Believe you can’t fly

(A scheduled rant because who knows what Wednesday will be like.)

This is precipitated by a blog I read wherein the writer postulated that film cameras will still be going after digital cameras have quit. Initially it looked like a claim that we’d all go back to film, but the actual point was that digital cameras individually are doomed to die within a few years whereas there are film cameras that are still functioning after more than a century.

Boy don’t I know it! I have several examples myself, from the handful of digital cameras that have passed on to the recycling bin to the 100+ year-old Brownie that I’ve taken pictures with – including using a digital camera as ‘film’ for it.

Of course everyone who reads my drivel knows my prejudice against smart phones. Can we add to the standard complaints the fact they are designed to land in the bin before they’ve even stopped working due to Planned Obsolescence on Steroids?

Let’s just look at film versus digital for a moment. Again.

What are the main drawbacks of film? It costs a fortune to use as supplies dwindle and the chemistry involved becomes ever-more expensive and scarce. Whereas digital uses cheap, reusable technology. Also film has that ‘wait’ factor where you have to shoot the whole roll and process it before you see what you got. Digital is nearly instant. Film is fixed in its results, digital is variable at several stages from changing the ISO frame by frame to post processing with the click of a button.

What are the main advantages of film? A good film camera need not be dependent on batteries and is unlikely to fail as a result. Indeed it can be “always on” and at the ready, with no lag between spotting the shrike in the bush and grabbing the shot. Some digital cameras are really slow to start up, or even capture after pushing the button. I’ve got a lot of pictures of where birds were a fraction of a second before the camera actually fired. True it can happen with film, but it’s less likely. And as mentioned at the start the film camera may still be functioning long after the digital one has given up. Most film cameras, even many of the cheap ones, are built like tanks. On the other hand digital cameras are generally built to be replaced in a couple of years (that ol’ obsolescence thing again).

I’m not going to discuss film image quality versus digital image quality as that really is a moot point and one that’s purely aesthetics.

Can you get a digital camera that will last? Sure. Got a few thousand dollars to spend? And then we still need to define “last” because a 150,000 shutter count can go by faster than you think, even when you are paying a small fortune per frame.

Is there any point to this post? No, not really. Certainly no conclusions. Just observation. But yes I would still use film if it were at all practical because I really like the way some of the old film cameras work (I often set my digital ones to imitate the functions, although not to the “simulation recipe” extreme). But I would use it alongside digital because both have advantages when it comes to getting the results you want.

B&W in colour

That wasn’t fun

It’s complicated

My computer was becoming ever more erratic. Not a chance of replacing it due to financial constraints. What was more, I’d have to spend money for Win10 – and then delete it because it’s crap. Win11 is even worse as it is specifically designed to lock out old hardware and force sales of new machines. Imagine that: you just bought a Win10 machine and then you ‘upgrade’ it to Win11 and the next thing you know it doesn’t work worth a damn and you’re told you need to buy a new computer. Oh some will take the change, but better find out before you make the switch.

Anyway I’d just delete Microsoft’s bloated Spyware System and install Linux. Which is sort of what I did yesterday, except it was install Linux over Linux – or rather alongside it.

See here’s the thing: there was a program I wanted to use which would not work on Mint 17.3. There is no upgrade path from 17.3 to 18.3 except either deleting and starting over or doing a dual-boot install. As it is I had to backup everything anyway, so I did the dual-boot thing in case I didn’t like 18.3. That took all afternoon and into the night. I can only imagine it’s worse with Windows.

(Comic Note: in Star Trek: Lower Decks one of the characters has a cybernetic implant. In one episode it needs to be ‘updated’ and so it keeps rebooting as it installs progressive increments of the update, causing the character to black out and not know what goes on during that time. It is so much like the Windows update process … The funny line is: “Installing Klingon Fonts” What?! Why do I even need that?!)

Anyway after getting it up and running I then installed the updates and then installed the updates and then began updating it … That is to say transferring the massive number of data files and making sure I had the same programs. Whoops. After the solitaire and mahjong games that got a little dicey. Seems Chromium (the open source version of Chrome) is a bit different. In fact it’s better but hey the included outdated Firefox had to go. Then I need the extensions. Then … Well, you get the picture. (In fact over 20,000 pictures). It’s a good thing Linux does not itself consume massive amounts of drive space. I now have two versions of it with duplicates of my data files – on a 500GB drive with plenty of space leftover. I hear Windows alone can eat that much space.

So the look is slightly different but not so far off it’s unusable. I haven’t had time to fully test it of course, and no I haven’t got to installing that one program which started me down this rabbit hole. It does appear that the video has stabilized and possibly the computer itself (it had developed the habit of locking on boot or shut down or just mid operation). We shall see if it remains so.

There is one tiny little annoyance, though: for some reason the [@] key and the [“] key are now transposed in operation. So far that’s the only glitch and it doesn’t make sense as I thought ASCII codes were standardized decades ago. Yes, I tried changing the keyboard language designation but it isn’t any different on any version of English. If anyone can explain this weird deviation I’d like to know what’s caused it.

Note to self: check and see if the printer and/or scanners now work.

The X10 Factor

I was wandering around the yard with my Nikon P610 looking for birds to shoot (yes, I know) and I couldn’t help but notice there was a slightly strange feel to it in my hands as I moved. A kind of indistinct ‘clunk’ that unfortunately my trained engineering mind told me was “the lens is getting sloppy”. This induces panic mode like nothing else because it’s my favourite, most useful, and most used camera – despite its increasingly-difficult-to-see EVF. Also the battery isn’t lasting as long as it once did. Will I have to replace it in the future? Undoubtedly. It’s just a matter of time. And they don’t make these anymore. The 60X, ‘1440mm equivalent’ super zoom has been replaced by an 83X in the P900 and a 125X in the P1000. These are both rather overkill in zoom, as even the 60X is hard to manage at full extension. Besides, just the P900 is twice the price the P610 was.

So … what else ya got?

There’s a fairly good resource for would-be camera buyers called Camera Decision which is fun to read reviews and evaluations at. But you need to take the info with a grain of salt: some of the negatives and positives (I couldn’t resist, sorry) they relate are a matter of personal preference rather than absolute technical truth. For example, they think touch screens are a positive. Not on any camera of mine, they’re not. Likewise they value small size over large, which is also a matter of taste (or hand size actually). I mean you can’t argue a Minox B is better than a Speed Graphic just because it’s smaller.

Then there are some issues with physics. Good ol’ physics. Just when you’re about to have fun it stomps in and kicks the game board all over the room. Or something. For example decrying telephoto lenses for not being “fast”. *ahem* If you had an 800mm lens that was f2.8 it would look like something usually associated with deep-space astronomical research, and you’d have to hire someone to carry it around for you. While we’re at it, half the reason why extreme zoom cameras have ‘2.3’ size sensors is that’s how they pull off the extreme zoom trick: slice a small segment out of a big area and what do you get? A crop factor of about 5.6, that’s what. This is also why they fail to produce good results at any ISO above 800, no matter what claims are made: there just isn’t enough sensitive area to pick up low light levels.

All that aside, the site is quite useful for getting technical info and comparing various models. I linked above to the “Compare Cameras” finder section so you can dive right in with your specific requirements and get some idea of what is out there in the marketplace.

What I found is that I have $2,000 camera tastes with a $200 camera budget (hence the title of this piece). Good thing I don’t have to replace that ol’ Nikon right away!

The camera that would truly suit my needs doesn’t actually exist. It wouldn’t be impossible to build, they simply don’t do it. For example I’d want the smaller sensor to give me incredible zoom capacity, but might be able to have a micro 4/3 instead or even a APS-C if it had enough pixels to allow for quality digital zooming (most digital zooming is not quality). I’d also want an optical finder, which seems to be vanishing from the offerings entirely, because even a good EVF is not as bright as glass (even though in theory it could be). I have vision problems I have to deal with, okay?

It’s interesting that Camera Decision includes evaluating models for different types of photography, which betrays the manufacturers’ recurring fault of trying to make one model cover all bases. When they do that they get something that at best ranks “average” in all categories. If they concentrate on a single aspect they get “excellent” for that and invariably “poor” on something or everything else. It can’t be helped. Damned physics again.

So here are some of the ‘features’ I could do without:

1). Touch screen. This is more like an invitation to disaster than an asset.

2). Video anything. You want video? Buy a video camera. A mule is neither a donkey nor a horse.

3). RAW files. These are for people who have way too much time on their hands. A camera should be able to produce an acceptable image without any processing.

4). Wireless connectivity/GPS. How about an SD card door that isn’t as fragile as a Faberge Egg instead? And I already know where I am, thank you.

5). Digital filters. Maybe if they were real filters and not just processing tricks. Think contrast enhancement at the touch of a button instead of wading through a menu.

6). Electronic viewfinder. Whereas eye-level finding is an absolute must (and LCD screens are useless), I prefer the brightness of optical finders over the electronic version. It’s easier for my old eyes to see, and they have enough trouble seeing already. (BTW I have cameras of all three types.)

7). Obscene amounts of pixels. Give me the greater light sensitivity of a larger sensor instead, as long as there’s a reasonable degree of resolution. Half the time I use under 5MP in the final picture anyway. Unless it’s using the pixels to good purpose as mentioned in the remarks about digital zooming. You kind of have to balance between MP and sensor size and zoom capacity.

8). Image stabilization. Okay stating that I don’t need this is probably blasphemy, but I’ve never noticed it does much for me even with telephoto shots. True higher ISO coupled with brains enough to turn up the shutter speed when shooting fast motion or telephoto views works well. If we’re looking at interchangeable lenses or even built-in zoom the camera ought to be able to sense the focal length and adjust shutter speed accordingly.

Then there are the features I really, really want:

1). A lens as sharp as a scalpel. I can soften it if I want to, but there’s no way to do the reverse.

2). A price I can afford. Guess I’m out of luck there. I looked up “top cameras for bird watchers”, and they were all psycho money.

3). Exposure intelligence I don’t have to mess with. Most of the cameras I have manage this quite well (save one infamous exception), with only the occasional ‘tweak’ needed for dull days or off-temperature lighting. I use ‘manual’ when I want manual, and shouldn’t have to make the same changes when I’m trying to shoot ‘automatic’. You’d really need a kind of 3-step prioritization for auto exposure where you pick order of importance such as #1 Aperture f‘X’, #2 Shutter no slower/faster than ‘Y’, #3 ISO no higher/lower than ‘Z’, for example.

4). Controls in the right bloody places. Look, manufacturers; just ask a photographer with 50+ years experience what dedicated controls are needed and where they should go, okay? Don’t leave it up to someone whose qualifications run only to winning every video game he’s ever played. This includes lens controls: I don’t want to zoom or manual focus with a joystick or back button or whatever, just a ring around the barrel thank you.

5). Quality build. There’s an awful lot of fragile stuff out there, even from “reputable” manufacturers. They need to remember the average user is a ham-fisted troglodyte whose dexterity only just allows him to bang the rocks together. Well, maybe not that bad … but they should think along those lines when designing.

6). Crazy telephoto ability. This one is a distinct problem, since in order to get the really long zoom capacity you need to give up sensor size. My Nikon P610 has a ‘2.3’ sensor which has a crop factor of 5.64. Thus a 50mm lens on a 35mm camera is equal to 282mm on the Nikon (or 80mm on the Canon with the APS-C sensor). If you go to the larger sensor for maximum light capacity (true high ISO) you have to have a huge piece of glass to get that focal length, never mind any “fastness” to the lens. The P610 has a 35mm’s equivalent of 1440mm (255mm ‘real’ – about the same as the “long” lens from the Canon kit) at maximum telephoto. The thing is, I use telephoto a lot in the kind of photography that I do and the 250mm top end on the APS-C sensor isn’t enough. (I worked it out as needing at least a 48MP sensor in APS-C size to offer enough digital zoom to be close to the 250mm on the 16MP ‘2.3’ sensor.)

Well this piece has wandered a bit, hasn’t it? Doubled back over the same territory in more than one spot, so to speak. But I’m just worried that the P610 is going to go “clunk” (or other cartoon noise of your choice) and quit functioning on me. Then what? The Canon T100 is excellent at what it’s for and exceeds the Nikon in certain respects, but doesn’t measure up in zoom length or optical sharpness come to that. There are other lenses I can put on it, but they are very expensive and still don’t reach the same length equivalent due to the processor size difference.

Perhaps I will be searching the used listings again, hoping to find a fully working P610 or a less-than-full-price P900. So far it hasn’t become a necessity.

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Thunderhead – Nikon P610

Frying Friday

I don’t even know if this will get published, but it’s a rant (a little tongue-in-cheek too) anyway so maybe it’s just as well.

Three blogs I read this week caused me to grumble. Let’s take the mildest one first.

It’s about film recipes. There’s this person that does them and does them well, except that they all kind of look alike when you get right down to it. Proudly promoted as “Kodacolor” or whatever, they’re all low-saturated, cool-toned, and bluish. I guess no one but me remembers Kodak’s standard of rich, warm colours meant to please the average consumer. Most of these digital recipes look like they should have the “Ekta-” prefix, not the “Koda-” one. If you don’t know the difference, that’s part of the problem. In later years Kodak literally toned down their colour experience because too many people couldn’t remember Uncle Bob spending so much time in the sun that he looked like he was part lobster. Whatever. Save it for post processing is my advice. The same with the cyan prints, which can easily be done that way. Oops! Did I just give something away?

Second complaint: someone said forget about getting a Pentax Spotmatic for a first film SLR. SERIOUSLY? Must be the STUPIDEST photographer on Earth! You want fantastic film photo results, get that Spotmatic with its incredible Takumar lenses – if you can. The idiot was recommending only newer, electronic film cameras. Yeah, right. Good luck finding one that still works or doesn’t break down two frames after you start snapping away. They weren’t dependable when new. You’ll learn more about photography with the manual camera, people. A lot more.

Complaint number three is rooted in someone once again declaring all cameras save pro DSLRs and smartphones are dead. Kind of misses the fact smartphones suck six ways to Sunday. Go ahead; change my mind. I’m waiting. I know lots of people who have and use them and think they’re fine. I should video their performances as they constantly swear at the things and repush touch-spots on the tiny screen trying to get the damn device to do what they want. Yeah I had that with the Lumix and it’s my #2 complaint about the camera. Frankly anyone managing to get a smartphone to do anything right is just plane lucky. The things are pure techno-trash. Undependable, unreliable, and unimpressive.

You can see I’m in a good mood. No, really I am. I’m actually having fun with my good cameras and have a few quite remarkable shots coming up to share. In the meantime here’s a “bleach-bypass” version of a picture taken with the cursed ZS60*:

P1000479B

Better times ahead!

*Footnote: the Panasonic Lumix ZS60 actually seems to work better in 3:2 ratio rather than 4:3. I don’t know why, and it’s not a major improvement.

The Cell Phone Rant

If you live in Canada as I do, you have the misfortune of having to put up with what must be the most expensive and poorest quality cellular service on Earth. If you live in a rural area, you have the choice of exactly three carriers, two of which share the same infrastructure. You want a deal? Forget it.

Let’s look at where this starts. I hardly ever use my cell phone. 99% of the time it is literally turned off. I only ever use it to check in with my wife when I’m in town. It doesn’t work at the cabin (zero cell signal there) nor even at home without a booster. That’s how good our coverage isn’t. Thus I have a prepaid account which rips me $10 a month and even then quite often just plain doesn’t work when I want it to. For example it doesn’t function out of town even if we’re two feet apart because that’s “roaming” and there’s no way to load such ‘long distance’ service on to a pre-paid number here.

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My venerable Samsung Rugby – note the dent

In order to achieve that technological miracle which in fact costs them nothing more at all, I have to ramp up to a monthly plan at a minimum $35 per. That’s an extra $25 a month to be able to do what I should be able to do anyway, and since I only need it maybe six times a year it’s not a very good bargain. You can do a lot with $300 a year. I could use a pay phone when I’m in the big city, but there aren’t any there anymore. Guess why.

Every cell plan now it seems is centered on text and data, rather than talking. Don’t you want unlimited gigabytes for $500 a month? Everyone does! Oh and you can get the latest smartphone too! Except smart phones are not smart, as anyone who is can tell you. Not only do they fumble under my large fingers, but everyone who uses them makes errors many times per day – and they think nothing of it because they have come to accept 40% accuracy of operation as “normal”. I’m an engineer, and I don’t. Smart phones are crap devices that fail as phones and as computers and yes as cameras. They’re actually better as cameras now than they are as phones!

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One of the half dozen or so Smartphones my wife has had in the past 6 years

You wondered when I was going to get to cameras, right? Well here it is: the entire smartphone industry is based on selling people who already have viable devices a new unit because it has some small improvement such as a “better camera” which is hyped until the consumer is under the impression that they will simply die if they don’t get the newest model. The promotions are enough fertilizer to cover 100,000 acres.

I have had and still have an alarmingly large number of tools, and I can tell you that any time anyone tries to make an all-in-one device it ends up being a not-really-good-at-anything device. It can’t be helped. Whether it’s a multi-screwdriver or a cell phone or a car that wants to be a part time boat. The flawed design theory behind the smartphone is: since it has to have a CPU anyway, why not have it do other things that need a CPU to do? You then get a mediocre phone, which you have to downplay by extolling the virtues it doesn’t really have in other operations.

Seriously, kids; you press a button on a keyboard and you get that keystroke every time, unless the damn thing is broken. Pay attention the next time you play with your touchscreen device and see if it really operates at 100% accuracy. I hear my wife sitting in her chair cursing under her breath at her Samsung for hours on end as it repeatedly doesn’t do what she wants it to and often does something entirely different instead. And that doesn’t include certain Internet functions that are not accessible to smartphones at all.

Android OS? Blue Tooth? Wifi? Chromebooks? All about as reliable as a government agency; they cost a lot of money and if they ever function right at all you’re supposed to say they’re wonderful and be eternally grateful – until the next model comes out to replace the one you’ve got.

I can have arguments with people about how analog is in many ways superior to digital, although most of the time the other person doesn’t know the definition of either. I still have an old analog cell phone which worked better than any phone I’ve had since, but has been forced into obsolescence by companies out for repeat sales at the cost of burgeoning landfills. This gets into socio-economic areas as well as environmental ones.

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My ‘ancient’ Audiovox cell phone

Our government oversight agency for telecommunications, the CRTC, has “come down hard” on the cell companies to force them to give us better options, clearer billing, and greater customer satisfaction. So far those companies have just been laughing all the way to the bank, and have done nothing. They’re proud of their top-end pricing limit (so you’ll never pay more than $1,000 a month for that data!), but they have no real options at the low end for occasional users like me or anyone on a budget who needs a phone for those instances when all you need is a phone. They don’t even make voice-only phones anymore.

Thus we have a world full of industries all operating on the flawed premise of selling people something they’ve already got, while cutting out any segment of the population that is not currently served.

As for me, there is no solution to my personal dilemma. I may as well go back to the pre-cell days and save an addition $10/month. I could buy a couple of walkie-talkies for what I’d save in one year, and operate for free from then on. If I could get the Mrs. to use one.

I’m wasting your and my time here of course; nothing is going to change for this rant. The majority of suckers with smartphones can’t even comprehend there’s a problem. After all, theirs does what they think they need to do with it – at least 40% of the time anyway – and at a cost that’s only ten or twenty times what the service is actually worth.

Ooh! Nope! There’s a Brand New model of their smartphone just out, so they all have to rush out and buy that now. Otherwise they’ll just die!

Going full frame?

I am writing this before taking the plunge, in order to explain to myself why I’m doing it. If, in fact, I do it. We’ll see. It’s just that my mind keeps skittering away when I try to think of the advantages of a full frame DSLR, so I need to get them down on electronic paper, so to speak.

The most obvious advantage is that it’s more sensitive to light. This means better low-light pictures, such as star shots. Will this help me much in my photography? Probably not.

Right after that we switch from “advantage” to “difference”, which is not the same thing. Of course a full-frame camera utilizes lenses differently: no crop factor involved, so the focal length (which is so often expressed in terms of 35mm film camera equivalent) will be “as written” (a 50mm lens is “normal” focal length, not a short telephoto 80mm equivalent). The depth of field is also altered accordingly. Will this help me much? Again, probably not.

The resolution difference is pretty minuscule as the FF DSLR I’m considering is 20MP as opposed to my APS-C camera’s 18MP. Presented on a physically larger sensor, there is only a slight improvement in sharpness and dynamic range. If it were a 28MP sensor this would be different. So … much help here? Ah, not really.

Okay, why was I thinking I should buy this? Because it’s the only piece of hardware I can acquire that would actually make any difference at all in my work? Maybe. Because I found a Canon 6D used for about 1/3 the price of a new one and it’s for sale in the same province so no massive import costs? Perhaps. Because I’m bored? Yes, probably that one. I mean, it’s not like I have trouble producing good photos from the cameras I’ve already got, right?

Screenshot from 2020-01-10 13:16:30
Canon 6D ad image

So I did some research, specifically reading articles about the advantages/disadvantages of the full frame cameras. None of the things I read presented me with any information I hadn’t already considered myself. Really there’s not much reason to go full frame no matter who you are or what you shoot unless you can get that sensor with the huge increase in pixels so that the density of same is equivalent to the cropped sensor version. With film photography the resolution is fixed by the amount of silver particles per square area, which is pretty much the same across all negative sizes – but the larger the negative the greater total number of particles so the sharper the image. Increasing the sensor size by a factor of 3 without a corresponding increase in the number of pixels doesn’t really mean much.

Sounds like I’ve talked myself out of it, again. In fact I keep coming back to the notion that what I really want is an old Canon Elph 150 with its 20MP CCD sensor and 10X zoom. The only one of those I can find right now costs more than the new-but-shop-worn Elph 180 – which only has an 8X zoom and a CMOS sensor – and has to be imported besides.

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Canon Elph 150 ad image

No worry, no hurry as it’s not going to be ‘photography weather’ again around here for a long time yet.

The Ghost of Aunt Ada

My Aunt Ada was a very interesting woman. Quite a character in fact, although that didn’t make her unusual in our family. I thought of her this week when I was watching prices on things go up inexplicably. Why? Because she used to go to the local flea market and haggle, and yes I would go too and complain about what people were asking. One time she volunteered to walk up and down the rows banging a pan and shouting “People your prices are all too high!” She didn’t actually do it, but it was a close thing.

A couple of posts ago I mentioned two items I’d found that I was interested in buying but felt they were both a tad expensive yet. One of them sold before I’d finished writing that missive, and now the other one has gone up in price by $40. What’s more, a certain new lens I’ve been watching since before Christmas has gone from “$149” to “$129” to “$179” to “$177”, up and down bouncing between the numbers with no rhyme or reason.

It gets worse. I looked at some used laptops and found that people seem to want as much if not more as you can buy comparable units for new. Did they not get the memo? The moment you buy that latest tech its value drops by half and it’s already superseded by a new model. What you paid for it isn’t relative to its worth, which is why you still have it for sale.

Looking on local and national sales sites (E-Bay Canada is just E-Bay USA with extra charges for shipping, exchange rate, import fees, and taxes) for anything you care to mention and you see it’s all nutso pricing. In addition to the previous mentioned products we have people trying to sell $2 Matchbox cars for $20 (or sometimes a lot more), clothing you can get out of you-know-where being priced on-line for 3X retail, and dollar store goods offered as though they are from Harrod’s. Are people really so foolish as to not shop around?

There are those who say I’m the fool for not grabbing those items when I could because when they’re gone they’re gone. I say “so what?” I’ve seen things “go” for more than half a century and know not only is there another opportunity coming, but you didn’t cease to exist just because you didn’t get that whatsit that you managed to live without before you saw it. So I’ll continue to follow the Zen and wait for the planets to align, or whatever, before making my purchases.

But what we really need is the ghost of Aunt Ada walking up and down the metaphorical aisles of on-line selling banging her pan and shouting “People, you have got to lower your prices!”

Speaking of ghosts, here’s ghost cat (a preliminary experimental photo):

ghostcat

Looking back, looking ahead

(A Post For No Particular Reason while it’s snowing.)

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The snow today

Looking back on 2019 there were a lot of things that I could have done without. A certain mess-up by people in another country which necessitated my wife being away longer than intended, for example. A certain mess-up by people in this country which resulted in the sale of our rental house not going through would be another example. In both instances some of the people doing the messing-up were lawyers.

Still, by the end of the year I could have been cheered up by any number of unexpected pleasantries which might have occurred. None of them did, however, so I go into 2020 feeling a bit down. It doesn’t help that one of the first things scheduled for the year is re-doing the rental house sale, and that to be followed immediately by (or perhaps simultaneously with – don’t ask) my wife going back to England to deal with things again. It all sounds too familiar.

Sometimes I dwell on the “shoulda dones” even though there’s no point. Why, for example, did I not ship back my Exakta V in 2018? Well there were a number of reasons including the mind-boggling cost of shipping between countries, the fact I did not have a DSLR to put old lenses on at the time (thinking I’d never play with film again skewed my rationalization of what cameras to keep), and the fact I was way pressed for time to get it all done. Never mind, water under the bridge, can’t do anything about it now. Maybe someday I’ll even stop complaining about it. But don’t hold your breath waiting.

Still, some good in 2019. Took an amazingly large number of pictures, for example. Bought Jojo the Highlander. Watched a lot of good movies. It really doesn’t take much to make me happy. In fact the less going on the happier I am.

So what of 2020 beyond the scheduled events which I already dread? Well there’s continuing work on the cabin to be done so maybe, just maybe we’ll get to spend some time there this Summer? Nah, something will screw that up. Don’t get your hopes up or they’re bound to be dashed on the sharp, jagged rocks of reality.

Obviously there’s more pictures to be taken. It really has become quite the solace for me as it requires little exertion or expense and is simple happiness in images. I even like looking over the same pictures again and again, and not just my own; the various blogs I’ve been reading are enjoyable too and don’t require substantial effort to do so.

I was thinking, if I were to add any equipment this year what would it be? Two items have come to light: one is a 35mm Canon lens for the T100, which at $440+ is still expensive but less than the nearly $800 they want new. (Edit: the lens has already sold. I guess it was a good deal.) Another is the one kind of camera that would add something to my repertoire, a full-frame Canon 5D for $620. Still a lot of money and probably not worth it, but less than those beautiful Fujifilm rangefinder replicas which wouldn’t really be all that different in shooting from what I already have. Timing is everything here, so we’ll just have to wait and see.

And say, when it comes to surprises could they be pleasant ones this year? The novelty of unpleasant ones has worn off and I’m really sick of them.

Now for utterly crazy ideas I’ve come up with the notion of convincing some company to build “digital film”. It sounds absurd at first: a unit the same size and shape as a 35mm film cartridge with a ‘tongue’ sticking out that is the sensor for the film plane. This could be put in any 35mm film camera and produce digital results. Ah but how would you work it? Magic of Blue Tooth and an Android App. We already have wifi connections from the camera for moving pictures to other devices, why not make good use of it? The sensor would have to pick up on the exposure to register a new image, and the adjustments in the App would be only a matter of “film type” settings as focus, aperture, and shutter speed would be camera-dependent. Not for amateurs and probably most pros would not use it as their go-to unit, but the serious artistic photographer would not be likely to leave it on the shelf. Imagine being able to use all those wonderful 35mm film cameras so easily.

Unfortunately my engineering expertise is in the wrong field, not to mention seriously out of date, but if anyone out there wants to take this on – well I’d buy it just to use the Pentax Spotmatic again. Probably the most difficult issue would be protecting the sensor yet keeping the ‘tongue’ thin enough to be practical.

Yeah, I get crazy ideas sometimes.

I also have more experimental photography ideas coming up, and more blog entries to write.

Have fun. I try to.

Have some random brain fog on me

Idly looking over pictures, cameras, and photo blogs.

A few things come to mind. One being that I just shot a nice picture at ISO 80 while all the world raves about the greatness of the latest camera(s) being able to shoot at ISO 25,600. Is it that much brighter up here at the top of the world? Or are photographers mostly vampires who only go out at night? Kids, we lived with ISO 400 max film for decades. And often we did it using tiny apertures and slow shutters, which brings up the next point: image stabilization. Edit: curiously before I posted this I came across another photographer addressing this issue, Nina Kirienko.

Great stuff, that. Whether in body or in lens it can be a help sometimes. The Old Man will now tell you it didn’t exist for over 100 years of photography, yet we still got the shots. It makes me wonder how often it really helps today. Maybe it hurts; maybe people would learn to be better photographers if they got some blurred shots and realized they need to up the shutter speed or ISO. Hey, you can get ISO 25,600 now. And shutter speeds up to 1/4000 second. BTW, do you know the trick of high speed focal plane shutters? They don’t really go faster above a certain point, they shrink the size of the opening so that the effective exposure time is shorter. This traveling slit effect can sometimes show up under the right (or wrong) circumstances. Just thought I’d mention it.

I could probably do another whole long-winded rant about photographers not learning the art because the cameras do everything for them these days. You’ve seen the “scene” modes, right? Like that. Of course Mr. Eastman promised “You push the button, we do the rest” and it seems to have returned. Today’s instruction books don’t do much for encouraging people to try the other settings. It’s a bit ironic considering you can shoot like crazy for next to free now, as opposed to learning on film which cost you. Maybe that’s it: what we don’t pay for we don’t value. Anyway the books don’t even tell you to keep the sun over your left shoulder now. Not even metaphorically. Shall we debate if camera companies have any moral obligation to provide instruction with their machines? If so, how much? The books seem to contain mostly safety warnings and liability exemptions.

Some of this written wandering comes after reading Eric L. Woods latest post. I like his writing style, even though he’s in the “supercars” realm of cameras and I’m driving the “back lot specials” so to speak. He does appreciate value nonetheless, and that’s a rare thing these days. From reading his recent adventures with returning to Fuji I discovered a certain major retailer available in both countries considers our CDN $ to be worth about 61 cents US. Far below the 75 cent exchange rate minus further bank discount of 5%. We never catch a break up here.

Where was I? Did I mention that modern cameras with their high ISO ratings and high shutter speed capacities shouldn’t need image stabilization? Oh yes, I did. It’s still nice. Maybe they could tag the shots with some flag about having been ‘stabilized for your comfort and convenience’. It doesn’t work with certain lenses. Try shooting with those and see if you notice a difference.

Another blog I read the other day rightly pointed out the difference between the blur caused by low depth of field and the ‘quality‘ of that blur which is described by that word starting with “b” that I don’t use because it’s a silly affectation and entirely subjective. Hey, I’m an old man with a reputation to maintain so I have to say stuff like that okay?

Oh yes. Something about apertures. Even in the film days we had the great race/debate/flaming row about f1.2 versus f1.4 – or whichever (Canon made an f0.95 lens, btw). Most of us were using f1.8 lenses if we were lucky. Heck my main Exakta lens was f1.9 – a Primoplan 58mm from Meyer Gorlitz that would kill anything new out there in terms of resolution. Rather like the Super Takumars, only crisper – if you can imagine that. A lot of people managed just fine with f2.8 or even f3.5 on their 35mm cameras. This is because most of the time we were all shooting at f8 anyway. You should have been there. Lenses really aren’t at their best wide open, even today. If you want that neat look of limited depth of field and sharpness where it’s focused you need to find the ‘ideal’ focal length lens that gives you this while somewhat stopped down; the joy of the short telephoto. Lots of people have discovered this by accident.

But really this entire entry is an excuse to post this picture of an old kettle that I took as a “test shot” with the Kodak P850. I played with the exposure and contrast to lose the distracting background it had as it’s about the shape of thing. I expect to shoot it more under varying conditions – without a distracting background.

kettle

Two photography things I want

It’s not good picture-taking weather here right now as it is cold and foggy, when it isn’t actually raining. The outdoors is icy, in other words, and not fit to set foot in. When this trend will break is anyone’s guess. The weather forecasters have a reputation for being wrong in their predictions, so we’ll just have to wait and see.

In the meantime I’m reading various blogs, mostly about photography. Yes it’s a life-long hobby for me that I’ve found renewed comfort in lately. When daily life is basically a struggle, anything fun and familiar is a welcome relief.

Some of the blogs go on about just getting into photography, and they give me hope for the future. Some of them are from professionals, and they give me amusement and sometimes despair for the current state of things. I wonder a lot about the equipment-obsession that seems to afflict so many these days. Okay, easy for me to be aloof because I’ve had literally hundreds of cameras so I guess I got it out of my system. Although I do still look at equipment, because it’s interesting. That doesn’t mean I want it all, though. However there are in fact two things I do want to further my photographic fun.

The first of these is a ‘normal’ focal length prime lens for my Canon EOS Rebel T100. That would be somewhere in the 30-35mm range. Canon makes reasonably priced EF-S series prime lenses in 22mm, 24mm, 40mm, and 50mm focal lengths, but nothing around the 30mm spot that would be normal for the APS-C cameras. Maybe they think people who buy these don’t take ‘normal’ pictures? Maybe they think we’re not normal? Maybe they just blundered. The kit zoom lenses are noticeably lacking in quality both for build and image, and if I can see that then people with good vision must cringe at their results.

So let’s look around and see what ‘third party’ lenses there are.

Youngnou 35mm f2: The reviews say it all. There’s no point wasting any amount of money on this.

Rokinon/Samyang 35mm f1.4: No doubt a reasonable quality lens, but it’s manual focus & exposure. I’ve already got a Super Takumar that does that, probably with better resolution, even if it does tint everything thorium yellow. Certainly not going to pay around $600 to not have the auto functions the camera is capable of.

Sigma 30mm f1.4: This looks like the ideal solution. It’s just about the perfect focal length. So what’s the trouble? To start with the price is 50% more than the camera cost. I mean this is like 3X what the Canon prime lenses go for. That seems more than a little steep to me. What’s worse is it is not sold in Canada; it has to be “ordered in” and let me tell you importing items into this country is a gamble. You’d be better off spending the day at the casino, in fact: less aggravating and you probably won’t lose as much money because you can stop whenever you want. Our bureaucratic system has ways of continuously milking the unsuspecting buyer. If it started out in the <$200 range it might be worth a go for this lens, but at $500+++ … no.

Now it isn’t exactly fair to say Canon makes no 35mm lens for this camera, because they have done and do. You can get a used EF 35mm f2 for $600-700 or maybe less if you can find a bargain. Often these bargains are ordered in from Japan, so see caution in above paragraph. The Canon site lists this new for $749, so the other offers aren’t exactly heavily discounted. That brings us to the other option:

Canon 35mm f1.4: this version is $2,299.99 from Canon, but can be found elsewhere for $2,069 – with free shipping. That’s about five times what I paid for the camera, or ten times what other Canon prime lenses for the same camera cost. Can anyone explain why? Must be a helluva lens. Oh and you can get one used for a mere $1,378 – from Japan.

All prices and specifications subject to change without notice, of course.

And you can probably get a better deal in the USA, or anywhere else for that matter. Canada isn’t exactly a shopping paradise.

But you can see that when looked at sensibly, it doesn’t make sense. Especially not alongside the other prime lenses which sell for under $200. Why is there no 30-35mm equivalent here? Maybe I should ask Canon. The ones costing three or ten times as much really aren’t in the budget for fitting to a $400 camera.

Until some fiscally prudent solution presents itself, I will continue to use the Takumar when I want ‘normal’ focal length for that camera, even if I do have to correct the yellow out. Otherwise I will run the slightly fuzzy zoom lenses.

What’s the second thing I want? More time to use the equipment I’ve already got. Time is a precious commodity when it takes longer than normal to do most anything. There are many tasks making demands on my limited number of available hours. I wish some of them would go away. I wish the weather was better for shooting in. While I’m at it I may as well go back to wishing for that affordable lens. And a lottery win. All are about as likely to happen.

Now here’s a shot taken out my front window, across the road, under the power lines, and over into the next valley courtesy of the Nikon P610 and its amazing optics. No processing; this is just how it looked.

DSCN1971