen either.

I want to get the cabin renovation “finished” (an ill-defined term in this context). Yesterday that seemed to be within my grasp as I acquired the last major piece of the puzzle; the tub surround. Great! Another week of solo flying and the hard part is done. My wife can then join me and I can putter around doing all the little fiddly bits.

Except I landed in the ER last night. Again. Classic cardiac symptoms, which had abated by the time I actually got there. Hours of horrific pain and discomfort to be told by a less-than-stellar physician that it was acid reflux. Sorry, doc; I have GERD and know exactly what it feels like and this isn’t it. I’ve been in this body twice as long as you’ve been alive and know all its symptoms. Symptoms which six cardiologists and four other specialists have agreed are there, but they find the cause of. This is usually because by the time you get to the doctor the symptoms have abated, as stated above. One time they put a portable cardiac monitor on me for 24 hours. Yes, you guessed it: 24 of the most symptom-free hours of my life.

Now I have been working fairly hard for several weeks on the cabin project, and it’s probably catching up with me. All I did Monday was a bunch of errands; no heavy lifting or extended significant exertion. So naturally …

I suspect the heart symptoms are tied to the whole muscular problem. In general my muscles don’t like to behave, choosing to take random actions on their own rather than follow instructions from the brain. The heart is a muscle, as are the diaphragm and interstitials. I guess they sometimes get tired of the drudgery of regular rhythm and decide to do a free-style dance sort of thing.

Anyway I survived. Again. And today all I have to do is a few errands …

Oh dear, that’s how I got in trouble yesterday.

Well if I can keep the computer going there’s more pictures to come. If I can’t …

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.)

 

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

Two from three

So much going on I didn’t know which way to turn. It has taken me days to decide just what the “weekend post” would be of/about. Thus it’s a sampling because I couldn’t make up my mind.

Canon T100 55-250mm lens

Canon T100 55-250mm lens

I’ve been ‘trying out’ the Canon lately to evaluate it as the next ‘main camera’ to use. I like using it but it simply can not do the things the Nikon P610 ‘bridge’ camera can, so I find myself repeatedly grabbing that instead when going out.

Nikon P610

Nikon P610

I have stopped using the Olympus for now. Not just because the battery is failing and I’m loathe to put money into it, but also because I need to force myself to evaluate the future of photography for me and it is unlikely the E410 is the answer no matter how much I like using it.

Olympus E410 40-150mm lens

Olympus E410 40-150mm lens

What with everything everywhere being as bad as it is (yes, my wife is still in England with no return date even guessed at) switching to “artistic” photography only is about all I can do. I loathe the idea of it as I do very much like taking wildlife photos. You know: pictures of birds I can’t actually see because they are small, far away, and hidden in tree branches. Do I need to mention the failing camera + failing eyesight thing again? No. Not going to say anything about the triple digit inflation rate around here either.

Just trying to keep my sanity together. Remind me again exactly why I should do that.

More analysis coming up. Er, camera analysis that is. I could probably do with the other kind as well, to be honest.

Problems: 610

There are so many problems in my life right now that not only am I unable to keep track of them I can’t keep on top or ahead of them. Problems, problems everywhere and not a drop to drink. See? I can’t even find humour now. Well when a $3 box of cereal costs $7 and 5 lbs. of potatoes is $6 and … well that’s just part of it.

Even Duncan dog has problems.

For the sake of your sanity if not mine, let’s just look at one problem: my Nikon P610. It’s still my main ‘go to’ camera, but it is going. Lately the zoom has begun stopping/starting instead of running smoothly. One day the whole thing locked up with no response from any control, including turning it off. I had to remove the battery to ‘reboot’ it. It has become unreliable. Regrettably it is also irreplaceable.

Camera says this shot is 3 stops overexposed.

Camera says this shot is correct.

Yes I realize that is a snow scene and thus needs more exposure (I’ve only been doing this 50+ years so don’t mind me). It’s just that in addition to needing every shot tweaked on contrast it has now begun to habitually underexpose everything, regardless of reflectivity.

Nice effect but not what I was shooting.

I have other cameras, but none of them can do what the Nikon could. Namely this:

The moon in its tower.

So there’s that to contend with, alongside worsening eyesight. I know: I’ve been told to go see the doctor but I already know the results of such a visit because he told me the last time; there’s nothing can be done.

At least the dog got out.

All things considered, I hardly notice the toe I broke last week. Yes, really. Trying to walk on this nightmare of ice that is renewed daily … well see what trouble Duncan got himself into? Yeah, like that.

Something good happening for a change would be nice. About as likely as a chocolate tea kettle, but nice.

The photographer as a kind of musician

It doesn’t matter how good your instrument is if you don’t know how to play it.

It doesn’t matter how good your camera is if you don’t know how to use it.

High-priced, complex equipment with lots of ‘features’ will not overcome a lack of photographic knowledge just the same as a tin-eared rock star wannabe can’t get a song out of a Gibson Les Paul. If the player has the talent though, a Silvertone will sing for him.

Here’s me playing my ol’ Sears Silvertone, as it were. I make no apologies about the boast.

Eyes in the dark.

 

Dendrite.

 

Black-capped chickadee-dee-dee.

 

Last drops.

 

Another galaxy.

 

The reason I love this camera.

Pictures taken with the Nikon P610; the camera I keep coming back to despite its ailments. I think manufacturers should be really embarrassed that their much-more-expensive ‘professional’ DSLRs can’t do any better than this low-dollar, ten-year-old ‘bridge’ camera.

Red Sky At Night

RSAN #1

RSAN #2

RSAN #3

RSAN #4

Taken one evening with the Nikon P610. We won’t be having sky like that for a while now. In fact the weather is very nasty right now.

I’m trying to get my Winter wood supply in, and nothing is co-operating. Almost done but …

And then there is my upcoming surgery the details for which have not been finalized and it’s already been moved to Nov. 4th.

Other than that … I have a surprise coming up. Hopefully a pleasant one.

Addendum: in a nod to my failing eyesight I have decided to up my usual size format from 640×480/427 to 1280×960/854.