Re-learning curve: Olympus E-410

I really like this camera, but I think it has to go. There’s no problem with using it, there’s just limitations. These start with the choice of only two zoom lenses as I can not afford the longest range one which would probably be excellent for birding. I can’t see well enough for birding now either. The other issues are that the 10MP sensor is fairly low resolution for doing digital zooming with, and the fact the lenses I have for it aren’t that sharp.

This I tested this two ways. First I tried the 40-150mm (the one I use most) on the Canon T100 to check its sharpness on the 18MP sensor that camera has. Looked okay at full (shrunken) frame, but when you crop a 640 x 480 segment out of the full-size image it’s blurry. Even my eyes can see how soft it is.

Olympus lens on Canon body, full image.
Cropped segment of the same image at full size.

Second I tried the E-410 with the Pentax 50mm which I know is sharp and got sharp results. So the image softness on the Olympus is down to the lens. (Side note: in order to use these lenses on the other bodies I had to hand hold them together and move to get focus as no auto or manual functions are available. It was a bit tricky.)

Lorne’s boat using the 50mm Takumar on the E-410. It’s fine.

As far as straight-forward, uncropped pictures are concerned the Olympus does well. It has a lot of nice features too, 90% of which I don’t use. The other quirk is it stores images on either CF or xD cards so transfer to the computer is via cable. Not a problem but something of a nuisance.

Ordinary uncropped photo and the Olympus does just fine with its 10MP and stock lenses.
Even slightly cropped the Olympus does okay.

As you can see it is quite capable of taking very good photos under reasonable circumstances. It’s only when you try to push the limits that it comes up short.

Chipmunk won’t complain about the camera, so neither will I.

Why am I doing this? Because my eyesight is changed and I need to change my camera arsenal to suit. It’s obvious I still do most of my pictures in the telephoto range, and that means I need long lenses and good digital zooming ability to accommodate my style.

And if you think this was bad, wait ’til you see the results from the Pentax K100D Super. Oh boy. That was horrendous.

Meanwhile the fires continue but at the moment the skies are clear here. That probably won’t be the case for long.

As March winds down

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

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

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

Three friends. (G11, cropped from full image taken at maximum telephoto.)
Rare photo of Marley not being a silly goofball dog. (Pentax K100DS.)
Bark unlike a dog. (Pentax K100DS.)
Glowing cloud. (Pentax K100DS.)
Duncan in a noble pose. (Pentax K100DS.)
A sliver of moon. (Pentax K100DS.)

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

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

Birds on four thirds

I’m still waiting for some things to show up, but the arrival of the xD cards allowed me to find out the Fuji A330 does not function. At least I have 1GB and 2GB cards for the Olympus E-410 now. The USB cable hasn’t come yet so I can’t download from it though.

A few ‘leftover’ shots taken with that camera using the CF card.

This is a young bald eagle.
Raven catching light.
Dark-eyed junco on the ground.
Black-capped chickadee.
Two birds in there somewhere.
“…and a raven in a pine tree!”

The Mystery Camera project has come to a halt as repeated sensor cleaning didn’t improve anything and that’s its major flaw for being used. Also its lens is terrible; cleaning hasn’t helped that either.

I’ve decided against investing in a PK-EF adapter to use the one good (Hanimex) lens on the Canon, and likewise with the odd Contax/Yashica mount lens I got by accident (it was supposed to be PK as well).

Nor does it look like I’ll get my hands on a full-frame camera. It isn’t worth the $300+ that the cheapest of them regularly go for just to gain the one small advantage of occasional low-light photography. As for the Nikon P610 being replaced … same “not worth the money” problem.

So I guess the Master Plan has changed to “run what you brung”; making whatever pictures I can with whatever equipment the budget can manage. If I could afford the 70-300mm for the Olympus that would be nice, but they’re generally 2X-3X what I paid for the camera – when you can find them.

But I am still not collecting cameras. Even if I can’t get rid of the ones I no longer use.

Misc. and mystery

Raven between the lines.

“Lee” I said, “why are you here again?”

The Major sat on the counter and grinned his evil grin. “My purpose in life is to make your life miserable” he said.

“Well you’re doing a damn good job” I admitted, “so you should be promoted. To Glory, by preference.”

Now that we’ve got that out of the way …

Sun over moon.

You know what’s not fun? Getting home from shopping on Friday to discover that now there’s a package waiting at the post office. It will have to continue to wait until Tuesday.

You know what else isn’t fun? Having a COVID-19 outbreak not only at the nearby reservation (where the infection rate is 25% and climbing) but also at the hospital in the ‘big city’. Our “isolated” community is now a contaminated one, and there’s no vaccine in sight. As such I have adopted some of my wife’s pandemic paranoia for my very own.

When the snakes go marching in.

Another thing that isn’t fun is finally getting a lens that was ordered back before Christmas, and finding it is a C/Y mount (Contax/Yashica) not a PK mount (Pentax K bayonet) as was advertised. This means either a long-distance, cross-country exchange or buying an adapter to make the lens usable on the Canon (or the Olympus, which I’ve found also can take it). Because I need the hassle of that? No, I don’t.

Also it isn’t fun when the temperature drops to -12 every night as the weather gears up for that being the daily high. I must split more wood before it does. That means more pain, and I’ve got too much of that already. I keep waiting for remission but get increased symptoms instead.

Marley the Model Dog.

So while I’m bored I troll Ebay for no good reason, and worse. You do see interesting things though, and some laughable practices. Anyway I look at cameras. Despite insisting I do not collect them anymore. I do like to look, however.

Now, if I were to collect them again … well there are a few I’d add to the arsenal ‘just because’. In alphabetical order, then:

Canon; in addition to the Canon cameras that would add to my repertoire there are some that might be nice to have. The 40D for example, because it would be a second EOS body but in the 10MP size which is my preference for “low” resolution. Conversely something like a 90D would be nice for exactly the opposite reason: it is definitely “high” resolution at 33MP and I’d like to try that for myself just to see what observations I’d have about it. I could compromise on a T7, which is 1/3 more MP than my T100, but they’re all too much money – even the 40D – for cameras that I know would not get much use after the initial experiments. I’d also like to try the PowerShot Elph 135 to see how its CCD sensor compares to others.

Fujifilm; any X model. Really this is a range of truly nifty cameras with great styling (especially the retro-look pseudo rangefinder models) and excellent image quality. Not a one of which could I afford and none would add anything to my shooting. Owning one of these is a purely aesthetic pipe dream. The Fuji I have, an F80 EXR, is an amazing performer that’s just the right size for my shirt pocket to go along everywhere in case I need to take a picture. I’ll stick with that one.

Kodak; none. Sorry, George, but even though I’ve had excellent use of three different digital Kodak cameras over the years there is nothing in the now-defunct company line-up that has anything ‘special’ about it. Even the few with exceptional specifications are plagued by a reputation for premature failure.

Nikon; does “D” stand for “Dull” or “Don’t bother”? I’ve tried out a Nikon D80 that was my Dad’s and it didn’t ‘connect’ with me. On the plus side the retention of the film camera lens mount would be great, especially if I’d been able to keep even some of the dozens of Nikon lenses. But I couldn’t so … mute point. I chose the Canon digital system because it is better at adapting old lenses of many brands, it having a very large ‘throat’ compared to the Nikon or Pentax. If I were going to pick up a Nikon digital it probably would be a D80 or a D200. But have you ever noticed how many broken ones are offered? Partly this is due to high sales in the first place, although you also have to wonder about the quality. There seems to be a disproportionate number of failures compared to other brands. Anyway there are no ‘special’ aspects to them, they are just competent cameras. But they all cost too much, even broken.

This camera doesn’t shoot in B&W.

Olympus; well yes I’d still like an E-300 or other CCD version of the E-410 I have. It would be silly to buy one, though. In fact a PEN E-PL1 (or later version) would be better as it has the micro 4/3 lens mount which is more adaptable of classic lenses. But it would have to have the optional EVF as using just an LCD is a right pain in bright light. Besides, the T100 already does the job of adapting old glass. I wish I’d saved some more of that old glass. *sigh* If wishes were Porsches beggars would drive*. As for the OM-D models … well the touch screens put me off. Also the prices.

Pentax; a K10D for me, please. Old enough to have a CCD sensor but new enough to have 10MP and sensor-shift stabilization. The K10D is probably the pinnacle classic Pentax DSLR. It’s also one of the priciest. The other Pentax model I’d love to try out is the medium-format 645D/Z. I could make an argument that it would add to my photography, but what it would take away from my bank account would be scary.

Sony; well, something. I should have some model from this brand. I have looked at Sony bridge cameras and not bought any for various reasons. After that you’re into the a6000 or a7 series models and that means the kind of money that could buy a good used car. I doubt even the best of Sony’s offerings would help my photography in any way; my art doesn’t call for such levels of perfection. It’s just that I’d like to try it out to see what all the pros, and amateurs with too much money to spend, are talking about. The downside here is that I might like it.

I’ve skipped some brands. I’ve skipped many models. I’m just dreaming out loud here. I haven’t even given a hint (or have I?) about the Mystery Camera, which is what made the images for today.

More later, unless WordPress pulls the plug on the Classic Editor or I fill up the allotted storage space.

Uh, yeah.

*Original version: “If wishes were horses beggars would ride.”

Olympus Serendipitous

The camera: Olympus E-410 (aka Evolt 410).

The lens: Olympus Zuiko Digital 14-42mm f 3.5-6.5.

The other lens: Olympus Zuiko Digital 40-150mm f 3.5-4.5.

The cost: camera and ‘short’ zoom lens $108.80 CDN; ‘long’ zoom lens $29.16 CDN. (I’m not joking).

Olympus E-410 and lenses.

Why did I buy it? You got me there. Perhaps I got confused. I was looking for the E-300 model, which was the last with a CCD sensor. But they command a premium price it seems. Then along came this and well … It’s bad if I’m bored. I made the purchase over a month ago but thanks to the seasonal shipping slowdown it has only just recently arrived.

A couple of things to point out: this is not the “Mystery Camera” used in two prior posts. Also, this is a four-thirds camera not a micro four-thirds. The difference being in the distance between the sensor and the lens flange; a micro four-thirds does not have a reflex mirror to take up space, and as such there is much more flexibility in the design for adapting other lenses. For the four-thirds cameras (which came first) there are less 50 different lenses available and adapting others is unlikely. As it is I got the two zooms which cover the most range. The ‘standard’ prime lens for this unit is a 25mm, which when found for sale tends to cost 3 to 5 times what I paid for the camera & short zoom. I don’t think I’ll be buying one.

So how does it work? Amazingly good. After getting over some minor ‘teething troubles’ having to do with getting images on to and off of the only compact flash card I have (64 megabytes) results are pleasing indeed. Lacking sufficient storage space for full-size images (I got 12 before the “card full” warning came up), I ‘dialed down’ the resolution to get more trial shots. Also had to download pictures by putting the card in the Canon PSA70 because I don’t have a USB cord for the Olympus. Nevertheless, we have images.

Obligatory lens sharpness test. It’s sharp.

The main reason for my going after any four-thirds camera was to see how that particular format compares to others. I’d say it does so favourably, with expected shortcomings and advantages. For example it is lousy in low-light conditions, as would be normal for a small sensor (APS-C sensors are bad in low light, anything smaller is even worse). On the up side it produces better pictures than, say, a 2.3 sensor. It is a good “compromise” camera, which is both its strength and its downfall: if you could have only one camera and needed it to shoot good pictures and take old lenses and be reasonably sized to carry about and have good wide-to-telephoto capacity (crop factor of 2X on this, so the 150mm focal length is 300mm equivalent) … well I can see where a modern micro four-thirds like the Olympus OM-D series would be a great choice. I would not recommend one of these older four-thirds cameras to anyone because they are truly dead-end devices.

Obligatory raven in the sky image. It’s raven.

Subjectively, using this camera is excellent. It handles very well indeed. Okay the focusing is a tad slow, but that is typical of cameras this old. On the whole the controls are in the right places and it passed the all-important test of producing acceptable photos on ‘automatic’ right out of the box (as it were).

Obligatory dog photo. It’s dog.

I don’t really know why I bought it, but I’m glad I did. Is it a ‘keeper’? It shouldn’t be, because it doesn’t fit the criteria for any of my kind of photography nor does it open up any new avenue as the G11 did. Will I get rid of it? No. For one thing it isn’t valuable enough to be worth making the effort to sell. For another … I’m invoking the Eric L. Woods Defense: “I like it. Leave me alone.”

Obligatory cloud picture. It’s cloud.

Oddments

Or; things I came across while looking for other things.

Search engines aren’t what they used to be, especially on certain websites. They used to work. They still do after a fashion, but you have to want what they find for you. Logical operators no longer function, so instead of meeting specific criteria they return anything that has any part of your request. For example if you go looking for the rare four thirds lenses, you get micro four thirds* by the hundreds – as well as dozens of things you may have trouble figuring out the association with. Amazon is champion at this as almost any search will turn up women’s clothing. This is indicative of the other part of the problem; those listing items not categorizing them correctly, whether by accident or on purpose, in the first place.

As frustrating as it is when you’re really trying to locate something, it has its humourous side as well. And sometimes you find little nuggets of ‘gold’. Here are a few unusual items I’ve come across lately while looking around (for no good reason other than that I’m bored and can’t get out and about to take pictures).

Pentax 110 SLR lens

Back in the film days Pentax made a 110 cartridge SLR camera with interchangeable lenses. My Uncle Roger had a few of them because he thought they were amusing. They were cute little things and they were well made, but unfortunately the film wasn’t: 110C started out with high standards and quickly degraded to amateur camera status as it didn’t make a dent in the professional market. To be fair 126C was basically 828/135 film inside a plastic cartridge and it failed for the same reason (yes there were 126C SLRs such as this; Instamatic Reflex ). Here we have a lens for one of those Pentax 110C SLRs offered as “can be adapted to micro 4/3”! I’m sure it would be a good shooter. By the way, Yashica made a few high-grade 110C cameras too, but not SLRs:

Yashica Atoron 110C

Staying in the field of unusual lenses, we have this for those who can’t decide between a 28mm and a 35mm wide-angle lens; behold the Soligor Dualfocal! At 7mm, the shortest range zoom lens ever!

Soligor Dualfocal

This isn’t really a zoom lens per se as it just shifts between 28mm and 35mm. I can see where that might be handy. Or a zoom with detent stops at ‘standard’ focal lengths perhaps? Such would probably be pricey as manufacturers don’t like to be that accurate unless there’s a lot of money in it for them.

When looking at lens adapters I came across this most unusual one:

Kodak Signet 80 to micro 4/3

The Kodak Signet 80 was a rangefinder camera with interchangeable lenses – to of the 1950s Signet line that included the venerable 35, 30, 40, and 50 models as well. Here we see some clever machine work done to adapt the lens to micro 4/3 cameras. Signet 80 lenses are fairly rare, but it just goes to show that if you want to use a lot of various vintage glass a micro 4/3 camera can probably take whatever antique lens you can find!

Now for the funny stuff. I found not one but two “ghost hunting cameras”! Better known as “full-spectrum” cameras. I have to wonder if they really are modified, or are just plain bad at accurate colour rendering! *LOL*

Olympus “ghost camera”
Fujifilm “ghost camera”

These lead us to ask two questions: 1). do ghosts emanate or reflect infrared and/or ultraviolet? (They don’t have corporeal bodies so they shouldn’t produce heat); 2). if they don’t reflect the visible spectrum, how can you see where to aim the camera? I guess you just point and click and hope for the best. There’s a lot of that style of photography around. *LOL*

If you’re wondering just what it was I actually searched for, you’ll have to go on wondering. When I find it I’ll let you know.

*The ‘four thirds’ sensor size started out with reflex cameras before the mirrorless ‘micro four thirds’ units came along. The difference is in the distance between the sensor and the lens mount: the original was about 39mm to have enough room for the mirror; the micro version is about 19mm because there is no mirror to accommodate and that means it is easier to build external adapters that can connect just about any lens to the camera as the extra distance gives plenty of space to ‘shrink’ a larger lens mount to the micro four thirds’ smaller throat. The other choice for easy lens adaptability is a large throat on the camera, such as with the Canon EOS; this allows a smaller lens to mount within the opening, thus not altering the lens-to-sensor distance and therefor infinity focus. Trivia: one of the tightest lens adaptations is M42 to PK; the Pentax screw thread lenses on to Pentax bayonet cameras. This is because the lenses and mount were adapted over to begin with to create the bayonet ‘K’ series, and are almost identical in size. They really just changed the mount. Why mess with the lens design when all you have to do is update the connection, right? Unfortunately it means the adapters are delicate metal rings and often come with an accessory ‘key’ to twist them out of the bayonet because getting a purchase on them with your fingers alone can be difficult.

Genuine Pentax M42 to PK adapter. Cheaper ones come from China now.

3D’s new meaning: Dated Digital Devotees

Jet into the sun. (Kodak P850)

Are you one? Do you prefer the images from older digital cameras? Do you prefer using the older digital cameras? Maybe they’re all you can afford. There’s no shame in that. In fact you should be more ashamed if the first digital camera you buy is some ultra-expensive, loaded-with-everything, professional grade unit of which you won’t use a fraction of its capabilities.

Using obsolete, I mean classic, digital cameras has become “a thing”: the preference for CCD over CMOS sensors, an absence of techno-glitz like wireless connections and touch-screens, and the realization that the picture is what matters, not how you achieve it. So we sacrifice megapixels in favour of colour gradients. Most digital images are seen at less than 2MP anyway (on a computer screen).

As is often the case with my posts, this one started out going somewhere else so it’s bound to be a little incongruous at times. I was looking around at camera offerings (which is almost a pastime in itself) and noticed one or two (or ten, or twenty) interesting cameras that didn’t actually fit my current equipment needs but were nonetheless intriguing. I’ve got and sometimes use some older digitals, mostly the Kodak P850 – even though it has quite a few operational quirks these days (like a bad habit of resetting to +3 EV and not co-operating with changing this back to zero). I really don’t need any more old cameras. I am no longer collecting cameras. Say it louder: I AM NO LONGER COLLECTING CAMERAS! Nevertheless …

Let’s look at a few anyway. There’s no harm in looking, right? They can’t make you buy.

First let me say there are hundreds of models you can dismiss out-of-hand. Maybe thousands. All those ordinary ‘cookie-cutter’ compact cameras that have #MP and #X zooms and look like they’re all made in the same mold with different names slapped on afterward. It’s not that they aren’t adequate, it’s that they aren’t exceptional. If you’re going to use classic equipment it should be something with at least one unique property that makes it stand out from the run-of-the-mill production.

So in the category of compacts let me suggest a couple that I have: the Canon PowerShot A70 and the Fujifilm F80 EXR. They don’t have to be those exact models as there are many similar ones which will perform as well or in some cases even better. Why I like the Canon is that in addition to an excellent glass lens it has an optical viewfinder. Nothing like it for shooting in the sunlight. In fact that’s one area where the Fuji fails. Canon made several PowerShot cameras with optical finders, some up to 16MP and 5X zoom. Well worth it if you can find one in a thrift store for $5 or $10. Why I like the Fuji is the EXR processor function. It is exceptional. Again there are several Fuji EXR cameras, including the very nice (but rare and therefor expensive) HS20 through HS50 series ‘bridge’ cameras, which have significant zoom capacity.

Duncan the dog. (Canon PSA70)

Now let’s talk about some more advanced cameras. There are a few models I’ve come across recently which have caught my interest. If I were free to indulge myself however I wish, I would definitely buy these (or something similar).

1). Olympus Evolt E-300. This is a micro four thirds camera with pentaprism and interchangeable lenses. It’s only 8MP, but unlike the newer Evolt models it has a CCD sensor (one seller referred to it as a “Kodak sensor”). Some specs from Camera Decision: Olympus E-300

2). Pentax K100D. A mere 6MP APS-C DSLR using the Pentax KAF lenses, it has in body image stabilization (IBIS as it is known). An affordable way to use a huge number of quality lenses. Some specs from Camera Decision: Pentax K100D

3). Samsung GX-1L. You want something different? Samsung is a name you won’t see on a camera often. This one is a 6MP APS-C DSLR like the Pentax, but without the image stabilizer. The one I came across had a Schneider-Kreuznach 18-55mm lens which is bound to be sharp (the S-K on my Kodak sure is). Some specs from Camera Decision: Samsung GX-1L

4). Nikon Coolpix 4500. This is a weird little 4MP (in some versions less) camera with a twist: literally. You twist the body to move the lens into shooting position. They made several similar cameras, known as the ‘Coolpix 950 series’. Functionally it’s no great prize, but the body design certainly isn’t the usual motor-driven-extend-o-lens of other compacts! Wikipedia entry: Nikon Coolpix 4500

Antiquated technology. (Fuji F80 EXR)

Those are just some examples of classic digitals I’ve come across which intrigued me. There are many variations of these, and you have to look up which models have which features (for example the Fujifilm HS10 does not have the EXR processor whereas the HS20 through HS50 do, and the Pentax K110D doesn’t have IBIS like the K100D).

Now we have to talk about prices. For one thing, you may be choosing a classic camera because you’re no relation to Bill Gates and can’t afford multi-thousand dollar Fujifilm, Sony, or Leica machines. Even if that’s not the case it’s too easy to overspend on an old one. Always remember the camera that is working today may not be working tomorrow, especially if it isn’t new. The cameras I mentioned above range from $6 I spent on the Canon to $60 on the Fuji, and the ‘numbered’ ones were all listed for between $100 and $200 CDN (that’d be a lot less in the US, believe me). Ultimately the price should be what you feel you can afford and not a penny more. Beware auctions like Ebay: make your maximum bid and then stop; there will be another one along if you miss out. Patience is a virtue. So is frugality.

Side note: I’ve seen offers of groupings along the lines of “20 untested digital cameras for $60 – plus shipping” (shipping often being as much or even more than the price). You know what 20 untested digital cameras are worth? Right: $20. It isn’t that hard to test a camera, so assume “untested” means “not working”. I tested a couple of dozen that my Dad had picked up cheap and found all but one – which happened to be a Fuji and the best in the bunch – did work once you stuck batteries and an SD card in them. I still had to give them away. It’s not like fixing one of these is a practical option, after all.

If there are a lot of photographers near you, get together and form a club. That way the group can more easily afford a larger selection of cameras to work with. Just watch out for people hogging one model to themselves! Most importantly, have fun.

Ol’ Olds. (Kodak DX3900)

As for me, I will continue to “put the brakes on” when looking at old cameras. Especially as it looks like I will need a Canon SX70 to replace the ailing Nikon P610: since it is my “main” camera replacing it with another used machine is courting disaster, and the Canon best fits the specifications – aside from being pricey at $600+.

But hey; you never know when the ‘brakes’ will give out, eh?

Addendum: CCD means Charge Coupled Device, whereas CMOS means Complimentary Metal Oxide Semiconductor. They are the two types of image sensors you will find in digital cameras. The former is usually fewer megapixels in resolution, but generally has a greater tonal range. The value of this is subjective. One curious side effect of fewer MP for a given size sensor is that it is more sensitive to light as each pixel covers a larger area. So a lower MP but same-size sensor can yield better low-light results.

Also, be aware of what kind of memory card your used bargain camera takes. Not every one uses the now-standard SD card. Olympus and Fuji, for example, often used xD cards which are now somewhat hard to find. There are adapters for these to use micro SD, but the reviews on them are mixed as to fit and quality for any given camera. Likewise Sony used a variety of “memory sticks”, and in the Mavica 3.5″ computer disks – good luck finding those or a machine to read them. Even the Compact Flash cards can be difficult to obtain at a reasonable price these days.

Remember too that a working used camera may not work as good as it originally did. The screen/EVF may have faded, the sensor may not deliver full contrast/correct colour or may have hot/dead pixels, and the exposure may be off or inconsistent. All this in addition to the fact it probably did not perform to the high expectations of today in terms of speed and accuracy in focusing – or even snapping the shot (a lot of older cameras have quite a noticeable delay between the button being pushed and the image being captured). You have to expect these things.

Well that wandered a bit!

Since writing this I note that the camera offerings mentioned above have all sold but one, so I guess they were pretty good deals for someone!

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

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

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.

Poloroid

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

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:

NikonS4

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.

P1000268

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.