Final Kodak moments

Today we go home. The weather is absolutely miserable, as is typical for this time of year. These shots were taken with the Kodak P850 before things turned bad. I suppose you could say they were from my re-learning experiment, using that camera. I discovered it is one that is very hard for me to use now. *sigh* C’est la vie photographique.

Del & Diane’s.
One last sunset.
First snow, last leaves.
The road home.

The wood is stocked, but I will have to come back to “close up” once the wife and menagerie are moved back home. Then … so many more things to do before returning next May.

 

Surprise! Sony a6000: first impressions.

Apologies to anyone who had a sudden heart attack or stroke or even just a coughing fit upon reading that title. Yes, I managed to get my hands on a Sony a6000 with 16-50mm kit lens. How? Well it came about as a confluence of three things:

1).  Eric L. Woods repeatedly pointing out how good Sony cameras are. I trust his judgement.

2). The camera being available in a local store, which happened to put it on sale (see below).

3). I was bored, and since ego-Bay has declared me Public Enemy #1 I can not relieve that boredom with inexpensive used photography equipment so I am forced to buy new if anything.

Now the a6000 is a camera I have considered and dismissed before. It has advantages such as higher resolution, the ability to adapt almost any lens to it, and supposedly faster focusing. You can see where I was going with it: the combination of 24MP and a 300mm lens on an APS-C format coupled with fast autofocus should make for a good ‘birding’ camera. I take a lot of pictures of birds. Or at least I do if I can. Lately things have been conspiring against me there. The problem, as always, was the price. Sony cameras are not cheap, at least not in Canada. I was actually toying with the idea of buying one, along the lines of “yeah maybe if they put it on sale I will”. Well they did, so I did. This was not the usual “$20 off” sale either. It was a clearance sale of more than 1/3 off! Funny thing is, they didn’t advertise it as such. Not even as a sale. The price just happened to go down. I fully expected to go into the store and be told “that was a typo”, which would have stopped me from buying it. It wasn’t, and I did.

The next big problem was the weather, which has been most uncooperative for every activity of late, except for getting soaked and freezing. Pretty good at that. Also being plastered with mud. So the first picture was by no means a fair test, but it does tell us some things:

Low light, low quality.

The exposure and colour are accurate to the scene. But when you zoom in you see that as is typical of today’s cameras the claimed high ISO rating is nothing but a number from the PR department: the noise level on any setting above 800 (for APS-C) is unacceptable even with both noise reduction settings on. Close up you see ‘palette knife’ quality, not ‘film grain’ quality:

Blotchy at high speeds.

It would be unfair to compare this to my Canon 1Ds because that has a larger sensor, fewer pixels (allowing more light per), and cost $8,000 when new. I will be comparing it to the Canon T100 when I can.

Let’s talk about ergonomics. This cameras is well thought-out, with only a couple of “mystery buttons” and a few illogical placements. On the whole nothing that would upset you much. Let’s face it I have ten different digital cameras now and even the three from the same manufacturer don’t have the same buttons in the same places. This and an inability to remember how I have each one programmed is why I prefer dedicated controls. The menu system, that bane of digital photographers everywhere, is the best I’ve seen yet. It’s not organized the way I would do it, but it is straightforward and intuitive.

My greatest praise is for the EVF. It is large, bright, and clear. You could almost think you were looking at an optical finder, it is that good. It has a diopter, but with my eyesight there no sense bothering trying to adjust it. Likewise the LCD display is good, but there’s no such thing as one of these that can be seen in bright daylight. The ability to tilt it into a pseudo waist-level finder is intriguing, but I suspect self-defeating. I shall have to try that out one day. If it ever stops raining here.

Picture Number Thirty-five.

There we have it: almost an entire ‘long roll of film’ into use and it produces its first artistic image. This is mainly due to me messing about trying to take images in lousy conditions. The fact is the camera passes the #1 test: it produces perfectly good pictures right out of the box on ‘Program’. In fact it has four program modes, including ‘intelligent’, ‘intelligent scene’, and ‘scene’ as well as the basic ‘P’ setting. I tried them in sequence and I could see some difference, but not so much so as to say “this one is better” nor do they produce any difference you couldn’t get with a 10% tweak in GIMP. Why manufacturers insist on cluttering up cameras with useless and redundant technology I don’t know. Save that stuff for the poor sods who think they can take great photos with their smart phones.

“If I hide behind this bush you can’t see me.”

Colour rendition in ‘standard’ mode is nice and subtle with a good tonal gradient. In fact it is highly reminiscent of a CCD sensor. Turning it up to ‘vivid’ gives a bit more saturation and contrast, but doesn’t go overboard and still retains that film-like quality. At this point I hadn’t even turned off the auto white balance.

Some more praise: the autofocus is as fast as everyone says. It’s especially good once you turn off the ridiculous multi-point system (really, kids; there’s one subject in your photo and you can’t have the camera trying to make 149 different spots ‘it’). It has continuous focus too, which I like but know is a battery-eater.

Of course with any camera the lens is the thing, and here … well I will withhold praise. At this point I’d say it’s a ‘good’ lens, but not very good and certainly not on par with the Super Takumars or the Nikon P610 (really camera makers should be embarrassed that they don’t equip their products with lenses as good as a 6-year-old, $400 ‘bridge’ camera). One thing about the lens that drives me crazy is the ‘power zoom’. Leave that for the point-and-shoot models, Sony. There are two reasons I don’t like this method in general, and one more specifically to this edition: zoom motors are much slower than twisting a ring, they are less accurate for fine adjustment, and in this case the control is in an annoying location. Using this almost-a-zoom-ring button is really irritating. I also don’t think the lens needs to ‘power expand/collapse’; that’s just more complexity to go wrong at some point.

Heart of stone.

Give me some good light and I’ll try this camera out fully, including putting it head-to-head with the like-sized-sensor Canon T100. It will be interesting to see if 1/3 more pixels has any realistic value (the Sony has two digital zoom settings built in: I’ve tried both and they are not impressive).

Now let’s talk money. The big stumbling block I’ve come up against is that a decent long-range telephoto zoom for this camera is $1,000+! That’s the same thing that stopped me using the Olympus E410 for ‘birding’; the longest zoom cost three times what the camera and two other zooms cost! Adapting other lenses isn’t the answer either, as without the excellent and fast autofocus you lose one of the main advantages. Adapting other AF lenses tends to be expensive and problematic; you may as well pay for the Sony lens to begin with and be assured of it working. Just some advice from the old man: if you go adapting lenses, be prepared to go manual everything. Do not expect any sort of automatic connection to work, no matter what the claim from the maker.

On to the big question: was this a sensible purchase? I’m invoking the Eric L. Woods defense here; I like it, leave me alone. Would I have bought it at full price? Absolutely not. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t, though. It is a very good camera and not at all disappointing.

Now here’s the kicker: you want one? I’ll sell you this one quite reasonably. I have nothing against the camera, and I haven’t even tried it out fully yet, but I know it’s not going to fit with my shooting style. That’s a bit of a bummer, to say the least.

Unless someone would like to pony up $1,000 for a tele lens? I can’t afford it. Oh well, we’ll see what happens next what with my upcoming surgery and all.

What I need is good weather.

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.

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.

Backlog of birds

All kinds of things going on here, including wood harvesting, bad weather, and an utterly useless national election that wasted a huge amount of money for no reason whatsoever.

Not much photography though, for the reasons previously explained.

Here are some bird pictures left over from when I could take pictures.

Common Loon.
Song sparrow.
Downy woodpecker.

Above taken with the Nikon P610.

Gray jay aka whiskey jack.

Taken with the Pentax K100D.

Black-capped chickadee.

Taken with the Lumix ZS60, believe it or not.

Another song sparrow.

Taken with the Olympus E410.

Once again, I am cheated out of the ability to add to or subtract from my equipment stocks. I thought of buying a proper adaptor for the one FD mount lens I have, but I paid <$30 for the lens (with shipping) and can’t justify paying >$30 for the adaptor. It just doesn’t make sense.

It also doesn’t make sense that ego-Bay keeps sending me e-mails about items I’ve looked at when I can’t even sign in to delete the account. Talk about intractable stupidity!

 

As best we can

“Brigadoon”

At this time I am jealous of Eric L. Woods. His adventures with the Foveon-sensored Sigma cameras are the kind of fun I’d like to have. I could have bought one of the early versions, but e-Bay killed me instead. That fun, like so many other types, has been denied me. C’est la vie.

I read also the many film simulation recipes created by Ritchie Roesch, even though I know I’ll never afford a Fuji X camera. The film-like experience on digital cameras intrigues me, and yes I have made my own ventures into that realm.

If it were up to me, some company would create a digital camera specifically for “film photographers”, and it might even have that Foveon X3 sensor in it. It might be mirror-less so it can adapt classic glass easily. But what it needs mostly is to be simple: inflicting the limitations of film on photographers is a good way for them to really learn photography.

What would it be like? For starters it would have a ‘film selection dial’ that would give you a choice of high, normal, low, and monochrome colour saturation. You don’t really need a thousand different recipes. There would be an ISO dial that could go down to 50 and no higher than 800 or 1600 depending on how large a sensor it has. Beyond those points you gain more noise than EV value so there’s not much point. Besides which, this is ‘film simulation’ and film never really went above those ‘speeds’. To that end colour temperature, I mean white balance, would either be fixed at “daylight” or offer a limited range (i.e. “tungsten” and “flourescent”). Along with the sensitivity there would be built-in gradients for contrast and grain, following the nature of film (higher ISO, greater contrast and grain).

Oh don’t go thinking this is “too limiting” and insisting there be overrides. You can have a jack to connect your smartphone to it to make changes with an app, okay? Wusses. I don’t want to see an LCD display on it at all. No gaze chimping here!

For exposure control we’ll have the PASM dial all right, but no need for anything like “scene selection” or any of that other AI takeover garbage. Learn to use the camera. In ‘M’ it should give you light meter readings not coupled to the control settings. Then we want a shutter speed dial and of course an aperture ring around the lens. EV compensation control would be okay too.

Autofocus? Well I can’t focus at all anymore so I’m inclined to want that, providing it’s good. That gets tricky as we have all seen AF fail either in accuracy or speed. Put a manual lens on and the issue disappears.

What we do not want to see is a lot of extra ‘features’, most of which are just there because they can be not because they enhance the photographic experience.

Ah well it doesn’t matter. Such a camera would be as commercially successful as the Edsel and no company would ever build it because they don’t seem to understand photography, just technology.

As for me … I don’t know. It’s evident my eyesight will not improve and doubtful I will acquire any more equipment or reduce the inventory I’ve got. At the moment any further pictures I may produce will be done with the equipment on hand.

Briefly, then

The End

The last of my e-Bay purchases arrived. Disappointment abounds.

They were two lenses meant to augment my photographic arsenal. The one is an absolutely excellent Super Albinar 28mm Canon FD, which does not fit my Canon FD adapter (which does not have the infinity focusing lens in it, but that’s another issue). The lens is flawless, I just can’t use it. Like much of my equipment now, thanks to one thing or another. Anyway I won’t be ponying up any more money for a different adapter. Anyone want to buy a lens?

Make that two lenses, because the other was another 28-70mm Super Albinar in Pentax K mount. Almost Pentax K mount. I don’t know what’s wrong but it doesn’t exactly fit. Besides which it doesn’t exactly work: the zoom is stiff and limited and it won’t go down to macro mode. The diaphragm is sluggish too. I didn’t pay much and wasn’t expecting much, but it could have gone better.

Crop from full size image taken with the second Albinar lens. It shows promise, but …

A lot of things could have gone better lately, but they didn’t and aren’t going to. For example after e-Bay dropped me like a hot potato with no explanation or recourse I found a camera shop that said it was willing to buy used equipment. Fine, since mostly I want to sell off those things I either don’t or can no longer use. Give me an estimate on one item, I said: the very expensive Panasonic Lumix ZS60.

$40 they said.

Goodbye, I said.

I realise they have to make a profit, but that’s absurd. Looking at their used offerings I can see the problem: they’re asking more for a second-hand Canon T7 than I can buy a new one for.

So I don’t see me getting rid of superfluous equipment, which means I won’t be buying any more supplemental equipment – never mind the e-Bay disaster.

Oh and they love to rub salt in the wounds; they continue to send me e-mails about items I was watching and/or bidding on up until they sell. This allowed me to see that I could indeed have gotten another lens I wanted (from a seller I’ve done business with before but who has only e-Bay as an outlet) and a Pentax K200D which I don’t really need but would be a step up from the battered K100D I have. Also there is not much chance of getting a Nikon lens to try that adapter with. Nor could I splurge on a Sigma Foveon sensor camera, which I considered doing.

In other words all my photographic master plans are shot to hell.

Thanks, e-Bay. You suck like a Hoover. I hope you go bankrupt from paying taxes. Seriously. You should be sued, indicted, and left to rot. That terminal policy is the absolute worst (and illegal) crap I have ever seen on any website anywhere since the start of the World Wide Web.

But all is not that cheerful otherwise either. I have huge amounts of work to get done with a shrinking amount of time to do it in. Every little joy I’ve had in life has been removed, and I even have to drive two hours to get necessary medication because they don’t/won’t stock it in town and ordering it in costs even more than the drive.

Anybody want to buy some cameras or lenses? I’m not sure I’ll have a use for any of it now. My vision is permanently blurred, and my inspiration has evaporated. A (working) new piece of equipment might have lifted my spirits, but no. Not even that am I allowed.

Addendum: WordPress no longer functions on my secure browser either. They’ve changed something, and the only way I can get it to work at all is by using an unsecure browser. You know what I mean; the kind that wants you to give away all your info right down to your shoe size.

That can get stuffed too. No reason to take photos, and no reasonable way to share them. What is the point?

It’s been a bad week

Let’s cut to the chase, as the saying goes. The result of my latest eye exam amounted to “there’s nothing more we can do” and “watch out for it getting worse”. About what I expected, really.

Things did get worse, but they were different things. E-Bay canceled my account with no explanation given. A few minutes searching turned up the fact that this happens more often than it should, and that there is no recourse. Well fine. Another small pleasure taken from me without reason. I hope they understand that shutting down accounts of buyers and sellers is not a good business plan for a web site that relies on buyers and sellers. But I doubt they do. (It is especially frustrating as there were a couple of things I was trying to buy and I had finally managed to get one of my items listed for sale.) On the whole it’s about as bad as every other site on the Internet: causing grief for legitimate users while utterly failing to stop abusers. Even WordPress keeps tossing up “unsupported browser” messages.

I have been systematically removing all my Facebook posts, because it is a failure of a website too. If you can’t use the site, why have an account? PayPal will be going under the axe as well, since I only ever used it for e-Bay and now PP has added an “inactive account fee” (as of November 20).

At this point I have no pleasures in my life, only work and the pain that goes with it. It’s wood harvesting time, you see. Yeah, I know.

So today’s pictures are … failures. Some images to give you a taste of what normally comes out of the cameras these days. Can’t have people thinking I’m still turning out good shots all the time, because I’m not.

This is what I see: everything blurred at any distance all the time.
Barely spotted song sparrow in the bush – and it’s out of focus.
How I get tricked: camera said “in focus”. Except that was the little pine tree which I could not even see as I tried to fix on the broken poplar behind it.
There are spots. I could not see them looking through the camera; they only show up on the computer. They had to be on the lens as they don’t appear after cleaning it. Besides the Nikon shouldn’t get spots on its sensor.
See the duck? No? It’s in there, flying away because it can react faster than me & my camera.
This is an eagle. You’ll have to take my word for it because once again …

That’s the way it’s going now: mostly failures because I can’t see what I’m doing. About the only time I can get a good shot now is in bright daylight, and then it has to be a large, stationary object. At that I may need several frames to get one decent.

Needless to say I am not happy. I can’t even continue my revised Master Plan to make my photography a bit easier for me. Thanks, e-Bay you load of incompetent bastards.

There’s no joy left.