Re-learning curve: Canon PowerShot G11

What re-learning curve?!

Despite a lack of co-operation from the weather and increasing pressure to do things other than photography I managed to fire off a few shots with the G11. To my delight it is still easy to use even with my failing eyesight. For one thing it has an optical viewfinder which remains bright (unlike the Nikon P610’s dimming EVF) even if partially obstructed by the lens barrel at wide focal lengths. Oh yes, the camera has limitations in that department, but few in any other! The CCD sensor renders great tonal range, the ISO goes down to 80, the lens is sharp enough for general purposes, and the exposure is correct (although I prefer -1/3 EV setting).

As the saying goes, the proof is in the photos!

A beautiful day at the lake. We’ll be seeing fewer of these as Autumn rolls in. At least the fire smoke is mostly gone now.
Lakeweed. Nice detail for a point-n-shoot camera!
The great tonal range of the CCD sensor translates into a wide array of gray tones when desaturated!
This particular type of camera is best at taking pictures of objects. Dogs are objects. If you object to dogs, get a cat.
Here: one standard-issue cat, in box, with accessory toys.
If you’re willing to put a little effort into it, the G11 is capable of artistic shots as well.

I am so keeping this camera! Best $12 I ever spent! I could probably get pictures out of it without eyesight.

Speaking of which, I see the doctor again on Thursday. I look forward to mentioning the continued pain, blurriness, spots, and weariness. I don’t look forward to hearing what he has to say because I have a pretty good idea what that will be.

Re-learning curve: Canon 1Ds

“Re-learning”? Not with this camera! This is the ‘full frame’ DSLR, and as such has the largest and brightest viewfinder. Seeing what I’m trying to photograph is the biggest problem these days, and with the 1Ds it’s almost not an issue. Likewise the Canon G11 with its optical finder gives similar performance. Only the EVFs and smaller, dimmer optical finders present much difficulty.

Okay this camera still has poorly-thought-out controls, but I know where they are and don’t have to change them often. Also it weighs a lot. But what about the all-important results? Well I took 28 photos and only 6 of them are actually bad. That’s the best post-eye-problem ratio of any camera I’ve got.

All these photos were taken with the 75-300mm Canon EF lens. Some are the full image, some are cropped to varying degrees. This is not the best lens either, but it was cheap and it works.

Landscape view. Or ‘lakescape’ perhaps.
Squirrel!
Shrouded in mystery.
Birds fly in the lake of the sky.
Natural guitar pick. (Stone full of mica.)
Bird in a tree.
First of this year’s wood harvest. (640 x 426 segment of full frame.)
Goodnight.

The success with using this camera reinforces the validity of my revised plan. In fact replacing this camera and the T100 with a 5D Mk II would by viable, but unlikely to happen. At this point I’m aiming for keeping the Fuji F80, Canon G11, Nikon P610 (which needs replacing at a later date), Canon T100, and this Canon 1Ds. Also I will use various adapters to allow the use of classic lenses with either Canon DSLR (the full frame cameras are not quite as good with this due to some lenses getting in the way of the larger mirrors).

To that end I have purchased some new equipment which hasn’t arrived yet but will result in further posts when it does. I’m not doing so well at selling off the superfluous stuff, but then there’s a lot else going on around here now with the start of the annual wood harvest.

“Filmulation”

It’s World Photography Day! What better day for an old fool who doesn’t know anything about anything (me) to palaver on about some of which he does not know?

Or something.

Anyway, today’s pictures are a result of using a digital camera as though it were a film camera. It’s easy with the right equipment. Now for some people the “right equipment” is a Fujifilm X camera which has some pre-set film simulations as well as a host of programming capacity to vary all sorts of settings. Lots of fun, for lots of money.

For me the fun comes from getting film-like results without spending a lot of money or experimenting endlessly with settings. Part of the charm of film is the slightly unpredictable results, and I have achieved that using some sub-par equipment and a little know-how. Or maybe no-how.

The camera is the always dirty Pentax K100D Super. It has the advantage of a CCD sensor which produces better colour tonal range than the CMOS sensors (in my opinion as well as that of several others). Plus the limited 6MP size is something of a bonus here as it is not crazy-sharp. The lens is the very sharp Pentax Super Takumar 35mm f2, whose glass is stained yellow due to the thorium content. This is an all-manual set-up too; no auto exposure or focus.

Settings are the same as with Mini Manual Manual, save the added adjustment of fixing the white balance at daylight. I think leaving off that step is one reason why so many film simulations don’t have that random variation that film gives us. Remember film has fixed sensitivity and colour temperature. On a digital camera these are two more variables. So we set it like film and shoot it like film: ISO 200 (lowest possible on this camera) and Daylight colour balance. Here’s what we get:

Marley on the beach. This looks exactly like a typical colour print from the 1960s.
The yellowing of the lens does show up in the images and needs to be compensated for in the final processing. But here we see the side effect of it enhancing cloud contrast just like a K2 filter would.
The cabin. Rich, saturated colour.
In the woods. My eyesight got me in trouble here on exposure, but not so much that I wasn’t able to ‘save’ it.
This could be the beach at Wakiki.
“You can’t control natural light.” Unless you learn how.

I was going to do some more shots in the same manner only using the T100 as the camera, but I haven’t got to it yet. It’s been a busy and tiring week, and that as of Tuesday.

Meanwhile my redesigned Master Plan continues to take shape and unfold. Slowly.

Re-learning curve: Pentax K100D Super

Things I like about this camera:

1). It was really cheap to buy (although most offerings of it aren’t).

2). CCD sensor. You want “film quality” images? Can’t beat the CCD sensors.

3). Uses standard ‘AA’ penlight batteries. Nothing special or expensive about powering it.

4). Pentax K lens mount. That’s a vast array of available lenses. I also have the M42 – PK adapter so I can use my classic Takumars.

5). Good control arrangements, easy to set up and use.

Things I don’t like about this camera:

1). It was used in an archaeological dig. As a shovel. This explains the price, and why I am continually cleaning it. The lens has significant coating damage on the front and I keep getting shadows on the images because more dirt is rattling around inside. It’s easier to re-touch the photos.

2). CCD sensor is only 6MP, making digital zooming an impossible dream.

3). Uses standard ‘AA’ penlight batteries which are more expensive to continually replace than just recharging a lithium set. I could buy rechargeable penlights, but that would be substantial capital outlay.

4). Pentax K lens mount limits adapting of other lenses because it is small. Fitting the M42 lenses is even tricky because the K mount is just a bayonet incarnation of the screw mount so the adapter is thin, fragile, and not always easy to get in place.

5). The shutter button focus has failed, causing some significant problems for me because I can’t tell if the image is focused and forget to push the ‘wrong’ button.

6). In addition to the internal and external dirt problems, some of the silver has come off the pentamirror so the viewfinder presents black splotches. My eyes have their own black splotches now, thank you, and I don’t need to see any more.

The ultimate question is: how well does this camera fit with my current photographic plans? This we evaluate on a basis of two criteria: usage and results. Usage … well you’ve seen the clues above. The viewfinder issue is more than a little vexing, and the back-button focus requirement has resulted in far too many out-of-focus images. Add to that the lack of digital zooming ability due to the low resolution sensor and subtract the fact I can adapt the Takumars to one of the Canons (and more easily) and you see it fails for usage.

Now what about results? As with all the equipment under my “new” eyesight, the percentage of “good” to “bad” pictures is disappointing. For the other cameras this has been a matter of me re-learning. In the case of the Pentax the camera itself presents faults which can not be overcome. It would be better if this were an excellent example of a K100D (without the silver loss and focus problem), but it isn’t. I could replace the lens, but should I bother?

Let’s look at the pictures:

Rusty rhubarb.
Lavender weed.
Typical sky shot.
Suddenly a raven. I fired off half a dozen shots trying to get this bird in frame and in focus!
Pale moth. (Notice the lack of sharpness due to the lens.)
A look at the lake.

Over-all I’d say the results are good, maybe only fair. Changing the lens helps (I have another series coming re that), but nothing can be done about the 6MP limitation on getting closer after the shot was made.

This is a camera I should sell. The question mark hanging over that is: would anyone buy it? If not, I have no problem keeping it. It doesn’t take up much space and is unlikely to get any worse from sitting unused.

Infrared roses

A little tweaking of the Canon 1Ds set-up for infrared. First, I swapped the 50mm f1.4 Super Takumar for the 35mm f2 because it has not IR ‘hot spot’. Second, I adjusted the exposure a bit which allowed me to get a more accurate white balance shot and thus better final results. Third, I increased the resolution setting to maximum for JPEG as the shots tend to be fuzzy anyhow. Fourth, I experimented with post-processing techniques to get a consistent plan for realizing the results I wanted.

When it comes down to it, you can produce a huge range of unusual colouration from infrared filtering. It’s mainly a matter of what sort of crazy results you want. Knowing when to stop adjusting is at least as much of an issue as knowing what to adjust.

Ranch house
Shed shot
Dramatic view
I don’t usually take pictures of people, but this old guy is interesting.

The last two images are the least processed and the most processed ones. Camera settings: ISO 400, f11, 8 second exposure. Really it could stand another 1/2 stop in initial exposure (using a 720nm filter). Also, the long exposure times mean the balance between aperture and shutter speed (also ISO) are not as even a trade-off as they are with normal photography. There is a lot of experimentation and guesswork involved, no matter how much you shoot.

Frankly a display of many IR shots gets boring quickly; I can’t see the point in doing a whole portfolio of them or limiting yourself to just the one style of photography. But putting one in every once-in-a-while will really liven up a showing and make people stop and wonder.

Bad craziness

Initial experiments with infrared using the Canon 1Ds.

Pic #1
Pic #2
Pic #3
Pic #4
Pic #5
Pic #6
Pic #7
Pic #8

Some notes: this camera seems to be more sensitive to IR than it’s T100 sibling. I have used a variety of processes here to bring out the images, mostly having to do with exposure compensation and sharpening. I can see where some adjustments are needed, for example I was using ISO 1250 (max on the 1Ds) and it is grainy. Most of the images were at f16 to avoid focusing issues. I can see where lower ISO and longer exposure time would be advantageous. Also I am not satisfied with the initial WB setting as the exposure for that is off. Images were taken without a tripod, using fence posts and rails instead. You can see this lens (the 50mm Super Takumar) has a ‘hot spot’ for sure.

Unfortunately I have to start all over because of the limited space on my only CF card. I will keep experimenting until I get results I want, even though my aim for this camera is not IR photography.

Recovery week

Leftover shot from the Olympus E-410.

So surgery last Sunday. Doctor said I could go home and resume my normal activities. There were a couple of problems with that, starting with not coming out of the anesthesia well. Also, he must think my normal activities are sitting on the couch doing nothing. Got home Monday.

Then things got complicated. Called GP on Thursday who called the surgeon who called back and … there’s me rushing into town because bleeding isn’t a good thing to do at any time.

Right. Home again. Less pain, not bleeding. This is better.

Meanwhile about two weeks have been lost to this. Several important things have not gotten done, and I’m not sure I’m up to doing them yet.

But the worst part is I saw a lot of nice photo opportunities on the way to Kamloops and back, but couldn’t do anything about them. (“Stop the ambulance! I need to shoot that mountain!”) I also didn’t get to do any shopping, oddly enough. They really don’t want patients wandering around the city on their own.

Things should get back to normal now but … there’s a problem on my other side as well, it just hasn’t reached emergency-surgery level. Yet.

Nevertheless, life goes on. You can debate whether or not that’s a good thing.

In the meantime I polished the lens for the Pentax K100DS, and then realized I can’t go wandering around taking pictures with it to see if it’s any better now or needs another scrub. I spent some time marking fraud camera ads on EBay – same scam tried multiple times every weekend for months now and it never works; the perpetrator(s) is (are) dumb.

Still looking for a decent deal on a Canon 5D. There are many out there, and the prices they want for even the old ones is ridiculous. Supply and demand, I suppose. I’m not investing crazy money in a camera I’ll likely use only for a few occasional shots. The G11 and E-410 I picked up cheap have already more than earned their price, to me anyway. I’d like to be able to wander around town with the G11 some more too. It’d be nice to wander around Kam and maybe Williams Lake with it as well, but that’s two whole other safaris that will probably never happen. Time constraints, you see.

Also still looking for the long zoom that fits the Olympus E-410. Here’s why:

Full scene at 300mm equivalent.
640×480 crop – not as sharp as I’d like.

I think it would make a great birding camera with the 600mm equivalent on it. But they seem to go for over $300, and that’s kind of silly considering I got the camera and the two shorter zooms for a tad over $100. That’s a black-capped chickadee in there, by the way.

I’ve skipped a few ‘bargain’ cameras I’ve seen because I don’t need them. Better to spend the money towards the equipment I’m actually after than buy something just because it’s a good deal, eh? This included a Pentax K10, which I let go because it isn’t that much different from the K100DS – just more MP really, and I’ve proved that isn’t as important as manufacturers would have you believe it is.

The forecast says we will have above freezing every day and below freezing every night for the next couple of weeks, so the snow pack will continue to melt slowly. At this point it would be overly ambitious to think about getting back to the cabin and all the work awaiting me there. Best to take it easy for a while and slowly work my way back up to normal activities. Most of which I shouldn’t be doing at my age anyway, I’m told.

Another ‘leftover’ shot out of the Olympus.