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

Sony Albinar

These pictures were taken with the Sony a6000 and the FD-mount Super Albinar 28mm f2.8 lens.

Antlers

Sideways Ice

Monochrome Sunrise

Surface Ice

Snowscape

The camera is for sale, by the way. There’s nothing wrong with it and it is a good camera, only I have difficulties using it with my large hands and poor eyesight. I will include the Super Albinar & adaptor as well as the M42 adaptor and one of the not-so-good ‘classic’ lenses recently tested: Opticam f2.8 135mmm, Cunor f4.5 200mm, Sun f2.8 28-80mm, or Prakticar f4.5 70-210mm. Or not if you’d prefer. Frankly that Sun lens is pretty bad and the others only a step above it. Asking price is $600 not including shipping which is pretty outrageous to anywhere even within Canada.

All these pictures were taken in colour and converted to black & white. Sometimes post-processing is your friend. For example here’s what ‘Antlers’ started out as:

Original version of ‘Antlers’

If you think these photos are all no good, well I’m not surprised: I can’t actually see what I’m doing anymore so every step from the initial composition to the finish product is largely guesswork.

The digital zooming thing

Or more accurately the “post-shoot digital zooming thing”. Or the “making use of 24MP” thing.

The premise is that with a high resolution sensor you can crop quite a small portion out of the full frame and still have a reasonably sharp image to present. This is the opposite of demonstrating why high MP sensors aren’t any advantage once the picture is reduced to ‘normal’ size. Let’s see how it works.

The camera: Sony a6000 with 24 MP sensor. The lens: Pentax Super Takumar 50mm f1.4 (the sharpest lens I own). The subject: a dollar store decoration cardinal standing in for a real bird because it won’t fly away while I’m photographing it. The distance: approximately 50 feet.

This is one picture cropped four ways and ending up at 1500 x 1000 each time.

Full frame, shrunk down to size. Bird is a red spot.

 

One quarter frame: 3000 x 2000 crop, centered on the bird. Still a red spot.

 

Approximately one eighth crop. You can almost tell it’s a bird.

 

One sixteenth. This is a 1500 x 1000 segment of the full frame.

As you can see, 1/16 of the full frame is about the maximum limit. It is already “soft” and it still doesn’t reveal the bird very well. Of course 50mm isn’t much focal length (about 75mm equivalent) so for actual birding a longer lens would do better. What we’re studying here is the cropping effect on resolution. This size is slightly larger than my ‘normal’ image presentation, and it is noticeably soft even to my eyesight. Applying the “unsharp mask” doesn’t help.

So what do we learn? We learn there is no substitute for being close to the subject in the first place, whether in actual distance or by use of telephoto lens (which adds its own problems due to looking through increased atmosphere). You can make use of some digital zooming this way, but don’t expect it to be a substitute for multiples of focal length.

By the way, this is the third experiment I did like this. I’m using the examples from this one because they present the best demonstration with the best lens. I have also done it with the 135mm Vivitar, with similar results. If anything the longer focal length adds to the drop-off in sharpness because longer lenses tend not to be as sharp. In other words the digital cropping will not only magnify the image, but any flaws in it as well.

The third experiment utilized the Soligor 85-205mm zoom and a Pentax 2X extender as I was trying variations to see how having an actual long lens would affect the field of view. Or to put it simply, to see if buying the 50-210mm Sony zoom would give enough focal length to make birding pictures possible. The result was “no”. Disregarding the softness of the lens, the field of view was not magnified sufficiently to make for good identification of the bird.

From 60 feet, taken with the Soligor at 205mm (307mm equivalent).

Same spot, but this taken with the Nikon at 1440mm equivalent.

As you can see, for birding a long focal length is desirable because you probably won’t be able to get close to them physically. In fact having the wide zoom range is valuable because you never know how far away you will be when you spot something. This is why I like the Nikon P610, although it needs a faster zoom control and better viewfinder. Hence my recent reference to the desirability of an actual DSLR with a tiny 1/2.3 sensor. But that’s not going to happen. Nor will any manufacturer come up with a digital “sport finder”: a wider frame of view with a centered square indicating the actual image area so small objects can be spotted more easily and brought in close. Perhaps some camera has this, but I haven’t seen it.

I’m still at sixes and sevens about the Sony a6000. It is a very good camera and does produce excellent results. For the most part it’s easy to use and has great lens adaptability. There are only a few flaws, and I can’t quite decide if they are too much to put up with. I think I need to use it more before determining whether it’s worth sinking additional money into or selling it off for whatever I can get.

Canon T100 versus Sony a6000

In a previous post I demonstrated how the Canon’s 18MP sensor produced identical resolution to the Pentax K100D’s 6MP sensor when shrunk down to “Internet size”.  That is a difference of 3X the pixels producing the same quality image in the end. Really the only advantage to higher resolution is the ability to crop further: ‘post-shooting digital zooming’. With the acquisition of the Sony a6000 it was only fair to see how 1/3 more pixels held up to this axiom.

There are a few other considerations in my comparing the cameras as well, mostly in respect to my personal usage of them. The Sony can adapt almost any old lens by virtue of being mirrorless which gives a great deal more space between the sensor and the lens to accommodate adaptors. Case in point: in order for a Canon FD lens to work on the Canon T100 you need a fairly expensive adaptor with a ‘refocusing’ lens in it, whereas with the Sony it’s just a big metal ring. $40 vs. $20, and that extra piece of added glass will have some effect on the resolution.

Two other operational differences are that the Sony is physically smaller and has an electronic viewfinder. Otherwise they are both APS-C ‘crop sensor’ cameras, albeit with a tiny difference in the crop factor: 1.6 for the Canon, 1.5 for the Sony. Hardly significant, yet it does show up in the pictures.

Dealing with dodgy weather, I first did some pictures using each camera’s standard kit lens: Canon 18-55mm and Sony 16-50mm. Fairly similar, but the Canon is slightly more telephoto at both the wide and narrow ends.

Canon T100

Sony a6000

Another similarity between the two lenses is that neither will win any awards for sharpness. They’re “good enough” for average shots, but not up to my standards. I can see this even with my failed eyesight, so it must be painfully evident to anyone with sharp vision.

Canon T100

Sony a6000

For the record, both cameras were set to “automatic everything” and “standard” colour  to see if they would handle the same scenes differently. On the whole there was only a slight tendency towards less exposure for the Canon. Enough so that it made me go back and check to see if I had set compensation at -1/3 or something. I hadn’t. Colour on both cameras is fine ‘right out of the box’ and I couldn’t see any significant difference in the end results. (I did shoot more pictures than are presented here; these are selected for example purposes.)

Of course to pit camera against camera you have to use the same lens on both, so out came the 50mm f1.4 Super Takumar:

Duncan Dog.

Duncan Dog again.

If it weren’t for the obvious clues in labels and field of view you could not tell which was which. Obviously the cameras are comparable quality.

(Note: at retail the Canon cost half what the Sony did, and I wouldn’t have bought the latter had it not been offered at a significant price reduction.)

Now from my personal experience the Sony has four shortcomings:

1). It is smaller, which makes it harder for me to handle. This can possibly be overcome with the addition of an accessory hand grip, but that would be even more money spent.

2). It is mirrorless, and there’s already spots on the sensor again after being cleaned the first time. A bit of a drawback for a camera you would like to change lenses on fairly often in order to use vintage glass.

3). The EVF is noticeably dimmer than the optical finder of the Canon. It has settings for brightness, but this revelation is very significant for me personally.

4). Although the exposure metering in Manual is superior in operational ease to the Canon, the focus is terrible because wide open results in the EVF being a glare of overexposure and you can’t see to focus anything. It is necessary to either switch modes for focusing and then back for exposure or ‘guess focus’ or ‘pre-focus’ – all of which is a pain to do. The Canon does not have this focusing issue due to the optical finder, but checking exposure requires looking at the back screen. (Note that the display symbols in the Sony’s finder are difficult for me to see, but I can manage them and others would have no trouble I suspect.)

What else? Well there is something of a paradox in using the camera with the best, fastest autofocus I have ever seen (better than the Canon or any other camera I have) with manual focus lenses, but there we are. As for obtaining further Sony or third party automatic lenses … egad, the prices! A cheap tele zoom is almost as much as the whole camera cost, and quality primes or long focal length zooms (I tend to shoot telephoto mostly) are twice what I paid for the thing. To be fair, other manufacturers’ glass isn’t much cheaper. Cheap lens tends to equal low quality imaging, hence my fondness for the antique Super Takumars (which are now also insanely priced on the used market when you can find one).

Where do I go from here? To be honest, around in circles. I have debated buying the hand grip ($70) or an FD adapter ($20 – I have one FD lens and it’s not a Canon) or the ‘inexpensive’ tele zoom ($300+) or selling the camera on, and can’t see any way clear.

What I have discovered is my eyesight is terrible and the EVF cameras I have are all now difficult to use because of that. This puts me up against the wall for many things, not the least of which is using my favourite (and ailing) Nikon P610 superzoom for birding. You can not get an optical finder camera with a 65X zoom factor. Not that it would be impossible to make one (imagine a DSLR with a 1/2.3 sensor), they just don’t. The Olympus E410 has a 2X crop factor, but again the lenses available are few and expensive and don’t begin to reach into the Nikon’s 1440mm equivalent range. This is physics spoiling my fun again.

Right now I’m trying to feel proud of myself for not buying a lot of lenses and whatever locally for cheap, and mainly I didn’t do it because the seller couldn’t be bothered to make an itemized list even when I asked for some specifics. Well then I can’t be bothered to drive for over an hour to look and see if any of it is something I can use.

It’s typical that since I have recovered from the operation that the weather has turned bad thwarting any adventures in photography for me. I’m bored, and that’s a dangerous thing.

Oh well at least I don’t live in any of the disaster-struck areas of BC. The effect will no doubt be higher prices on everything, as that’s always what happens, but I haven’t actually lost anything due to the flooding – unlike so many others.

New camera, old lenses

The camera is the Sony a6000, great for adapting vintage glass to. The lenses are noted with the pictures.

Super Albinar 28mm f2.8 (Canon FD mount), hand-held to the camera.

Super Takumar 28mm f3.5 (Pentax M42 mount), using Neewar adapter.

Super Takumar 35mm f2 (Pentax M42 mount), hand-held to the body. Desaturated to eliminate the thorium yellowing. Also it looks better this way.

Super Takumar 50mm f1.4 (Pentax M42 mount), using Neewer adapter.

Segment of the above photo cropped from full frame at 100%. You can blow it up to 200%, that’s how good that lens is.

Vivitar 135mm f2.8 (Pentax M42 mount), using Neewer adapter.

Soligor 85-205mm f3.8 macro zoom at 85mm (Pentax M42 mount), using Neewer adapter.

Segment of a full-frame image taken with the Soligor in macro mode at 85mm (it is sharpest at that focal length and falls off noticebly towards 205mm).

The camera itself does not add much to the classic lens experience, except being able to handle the FD mount properly if I were to get an adapter. Buying a $35 adapter for one $5 lens doesn’t make much sense. Also the Sony’s “back button problem” mention in a previous post is a real pain with longer, heavier lenses. However I did want to see how the combination of the truly excellent 50mm f1.4 lens and the 24MP sensor is. I’d say it’s “astounding”.

A note about the Neewer adapter: I read several complaints about this which come under the heading of “try reading the instructions”; the basic problem being people not recognizing the need to loosen the set screws after putting the lens on and then turning it to get the information line on top. If you do this (and tighten the screws afterwards) the lenses screw in properly. None of mine were off any noticeable amount after the initial adjustment. Also someone whined that the inner ring pushes in the aperture pin “and affects the focus”. Well no, it has nothing to do with the focus and it is supposed to push the pin in: that essentially turns any ‘automatic only’ lens (such as the Soligor I have) into a manual lens as well as making any auto/manual switchable lenses manual only. It’s doing what it’s supposed to do; you need to learn how to use manual lenses.

I admit I have a very difficult time with manual focus, especially close up. I just do not see well enough anymore, so my best results are with ‘fixed focus’ settings or out of pure luck. That is the fault of my eyesight, not any of the equipment used.

I’m setting this to publish the day I’ll be under anaesthesia. If there’s a next post it means I survived because even though I have further pictures taken in my mad dash to try everything I could think of I haven’t put the posts together.

So no posthumous posting.

 

Second look at the Sony

Okay so I’ve used the a6000 a bit more in varying conditions and not always the best weather. Sunshine is occasional around here and when it is clear it gets cold. That’s as may be.

I’ve found a couple of things I don’t like. The first is that the SD card is right up against the hinge side of the access door, which makes it very difficult to remove/replace. Oh sure you’re supposed to use the wifi connection or a USB cable to download your pictures. No thanks. I like being able to change cards. It’s one thing to grasp the simple economics of putting it with the battery under one bottom door (unlike certain other cameras that give memory a separate, side-access compartment as it should be). It’s quite another to grasp that tiny card with big fingers and wiggle it in/out when it’s so close to the door. Something is going to break there. Beyond my patience.

Another problem is the camera’s tiny size. The pad of my thumb keeps hitting the controls on the back and suddenly it thinks I want to change the ISO or it brings up one of the other functions connected with the various buttons which on this camera are quite close to the edge. Along that same line, the knurled adjustment knob on top which is easily moved with the thumb when in shooting position is right next to the ‘PASM’ knob which is also easily moved with the thumb – when you’re trying to adjust the other. Like so many things these days it is not designed for operation by people with large hands.

I’ve had some trouble with the EVF too, in that it needs a proper eye cup to block light when the sun is low and coming from the side. Likewise the fold-up LCD isn’t much good as a waist-level finder because the automatic eye-detection is too close to your body then, blocking the light that triggers it. I’m sure there’s a menu option somewhere to turn that off.

So let’s see how the lens evaluation went. I’d rate it as “good”, but not “very good” and certainly not “excellent”. That power zoom switch is a nuisance, and I kept forgetting to use the zoom ring. Two ways to do one thing is redundant, and redundancy is only needed as a safety against failure (which this isn’t). Let’s look at the pictures:

It can be artistic in B&W. But then so can the Lumix ZS60.

“I am big. It’s the pictures that got small!”

Wild rose. Medium sharpness.

Segment of the previous shot at 100%.

There’s a bird.

Again a segment of the previous shot at 100%.

Let’s discuss the last two images. My intention for this camera was to use it for ‘birding’, hoping the 24MP sensor would allow enough digital zooming to make up for the limited lens range. Now if you know birds you can see from the segment that is a bald eagle. But you wouldn’t want to hang that picture on your wall. The kit lens only goes to 50mm (75mm equivalent). The full size frame of the picture looks sharp enough, but that sharpness vanishes when cropped this much. How much could we get away with? Good question. At any rate this lens is clearly inadequate for the task. Lenses are available up to 200-ish mm (300mm equivalent) and I have an experiment planned to see how that works before plonking down the outrageous price for one.

One more picture with this lens to see how it does on close-up:

Rose thorns again.

Unremarkable.

Oh yes, I almost forgot: there is already dirt on the sensor (a more frequent problem with mirror-less than with DSLR cameras).

(Note: this post and the next one are pre-planned as I’m going in hospital for a procedure and probably won’t be up to doing much for a while.)

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.

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.”

One, two, three (The Master Plan).

Three is an amazing number. It turns up in all sorts of places. Especially stories. In this story it turns up as the number of cameras I’ve set my sights on having. Yes, only three. Right now I have ten – I think. More than I need, anyway. So here is the goal:

1). The Take-It-Anywhere Camera. This slot is currently fulfilled by the Fujifilm F80 EXR. It’s the perfect little point-and-shoot that fits in a pocket but gives great results like a quality 35mm compact. It often exceeds expectations in fact. So no change there.

Fuji F80 EXR

2). The Daily Grinder or Workaholic Camera. This slot is currently fulfilled by the Nikon P610, which unfortunately keeps failing. Sometimes on shots that can’t be duplicated. It is nearing 3,000 pictures on the current SD card, and I’m pretty sure it was never built to last so long with so much usage. I need the superzoom so that I can quickly switch from a flower close-up to a bird in a tree when I’m out and about. Most of the photography I do gets handled by this camera. The best candidate to replace it is a used Sony DSC-HX350 for $250. Comparable new cameras are 2 to 4 times as much as I paid for the Nikon in the first place, and don’t really offer anything that would justify the expense (I do not have unlimited funds to work with here). The Nikon P950 is the company’s current equivalent and it’s $950 when on sale. It offers more zoom (83X), which is ridiculous in light of the difficulties encountered handling the 60X of the older model, and a lot of ‘gizmo-tech’ I’d never use, along with a certain reputation for fragility that I don’t want.

Nikon P610

Sony DSC-HX350 to replace Nikon P610?

3). The Experiment Camera. This slot is currently fulfilled by the Canon T100 and I must say it does the job wonderfully. The only shortcomings are the Canon lenses: be warned that EF-S lenses are not up to snuff when it comes to quality. You need to spend silly money to get good glass on these, or else do like I do and shoot with the ancient Takumars. This is the camera I most want to upgrade, and that would be to a Canon 5D. Why? Because of the bigger sensor. That’s not much of a reason because the only advantage is better low-light imaging. That is one thing I could stand to have as I do occasionally shoot night scenes. It just isn’t major. I’ve been waiting for a used one for cheap, but so far ‘cheap’ has been over $700. They just dropped the price on the one I was looking at to $680, so it will probably be sold before my next ‘financial cycle’ starts this coming Thursday.

Canon T100

Canon 5D II to replace Canon T100?

For all the introspection I’ve done lately on my photography and what would enhance it, this is the result. It would help if I could first unload some of the superfluous cameras, but there are only two that would likely fetch any money worth bothering with. I’m going to try anyway. I would also sell the T100 once there was a 5D to take its place, providing I was satisfied with the exchange.

A curious side note is that 3,000 has nearly come up not only on the Nikon, but on the Canon that I’ve only had since 2018. It’s also coming up on the SD card in the Kodak 850. There isn’t a chance it will occur on the Lumix, as at 500+ images so far the ‘good picture’ rate  for that camera is less than 2% and it isn’t likely to improve.

At this point I could move forward in my plan by dropping about $1000. This is not the time of year to spend that money: Winter tends to bring unexpected expenses and it’s a good idea to cushion the bank account a bit beforehand. Plus I have more wood to get, and you just never know what might happen while doing that.

Even if I can and do make these minor changes, what of it? Would anyone besides me notice or even see the difference? Probably not. And what of the other digital cameras that would still be hanging about taking up storage space? Or the next one I see that I want for some trivial reason and decide to buy anyway.

The best laid plans of mice and photographers …

Kodakery

(The title comes from the name of Eastman Kodak’s long-time periodical.)

So after wearing myself out harvesting wood and dragging in the remaining two dock sections, I took some time to take some pictures using the venerable Kodak P850. Perhaps I should make that “vulnerable” because the ol’ Kodak is losing its abilities. Worse than the Nikon. In fact the shutter never triggers on the first press now, instead it ‘resets’ the camera – sometimes more than once – and I have to fiddle with it to get a shot. Also the settings are ‘set’, as the erratic functioning extends to all the other controls. It took me ages to get it off “EV+3”, and ISO is hopelessly fixed at 100.

With the Nikon failing, the Kodak failing, and the Lumix just plain no good it looks like I will soon be down to a mere two cameras: the Canon T100 and the Fuji EXR. I have found a deal on a used Sony HX350 and am seriously considering it. But if I buy it and it turns out to be another disappointment – I don’t think either my wallet or my psyche could stand it.

(Also note that WordPress is messed up again and won’t let me write any text after a picture has been added.)

After much finagling, here are the results.

Chainsaw dust. I’ve been making quite a lot of it.

A View to a Logging.

The Fungus of the Opera.

Butterfly warming itself on the beach.

This is why I like the camera: the colour renditions are terrific.

Darkness descends.