The forty millimeter, part two

Well it looks like the sun is never going to shine again around here. At least not for longer than a few seconds at a time. So in the slightly less darkness of the past weekend I did some more testing of the Canon 40mm EF prime lens. Let’s see how it went.

Clearest sky we’ve had in a long time.

This sky picture shows that for ‘general views’ the 40mm is more than acceptable, even with the slightly telephoto focal length (due to the 1.6X crop factor on the APS-C camera). It has good sharpness, contrast, and colour rendition even under less-than-ideal lighting conditions. Now let’s see how it does at 100% of image size.

Raven over head.
Cropped version.

The first is the full picture shrunk down to 640×427 (note this is about 53% reduction). The second is a 640×427 crop of the full-size image. Very good results here: the blurring of line detail is due to sensor resolution limits not optical fall-off. In film terms you’d be looking at the difference of the grain versus the glass.

Now for the ‘acid test’. How does it compare to the Canon 18-55mm EF-S zoom shot at approximately the same focal length? I’ll spare you the full size images and just go with the cropped segments of the 100% size.

Segment taken with the 40mm prime.
Segment taken with the 18-55mm zoom.

Not bad at all. In fact we can see the 40mm comes out ahead in resolution, colour rendition, and contrast. The latter two by an almost imperceptible margin, but the sharpness difference is definitely noticeable.

So how is the image quality when you really put some effort into making a picture?

Frost on the wild rose.

Very good indeed. Perhaps as sharp as the Nikon? Well that is something I’ll test next:

Crop of full size image taken with the Nikon P610 at approximately 40mm focal length.
Cropped from full-size, taken with the Canon.

It is difficult to get the Nikon to exactly 40mm focal length, and it does have a slightly less MP (16 instead of the Canon’s 18) sensor. Also we see the colour difference and the lower contrast the Nikon has developed over time (it used to be crisper). In terms of outright sharpness, the Canon has a small but visible advantage. I tried to take a close-up image to compare the two, and the Nikon did its now usual false focus lock. *sigh* One day it is going to fail me when I really need the picture, and that will be that.

One more shot from the Canon:

The ice melts slowly.

All these images were shot at ISO 200 to use a slightly smaller than wide-open aperture to optimize sharpness (shutter speed is not much of an issue at 40mm). Even under the shooting conditions available the 40mm EF lens performed remarkably well. In fact I’m so encouraged by the results from it that I may just spring for a Canon 75-300mm EF lens to see if that is better than the 55-250mm EF-S zoom I’ve got.

Yeah, Amazon sucks (confirmed)

So I tried to order this:

Screenshot from 2020-01-31 08:47:31

But as you can see, a soft camera case that can be bunched up in an envelope and mailed anywhere for a couple of dollars “requires special handling and cannot be shipped to your selected location.”

Unless you have Prime:

Screenshot from 2020-01-31 08:50:06


They pulled this stunt on a lens I wanted to buy too, despite the fact I’ve bought lenses from them before. In fact it seems to come up with just about any piece of camera equipment that is either sold by or fulfilled by them.

Okay, fair enough: their site, their rules.

But it looks an awful lot like blackmail to me. And it definitely will influence my future dealings with them: if I have to pay extra just to get something I want, I might as well buy it elsewhere. Why, it would even be worth paying a bit more just to deny the sale.

Prime adds nothing to my Amazon experience. The only advantage it gives is free shipping on under $35 orders. It isn’t faster; orders still take at least a week to arrive here. The ‘peripheral’ benefits such as “special deals” or streaming video are of no use to me. I should not have to purchase this extra service just to get the service that used to be available to me (i.e. standard shipping to my location).

Amazon is a lot like Facebook: it started out as a good idea, then got too big and now is solely obsessed with making money to the extent of ignoring customer service.

Thus civilizations fall.

Amazon isn’t Amazing

You probably use them. Lots of people do. But have you ever subjected your usage to critical analysis? You should. You’ll probably be surprised, but not amazed. And if you have a firm grasp of reality you’ll be disappointed.

Amazon sells a lot of things. Moreover, they offer things for sale by other companies and individuals. This ‘business model’ has proven so successful that other on-line retailers try to imitate it. The degree of success varies; just because it looks like Amazon doesn’t mean it works like Amazon. Not that Amazon works all that well either.

The first failure is with those third party businesses. Amazon doesn’t have much control over them, although they will settle issues on sales negotiated through them and even drop retailers that garner too many complaints. Up to that point there’s a pretty wide range of buying experiences available.

What triggered my writing this missive is this morning’s notification that something I’d ordered had been shipped. Nice. And after only two weeks too. Other recent experiences have been similar, with one item taking nearly a month to show up. Now when we’re talking about buying from someone other than Amazon this isn’t something that can be laid on them. However a couple of my recent orders were “sold and shipped by Amazon”, and they still haven’t arrived either. It’s not like this is the heavy Christmas shipping season.

Now you’re probably going to suggest I go for Amazon Prime, with its promise of no fee two day shipping on most items. Well guess what, I did. It was one thing when they were obviously playing silly buggers and delaying sending over $35 orders with free shipping as a means to entice people to try Prime. I understand that sort of gimmick. Yet some of the items I’ve ordered under those circumstances showed up sooner than expected.

But here there was one item I wanted quickly without handing over nearly as much in shipping as the item itself cost (watch out for those low-price deals which then have massive shipping charges) so I tried Prime on the free trial. Normally that would be incentive for the business to go out of its way and really hustle, to make you think it is worth continuing the service for an extra $80 per year. Well, it obviously isn’t.

The order, “fulfilled by Amazon” and qualifying for Prime, sat for a week before they even figured out when they could ship it. Another order “sold and shipped by Amazon” is presented as “expected to arrive” in a week. And now I note even the “expected arrival time” before ordering is at least a week on anything I look at. That’s not really “free two-day shipping” is it? When it comes to waiting a couple of weeks for something, I’ll go with the free shipping on minimum order of $35. At least there are no false expectations with that.

Now when it comes to making up such orders you have to be careful. Amazon plays silly buggers with prices all the time, as they raise and lower them to see where they can get you to ‘bite’ on an item you’ve shown interest in. They’ll play pennies at this too. You have to be smart enough to say “no” when you see the price go up; delete it from your viewing and let the AI engine start over on analyzing your desires.

Speaking of which, it’s incredibly bad at suggestions isn’t it? This is due to three factors: the brainless simplicity of artificial intelligence, the limited categorization of items (a DVD is a DVD is a DVD), and third party sellers entering their items in as many categories as possible for maximum (albeit at times entirely incorrect) exposure. You just have to laugh. Or pity anyone who falls for it.

Can we take a moment to talk about the more absurd third party sellers? There are some that are quite straight-forward businesses who know their stuff and you can deal with them. There are some that seem to have a massive language, or perhaps intelligence, barrier problem and can’t make a sensible description/price (those are the ones who list their products under every category too). Then there are the ‘scalpers’ or possibly just plain morons who ask quite absurd sums for items without bothering to do any market research as to what others are asking (this is mainly used goods). I’ve seen some brand new items at 20X what I can buy them in a local store for, and some used things which apparently have become instant collectibles sought the world over by fabulously wealthy individuals looking to furnish their mansions. Although why they want a plastic camera for $9,876.32 to sit on the shelf next to the antique Lalique crystal I don’t know. But we have to laugh at something. One of the worst areas for absurd pricing is clothing. Just don’t go there. Never mind the fact you can not tell fit and quality from an on-line catalog and that returns are a major hassle if the item doesn’t work out. With some things it’s best to see before you buy. Most things. Almost everything in fact. Okay, literally everything.

And now back to Prime. There are other ‘bonuses’ included in the Prime package, and some people may even be able to take advantage of them. For me personally they are of no use, starting with my limited Internet service making streaming an expensive adventure in digital hell to offering of things I just plain don’t give a damn about. I wanted it for the shipping advantage, and evaluated for that I’m not sure it’s worth the extra money given how little I buy in a year even if it did work (which it doesn’t). Better to pony up some extra cash on the rare occasion I might want something faster.

But that’s me. Your situation will no doubt be different. Nevertheless you should take a critical look at your Amazon habits and see if you are using it to best advantage, or it is using you. Here’s a hint: if the Prime free shipping is really worth the money per year to you, maybe you have a consumerism problem and are just plain buying too much stuff.

Anyway, step back and take a critical look at it. After all, it’s a jungle out there.